Computer Weekly (UK)

20th March, 1997

Life in the Big Apple after the millennium

Manhattan covers about 23 square miles and has a resident population of about 1.5 million. This number is swelled throughout the year by tourists, who can number up to half a million on any one day in the summer. Its complex transport system has to be able to cope with these tourists, as well as commuters in the financial and services sectors of the city.
New York is served by the largest port system in the US, carrying more than 115 million tonnes of goods. There are three major airports serving the city, two rail terminals and an underground rail network, or subway. The Port Authority is responsible for the maintenance of four underwater tunnels linking Manhattan with the mainland. The island is also home to 13 television stations and more than 100 radio stations, as well as the three major broadcasting networks CBS, ABC, and NBC.

Public health is served by almost 100 hospitals and five medical research centres, but with the rising costs of medical care and the close links between employment and health insurance, a growing minority of residents have no medical cover. Power for the city is provided by a number of private companies, the most significant being Consolidated Edison, with energy use breaking down into coal 20%, petroleum 13%, gas 15%, hydroelectric 26% and nuclear 26%.

Although a successful public relations campaign has given the impression that New York's crime problems are being conquered, the city still has a reputation for violent crime. In 1993 recorded crime statistics put the number of violent crimes at more than 153,000, including 62,778 incidents of violent assault, and nearly 2,000 murders were committed. In addition, there were nearly 3,000 rapes, more than 86,000 robberies and about 450,000 crimes against property. These included nearly 100,000 burglaries, 235,000 incidents of larceny or theft, 112,000 crimes of motor theft, and more than 4,000 of arson. To cope with this level of crime in Manhattan, there are more than three policemen to every 1,000 residents.

In his analysis, Stephen Lithgow of University of Portsmouth puts forward the hypothesis that given the crime statistics and the past history of lawlessness within New York, the city would be worse hit than others by any year 2000 unavailability of essential services. He concludes: "Given the concentration of high-profile companies in the city, the high population density, and the proximity of an underclass of dispossessed, it is fair to say that New York is probably at greater risk than most cities from the non-availability of essential services.

"In the past, at a time when the disparity between rich and poor was not so evident, New York experienced two power blackouts. The 1977 incident occurred at 5.30pm. Police evidence at the time reported that looting began only 10 minutes after the initial failure of supply and continued throughout the night," says Lithgow.

"Police admitted they were powerless to prevent it as the problem was so widespread. It is also true that the looting had no obvious, logical pattern to it. The looting was endemic and the goods stolen were very often of no practical use to those looting. There is every reason to suppose that a similar story could be expected should there be a repeat of the power failure." It may not have the same reputation for crime, but how much safer will London's creaking infrastructure be when the year 2000 hits?

Copyright © Reed Business Publishing 1996

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