A Few Minutes with the Mayor – June 2017

Last month, we ran a film called Saturday’s Children at Old City Hall. It’s a story about people living in tenements… people like my own family.

In buildings like this, there were no elevators, so the higher the floor on which you lived, the cheaper the rent.

Ours was a five-story building and the rent was $30 a month. Around the corner, on 79th Street, where they had fourteen story apartment buildings with elevators (and doormen to call cabs for their tenants), the rent was higher as you went up. Much higher! $100 and up!

The Warner Brothers studio in Hollywood was famous for producing films where the action took place in tenements in New York. Virtually every Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and George Raft gangster film was set in New York. Evidently, if you wanted to be a big shot crook, you had to be in New York and in a tenement. If you weren’t a crook, but just poor, then you were exhausted and worn out with no chance for happiness. Forget smiling… in these films no one in tenements ever smiled. You might just as well check out of this world and end it all. This was a recurring theme in most films.

Stories like these were made for liberal writers and politicians to become ardent supporters of social change. In their way of thinking, poverty always bred crime and if you were poor and living in a tenement, your children would grow up to become criminals. Though this nonsense was endemic in Hollywood scripts, it made for some of the greatest gangster films ever produced.

Every once in a while, some writer would recognize there were other factors at work that actually facilitated the growth of crime… factors such as lack of family or lack of spiritual belief with its values. When that happened, they would trot in a priest, usually played by Pat O’Brien, who would plead with our budding crime figure to change his ways and seek salvation. This plea was inevitably rejected, because if it wasn’t, there would have been no movie. From this point on, the movie tenement would rock with bad people doing bad things. This realization of the importance of family, or a belief in the Almighty, is rare even today with our liberal leaders. If you don’t believe me just look at our tax codes.

I grew up in a tenement and with some tough kids on our street but none carried a gun, none held up the candy store, and none accosted little old ladies. Every morning I’d trot down the five flights of stairs, walk the two blocks to the subway station and head to school without incident. Unlike the movies, there were no crooks, no crime, and no shootings. Why? Every kid had a family with a father and mother. And most kids went to the Baptist Church, the Catholic Church, or the Jewish Temple in the neighborhood. I wasn’t a Catholic, but I know when those kids got out of line, the priests gave them what for.

If I wax rhapsodic about this, it is because it is evident that family and religion have been under attack for decades, not just in our country, but all of western civilization. With the advent of moral relativism, no one is ever responsible for their behavior any longer. This is not the Judeo-Christian way, but it has been both comforting and convenient to dismiss the old beliefs. Instead, the idolatry of materialism seduces too many of us.

Accruing property and having tons of money brings many things to each of us… comfort, less stress and worry, and more. It doesn’t bring genuine or lasting happiness. Furthermore, no government can bring you happiness. Politicians will promise you this and promise you that. Liberals in government will say you need this and you need that, and of course they’ll give you this and that. What they really are doing is buying your vote. But they won’t give you happiness. That only comes from inside one… and is strengthened by family, friends, and a relationship with the Almighty. Understanding that, one can be happy, even in a tenement.