View of the Brooklyn Bridge through a broken windshield. Photo: Steven Siegel.
As I watched Ghost for the first time not too long ago, not only did I begin to realize why Patrick Swayze’s passing shook the Western world so forcefully, but I saw the hilarious and paranormal events of the film unfold in a New York—albeit a wildly fictional one— that I had never known. It was a New York in which you could be an artist and own a spacious loft in a cast-iron high-rise downtown. It was also a New York with seedy, desolate neighborhoods in what are now well-beyond-gentrified areas of Manhattan, and gun-toting criminals could be hiding in any alleyway, ready to finish a job (spoiler alert for anyone?).
Well, spotted on Gothamist today are incredible photographs from Steven Siegel documenting New York in the 80’s, images that can only leave a generation that did not grow up with Patrick Swayze in disbelief. Shot through the broken windshields of abandoned cars, within ruined buildings and on cracked and littered roads, Siegel’s photographs are gritty and unromantic, sidestepping nostalgia and revealing a side of the city that is unrecognizable to young New Yorkers today.
The road to the World Trade Center in the 1980's.
As Siegel explained, New York in the 80’s was ridden with crime, sleaze, and racial tension, but it was also a thrilling place to be, invigorated by cheap restaurants, video arcades, small movie theaters and other “weird places,” not to mention affordable housing. It is a New York that stands opposite but equal to the cultural cachet and glamour crystallized in the upcoming One57 skyscraper by Christian de Pontzamparc. Forgive us for being a little New York-centric today, but sometimes, it just can’t be helped.
South Bronx circa 1980's
A gaping hole in the Manhattan Bridge pedestrian walkway.
Coney Island Thunderbolt
Abandoned West Side Highway
A broken shop window