With the recent rash of fires in apartment buildings uptown, recollections of 1970s Bronx have been surfacing. To help us contextualize some of the conditions at that time, Word Up Community Bookshop has invited journalist Joe Flood, author of The Fires, to present his book about the underlying city policies of that period.
Also in attendance will be Dakim Duncan, president of the tenants’ association at 775 Riverside Drive, to give an update on his building where there was a fire in January 2018. All residents are still displaced.
In 1968, New York City struck a deal with the RAND Corporation to use their computer models to establish more efficient public services and save millions of dollars, beginning their first civilian effort with the FDNY. Over the next decade a series of fires swept through New York, displacing more than 600,000 people, all thanks to the intentional withdrawal of fire protection from the city’s poorest neighborhoods — and all based on RAND’s computer modeling systems. In The Fires, journalist Joe Flood provides an X-ray of the inner workings of New York City in the 1970s and of all modern cities, using the dramatic story of a pair of mayors, an ambitious Fire Commissioner, and an even more ambitious think tank to illuminate the patterns and formulas that are now inextricably woven into the very fabric of the modern urban experience.
“Flood casts a wide net, looking into New York machine politics, the development of systems analysis, the dynamics of urban growth and an array of unexpected byways… a riveting look inside one of the most challenging eras of recent NYC history. Important reading for anyone who cares about cities and how they are governed.”
“[Flood’s] compelling research resonates in another era of budget-cutting and data-driven decision-making.”
–The New York Times
“”Flood’s book, an account of the fire epidemic that ravaged the city in the 1970s, traces the history of well-intended government intervention that, the author claims, inadvertently fanned the flames of an era that FDNY veterans still call “The War Years.” The period has a certain eerie connection to the present day: a technocratic mayor closing firehouses amid massive budget cuts while the local economy stagnates. … The story warns against the risks inherent in even the best-intended reformist plans.”
–The Wall Street Journal