Step into the Streets and Everyday Life of Brooklyn in the 1980s Through Striking Photos

Brooklyn’s evolution, ever intertwined with the broader strokes of New York City’s saga, experienced a vivid chapter in the 1980s. Journey with us as we revisit this iconic era.

Rebirth Amidst Challenges

The 1980s was a period of rebirth for Brooklyn. While the shadows of the previous decade’s fiscal crisis lingered, the borough began to see glimmers of urban revival. Neighborhoods like DUMBO and Williamsburg, once emblematic of decay, slowly started transforming, attracting artists, musicians, and visionaries who laid the foundation for the Brooklyn renaissance.

The Golden Age of Hip-Hop

Brooklyn in the 1980s bore witness to the meteoric rise of hip-hop, with local talents bursting onto the global scene. Pioneers from the borough, including Big Daddy Kane and MC Lyte, crafted lyrical masterpieces that resonated far beyond Brooklyn’s boundaries. Block parties, underground venues, and street corners became the epicenters of this cultural revolution.

The Struggle against Crime

While the borough basked in its cultural renaissance, it wasn’t without its challenges. The crack epidemic and related crime waves posed significant hurdles. However, true to Brooklyn’s tenacity, community leaders and residents rallied together, initiating grassroots movements to reclaim their streets and neighborhoods.

Coney Island’s Magic

Coney Island, Brooklyn’s beloved seaside playground, faced its share of trials in the ’80s. While the glitz of its heyday seemed distant, efforts to rejuvenate the iconic landmark began earnestly. The decade witnessed the start of revitalization projects, ensuring that the allure of its boardwalks and amusement parks would endure for future generations

#2 Shore Hotel and Nathan’s Restaurant Signs on Coney Island, 1983

#3 Manhattan Bridge with Glimpse of Williamsburg Bridge, 1983

#4 Detail of Stauch’s Bath House in Coney Island, 1983

#7 Brighton Beach Boardwalk with Gated Storefronts and People, 1984

#8 Visitor Admires Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1984

#9 World Trade Center Seen from Brooklyn Bridge, 1984

#11 Brighton Beach Avenue Under Elevated Subway Tracks, 1985

#15 Jehovah’s Witness Headquarters Through Trees, 1985

#16 Conga Drum Store Skin on Skin in Carroll Gardens, 1985

#17 Weathered Sign for New England Hand Laundry in Brooklyn Heights, 1985

#19 Crowd at Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Giglio Feast in Williamsburg, 1985

#20 La Barca at Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Giglio Feast in Williamsburg, 1985

#22 Mourners Leave Funeral Service for Crime Boss Frank DeCicco, 1986

#23 Williamsburg Bridge from 6th Street and Kent Avenue, 1986

#29 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, 1987

#32 White Russians Street Signs in Brighton Beach, 1988

#33 White Russians Outdoor Cafe in Brighton Beach, 1988

#34 White Russians Street Signs in Brighton Beach, 1988

#35 White Russians Oceana Cinema in Brighton Beach, 1988

#36 White Russians Russian Deli in Brighton Beach, 1988

#38 ACT UP Demonstrators Block Brooklyn Bridge Access, 1989

#39 Public Enemy Films ‘Fight the Power’ Video in Brooklyn, 1989

#40 Jewish All-Girls School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1989

#41 Abandoned Apartment House in Red Hook, Brooklyn, 1989

#42 New York Dock Company Building in Red Hook, Brooklyn, 1989

#43 People Enjoy Sunset in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 1980

#45 Couple Walks Beneath Elevated Subway in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 1980

#46 Cast and Crew of ‘They All Laughed’ Near Brooklyn Bridge, 1980

#47 Wood Frame House at 69 Orange Street, Brooklyn, 1980

#48 Side Entrance of First Unitarian Church, Brooklyn, 1980

#51 Federal-Style House at 135 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, 1980

