Alphaville: 1988, Crime, Punishment and the Battle for New York City’s Lower East Side, Reviewed: It’s true! New York’s streets are really, really mean. – Washington City Paper

The mean streets of new York City have always held a special place in urban lore: the arteries of “the naked city,” as the gritty wisdom goes, with millions of stories flowing through them daily. Ideally situated and sufficiently cynical to recount those tales is the crime reporter, or, if he is literary, the cop. If he’s not, but can snag a co-author, all the better. Which is exactly what detective Mike Codella did to write Alphaville, an account of 1980s drug wars in the boho capital of the world—Manhattan’s lower East Side and East Village, south of 14th Street and east through Avenues a, B, C, and D—told in tough-guy talk so extreme it borders on self-parody, but nonetheless never loses the reader. for anyone who has ever spent time in “Loisaida,” before it became what it resembles now, “the Epcot Center,” as Codella aptly phrases it, this book evokes it all, sometimes unpleasantly. There were drugs, punk rockers, an AIDS epidemic, Hell’s Angels, casual sex, postmodern artists of every sort, Hare Krishnas, crime, projects, and those desperate to escape them. There was a real-estate boom, with landlords evicting penniless tenants from squalid welfare hotels at gunpoint, in order to unload the buildings for multiple times what they paid for them. and, as Alphaville stresses in graphic detail, Avenue D was ground zero for the international heroin trade. so of course there were assaults, robberies, murders, and more junkies than anyone could count. Many of these addicts could be described using Codella’s words for one: “He looked like he died but forgot to lie down.” this was Codella’s beat; he had it because he wanted it. He didn’t want to bide his time until retirement; he wanted to put bad guys behind bars, which he did with such gusto and regularity that he became known in the East Village as “Rambo” and his partner as “Fastback.” they earned those nicknames because they took certain disgusting crimes personally and would not ignore them—for instance, the case of a girl imprisoned in her apartment by drug-dealing low-lifes, who addicted her, raped her, and impregnated her. When Rambo and Fastback learned of this, they went ballistic and several violent arrests ensued. Alphaville contains another story of imprisonment and abuse in Brooklyn’s Coney Island projects, and in both cases, it’s hard to see how the victims could possibly have survived without police intervention. the depths of such wickedness are sickening, but not, sadly, out of the ordinary in an environment that “the average white bread cop saw…as some kind of jungle where amoral human animals preyed on each other and got what they deserved.” this was not Codella’s view. He saw lots of decent, beleaguered citizens in Loisaida. “We didn’t see their neighborhood as an irredeemable ghetto that needed to be walled up or nuked. We saw it as salvageable. We liked it there.”

Alphaville: 1988, Crime, Punishment and the Battle for New York City’s Lower East Side, Reviewed: It’s true! New York’s streets are really, really mean. – Washington City Paper


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