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Challenge 69 the urban crisis. The students response why observe that there are two problems that seem to be emerging. One is a generation gap that is quite this horrible between the speakers and the young men and women who have come here to hear them. And also something of a communications gap. Comments were made by the men and women. Who came to hear a number of the speakers that we live in a competitive society which is all very true but they fail to understand that one must compete on something close to equal competitive grounds. It isn't fair for a 6 foot 200 pounder to take my young 10 year old son into a ring and proposed to box or to wrestle with him. And I submit to you that the one fifth of all Americans who have to compete with the 80
percent of us that seem to have the full measure of the blessings of this society are competing not on a very very fair basis of coal and I think that that's what challenge 69 is all about. The Wake Forest University a symposium on contemporary American affairs presents challenge 8:54 the urban crisis. The student's response. This is the last in a series of nine programs that seek to focus attention on the problems of American cities. The topic of this program is the urban crisis from the viewpoint of city government. On preceding programs we have heard speeches on the crisis of urban environment the crisis of inadequate education the welfare system and the crisis of unemployment and underemployment and speeches on the role of the church and the business community in meeting the urban crisis. The speaker on today's program
Dr. Barry got a rock is deputy assistant to Mayor John Lindsay and is the director of the urban Action Task Force of New York City. Dr. Godhra is co-author of the book New York City in crisis and is the winner of 12 awards including the coveted Polk Award. Here now to speak on the topic the urban crisis from the viewpoint of city government is Dr. Barry got to run. Thank you very much it's a pleasure being here this evening. I don't know how many of you are aware of what's happening or has been happening in New York City but things have been fairly quiet. It's been at least one month since our last blizzard at least a month since I last teachers strike. I think it's been almost ages since anyone has personally attacked me for either wearing
turtle lakes or interfering with the police or for it. Hurting were it interfering with some demonstrators and so also seemed like a lifetime since one of our city councilman last September accused me personally of financing the entire Yippie television spectacular in Chicago. And that's not made up that's for real. As for this latter accusation I'd like to make it very clear. That the eminent mayor of Chicago didn't need help from Mayor John Lindsay for what happened out there last August. Before I went to work for Marylands in January of 1966 I worked for The New York Herald Tribune on an investigative series called New York City in crisis. I'm often reminded of the opening lines of each of those articles which appeared every day for four and a half months and each story began. New York is the greatest city in the world and everything is wrong with it. Now
nearly four years later I'm still convinced that New York is the greatest city in the world. And despite what I believe the significant progress under the Lindsay administration there are a great many moments when everything still seems to be wrong with it. There are for example today where I was given a tour of the campus where I. Came to the conclusion that almost every building here looks exactly the same. Architecturally it might be fine it would be even better if you ran your city hall out of one of these buildings because the demonstrators or the pickets would never find it. New York City Hall sticks out and nobody has any trouble finding it. Most of our problems in New York today are common to all urban centers or the larger urban centers.
But in New York City because of its size and because of its really unique population the problems are intensified frequently in durance and even more than that beyond governmental governmental expertise to cope with the problems in New York during the last three years under the Lindsay administration. We have tried to change things to make our city livable for all the people living in what I consider in what our press considered a remarkably candid state of the city message earlier this year. The mayor said and I'd like to quote briefly from it. So I speak tonight knowing that what afflicts New York is serious. Yet I also speak out of a conviction which has grown not diminished in the three years I've been mayor. The New York City is governable that its problems serious as they are do yield to a determined effort to face the toughest problems head on. We have learned to do otherwise to preserve peace by ignoring the lemma can bring the silence of
stagnation and can mask the slow decay of vital services. We have sort of a reverse this process to improve the quality of life in this town by going to the roots of its dilemmas. We have done so because it is the only way to make our city better. In New York during these three years we've begun to make changes in a great many areas of government. But the most publicity for our communication system with the press neighborhoods and the relative stability of these neighborhoods during the last three years I would be less than candid if I said I'd like to Reminds me of a story someone once told me standing on the edge of the red some years ago trying to how it was going to get the chosen people across before the Egyptians caught up with him
and his educators and educators look I have this problem I have to get the chosen people across the Red Sea. The Egyptians are left behind. What can you do for me. The educators retired for an hour came back and said we just can't help you. And his generals after a consultation came back and told sorry there's just nothing we can do. By this point was getting desperate. The chosen people had to be taken across the road and. The Egyptians were real desperation. His most trusted aide was his press agent and his press a torrent of the problem stared out of the red and turned back to put your right arm like this and commanded to recede to the right and put your left
in command the Left press agent turned and said that's great but will it work. And the press agent looked at him and said How do I know but I'll guarantee you a page in the Bible. Aside from the fact that I like this story very much. I think it's germane in spite of the publicity we've been receiving in New York as miracle workers in maintaining stability. We are well aware of the fact that luck whether it comes in the form of an unexpected summer shower or something even less predictable plays a significant role in maintaining whatever stability it is that we have been able to maintain. I think during these troubled times when some people prefer to hide behind simplistic slogans such as Law and Order. I'd like you I'd like someone to tell me one rational man who is not following the letter.
