Mean Streets: Edward Grazda’s fascinating images of New York City between 1970 and 1985

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, the institutions of power in
New York had failed. A bankrupt city government had sold its
power over to the banks, and the financiers’ severe austerity
schemes gutted the Big Apple’s support systems.

Most of New York’s traditional industries had already left, and
those power brokers in charge of the new system retreated to
their high-rises and left the streets to the hustlers,
preachers, and bums; the workers struggling to get by; and a
new generation of artists who were squatting in the empty
industrial buildings downtown and bearing witness to the urban
decay and institutional abandonment all around them.

For the tough and determined, the quick and the gifted, the
prescient and the prolific, a cheap living could be scratched
out in the mean streets.

Renowned photographer Edward Grazda began his career in that
version of NYC. It’s a version of New York that has been all
but scrubbed clean in the financially solvent years that have
followed, but the character of the city has been indelibly
marked by the scars of those years.

Now you can see some of Grazda’s fascinating black-and-white
photos of New York during that time in a new book called
Mean Streets, with many images in print for the first
time. Published by powerHouse Books, it
offers a look at the infamously hardscrabble NYC of the ’70s
and ’80s, captured with the deliberate and elegant eye that
propelled Grazda to fame.

All images: From Mean Streets by Edward Grazda, published
by powerHouse Books. Main image: Broadway & 55th Street
1970 | © Edward Grazda

(escapades on the) D Train 1980 | © Edward Grazda

(escapades on the) D Train 1980 | © Edward Grazda

Delancey Street 1976 | © Edward Grazda

Delancey Street 1976 | © Edward Grazda

Bleecker & Elizabeth Streets 1980 | © Edward Grazda

Bleecker & Elizabeth Streets 1980 | © Edward Grazda

Downtown 1973 | © Edward Grazda

Downtown 1973 | © Edward Grazda

Houston Street 1973 | © Edward Grazda

Houston Street 1973 | © Edward Grazda

Elizabeth & Houston Streets 1975 | © Edward Grazda

Elizabeth & Houston Streets 1975 | © Edward Grazda

Bowery 1973 | © Edward Grazda

Bowery 1973 | © Edward Grazda

Midtown 1970 | © Edward Grazda

Midtown 1970 | © Edward Grazda

Bowery 1970 | © Edward Grazda

Bowery 1970 | © Edward Grazda

Midtown 1970 | © Edward Grazda

Midtown 1970 | © Edward Grazda

Bowery & Bleecker Street 1981 | © Edward Grazda

Bowery & Bleecker Street 1981 | © Edward Grazda

Chrystie Street 1975 | © Edward Grazda

Chrystie Street 1975 | © Edward Grazda

Bowery 1976 | © Edward Grazda

Bowery 1976 | © Edward Grazda

6th Street & Bowery 1973 | © Edward Grazda

6th Street & Bowery 1973 | © Edward Grazda

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