New York City history from the year you were born
New York City history from the year you were born
In 2019, Time Out surveyed nearly 34,000 people from dozens of cities and verified what New Yorkers have always known: New York City is the greatest city in the world. Specifically, New York was named the most diverse and inclusive city in the world, dubbed the city with the best culture, and ranked second and third for its food and drink scenes, respectively. Many agree that these results aren’t all that surprising when you stop to consider New York’s origins.
One of the oldest cities in the United States, New York City can trace its history back to 1626 when the Dutch New Indian Company “purchased” an island from the Manhattan Native American tribe and established a trading outpost called New Amsterdam. After passing into English hands some 50 years later and earning its independence 100 years after that, New York City established itself as America’s immigrant city at the outset of the 19th century. Millions of newcomers arrived and settled in the Big Apple during this time period and even well into the 20th century, when the census counted 20% or more of the city’s population each decade as newly arrived immigrants.
Today’s city is a melting pot—or, perhaps more accurately, a patchwork quilt or salad bowl—of generations of different cultures, ideas, cuisines, and traditions. Its unique origins lend themselves to a rich history, filled with notable events, remarkable happenings, and more than a few tragedies. Using news outlets and historical sources, Stacker compiled a list of some of the biggest moments in New York City’s story, from 1921 to 2020. From influential politicians to riots, Broadway shows, and buildings, this list covers all aspects of life in the Big Apple. Read on to find out what was going on in New York City the year you were born.
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1921: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is established
Although New York and New Jersey border each other and share major waterways, there was very little cooperation between the two states for the first 100-plus years of their existence. That all changed in 1921 when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was established by the signing of a political compact that established jurisdiction and development rights over the Hudson River. Today, the Port Authority oversees much of the transportation infrastructure—including bridges, tunnels, trains, and ferries—between the two states.
1922: The Straw Hat Riots
Ever the trendy city, New York has always frowned on a fashion faux pas, but fashion policing took a deadly turn in 1922. During that time, wearing a straw boater hat after Sept. 15 was a major no-no, and it was common practice for passersby to knock the offending hats off others’ heads come mid-September. However, in ’22, a group of rowdy teenagers began knocking hats off of heads a few days early, which prompted the attacked to fight back, and, eventually, a full-blown Straw Hat Riot began.
1923: The Yankees win their first World Series
The 1923 Major League Baseball season was a memorable one for the New York Yankees. The year began with Babe Ruth hitting a home run over the wall of the team’s new Bronx stadium, and ended with the Yankees taking home their first World Series pennant. The Yankees beat the New York Giants 4-2.
1924: The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
One of New York City’s most beloved traditions, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, began almost 100 years ago in 1924. The inaugural march was actually spun as a Christmas parade, with employees unveiling the department store’s holiday windows in a big moment at the end of the event. Only 250,000 people attended that first parade, a far cry from the 3.5 million that now show up each year.
1925: The New Yorker begins publication
Journalist and editor Harold Ross and his wife Jane Grant began publishing The New Yorker to create what they called a “15-cent comic paper” that was centered around the small island of Manhattan and all its goings-on. Today, the weekly magazine is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, thanks to its in-depth reporting, notable fiction tales, and cultural commentary.
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1926: NYC Cabaret Law is enacted
Modern-day New York City may have a reputation as being one of the nightlife capitals of the world, but in 1926, it was quite the opposite. In the midst of Prohibition, the city passed the Cabaret Law, which banned dancing, music, and other forms of entertainment from any establishment where food and drink were served. The law was the city’s way of tamping down on speak-easies, and while it wasn’t actually enforced after 2001, it wasn’t completely struck down until 2017.
1927: The Coney Island Cyclone opens
On June 26, 1927, the rickety wooden tracks of New York’s Coney Island Cyclone carried 24 passengers around its curves and drops for the first time. The second-steepest wooden roller coaster in the world, the Cyclone has become one of the most recognizable sights on the Coney Island boardwalk and a “must do” for all tourists and newcomers.
1928: Times Square subway crash
The New York City subway was still in its relative infancy in August 1928 when a broken rail caused a crash at the Time Square station. After the train smashed into a wall, 16 people were killed instantly and 100 others suffered various degrees of injury. As bad as it was, the crash wasn’t the deadliest in subway history—that distinction stands with the 1908 Malbone Street Wreck in Brooklyn that killed more than 100 people.
1929: Wall Street crash
In October 1929, the stock market underwent several days of extreme drops, losing as much as 12.8% value in a single day. This caused frantic investors to sell off shares at a rapid pace and eventually plummeted the country into the Great Depression. In New York City, hundreds of residents on Oct. 24 began flocking to the New York Stock Exchange, the day after the Wall Street crash began, desperate for answers and reassurance.
