New York 1982 / 1983: Before Big Money Buried The City’s Character

In many ways New York City is a very different place to how it was in the 1970s and early 1980s, writes Paul Wright, whose album Come Feel The Noize harks back to the 1070s.  I first visited Manhattan in 1982 when parts of the city looked semi-derelict. It was edgy and sometimes dangerous, but the city also had a character that has been buried by property developers and chain stores.

Hanging-out in Greenwich Village record stores, braving the subway, not making eye contact with anyone and watching movies at St. Marks Cinema are all in the past. But great cities like New York and London never stand still for long, they are constantly changing.

 

This is a photograph of my friend Kim in a New York City subway station, in November 1982. It was risky taking photographs in the subway back then because there was a good chance you would get mugged and have your camera stolen.   In the background is a poster with the words: ‘Scuse me, while you’re standin’ there… here’s 5 ways not to get mugged. Only three examples are left on the poster, the other two have been ripped off by vandals!   In the 1983 edition of the New York Blue Guide book there was some advice on travelling by subway:   “SUBWAY SAFETY: The New York subway system has a reputation for crime and filth which is not undeserved. Stations have been vandalised, cars sprayed with graffiti, platforms are smelly and filthy in many stations. In 1981 there were 15,812 felonies in the transit system including 13 murders, but it is also true that more than three million travellers ride the system daily and survive. Use common sense; be alert to your surroundings; stay with other people; don’t go down empty stairwells or ride in empty cars; don’t lean over the edge of the platform; if in doubt stay near the conductor who has a telephone, as does the attendant at the toll booth.”

This is a photograph of my friend Kim in a New York City subway station, in November 1982. It was risky taking photographs in the subway back then because there was a good chance you would get mugged and have your camera stolen. In the background is a poster with the words: ‘Scuse me, while you’re standin’ there… here’s 5 ways not to get mugged. Only three examples are left on the poster, the other two have been ripped off by vandals!

 

A photograph of my friend Paul in Room 818 at the Chelsea Hotel, New York City, November 1983.   Hotel Chelsea 222 W 23rd St New York NY 10011

A photograph of my friend Paul in Room 818 at the Chelsea Hotel, New York City, November 1983.
Hotel Chelsea
222 W 23rd St
New York
NY 10011

A photograph of me at the Hotel Earle, Room 708, New York, November 1983. The Earle was a run-down, cheap hotel in Greenwich Village when I stayed there during my second visit to New York City in 1983.   The Hotel Earle was built in 1902 and Ernest Hemingway stayed at the hotel for a few weeks in 1914. In the 1950s Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin stayed at the Earle.   By the 1960s and early 1970s it had become a seedy apartment hotel and musicians, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, made it their temporary home.   John Sebastian, Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand, the B-52’s, Maynard Ferguson, Bo Diddley and the Ramones have all stayed at the Earle.   The hotel changed its name from the Hotel Earle to the Washington Square Hotel in 1986.   Hotel Earle 103 Waverly Place New York City NY 10011

A photograph of me at the Hotel Earle, Room 708, New York, November 1983. The Earle was a run-down, cheap hotel in Greenwich Village when I stayed there during my second visit to New York City in 1983.
The Hotel Earle was built in 1902 and Ernest Hemingway stayed at the hotel for a few weeks in 1914. In the 1950s Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin stayed at the Earle.
By the 1960s and early 1970s it had become a seedy apartment hotel and musicians, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, made it their temporary home.
John Sebastian, Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand, the B-52’s, Maynard Ferguson, Bo Diddley and the Ramones have all stayed at the Earle.
The hotel changed its name from the Hotel Earle to the Washington Square Hotel in 1986.
Hotel Earle
103 Waverly Place
New York City
NY 10011

 

Book of matches from Cozy Soup & Burger, New York City (1982)  Book of matches from Cozy Soup & Burger on Broadway, New York City.   739 Broadway New York NY 10003 at Astor Pl.

