This 1970 documentary shows dirty old New York at its meanest and most decrepit

Originally published at: This 1970 documentary shows dirty old New York at its meanest and most decrepit | Boing Boing


This was made just one year after the debut of Sesame Street. We all grew up watching Oscar the Grouch so his presence in the show just seems normal to us now, but in retrospect I wonder if having a major character dwell within a filthy New York trash can was a way for the show’s creators to make the kids in their target audience feel lucky in comparison. Or at least no worse off.


And have empathy and caring for people who lived in filth. I always liked Oscar.


Not about NYC, but…


Poor guy wouldn’t be happy with the relatively clean streets of today.


I had a distant older cousin that moved to NYC, Village area in 1971. My Mom would [pawn me off on him] put me on the train from the Jersey Shore via Newark to NYC. He’d meet me at the platform and we’d have a great time smoking weed and drinking beer [4 for a $1 at the local corner Bodega] in his filthy disgusting basement apartment. He did two tours in Nam, was not what I call a model citizen, but he had some damn good smoke. Later he went back to school and then into the NYFD [40 years retired now]. Trying to get him out to California for a road trip, me & cousin Johnny, old times & shit.


Another great watch along similar lines, albeit taking place a few miles to the north:


Ah, the “good old days”, that conservatives wax lyrical over.


Apparently, keeping Oscar that way is important to the writers:


Proof that innocent sweetness is still alive in this day & age.


I’m glad to see that the charity, the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, is still active with the same mission. Just because Giuliani turned Times Square into Disneyland doesn’t mean that they aren’t still needed.


I quite honestly knew it was time to leave San Francisco when I started to think “this is even worse than New York in the '70s”


It can’t be from 1970. The World Trade Center wasn’t built for another two or three years.


Pretty much it.

Bite the Big Apple, don’t mind the maggots.

And still - people made beauty and community.


It’s almost like beauty and community aren’t related to what some people believe is “clean and good”…


I’d put it at 1970 or 1971, about the time the towers were being topped off. A bad time in the city, but the worst of it still several years away (“Ford to City: Drop Dead”). I distinctly remember the squalour still there in the early 1980s when I visited the city as a kid, and never really get the hipster nostalgia for the garbage and graffiti and sleaze.

Cleaned up superficially though the city’s been since the 1990s, though, the attitude of conservatives toward the sorts of vulnerable people and institutions portrayed in the film hasn’t changed at it’s rotten core. Right-wingers just found different, less in-your-face ways to marginalise and starve them.

Regarding the film, Gilford was a great choice in so many ways as host/narrator. I’m also willing to bet that Simon and Garfunkel made their recently released hit song available to the charity for free.


Without denying any of the negative things, NYC at the time had a couple of positive attributes – affordable rents and a great housing stock. Artists and musicians could live there.

We used to go to museums for nominal or no fee, see theater, concert, ballets and modern dance. Now those are as affordable as Disneyland – i.e., not.

My parents were artists (dad was a pretty successful photographer and mom was an actress), and we lived on the Upper West Side. We couldn’t dream of being able to live there now. Now it seems its all predatory hedge fund managers, private equity vultures, and their periodontal surgeons. No surprise, the city’s culture is gone, completely gone, as if it had never existed.

My wife and I talk about missing NYC, then pause and say, NYC in the 70s and 80s.


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