“When did evil ever depart? I think not. I think you always should look for it. Particularly in a fragile thing like a democracy in which we live. It’s so easy to take advantage of it. You should always watch for someone taking advantage of the system because it’s very fragile and must be protected.“
—Legendary New York journalist Jimmy Breslin at 92Y in 1994 [via C-SPAN video]
In New York today, the face of the city, Manhattan, is proud and glittering. But Manhattan is not the city. New York really is a sprawl of neighborhoods, which pile into one another. And it is down in the neighborhoods, down in the schools that are in the neighborhoods, where this city is cut and slashed and bleeding from someplace deep inside. … In Manhattan, the lights seem brighter and the theatre crowds swirl through the streets and girls swing in and out of office buildings in packs and it is all splendor and nobody sees the body punches that are going to make the city sag to its knees one day so very soon.
Jimmy Breslin, I Run To Win, May 5, 1969
^ A reminder that Jimmy Breslin is good at writing.
In 1976 and 1977, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz shot and killed six people and wounded many more in the Bronx and Brooklyn areas of New York.
1. Donna Laurie, age 18, was murdered by Berkowitz on 29 July 1976 at around one a.m. Berkowitz shot through her car window and hit her in the arm and neck. She was shot with a .44 caliber Bulldog. This was thought to be the doing of the Mafia, as the North Bronx area was, at the time, predominantly Italian.
2. Christine Freund, age 26, was shot and killed by Berkowitz on 30 January 1977 at around midnight. The police connected the murder of Donna Laurie to the murder of Freund, identifying the weapon as a .44 caliber Bulldog. However, due to conflicting descriptions of the assailant, this notion was quickly dismissed.
3. Virginia Voskerichain, age 19, was shot and killed by Berkowitz at around 7:30pm on 8 March 1977. He fired once into her head, killing her instantly. After her death, an NYPD task force known as Operation Omega was formed to catch the .44 Killer.
4. Valentina Suriani, age 18, and her boyfriend, Alexander Esau, age 20, were killed by Berkowitz on 16 April 1977, not far from the site of Donna Laurie’s murder. The first officer on the scene discovered an envelope addressed to Captain Joe Borelli. Berkowitz used just the tips of his fingers when handling the letter, rendering forensics unable to find usable fingerprints. Two weeks later, a similar letter was sent to the New York Daily News’ journalist, Jimmy Breslin.
5. Stacy Moskowitz, age 20, was shot and killed on 31 July 1977 in Brooklyn. While on a walk through the park with her boyfriend, they noticed an odd figure standing near a public restroom. Later, when they were in their car, Berkowitz fired three shots into their car, killing Moskowitz.
In August 1977, NYPD homicide detectives indicted David Berkowitz for eight shooting incidents. He confessed and claimed that his neighbor’s dog, who was allegedly possessed by a demon, instructed him to kill. On 12 June 1978, Berkowitz was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences. He is incarcerated in Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York.
“Peter, we’re children, don’t you understand that? We’re going to school, we’re growing up—” But even as she resisted, she wanted him to persuade her. She had wanted him to persuade her from the beginning. But Peter didn’t know that he had already won. “If I believe that, if I accept that, then I’ve got to sit back and watch while all the opportunities vanish, and then when I’m old enough it’s too late. Val, listen to me. I know how you feel about me, you always have. I was a vicious, nasty brother. I was cruel to you and crueler to Ender before they took him. But I didn’t hate you. I loved you both, I just had to be—had to have control, do you understand that? It’s the most important thing to me, it’s my greatest gift, I can see where the weak points are, I can see how to get in and use them, I just see those things without even trying. I could become a businessman and run some big corporation, I’d scramble and maneuver until I was at the top of everything and what would I have? Nothing. I’m going to rule, Val, I’m going to have control of something. But I want it to be something worth ruling. I want to accomplish something worthwhile. A Pax Americana through the whole world. So that when somebody else comes, after we beat the buggers, when somebody else comes here to defeat us, they’ll find we’ve already spread over a thousand worlds, we’re at peace with ourselves and impossible to destroy. Do you understand? I want to save mankind from self-destruction.”
“You see, the condition of the City of New York at this time reminds me of the middleweight champion fight between the late Marcel Cerdan and Tony Zale. Zale was old and doing it from memory and Cerdan was a bustling, sort of classy alley fighter and Cerdan went to the body in the first round and never brought his punches up. At the start of each round, when you looked at Zale’s face, you saw only this proud, fierce man. There were no marks to show what was happening. But Tony Zale was coming apart from the punches that did not leave any marks and at the end of the eleventh round Tony was along the ropes and Cerdan stepped back and Tony crumbled and he was on the floor, looking out into the night air, his face unmarked, his body dead, his career gone. In New York today, the face of the city, Manhattan, is proud and glittering. But Manhattan is not the city. New York really is a sprawl of neighborhoods, which pile into one another. And it is down in the neighborhoods, down in the schools that are in the neighborhoods, where this city is cut and slashed and bleeding from someplace deep inside. The South Bronx is gone. East New York and Brownsville are gone. Jamaica is up for grabs. The largest public education system in the world may be gone already. The air we breathe is so bad that on a warm day the city is a big Donora. In Manhattan, the lights seem brighter and the theatre crowds swirl through the streets and the girls swing in and out of office buildings in packs and it is all splendor and nobody sees the body punches that are going to make the city sag to its knees one day so very soon. The last thing, then, that New York can afford at this time is a politician thinking in normal politicians’ terms. The city is beyond that. The City of New York either gets an imagination, or the city dies.”
- Jimmy Breslin, 1969, “I Run To Win."
I am tipping my hat and all of the hats (even the one you’re wearing), to Katie Honan and Danny Gold for bringing this paragraph into my life.