Book of matches from Cozy Soup & Burger, New York City (1982)
Book of matches from Cozy Soup & Burger on Broadway, New York City.
739 Broadway
New York
NY 10003
at Astor Pl.

 

 My friend Paul at the Hotel Earle, Room 708, New York City, November 1983.   The Hotel Earle was built in 1902 and Ernest Hemingway stayed at the hotel for a few weeks in 1914. In the 1950s Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin stayed at the Earle.   By the 1960s and early 1970s it had become a seedy apartment hotel and musicians, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, made it their temporary home.   John Sebastian, Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand, the B-52’s, Maynard Ferguson, Bo Diddley and the Ramones have all stayed at the Earle.   The hotel changed its name from the Hotel Earle to the Washington Square Hotel in 1986.   Hotel Earle 103 Waverly Place New York City NY 10011


My friend Paul at the Hotel Earle, Room 708, New York City, November 1983.
The Hotel Earle was built in 1902 and Ernest Hemingway stayed at the hotel for a few weeks in 1914. In the 1950s Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin stayed at the Earle.
By the 1960s and early 1970s it had become a seedy apartment hotel and musicians, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, made it their temporary home.
John Sebastian, Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand, the B-52’s, Maynard Ferguson, Bo Diddley and the Ramones have all stayed at the Earle.
The hotel changed its name from the Hotel Earle to the Washington Square Hotel in 1986.
Hotel Earle
103 Waverly Place
New York City
NY 10011

 

A protest against Iranian's religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini, New York City, November 1983.

A protest against Iranian’s religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini, New York City, November 1983.

 

I took this photograph from the ferry to Liberty Island. It was the first time that I had seen the Statue of Liberty and I was awe-struck. I just couldn’t stop taking photos of it and by the time I reached the island I didn’t have many shots left on my 36 exposure film.

I took this photograph from the ferry to Liberty Island. It was the first time that I had seen the Statue of Liberty and I was awe-struck. I just couldn’t stop taking photos of it and by the time I reached the island I didn’t have many shots left on my 36 exposure film.

 

"Blue Guide to New York" book, published in 1983. New York was a different place in the late 1970s and early 1980s to how it is now. It was an edgy and sometimes dangerous place to be. When I first visited New York City in 1982 I only used the Subway once. When I returned the following year I used buses to get around the city, because I wasn't comfortable using the Subway.   There is some advice on travelling by subway in this 1983 Blue Guide:   “SUBWAY SAFETY: The New York subway system has a reputation for crime and filth which is not undeserved. Stations have been vandalised, cars sprayed with graffiti, platforms are smelly and filthy in many stations. In 1981 there were 15,812 felonies in the transit system including 13 murders, but it is also true that more than three million travellers ride the system daily and survive. Use common sense; be alert to your surroundings; stay with other people; don’t go down empty stairwells or ride in empty cars; don’t lean over the edge of the platform; if in doubt stay near the conductor who has a telephone, as does the attendant at the toll booth.”

“Blue Guide to New York” book, published in 1983. New York was a different place in the late 1970s and early 1980s to how it is now. It was an edgy and sometimes dangerous place to be. When I first visited New York City in 1982 I only used the Subway once. When I returned the following year I used buses to get around the city, because I wasn’t comfortable using the Subway.

There is some advice on travelling by subway in this 1983 Blue Guide:

“SUBWAY SAFETY: The New York subway system has a reputation for crime and filth which is not undeserved. Stations have been vandalised, cars sprayed with graffiti, platforms are smelly and filthy in many stations. In 1981 there were 15,812 felonies in the transit system including 13 murders, but it is also true that more than three million travellers ride the system daily and survive. Use common sense; be alert to your surroundings; stay with other people; don’t go down empty stairwells or ride in empty cars; don’t lean over the edge of the platform; if in doubt stay near the conductor who has a telephone, as does the attendant at the toll booth.”

