Aqua Phoenix
     >>  Documents >>  New York City in the 20th Century  
 

Navigator
   
 
       
   

5. Recent changes in the face of New York

5.1 The Crime Scene

Walking in New York City at night is the one thing that most tourists fear. Gossip and simple ignorance have engraved on their minds that New York is the most dangerous and perilous city in the world. Muggings, murder, rape, cop-killings, purse-snatchings and theft are supposedly just a few of various problems of the everyday life in the vast metropolis.

New York isn't the safest of all cities, although Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is working hard with the public service, to gain control and to finally decrease the previously increasing number of homicides and adjacent crimes. As he was inaugurated as Mayor in 1994, New York ranked 18th in overall crime out of the 25 most populous cities in the United States. In July, 1995, the rating dropped to 21. Giuliani's harsh rules reformed the Police Department to some degree. Instead of promoting an officer with the most arrests, he grants a promotion to those, keeping the safest Precinct. Even with a huge budget deficit, Giuliani enlarged the police force by more than 12,000 police officers, totaling 38,000 compared to 26,000 in 1990. His emphasis on safety in the Big Apple does have its disadvantages, as education, medical security, hospitals and welfare are neglected.

"Reducing crime has to rely on continuing efforts in education and social services. That's what's going to make a long-term difference." Moody, John: Safe? You Bet Your Life. Time, July 24, 1995, p. 38.

Still, New York's dark side has not been covered up by just swarming out blue uniforms. The World Trade Center Bombing, muggings at night in Central Park and other less serious incidents prove otherwise.

A series of terrorist acts have not only shaken New York City, but other cities in the United States as well. The incident of the World Trade Center bombing was one of the worst acts of terrorism in U.S. history. At approximately 12 noon on February 26, 1993, a massive explosion rocked The Twins, causing millions of dollars in damage. The terrorists murdered six people, injured over 1,000 others and left a group of children trapped for hours in a smoke-filled elevator.

Terrorist acts are not the only threatening crimes in the financial hub of America. Crimes involving monetary assets occur quite often but are not a direct threat to public safety. Daiwa Bank Trust Company, the 10th largest bank in Japan and 13th largest in the world, was involved in a dispute with Federal Reserve regulators. The financial crisis, caused by covering up a $1.1 billion loss, resulted in a 90 day packup-and-leave condition.

Chief bond trader and bookkeeper Toshihide Iguchi kept bank business going as usual, while trying to compensate for the $1.1 billion from undisclosed losses since 1984. During Federal Reserve inspections, the Manhattan office was disguised as a storage room, covering up the deficit. After the Federal Officials left, the bank resumed working, but not for long. Daiwa was given an ultimatum to leave the 13 States, where they were represented.

"You cannot be a global player without a presence in the U.S."Greenwald, John: Booting Out the Bank. Time, November 13, 1995, p. 92.

Daiwa now had no choice but to seek a buyer, in this case Sumitomo, Japan's second largest bank. Their wrongdoing had its grounds in not notifying Federal Officials, assuming that it would be easy to deceive U.S. authorities. A few weeks before the exposure of Daiwa's financial matters, the U.S. agreed to helping branches of Japanese banks, because of Japan's financial crisis. Daiwa's president, Takashi Kaiho, regretted the conflict, but still he decided to fight the accusation.

5.2 A New Isolationism?

The United States' opposition to immigration rapidly grows, as newcomers increasingly rely on welfare, benefits, education and on the health-care system. For decades the United States accepted the incoming waves from South America, Asia and, most significantly, from Europe. The problem of overpopulating the United States with immigrants, especially those with little or no education, has become a top priority in politics and has developed into the new Isolationism. Billions of dollars of American tax-payers' money have been spent to help immigrants integrate into their new society. As the United States is facing great economic problems, unemployment, a poorly working health insurance system and social problems in general, several laws have been passed to minimize expenditure. One recent proposal is to cut off forms of assistance to illegal immigrants. Another law, that has existed for several decades, permits a certain number of immigrants annually. Every year, more and more laws are passed to avoid

a presumed immigrant depression. Nevertheless one after another problem develops while attempting to reduce immigrant rates.

It should not be forgotten, that the United States is composed of immigrants and has certainly taken advantage of them during the past few decades. The multinational mixture of cultures has established a sizable market in the United States as well as an expanding tourist industry. New immigrants do not necessarily mean only expenditures. A substantial part of newcomers makes up an additional group of tax-payers. Students from Europe and Asia, planning to attend a college as undergraduates, usually bring assets with them and needn't apply for financial aid. Contrary to public opinion, the United States does not need to spend resources on all immigrants, at least not on those coming from industrialized countries.

