cover image The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life

The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life

Fred Siegel. Encounter Books, $26.95 (386pp) ISBN 978-1-59403-084-0

Despite its title, this book is more a biography of late-20th-century New York than of former Mayor Giuliani. Siegel (The Future Once Happened Here), a well-known figure in New York civic discussions, deftly traces the city's post-War spiral into fiscal and social malaise. In an opening section titled ""New York Before Giuliani,"" Siegel describes how New York ""turned the temporary emergency of the Great Depression into the permanent basis of its politics and government"" by instituting decades of overly generous social programs, catering to special interest groups and amassing huge debts. Enter Giuliani. Siegel credits Guiliani with being a great synthesizer of new ideas about urban governance and policing, and he lauds the mayor's tough stance on crime and spending control. Though critics may claim that the city's turnaround in the '90s merely coincided with a nationwide economic upswing, Siegel touts the importance of the Giulini administration's economic, welfare-reform and crime-fighting policies. Siegel worked with Giuliani and is obviously a fan; indeed, his book seems geared toward polishing Giuliani's reputation for a possible presidential run. Fortunately for readers, though, he does not gloss over the former mayor's missteps. He describes Giuliani's divorce and how it became a messy public distraction, and he takes the ex-mayor to task for failing to institutionalize his fiscal reforms and for giving in, during his second term, to the temptation to buy votes with large public expenditures.