chapter
4 Pages

Introduction

This book complicates this narrative of urban recovery by providing a historical perspective on the relationship of city governance and urban disorder in New York City since 1945. The assumption that the city government of New York began to consider urban disorder as an important variable in the 1990s is inaccurate. The ordering of urban space has always been a preoccupation of city administrations in New York City and this preoccupation intensifi ed in the postwar period because of anxieties about the direction of the city. However, different governments pursued different policies, which corresponded to period-specifi c trends of spatial ordering and dominant political ideologies. Liberalism, which was the dominant political ideology in New York City up until at least the 1960s, emphasized physical solutions to urban disorder, which were based on the production of orderly individuals and communities through interventions in the built environment. Liberals believed that the elimination of urban slums and their replacement with decent housing based on modernist architecture would make the people living in them orderly, healthy, and productive. This way of ordering urban space in New York City was discredited in the 1960s as the city continued to decline, crime steadily increased, and the new modernist housing developments were as disorderly as the ones they replaced. After the fi scal crisis of 1975, neoliberalism and neoconservatism became the dominant ideologies of governance in New York City and their prescriptions of ordering space prevailed. New York became a neoliberal city with the city government promoting mainstream economic development while cutting budgets and services to low-income populations. Neoliberals believed in the ability of the free market to order individuals and their activities. However, neoliberals were overwhelmed with the effects of human displacement visible in public space because of the contraction of government, the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, and the reduction of housing for the poor. Homelessness and poverty rose to levels never seen before. Left without an effi cient spatial ordering strategy, neoliberals embraced neoconservative prescriptions such as the “broken windows” theory and order-maintenance policing. Instead of seeking to produce orderly individuals like the liberals, neoliberals and neoconservatives sought to banish “disorderly” ones.