1977 video

An amazing video showing the Upper West Side in 1977 by Mark Mannucci and Mary Larsen has been making the rounds on social media in recent days. The interviews are fantastic, displaying a wide range of views about the neighborhood. Check out the full video here. and let us know in the comments if you notice any old friends or landmarks.

Here are some of the views expressed about the neighborhood:

“It stinks,” says one woman, blaming Mayor Abe Beame and longing for the old days.

“Every other block it’s different,” says another.

“It’s becoming very gay, which is very safe to me.”

“You have extremes in this neighborhood. You have the extremely rich the extremely poor. You’ll always have problems when you have two extremes.”

“Much more interesting than the rather sterile east side.”

“There’s always someone trying to steal, rob from you, kill you.”

One couple is selling kittens to make money, another rolls her eyes about all the “transvestites”

HISTORY | 44 comments | permalink
    1. Ellen says:

      Some things never change.. except those awful clothes good lord what were we all thinking.

    2. Fred says:

      It always amazes me how some people are nostalgic for the old UWS before it became gentrified and yuppified.

      Before the city got cleaned up the UWS was a grimy and scary place. It wasn’t too long ago that the UWS was actually quite dangerous. In this 1977 video the neighborhood looks horrible.

      The good old days weren’t always so good.

      • Mark says:

        Totally agree.

      • Christina says:

        I totally agree Fred, although from someone who grew up on the UWS I have to say even though parts of it was dangerous, there was a sense of community, neighborliness and looking out for the mom and pops as well as creative and diverse inhabitants that IS LOST! What a shame that this area has been homogenized and swept of most creative and diverse people of all income levels. I still love the UWS but I loved it more just the same or more with all it’s flaws and imperfections! Character is gone!

      • cas says:

        Fred – As a kid growing up in the 1970s, I have great memories of the UWS. I definitely prefer the pre-2000 UWS and NYC. My family and friends who are native New Yorkers feel similarly.
        But sounds like you are a bit older so I can understand that you have a different point of view.

        The UWS was a community, an authentic neighborhood. I personally am sad to see what it has become, transformed into a SoulCycle, Chipotle etc mall.

        • Fred says:

          I was a child in the 1970s too. I remember going to the UWS in the 1970s & 1980s and it was gross.

          Today I’m married and raising a family on the UWS. The neighborhood is safe and clean, the schools are good and it’s a great place to raise kids. Newcomers establish roots here and there is plenty of “community” these days.

          • dannyboy says:

            I preferred the UWS of the 70’s and 80’s. My kids agree (about the 80’s and 90’s). We feel that it had been a very interesting place and low-key.

            You know, not so materialistic.

            • Fred says:

              Don’t chastise the rest of us for being “materialistic” when you live in a giant rent-controlled apartment.

              It is “materialistic” people like me who subsidize old time lefty shnorrers like you.

            • dannyboy says:

              Fred, I am sorry that your life sucks.

            • anon says:

              I assume, given your love and value for community and your apparent lack of materialism that you’ll be giving up your apartment and moving into a smaller market-rate place in an underserved neighborhood. If you own we assume you’ll sell for under-market rate and donate most of the proceeds to charity and if you’re rent-stabilized we are happy to see someone willing to give up a material place (instead of clinging to it/it’s accompanying rights) and allowing another deserving family to move in.

            • dannyboy says:


              Why you would want me to move is beyond comprehension.

              Taking away a neighbor’s apartment exhibits exactly the unappealing materialism that I referred to.

              Thank you for making my point.

            • anon says:

              LOL. Read my comment again Dannyboy. This time read it carefully and slowly as you need to understand it. If you aren’t materialistic you won’t care very much to profit off the sale of your home (you would certainly not be like a greedy landlord and get every penny you can for it!) and you certainly won’t hold onto an apartment tightly when someone else could possibly benefit from it more than you are (or it’s just someone else’s turn to have a chance at it).

            • dannyboy says:


              Think a little more deeply. I prefer people and the social aspect. The price of your apartment is of no interest to me. Why are you so interested in getting me to move out of my apartment? I like people. Try it.

    3. denton says:

      We lived here for a bit in that time. Some things never change. Streets are dirty. Too many potholes. To many gangs. Lots of pretty women. The East Side still sucks. And no one wants to live above 86th Street. lol.

    4. LOU says:

      WOW! CHOCK FUL O NUTS ..86&87 B’WAY….My first job

    5. Bruce Bernstein says:

      what was striking about the video was that the UWS was a lot more diverse in those days. Not surprising but interesting to see. thanks.

