Stephen Pellegrino posted this shot by Camilo Jose Vergara shot in the South Bronx in 1970. I decided to add a couple more, to remind us how times and cities change over the span of time.
Avenue C, Lower East Side, 1970
The Bronx was a rough place in 1970 and it would get much, much worse as the ’70s wore on. Thanks for the pics.
Narrow car geek response:
Hey, there’s a 59 Ford Fairlane 500 hardtop without the Galaxie roof!
My God that place looks rough, we thought all Americans were rich back in those days, I know there are rough parts of the UK and Western Europe, but I have never seen anything as bad as that
There were parts of Boston that made this look like the high rent district.
Reminds me of some parts of New Orleans
Looks like allepo syria
Today, the only thing scary on the lower east side is the rents.
I want to rescue that poor 57 Plymouth
Would be neat to see those exact locations now
Shot #2: E. 178th St. & Honeywell Ave.
No sign of the ’59 Ford:
Shot #3: E. 6th St. crossing Avenue C:
The ’57 Plymouth has moved on. Light colored brick buildings on the right are still there:
“Take a little trip” west, down 6th Street, and things look pretty nice. Some beautiful architecture!
Wow, a 10-year-old car was OLD then.
what year was the 4th photo taken in? My guess would be early 80’s, I wonder what year the Cadillac was in the photo? My guess would be a 1971-72
On another website I saw that photo if I remember, it was mentionned then it was taken in Camden, New Jersey late 1970s-early 1980s.
I believe the Cadillac is a 1971 model. If you zoom in you can just see the left edge of the running light/turn signal in the bumper and a small medallion between the two headlights. In 1972 the running light/turn signal was moved to between the headlights.
The Monte Carlo can’t be older than 1973 model year.
I would have to say early 1980’s, also. The Corolla behind the Caddy is an early 1980’s vintage (1981-1985?).
I think it was taken in the late seventies. Here is Verga’s shot of the same spot closer to the 1970-ish time of the others.
Actually, the pictures were taken facing west along Fern St. from #937, Camden, 1979–2014.
See them all here https://timeline.com/photos-time-traveling-city-973a47e2caed
Even one of the porches has a piece of an automobile on it!
Gotta love the Chrysler Windsor in the first photo, was the Windsor an equivalent to the Chrysler Newport? I’ve always liked the 1957-60 Chrysler’s and Imperial’s a lot.
The Windsor was the entry level Chrysler back then. If that is a 58, it is on the 122″ wheelbase shared with the DeSoto Firesweep and all the Dodges. If it is a 57, it was on the 126″ wheelbase shared with the other Chryslers and the DeSoto Firedome, Fireflite and Adventurer. The mid-range Chrysler Saratoga was bumped from the lineup and the Windsor moved up one position in 1961 to make room for the Newport, which really occupied the market position of the DeSoto.
Hard to believe that, not too many years prior to the photo being taken, this Windsor was probably ferrying around some well-paid businessman and his family, and garaged in one of the better neighborhoods.
While Chrysler products of the late ‘50s were not known for their quality, it’s still amazing how today’s vehicles get used up much less quickly.
In addition to the lack of abandoned cars – which I very much remember when I first started coming to NYC in the early 80s – is that outside of the Hasidic parts of Williamsburg, you’ll never find a street with that few cars around today.
Lower Manhattan West Side, 1973.
WTC was just about to be finished, as well as AT&T’s
windowless „Long Lines Building“ to the left.
Loved the third photo.
Christine in one of her many lives!?
This piqued my interest, so I googled South Bronx, mostly to see what it looked like today. Seems there are a wealth of pictures from this time period with abandoned cars. I ran across this one. What kind of car is this? I’m guessing something French…
It looks like an old Saab to me.
Abandoned or stolen and stripped?
Its a Saab 96, hard to tell from this angle if it is a Short nose (up to 1965) or a Long nose (from 1966), two stroke until 1967, from 1968 powered with Ford V4 engine.
I interviewed at junk automobile processing yard last week and witnessed a 1970’s Saab being crushed. Like this photo, it made me cry- a real Saab story
Thanks Paul, for your interest!
Jean Pierre Laffont took many color photos of New York City junkyards in the early ’70s. Here’s a sample; you can find more by searching his name and “New York junkyard”.
Look how many 59-60 GM B-O-P cars are in the one photo, as well as Forward-Look Mopars.
By 1970, these were ancient cars. In my old neighborhood there was an abandoned ’59 Chevy Bel Air for awhile. Now, an 11 year old car  is ‘just broken in’.
Another great photo by Laffont:
“I’ve got a ’59 Cadillac I’d like to sell ya!”
This stuf just screams of how ignorant we all can get using fashionable rose tinted glasses…. I personally moved to Chicago in the early part of this decade, so the hardcore changes were pretty much over by that point (Cabrini Green?). Anyway. It was a culture shock being a boy from Saint Paul, yet I dove in head first, and… There is nothing bad whatsoever. You learn to navigate and live amongst people just like you, regardless of the gritty setting. If anything, living in the “hood” quickly makes you learn “it ain’t like ‘dat”, and the fake ideas of constant crime will prove your ass wrong when you get husseled hard in the Gold Coast. Keep your head up, eyes up, and mind up, and you can live anywhere. Only those who are willing to be played get played (from my observation), so let your hair down. Live a little, and don’t let the grit of life scare you away from amazing places and opportunities.
