Racial, economic divide in '80s New York preceded Central Park case: Part 1

At the time, the city brewed with tension as parts of the city were being ravaged by crime and drugs, specifically crack, while Wall Street boomed with wealth.
6:59 | 05/25/19

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Transcript for Racial, economic divide in '80s New York preceded Central Park case: Part 1
park. It was a release to be out there in nature, to see the beauty of the park, as well as the skyscrapers and lights of New York City and the sense that, "Wow, this is my city. I'm here in my park." Central park is like center of the universe kind of. It makes you feel, on a beautiful day, that the center of things is kind of great. It just stretches forever, it seems, through the heart of that city, 600 football fields. Imagine that. It's supposed to be a refuge, a haven, an idyllic place. But by the 1980s, this place that was meant to be a central recreation hub for the entire city really becomes more of a barrier. Night would fall, and it would change. It would become a place where you'd be nervous about going. Central park became like a metaphor for the broader dysfunction in New York City. I think you could maybe best understand that as the New York between scorsese's "Taxi driver" They will wash all the scum off the streets. And spike Lee's "Do the right thing." What are you doing? In the late '80s, New York City was very tense. It was a place where people were fearful -- fearful of crime, fearful of being mugged, of being attacked. It was a very violent time in the city. This new drug had emerged in the 1980s which was crack. And it had this immediate, devastating impact. This has ached epidemic proportions. Crack was like the ebola of drugs. It just ravaged the place and it just took the homicide rate through the ceiling. '88, '89, you had about 1,900 to 2,000 murders a year And the victims are -- a huge majority of them were people of color. At the same time that all of these things are happening, you have the emergence and really dominance of Wall Street culture. We're going to turn the bull loose. Hundred? Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Nine. That's the best offering. Now it was about making money and making as much money as possible. And during that time period, the movie "Wall Street" came out. Greed, for lack of a better greed is right. Anything else you want to buy? Any good properties? What about central park? No, I think that should be preserved and left and Donald Trump should not be allowed to touch central park. A lot of people are very relieved. The rich are doing really, really well in New York City. Wall Street's exploding with obscene riches. And there's this gulf that's always been in New York City between rich and poor. But now it's even more pronounced. And in the more affluent, read that "White" communities, there wasn't crime. So if crime was seeping into those communities, there was cause for hysteria. How many houses around here have been broken into by blacks? Well, in 1989, you must remember that the city was in a real divisive, polarized condition. Three white teens arrested in the shooting death last night of a 16-year-old black youth. He was killed because he was black. This was a time in New York City where if you were black and you went into the wrong neighborhood, it would not be considered unusual for a mob to try and physically attack you. That's how bad race relations were at the time. A black guy gets killed and you're making the biggest -- stink about it. When a white girl, a white girl gets raped. Big deal. A white girl. Big deal. A white girl! There's turmoil and there's greed and there's poverty. And there's fear and violence. And it is all wrapped up in one big, tumultuous, single city between the east and Hudson rivers. This is a sort of cauldron in which the central park jogger narrative emerged. On April 19th, 1989, I went to work like I usually did. I worked in New York City for Salomon brothers. I always wanted to work in New York. It was a sense of accomplishment, and I was devoted to it. I stayed until after 8:00, and then I went home. I ran in the park probably four to five days a week. I loved the freedom of the park. It just gave me a sense of vitality. At the same time as a young Solomon brothers banker is stepping out of her east side home and starts running toward central park, there's a group of at least 30 young people, about a mile and a half away, and they're about to come into the park. We just got a call about a disorderly group of about 30 to 40 males inside central park acting disorderly and harassing people. I'm Trisha meili. And I'm known as the central park jogger. It was 30 years ago that I went out for a run after work in central park and I was attacked. 100th street and the east

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