In 1953, the Gangs of New York Were Hardcore

We have a tendency, perhaps in part due to the massive social changes that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, to view the 1950s as a halcyon era. A picture from a cool photo essay at The Gothamist about Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY disabuses us of that notion. The picture:


The caption:

Cocktail party balked. Detective Michael Walsh of Brooklyn West Youth Squad examines homemade ‘Molotov cocktails’—gasoline-filled bottles with gas-saturated wicks—which were among 20 seized yesterday by police who broke up scheduled teenage gang war in Red Hook.

That’s right. Teenagers were going to firebomb each other. Not exactly peaceful.

Eek. While the lethality of the drug wars of the 1980s was horrific due to the firepower involved (essentially, military grade weaponry was being used), it’s not clear to me that the inclination towards violence was any worse. In fact, if things like teenage pregnancy are correlated with the inclination towards youth violence, then the kids are doing much better these days (teenage pregnancy rates were higher in the 1950s than today).

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1 Response to In 1953, the Gangs of New York Were Hardcore

  1. coloncancercommunity says:

    I worked in Washington Heights during the early to mid ’90s and I can promise you that NYC is much safer today than it was back then… In the 90s Presbyterian Hospital had escorts armed with billy clubs escorting me to my car when I left after 9 PM. It was a bad area with a very high murder rate and drug traffic central for traffic heading towards NJ over the GW. During my 4 years there – I had to have the windows of my car replaced at least twice a year due to break-ins…I was back there in 2004 for the tail end of my doctorate as my mentor had moved from Albert Einstein to Columbia. The transformation was amazing. These days such things are just not part of the picture. We take the safety of large cities for granted. It really was not that way until recently.

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