With Ladies & Gentlemen The Bronx is Burning Jonathan Mahler managed to capture the cultural, social and political condition of New York in the 1970s. This is the New York of legend as ethnic groups like the Italians and the Irish were dispersed with grinding poverty taking its place in urban communities. It is the New York of blaxploitation films like Shaft, gritty crime films like The Taking Of Pelham 123 or the plain grit of Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver.
It is the New York of my imagination: the grime and the glitz of David Mancuso’s influential parties to the hedonism of Studio 54. By the time I got to New York decades after Rudy Giuliani’s ‘no broken windows’ policy and came across a less colourful city.
What Mahler’s The Bronx is Burning does is tie in how gay rights, city government irresponsibility, disco, artists, urban blight, the Son of Sam serial killer and the performance of the New York Yankees formed a cocktail of circumstance that laid the ground for modern New York.
There wouldn’t have been loft apartments in Manchester as part of urban regeneration during the 1990s to the present if struggling artists hadn’t made them fashionable when they took over the old garment district in New York during the 1970s.
Hip hop culture grew out of this environment.
Mayor Giuliani’s successful policies at tackling crime would not have been possible.
Mahler tells these stories with a passion that carries you along with it, even making the sport of baseball even of interest to me. More books here.