I come late to this, over forty years too late probably, long after the fact, and some time after it’s appeared in various places on the interwebs:
It’s a pamphlet about the horrors of life in New York, published in 1975, warning of the dangers of muggings, break-ins, fires in hotels, the risks of travelling by subway, and what not. There’s a dire warning not to go out after dark, and the passage on walking is especially hair-raising:
In fact the pamphlet is not exactly what it appears to be. It’s a scaremongering and alarmist, though not exactly ironic, text published by something called the Council for Public Safety, an umbrella group of 28 unions of police, prison guards and firefighters reacting to the city’s threats to lay off thousands of their members. You might say these conditions would be the consequences of reduced services, although word on the street had it that those conditions applied already.
Now it so happens 1975 was when I first set foot in New York, and although I never saw the pamphlet, its message had somehow soaked into the general consciousness. New York was by many accounts a terrifying place where no sane person would dare to set foot. A stroll in Central Park was to be considered a suicide mission. We were led to believe the place looked like a war zone, and obviously parts of it did, like this:
Now, I’m as much of a coward as the next man, and as I set foot on the streets of Manhattan, leaving the apartment I was staying in on 101st Street and West End, I certainly did see plenty of hookers and pimps and drug dealers on many a street, though I can’t say they were very scary.
|photo by Leland Bobbe|
More than that, as I made my first forays into New York I couldn’t help noticing that there were lots of little old men and women, lots of young girls, lots of people who looked a great deal more feeble and vulnerable than me. If they were brave enough to walk the mean streets of New York, then I surely had to be too.
And I was. Yes there was the occasional hassle as I walked, but the experience was not at all as advertised. It was only as scary as you allowed it to be. Famous last words, I know. However, I realize now that I didn’t take any photographs on that trip. I’m not sure why. I think I was probably afraid that it would have made me look too much like a tourist, like an easy mark. And I don’t remember ever seeing a cop on the streets.
Here are the other pages from "Welcome to Fear City."