A True Story
Email this review


 A drama in three parts, focusing on the conflict between New York's mayor Ed Koch and the homeless in the late 1980s. In June 1988, 30 homeless men and women decided to stay in City Hall Park after the organizers of an all-night vigil on their behalf had gone back to their homes and offices. Initially, they stayed because the weather was good and they had no place else to go. But over time, they got organized. By fall, the residents of ``Kochville'' had become a political force, a darling of the media, and a major irritant to irascible Mayor Koch. Jiler (Dark Wind, 1993) wrote about Kochville for the Village Voice, eventually becoming so engrossed in his story that, like an anthropologist, he moved in with the homeless in the park. This time around, Jiler puts Kochville into context, describing its rise and fall alongside that of Mayor Koch and of 850 Longwood Avenue, a Bronx apartment building symbolic of disastrous, heartless housing policies and trends that made homelessness nearly epidemic in New York City in the 1980s. Koch was the villain of the story in 1988, but Jiler now shows him as a complex man of both great strengths and self-destructive flaws, much like Kochville's home-grown leaders, Duke York and Larry Locke. An anthropologist would have told us how his own presence in the camp affected events and how he became privy to the private conversations and inner wrestlings that fill much of this book. But Jiler is a journalist and playwright, and his apparent intent is not just to chronicle a specific event but to construct a drama with universal lessons about characters who must war against both social forces and inner demons. A long-shot, winning trifecta for Jiler, who makes the reader care about each of his three protagonists: Ed Koch, the homeless, and 850 Longwood Avenue.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-886913-14-5
Page count: 382pp
Publisher: Ruminator Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1997