1930: Chrysler Building is completed
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, New York City developers and millionaires were in the midst of a “race for the sky.” Walter P. Chrysler, the founder of the Chrysler Corporation, was one of these wealthy individuals who sought notoriety as the owner of the world’s tallest tower. In 1930, his skyscraper, which he dubbed the Chrysler Building, was complete in all its art deco glory. Still one of the most recognizable buildings in the city, the Chrysler Building was only able to hold on to its title for a single year.
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1931: Empire State Building is world’s tallest
After 410 days of construction, the Empire State Building was completed in the spring of 1931. On May 1, President Herbert Hoover turned on the skyscraper’s lights for the first time by pushing a button in his Washington D.C. office. The 102-story tower officially became the tallest building in the world, and one of the New York City’s most popular tourist attractions.
1932: Radio City Music Hall opens
The brainchild of John D. Rockefeller Jr., Radio City Music Hall was intended to be a “palace for the people,” offering high-quality entertainment at prices everyone could afford. Almost 100 years later, more than 300 million people have experienced a show or performance at Radio City Music Hall, and it remains the country’s preeminent location for concerts, stage shows, special attractions, and media events.
1933: Fiorello LaGuardia is elected mayor
New York City’s first Italian American mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, held the office for 12 years and is widely considered one of the most impactful and memorable mayors in the city’s history. The pro-New Deal liberal Republican got straight to work after winning office, defeating the Tammany Hall political machine, reorganizing the police force, uniting the transit system, and overseeing the construction of airports, public housing, and parks.
1934: Robert Moses becomes parks commissioner
Robert Moses likely had more influence over the physical tributes of New York City than any other single individual. A masterful-if-flawed urban planner, Moses gave the city an underwater tunnel, several public housing projects, 17 swimming pools, 658 playgrounds, an extensive public transport system, and 2,567,256 acres of parkland. His 40-year career began in 1922, but it didn’t really take off until Mayor LaGuardia appointed him parks commissioner in 1934.
1935: Frick Collection opens
By the time the ’30s rolled around, New York City was already home to several world-class art museums, including the Met and the Whitney. In 1935, it added another to its ranks: the Frick Collection. Housed in an original Gilded Age mansion on Fifth Avenue, the museum is anchored around the personal collection of Henry Clay Frick, a Pittsburgh industrialist. In the intervening years, more Old Master paintings, European sculptures, and decorative arts have been added to the permanent collection, and the Frick Art Reference Library has opened in an adjoining building.
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1936: Triborough Bridge is completed
The Triborough Bridge connects three of New York City’s boroughs—Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx—as well as Wards and Randalls Islands. Perhaps the most significant achievement of the Public Works Administration, the construction of the bridge was overseen by Robert Moses, employed thousands of construction workers, and cost an incredible $60.3 million at the time. The bridge, now called the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, is crossed by around 200,000 cars every day.
1937: Lincoln Tunnel opens
The Lincoln Tunnel spans 1.5 miles and connects Weehawken, New Jersey, to midtown Manhattan, traveling under the Hudson River the entire way. Years after the tunnel's construction, two additional tubes were installed to help accommodate the hundreds of thousands of cars using the tunnel each day.
1938: Benny Goodman plays Carnegie Hall
Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, took the stage at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 1938 alongside a racially integrated band to perform swing and jazz music in front of a sold-out house. The concert was the first time people had gathered to listen to swing music rather than to dance to it, and its success elevated Goodman to a bona fide star. The show was recorded and released as an album in 1950, quickly becoming one of the bestselling and most influential jazz albums of all time.
1939: NYC hosts the World’s Fair
Located in what is now Queens' Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the 1939 World's Fair event attracted more than 40 million people over its 1.5-year run. The fair's theme, “The World of Tomorrow,” intended to provide visitors an optimistic glimpse into what life could look like a century or more down the line.
1940: The Mad Bomber plants his first bomb
Throughout the ’40s and ’50s, New York City was terrorized by a mysterious man who planted bombs in public places, from subway stations to libraries. The “Mad Bomber,” as they’d dubbed him, left a trail of evidence and letters, but it took police 16 years to uncover who he truly was: a legally insane electrician and mechanic named George Metesky. Back in 1940, at the outset of his reign of terror, Metesky planted his first bomb at a Consolidated Edison power plant.
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1941: New York City becomes a military town
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, New York City transformed from a cosmopolitan city to a military town. All in all, 3,300,000 troops sailed out of NYC’s harbors alongside 63 million tons of supplies.
1942: SS Normandie burns
In the middle of World War II, American authorities in New York City seized the French passenger liner, the SS Normandie, and attempted to convert the massive ship into a troopship. While making the alterations at Pier 88, the second-largest ship in the world caught on fire. As soon as emergency responders quenched the flames, the boat capsized and sank deep into the Hudson River mud. One person died and 199 people were injured in the massive accident.
