In the mid-1970s, things were considerably rougher in the Big Apple—so much rougher that the Council for Public Safety (police, firefighters and other unions) had plenty of material to publish a scaremongering pamphlet called "Welcome to Fear City: A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York."
If you had plans to visit NYC, you would probably swiftly abandon them after seeing this thing, which featured a skull on the cover. Just like the skull under your pretty face that would surely be slashed should you dare walk the streets after 6 p.m., or leave Midtown, or take the subway ever. The tips inside included:
- Stay off the streets after 6 p.m.
- Do not walk — "If you must leave your hotel... summon a taxi by telephone."
- Avoid public transportation — "You should never ride the subway for any reason whatsoever."
- Remain in Manhattan — "If you remain in midtown areas and restrict your travel to daylight hours, emergency service personnel are best able to provide protection."
- Protect your property
- Safeguard your handbag
- Conceal property in automobiles
- Do not leave valuables in your hotel room, and do not depotist them in hotel vault
- Be aware of fire hazards
But few likely ever saw it, as it received such negative publicity they they halted distribution.
The pamphlet was put together as part of an anti-layoff drive of sorts. In 1975, the NY Times wrote, "For the second time in as many days, unions representing policemen, firemen and other public-safety officers won affirmation in court yesterday of their constitutional right to pass out 'Fear City' leaflets at transportation terminals, hotels an shopping districts. The unions, however, faced with mounting criticism of their tactics in attempting to pressure the Beame administration to rescind planned layoffs of 10,962 uniformed officers, continued to hold in abeyance distribution of the black-bordered, skull-emblazoned pamphlets warning tourists to stay out of New York because of rampant crime and inadequate fire protection."
The paper reported the following month that they "resumed distributing leaflets that the city is unsafe because of the dismissal of 3,000 police officers," but the new ones were titled, "If You Haven't Been Mugged Yet..."
Here's a look back at that old footage showing just what the city's public transportation system—a hotspot for crime—was like back then:
[Pamphlet cover via Reddit]