Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning by Jonathan Mahler
The summer and fall of 1977 were an extraordinary time in New York. Even as crime reached record highs and morale sank to new lows, the city amused itself by watching the Yankee manager Billy Martin scuffle in the dugout with slugger Reggie Jackson. While the Yankees were battling for the pennant, the larger-than-life political figures of Edward I. Koch, Mario Cuomo, and Bella Abzug duked it out for the mayoralty.
Covering this scene was a New York Post newly made over into a racy right-wing tabloid by Rupert Murdoch. Its staff had plenty of other things to write about, what with the arrival of disco, punk rock, Studio 54, Plato’s Retreat, and numerous gay bath houses. As for crime, if the commonplace variety was not enough, there were such lurid stories as the nearly systematic torching of dying neighborhoods, the Son of Sam serial murders, and widespread looting after a summer blackout. New York City, the New York Times columnist Vincent Canby remarked, had “become a metaphor for what looks like the last days of American civilization.”
About the Author
Fred Siegel is a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.