      • filatura says:

        Only if you never walk north of 86th Street. I was here in 1977 and don’t recall it being any more diverse (if by that you mean it had more people of color). Remember that you’re seeing the UWS in 1977 through the eyes of the videographer, who selected and edited the images and interviews. He recorded impressions, not statistics.

    6. Rodger Lodger says:

      Very sad to think how many of those people are dead. Others went on to miserable marriages or careers. Many wasted tons of money on shrinks. Some spent years in prison.

    7. Wendy says:

      I moved to the UWS in 1977. It was rundown and crime-ridden; the streets were filled with prostitutes and johns, followed by the homeless and mentally ill released to the SROs. I only moved up here because it was cheap. You couldn’t come home at night without seeing at least one car with the window smashed – usually it was a couple of cars on the block. Those were the days when people put signs in their cars saying “nothing in car or trunk.” My non-doorman building actually had a guard at night, that was paid for by residents because the neighborhood was so unsafe! There was one place open late at night, called “Pick and Pay.” You took your life in your hands to go in there. The blocks between Col. and Amsterdam where public housing was was a dangerous zone.
      Pluses: The New Yorker Theatre, Zabar’s (thank god they have stayed!) The Gryphon book store, the Sy Oliver big band studio, the wonderfuon Broadway that have since been torn down to make way for high rise condos.

      • joe says:

        I remember Pick N Pay 87th ne corner….what a dump…everything was practically 25% or more than any other grocery store…….anyone remember Merit Farms across from PNP..used to get a whole roto chicken for around 3.00

        • justina says:

          I lived on 87th and Broadway and I remember Pick n Pay. I also remember the hookers lined up on Broadway at night, (that was always interesting) and the outside pay phone by the pharmacy on the SW corner of 88th and Broadway.

    8. senyc says:

      Im a third generation, born and raised UWSer. No one I know was ever scared for their life. We native NYers know how to handle ourselves.
      The neighborhood was always slighty wacky and sketchy, politically “different”, truly racially and economically diverse – a real neighborhood, with real people. No more – that creative and unique place is completely gone. So incredibly sad….

      • geoff says:

        i agree with senyc. “scared for their lives”? not me. those who were scared are the same types who comment nowadays in these columns about how they are ‘mortified’, terrified’, ‘threatened’ etc, by book salesmen!!

        i moved from 101st street to 73rd street in 1978. it was a MAJOR step up: from a top floor brownstone one room studio to a renovated tenement with high ceilings in the low seventies at columbus. WOW! we were thrilled. i could walk to work. affordable rent. enough room to entertain. ( i just discovered that the abbey pub is still up there). we’d just gone through the blackout.

        still in place. still love it. i miss a few old businesses but, when you get right down to it, i’m a very small contributor to the economic engine. i cook most meals. so, some things haven’t changed at all: pioneer, fairway, the korean vegetable store (where i have have only ever shopped about three times, twice for a nytimes), the two news stands are still on amsterdam and on 72. even the barbershop (where i’ve never had a haircut—i go out to jackson heights, for and adventure).

        i was mugged only twice, once when i lived in the bronx, where i started out on jerome avenue, and once on 125 street, at noon one day. never on the uws.

        felt very safe in my neighbourhood. very safe. there were hookers in the high seventies on broadway, but they were, literally, streetwalkers. never bothered me. i may not have liked it, but so what?

        i still remember when the upholstery shop on the corner closed and ‘design observations’ moved in. again, WOW!! we thought the neighbourhood was suddenly getting ‘classy’. well, it was, and it’s classier still; just lost it’s grit, sadly. and later, the street entertainers kept us awake, and their noisy crowds. there were some great ones out there, even comedians. now that, i miss.

    9. Scott says:

      I agree with the poster above, those were hardly “the good old days” unless you’re a fan of superficial “diversity,” as some are. And to think, the people moaning in that video hadn’t even gone through the blackout yet!

    10. Kenneth says:

      Lest we forget “The Panic in Needle Park”

    11. jezbel says:

      I first moved to the UWS in 1975. Originally at 91 St and CPW in a Mitchel-Lama building which was brand new. It was lovely and so were the neighbors. 91 Street Had a lot of mixed housing and was a safe street. Limited on the north side by the elementary school at the corner of Columbus and 91st. And the El Dorado was across the street (high rent district then and now). It was a great block. But back then we lived as though each block was an entire neighborhood. 92nd Street, for example, was a gang block and we knew not to walk alone there, park a car or venture out at night. Next I moved to 66th Street and CPW which was then and is now a great street with great shops. What I miss are the small “mom and pops” from the cleaner, to the hardware stores to the drug stores. We were all on a first name basis. We even knew the homeless guy who lived in the park, entrance at 66th Street. A guy named William with bright red hair. He befrended Billie Jean King (a dog walker) Al Franken (also a dog walker) and many other in the neighborhood. It was eclectic but made up of people who cared about each other.

