"Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." --Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver
Granted, Robert De Niro's psychopathic vigilante took a hard line against misconduct, but you can't say he didn't have a point: In the 1970s, a plague of crime rotted the Big Apple from its core, making it almost unlivable and certainly undesirable to residents and tourists alike. We know this to be true from films such as Escape from New York, The Warriors, and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
But a funny thing happens when M&M's World, naked-yet-non-threatening cowboys, and Times Square Elmos replace the adult theaters, prostitutes, and drug dealers: Folks get little wistful over the "lost soul" of the city. And they should. The trade-off is harsh - "gentrification" is good for the economy, tourism, and expanding the restaurant selection, but it can be a death knell for the character of a place as the small businesses and long-time residents are gradually pushed out. And as change accelerates - or at least seems to - the cycle of nostalgia is getting compressed to the point that, in some cases, 15 years ago counts as the Good Old Days.
Here's a short list of recent books (including one novel) celebrating, lamenting, and occasionally decrying the evolution of New York City over the past three decades.
You might also like:
- Ghosts of the Chelsea Hotel
- "Death to the Fascist Insect": Patty Hearst, the SLA, and the Swinging 70s
- Heart of Glass: Blondie, 1970s New York, and Chris Stein's Camera
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