Wise words. I have walked the streets of a few of the world’s dirtiest and most dangerous cities, from Buenaventura, Columbia to Manila, PI to Chennai, India and New Orleans, USA and never once had a real problem. Keep your head up and experience life.
I grew up in the south Bronx scenes like this were very common in NYC in the 60’s and 70’s. Also abandoned, burnt out old buildings were the norm. With Gods blessings i was able to survive those times and move on to a career selling plumbing and heating supplies. once i started making good money…….i hightailed it to Queens. It’s unfortunate that some of the people there never made it out. a lot got caught up in the drug scene (heroin was the drug of choice back then)and those that tried getting clean were subsequently moved from heroin to methadone. Today NYC has changed a lot (with what i call Ethnic cleansing) rents are ridiculously high and you certainly do not see abandoned cars anywhere near as much as back then. thanks for these pictures, i may not be able to “go home again” (not that i’d want to)but it’s nice to see what it was like and how far i’ve come. Theres a lot to be said about “Beating the odds”.
To some extent, the automobile, which is the reason why we frequent this site, played a huge role in urban decay.
The Cross Bronx expressway, built around 1959-61, was like a knife thru the heart of the South Bronx. From what I’ve read, 11,000 households (or maybe people) were displaced by the eminent domain to acquire the necessary land to create the expressway to benefit commuters and improve the flow of traffic.
Once the road was complete, it divided the neighborhood and made it lot less viable.
The people forced out had been predominately working class, NOT poor, people of Jewish, Italian, Irish ancestry.
Once the South Bronx’ ‘livability’ declined, due to the expressway, the rents dropped, and the people moving in were a lot more likely to be poor and under or unemployed, and more likely to fall prey to drugs.
I remember being driven on the Cross-Bronx expressway a few times in my teens in the late 70s/early 80s, to/from NJ or PA. It looked rough, burned out buildings. The city actually put plywood and painted facades showing windows in flowers in some of the abandoned buildings (that no longer had windows)
Expressways also did a number on Detroit. Same principle—the create a man-made chasm in the area and wreck the neighborhood.
It is difficult for pedestrians and cars to coexist. I’ve always liked cars, and I always will, but the older I get, the more I see their side effects.
Though a car lover, after seeing this, I felt compelled to add my two cents.
Interesting pictures from another era.
Too true. Something very similar happened in New Orleans when I-10 was put through. Preservationists managed to stop it from going through the French Quarter but pushed it into the adjacent black neighborhood of Treme. A wound was ripped right through one of the country’s most vibrant and historic areas, ruining a major boulevard which is still blighted and half-broken to this day.
Same thing with I-4 and North Ybor City and I-275 and West Tampa in Tampa. The historically minority residental and associated commercial areas were decimated by the promise of urban renewal and the interstates, when all it did was bulldoze their homes and shops. While the areas affected are being gentrified, they do not host their original residents, and the loss is greatly felt to this day.
Exactly. And the irony is, the elevated interstate structure is now well past it’s 50-year design life and no one knows where the money to replace it might come from. The plan seems to be to tear it down, reroute the traffic to I-610, and thereby “revitalize the community.” Maybe it should never have been built there at all.
I’m just beginning to realize how many commenters here either live in or have ties to the Tampa Bay area. Comments like these, and a couple of posts Joe Dennis has made over time have taught me things about my new home area that I might not otherwise have known or realized. I’m just starting to explore more of this area, but so much of Florida is so new (I mean recently developed or re-developed) that it’s easy for the past to have been whitewashed over.
So many thriving neighbourhoods were absolutely strangled by the construction of highways and housing projects during the 1950s and 60s. Often declared as “slums” and torn down. So sad. They wanted to run a highway through Greenwich Village and SoHo… Could you imagine?! Two of the most desirable neighbourhoods in NYC today.
“The Power Broker” is a really good read if you want to learn how one extraordinarily powerful and influential public official, Robert Moses, revolutionised NYC… modernising infrastructure, creating many new parks, but also throttling vibrant neighbourhoods. Whether you loved him or hated him, it’s inarguable that he preferred cars over public transport.
I don’t think all blame for the blight in all big US cities can be blamed on interstate highways. In the big cities not hemmed in by oceans/rivers/mountains/other towns, suburban growth was moving outward and those old inner city neighborhoods were going to blight whether with or without highways. The highways certainly cut some of them up but those not cut up didn’t really fare any better, for the most part. In my own city of Indianapolis we largely avoided the massive “urban renewal” projects of the 60s but the inner core sort of went to slums as those who could afford to moved farther out to newer, nicer neighborhoods. Now the reverse seems to be happening – although there is still new construction in the far-out suburbs, the inner city neighborhoods are rebuilding and bringing prices that are hard to imagine. It is some of the old inner-ring suburbs that are struggling now.