1943: Race riots break out in Harlem
During New York City’s hottest summer months of 1943, race riots erupted in Harlem when a Black American veteran was shot and injured by a white police officer. Robert Bandy was attempting to intervene in the arrest of a Black woman when he was accosted by a policeman. Rumors began swirling that Bandy had been killed, though he had not, and violence erupted that resulted in six deaths, $5 million in damages, and approximately 600 arrests.
1944: The Fashion Institute of Technology begins classes
Once a flourishing part of New York City’s economy, textile and apparel manufacturing had begun to dwindle by the mid-’40s as young folks set their sights on jobs that brought more social status. In order to ensure there would be enough qualified and experienced people to keep the industry from dying, a group of industry leaders, led by Mortimer C. Ritter and Max Meyer, set out to start a fashion and design college. The resulting Fashion Institute of Technology began holding classes in 1944 with 100 students.
1945: Adam Clayton Powell Jr. elected to Congress
An important and controversial figure in the civil rights movement, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. began his political career as the first Black American from New York in the House of Representatives. A pastor by trade, Powell represented a Harlem congressional district, and eventually became the chairman of the House education and labor committee. He also headed civil rights efforts like the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign which succeeded in opening jobs for Black Americans all over New York City.
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1946: Wall Street plane crash
Given the height of New York City’s various skyscrapers, it should not be all that surprising to find that the buildings have been involved in a number of plane crashes throughout the years. In 1946, a military plane, whose pilots became disoriented in heavy fog, crashed into the side of 40 Wall St, killing all five men on board the aircraft. The accident came just a year after another Army plane crashed into the side of the Empire State Building, killing 13 people.
1947: Jackie Robinson enters the MLB
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball when he took to the field as the Brooklyn Dodgers’ first baseman. An incredible athlete, Robinson remained on the team for 10 seasons, retiring in 1956 with a .311 batting average, 1,518 hits, and 947 runs scored. He was the first Black American to earn the National League’s MVP Award in 1949, and was credited by Martin Luther King Jr. as being a predecessor to his own success.
1948: 'The Ed Sullivan Show' begins broadcasting
One of TV’s most popular shows during the ’50s and ’60s was “The Ed Sullivan Show,” a variety series hosted by none other than newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan. In 1948, the show began its run as “Toast of the Town” and broadcasted from New York City’s Maxine Elliot Theater before relocating to CBS’s Studio 50, which has been re-named The Ed Sullivan Theater. Guests on that inaugural episode included Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, a pianist, a ballerina, a group of singing firemen, and the boxing referee who was set to oversee the upcoming Joe Louis-Jersey Joe Wolcott match.
1949: Holland Tunnel fire
During rush hour one spring morning in 1949, a barrel of hazardous chemicals fell off of a truck in the Holland Tunnel, which connects lower Manhattan to Jersey City, sparking a fire and releasing toxic fumes into the air. All in all, the massive fire caused $1 million in damage, obliterated 600 feet of the tunnel, and injured 66 commuters. There were no fatalities.
1950: William O’Dwyer resigns
William O’Dwyer, the 100th mayor of New York City, was initially beloved, dubbed a civic hero, and applauded for the way he looked out for the everyman. Then, in 1950, amid a police corruption scandal uncovered by Brooklyn’s District Attorney Miles McDonald, O’Dwyer abruptly resigned. McDonald had begun to uncover a series of rackets led by members of the mob that had apparently been protected by O’Dwyer and his right-hand man James Moran. Knowing his days on the right side of public opinion were numbered, O’Dwyer surrendered his post and moved to Mexico where he eventually was appointed an ambassador by President Harry Truman.
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1951: New York takes over rent control
After the United States entered World War II, a nationwide Emergency Price Control Act was rolled out, freezing rental prices at their 1943 levels and prohibiting any increase in an effort to keep Americans in their homes despite the country falling on lean times. In 1951, this federal program expired, and New York became one of the few states to introduce their own rent control program in its place. The new state-owned act obviously had the greatest impact in the city, where thousands of people benefited from it. Today, only an estimated 30,000 rent-controlled apartments remain.
1952: UN headquarters completed
One year after the United Nations was established, Congress unanimously chose to invite the organization to build its headquarters within the United States. After John D. Rockefeller Jr. gifted the U.N. $8.5 million toward the purchase of a group of lots overlooking the East River, Manhattan was quickly settled upon as the perfect location. The United Nations Headquarters was completed in 1952, and now welcomes more than 1 million visitors each year.
1953: Hulan Jack elected
Hulan Jack’s election as Manhattan’s borough president was a watershed moment for Black Americans, as he became the first Black man in the United States to hold a powerful municipal office. During his time in office, he fought for desegregation, the working man, and against city-devastating plans like Robert Moses’ Lower Manhattan expressway. However, a series of corruption scandals saw him shunned by his own party and often kept him from being remembered in history books.
