The transformation and revival of New York City from 1990 to 2013 is one of the most remarkable stories in urban history.
Many are oblivious to New York’s true history – a failing city that by 1990 had over 2,200 murders, 93,000 violent robberies and 147,000 car thefts annually with a declining middle class, depressed property values and embarrassingly low educational attainment.
But then something happened. It was not the result of broader social or economic forces. Instead, it was an intellectual paradigm shift and revolution that only came about because of political leadership, a new set of ideas about governing and established tradition being questioned and changed at the grassroot level.
Today, the world sits at a unique moment in urban city history. Cities are falling apart. Rampant homelessness, increasing crime, mounting drug use, unaffordable housing – once a beacon of innovation and success, today many cities are failing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. New York City faced worst challenges in its past and managed to overcome them.
More than ever, the world needs to know the story of New York’s revival and to understand how this happened. As the 400th anniversary of New York approaches in 2024, we find out what was behind the Fall and Rise of New York.
Martha Cooper is an unexpected icon of the street art movement – a tiny, grey-haired figure running alongside crews of masked graffiti artists.
In the 1970’s, as the boroughs of New York City burned, she worked as a photographer for the New York Post, seeking images of creativity and play where others saw crime and poverty. As a result, she captured some of the first images of New York graffiti, at a time when the city had declared war on this new culture. Martha and her co-author Henry Chalfant compiled these images into the book Subway Art. However, the commercial failure of the book forced Martha to leave graffiti behind, moving on to document many other hidden cultures of New York.
20 years later Martha discovers she has become a legend of the graffiti world – a culture that has now exploded into a global movement. Subway Art became one of the most sold – and stolen – art books of all time, photocopied and shared by graffiti artists for decades.
At 75 years of age, Martha finds herself navigating a culture vastly changed.The small community born from struggle and adversity, has grown into a commercial industry fuelled by the rise of social media. Now every new piece of street art is immediately uploaded, and crowds line up for selfies in front of popular works. Martha struggles to find her place in this new world, driven by a passion for capturing the creativity that helps people rise above their environment.