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A Charmproof City
Only three months ago a prime candidate for the Republican vice-presidential nomination, John Vliet Lindsay, 46, the 103rd Mayor of New York and the holder of the second toughest political post in the U.S., was faced with the distinct prospect of political repudiation. The city's 2,000,000 Jews, once a cornerstone of his constituency, had turned cool and often hostile. Jeers greeted his name at synagogues; "hate mail" came into his office. City Hall became a fortress against an angry city, and Lindsay spent more and more time at Gracie Mansion, the city's elegant mayoral residence overlooking the East River. Only a short time ago, it had looked as if Lindsay could charm the whole city, which is about as charmproof as any in the world; now the whole community seemed to have turned against him. Says one City Hall acquaintance: "The birds have started circling around, as they watch the animal falter."
Far more than the career of John Lindsayor even the stability of the nation's largest citywas at stake. The same forces of race and poverty, fear and instability that transfix New York now are present in scores of other U.S. cities, large and small. New York contains all the elements that are directing the course of the 1968 election cam paign. New Yorkers' concern with the quality of life, with impersonal or unresponsive organizations, with law and orderall these are national issues. Historically, New York is a pattern setter. If it should prove ungovernable or explode in bitterness, no other city could feel secure in a time of increasing racial and ethnic polarization.
The rest of the nation can only hope that some patterns at least will not cross the Hudson. The sad truth is that for most of its millions, New York is an increasingly unfavorable habitat. Within the past two to three years, rents on noncontrolled apartments have risen as much as 100%with hikes of 40% and 50% common. Still, 800,000 units, a quarter of the city's dwellings, are listed as substandard. Replacing them would be a task equal to rebuilding two-thirds of blitz-shattered London, and several of the impoverished ghettos are as big as medium-sized cities. Traffic is scarcely better; every day 3,500,000 people crowd into nine square miles of Manhattan south of Central Park, the equivalent of transporting every man, woman and child in Connecticut into Bridgeport and out again each day. From the visible evidence, the sanitation strike might still be on, and blowing papers and scattered heaps of filth testify to perhaps the most