During the summer of 1969, photographer Vernon Merritt III strolled around New York City documenting the fashion of the time for LIFE magazine. At the time, Merritt said: "New Yorkers have such charm, savoir faire, call it what you will. And it's a general thing—all the way from Harlem down to the Battery." His focus was mostly on the younger set, noting "New York City is a costume party for the young this summer, a party that is taking place outdoors, on the streets and in the parks."

The photographer hailed from Alabama, and upon seeing this trash-filled alley said, "At one point, about midway through the story, I began to think that New York might really be a nifty place to live, that the redeeming features outweighed all the drawbacks. Then I realized I was reacting more to the people I was photographing than to the city itself." Oh well, it's cleaner now, and just as nifty.