A City On The Brink: 1960s New York In 55 Dramatic Photos

Published September 9, 2017
Updated January 17, 2020

From the Mad Men of the ad world to the riots in Harlem to the artists of Greenwich Village, this was New York in the 1960s.

Boy On Street
Girl Walking Down Street
Scared Kids Running Brooklyn
A City On The Brink: 1960s New York In 55 Dramatic Photos
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Before the recession of 1969 helped send New York spiraling into an era of drugs, poverty, and violence, the city had one last decade of mid-century glory, at least on the surface. New York in the 1960s was a city full of life and diversity, from the executives of Madison Avenue to the artists of the East Village – but it was also a time of turmoil.

Throughout the 1960s, a new wave of immigrants was starting to move in. As American immigration laws relaxed and white residents moved out to the suburbs, New York City was turning into a multicultural metropolis unlike the world had ever seen.

Meanwhile, early LGBT communities were starting to form in Greenwich Village and fight, for the first time, for their rights. By the end of the decade, on June 28, 1969, the LGBT demonstrators of the Stonewall Riots stood up against police oppression and launched the modern gay right's movement as we know it today.

Across the decade as a whole, people all over New York — and elsewhere — were fighting for change. New York in the 1960s saw countless strikes and protests. And, sometimes, protest boiled over into violence.

During the Harlem riot of 1964, for example, African-Americans rebelled against police brutality after an officer killed a 15-year-old boy. The ensuing riot roped in some 4,000 New Yorkers, leaving more than 100 injured and 450 arrested.

This was far from New York's only moment of upheaval during this tumultuous decade. As much as the 1960s was a time of vibrancy, culture, and wealth, it was also a time when little cracks started to slip into the background of daily life, usually left unnoticed, warning of the collapse to come.

Next, check out these photographs that show how New York changed even further in the 1970s and the 1980s.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.