"We Need 10,000 `Greedy, Heartless' New Yorkers to Work for 5 Years for Free."
That was the headline of an advertisement that rallied New Yorkers to fight the city's fiscal crisis 15 years ago. The result was an outpouring of thousands of citizens who volunteered to fill jobs and provide services the city no longer could afford.Today New York faces a crisis of another sort, one that many believe is far more severe.
Statistics show that our town is well down the list of major cities when it comes to crime. But such numbers are small comfort at a time when random violence infests our streets, subways and parks, when stray bullets cut down children in their homes and when a sense of hopelessness drives teenagers out of the schools, the job market and society itself. And drastic budget cuts once again threaten to slash social services, from libraries to hospitals to housing.
Fearful that the social fabric is unraveling, some lifelong New Yorkers are fleeing the city. But that's no answer for most of us - the 7 million (or is it 8 million?) who have made a living and a life here and who are unwilling to surrender our town to lawlessness and neglect.
It was from these millions of ordinary New Yorkers that the army of volunteers came to fight the fiscal crisis of 1975. And it is from these millions of ordinary, extraordinary New Yorkers that help must come to confront today's frightening plight.
To help the police fight drugs and crime hundreds have already volunteered at their local precincts. Thousands more are banding together to clean up their drug-plagued neighborhoods and to reclaim their streets.
To help young people find employment, block associations and other neighborhood groups have been holding jobs fairs all over the city.
To help children and teenagers stay in school thousands have enrolled as volunteer tutors.
To reduce racial and ethnic tensions many local groups have launched educational and recreational programs that bring people together in their neighborhoods.
Here are some tips for those who want to enlist in this growing volunteer army. The police need volunteers to help fight crime.
The schools need all the help they can get.
For city and private agencies alike, there is a clearinghouse for volunteers.
Individual New Yorkers made a huge difference in battling the fiscal crisis a decade and a half ago. Today we can make an equally huge difference in restoring a feeling of security and a sense of pride in our town.
We must prove once again that we are not the "greedy, heartless" types that we are so often perceived to be.
We must respond to the brave and heart-rending plea of the Utah family whose son was stabbed to death in one of our subway stations.
In its time of anguish the Watkins family cried out to New Yorkers: "Get involved!"
It's the least we can do.