Decay of New York City


“The pattern of wealth and economic dominance, though, was shifting. With companies and people moving out of the cities of the Northeast and Midwest to suburbs and other parts of the country, many of the traditional centers of national power grew shabby. A train trip in the mid-1970’s from New York to Washington would have given a sense of their decay.” (303)

            In Chapter 12, Freeman discusses the effects of the industrial decline in northeastern and midwestern parts of the U.S, also known as the Rust Belt. He utilizes the word “decay” often to describe what was happening to American society and government and uses the example of  what was occurring in New York City to demonstrate this. Unlike its dwindling neighbor states, New York still managed to hold a steady population after World War II. The decade between 1970 and 198o proved to be unfortunate, when over ten percent of the population flocked to the suburbs and other areas of the country. The recessions that occurred during the 1970s raised the unemployment level to 12 percent causing this massive migration. In reaction to this, crime among the streets increased and institutions that endorsed apartment building owners terminated their investments for fear of financial loss. Low-income areas of the city, especially the South Bronx were hit the hardest by this desertion of economic reinforcement. The dark and hell-like atmosphere of New York City in this era was especially reflected in the cinematography of the 1970s, in movies such as Taxi Driver, illustrating the instability and bloodshed of Vietnam returning to the streets of New York by an eccentric war veteran. Escape from New York, a film directed in the early 80’s, takes place in the then-near future (1997), in which the country is laden with crime and the state has turned into a maximum security prison, displaying the city as a devastated version of itself.  These films were important in communicating the feelings of chaos and insecurity of the decade. Americans during this era were left hungry for the government to to make changes to provide economic stability, but the glory days of the New Deal were over, recruiting the growing role of corporations in the economy.