Not all the blame–but quite a bit.
The interstates opened up many suburbs, where virgin wilderness (or better yet, farmland) was cheap and plentiful, for bigger, nicer houses, and big shopping centers. So the people flowed out.
They also often cut and thus decimated city neighborhoods, making them undesirable.
As long as gasoline was available and relatively cheap, the model worked well. It was GREAT for those who moved to the earlier suburbs from the late 40s through the first energy crisis
It was still good, but more expensive for those who followed.
However, if the availability of fuel becomes an issue, or the price skyrockets, the model falls apart. Also, as Americans grow older, many can’t or shouldn’t drive. Then the distance becomes a problem.
Todays exurbs will be the slums of the future, probably worse, like that Plymouth in the picture. In urban slums, for all their terrible problems, people were concentrated, and society (govt and private charity) could help some. In the exurbs, when people are spread out….they’ll probably abandon these houses.
Unless we have some technological breakthrough that enables people to keep their mobility at costs they can bear, that is.
I do like cars, but….they have drawbacks. America is unwilling or unable to reign in the excesses that will bite us tomorrow. Like the idea that I can commute, by myself, 30, 40, 50, 100 miles a day, in my full-size truck no less, alone, because “Yes I can!”
We will wake up to realize we have wasted a lot of resources, many of which we cannot recover… oil, arable land, wetlands, concrete….
Still, I like cars, and I’ve been fortunate to take many great road trips, something that might have been beyond my reach anywhere else, except maybe Canada and Australia. So, I recognize, I am part of the problem… I’ve never owned what people consider a gas guzzler, so that helps somewhat…
Today a fair number of people commute from suburb to suburb, as well as work from home (the percentage of people who telecommute is now equal to the percentage of who use public transit to commute to work).
The idea that most people work in center city does not necessarily hold true.
And highways weren’t the first routes to disrupt and destroy neighborhoods. Similar complaints were levied against rail lines in the early 20th century.
The issue wasn’t that highways ruined some neighborhoods; the issue was that the highway planners hadn’t learned from the mistakes made by those who sited railway lines earlier in the century.
People with the means to do so have always left the city for more room and less congestion. The ideal for Romans was a villa in the country.
Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries were moving to more spacious neighborhoods before the advent of the Model T. Philadelphia’s posh Main Line suburbs were built along the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Model T simply gave lower-middle class and some working class people the option of making the same move.
Like be the third pic – seems like a happy bustling neighbourhood where folks of all stripes are getting along with each other
Is that a 58 Fury A.K.A Christine in the 3rd photo ?
57. Inner ‘headlights’ are actually turn signals.
Thanks …I’m pretty good with the GM’s from that era, but get a little mixed up with the Mopars.
Christine got a bit lost 🙂
Wow! What a change. I only remember Charlotte Street from TV, when Reagan campaigned there (don’t remember Carter).
Paul Newman starred in a movie, with Ed Asner as the station chief called “Fort Apache, The Bronx” around that time.
Newman drove a 75-76 Nova 4-door in the movie.
I read that Brooklyn has become trendy and expensive, to the now even the South Bronx has drawn development dollars. So where did the remaining people who lived there move to?
A lot of folks have moved to places like PA, Bridgeport CT, Florida. some went back to PR, understand in those days the population of those areas consisted of mostly Blacks and Puerto Ricans.
FORT APACHE, THE BRONX (1981) was a good movie. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Reading your post got me to thinking about other movies released around that time period that took place in NYC.
NOCTURNA (1978) (There’s an obvious scene in this movie where the director is shooting out a car window with the lead actress, Nai Bonet, walking down an NYC street and the people on the sidewalk have no idea they’re being filmed for a movie).
WARRIORS, The (1979)
FAME (1980) [shame the movie gets more dis-jointed as it goes along!]
HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE (1980)
FIRST DEADLY SIN, The (1980)
NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER (1980)
NIGHTHAWKS (1981) [Filmed in 1979]
STRANGER IS WATCHING, A (1982)
ALPHABET CITY (1984)
(Sorry if this post appears twice, I tried to edit it and mistakenly deleted it.) Jimmy Carter famously visited Charlotte Street in the South Bronx in 1977, and Ronald Reagan again in 1980. It would be hard to say what part of the borough was the roughest back then, but certainly the area around Charlotte Street and Seabury Place had to be near the top (or bottom?) of that list—nothing but abandoned tenement buildings and rubble, as far as the eye could see. But look how time can change a place (see photo). Today on the very same street grid sits a collection of tidy single-family bungalows, each with its own well-manicured lawn, not unlike those of any older U.S. suburb. It blows my mind that not a trace of that dark past now remains.
I’m late to this article, but had to comment anyway. This sort of thing fascinates me. It’s amazing how hard a great city can fall.
There’s a book called Report From Engine Co.82 by Dennis Smith. The author is a firefighter working in the South Bronx, writing in the early 70’s about his experiences. It’s a bonafide classic in the small genre of firefighting books, but has lots of general appeal for anyone who is interested in how a city falls apart and those there trying vainly to clean up the pieces.
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