New York City, July 13th, 1977 – Christmas time for looters

Forty years ago today . . .

The New York Post recalls the carnage of the blackout, 40 years later.

On a three-mile stretch of the major thoroughfare that divides Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, fires, looting and rioting erupted just minutes after the power fizzled.

. . .

Looters were running wild across the city — but the worst of the worst was happening on Broadway in Bushwick.

Marauding bands of disgruntled residents — men, women and children — flooded the streets and began destroying everything in their paths, one grocery store and clothing shop at a time.

. . .

Stores’ iron gates were ripped off by dozens of greedy hands. People shamelessly pulled up to the fronts of furniture stores in trucks and loaded up whatever they could fit. Bullets rained from the rooftops. The sound of hysteria cackled all around.

Bushwick burned a bright shade of orange as vandals set fire to the stores that had been picked clean.

“They were like bluefish in a feeding frenzy. . . . The strongest feeling I had was one of disbelief,’’ a police captain in the nearby 81st Precinct would say later, according to a report on that night by the Ford Foundation.

“I’ve seen looting before, but this was total devastation. Smashing, burning.”

For many of the impoverished local residents, it was as if the holidays had come early.

“It’s our Christmas,” a little boy told a jewelry-store owner on Broadway the day after the blackout, according to The Post’s coverage of the event at the time. “Gimme somethin’.”

. . .

When the smoke cleared, many of Bushwick’s business people had lost their livelihoods — and the community was left without its heart.

“The next day was the saddest day of our life,’’ said Robert Camacho, a gangbanger-turned-community-activist who has lived in Bushwick for all his 56 years.

Camacho is the type of guy who can regale a crowd with stories until his throat is sore and his voices crackles like an AM radio station.

Standing on the corner of Kosciuszko Street and Broadway, just steps from where he grew up, Camacho leaned on a cane while pointing out the businesses that were wiped out by the blackout.

“It was like a bomb fell, the next day,’’ he told The Post. “On this side, it used to be a small little supermarket, and over there was a paint store, over there was a botanica, over there was a pet shop.

“After the blackout, they set it on fire . . . You can’t go to Shoe King anymore, the sneaker store they raided. You can’t go to Market Town. Market Town was on fire. Over there used to be a paint store; that [place] blew up. The botanica was horrendous, it was bad.”

Archival photos of Broadway after the mayhem show blackened storefronts gaping like gutted fish, their contents spilled out onto the sidewalk. Disembodied mannequins can be seen littering the floors as smoke shrouded the sun while the fires continued to burn. The overhead BMT subway line, now the J-M-Z, turned the already blackened streets a darker shade of despair.

“Where do we go now? Where do you go to the store? You couldn’t believe how destroyed [it was],” Camacho said.

“We took away our block, we took away our stuff . . . We lost us, we lost our ’hood, our livelihood.’’

The months and years following the blackout were Broadway’s darkest days.

The thoroughfare became a “ghost town,” Sekzer said. People moved out, and the few businesses that survived struggled to stay open. Well into the 1980s, the majority of the shops remained shuttered.

And the crime. Oh, the crime.

“After the blackout, it was terrible . . . It was just run-down, everything was crazy,” recalled Sandra Young-Quiroz, 50, who used to live near Broadway. “There was a lot of crime. It was dark and deserted . . . There was a lot of abandoned buildings. People used to get robbed. To be out there . . . was dangerous.”

Gates Avenue between Broadway and Bushwick Avenue was the only stretch in the entire city that required two patrol cars for any call. “It didn’t matter what job it was . . . Two cars [were sent],” Sekzer said.

Anita Haines, 60, who grew up a few blocks from Broadway, called it “just a horrible, horrible time.

“For a while, there was nothing” good to come out of the area, she said.

There’s more at the link, including photographs.  Recommended reading.

I’m posting this as a reminder to my readers who live in or near such areas.  1977 was far from the largest power failure affecting New York City;  the northeastern US blackouts of 1965 and 2003 were bigger, and lasted longer.  Other incidents such as the 1965 and 1992 riots in Los Angeles, natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, and other occurrences can and have produced similar disruption – and similar crime and civil unrest.

Wherever you live, this sort of thing can and probably will happen again.  Please make sure you prepare for it, and take what measures you can to safeguard yourselves and your loved ones.



  1. Yes, riots can happen anywhere. Very low percentages are not zero.
    But every place you've mentioned is majority black. Watch the video – the announcer and news reports say 'people', but what the video shows are blacks.

    Yes, blacks are people, but they're not like the real American people. They never have been, and they show no indication that they ever will be. Blacks are dumb and violent. This combination leads to rampant criminality. One third of all American black men are convicted felons. Stating this simple truth gets you branded as a racist in our sick, modern society. So be it.

    I didn't used to be a racist. I was taught to be when I lived in Baltimore. Apparently, it's only bad when whites are racist. It's normal and expected for every other group to be racist.

    Want to avoid riots, burning, looting, and rampant lawlessness? Don't go near black neighborhoods. QED.

  2. I remember the 1992 LA riots very well. I was living at the beach in Redondo Beach at the time, and we could look to the NW and see the smoke. Dusk to dawn county-wide curfew, and the cops were really on-edge.

  3. A couple of years back a storm knocked out power to most of my county for day or two.
    Went to town just out of curiosity and to drop something at the post office and everything was pretty calm. One gas station was operating on generator power and even the credit card machine was up and running. The bank was open and using the big generac generator they bought for Y2K and never got to use. The trailer park on the edge of town was having a block party cookout with the meat that was defrosting. Guys on ATVs were running plates out to the power crews around town. It was treated more as an impromptu holiday for most people. No looting. No stealing. No crime that I heard of. Amazing what benefits a homogeneous, high trust community can have.

  4. Hey DrJim, I was in Highland Park, and working in Hollywood for the riots. They even tried to burn the building where I worked but we got away with just some scorched paint.

    I was standing on my front porch, choking on smoke and watching the fires. A single Glock with 2 mags just did not seem like enough.

    There was a fair amount of Hispanic 'joining in'(according to the labor in our shop) but like almost every other recent riot, it was mostly Blacks. After a year, LAPD had identified everyone they could who was caught on video committing crimes and rounded them up. Don't know what the conviction rate was, but at least they ended up in court. (People were stealing couches and POTTED PLANTS FFS.)

    I will note that the Rodney King riots did not come out of the blue, and many people not only saw it coming but took steps. One car dealership I passed every day shipped their entire inventory out of danger the day before. I thought they had closed,but they were just taking a [very expensive] precaution, that ended up paying off.

    We've been paying the danegeld because it's been cheaper and easier. I think the day is coming where that won't be true and the resulting pushback will be exceptionally ugly and probably scar the nation for years afterward.


  5. I remember this. My family had just moved to Alaska the summer before from NY. I can recall my Dad telling my Mom that we should give thanks for being away from that.

  6. But … but … President Carter SAID the looters were only taking food from grocery stores 'cause they were starving.
    President Carter wasn't wrong … was he?

    /s/ off.

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