1954: 'Shakespeare in the Park' begins
Joseph Papp, a theatrical producer, director, and the founder of The Public Theater, founded New York City’s "Shakespeare in the Park" program in 1954. Papp had the vision to bring the Bard’s work to a wider audience and decided that a free, outdoor experience would be just the way to do it. The program, which puts on productions in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, remains one of the preeminent outdoor theater experiences in the country.
1955: The Village Voice begins publication
The year 1955 saw the first issue of The Village Voice hit newsstands. Founded by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher, and Norman Mailer, the newspaper was the country’s first alternative weekly and was intended to be a platform for New York City’s creative community. It remained in publication for 63 years until 2018, when financial struggles forced it to close its doors.
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1956: World Series fever hits the city
Two of the New York City’s three MLB teams—the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers—met in the 1956 World Series. It was the last all-New York City series for 44 years, until the Yankees and the Mets met in 2000. A nail-biting face-off, the Yankees would wind up winning it all after seven games.
1957: 'West Side Story' premieres
Perhaps the most quintessential New York City musical, “West Side Story” premiered at the Winter Garden Theater on Sept. 26, 1957. Based on Shakspeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” the musical, set in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan, was written by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents. The Broadway show ran for 732 performances before closing in June 1959.
1958: Puerto Rican Day Parade begins
When New York City’s Puerto Rican population spiked in the early 1950s, the new residents quickly found themselves facing racism and discrimination. Following the lead of the ethnic groups that came before them, Puerto Ricans decided it was in their best interest to demonstrate that they were a powerful and united front by holding a massive parade. So the Puerto Rican Day Parade, which still marches up Fifth Avenue from 43rd Street to 79th Street on the second Sunday in June, was born.
1959: Guggenheim Museum building opens
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum building finally opened its doors to the public in 1959. Although it was commissioned in 1943, Wright fought with New York City over the building code for years before getting the green light to begin construction on his nautilus shell-shaped masterpiece. Instantly recognizable thanks to its unique design, Wright once claimed that his finished project would make the Met, which is just down the street, look like a “Protestant barn.”
1960: Bleecker Street Cinema opens
Lionel Rogosin, a social activist and filmmaker, opened the Bleecker Street Cinema, a small arthouse theater in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1960. The first film screened in the theater was Rogosin’s own “Come Back, Africa.” An important venue for cinephiles and filmmakers, the theater showed hundreds of independent films before closing down in 1991.
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1961: City University of New York is established
The City University of New York (CUNY) was established in 1961. The public university system of New York City united seven existing colleges and funded the addition of a dozen more. Today, CUNY is the nation’s leading urban public university system, serving 250,000 students each year through its 25 institutions.
1962: Lower Manhattan Expressway is rejected
In 1962, it’s what didn’t happen that made history and majorly impacted the shape and feel of New York City. Robert Moses, still in charge of most of the city’s urban planning, had proposed an expressway that would cut through Lower Manhattan, razing dozens of city blocks and displacing thousands of residents and local businesses. Many, like community organizer Jane Jacobs, opposed the plan, arguing that it would destroy the city, and in 1962 the Board of Estimate agreed, unanimously rejecting Moses’ plan.
1963: Penn Station is torn down
The dark and dirty Penn Station that exists in New York City today is not the first. The original Penn Station, a luminous, beautiful beaux-arts depot, was torn down in 1963 with approval from the New York City Department of City Planning. Seen by some as an act of architectural vandalism, the building’s demolition gave birth to the Landmarks Preservation Commission which has saved other iconic spots like Grand Central Terminal.
1964: Beatlemania hits the Big Apple
Beatlemania swept the United States in 1964 after the The Beatles made their live debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Arriving in New York City on Feb. 7 at JFK airport, the The Beatles were greeted by hoards of screaming fans who were eager to simply catch a glimpse of the English boy band. A year later, in 1965, the group gave its first stadium concert at Shea Stadium in Queens.
1965: Malcolm X assassinated
Malcolm X was one of the biggest leaders of the civil rights movement. On Feb. 21, 1965, he was assassinated while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. The exact circumstances surrounding his death, including who actually pulled the trigger, have always been mysterious and no complete story has ever been given by investigators and witnesses.
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1966: Truman Capote’s Black and White ball
The Plaza Hotel in New York City hosted what was arguably its biggest event of all time—Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, on Nov. 28, 1966. Given in honor of the Washington Post’s president Katherine Graham, the ball had a guest list of 540 people, a strict “no invitation, no entrance” policy, and exacting costume rules. The media covered the ball extensively in the weeks leading up to and after the actual event, and this, combined with its exclusivity, quickly established it as the most fabled society event of all time.
