Posts Tagged ‘New York City in the 1960s’

What was the NYPD phone number before 911?

August 25, 2014

Before July 1968, if you had an urgent situation to report, you actually had to dial the NYPD’s seven-digit main number: 440-1234.

That all changed when the police department adopted the 911 system. Developed by the FCC and AT&T in the mid-1960s, New York was the first city to implement it, for police calls only.


It was a big success, increasing daily calls to central command from 12,000 to 17,000, cutting down on street crime, and leading to more police cars being dispatched, according to a March 1970 New York Times piece.

As this New York Post ad from December 2, 1970 shows, two years after the police began using 911, the fire department and EMTs adopted it too.

When Norman Mailer ran for mayor in 1969

November 9, 2011

In 1969, New York was on a precipice. Crime was going up, teachers headed out on strike, a snowstorm crippled the city, and there was a sense that things could get a lot worse.

Enter pugnacious author and Brooklyn resident Norman Mailer. Using the campaign slogan “no more bullshit,” Mailer threw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

It wasn’t a joke. Columnist Jimmy Breslin signed on as his running mate, vying to be City Council president.

Their ideas? “I’m running on a platform of ‘Free Huey Newton and floridation,” Mailer told a crowd at the Village Gate. “We’ll have compulsory free love in those neighborhoods that vote for it, and compulsory attendance in church on Sunday in those that vote for that.”

They also advocated that New York City become the 51st state (which wasn’t a novel idea). They pledged the construction of a monorail, a ban on private cars in Manhattan, and monthly vehicle-free Sundays.

When primary day came, Mailer ended up fourth out of five candidates—and John Lindsay won reelection that November.

[Photo: Breslin and Mailer conceding the race, from Dissent magazine]

The second-worst fire in New York City history

September 11, 2009

You know what the worst is. Next on the list—in terms of loss of firefighter life, that is—comes the 23rd Street Fire in 1966, which killed 12 firefighters.

23rdstreetfirefuneralIt started in a brownstone at 7 East 22rd Street at 9:30 p.m. on October 17. An art dealer stored paint in the cellar, which fueled heavy smoke and a raging basement fire.

Unable to make their way to the source of the flames, firefighters went around the block to 23rd Street to try to enter through a building that shared the cellar.

Firefighters didn’t know that after a renovation, a wall in the shared cellar had been moved, weakening the floor. The entire first floor soon collapsed into the basement inferno, killing 10 firefighters. Two more died in another part of the building.

The city was astounded and distraught. Days later, 10,000 firefighters flanked Fifth Avenue as fire trucks carried coffins to St. Thomas Episcopal Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (Above photo: FDNY. Below: The New York Times)


The site is now home to a high-rise apartment house, just across from Madison Square Park. A small plaque honors the men who lost their lives there 43 years ago.