101 Things To Love About NYC (in 1976)

While researching my recent article on Dead Horse Bay, I happened to come across a NY Times article on 101 things to love about New York City. Normally, I don’t pay any attention to Best Of lists, but this one caught my eye because it was written in 1976. I think it’s the oldest one I’ve ever seen.

101things

I thought it might be funny, but a lot of it just confused me. Here are some choice selections (for anyone who was living in NYC in 1976, I’d love to hear your thoughts):

101 Things To Love About New York City (in 1976)

1) Being nostalgic about things in New York that were never that great
Ha, I LOVE that people were doing this as far back as the mid-70s…but what NYC time period were people nostalgic for then? The 1940s?

3) Habitually fitting your thumbnail in the Y-cutout of a subway token
Yep, can’t do this anymore. Is there something similar people do with that little angular edge on a Metrocard?

6) The Staten Island Advance
Nothing against Staten Island’s daily newspaper, but why so high on the list?

7) The night they move the jet pattern over another neighborhood
I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this problem. Was this a bigger issue in the 1970s?

8) Dialing 873-0404
Don’t bother trying it – it’s been disconnected – but from the 1960s-1980s, this was the Dial-A-Satellite hotline, providing you with daily information about passing satellites.

26) The worst public image in the nation
29) How everyone else hates New York
30) Hating New York
84) Thinking what New York could be, if only
There seems to be a trend.

34) Alternate side of the street parking suspended
How did one know if alternate side parking was unexpectedly suspended back in 1976? The newspaper?

35) Flipping the change tray in the plastic taxicab divider
I suppose swiping your credit card while watching a clip from last night’s Tonight Show isn’t really the same thing.

36) Austin Street, Queens
I definitely don’t get this one.

43) Page 1,029 of the Manhattan telephone directory under “Ng.”
I don’t get this one either.

46) More movies, plays, and ballet than anywhere else in the world, and not going
Yup.

50) The Parachute Jump in February
What was going on with Coney Island’s Parachute Jump in February ’76?

51) Northern Boulvard
This may be the only time Northern Boulevard has ever made a top anything list

65) The background teletype noise on 1010 WINS
It’s still there!

69) East-siders on the West Side
Exactly what social migration is this referring to?

76) Looking for a place you know on the dirty restaurant list
Now you can just look at the grade hanging in the window

91) The apostrophe missing from DONT WALK
Were there really so few things to love about New York in 1976?

92) Johnny Carson is gone / 93) Chevy Chase isn’t
Ha, #93 certainly dates the list.

You can read the entire thing here.

-SCOUT

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40 comments

  1. Jet’s in the 70′s were louder. Modern high bypass turbofans are much quieter than the old jet engines, which made more of a scream.

    • Tell me about it. Those old 727′s and DC9′s were noisy as hell, especially the 27′s. When I lived in Point Loma, San Diego noise abatement required that aircraft out of Lindberg Field had to reduce power right after takeoff when you should be applying it. And they weren’t allowed to operate after 10 PM.

  2. I magine people found out about alternate side parking the way I do today, the news. As far what New Yorkers in the 70s were nostalgic for, I’m sure “Those Were the Days” isn’t terribly inaccurate.

    I wonder about the cream sodas in Van Cortlandt park. Did they have an olde timey soda shoppe there at the time, I wonder?

    Two things that I hope were on the list, otherwise it should be considered invalid, are jumper seats in Checker cabs, and leather straps on the subway cars.

  3. Perhaps 43) had something to do with the TMBG song Ana Ng? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ana_Ng) But it came out much later than ’76

  4. Alternate side of the street parking suspended–the radio. Growing in NJ in the 70s and 80s I heard this every morning and had almost no idea what it meant until I lived in New York after college.

  5. #34. See #65.

  6. I remember this list from when it was published, and still have a hard copy of it somewhere.

    The Ng page of the phone book–very few cities had an entire page of Ngs back in those days.

    The Parachute Jump in February: just wonderful to look at.

    I don’t get the Northern Blvd love, but Austin St. is quite charming.

  7. “Ng” is a common Vietnamese name. Kinda like Smith. There must have been an influx of Vietnamese refugees after the war

    • No, “Ng” is not Vietnamese last name, “Nguyen” is. “Ng” is unique and usually the last name of Chinese living in Malaysia / Singapore. it is 黃, in Chinese.

  8. regarding 34): You can still hear about the alternate parking suspended on the radio. what kind of silly question is that?

  9. Austin Street in Queens is still awesome :)

  10. I thought the Coney Island parachute closed @ 1968.

  11. Francis Morrone

    Austin Street is where Kitty Genovese was murdered, and it’s my guess that that’s what’s being referenced here. As for East Siders on the West Side, the Upper West Side was only just becoming trendy then. East Siders were going there to shop and drink–something they’d hardly ever done before. Soon you had tons of East Siders MOVING to the West Side. And as for nostalgia, New Yorkers were FAR more nostalgic then than now. They were nostalgic for a city they believed was infinitely safer and cleaner than the city of 1976. Many New Yorkers then were old enough to remember a very different city (just as many of us today are old enough to remember the very different city of the ’70s), and were in a state of shock over what had become of the place.