1967: 'Be In' at Central Park
In an event that characterizes the “Summer of Love,” a group of 10,000 hippies gathered in New York City’s Central Park on March 26, 1967, to spread messages of love and tolerance, make music, and show off their Easter best. A completely peaceful demonstration, the New York Times described the singular event as “utterly surrealistic.” The “Be In” made front-page news and established the park as the center of the counterculture movement in NYC.
1968: Public school teachers go on strike
When the New York City schools shut down in early 2020 due to the coronavirus, it wasn’t the first time kids in the nation’s largest public school system were kept at home. In 1968, the United Federation of Teachers shut down schools for two months in protest over decisions made in a junior high school in the Brownsville-Ocean Hill area of Brooklyn. The issues in question were partially racial in nature and didn’t help the growing tensions between ethnic groups that the city was already beginning to feel.
1969: The Stonewall Riots
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, a police raid of a known New York City gay bar called The Stonewall Inn sparked a revolution that would change the course of LGBTQ+ history. At the time, queer love was still illegal, but pressure to overturn these laws was rising among the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. This targeted attack spurred days of riots around the city, began a civil rights movement, inspired modern-day pride parades, and has even been credited with the overturning of several laws.
1970: First New York City Marathon
Fred Lebow and Vince Chiapetta organized the first New York City Marathon in 1970. There were127 runners who paid the entry fee of $1, but only 55 completed the four laps around Central Park required for the 26.2-mile distance. In 2019, the race had 53,600 finishers, making it the biggest in history.
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1971: Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York established
The mid-’60s and early ’70s saw a heroin epidemic sweeping over the Big Apple, leaving an estimated 40,000 residents addicted to the illegal drug at one point, many of them teenagers and young adults. In response to the growing problem, the city established the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York in 1971. The department’s primary job was, and is, to investigate and prosecute major drug offenses in all five of the city’s counties, in hopes of cutting off the problem at the head.
1972: A 'Dog Day Afternoon'
In 1972, an event that would become the basis for the Oscar-winning film “Dog Day Afternoon” took place in Brooklyn. John Wojtowicz, a Vietnam vet and openly gay man, robbed a Chase Bank branch in Gravesend, intending to use the money to pay for a sex change for his lover. The burglary turned into a 14-hour ordeal, with several individuals held hostage inside the bank, some 20,000 onlookers crowding the city streets, and Wojtowicz’s accomplice shot by the FBI. In the end, Wojtowicz only served five years in jail.
1973: Co-op City opens
A New York City housing development located in the northern end of the Bronx, Co-Op City is the largest cooperative housing development in the world. Designed by Herman J. Jessor, the project contains 35 high rise buildings and seven clusters of townhouses, which provide 15,372 residential units. Completed in 1973, after nearly seven years of construction, the development was home to some 43,752 people as of 2010.
1974: Abraham Beame becomes mayor
Abraham Beame, a lifelong Democrat, became New York City’s first Jewish mayor in 1974. Beame only held the office for four years, but dealt with quite a lot, from terrorist bombs to the fiscal crisis, to the blackout of 1977 that led to riots, looting, and some 3,000 arrests. He died in 2001 from complications of open-heart surgery.
1975: Fiscal crisis
In 1975, New York City seemed poised on the brink of collapse when it was revealed that it was, essentially, bankrupt. The city owed its creditors $453 million, but only had $34 million on hand. The federal government refused to bail the city out, as did the state, leaving Mayor Beame to cut all nonessential city workers, reduce many services, and freeze wages. In the eleventh hour, the United Federation of Teachers union came forward and bought enough MAC bonds to allow the city to repay its debts, but it took more than a decade for New York City to fully recover from the incident.
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1976: Son of Sam strikes
One of the most notorious serial killers in New York City history, the Son of Sam, committed his first murder on July 29, 1976. By the summer of 1977, he had killed six people and would become the focal point of the city’s biggest manhunt. It wasn’t until August 1977, when the police finally caught up with him, that David Berkowitz would be arrested in front of his apartment building in Yonkers.
1977: Studio 54 opens
Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager opened the wildest nightclub in New York City history, Studio 54, in April 1977. Highly selective at the door, the club was packed nightly with some of the country’s biggest names, from Liza Minnelli to Michael Jackson to Brooke Shields and Andy Warhol. Once inside, the liquor and drugs flowed continually, and antics were high—Bianca Jagger famously rode in on a white horse one evening. In 1980 the club was abruptly shut down and the owners charged with tax evasion.
1978: Ed Koch elected mayor
Once called “the quintessential New Yorker,” Ed Koch, the city’s 105th mayor, was brash, tough, and funny. Remaining in the office for three terms, Koch is credited with bringing the city back to life after the fiscal crisis of 1975 and the ensuing fallout. He is also remembered for the way he’d often stand at subway entrances or on street corners, shaking hands with passersby and asking, “How’m I doin’?”
