Inside was President Carter (and Mayor Abe Beame). In New York for a UN meeting, Carter made an surprise trip to the South Bronx, then the site of some of the worst urban blight in the country.
“The presidential motorcade passed block after block of burned-out and abandoned buildings, rubble-strewn lots, and open fire hydrants, and people shouting ‘give us money!’ and ‘we want jobs!'” wrote The New York Times the next day.
Carter got out a few times and walked around—as seen is these photos, which reveal just how shockingly deteriorated and bombed out block after block of the South Bronx was at the time.
Carter’s trip meant to show the country that he cared about the urban poor. But his dramatic trip also made the South Bronx a place for other politicians to go when they want to make a point.
While campaigning for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan visited a desolate stretch of the borough to point that Carter hadn’t done anything for the community since his 1977 trip.
Jesse Jackson came in 1984, and Bill Clinton showed up in 1997.
Whether any of these visits helped ease the area’s poverty is debatable—but what is clear is that much of the South Bronx has bounced back, a beacon of urban renaissance rather than blight.
[First and third photos: The New York Times]