    12. AC says:

      My God, what an excellent find! The boys in the playground talking about the hood, I lost touch with some of them. This video has motivated me to look them up (I believe one is a retired NYPD Det.). That was the original neon sign at H&H- it was circular. A street fight back in the late 70’s had one guy throw a garbage can into it and the circular sign shattered. Thanks for posting, brings back wonderful memories of my youth (Food City; Guys & Dolls Billiards; 4 brothers diner; etc.). In the late 60’s into the 70’s, it was a hood of struggling parents (mix bag of Irish, Latino, black) trying to do their family good.

    13. Cody says:

      The UWS first gentrifiers appear at 2:47. They just moved up from the village!

    14. Justina says:

      Yes, it was more sordid, and more dangerous, and definitely more funky, which made living on the UWS more interesting. And, I did live above West 96th Street in the 1970’s, which was “no man’s land” although the rents were even cheaper, and really not much more dangerous. Now, the UWS is just as sterile and boring as the UES.

    15. Jay says:

      I think Snake still lives in the neighborhood. He still carries that metal club and wears that same jacket with the big fur collar. Lady Snake looks different, though.

    16. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      I miss some of the character and eccentric personalities from the pre-gentrified days. I wonder what happened to the individuals in this video. The kids must now be in their mid-40’s.

      At least now we can walk the streets and parks at any time of the day without fear of being victimized. Overall, things are better than they were before.

    17. bonnie says:

      Really, the old UWS doesn’t sound so great to me. I miss the stores that have vanished in the last ten years. I live in the low 80’s and we have plenty of characters around here, of course they are all on social security.

    18. Cynthia says:

      Oh what memories! We young actors used to hang out at Teachers and Teachers Too. Back in the day when you could get a fairly nice apartment for $350.00/month! And oh the inimitable cheese Danish you could get at Grossinger’s Home Bakery. (There were also a lot of cars that had signs in the windows, “No Radio!” as an attempt to discourage break-ins. Lots of smashed glass on the sidewalks then.)

    19. jezbel says:

      There were so many great small places to have a midnight snack and listen to music. Mikel’s was at B’way and about 100th St. The house band was a group called Stuff. Each of those guys went one to be the best recording session players in the business. They were even the house band on the first season of SNL. The Library was another place near 99th and B’way that was open late and had good food and was fun. Amsterdam was a bit of a pit back in the late 1970’s, lots of chain link fencing, empty lots. But I miss the Christmas tree lots in those empty spaces. There was one at about 91st Street and (either) Columbus or Amsterdam – it was about 50 feet long and as deep as the whole lot.

    20. Rachel says:

      Thanks so much for posting this. I grew up on the Upper West Side on 98th Street and was 12 in 1977. I actually have fond memories of the transvestites who hung out in front of the Nedicks at 96th and Broadway because they saved me from muggers more than once, coming home from school.

      I’m definitely nostalgic for the way it was before gentrification and yuppification. So were my parents, before they died 8-10 years ago. Life was good there in the sixties, seventies and early eighties, and it was good after, but two completely different places.

      • dannyboy says:

        Rachel, I feel you. We all loved the neighborhood. My first sense that a world-change was coming was the Columbia. It replaced our community garden.

    21. dannyboy says:

      I greatly prefer the vibrancy of areas with a mix of income levels, as opposed to the sterility of urban areas that cater strictly to the upper middle class and wealthy.

      One of the fallacies is the idea that promoting more development leads to more affordable housing. The reality is that developers, absent carrots and sticks (incentives and requirements) will build housing for the seriously well-off, because the returns per square foot are higher. The increase in construction cost for putting in a few more amenities and using better materials and fixtures is disproportionately rewarded in higher sales prices and rents. And that higher-cost housing is just not fungible with normal housing.

    22. Peter Salwen says:

      Wonderful stuff. I love the leisurely pan (behind the closing credits) across those wonderful two-story “taxpayesr” at W. 86th and W. 80th-79th Sts. The real estate interests considered them garbage, but those buildings were always full of character and didn’t block out the sky and sunlight. But the people and comments are the best — and the glimpses of long-vanished businesses like Al Buon Gusto, Riverside Hardware, Charivari, 4 Brothers, & that giant indoor flea market (“Exchange”) at Columbus and W. 81st. Thanks! BTW — anybody else think that might be Larry David at 5:58?

    23. frances lester says:

      who is that man in the photo? is it jerry ( i forgot the last name) who once taught literature at fordham university?