‘Welcome to Fear City’ – the inside story of New York’s civil war, 40 years on

Travellers arriving at New York City’s airports in June 1975 were greeted with possibly the strangest object ever handed out at Uncollected garbage burns in Manhattan’s Lower East Side during a period when New York felt close to collapse.the portal to a great city: pamphlets with a hooded death’s head on the cover, warning them, “Until things change, stay away from New York City if you possibly can.”

Welcome to Fear City” read the stark headline on these pamphlets, which were subtitled “A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York”. Inside was a list of nine “guidelines” that might allow you to get out of the city alive, and with your personal property intact.

The guidelines painted a nightmarish vision of New York; one that made it sound barely a cut above Beirut, which then had just been engulfed in Lebanon’s civil war. Visitors were advised not to venture outside of midtown Manhattan, not to take the subways under any circumstances, and not to walk outside anywhere after six in the evening.

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Kevin Baker is a novelist and historian who lives in New York City. His latest book, The Big Crowd, is based on the greatest unsolved murder in mob history. @kbbakerauthor

May 18, 2015 6:43 AM

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