a “torero confronting the bull” : doomsday & the MTA

1 Apr
AM New York Cover, 3/26/2009
AM New York Cover, 3/26/2009

When I heard about the Doomsday Budget proposed by the MTA, the first thought that occured to me was that we are headed to 1970’s New York. When the Doomsday Budget was approved, AM New York printed their March 26 cover to suggest the same thing. Under the budget, the MTA has plans not only to radically increase fares for subways, buses, and commuter rails, but als0 to CUT SERVICE. Among these service cuts is the elimination of the entire W and Z train lines. This means, that in addition to being even more broke, you will be waiting for longer periods of time, for an even more crowded train, that is less clean, in a station may or may not be staffed any longer…that’s IF you can afford it.

In her book, “Subways: The Tracks That Built New York City,”Lorraine B. Diehl writes:

If you want to know anything about New York City, about how its citizens are coping with life in their metropolis, you’ll have to ride the subway.

Down below the streets of the city, you’ll get an instant reading of how New York City is doing. When former New York Times columnist Russell Baker compared his daily descent into the subway to a “torero confronting the bull,” he was writing about the outof-control time in the 1970s. Crime in the subways had gotten so bad, in 1979, it spawned the Guardian Angels, avolunteer crime-fighting group led by the charismatic Curtis Sliwa. Donning red berets, they became a strong presence, occasionally making citizen’s arrests. What was happening in the subways was part of what was happening all over the city.

Three weeks ago I was riding a bus in Long Island City, Queens and I saw 4 Guardian Angels, pictured below. In some ways I’m relieved at the idea that New York is going backward in time. If this transition means less wealth in New York City, more bourgeois fear, the end of Bloomberg, then I will embrace the change. New York has never been an easy city, fuck these fare hikes, enter white flight.

In support of New York’s apocolyptic digression into the 1970’s, this week I will be posting Film & Fashion from New York in the 1970’s. So check back for updates.

Guardian Angels, Queens, 2009
Guardian Angels, Queens, 2009

2 Responses to “a “torero confronting the bull” : doomsday & the MTA”

  1. Squirrel Epstein April 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    just another comment about some of the institutional power shifting that was happening in nyc in the 1970s-1975 was the year that the big financial crisis hit new york city, and changing nyc from being a city that was a strong union town with strong tenant protections to being completely dominated politically by the real estate industry. this was a clear shift from a city with protections for working class and low-income folks to one that favored the hyper-rich and their plans for the city. the 1970s was where the grand plans for gentrification were laid, plans that we are seeing take over at a rapid and destructive pace today. transportation is connected to gentrification because if it is easier for hipsters to go out to low-income neighborhoods of people of color and then come back to work in the city, then there will be more neo-colonial frontier settlement by white gentrifiers. (the frontier mentality is taken from Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier, where he writes about the colonialism inherent in gentrification in nyc) the 1970s might be back again as we turn toward another financial crisis and real estate industry is again saying that they need to be subsidized and supported by the city government. but now could be an opportunity through community organizing to say that the people of new york, especially the working class and low-income folks that still try to hold onto their neighborhoods and have a right to the city because it is their city. (if you are interested in checking out groups that are doing that, check out: http://www.righttothecity.org/city-news.html?tags=new+york+city


  1. le chic batik - April 8, 2009

    […] the spirit of New York’s decline into the 1970s (with help from the MTA Doomsday Budget Plan), I will be celebrating the style of a girl gang, The […]

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