The following is an exclusive excerpt from THE LAST DAYS OF NEW YORK: a reporter's true tale, by Seth Barron (Humanix Books, June 1, 2021). Available to purchase here.
Read the book's introduction here.
After Trump’s attorney general William Barr designated New York, along with Portland and Seattle, as “anarchistic” cities, de Blasio expressed outrage. He characterized it as a political attack on “black and brown cities”—though Portland and Seattle are two of the whitest cities in the nation—and denied that New York is remotely lawless or otherwise anarchic.
It’s true that New York City wouldn’t be confused for Tegucigalpa or Mogadishu. And its violent crime rate, while soaring, is still much lower than that of Baltimore or St. Louis, for instance. But comparing New York today with the New York of even a few years ago makes clear that the city is undergoing a serious fracturing of civic order—one trending toward further disintegration.
Late one night in July, I was walking my dogs around Washington Square Park. Earlier that day, I had noticed a car with Florida plates and a curious open storage area on its roof, jerry-rigged together with brackets and chicken wire, holding an array of clothes, camping gear, and household goods. As I neared the car that night, I noted that its front door was open and that someone was sitting sideways in the driver’s seat, holding something between his knees. As I passed, he raised a large, compound crossbow, took aim at me through its scope, and pivoted in his seat, tracking my movement.
As soon as I was out of his range of fire, I called the police, who arrested him. They seized his crossbow—loaded with a quarrel, or bolt—and also a machete. He was charged with menacing with a deadly weapon, a class A misdemeanor that could result in up to a year in jail. He was released on his own recognizance immediately, the only condition being that he had to agree to the conditions of a temporary restraining order keeping him from contacting me.
I looked him up on the Internet. He has a significant criminal history, including sexual violence and assault charges. He is also—in layman’s terms—out of his mind. His Facebook profile includes a video of him demonstrating how long he can hold his arm over fire, titled, “I demand my retribution,” as well as rants about Jesus, the devil, and the true meaning of AIDS.
It took about 10 minutes poking around on the web to find out that this guy is seriously disturbed and has a documented history of criminal violence. Yet a few hours after he had pointed a loaded deadly weapon at a stranger, the justice system in New York City turned him loose, back to live in his illegally modified car.
All this may not amount to “anarchy,” in a purist’s sense of the word. But it isn’t the New York City that Bill de Blasio inherited, either.
Seth Barron is a New York City-based writer and editor who has written extensively about local politics and culture in City Journal, New York Post, New York Daily News, and The Wall Street Journal, and frequently appears on both national and local media, including Newsmax and FOX. Barron serves as managing editor of The American Mind, a publication of the Claremont Institute. THE LAST DAYS OF NEW YORK is Barron’s first book.
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