Monday, April 11, 2011

New York In 1974: Were Things So Different Back Then?

There may be nearly four decades between 1974 and 2011, but the New York of 1974 bares striking similarities to the city in 2011. Consider...

* NYC was on the brink of fiscal disaster in 1974. It was a year later when one of the most iconic headlines in history covered The Daily News—"Ford To City: Drop Dead"—after the mayor begged for a bailout. Last month, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a sweeping budget to keep the state from lapsing into bankruptcy. While cuts were desperately needed, as usual, NYC stands to lose the most, likely to further decay already testy services and crime protection.

* The nation was in a deep recession in the mid-1970s, with the city's unemployment at 7.5%. Today, it is 8%... In 1973-1974, an Arab oil embargo mandated gas rationing. In 2011, gas is again at the forefront, as it escalates to the $4 a gallon mark.

Then there are profound differences, and all are not so positive...
* The classic film "The Taking of Pelham 123," released in 1974, showcased a deliciously shabby, one-of-a-kind locale. Two years ago, a remake offered a portrait of Guliani and Bloomberg's New York: white-washed and full of chain stores. Boo.

* According to New York magazine, a studio apartment rented for an average of $170 a month in 1974 (which equates to $735 in today's $$). That same apartment in 2011 costs a staggering $1,530 a month. Subway fare then: 35 cents. Now $2.25.

* A New York Times poll identified the top concerns of city dwellers in 1974: crime, drugs, cost of living, transportation and housing. Today: the economy, education, mass transit, taxes and crime. Murder and robbery rates are a third of what they were then. Good.

* Then, the city was in awe of the tallest building in the world, the 110-floor World Trade Center, which opened in April 1973. Of course, that view no longer exists.

Other then vs. now factoids...
* NYC Census population in 1970: 7,894,862. In 2010: 8,175,133.

* Son of Sam, who terrorized the city for two years, committed his first of six murders in 1976. In February 2011, madman Maksim Gelman killed four people and slashed a bystander in a subway station over the course of one day.

* In July 1977, a massive blackout resulted in widespread rioting, arson, vandalism and looting. On Aug. 14, 2003, a blackout hit much of the northeast. In post-September 11, 2001 NYC, despite no public transportation, gridlock due to blank traffic signals and 88-degree temps, city residents banded together and made the best of it.

Bars remained open and restaurants gave away food that was likely going to spoil, while nabes hosted giant block parties. (That day, I walked from Union Square across the Brooklyn Bridge, home to Brooklyn Heights, amid a wholesome spirit of camaraderie.)

And now, let's take a good look at what New York looked like in 1974. These picolas were gathered from dozens of webbies over the course of six hours of research. Please scan real slowly, yes? Penn Station... Halston with models... young fashionable gals & ladies of the Upper East Side...Fear... as pornography pervades popular culture—and Times Square.Times Square... delightfully dirty... oh, how I wish I had been here in those days...After 1969's Stonewall travesty founded the gay rights movement, there was no stopping queers from demanding equality.Admittedly, as romantic as the grit & grime of 1970s' New York seems now, the subway looks like the ideal place to have your wallet lifted... or your life extinguished.Cars, cars, cars of the era...Places, locales, buildings...Note the dude typing on his West Village rooftop!The new pride of New York. Opened in 1973, the World Trade Center, which was the tallest building in the world until 1979.When WTC was constructed, the West Side Highway was shut down for years. Today, it is not only the primary traffic vein to avoid inner-city traffic, but parks, bike trails and foliage make the far West side a peaceful destination.The West Side, before Battery Park, which was constructed from millions of pounds of dirt excavated from the World Trade Center.Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station... still thriving in 2011.The Brooklyn Heights Promenade, 1974.The black block at Astor Place... which spins... is still there today... and NYU college students still probably pass out beneath it.Random images... Remember when you rented your phone from Bell? A New York retailer offered teles beyond the standard and Princess models. Coolio.Couldn't resist... David Cassidy in the midst of his popularity, taken at the Plaza Hotel, 1974.Lexington Avenue, north from East 59th Street, 1912 and 1974.And finally, cool cats, the biggest national news stories of the year... Just as in 2011, gas became a headlining issue with the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo, which led to rationing at the pump. Cars lined up double file with fears that stations would run out. The feds reacted by mandating even and odd gas days, based on your license plate number.Around the nation: President Nixon resigned in shame after the Watergate scandal—and Republicans are still crime-ridden 35 years later... A 10-pack of Juicy Fruit was the first item ever scanned using a bar code on June 26, 1974 at Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The price: 76 cents... Today, it costs $2.61 (five sticks per pack, not seven!)... Heiress Patty Heart fascinated the nation when the 19 year old was kidnapped Feb. 14, 1974 by a guerrilla group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army, which she subsequently joined. President Clinton pardoned her in 2001... The first issue of People magazine, March 4, 1974; the cover of the March 7, 2011 issue features  Prince William and Kate Middleton's "Royal Wedding Secrets"... Because of the gas embargo, the speed limit was cut from 70 mph to 55 mph. Feds claimed the reason was the save lives... not gas.