The death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York City has attracted tabloid headlines for days. His death is undoubtedly a tragedy. Thankfully, in the midst of a New York City summer there hasn’t yet been any violence or anarchy as a result. As a 39-year old born and bred New Yorker, I remember the racial fears that existed in this city when I was growing up. Who can forget the racial politics of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s which today seem like so long ago?
Abner Louima & the Crown Heights Riots? I remember so clearly being at Stuyvesant High School and school ending early in 1991 when the Rodney King riots erupted – and how the city was gripped with fear. How I remember dreading my 1.5 hour train rides on the graffiti-filled subways. All New Yorkers should be thankful to Rudy Giuliani – Mr. Law & Order – who forever changed NYC for the better with his zero tolerance mantra.
One area in which he didn’t excel was in race relations. Racial tensions, however, in many ways changed with Mayor Bloomberg who was less confrontational than his predecessor. Bloomberg – along with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly – regularly dialogued with the minority community, and as a December 2013 Washington Post editorial proclaimed, Bloomberg ushered in the best race relations in decades. As has been widely reported, Reverend Al Sharpton received a call from Bloomberg the night he was elected, and was told:
“Hello, this is Michael Bloomberg. I want you to know it will be different with me as mayor. We will not agree on everything, but you will have access to City Hall.”
Like it or not, Bloomberg’s strategy worked for New Yorkers. The economy boomed, the quality of life improved across the city and crime hit all-time lows. The equilibrium of balance which is always sensitive in this area worked.
This month sees the first major potential for chaos in the era with an uber-liberal Mayor Bill DeBlasio occupying City Hall. This week has seen sparing protests – amidst an announcement by Sharpton to march to the spot where Garner died over the Verrazano Bridge on August 23rd. Rev. Al’s former chief of Staff now works for the Mayor’s wife – who is herself a powerful force in NYC government. Yet, clearly the need to make noise outside isn’t quite the same with ones’ interests being represented in government.
In New York, however, the police need to be given more credit. Our heroic boys in blue are slighted – as Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said recently that police officers feel they have no officials right now in NY government. Lynch noted that “.. the City Council is not looking out for you, there’s not a voice from City Hall looking out for you.”
A recent editorial in The NY Post noted that he shows “ boorish elitism toward the dangerous work of policing.” The editorial continued that the Mayor’s heart is “..not with those who risk their lives to keep us safe,” and continued to say that “de Blasio is still riding an anti-police agenda.”
With power comes responsibility to govern an entire city – and standing on the side of the police is vital for this city. The cops keep us safe, and decisions made inside the halls of power must not alienate them. So much is going right in NYC. The Disneyfication of NY has seen so many positive things – including the reduction of racial tensions.
Let’s hope that Mayor DeBlasio remembers that he needs to hear all of New York for the city to be effective.
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