These startling 1970s New York photos reveal a city undergoing an unparalleled transformation fueled by economic collapse and rampant crime.
Reeling from a decade of social turmoil, New York in the 1970s fell into a deep tailspin provoked by the flight of the middle class to the suburbs and a nationwide economic recession that hit New York’s industrial sector especially hard.
Combined with substantial cuts in law enforcement and citywide unemployment topping ten percent, crime and financial crisis became the dominant themes of the decade. In just five years from 1969 to 1974, the city lost over 500,000 manufacturing jobs, which resulted in over one million households being dependent on welfare by 1975. In almost the same span, rapes and burglaries tripled, car thefts and felony assaults doubled, and murders went from 681 to 1690 a year.
Depopulation and arson also had pronounced effects on the city: abandoned blocks dotted the landscape, creating vast areas absent of urban cohesion and life itself.
In totality, the decade was a transformative one for New York, as it reconfigured the economic and social realities of America’s most prominent city. By the conclusion of the 1970s, over a million people had left the city.
Take a look at these impressive photos that capture a New York City on the brink of implosion in the mid-1970s.