New York is compressing all of the upheavals of the 1970s — job loss, population exodus, looting, rising crime, existential questions of what the city is even for — into a disorienting few months. Add another one: deteriorating quality of life. How the city addresses its fireworks scourage has vast implications about whether we retain our tax base.
Pop, pop, pop — New Yorkers, middle class and working poor, black and white, have their efforts at dinner, relaxation and sleep punctuated every night with a barrage. Fireworks complaints to 911 this year are up to 13,315, nearly 13 times the figure last year.
But the NYPD won’t attempt to stop anyone setting off illegal fireworks. “They have many other things, particularly, the NYPD, dealing right now with other profound challenges,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week. Yes, he has set up a task force to try to cut off supply by arresting large-scale sellers — but the streets themselves will stay lawless.
The fireworks scourge afflicting neighborhoods may seem minor, compared to a skyrocketing murder rate. But New York’s ’70s history, when it lost a million people to suburbs and other regions, shows that people are driven away by minor things.
Even at the height of New York’s 25-year crime wave, between the mid-’60s and early ’90s, middle-class and upper-class people were highly unlikely to be murdered or otherwise seriously harmed. Then, as now, perpetrators and victims were mostly young, poorer minority men. It was the little things that affected everyone that made people give up: coming home to a burgled apartment; having to endure a graffitied, delayed subway train.
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