New York City is going through some tough times right now. The Eric Garner case has heightened tensions, two NYPD officers were assassinated in broad daylight, and we have a mayor who is viewed as anti-police. William Bratton, Commissioner for the NYPD, said tensions in the city have never been this high since the 1970s.
So, how bad was New York City back then? In short, the city was something of a nightmare. The city entered this dark era for almost a quarter century staring in the 1970s. It wasn’t until New Yorkers booted David Dinkins and elected Rudolph Giuliani mayor in 1993 that the Big Apple rid itself of its maggots.
Some of these elements from New York’s dark days are making their way back into popular culture. Jessica Chastain is in a movie called “A Most Violent Year,” which takes place in New York City in 1981, which historically was one of the city’s worst periods in terms of crime. She plays the wife of a husband who’s trying to protect his business from the rot that infested the city at the time, or at least that’s what the critics are telling us.
So, here are some facts about New York City courtesy of Christina Sterbenz of Business Insider:
- There were 40,000 prostitutes operating in New York City in the 1970s. In 1976, there were 2,383 arrests for prostitution alone. Of this number, 1,165 were girls between the ages of 15-20.
- There were close to 245 adult entertainment stores doing business in New York City. These establishments included peep shows, movie theaters, books, and massage parlors.
- About 200,000 people were abusing heroin in New York during the 1970s. Bryant Park was called “Needle Park” due to the amount of syringes left on the grass.
- The Big Apple was also being overrun by a crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s.
- NYPD detective Frank Serpico recalled widespread police corruption, some cases involved officers taking bribes, being in the company of prostitutes, and dabbling in drugs–all while on duty. Al Pacino would play Serpico in the 1973 film
- Budget cuts plagued the city in the 1970s, which saw 50,000 NYPD employees being laid off in 1975. Five years later, more cuts were initiated and the police force was reduced 34 percent at a time when crime was spiraling out of control.
- The infamous 1977 New York City blackout led to massive looting (1600 stores), vandalism, and fires (1,000 reported). The price tag: $300 million.
- The Transit Authority cut maintenance operations to save money, which led to graffiti covering areas of the subway system, including Grand Central Station. A lot of New York City’s crimes occurred on the subway systems.
- The homicide rates were atrocious. In 1980 there were 1,814 homicides. By 1990, that number grew to 2,245.
Economic stagflation, white flight, and industrial decline were all contributing factors to this mess, according to Sterbenz. So, right now, it's safe to say that things aren’t so good in New York, but It was A LOT worse back then.