Gritty City: New York in the 1970s

I saw this originally via Gothamist, one of my favorite sources for New York City related stories. Photographer Allan Tannenbaum is releasing a new collection of his fantastic photographs from New York in the 1970s (entitled, fittingly, “New York in the 70s”), from when he was the photo editor for the “SoHo Weekly News.” The photographs are chock full of disco balls, crumbling buildings, biker gangs, race riots, peace marches, celebrity celebrations, ridiculously short shorts made of incredibly synthetic materials, and just about every other thing that happened in the concrete jungle of the five boroughs during the decade.

He’s got some great shots of the Lower East Side back before Katz’s Delicatessen was sandwiched on the same block of Houston Street as a luxury condo building and an American Apparel.

(Photograph by Allan Tannenbaum)

(Photograph by Allan Tannenbaum)

Back in the 1970s, the streets of the Lower East Side were full of fire-gutted, abandoned buildings. Squatting was feasible. Street gangs ruled the sidewalks. The dealers, and their faithful clients, roamed the streets. And some of the coolest, most groundbreaking, still-relevant art and music was being made. Like the unbearable heat of the summer of 1977, which saw the Son of Sam murders and the infamous blackout, the was a hedonistic fever that swept over the city, one that infected its residents with an unquenchable thirst to go out and live life. Burn a building. Start a protest. Stay out all night at Studio 54. Write a rock song that distills all your youthful angst into three chords.

(Photograph by Allan Tannenbaum)

(Photograph by Allan Tannenbaum)

I dare you to find one pair of gold lamé leggings in the pile in that photograph above.

The legend of broken-down 1970s New York exerted its magic pull on me, and that’s one of the many reasons I ended up here. While I like the fact that I can take the subway at late hours of the night or walk home alone in the dark without constant fears of being mugged (or worse), I wish the city still maintained some of that grit and danger that makes life exciting.

And it would have made going out at night a heck of a lot easier, too. Coming back from Williamsburg at 4 a.m. means a multiple subway ride that’s going to take at least an hour. But coming back from the Mudd Club? That would be a three minute walk. I live right around the corner from where it used to be.

To see more of Allan Tannenbaum’s work, visit his website.

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One response to “Gritty City: New York in the 1970s

  1. so interesting. thanks for posting!

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