1979: The Guardian Angels is formed
One major side effect of the 1975 fiscal crisis was a huge cut in the number of New York City police officers. Crime, especially in the subways, was skyrocketing and New Yorkers, including Brooklyn native Curtis Sliwa, were fed up. So Sliwa organized a group of unarmed crime fighters, composed primarily of minority teenagers, who rode the trains and roamed the streets jumping into action when necessary and providing residents with peace of mind. His group, the Guardian Angels, is still fighting crime in New York City and in 130 other cities around the country.
1980: John Lennon killed
Former Beatle John Lennon was gunned down while walking up to his residence at the Dakota in December 1980. His killer, Mark David Chapman, was a former Beatles fan frustrated with Lennon’s evolution who decided to take matters into his own hands. After Lennon’s death, there was an outpouring of grief from fans and celebrity watchers, many of whom gathered outside the historic apartment building on New York City’s Upper West Side.
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1981: AIDS appears
The New York Times ran the city’s first article about AIDS, then a new disease, in 1981. The headline read “Rare cancer seen in 41 homosexuals,” and the copy proceeded to detail what little was known about the swift and deadly disease that had only made its way onto doctors’ radars a month earlier. By the end of the year, there would be 337 known cases in New York City.
1982: 'Cats' premieres on Broadway
The bizarre Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Cats” premiered on Broadway in 1982. Based on the T.S. Eliot book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” the show’s first run would last until 2000, breaking records as the longest-running show of all time, though it has since been surpassed.
1983: Michael Stewart killed
Despite its multicultural makeup, New York City has always struggled with issues of police brutality and racially motivated violence. For example, in 1983 police confronted Michael Stewart, a young black graffiti artist in the early hours of the morning for writing on the wall of a 14th Street subway station with a felt-tipped marker. Several minutes later Stewart was in a coma, and two weeks later he was dead. What a witness and medical examiner called death by asphyxiation wasn't enough to convince the all-white jury to find the officers guilty, enraging New Yorkers.
1984: Wigstock begins
Like many great New York City traditions, Wigstock began on a whim. One evening in 1984, a group of drag queens was leaving the Pyramid Club and wound up putting on a spontaneous performance for the homeless in Tompkins Square Park. The drag festival became an annual, organized party named after Woodstock that, with the exception of a break for a few years, still runs to this day.
1985: Paul Castellano assasinated
Organized crime is a deeply entrenched part of New York City’s history and culture. In 1985, Paul Castellano, one of the city’s most legendary gangsters and leader of the Gambino crime family, was assassinated. Castellano was gunned down outside of Spark Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan on a hit ordered by John Gotti, his immediate successor.
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1986: Wollman Rink reopens
The iconic Wollman ice skating rink, opened in 1949, was closed for repairs in 1980 by Mayor Koch's administration. Renovation costs by 1985 had ballooned to $12 million over the $4.7 budget with no end in sight. Amid thee unfinished construction, in 1986 a young businessman named Donald Trump stepped in with the promise of having the rink completed by Christmas. The city paid for the improvements that Trump directed, and the project was completed under budget and a month early on Nov. 1, 1986.
1987: New York Cares is founded
At the end of the day, there’s one thing that brings all real New Yorkers together: an unending love for their city. It was this love that in 1987 inspired a group of friends to found New York Cares, a centralized service for recruiting, training, and organizing volunteers. More than 50,000 people volunteer with the organization annually, and its biggest project is a coat drive that has been taking place for 31 winters and counting.
1988: Tompkins Square Park riot
In 1988, as New York City’s East Village was gentrifying, many long-term, low-income residents had been pushed out of their houses and Tompkins Square Park had become overrun by some 150 homeless. In an effort to restore order and pacify the area’s wealthy new residents, the police imposed a 1 a.m. curfew on the 24-hour park, which they enforced with violence and illegal arrests. Hundreds of protestors gathered the following night in opposition of the decision and its handling, and a full-out brawl ensued.
1989: Central Park jogger is attacked
On a spring evening in 1989, Trisha Meili was attacked while on her nightly run, beaten, and left for dead. A group of five Black and Hispanic teenage boys, who came to be known as the Central Park Five, were arrested and charged with the crime. All of them spent time in jail, even though there was little to no evidence against them, before being exonerated in 2002 when one of the five met the real attacker while behind bars.
1990: David Dinkins sworn in as mayor
David Dinkins became New York City’s first Black mayor when he was sworn into office in 1990. Dinkins ran on a platform that included a promise to be “the toughest mayor on crime this city has ever seen.” Although there seems to be a 50-50 split on whether or not he actually succeeded at this promise and other undertakings, there’s no denying that Dinkins’ win was historic. Dinkins died Nov. 23, 2020. He was 93.
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1991: 14th Street subway crash
Five people died and 200 more were injured in the worst subway crash New York City had seen since the Times Square accident in 1928. Robert E. Ray, a drunken subway motorman, had a blood alcohol content of 0.21 when he drove his train into the wall at the 14th Street/Union Square station on Aug. 28, 1991. He was later charged with five counts of manslaughter.
