During the first few moments of the recent recession, it seemed the New York City real estate market was immune to the infection of deteriorating home values. Not even September 11th scared those who love living in skyscrapers from their plush nests in this town. When foreclosures hit all time records everywhere else in America, they continued to build and buy condominiums here. Perhaps New York City is the best city in the world, because even in Los Angeles, a home is not where the fortunes are in 2008.
The New York Post reported last week that finally, rental costs are going down here. However, with the average cost of one bedroom apartments in the gay West Village still well over $2,000 a month, it seems unlikely that I will ever rest my head on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge again.
There was a time in the early ‘90’s when people of all social classes could find a place to live here. Back then we had a Black mayor. He seemed to care about everyone of all social status. Perhaps with a Black president, America will return to its motto.
There were lots of abandoned buildings around then, and even the homeless became squatters in dens known as crack houses. It was an exciting time when the city was filled with beautiful people from small towns across America. They came here chasing dreams of stardom and wealth. A few found it, but many were lost to the inflation of Rudy Giuliani and the first Clinton Administration. It seemed the higher the stock market climbed, the lower mankind sank into the depths of greed and selfishness.
Our Republican Mayor made New York City ‘safe’ again. He cleaned up our streets and ripped the homeless from their cardboard boxes and shipped them out of town. Although the story was never reported on in detail in the many tabloids in this town, the method that the mayor used for disposing of street people here was ungodly. He offered them a free bus ticket to anywhere– just not here. Those who slept on benches in public parks or in dark secluded areas of the subways were arrested and sent to prison for the night. I know, because I spent a night in Manhattan’s Central booking station one evening for a domestic dispute with my gay lover and smelled lots of homeless men in the cell block with me. I was there for hours with nothing to do but wait. I talked to one man who was homeless and he told me how he often spent the night in that prison, that many referred to as ‘the tombs’ or ‘Guantanamo on the Hudson.’
The old man with tattered clothing and a white beard was wise beyond the foolish clothing that clung loosely to his back. He was the one who informed me of the tactics that legislators at city hall were using to clean up the city. They offered the free bus ticket incentive to many. The city saved millions of dollars by sending their Medicaid needy elsewhere.
The stranger informed me that more than likely, after he saw the judge the next morning, he would again be offered a free bus ticket out of New York, but he would again refuse it, because it was his mission to remain here, because he had not choice. “There is no place like New York City,” he explained, “I love it here.”
For those who managed to survive the city’s new no tolerance policy on the homeless, the situation became helpless. Giuliani passed a law which made it illegal to give to the homeless on the subways. Strangers who once rattled paper cups for change between swings on silver straps soon disappeared from the New York City aura.
Most New Yorkers seemed relieved to not have guilt brush by their highly pressed suits and expensive pumps each day. They loved Guiliani here. That’s why they elected and re-elected him.
Never again would morning commuters fight with stinky homeless people for a seat on the subway. They had gone. All of them. The poor. The homeless. The children of God.
I can’t help but believe that eventually we will all receive a bus ticket out of this town. With the price of gas skyrocketing and tax revenues receding like an elevator on the Upper West Side, I cannot help but imagine that my friend from prison is standing on a street corner somewhere today shouting ‘the end is near’ and I bet he has his eye on a building to squat in.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door