These disturbing 1970s New York City photos reveal the dark side of a city on the brink of economic and societal collapse.
During this decade, the city gained notoriety for high rates of crime and social disorders; the city’s subway system was regarded as unsafe and dangerous, and people were warned not to walk the streets after 6 PM.
Prostitutes and pimps frequented Times Square, while Central Park became feared as the site of muggings and harassment.
After peaking in population in 1950, the city began to feel the effects of suburbanization brought about by new housing communities such as Levittown, a downturn in industry and commerce as businesses left for places where it was cheaper and easier to operate, an increase in crime, and an upturn in its welfare burden.
All these reached a nadir in the city’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s when it barely avoided defaulting on its obligations and declaring bankruptcy.
Without having tenants who could pay the bills, landlords increasingly had trouble affording to maintain and pay taxes on their own buildings. As a result, many landlords actually burned down their own real estate in order to collect insurance money.
In order to stop the city from going completely bankrupt, Mayor Beame had to implement rolling blackouts to save money and energy. The rolling blackouts ended up encouraging looting and vandalism.
It also didn’t help that cuts to firefighters and police meant that New York City was unable to combat the crime. A majority of the crime and arson that happened in the late 1970s happened during these rolling blackouts.
It didn’t matter who you were or where you were going, taking the subway was a risk every time. In the 1970s, the New York City subway lines jokingly began to be referred to as “the muggers express.”
By the end of the decade, police calculated that more than 250 felonies on the New York City subways were reported every week. Compared to other underground transportation systems, New York was the most dangerous in the world.
(Photo credit: Internation Photomag / Pinterest / Flickr / Public Library of New York City / Wikimedia Commons).