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The Bronx in the 1980s: Fascinating Photos of Street Scenes and Everyday Life

The 1980s began with the Bronx still grappling with the aftermath of the 70s. Abandoned buildings remained a grim reminder of the devastating fires, and poverty rates continued to climb. Crack cocaine infiltrated the borough, fueling violence and deepening social issues. Yet, despite the hardships, the Bronx spirit refused to be extinguished.

The Crack Epidemic

The 1980s brought a new set of challenges to the Bronx with the rise of the crack cocaine epidemic. This crisis exacerbated the existing issues of drug abuse and drug-related crime, putting further strain on communities already facing economic and social hardships. The epidemic also stretched the resources of law enforcement and public health services, highlighting the need for comprehensive approaches to drug addiction and its root causes.

Recovery from Urban Decay

The 1980s witnessed significant efforts to address the urban decay that had plagued the Bronx in the 1970s. Initiatives led by community organizations, coupled with city and federal funding, focused on rebuilding and rehabilitating neighborhoods. Projects aimed at affordable housing development, such as those undertaken by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, started to replace or restore the burned-out buildings and vacant lots that had become all too common in the landscape.

Hip-Hop Takes the World Stage

Music continued to be a powerful source of expression and identity. Hip-hop, born in the Bronx in the 70s, exploded onto the global scene in the 80s. Iconic groups like Run-DMC, Public Enemy, and the Sugarhill Gang pushed musical boundaries, addressing social injustices and amplifying the voices of the Bronx. Breakdancing crews like Rock Steady Crew and the Zulu Nation defied gravity, captivating audiences worldwide.

Graffiti as Art Form

Graffiti, once seen as vandalism, evolved into a vibrant art form. Artists like SEEN, TAKI 183, and Lady Pink transformed subway trains and abandoned buildings into canvases, expressing their struggles and dreams in bold colors and intricate designs. This artistic expression, though initially controversial, gained recognition and paved the way for future street art movements.

The Bronx Bombers Return to Glory

After a two-decade drought, the Yankees, led by legends like Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, brought baseball glory back to the Bronx. Their 1977 and 1978 World Series victories provided a much-needed boost of morale and a shared sense of pride for residents.

From Hip-Hop to Hollywood

The Bronx’s stories began to reach a wider audience. Movies like “Wild Style” and “Beat Street” showcased the borough’s vibrant hip-hop culture. Hip-hop artists like LL Cool J and Afrika Bambaataa became cultural icons, inspiring youth around the world. This newfound visibility helped challenge negative stereotypes and raise awareness of the Bronx’s struggles and resilience.

#1 Seagulls fly past standing water in a Bronx parking lot, 1980.

#2 A window display at Harmony Music Shop, a record store in the Bronx, 1980.

#3 An elderly man sits among rubble of bombed-out buildings in the South Bronx, August 1980.

#4 A woman and three children on the stoop of a bombed-out building in the South Bronx, August 1980.

#5 A shop worker helps a woman load groceries into a car in the South Bronx, August 1980.

#6 Ron Williams looks down on tents for the ‘People’s Convention’ in the South Bronx, 1980.

#7 Boxer Jake LaMotta visits his old neighborhood in the Bronx, April 1981.

#8 Yankee Stadium, demolished in 2009, in the Bronx, 1980s.

#9 Journalist Jim Dwyer sits in an abandoned subway car in the Bronx, 1981.

#10 Mayor Ed Koch speaks at a South Bronx ceremony for Job Corps training.

#11 Beachgoers enjoy Orchard Beach in the Bronx, 8 August 1988.

#12 A young man stands in the street in front of a bombed-out building in the South Bronx, August 1980.

#14 Anna, a widow from Russia, feeds stray dogs on E. 174th St. at Daly, Bronx, 1988.

#17 Maria Gonzalez and Carlos Monge at 788 Fox St., Apt 4J, Bronx, 1989.

#19 View east along Charlotte St. from Boston Rd., Bronx, 1989.

#21 View east from Daly Ave., north of the Cross Bronx Expressway, Bronx, 1989.

#22 Davidson Ave., view north from W. 177th St., South Bronx, 1989.

#23 Samuel Gompers Industrial High School, Southern Blvd. at E. 145th St., Bronx, 1989.

#24 Manhanset Building, 850 Longwood Ave., Bronx, 1989.

#25 View along E. 172nd St. toward Boston Rd., Bronx, 1980.

#28 Subway stop, River Ave. at E. 167th St., Bronx, 1980.

#29 Union Ave., view NW toward E. 165th St., Bronx, 1980

#31 View north along Third Ave. toward E. 149th St., Bronx, 1980.

#32 Texaco Gas Station among ruins, view NW from the Cross Bronx Exp. by Park Ave., South Bronx, 1980.

#33 The “U.S. Congress” sign and “Black Economic Survival” on Seabury Pl., north of Charlotte St., Bronx, 1980.

#34 Former Bronx Borough Courthouse, E. 161st St. at Third Ave., 1980.

#35 View east along E. 170th St. at Stebbins Ave., Bronx, 1980.

#37 View north along Third Ave. toward E. 149th St., Bronx, 1980.

#39 E. 149th St. at Prospect Ave., South Bronx, 1980.

#44 E. 142nd St. at Bruckner Blvd., South Bronx, 1981.

#45 View east along Charlotte St. from Boston Rd., Bronx, 1981.

#48 View SE along Seabury Pl. from Boston Rd., Bronx, 1982.

#49 Vyse Ave. at E. 178th St., South Bronx, NY, September 1982.

#51 View NE from Charlotte St. at Boston Rd., Bronx, 1983.

#53 View of IRT train from Seabury Place at Charlotte St., South Bronx, 1984.

#55 View NE from Charlotte St. at Boston Rd., Bronx, 1984.

#56 Black Industrial Movement Headquarters, 1192 Prospect Ave., Bronx, 1984.

#58 View NE from Charlotte St. at Boston Rd., Bronx, 1985.

#59 Fox St. north of Longwood Ave., South Bronx, 1985.

#61 Former Bronx Borough Courthouse, E. 161st St. at Third Ave., 1986.

#62 Vyse Ave. at East 178th St., South Bronx, N.Y., January 1986.

#63 Loyal Baptist Church, 881 E. 167th St., Bronx, 1987.

#64 Iglesia Adventista del 7mo Dia, 1064 Intervale Ave., Bronx, 1987.

#66 Bronx Borough Courthouse, Third Ave. at E. 161st St., Bronx, 1987.

#67 View west from Melrose Ave. at E. 159th St., South Bronx, 1987.

#68 Emilio, Seabury Pl. at Charlotte St., Bronx, 1987.

#69 View west along 159th St. and Courtland Ave., Bronx, 1987.

#71 View east from the #2 Intervale Ave. stop, Bronx, 1988.

#72 Victor and Polo, vacant lot, Southern Blvd. by Louis Nine St., Bronx, 1988.

#73 NE corner of Hoe Ave at Freeman St., Bronx, 1988.

#74 Wild dogs, Longfellow Ave. at West Farms Rd., South Bronx, 1988.

#75 View east from Freeman St. Subway Station, South Bronx, 1988.

#76 Criminal Court, E. 161st at Grant Ave., Bronx, view from the roof of The Air Rights Towers, 1988.

#78 Emigrant Savings Bank, originally Dollar Savings Bank, at 2516-2530 Grand Concourse, circa 1984.

Written by Wendy Robert

Brand journalist, Ghostwriter and Proud New Yorker. New York is not a city – it’s a world.

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