    • That’s an excellent point about why New Yorkers were nostalgic in the 70s. I was way too young to be nostalgic, but all my life whenever someone has been surprised that I was not put off by some allegedly dangerous and/or decrepit neighborhood, my answer has always been “I grew up in NYC in the 70s.”

      • Same here. I spent my “yoot” in the city in the late 50′s and early 60′s. After that I was never fazed by the nastier parts of places I wound up in around the country and world thanks to the USN. Besides the nastier places are often the funkier places and who wants to give up the funk?

  12. While I agree that page 1,029 of the phone book was probably 100% Ng, I also wonder if it’s possible they all had the same first name on that particular page.

  13. you should reach out to Glenn Collins he still works for the NYT, he could clear up some of your questions.

  14. Judith Mermelstein

    Austin Street in Kew Gardens is where Kitty Genovese was killed; Austin Street in Forest Hills was probably the one meant. It was like a little outpost of Manhattan in Queens.

    • Austin Street was the hip, trendy Forest Hills nightlife scene in the ’70s. For Queens, at least. It meant you didn’t have to go to Second Avenue to get watered-down drinks.

  15. #7 – I know Mayor Dinkins famously (infamously, depending on who you ask) rerouted plane traffic away from the US Open during matches and therefore over more heavily residential areas, but that was obviously in the 90s. Maybe there was a precedent of such decisions dating back to the 70s?

  16. (# 3) Yep, I’ve seen more people floss their teeth with them on public transportation than I care to remember.

  17. When I first moved to NYC in the fall of 1980, a friend I made from Staten Island who was giving me background on what it was like (I hadn’t been there yet) said that the Advance was the only borough-specific daily in the New York. It was also kind of well-known for being the genesis of the Newhouse’s publishing empire, Advance Publications.

    • I have a friend who worked for the Advance in the 80s I think it was and she – and a few former co-workers on her Facebook page – so far apparently don’t have a clue what it’s doing on this list.

    • Staten Island was still practically a rural backwash, with the exception of the northern part, and the Advance wasn’t gritty like New York papers.

      Kinda sad that Staten Island itself didn’t make that list.

  18. 873-0404 may be gone, but today heavens-above.com has all the satellite information you ever could want. Though given background lights it would be uncommon indeed to be able to spot a satellite from any places within city limits. About all you might see is the International Space Station and an occasional flare from an Iridium communications satellite.

  19. According to the New York Times, Austin Street in Queens was the place to shop in the 70s, with specialty stores selling gold-plated baby cribs, people fighting to get parking spots, and “the best high-caliber shopping”

  20. Late to the party – and far too young to remember NYC in the 70s – but a few points:

    Austin Street was, and remains, a major retail and entertainment corridor. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best things in the city, but maybe it was in the 70s? It’s a nice little strip.

    ASP suspensions are, to this day, mentioned on the morning news every single day. TV and radio. I’d think this is how people found out about them in 1976 (though today I suspect most people use the Internet).

    The Staten Island Advance is a terrible paper today, and it was a terrible paper when I was growing up on Staten Island in the 90s. I have no idea if it was any better in the mid-70s. That said, I think they might be referring to the irony of the existence of a fairly substantial daily newspaper devoted to covering the city’s least populous borough (something none of the other boroughs have).

    It seems strange now, but the East Side-West Side divided actually used to mean something. The West Side was sketchier and edgier in the 70s. If you’ve ever watched the Mad Men episodes where Peggy and her boyfriend move to the West Side in the late 60s to be “urban pioneers” – it was like that. Now, I’ll refer to the Upper East and Upper West Sides as the “Upper Sides,” so meaningless is the distinction between them, and basically anything in Manhattan south of 96th is rich people territory; but it wasn’t always thus.

    • On the Upper East Side, the girls have more clothes than books! On the Upper West Side, the girls have more books than clothes!

  21. The West Side of 1971 can be seen in “The Panic in Needle Park”.

  22. The alternate side parking info is released at the beginning of the year and normally the Representative to the NYS
    Assembly mails it to constituents. Except of course for suspensions due to snow!

  23. The most interesting thing about this list is how 85% still applies to NYC today.

  24. #50 – Yes, the Parachute Jump was closed. It was how it looked when Coney Island was quiet and the Jump stood there in the cold gray sky. At least that is how I remember it from when I was a kid. Coney Island rides were closed in the winter.

  25. Thought about this piece after hearing the NYC show this morning. What I remember best: we had proud love. The people I knew in New York loved it deeply enough to take it all & still love it. We were proud to love it. We had a reputation for toughness & resilience. To be at home you had to be awake; you had to be aware. Not a bad thing.
    On the personal side, I found a loft to share in Tribeca a year later, in ’77, for $100 a month. I lived with two painters, a writer, a musician. We didn’t break our asses working straight jobs & we lived very well.

  26. If you know what 1010 WINS is, then you know where to get the alternate side status every morning. Geez, I must’ve heard it a dozen times just getting ready for work in the morning.

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