TABLE 7-2 Average Annual Morbidity and Mortality for East New York Zip Codes and New York City, 1989–1991 (rate per 100,000)

Zip Code

Homicide

Infant Deathsa

Tuberculosis

AIDS

Syphilis

11207

73.8

97.4

56.6

93.7

479.8

11208

53.7

90.1

44.4

93.4

315.2

New York City

26.9

76.2

44.6

97.0

179.0

aRate per 10,000.

SOURCE: New York City Department of Health.

Between 1980 and 1990, however, zip code 11207 lost 19.0 percent of housing and 13.8 percent of its population to continuing contagious urban decay, and zip code 11208 lost 5.4 percent of its housing but gained 6.2 percent in its population. As shown in Table 7-2, between 1989 and 1991 zip code 11207 reported far higher rates of homicide and syphilis that either its neighbor zip code, 11208, or the city as a whole.

Clearly, large sections of East New York began suffering contagious urban decay and depopulation earlier than the rest of the city and continued later than the rest of the city. Zip code 11207 seems the worst affected, and we attribute its markedly increased rates of homicide and syphilis and decreased rate of families with two parents to this pattern of decay and neglect. Thomas Jefferson High School was located in this particularly hard-hit area.

Drugs and Violence

Drugs and guns moved into East New York throughout the 1980s, reaching a peak between 1989 and 1993. All observers agree that guns were everywhere, and many people felt they needed to carry a gun. One Jefferson student was quoted in the paper as saying, “I’m not scared to go to school. I come here with a weapon, a 9-millimeter automatic. So it don’t make no difference. I’d rather use my fists, but if it came down to that, I’m going to use it.”83

Patrick Carroll, then head of the 75th Precinct, offered a number of ways of imagining the amount of violence that was going on:

  • the number of “aided” cases—that is, cases in which officers offered aid to injured people—related to gunshots reached 600 in 1993, including those dead from their wounds;

  • the sheer number of drug- and weapon-related arrests and the number of weapons confiscated each year; and



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