In the nineteen-seventies and eighties—before you moved to the big city, and possibly before you were even born—New York was both a grittier and more glamorous town than the lifeless billionaires’ playground of today. Get a glimpse of the pre-Disneyfied N.Y.C. through this series of archival photographs.
Liberty Island, 1974. A graffiti artist tags the Statue of Liberty, which had fallen into disrepair after being targeted for demolition by contractors aiming to replace Lady Liberty with a forty-eight-foot-wide highway.
Third Street and Avenue B, 1977. While a beat cop is preoccupied with combing his sideburns, an open-air heroin bazaar flourishes in the East Village. Note that while all of the streetlamps have been pilfered, the scene is still fully illuminated by a nearby tenement building that was torched by a landlord angling for an insurance payout.
Times Square, 1981. Rival pickpockets exchange an amorous glance as their hands fortuitously meet inside the pocket of a shared mark.
The New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street, 1979. A prostitute rings the bell to open trading at the New York Stock Exchange, before the gentrification of lower Manhattan. In the wings, Fab Five Freddy prepares to entertain the stockbrokers.
Eagle Avenue and 161st Street, South Bronx, 1975. On a hot summer day, local youths open a fire hydrant, intending to sell the hydrant’s parts for scrap so that they can spend the afternoon at a swimming pool.
Corner of Crosby Street and Prince Street, 1980. A tumbleweed blows through Soho at dusk. In the foreground, a sign advertises a loft apartment available for negative $845 a month. Due to the era’s rent-control laws, it became common practice for a landlord to pay a tenant a monthly fee to live in his building, so long as the apartment was two-thousand square feet or larger.