Europe has been seen to play a controversial role in American history. During the 1920s, America accused Europe of having sent its

"blind, idiotic, crippled, epileptic, lunatic, and other infirm paupers, incapable of supporting themselves, in order thereby to avoid the burden of their support"Rose Frederick: Muddled Masses. The Wall Street Journal. Classroom Edition, October, 1995, p.12..

On the other hand, it was taken for granted, that Europe's most intellectual people, like Einstein, emigrated to the U.S. before and during World War II. In the early 1900s, for example, more Italians returned home than entered the United States.

In all, Europe accounts for the greatest source of emigrants, totaling 37.7 million persons, compared to the Americas (15.7 million) and the Asian Pacific Region (6.4 million). When speaking about legal numbers, people from Germany account for the largest source of immigrants with 7 million people. Of course, when considering illegal immigrants, some South American and Asian countries top even that number. Immigration from those continents includes the problem of cheap labor and poorly educated, often non-English speakers. American economic experts fear that the declining numbers of intellectual immigrants does not form a balance to the immigrating mass of cheap laborers.

New York is one example of a highly populated, towering city in the United States. Once the starting point for new immigrants on Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty no longer symbolizes the freedom, that it once stood for in the past. As in any other major American city, immigrants in New York constitute an enormous part of the city's population. At the turn of this century, more than half of the immigrant population relied on benefits, hospitalization and subsidized schooling. Today the number has sunk to 5% in subsidized schooling and 6.5% in medical recipients. Thus, the American Dream has become a Nightmare for many.

In general, the United States can expect great problems in diplomacy, when attempting to avoid the immigrant waves. They claim to defend Human Rights and act as a peace keeping "big brother". Through such actions, the United States tends to forget its own position. For example, the United States' proposals directed towards China to open their country finally allowed the Chinese population certain freedoms. Now that the Eastern World has been opened up and Asian countries step forward, the United States appears to slam its doors shut. The immigration issue in the U.S. is one of great paradoxical content and with every new presidency, new ideas are considered.

5.3 Urban Blight

"What is barely hinted in other American cities is condensed and enlarged in New York"America in Close-up: The Urbanization of America. England: Longman Group, 1992, p. 81..

That includes not only culture and power, but also major problems, that every large city faces: unemployment, crime, poverty and deteriorating public services. Since 80% of America's population live in metropolitan areas, these issues are even more intensified.

The urbanization took place during the period of industrialization and immigration from Europe in the nineteenth century. Before 1780, American cities were densely populated and therefor did not face today's difficulties. Social services did not develop as fast as the expanding cities and the increasing population. The situation improved during and after the 1920s.

As Americans began to thrive on prosperity, the demand for a more peaceful and enjoyable life spread. Rural areas, quickly accessible by the growing infrastructure, were not only favored by middle-class Americans, but also by companies. Lower taxes, a nicer environment and a less stressful life were the factors, that pulled the population out of cities in the 1960s. Approximately 60% of the once urban population, now live in the slower paced suburbs. These shifts from urban to rural life were only possible because of new transportation opportunities. Today, commuter trains and buses are more used than cars, since cities like New York are doomed to traffic jams.

By abandoning cities that fast, financial assets decreased, leaving urban areas to deteriorate. The low rent for decaying city housing left only the poorly educated laborers behind. Those included mostly African-Americans and Hispanics, who immigrated during and after the 1950s. Since social services and employment were not available to them, slums developed and crime increased. Attempts to clear the slums have been made, by razing the area to erect new housing. Although little progress has been made, 425,000 units were constructed for the socially indigent. A new, more acceptable effort proved more rational than the old, to renovate rather than eliminate whole neighborhoods. Still, the problems are not solved by such acts of urban renewal.

The plagued downtown areas, gradually abandoned by large companies, have recently been redeveloped to preserve the city's essential work force and tax paying element. Downtown infrastructures are being reconstructed, so that gridlocks are replaced by pedestrian zones.

As industries move out, not only into the suburbs, but even more intensely into the countryside, small towns have been encountering an immense population growth. Tormented by the same problems as major American cities, small communities are not the solution to Urban Blight. The shift from urban to rural is nothing more than a displacement, only urbanizing the countryside of the United States.