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What The Bronx looked like in the 1970s through these Fascinating Vintage Photos

The Bronx entered the 1970s with a wave of optimism, fueled by the Civil Rights Movement and a burgeoning cultural scene. However, economic decline, disinvestment, and redlining cast a long shadow. By mid-decade, the borough was grappling with widespread poverty, abandoned buildings, and racial tensions. This culminated in the infamous “Bronx is Burning” era, where massive fires ravaged entire neighborhoods, displacing hundreds of thousands and leaving scars on the borough’s landscape.

A City in Crisis

The economic woes of the 1960s intensified in the 1970s. Job losses, and disinvestment plunged many Bronx neighborhoods into poverty. Crumbling infrastructure, abandoned buildings, and rampant arson became grim realities. The infamous “Bronx is burning” documentary captured the despair and frustration of the era, sparking national debate about urban renewal and social justice.

The Birth of Hip-Hop

During the crisis, a cultural revolution was brewing. In the South Bronx, young people found solace and expression in a new art form: hip-hop. DJs like Kool Herc spun records, breakdancers defied gravity, and MCs like Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five weaved stories of their lives and struggles through rhymes. This nascent movement, born out of hardship, would go on to become a global phenomenon, forever changing music, and culture.

The Bronx walls became canvases for another artistic expression: graffiti. Artists like Taki 183 and SEEN transformed abandoned buildings into vibrant displays of creativity and social commentary. While initially viewed as vandalism, graffiti evolved into a recognized art form, capturing the Bronx experience, and becoming a powerful tool for self-expression.

Community Activism

Faced with systemic neglect, residents and community leaders organized to advocate for their rights and the revitalization of their neighborhoods. Groups such as the South Bronx Community Action Theatre and the Bronx Council on the Arts played pivotal roles in highlighting the social issues facing the borough and using cultural engagement as a tool for community empowerment.

#1 Graffiti adorns a subway train at Pelham Parkway Station.

#4 At the Bronx Zoo, a child examines headstones representing extinct species during an Earth Day exhibit, 1971.

#5 Shoppers navigate Fordham Road at the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, 1972.

#6 An abandoned car is left on East 146th Street in the South Bronx, 1972.

#7 Yankee Stadium is seen surrounded by buildings, before its demolition in 2010, 1972.

#8 Streetlights illuminate a parking lot and sports fields near a Bronx housing project, 1974.

#9 Joe DiMaggio stands where home plate once was at Yankee Stadium during renovations, 1974.

#10 A Carvel ice cream store fronts a public housing building in the Bronx, 1975.

#11 Construction workers take a lunch break against cars in the Bronx, circa 1975.

#12 Neon signs light up a Carvel ice cream parlor at night in the Bronx, 1976.

#13 Cornered by Amoco and Shell, gas stations sit near apartment buildings in the Bronx, 1976.

#14 The top of a Bronx housing project is captured, 1976.

#15 Neon signs of a Carvel ice cream parlor glow at dusk in the Bronx, 1976.

#16 Two individuals ride through an empty Bronx parking lot on a motorcycle, 1976.

#17 An intersection near Amoco and Shell gas stations in the Bronx is busy, 1976.

#18 A young man stands in a vacant lot in the South Bronx with abandoned buildings behind him, 1977.

#19 At night, an abandoned building’s facade in the South Bronx shows a former meat market, 1977.

#20 Abandoned apartment buildings amid rubble with a stray dog in the South Bronx are shown, 1977.

#21 Across rubble, abandoned apartment buildings in the South Bronx are visible, 1977.

#22 The Gould Memorial Library at Bronx Community College, featuring the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, is designed by Stanford White, circa 1970.

#23 An abandoned burnt-out drug store marks the landscape of the South Bronx, 1970s

#24 An abandoned car in the South Bronx, New York City, symbolizes urban decay in 1977.

#25 A Bronx sidewalk becomes a makeshift playground for children, 1970s

#26 The elevated IRT number 2 train passes apartment houses in the Bronx, 1977.

#27 Co-op City’s apartments near Pelham, built on a landfill’s edge, represent a vast housing development in the Bronx, 1973.

#28 Burnt-out tenement blocks in the South Bronx, 1977.

#29 An aerial view captures the lower Bronx’s landscape around 1973.

#30 Burnt-out tenement blocks and shops in the South Bronx, 1977.

#31 The South Bronx faced severe urban blight with burnt-out tenement, 1970s

#34 Burnt-out tenement blocks and shops in the South Bronx, August 1977

#35 In August 1977, the South Bronx’s landscape is marred by burnt-out tenement blocks and shops.

#36 A municipal dump near Co-op City in the Bronx, 1973.

#37 Burnt-out tenement blocks in the South Bronx, 1970s

#38 The incinerator of a South Bronx tenement operates fully around 1973

#39 Burnt-out shops and tenement blocks in the South Bronx, 1970s.

#40 Burnt-out shops and tenement blocks in the South Bronx, 1970s.

#41 A hot dog seller operates in front of burnt-out shops and a tenement block in the South Bronx, New York City.

#42 Young mother, St. Ann’s Ave at E. 140th St., Bronx, 1977

#47 View west along E. 149th St. and Third Ave., Bronx, 1979

#57 Bronx Refrigerating Company, 520 Westchester Ave., Bronx, 1977

#59 S. Bronx, by the Cross Bronx Expressway East, 1970

#69 Bronx Queen and number 6 subway, Bronx River at Westchester Ave., 1970s

#74 Burnt-out tenement blocks and shops in the South Bronx, 1977.

Burnt-Out Tenement Blocks And Shops In The South Bronx, 1977.

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Written by Wendy Robert

Brand journalist, Ghostwriter and Proud New Yorker. New York is not a city โ€“ itโ€™s a world.

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