In 1978, Ed Koch assumed control of a city plagued by filth,
crime, bankruptcy, and racial tensions. By the end of his mayoral
run in 1989 and despite the Wall Street crash of 1987, his
administration had begun rebuilding neighborhoods and
infrastructure. Unlike many American cities, Koch's New York was
growing, not shrinking. Gentrification brought new businesses to
neglected corners and converted low-end rental housing to coops and
condos. Nevertheless, not all the changes were positive--AIDS,
crime, homelessness, and violent racial conflict increased, marking
a time of great, if somewhat uneven, transition.
For better or worse, Koch's efforts convinced many New Yorkers
to embrace a new political order subsidizing business, particularly
finance, insurance, and real estate, and privatizing public space.
Each phase of the city's recovery required a difficult choice
between moneyed interests and social services, forcing Koch to be
both a moderate and a pragmatist as he tried to mitigate growing
economic inequality. Throughout, Koch's rough rhetoric (attacking
his opponents as "crazy," "wackos," and "radicals") prompted
charges of being racially divisive. The first book to recast Koch's
legacy through personal and mayoral papers, authorized interviews,
and oral histories, this volume plots a history of New York City
through two rarely studied yet crucial decades: the bankruptcy of
the 1970s and the recovery and crash of the 1980s.
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