Legal Challenges to the Runoff
"It is a miracle that New York works at all," concluded E. B. White in his celebrated essay on America's largest city. "The whole thing is implausible." 1 As implausible as New York City may have seemed to White in 1949, with its—even then—bewildering maze of subterranean sewer and steam pipes, gas mains, telephone and power lines, its angry swarm of yellow taxicabs, dazed tourists, and maniacal bus drivers, its steel and concrete canyons with rushing rivers of brusque professionals, hucksters, and the dispossessed, today the "Big Apple" has become an even more complex microcosm of American society. It approaches traffic gridlock twice each day as those who work in the city head across the bridges and through the tunnels (the "B and T crowd") that connect Manhattan to the surrounding suburbs where they live. It has more practicing psychiatrists than any metropolis in the world; its ethnic tensions are palpable, its politics byzantine. Yet, miraculously, the city continues to function.
The city's political strains have become as self-evident as the human and automobile congestion. They surfaced clearly during the 1988 New York presidential primary. Mayor Edward Koch further aggravated tensions between black and Jewish citizens with his acid criticisms of black Democratic candidate Jesse Jackson. "Jews would have to be crazy to vote for Jackson," Koch opined, with apparent reference to the candidate's ties with pro-Arab groups in the United States and abroad and Jackson's private reference in 1984 to Jews as "Hymies"—a term of derision for which Jackson had duly apologized.