 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, November 1982. I went to as many art galleries and museums as I could when I first visited New York.   Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street) New York NY 10128

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, November 1982. I went to as many art galleries and museums as I could when I first visited New York.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York
NY 10128

 

Large parts of New York City looked semi-derelict back in 1982. This a typical street scene but I can’t remember where I took this photo. Please let me know if you recognise this street.

Large parts of New York City looked semi-derelict back in 1982. This a typical street scene but I can’t remember where I took this photo. Please let me know if you recognise this street.

 

A photograph of me at the Empire State Building, New York City, November 1983.   Empire State Building 350 5th Ave New York NY 10001

A photograph of me at the Empire State Building, New York City, November 1983.
Empire State Building
350 5th Ave
New York
NY 10001

 

A diner in Chelsea in the early 1980s. I think the Malibu Diner is now located here.   City Diner 163 W 23rd St New York NY10011

A diner in Chelsea in the early 1980s. I think the Malibu Diner is now located here.
City Diner
163 W 23rd St
New York
NY10011

 

The Back Fence music bar on Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, New York, November 1983.   Next door is Kenny's Castaways, a club where many bands have played over the last 45 years including the New York Dolls, Blondie, Kiss and Patti Smith. It was where Joey and DeeDee Ramone first met, and in 1973 Bruce Springsteen played here, his New York City debut with the E Street Band.   Sadly Kenny's Castaways will be closing after 45 years on 30 September 2012.   Across the street is the Surf Maid, which hosted live jazz music. This is now the Red Lion, a live music bar.   The Back Fence 155 Bleecker Street (at Thompson St.) New York NY 10012   Kenny's Castaways 157 Bleecker Street New York NY 10012   Surf Maid 151 Bleecker Street (between Laguardia Pl & Thompson St) New York NY 10012

The Back Fence music bar on Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, New York, November 1983.
Next door is Kenny’s Castaways, a club where many bands have played over the last 45 years including the New York Dolls, Blondie, Kiss and Patti Smith. It was where Joey and DeeDee Ramone first met, and in 1973 Bruce Springsteen played here, his New York City debut with the E Street Band.
Sadly Kenny’s Castaways will be closing after 45 years on 30 September 2012.
Across the street is the Surf Maid, which hosted live jazz music. This is now the Red Lion, a live music bar.
The Back Fence
155 Bleecker Street (at Thompson St.)
New York
NY 10012
Kenny’s Castaways
157 Bleecker Street
New York
NY 10012
Surf Maid
151 Bleecker Street (between Laguardia Pl & Thompson St)
New York
NY 10012

 

This is Saint Marks Place as it looked in November 1982. The shop with dresses hanging up in the window is Trash and Vaudeville, which is famous for supplying stars like The Ramones and Debbie Harry of Blondie with clothing during the golden age of punk rock in the 1970s and 80s. The store opened in 1975 and is still in its original location.   Next door is the Valencia Hotel which was home to beat writer William S. Burroughs in the early 1970s. In the 1980s punk rock singer-songwriter GG Allin lived there. The hotel is now the St. Mark's Hotel.   Trash and Vaudeville 4 Saint Marks Place New York NY 10003

This is Saint Marks Place as it looked in November 1982. The shop with dresses hanging up in the window is Trash and Vaudeville, which is famous for supplying stars like The Ramones and Debbie Harry of Blondie with clothing during the golden age of punk rock in the 1970s and 80s. The store opened in 1975 and is still in its original location.
Next door is the Valencia Hotel which was home to beat writer William S. Burroughs in the early 1970s. In the 1980s punk rock singer-songwriter GG Allin lived there. The hotel is now the St. Mark’s Hotel.
Trash and Vaudeville
4 Saint Marks Place
New York
NY 10003

 

Entrance to the Empire State Building, New York City, November 1983.   Empire State Building 350 5th Ave New York NY 10001

Entrance to the Empire State Building, New York City, November 1983.
Empire State Building
350 5th Ave
New York
NY 10001

Reflected buildings, New York City, November 1983.

Reflected buildings, New York City, November 1983.

