However, at its lowest point the city opted to rehabilitate itself. Often, outsiders played pivotal roles. On November 20, 1976 Rupert Murdoch bought and reinvented a failing New York Post while promoting the retirement of the pathetic Mayor Abe Beame in favor of Ed Koch. During the new mayor’s tenure, author Jonathan Mahler recalls, “The private sector created more jobs in the city than in the fifties and sixties combined." Private-public partnerships like the East Brooklyn Congregations started what eventually became hugely successful housing programs. Koch started massive infrastructure projects that saved the bridges, water mains and sewage pipes from collapsing.
Consequent to a change in federal laws in 1965, a new wave of immigrants started landing in the city in the 1970s. They often brought their faiths with them or discovered faith as a way making sense of the city. A large portion of these new immigrants came as or became evangelical Christians.
In 1976 the Democratic National Convention held its confab in the city and put forth evangelical Christian Jimmy Carter as its presidential candidate. Rolling Stone’s Hunter S. Thompson called it “Jimmy Carter and the great leap of faith.” The party connected its candidate to New York City’s hopes by promising a “massive effort” to help the city. Carter went onto win the presidency by the virtue of a massive vote turnout in New York City. President Carter came to the city on October 5, 1977 to promise aid to the devastated wasteland around Charlotte Street in the South Bronx. To pastors in the neighborhood Carter seemed like a bearer of the gospel of salvation.
In that same year the rise of New York City’s iconic status of a new youthful cosmopolitan style was heralded by Woody Allen’s movie Annie Hall. A Clevelander George Steinbrenner, Sr. came, bought the Yankees, and brought another outsider Reggie Jackson to the city in 1976. The Yankees won their first World Series since 1964. Despite being a basket case, the city showed that it still could hope to make a comeback. New Yorkers started walking down the streets to the tune, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." Here and there New Yorkers were also turning to help from above. Some felt called by God to help bring the city back.
On December 31, 1977 a 25-year old A. R. Bernard felt called by God to go into ministry. Only about two years previously, while he was listening to Nicky Cruz, former head of the notorious Mau Mau gang in Brooklyn, Bernard says he heard an inner voice tell him, “I am the God you are looking for.” Along with many others, Bernard now turned toward helping his fellow New Yorkers find a spiritual path through the desolation. Within ten years Bernard was establishing the foundation for what would become the largest church in the city.
Nicky Cruz, former Mau Mau leader:
[Monday: Part 6: The Making of the Postsecular City. The Manhattan Evangelicals' comeback in 1978]