35 ways new york has changed since 1980

From the Brooklyn migration to a decline in ferrets, we look at the ways in which NYC has evolved since i-D was launched in 1980.

by Rory Satran
12 June 2015, 4:35pm

When i-D was created by Terry and Tricia Jones in 1980 as a reactionary 'zine, the world was a very different place. We don't need to mention that there was no Internet, but there was also no MTV, no test tube babies, no 3-D, no Prozac, and no computer viruses (really). Justin Bieber's mother was four years old. We look at how New York City has grown up during the i-D era.

1. We used to be able to afford it.
Everyone who lives in NY has heard several infuriating stories about someone's cool artist aunt who had a $300 loft on Crosby Street. In the 80s, the  average rent was $1700 a month, which still sounds kinda expensive TBH, but it's nothing like today's $3500 and gnarly roommate situations.

2. The subway is not (very) scary anymore.
In John Conn's iconic photos of the subway in the early 80s, there are knives and aggressive nuns. It smelled like urine (okay it still does). But it was also a hotbed of great graffiti from artists like Keith Haring and Fab 5 Freddy. Nowadays the trains have Singapore-like signs informing women not to brush their hair and men not to spread their legs.

3. Being a stockbroker is a lot less sexy.
Remember when working on Wall Street seemed kind of cool? Not so much, now.

4. We no longer own ferret pets (hopefully).
Mayor Giuliani banned the rodents in 1999, and De Blasio failed to overturn the ruling this year.

5. We don't think roller skates are an acceptable mode of transportation, or very fun.
Although we sure did then.

6. Subway tokens were a thing.
We now use convenient Metrocards which Jay Z hadn't heard of until recently.

7. We are far less likely to be murdered (yay!).
328 murders were recorded in 2014 compared to 1814 in 1980.

Photography John Blower via Flickr

8. There are no more pay phones.
Except for like, one in Union Square which I use regularly when my phone dies. There is a plan in place to turn them all into wi-fi hot spots. But then how will we call the ghostbusters?

9. Chinatown used to be all Chinese people, and there was no place to buy gourmet vegetarian food or Jil Sander.

10. You used to be able to pick up hot dangerous men in Central Park.
According to the Al Pacino movie Cruising. Now you can pick up hot moms with strollers.

11. You could smoke everywhere.
Including at your desk. Now you can only smoke in your home, and on the street.

12. This one is from my mom, who actually lived in New York in the 80s:
"Everybody had an assistant. Who answered the phone, which rang all the time. No voice mail at offices. That may have been the year when answering machines started to appear, but NEVER at work. Bad form plus so déclassé not to have someone to answer your phone for you." (Fast forward to 2015: I do not have an assistant, nor a land line).

13. There was no sushi.
Well there was ONE sushi restaurant, Hatsuhana. But no one knew about it. And now you can order sushi in the furthest reaches of Brooklyn. With mozzarella in it.

14. Studio 54 is now a theater.
It's conceivable that your grandmother passed out during the matinee of Cabaret on the exact same spot where Truman Capote passed out on the dancefloor in the club's heyday.

15. Coffee cups used to look like this and now they look like this.

16. You might have been able to buy a Basquiat for a few dollars -
If you ran into him on the street selling his sketches. Today it would go for $49 million.

17. Woody Allen went from being a hometown hero to a controversial criminal to kind of meh.
In 1980 Allen was just starting his relationship with Mia Farrow, and fresh off the success of his masterpiece Manhattan. In the next 35 years he would become an alleged child molester and make 38 more films, some good and some bad. Now, he's an UWS dad who wears chinos and takes his daughters to Knicks games.

18. Exercise has gone from nonexistent to a way of life.
Some 80s people jogged in Central Park, often wearing jean shorts. Winters were for skiing, in full-length jeans. Jane Fonda's first workout video didn't come out until 82. Today, New Yorkers think nothing of taking two $34 Soulcycle classes in one day, and "athleisure" is everywhere, sadly.

19. Media was taken over by British editors.
When Terry Jones left British Vogue to start i-D, Anna Wintour was still toiling at the now-defunct title Savvy, and Tina Brown was editing Tatler in the UK. Those women, along with Glenda Bailey, would go on to run the most important magazines in NYC.

20. Sex clubs are on the downswing.
The meatpacking district was once were you went to try out your new cock ring, not your new Jeffrey Campbell heels. Times Square's legendary Playpen is now a Shake Shack. The AIDS crisis struck and orgies moved indoors.

21. But bedbugs are on the upswing.
The juicy little critters were only really problematic in the developing world from WWII through the 80s, but are back in a big way thanks to a rise in international travel.

Photography Wally Gobetz via Flickr

22. The Bowery.
Let's leave it at that.

23. Brooklyn happened.
Jay Z grew up slaying yeyo and getting in gunfights with his brother in the same Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood that now has elegant design shops and 5 million dollar townhouses. Hillary Clinton's headquarters are in Brooklyn Heights and East Village icon Chloe Sevigny has moved to Park Slope.

24. There are hundreds of 7-11s in Manhattan today (even on the Bowery, see #22).
Vs. being basically nowhere in 1980.

25. Clubs were actually fun.
Limelight, Danceteria, and Area were all megaclubs yet allegedly extremely fun. Today, the youngs are more likely to go to local dive bars. Or dance sober before work.

26. People thought cocaine was amazing.
And then crack happened, reaching a peak in the late 80s (see Eugene Richards' terrifying documentation in Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue). Now, kids in Staten Island and artists are tragically back into heroin.

27. People used to actually hail cabs by whistling.
As you likely know if you've seen pretty much any movie from the 80s. Now they just take Ubers.

28. Young dreamers regularly showed up to the city via Greyhound bus.
At least, they did in Billy Joel's 'New York State of Mind' and in Desperately Seeking Susan. The bus myth may have held strong until people got scared of getting beheaded on their way to Broadway.

29. Comedy is arguably less fiyah.
Caroline of the famous club Caroline's called comedy the "rock of the 80s." Caroline's and the legendary Improvisation club hosted legends like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy in a scene that got more wild than Louie C.K. with his dadbod at the Comedy Cellar.

30. Pretty much everything looks cleaner.
Check out Larry Racioppo's comparison photos for the proof.

31. It used to be really uncool to move to LA.
Despite Joan Didion's Goodbye to All That (1967). Now all the people who call themselves "creatives" are moving there, which is totally fine.

32. Fashion moved from uptown to downtown.
Before Opening Ceremony, there was Fiorucci. Called "the daytime Studio 54," the iconic 59th street store inspired a young Marc Jacobs to get into fashion.

33. Less mimes.
Check out Rick Liss's beautiful experimental film of early 80s New York for a glimpse of the city back then, including mimes at play and a haunting glimpse of the twin towers.

34. Sarah Jessica Parker has changed.
Like so much, guys. She went from singing her little heart out as Annie on Broadway from 1979-80 to making ostrich-adorned clothing and french fries look good on SATC to being a West Village mom of many. SJP's career has kind of mirrored the city's evolution from gritty place for talented folks to shine, to materialistic center of the universe, to playground for millionaire mothers.

35. We're more nostalgic now than ever.
Clearly. Would a blog like Jeremiah's Vanishing NY have existed in 1980?

New York city has changed a lot (duh). But there's also a good deal about it that has stayed the same: you can still see a weird movie at Anthology Film Archive, make out at South Street Seaport like Alvie and Annie, get an egg cream at Gem Spa or a very good cold martini at the Odeon (although these days without a chaser of cocaine). It still rules. 


Lead image photography Tom Thai via Flickr

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