Welcome to Fear City: Raw and Gritty Snapshots of NYC From the Mid-Seventies

The usual graffiti adorns the interior of the city’s subways.

These photographs are from Andy Blair’s great Flickr site. Where he had hundreds of extraordinary pictures of a New York. At one point he includes a quote from a book about 1960s and 70s New York called “The Ungovernable City” by Vincent J Cannato:

“Stabbings, robberies, muggings, graffiti, arson and rape began to strike a wider and wider portion of the population. Burglaries made people feel vulnerable, even in their once-safe homes and apartments. It wasn’t just the reality of crime and sense of broadening disorder that hurt. It was the raw fear and perception of vulnerability that seeped into every interaction of daily life.”

Visitors to New York City in the summer of 1975 were greeted with a pamphlet that saidWelcome to Fear City on the cover and subtitled “A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York.” It was said that about one million of them were printed. It that warned, “Until things change, stay away from New York City if you possibly can.” People were warned not to leave midtown Manhattan, not to take any subways at all. And not to walk anywhere after six in the evening.

Kevin Baker in an article for the Guardian wrote:

“New York’s fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s is surely one of the weirdest moments in the history of the city – indeed, of the United States. It was a time when the wholesale disintegration of the largest city in the most powerful nation on earth seemed entirely possible. A time when the American president, Gerald Ford – egged on by his young chief of staff, one Donald Rumsfeld – sought not to succour New York but to deliberately shame and humble it, and perhaps even replace it as the world’s leading financial centre.”

Based in the South Bronx neighborhood, the Savage Skulls declared war on the drug dealers that operated in the area.

Of course the warnings were over-the-top, although the crime rate in New York had more than doubled over the preceding ten years and many other crimes had increased ten-fold. Meanwhile, New York City had an unprecedented fiscal crisis in 1975, and two years later the city descended into chaos after the power went out for 25 hours. The population declined to just over seven million from eight million ten years before…. read more >

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