Thirty years ago tonight, the lights went out in New York City. Unlike the placid blackout of 2003, the 1977 blackout plunged a weary, wary city into inky mayhem. Fires burned in Bushwick. Looters tore into Crown Heights. A significant chunk of Broadway was ablaze. Damages went into the hundreds of millions. And no one got shot. In a special issue on the blackout published on August 1, 1977, New York's Thomas Plate wrote about what the cops did and didn't do that dark night. " [I]t is still somewhat reassuring to know that the NYPD's behavior during the blackout was far more thought out than Con Ed's." Considering what happened in Queens last summer, that is reassuring indeed.
Why The Cops Didn't Shoot [NYM (pdf)]
The Summer of Sam was also the summer of a hotly contested Democratic mayoral primary. Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, and Bella Abzug were just a few of the politicians vying for the city crown amid all the chaos, and in a September 1977 issue of New York, Doug Ireland was disgusted with the whole process. "Surely this is the oddest Democratic primary in recent history. Seldom have the voters in our town had such a hopeless welter of nonissues thrown at them in a mayoral campaign," he wrote. "[I]n a city still reeling from a swelter summer of blackouts, looting, criminally high unemployment, and Son of Sam, most candidates are as afraid of the voters as the voters are of the muggers in the streets." Take a look at the whole article for a flashback to city politics, seventies style.
Democratic Dogfight: A Hopeless Welter of Nonissues [NYM (pdf)]
Earlier:Summer of Sam Revisited: ‘New York’ on the Search for Sam
The Post is having everyone but David Berkowitz wax rhapsodic about the summer of 1977 — wait, maybe that's the big final installment! — and today it's Mayor Koch's turn to brag how he "Helped Put Juice Back in the Big Apple" (despite the fact that he wasn't the mayor yet when the blackout hit — merely a candidate). So, where was Candidate Koch when the lights went out? The perfect place, it appears. "On the 17th floor of an apartment house being interviewed by a citywide gay caucus," he writes. "I told them that within the first 30 days of my administration, I would issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination by government in employment or housing based on sexual orientation." Um, Ed? The task was to reminisce about the blackout, not to suck up to the people who still detest your inaction on AIDS. But go on! "The room … suddenly went black and the meeting ended. I walked down the 17 floors to my campaign bus." Leaving the gay caucus, as it were, in the dark.
How I Helped Put Juice Back in Big Apple [NYP]