The Bronx is Burning book is sensational. Again it is hard to remember how truly dreadful New York City was in 1977.
The City was almost bankrupt with bonds unissuable and Federal aid refused. Before being turned out in 1976, Gerald Ford refused a bailout, prompting the gorgeous headline in the Post ‘Ford to City: Drop Dead’.
Some 300,000 jobs were leaving the city each year, large tracts of the Bronx and Harlem were torched and thousands of cops and firemen were laid off. There was looting on an unimaginable scale after a massive power blackout in the hottest August for 50 years.
Oh yes and Son of Sam was on the loose.
The book tells the story through the epic mayoral primary between Ed Koch, left wing firebrand Bella Abzug, liberal sweetheart Mario Cuomo and hapless midget incumbent Abe Beame.
Abzug apart, the contestants got themselves in an unholy twist between appealing to liberal Manhattan and the frightened blue-collar ethnic communities of Queens and Brooklyn. Koch won and went on to rescue the City and help return it to its former glory.
The sub-plot of the book is how Reggie Jackson, the swaggering baseball superstar, joined the Yankees to become the city’s first black sports superstar. After terrible slumps in form and fist fights with his manager, he went on to bring the Yanks their first world series in 12 years by the extraordinary feat of hitting three home runs in game six from three deliveries.
1977 was also the first time I visited New York. Needless to say I fell in love with the City and baseball and have remained passionate about both ever since