 

A photograph of me outside one of my favourite places, the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street.   New York City, November 1983.   Hotel Chelsea 222 W 23rd St New York NY 10011

A photograph of me outside one of my favourite places, the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street.
New York City, November 1983.
Hotel Chelsea
222 W 23rd St
New York
NY 10011

 

New York City street scene, November 1982.

New York City street scene, November 1982.

 

New York City, November 1983.

New York City, November 1983.

 

I took this photograph from the street, looking up at the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.   New York City, November 1982.

I took this photograph from the street, looking up at the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
New York City, November 1982.

 

 This is St. Marks Cinema in Manhattan’s East Village, on the corner of St. Marks Place and Second Avenue. In the 1980’s the cinema showed films at discount prices and would run double bills and midnight screenings.   When I took this photograph the 1979 romantic comedy “Chilly Scenes of Winter” and the 1981 thriller “Cutter's Way“ were showing, as well a midnight screening of “Bloopers”.   St. Marks Cinema is now Cohen's Fashion Optical with the Theatre Condos above.   St. Marks Cinema 133 Second Avenue (near St. Mark's Place) New York NY 10003


This is St. Marks Cinema in Manhattan’s East Village, on the corner of St. Marks Place and Second Avenue. In the 1980’s the cinema showed films at discount prices and would run double bills and midnight screenings.
When I took this photograph the 1979 romantic comedy “Chilly Scenes of Winter” and the 1981 thriller “Cutter’s Way“ were showing, as well a midnight screening of “Bloopers”.
St. Marks Cinema is now Cohen’s Fashion Optical with the Theatre Condos above.
St. Marks Cinema
133 Second Avenue (near St. Mark’s Place)
New York
NY 10003

 

I was walking in New York City one day when a dog rushed past me and jumped up onto a fire hydrant in the street. The dog perched there for a short time and seemed quite comfortable up there. It was an unusual sight but there was a saying at that time: "only in New York" which summed it up. Nothing seemed that unusual in New York in the early 1980s.

I was walking in New York City one day when a dog rushed past me and jumped up onto a fire hydrant in the street. The dog perched there for a short time and seemed quite comfortable up there. It was an unusual sight but there was a saying at that time: “only in New York” which summed it up. Nothing seemed that unusual in New York in the early 1980s.

 

New York City street scene, November 1982. East 17th Street & Broadway.

New York City street scene, November 1982.
East 17th Street & Broadway.

 

I took this photograph from the ferry as it docked at Liberty Island. Straight ahead is the familiar Manhattan skyline, with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on the left hand side.

I took this photograph from the ferry as it docked at Liberty Island. Straight ahead is the familiar Manhattan skyline, with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on the left hand side.

 

Lush Life was a restaurant and jazz club on Thompson Street at Bleecker Street, in Greenwich Village.   I took this photograph in November 1983.   Lush Life 184 Thompson Street New York NY 10012

Lush Life was a restaurant and jazz club on Thompson Street at Bleecker Street, in Greenwich Village.
I took this photograph in November 1983.
Lush Life
184 Thompson Street
New York
NY 10012

 

 Yellow Cab driver, New York City, November 1982.

Yellow Cab driver, New York City, November 1982.

 

Kim at the entrance to a New York City subway station, November 1982.

Kim at the entrance to a New York City subway station, November 1982.

 

The Dakota, New York City (1982)  © photo by Paul Wright   The Dakota apartment building in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City.   The building was the home of former Beatle John Lennon from 1973 up until when he was fatally shot on December 8, 1980. I took this photograph of the Dakota entrance two years after John Lennon was murdered there.   The Dakota 1 West 72nd Street New York NY 10023

The Dakota, New York City (1982)
© photo by Paul Wright
The Dakota apartment building in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City.
The building was the home of former Beatle John Lennon from 1973 up until when he was fatally shot on December 8, 1980. I took this photograph of the Dakota entrance two years after John Lennon was murdered there.
The Dakota
1 West 72nd Street
New York
NY 10023