Welcome to Fear City: a guide to scare tourists away from NYC


Everyone has an axe to grind.

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I lived in New Jersey during the 80s, and we’d often go do things in the city. A friend of my wife’s was visiting from LA, and she’d always heard about how scary NYC and especially the subways were, but my wife convinced her it was really no problem and they’d have a good time, so ok, friend goes into the city with her, and they go to some museums. And as they were walking into the subway, some crazy woman punched my wife in the head, decked her, and started yelling at her about something. (She was ok, but it really didn’t help her friend’s opinions of the city.) Go figure, it’s NYC.

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Too bad she didn’t roll with. “Huh? No, that was nothing. Delightful evening, wasn’t it?”

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People forget how truly terrifying parts of New York City really were in the 1970’s. Times Square was a dangerous, seedy place, and one truly took one’s life in one’s hands when going down certain streets after certain hours particularly. This was true in wealthy, poor, and all kinds of neighborhoods, in all 5 boroughs. This flyer succesfully exploits certain well-placed cautions with a generous sprinkling of pure paranoia. I’m not so sure it was never distributed, as I seem to recall seeing it some years back, though that may have been a reprint somewhere else. Some blame Abe Beam’s corrupt administration for the huge increase in crime that occurred during his tenure in office.

So in reality this pamphlet was just a negotiation tactic from the unions? I do note the refrain throughout it that the police and fire brigades were underfunded. Or was it intended as a way to scare donors, a sort of extortion that unless a certain amount was paid, they would start distributing these flyers nationally?

Goes off to read the article

Yep. This was a negotiation tactic to stave off mass layoffs, and apparently an effective one.


“These guidelines have been prepared and distributed as a public service by the Council for Public Safety

When I arrived at night to visit my friends in New York in 1989 I said “Let’s go check out 42nd street.” I was making a game of saying “No thank you!” to the crack dealers in an exaggerated midwestern accent. Next thing I knew I was on the ground thinking they wanted to rough me up for being a smartass about the crack, but then I realized it was a mugging. Once my very skinny friend and his girlfriend saw what was happening they turned around and said “Let him go.” They got off me one by one because they didn’t want to deal with someone who was not alone. And they didn’t even get my money.

Lessons learned: Don’t ask for trouble. Bring backup.

I’d still want to visit New York. People who are careful and don’t make stupid decisions regarding tourism in red light districts seem to do ok there.


Somebody should make an updated version warning about the police.


An ex-girlfriend’s brother lived in NYC in the 1970s. He tells stories about that era that would make your eyes bug out.

Actually, I remember seeing these then. Found a few at subway stations at that time.

Well, and also NYC post 9/11 is a VERY different place from NYC in 1989.

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That should be the first commandment of any tourist should follow.

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This looks like the current fear mongering pushed by those whose profits, jobs and authority are dependent on keeping marijuana illegal.


I miss the old NY, it was much more fun than the current “luxury product NY” of Giuliani and Bloomberg.

NYC (unless you go looking for trouble in the South Bronx or Brownsville) is much safer than most midwestern cities now. It’s demonstrably safer than Cincinatti or the Twin Cities, yet people from those areas often seem to think it’s still like “Fort Apache - the Bronx”.

Nobody should ever worry about visiting NYC unless you are really going to be stupid - and I second the person who said that you are probably at more risk from the NYPD these days than criminals.

Well we did visit that same area on a high school trip with my theater class. I’m not sure if it was for the point of seeing it or if it just happened to be a way to or from Times Square.

I don’t remember Times Square being dangerous. Seedy, definitely, though that was one of its charms.

Didn’t New York be the inspiration for anti-heroes like the Punisher? And was the backdrop for Frank Millers rather dark run in Daredevil?

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