From the magazine
: ISSUE 91
, April/May 2014
When Michael Bloomberg concluded his 12 years as the mayor of New York City at the end of 2013, he left behind a metropolis with a new global reputation. After starting his administration on the heels of the most devastating moment in its recent history, 9/11, Bloomberg helped build the city into something that was, to many, palpably safer, visibly cleaner and, despite its reputation for gruffness, friendlier than it had ever been.
Is it possible that New York lost something in the process? At an economic conference in 2003, Bloomberg said, “If New York City is a business, it isn’t Walmart—it isn’t trying to be the lowest-priced product in the market. It’s a high-end product, maybe even a luxury product.” That luxury city is not yet realized, but it’s well on its way. The average rate of a rental apartment has increased to over $3,000 a month, while the cost of living in Manhattan for a family of four nears $93,000 a year. At the same time, New York now has its highest homeless population in modern times: over 60,000 people, including more than 22,000 children. As far as safety is concerned, Bloomberg credited a citywide decrease in crime to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program, a controversial police tactic that covertly targeted young black and Latino men, with the mayor going so far as to say that the cops “disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.” The cost of this transformation was not lost on New Yorkers: Bill de Blasio, elected to succeed Bloomberg, ran on a platform of restoring the city to a more equal place, including ending stop-and-frisk, while also maintaining the aggressive economic development of his predecessor.
In the following pages, photographer Matthew Monteith captures four distinct New York neighborhoods in various states of flux: Willets Point in Queens, Hunts Point in The Bronx, The Upper West Side in Manhattan and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. On the Upper West Side, a condominium development now sits next to underfunded and crumbling public housing, while in Bed-Stuy, soaring property values are remaking a historic neighborhood block by block. In Willets Point, a group of immigrant businessmen are fighting a city plan to replace their auto shops with a mall, and, in Hunts Point, a resurgent low-income neighborhood has become a prime target for high-end development.
These are neighborhoods where New Yorkers hustle to make ends meet, make their communities better and simply live in a city that never stops transforming. They’re also places where creativity can thrive, if it’s supported. No one knows if New York will ever truly be unwelcome to the immigrants, artists, musicians and natives that make it the greatest city in the world; most likely, there will always be pockets of perseverance. De Blasio’s election makes one thing clear, though: the city is at a pivotal moment, where inequality can continue, or the administration can take the steps to make it a place everyone can call home.