Back From The Brink: 1990s New York In 51 Intense Photos

Published October 19, 2016
Updated September 20, 2018

The 1990s in New York started as the city's worst decade yet ended far better than expected. These surprising photos reveal how.

Crown Heights Riots Cops
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Crown Heights Riots Cop
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Back From The Brink: 1990s New York In 51 Intense Photos
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At the dawn of the 1990s, New York City was in an unremittingly bleak state.

Following two decades of continuous decay, 1990 brought yet another all-time record high in violent crime and to this day, 1990 and the three years that followed remain the most homicide-plagued stretch in the city's last five decades. The 1990s had quickly positioned itself to become the city's worst decade yet.

Yet something unprecedented occurred in the latter half of the decade: The crime rate fell by half and the murder rate by a third, with each year better than the last. By the time the decade was over, New York was a safer place than it had been at any point since the 1960s.

And it showed. By the time the 1990s ended, the city was pulling in 7 million more tourists a year while the city's population began to grow for the first time in decades.

The 1990s in New York City was an improbable success story on a level seldom seen before. What at first looked like a new nadir for America's biggest city instead became one of the greatest urban revitalizations in American history.

In fact, we're still witnessing today the forces set in motion during the 1990s. As we enjoy these current halcyon days in New York City, we look back at the not-so-distant yet oh-so-different miracle decade when everything looked like it was about to fall apart forever — and then didn't.

Next, travel back in time to 1970s and 1980s Brooklyn, before it was invaded by hipsters and when the New York subway was the most dangerous place on Earth.

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.