#53 Federal-Style House at 24 Middagh Street, Brooklyn, 1980

#54 View of Lower Manhattan from Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, 1980

#55 Pollution Along East River by Brooklyn Bridge, 1980

#56 Man Sits by East River Near Brooklyn Bridge, 1980

#57 Commuters Walk Over Brooklyn Bridge During Transit Strike, 1980

#58 Grandmaster Flash Poses Under Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, 1981

#60 Children Ride Carousel at Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1982

#61 Food Stand on Coney Island Boardwalk, Brooklyn, 1982

#62 People at Nathan’s Food Stand in Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1982

#63 View of Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan Bridge, 1982

#65 Myrtle Avenue-Broadway Subway Station, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1982

#66 View from Myrtle Avenue-Broadway Subway Station, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1982

#68 Shoppers at The Big Banana in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 1982

#70 Pedestrian Crossing in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 1982

#72 Cars Stranded on Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Blizzard 1983

#73 Sanitation Workers at Brooklyn Bridge’s 100th Birthday, 1983

#74 Cal Abrams on Dodgers’ Parade Float, Not from Brooklyn

#75 Baton twirlers celebrate the Brooklyn Bridge’s 100th birthday, 1983.

#76 Parade spectators at Brooklyn Bridge’s 100th birthday celebration, 1983.

#77 Cinart Cinema, a pornographic movie theatre in Brooklyn, 1983.

#78 Boarding house with furnished rooms sign in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 1983.

#79 Defunct Circle Fish Monger shop with a view of the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn, 1983.

#80 Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn.

#81 Sweeney Manufacturing Company building in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn.

#82 View of Brooklyn Bridge and World Trade Center Towers, Brooklyn.

#83 Empty Sweeney Manufacturing Company Building in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn.

#84 Brooklyn Bridge viewed from the Brooklyn waterfront.

#85 S & S Coffee Roasters building in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

#86 John Jay High School football team in huddle, Brooklyn, 1983.

#87 Men play doubles handball in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 1982.

#88 Runners on 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge viewed from the Gowanus Expressway, 1981.

#89 High school cheerleaders react to a touchdown at Midwood Field, Brooklyn, 1980.

#90 Lincoln High cheerleaders react to a touchdown at Midwood Field, Brooklyn, 1980.

#91 Abandoned lot in a poor Brooklyn neighborhood, 1988.

#92 Spring blossoms in Brooklyn Botanical Garden, 1988.

#93 Young girl does Double Dutch jump rope in a Brooklyn schoolyard, 1981.

#94 Temporary ramp over the Brooklyn Bridge during renovation, circa 1980.

#95 Schoolgirls play double Dutch on a Brooklyn side street, early 1980s.

#96 Vintage image taken from Brooklyn Bridge at winter dusk, early 1980s.

#97 John Jay High School football team marches from practice field, Brooklyn, 1982.

#98 Runners await the starting gun in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, 1981.

#99 View of Brooklyn Port Piers and Twin Towers, 1987.

#100 Southwest view towards Manhattan from Tompkins Houses, Brooklyn, 1988.

#103 Broadway Junction Elevated Station of the L train, Brooklyn, 1983.

#105 Subway train arrives at a station in Brooklyn, 1980-2006.

#112 East New York view from the Sutter Ave. L train stop, Brooklyn, 1980.

#113 New Hope Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn, 1980-2014.

#119 Howard Houses rooftop view toward Bergen St., Brooklyn, 1989.

#123 Tompkins Houses view toward Park Ave., Brooklyn, 1988.

#125 Prospect Houses view on Prospect Place, Brooklyn, 1988.

#126 Fence made of flattened cars in East New York, Brooklyn, 1988.

#128 Tompkins Houses view toward Park Ave., Brooklyn, 1988.

Written by Adriana Palmer

Blogger, Editor and Environmentalist. A writer by day and an enthusiastic reader by night. Following the Jim Roh's prophecy “Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”

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