I think it's important that we must not ignore the facts and to me the facts are very clear that as long as conditions existed breed growing unrest on our college campuses and in our city streets the potential for disorder the potential for disruption and the potential for violence will exist. It's the causes that are creating the problems not the people. It is a Democrat working for a Republican in a fusion municipal administration in New York. I'm convinced that whatever stability and progress we've been able to achieve in the city must be attributed clearly to one man. John Lindsay and his ability to communicate and eagerness to go out to people and convince them that he cares. Yet what we've learned in New York it's far more than just caring. He's been able. To convincingly demonstrate that he will take necessary action to force change. There is no
painless way to create for our children the city of New York should and must become a city in which the freedom of the individual and the welfare of the community exist in harmony and working for an institution like the city of New York. Our concern communication commitment and that's really a commitment. To effect meaningful change and credibility. Maybe it's simplistic but to me credibility means or credibility should be built on promising nothing that you can't deliver and delivering everything that you promise rather than a promise or anything and give if you're going to run and you've got to give us our pay. In New York a bus trip that has been promised to take
60 youngsters to the country for a day is worth a lot more in developing communication and credibility and relations between an institution and a people. If that bus arrives on time and takes youngsters to a country then I best park a park or a new school that's built months or years later than it was promised. Last spring one evening in Harlem I had dinner with someone by the name of Omar Ahmed Omar media in New York has labeled leading Harlem militant. That's in quotes. The reason I say it in quotes is that our press in New York now. Has gotten it down to. Almost every block has in the media's vision a militant so that you read in the paper that this demonstration was led by an East Street militant. Anyway Omar started I've been a nationalist since I was 10 since I was 12 and a killer trained your
American army since I was 16. I mean and I'm convinced that I will probably have to kill you in three because our race is never going to change. I can tell you there was nothing I learned at Columbia preparing kind of a discussion. Finally I answered. OK that's three years from now what do we do in the next three years. I think in this world I've learned to inhabit a world of churches and cellars and after places that dinner meeting with communication one knowing one being able to respond. But more than being able to respond to what he was saying what he was saying on the table and what he was saying between the lines that pretty much is what my life and what the urban Action
Task Force which I had in New York. The previous president at San Francisco State. Who educators tell me is it is and was a fine man. The man who was there about six months I don't remember his name was quoted as saying just before he gave up the situation out there. The communication will not solve all problems but few problems can be solved without meaningful communication. If there's anything I've learned in my three years it's that institutions have to learn to communicate. For us in New York and for the mayor of New York to fax became very obvious to us in that first summer of ours the summer of nineteen sixty six The first was set in New York there was little or no meaningful coordination among city agencies and planning to head off disturbances or in responding
to community problems to prevent them from escalating into disturbances. The failure of the city government to act jointly or departments to act jointly or to even share necessary information was most evident in the relations between our police department in New York and other city agencies. In effect that as late as 1966 in New York the New York Police Department was totally isolated from the rest of government. Yet in New York the police were increasingly being called upon to deal with tensions and citizen complaints that had little if anything at all to do with police responsibilities. In effect in New York the focus of community tension had turned away from the charges of over police brutality to the overt acts of bureaucratic brutality in New York the police were being called upon to deal with. People. Will be upon
to deal with people angered over filthy streets dated housing and inferior schools. The precinct captain is patrolling had no responsibility for creating these conditions and no resources to correct them. The police were the arm of government that the mayor of the city of New York was using to respond to them. A similar. Example would be a Columbia University to digress for a moment. The problem is a Columbia University or any university cannot be said by police. The problem is going to be there whether you bring the police on the campus or not. Yet the city government faced with a city government faced with people. Who are disturbed because the garbage is lying in their streets necessary to sit down in the street. Invariably don't get their street cleaning the city instead of sending garbage trucks for whatever the reason usually sends police.
