This is a classic that I wrote back in 2013 when New York voters first elected Warren Wilhelm Jr. To be fair to the lazy Marxist, he exceeded my expectations in that he didn’t burn down New York City until his time in office was ending. And Islamic terrorists didn’t manage to pull off a major attack.
Beyond that, it’s looking a lot like De Blasio time.
Do you miss the old New York City? Remember when subway trains were covered in graffiti, a news hour began with six shootings and everyone who lived in the city had been mugged at least once?
Remember when Times Square had more strip clubs than theaters and when you could afford an apartment in the village because it was a drug infested mess?
Remember when the city and everyone living in it were on the verge of bankruptcy and the only people who had money lived upstate or in a small cluster of Manhattan?
Remember when everything was grimy and had a layer of filth, when people moved to the city because they wanted to slum, when nothing worked and no one cared and the only difference between New York and Chicago was that it had taller buildings?
If you miss that classic New York, there’s good news because Bill de Blasio is bringing it back.
The muggers are coming back. The squeegee men are coming back. The crazy people randomly stabbing you on the subway, the gangs shooting each other over turf, the race rioters marching through neighborhoods and shouting, “Whose streets, our streets”– they’re all coming back.
Because the polls have spoken. And it’s De Blasio time now.
No more fascist cops hassling “innocent” people. Bill de Blasio won’t put up with any of that. De Blasio will put the cops in their place, inside a Dunkin Donuts and away from people. They’ll still get paid. They’re in a union. They just won’t lift a finger to help you because they’ll have more special monitors and civilian complaint review boards on their necks than they can handle.
And next time one of the innocent victims of Stop and Frisk is pounding your face into the sidewalk with one hand while digging through your pockets with the other, wave to the pair of beat cops sitting in the window of the coffee shop. And they’ll wave back without getting up. Because you voted for this. And you’re getting what you deserve.
When you recover from your medically induced coma, you’ll have a hell of a story to tell between reconstructive surgery visits. You might be tempted to complain about how the police don’t do anything anymore and how we pay them a ton of money and they don’t do anything except rope off a crime scene.
But don’t. You don’t want to sound like one of those crazy right winger types carrying guns on the 3 train waiting to go all Bernhard Goetz on some street kid. It’s De Blasio time. It’s what you voted for.
All those cops ruined the special spirit of the city. The one where you could see someone lying in a pool of their own blood on the A train on the way to work and you shrugged and moved on. The one where every weekend began with more bodies than an entire season of Law and Order.
It’ll be exciting. Remember when people thought you were risking your life by living in the city. Now they will again.
Relatives will look at the latest body count and gasp admiringly. “How can you live there?” And you’ll stow your illegal can of mace in your pocket, your rape whistle on your key chain and all the apps on your phone that directly contact the FBI, the NYPD and Interpol and shrug manfully. “It’s no big deal. I haven’t even been mugged in six months.”
Remember when all those gentrified neighborhoods full of artisanal bake shops were places that no taxi driver would take you?
Remember when the Mac repair shop, the experimental art gallery and the fusion Mexican-Thai place across the street were a dirty bodega with bulletproof windows, a street pentecostal church with steel bars and a healthy dose of voodoo and a burnt out abandoned building?
They will be again. The fusion place will move to Portland. The Mac guy will close up shop and go to work at a Best Buy in Westchester. He’ll hate it, but after the third robbery, his insurance rates will be too high to stay on. But he’ll have nothing to complain about. He voted for De Blasio too.
And that experimental art gallery, the one with collages of world leaders made out of broken glass as a statement against capitalism? It’s a burnt out abandoned building again. The owner who used to want 10 million bucks for the building would give it to you in exchange for paying the tax bill. But you won’t take it.
You voted for De Blasio, but you’re not that stupid. No one buys real estate in De Blasio time.
A lot of the new amenities of the city that you love will still be around. Like bike lanes. There will be more of them than ever.
Muggers will love the bike lanes. They’ll stand behind phone booths with a hockey stick. The stick will go out at the last minute, the bike rider will tumble off his 400 dollar toy and the stick will come down on his head.
You don’t ride a bike anymore. No one really does except Chinese food deliverymen. You take the subway. It’s dirty and grimy. It’s covered in graffiti. And sometimes you remember when there were shiny new Japanese trains and you could ride them at 1 AM, without worrying about being attacked.
You remember riding your Citibike to a party past row after row of brand new restaurants and clubs. But that was a different city. That was Giuliani’s New York and Bloomberg’s New York. It’s De Blasio’s New York now. It’s the old Dinkins New York. And no one does those things now.
Citibike will be gone. Of course. The whole thing was a program to advertise Citibank to the city’s booming upscale white population. And on De Blasio time, a lot of that population is leaving. And New York City on De Blasio time is not a brand that any major corporation wants to be associated with.
Giuliani New York and Bloomberg New York were booming cities. De Blasio New York is a place where the mayor gives constant press conferences about gang violence and announces new rape prevention programs. Every news story about the city now begins with, “Four people were shot in New York over the weekend” and “A fire swept out of control through Brooklyn destroying four city blocks. Police suspect arson.”