1992: A nor’easter floods the city
A slow-moving Mid-Atlantic nor’easter hit New York City on Dec. 11, 1992, causing severe enough flooding in many areas that subway service was shut down, airplanes were grounded, and scuba divers were sent out to rescue drivers trapped on FDR Drive. A nor’easter is a type of winter storm experienced only on the east coast of the United States that brings severe winds, rain, and occasionally snow.
1993: World Trade Center bombing
In one of the first instances of international terrorism on American soil, a bomb planted in New York City’s World Trade Center parking garage exploded on Feb. 26, 1993. The event, which made national news, injured thousands and left seven dead. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the plot, was captured two years later.
1994: Rudy Giuliani elected mayor
Long before his current fall from grace, Rudy Giuliani became the 107th mayor of New York City. While many people credit Giuliani with revitalizing the city and putting an end to the crime that had terrorized its citizens for so many years, others attribute city improvements to Mayor Dinkins' tax increases provided more city services including crime prevention.
1995: Murder rate declines
For several decades, New York City dealt with some of the highest violent crime and murder rates in the country. In 1990, the murder rate hit a yearly all-time high of 2,245. By 1995, that number had dropped by almost half to 1,177.
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1996: A blizzard shuts down the city
In January 1996, a historic blizzard left New York City buried under anywhere from 18 inches and up to 3 feet of snow. Several people were injured by the storm, including one who was found dead in the drifts. All told, the storm was among the top three to ever hit the East Coast.
1997: AIDS cases top 100,000
An early American epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, New York City reached 100,000 cases in 1997. The disease, which had first come to doctors’ attention in white homosexual men, was now being found in intravenous drug users, heterosexual women, and many people of color.
1998: 'Sex and the City' premieres
HBO’s smash hit “Sex and the City” premiered in 1998, bringing a glamorous and unrealistic depiction of New York City life to small screens around the world. Inspired by the show, an entire generation of young, unattached 20-somethings began moving to the city—a stark reversal of what happened nearly a decade earlier when the same demographic fled to the suburbs.
1999: Amadou Diallo shot
In 1999, four plainclothes police officers fired 41 shots at an unarmed man named Amadou Diallo after mistaking him as a suspect from an unsolved rape case the year prior. New Yorkers were enraged at the injustice and gross mishandling of the incident and spent weeks protesting outside of the NYPD headquarters. The situation brought to light once again how racial profiling, racism, and brutality were major issues within New York City’s police force.
2000: New York City’s population breaks 8 million
Census data collected in the year 2000 indicated that New York City had topped 8 million residents—8,008,228 to be exact—for the first time. The explosion in population growth came after two decades of decline when residents had been fleeing the city en masse for the suburbs and the South.
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2001: 9/11 terrorist attacks
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a coordinated terrorist attack saw two hijacked commercial airplanes crash into New York City’s Twin Towers, a third plane into the Pentagon, and a fourth into a field in western Pennsylvania. In the Manhattan crashes alone, 2,753 people were killed, and an additional 244 people died in the other two locations. The attacks were the most devastating terrorist activity to ever take place on American soil.
2002: Record tourism numbers
In 2002, a still grieving and rebuilding New York City elected billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg mayor. The city also saw record tourism numbers that year, welcoming some 30.2 million domestic travelers.
2003: City launches non-emergency hotline
Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched NYC311 for everything from mental help services to trash collection. The number, which received 160 million calls in its first decade, can dispense information in 180 different languages on 4,000 different topics.
2004: Protesters oppose the RNC
The 2004 Republican National Convention was held in New York City at Madison Square Garden. Gathered alongside members of the political party were an estimated 500,000 protestors as well as 12,000 NYPD officers and supervisors. More than 1,000 of these protestors were arrested, which quickly led to a host of lawsuits alleging that many of the arrests had been unlawful. In 2014, the city agreed to an unprecedented $18 million settlement, seemingly admitting that its overall handling of the situation had fallen short.
2005: Fulton Fish Market moves
Although it failed to garner much media attention when it happened, the relocation of New York City’s Fulton Fish Market from southern Manhattan to the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center in the Bronx marked the literal end of an era. The Fulton Fish Market is the largest consortium of wholesale seafood retailers in the country and had been operating at its original location for 180 years. The new fully refrigerated facility cost $86 million to build and is a far cry from the rickety wooden stalls of two centuries ago.
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2006: Construction begins on One World Trade
Five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, construction on the new World Trade Center officially began in April 2006. Although it would take years for the building to be completed, with the spire that would make it the tallest building in the western hemisphere not added until 2013, the finished project transformed the Manhattan skyline. All in all, the project cost the city a cool $3.9 billion.
