Especially observant readers of this magazine (there must be a few) might note that they’ve seen the cover of this magazine before, and indeed they have, on the debut issue of New York, dated April 8, 1968. The only difference is that here the Manhattan skyline is rendered in metallic silver, rather than in the original four colors. (The photographer, Jay Maisel, happens to be the inhabitant of “The 72-Room Bohemian Dream House” that we featured in last week’s issue, but that’s another story.)
Anniversaries are celebrated with numbing regularity by magazines, including, obviously, this one. But we hope we’ve at least departed from this solipsistic tradition by looking outward rather than in, focusing on the tumultuous period with which the magazine’s life span has coincided. Drawing the borders of history is, to some degree, arbitrary, but it’s safe to say that these last 40 years have marked an era of unusual change in New York. The modern city was, in short, reborn. Many of the bones remain in place—the buildings, the bridges, even old Yankee Stadium isn’t quite gone yet—but nearly everything else about the place has changed. You need only flip through the opening essay and the accompanying iconic photographs to see how different the city looked and felt back then. How in the world did we get from there to here?
In selecting what to feature in this issue, we relied on the New York Magazine tradition of constantly shifting lenses and tools. We invited back some of the distinctive writers from the magazine’s past, like Pete Hamill, who walks the streets of the new Brooklyn that has taken root in his old stamping grounds, and Gloria Steinem, who reflects on the evolution of the feminist movement she helped launch in New York’s pages. To compare old and new views of the city, we paired figures from different eras, like novelists Richard Price and Junot Díaz and Mayors Koch and Bloomberg, put them in a room together, and ran the tape. Michael Tomasky, who wrote the “City Politic” column for the better part of a decade, goes time-traveling to the day when Rudy Giuliani took office and drew a hard line between the old city and the new. Our “Imperial City” columnist, Kurt Andersen, provides the overview, a wide-ranging historical essay that touches on the major events, from the burning tenements of the Bronx and the hot lights of Saturday Night Live to the greed-is-good proselytizers of the eighties and the destruction of the World Trade Center, not to mention the all-consuming wave of gentrification that has swept over the city ever since. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Black Monday, Debbie Harry, yuppies in ascendancy, Jewishkeit in decline, a grown-up Jeffrey Maier, sea salt, Reggie Jackson, trucker hats, the guy who kept tigers in his apartment, the killer stare of Christopher Walken, and the ingenuity of Donald Trump’s comb-over. Sprinkled throughout are the answers to questionnaires that we sent to notable figures. Finally, all the original photography in the issue is the work of the extraordinary Dan Winters, who lends a degree of artistic unity to what is a gloriously chaotic mix of New Yorkers—from those whose moment was long ago to those (on the back page, for instance) whose moment is yet to come.