It's not something like that would be no more unacceptable to me whether in government or out of government. If your streets are dirty you ought to be sending garbage trucks. If there are problems on my campus the campus should be able to solve the problems. The second factor we learned in New York. Was equally significant and is potentially explosive. A serious communications gap existed between the city government and the residents of our deteriorating neighborhoods in New York the communications gap was felt two ways one the residents of our lower income neighborhoods found it extremely difficult if not impossible to break through the bureaucracy to receive desperately needed and deserved municipal services. The second effect was equally important. The city administration was too isolated and too weighted down by red tape to hear or truly understand voices throughout the city asking for change. These two factors the isolation of the place from the rest
of government and the lack of communication between government and the people. That government is supposed to exist. For. These two factors convince the mayor that a radically different approach was needed to meet these potentially explosive problems. In response the mayor announced in April of 1967 the creation of something called the summer task force and a series of local task forces and the most oppressed communities of our city. The task force primarily was the presence of city government. The presence of the mayor in a very dramatic and hopefully effective manner. It is an attempt an approach a system to make an already existing city agencies operate more effectively and with greater involvement of the people of the city. The task force is a mechanism designed to make the local agencies of city government more responsive on an immediate and direct basis. The community needs and desires in the same way that the mayor of New
York had gone to the streets of the city and had taken his commissioners along with him. He was now attempting through these local units called task forces to bring local agency achieves and administrators into direct and continuing and meaningful contact with the people that they were being paid to serve. The task force provided the mayor with a direct and immediate link to the most troubled and the prime neighborhoods of our city and it likewise provided the neighborhoods with a direct line to city hall. In effect the task force could become an effect of our eyes and ears. For the good. Of the mayor and a potential rabbi at City Hall for the community. The neighborhood now had a friend at City Hall only accessible and hopefully concerned at all times. Suddenly in the most oppressed areas of our city. Community people were beginning to make things happen. Granted they were very small things. Whether it was a garbage in one street. A light in one
park or one single place St.. But for the most part the government's response to these problems was significant and the double lines of communication and trust in potentially troubled communities. What is the task force structure meant to us in New York. In the short run it has played an effective role in easing neighborhood tensions and helping maintain the stability of our city. It is in the long run that the task force is significant in New York and to every city in the United States for the task force concept is a step forward in the decentralization of city government. From here on in city government whether it's in Winston-Salem or in New York City or Wilmington Delaware or Detroit Michigan city government no longer can survive by remaining isolated behind the walls of a single city or. City Hall today must be where the people are. In poor neighborhoods and in rich neighborhoods. And it must be responsive 24 hours a day 52 weeks a
year. Today the urban task force is a year round operation in New York recommended as a model to other cities by the National Advisory Commission and civil disorders main vehicle of communication throughout the city. There's no doubt in our mind that the concept has worked in New York. Indeed the mistake we made was in underestimating the need for this kind of dialogue and communication where the need was most immediate and most obvious within the lower income neighborhoods of our city. It is now apparent to us that not only lower income people feel that they have lost touch with their city that their city government doesn't give a damn about them or their problems. That is why in New York we've begun to expand the concept of the program to operate in neighborhoods throughout our city. All of these efforts are being nice to say that all of these efforts. Would have made New York City a place in which there are no tensions and which even
the tensions will lessen and the discomforts of city life would disappear and. Could be quite candid in some ways they both increased. I think the reason is. You cannot really try to change the way a city works without running into opposition without running into the lane without running into frustration. You cannot try to build roads out of poverty and despair when no roads ever existed before without kindling flames of discontent. A discontent which has been lying dormant for decades. You cannot ask people to talk to their government and to their elected officials without being willing to really willing to listen not only to new unpleasant voices. But to the new angry voices voices which are sometimes dangerous and irresponsible. What is important is that our government and our mayor in New York City has been
trying to listen has been trying to communicate. And has been trying to change. As a great poet Langston Hughes wrote. What happens to a dream deferred. Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun or fester like a sore and then run. Does it stink like rotten meat or crust and sugar all over like a syrupy sweet. Maybe it just looks like a heavy load. Or does it explode. I've learned much in my three years working for Lindsay and walking the streets of the city I grew up in but never really knew. I've learned that the black militant. I think that it is very important that we do not confuse the term militancy. And the term extremism. Which the tendency is to do or there is a tendency to do. But I have learned that the black militant wants nothing different from what the Jewish philosopher Hillel wanted when he wrote If I am not for myself who will be for me.
If I am only for myself what am I. If Not Now When. Lorraine Hansberry in a letter written in 1962 came closer to express expressing the feeling of her people and the turmoil of our times than I could ever do and I'd like to just quote briefly from. The acceptance of our present condition. It's the only form of extremism which discredits us before our children. The negro north and south does not want or expect anything less nor anything more than his birthright. We have put this labor oceans of sweat in measurable blood into this America for generations. It is ours. We want our part in full measure. That is all. Some of our critics in New York and which we have one or two. Have labeled the task force approach a Band-Aid approach to social change and rejected it for this reason. I think this
criticism would be very valid if we view the concept as an ultimate solution rather than as a step or a bandaid toward the solution. In my view a doctor has a responsibility an obligation to use a Band-Aid or whatever else is available to keep a person from bleeding to death. In the same vein. In my my view is that a government or a government official. Has a responsibility and the obligation to use a Band-Aid or whatever else is available to keep the city from bleeding to death. I think the important thing is the realization that in either case the Band-Aid cannot last forever. We struggle in New York. With Band-Aid methods to build up communication and dialogue among our people of our city. We must begin to make significant and visible change in the lives of all of our people. To do this we in New York and the mayors of our other urban centers need help. Our cities in our states no longer have sufficient or even adequate revenues to
Challenge 69: The urban crisis
Episode Number
#9 (Reel 1)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 69-30-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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