The Community Backlash
In chapter 6, I demonstrated how the failure of the NYPD to adequately address the disorder problem led to a public backlash against it that undermined its basic legitimacy. This process began before the election of Rudolph Giuliani as mayor and led to many of the changes in the basic policing strategies in New York City. A similar crisis of legitimacy took place in regard to urban liberal politicians. In 1993, the Dinkins administration was voted out of office, in large part because of its inability to reduce the level of homelessness and moderate its effect on the everyday lives of the rest of the population. Rudolph Giuliani, who replaced him, campaigned on a platform of replacing the urban liberal social services approach with a series of “tough love” measures designed to force homeless people either to enter rehabilitation programs and shelters or to face eviction from public spaces and ultimately incarceration. Whereas the police were accused of being insensitive to community concerns about disorder, urban liberal politicians were accused of responding to the disorder crisis without the full participation of the communities and of calling for social tolerance without creating the possibilities of acting on that tolerance. This chapter considers how these two contradictions led to community backlashes against urban liberalism, which in turn helped usher in the new conservative Giuliani administration and the quality-of-life paradigm.
As discussed in chapter 3, urban liberalism relied on rehabilitative social programs coordinated by centralized experts to address social problems. As the homelessness and disorder problems intensified in the 1980s, urban liberals attempted to respond to them by creating a series of emergency social services. This approach was driven by citywide concerns about the legal requirements to shelter the homeless and the desire to ameliorate the conditions of homeless people within the constraints of the city budget, as discussed in chapter 4. This approach never directly addressed the changes in the labor and housing markets that were