2007: New York Times building opens
New York City’s Newspaper Row was home in the late 19th century to the headquarters of each of the city’s major papers: the Herald, the Sun, the Tribune, the World, The Journal, and, of course, The Times. By 2007, the papers had scattered, and The New York Times was moving into a new building between 40th and 41st streets and Eighth Avenue. The 52-story building is one of the tallest in the city, standing a head above its surrounding Midtown brethren.
2008: Lehman Brothers collapse
On Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank in the world, collapsed. The climax of the subpar mortgage crisis, the bank’s bankruptcy filing was the biggest in American history. After everything was said and done, 25,000 employees, many of whom resided in New York City, found themselves out of work.
2009: Miracle on the Hudson
On an otherwise ordinary Thursday afternoon in January 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger III became a New York City hero after his quick thinking saved 155 lives. U.S. Airways flight 1549 had just departed La Guardia airport headed for North Carolina when collisions with two rogue geese made both engines lose power. Sullenberger, who was piloting the plane, made the executive decision to land it in the Hudson River, and in doing so ensured every passenger aboard would escape with their life.
2010: A blizzardy February
Given how far north it is, it may not come as a surprise to many that New York City gets some brutally cold and snowy winters. Take, for example, 2010, which saw 20.9 inches of snow dumped on the city over a period of two days. The blizzard, which lasted from February 25-26, was the fourth-largest accumulation of snow in the city’s history, falling just behind the great blizzard of March 1888.
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2011: Occupy Wall Street movement begins
The Occupy Wall Street movement, which sought to fight economic inequality in America, began in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park in September 2011. Several hundred protesters slept in the New York City park for a period of 2.5 months until they were forced out by the NYPD on Nov. 15. The group’s creed and mission have been credited with inspiring other social causes like the Black Lives Matter movement.
2012: Hurricane Sandy hits
Hurricane Sandy touched down in New York City on Oct. 29, 2012, causing millions of dollars in damage and killing 48 people. Although it’s a coastal town, New York City doesn’t see many hurricanes and therefore isn’t as prepared as areas in southern Florida. The superstorm flooded streets and subway lines, damaged many ocean-front properties, and cut power in many areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
2013: Spuyten Duyvil Metro-North derailment
A Metro-North train derailed just outside of New York City’s Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx in December 2013. The first derailment in Metro-North history, caused by operator error, killed four people and cost the city $9 million in damages. The train’s engineer faced no legal charges.
2014: Bill de Blasio elected mayor
Democrat Bill de Blasio, the 109th (and current) mayor of New York City, often finds himself at odds with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo but continues to fight against the income inequality that has so severely divided NYC in recent years. In 2019, he announced a run for president. De Blasio but abandoned his campaign after a few short months.
2015: 'Hamilton' begins Broadway run
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “Hamilton” was unarguably one of the biggest pop culture events of the past decade. On Aug. 15, 2015, the show began its Broadway run, premiering at New York City’s Richard Rogers Theater. In the following months, “Hamilton” won 11 Tony Awards, embarked on a national tour, and became the most-streamed movie of 2020 following the Disney+ release of a live recording of the show.
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2016: Chelsea bombings
In September 2016, a believed al-Qaeda terrorist left a homemade pressure cooker bomb in New York City’s Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea, injuring 31 citizens and placing the city on high alert. Captured two days later after a standoff with police, the man was eventually sentenced to life in prison.
2017: Second Avenue subway begins service
More than a century after New York City’s subways began service, the Second Avenue line opened on Jan. 1, 2017. Served by the Q train, the line introduced three new stations at 72nd Street, 86th Street, and 96th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Originally proposed in the 1920s, work began on the line in 1972; construction on Phase 2 is expected to wrap up in 2029.
2018: Hudson Yards opens
One of the New York City’s most defining construction projects in recent history, Hudson Yards opened in 2018. The new neighborhood sits between 10th and 11th avenues and 30th and 34th streets on Manhattan’s West Side, above what used to be a railyard. The mega project includes pre-planned office towers, apartment buildings, shopping centers, and several parks and public landmarks. Its crowning jewel, 30 Hudson Yards, contains the second-highest observation deck in the Western Hemisphere at 1,100 feet.
2019: Greta Thunberg sails into New York City
Greta Thunberg, 17, a vocal climate change activist from Sweden, arrived in New York City on Aug. 28, 2019, after sailing on a zero-emissions yacht from the United Kingdom to speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit. She then crossed the Atlantic Ocean again to attend the U.N. climate conference in Madrid. The Time magazine Person of the Year for 2019 documented her journey in YouTube videos.
2020: New York City takes a timeout
On March 22, 2020, in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City went “on pause.” Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all nonessential businesses shut down, public schools closed, and all nonessential gatherings canceled in an attempt to decrease the number of COVID-19 infections in the state. The city began a phased reopening in June.
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