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
Tribeca pioneers walking their dogs on Harrison Street. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
Terence Galagher tends the Bellevue Hospital Mortuary. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center loom over undeveloped Tribeca, with the almost finished Independence Plaza in the center. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
A member of the Chingalings Motorcycle Club pushes another biker at the entrance to their rent-free city-owned clubhouse in the South Bronx. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
Available stores in Tribeca. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
Motorcycle shop in Tribeca. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
Homeless man on Tribeca loading dock. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
Times Square Hooker waiting on the street. (Lt.), Punk Sex Girls on the back steps of CBGB, 1977. (Rt.) ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
The body of Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, is carried from the Chelsea Hotel, 1978. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum
Sid Vicious Under Arrest, NYC, 1978. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum. Sid was arrested for the murder of Nancy Spungen, allegedly stabbing her to death in their cluttered, filthy Chelsea Hotel apartment. The trial was cut short when…
Sid Vicious in a Body Bag. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum. Sid overdosed on heroin at home.
The Ramones performing at CBGB’s in NYC, 1977. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum.
Joe Strummer of The Clash getting into a taxi at the airport in New York, 1981. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum.
Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simenon performing at The Palladium in New york in 1979. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum.
The Talking Heads perform at the lower Manhattan Ocean Club in Tribeca in 1977. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum.
Bob Marley flings his dreadlocks during a performance at Madison Square Garden in 1978. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum.
Wow, I am just amazed how much history exists in this place. Whenever I go to New York, especially downtown Manhattan, I am just fascinated by it. I have great memories in that place. During the summer I used to go to my cousin’s place in Greenwich Village. We would play video games until a reasonable hour in the night, go to sleep and wake up early.
A New York sunrise is something amazing. We could see a decent amount of Manhattan from his place. We would then listen to some good jazz on a vinyl player and just hang out in his living room and let the sunlight filter in while sipping on some tea. One track that sticks out in my mind is Hank Mobley’s Room For Squares, a great jazz album that is often overlooked.
Soon after we’d just walk around the city and watch it in motion, people going to work, people at work… It felt so great. It was really alive in the summertime, so much to do. We’d walk past neighborhoods and see kids at play and we’d go past tall skyscrapers. We pretty much went everywhere. There was no shortage of things to do.
While I wouldn’t live in New York City, it definitely has a certain “vintage” feel to it and there’s a lot of history there.
We just did a series of snowboards for Forum that use Allan’s photography for the graphics. Great guy, great shots. I believe an NYC showing of the line is being organized for some time in July.
Allan is an amazing photographer with such an incredible body of work. Talk about having one’s finger on the pulse of a city, that would be Tannenbaum. I was lucky enough to score an interview with him a few years back and get a brief sense of the man behind the lense.
New York was all that and then some. I went to high school in the seventies. We had security guards at every door; and a cop on each floor, walking the halls swinging his stick. It was scary and exciting all at once. You could drink at 18 so we faked it at 15. CBGBs & Max’s Kansas City was the place to be. It was an interesting time.
Thanks for this post. Brings back fond memories.
and the Palladium is now an NYU dorm….
it’s on the same spot but they ripped that old building down first
And the Fillmore East is now an NYU dorm–the part that isn’t a bank.
I grew up in ‘that’ Village. Half the buildings were abandoned and I couldn’t walk my dog without some scumbag pedophile soliciting me. But we had our share of reckless fun too. Playing on the railroad tracks when the only way to them was to climb down a rope of the Westbeth roof. Riding bikes on the elevated Westside Highway skirting many a dangerous situation. I remember wwhen that pier from the first photo went ablaze. WE sat on the Bank Street pier and watched the iron melt as it sunk into the Hudson. There is a good Group Page on Facebook with lots of old photos, great stories and shared memories. Check it. It’s called “I was a teenager in the West Village or Chelsea in the 70’s”.
The blog “Scouting NY” did a series of posts where they compared the locations of various older NYC filmed movies and their present-day status, a sort of then-and-now. The one on Taxi Driver is particularly pertinent (and pretty cool): http://www.scoutingny.com/?p=1092
This is a nice snapshot. Having first visited in NYC in the mid 80’s, it was wild then. I can’t imagine what it was like to live here back then. It’s like a totally different city now, but there are still pockets that have never really changed.
dope post. thanks!
Pingback: Top Posts — WordPress.com
some of the buldings in that shot on harrison street are still there and look pretty much the same… I was there today. For an interesting comparison here’s how google maps pictures almost the exact same spot:
New York rocks. I love my town! Thanks for this great post.