More than a few years back, I was walking up 40th past Bryant Park with my boss at the time, Jay, and he said– “You wouldn’t even recognize this place back in the 70s… you’d have been tripping over hypodermic needles, and fighting off the hookers back then. It was nasty, man.” A chort was about all I could muster-up as a response. Maybe he was over-stating it a bit, or maybe I just couldn’t fathom– I’ve never felt unsafe in the city. I just couldn’t get my arms around what he was talking about– it felt so far-removed and long ago. But man, these pics and words by Allan Tannenbaum make it vividly clear what NYC was truly like back then– probably just what Jaybird was talking about. It’s hard to imagine… Oh, and there was also some hellacious parties happening as well– and the music scene was incredible.
Long-abandoned Pier 48 being used by gay men as a rendezvous for casual sex. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
New York in the 70s: A Remembrance
Dirty, dangerous, and destitute. This was New York City in the 1970s. The 1960s were not yet over, and war still raged in Viet Nam, fueling resentment against the government. Nixon and the Watergate scandal created even more resentment, cynicism, and skepticism. Economically, stagnation coupled with inflation created a sense of malaise. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 delivered another blow to the U.S. economy, and brought the misery of long lines to buy gasoline. Conditions in Harlem and Bed-Stuy were horrendous, with abandoned buildings and widespread poverty. The subways were covered everywhere with ugly graffiti and they were unreliable. It seemed as if the entire infrastructure was in decay. Political corruption, sloppy accounting, and the cost of the war were killing the city. Times Square, the crossroads of the world, was seedy and sleazy. Pimps, hookers, and drug dealers owned the night there. Crime was rampant, and the police were powerless to stop it. Random killings by the “Son of Sam” made New Yorkers even more fearful. The parks were in decay, with litter and bare lawns, and it was home to muggers and rapists. When the proud City of New York had to beg the Federal Government for a financial bail-out, the President said no. The Daily News headline said it all: “Ford to City – Drop Dead.”
Transit Authority K-9 Police use German Shepherds on the subway to deter crime. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum