Say what you like about the “good old days,” but those days weren’t all that good. New Yorkers will remember that the 1980s were a decade of Reganonomics and increased prosperity in the Big Apple, but it was also a bad time to catch the subway across town.
In the 1980s, there were more than 250 felony crimes committed on the New York Subway System each week. That made the New York Subway the most dangerous subway in the world at that time. There might have been communists looming in Russia, but here in the U.S., you could get messed up just catching a commute to work.
Here are a handful of photos from the decade showing the New York Subway System in all its seedy, 80s glory.
12. Nap Time
This striking image taken on a subway heading to Lexington Avenue is of a young boy sleeping with his head on his mother’s lap. The male relative nearby has protectively placed his hand in front of the child as though to ward off the evil influences found on the subway.
11. New York Graffiti
It’s fair to say that railway and substations around the world have always been a magnet for “street art,” but it’s unusual for the graffiti to end up on the outside of the box cars, too. These commuters are packed in tight to the backdrop of New York’s subway graffiti.
10. Caught in the Act
Here our intrepid photographer gets a little closer to the subliminal dangers of New York’s 1980s subway system. This young gentleman is happy to pose while he vandalizes the inside of a train’s boxcar. This is a fair testament to his expectations that nothing will be done to stop him.
9. A Little Night Music?
It wasn’t all doom and gloom down in the subway, there were moments of levity and happiness. One of those moments would often come from crossing the path of a busker plying their musical trade. Here you can see an older lady blasting out a tune on her accordion.
8. Keep Out
Controlling access and entry to the subway system can help make a subway safer. Sadly, these blocked access ways make the whole thing feel more intimidating rather than a nicer place to be, don’t they? The child in shot offers a feeling of very real vulnerability in the face of the bars.