But that’s cool. Who needs those stupid corporations anyway when Occupy Wall Street has a dozen encampments. A lot of those encampments are really homeless tent cities. But that’s a good thing.
Central Park may now be scarier than ever and no one goes there after dark except muggers and cruisers. Columbus Circle is now a mess of shacks. But maybe the crazy guy who sleeps with a large butcher knife on the stairs in front of your building might decide to go there.
You nervously slip him a fiver every morning, but you hear him muttering every time he takes the money and you know he doesn’t like you. One time he told the lady who lives next door to you that he’s going to stab her. Everyone in the building has complained to the police.
But what can they do? It’s De Blasio time.
There are good things about De Blasio’s New York. Like all those troop carriers rattling the sidewalk as they go down Fifth Avenue.
Bill de Blasio promised that he would shut down surveillance of mosques. And he kept his word. And the terrorists kept theirs. They say ten thousand people died. But a hundred thousand were affected by the gas pouring through the subway tunnels all the way down to Times Square. Some of them may die. A lot of them have scarred lungs.
President Clinton has promised that she will get those responsible. Meanwhile there are jets overhead and soldiers in the streets. They help keep down crime a little. But it’s been a year now and Mayor De Blasio wishes they would leave. They’re upsetting everyone in the mosque that the terrorists visited before they loaded up their canisters into backpacks and took the A train.
The NYPD could have stopped them. It would have stopped them under Giuliani and Bloomberg. But the terrorists were smarter than you. They waited for De Blasio time.
You were downwind when the attack happened. But you still cough a lot. Sometimes blood comes out. You wonder if it’s psychosomatic or the real thing. You wish you could see a doctor, but you lost your health insurance when the company you work for relocated and fired all its non-essential employees.
De Blasio has made sure there are plenty of neighborhood clinics around. But no one in them speaks English and there’s a long waiting list. “Three week,” they shout at you each time you come in while holding up three fingers. It’s been three months.
But what can you do? It’s De Blasio time.
It’s not like Bill de Blasio has done a bad job. Sure things are terrible, but everyone still likes him. He looks a lot older and greyer. He doesn’t tell jokes anymore. His voice is flat and like everyone else in the city, he sounds like he’s just trying to get through the next day.
But that’s De Blasio time for you.
You’ve thought a lot about what to do next. Your brother wants you to move to San Francisco. He says he can get you an interview there. Your parents think you should move back home. No one is hiring here anymore. Even the movie and television shoots that used to happen on every block are gone. They’re working in Chicago now.
They say that New York City is going bankrupt. That it has no future. The latest bond sales are going badly because the city’s credit rating is in the toilet. But that’s all Wall Street’s fault. Why should those bastards lower the city’s credit rating to junk just because it has more debt than the rest of the Tri-State Area combined. The city is good for it? Or at least it used to be… before De Blasio time.
You’re not ready to give up on New York yet. Sure times have been tough, but it’s a tough city. And it’s an incredible mosaic of diversity. Just last week you got held up by a guy from Swaziland and you never even heard of Swaziland before.
Your new roommate is from Brazil. He sells drugs. Your drug dealer is from Lebanon. He wants to be in fashion. It’s still an exciting city with plenty of opportunities for those who know how to take them. But the takers seem to be taking them from you. And even though you’re out of work, your tax bill is too high.
But what can you do? It’s De Blasio time.
There’s a new housing project going up next door. It’s forty stories tall. There will be a hundred like it all across your neighborhood. Manhattan will never be the same. It’s great that Bill de Blasio is doing this so that there will be more affordable housing. The projects already look scary. There are gangs haunting the scaffolding around it. Sometimes they throw rocks through your window. After the fourth time, you stopped paying to have it replaced. You just paste it over with tape and cardboard to keep the January wind out.
The good news is that your rent has gone down. It’s a fraction of what it used to be. The bad news is that you still can’t afford it.
Sometimes you think about applying to live in the projects, collecting benefits and food stamps, riding the elevators down to get some cigarettes and lottery tickets at the local bodega, and then back up to your apartment. And then you recoil in horror and begin thinking about taking up your brother on his offer.
Because this isn’t the New York City you wanted, even though it’s the one you voted for. Bill de Blasio is not the New York City you needed, it’s the one you deserved. And it’s the one you got.
And so you leave. The taxi ride to JFK airport takes forever. The airport is a dirty mess. But finally your plane takes off. There are two ex-cons with rocket launchers waiting in the marshes just outside the tarmac. You never see the rocket that hits you. Just the flash of heat that burns you and your girlfriend and your cat in his carrier in the plane’s cargo section and the other hundred and twenty people getting the hell out of Bill de Blasio’s New York City to ash.
The NYPD busted up a plot just like it a few years ago. But they did it with informants and mosque surveillance. Unfair tactics like that were banned by Bill de Blasio just as he promised his Muslim supporters he would.
As the last burning pieces of what used to be you fall into the water, your last thought is of how unfair all this is. But you shouldn’t complain. This is what you voted for.
It’s De Blasio time.
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