cover image New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess and Transformation

New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess and Transformation

Thomas Dyja. Simon & Schuster, $30 (544p) ISBN 978-1-9821-4978-9

Modern Gotham has recovered its glitter, but lost its moral compass and its soul, according to this kaleidoscopic history. Novelist and urban historian Dyja (The Third Coast) surveys New York’s 35 years from near bankruptcy in the 1970s through budget cuts and fiscal stabilization under mayor Ed Koch, plummeting crime and rising racial tensions under Rudolph Giuliani, and renewed wealth and visionary swagger under Michael Bloomberg. In each municipal advance, Dyja locates a loss: intensified policing brought harassment of minority communities, big-box stores bankrupted neighborhood shops, Wall Street booms and burgeoning artists’ lofts sparked gentrification that drove out the working class, and Disneyfied redevelopment extinguished Times Square’s squalid glamour. Dyja’s omnivorous curiosity takes in city bureaucracies, investment bankers, neighborhood activists, literati lunching at Elaine’s, hip-hop impresarios, and downtown artists. Dyja shapes it all into a cogent narrative studded with pithy insights and vivid profiles. (“Damp and vampiric, Giuliani was miserable on the stump [during the 1989 mayoral campaign], inexperienced and off-putting with the tentative humanity of a priest in street clothes.”) Dyja’s exhaustive knowledge of the era, dazzling prose, and all-embracing sympathy—and scorn when it’s merited—make for a stimulating study of New York’s never-ending upheaval. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, Bankoff Collaborative. (Mar.)