From the article by James Panero for The Spectator:
‘Ford to City: Drop Dead’ was the headline of the New York Daily News. To which the City said to Ford, you first. When the Daily News ran that famous headline on October 29 1975, New York was teetering on bankruptcy. President Gerald Ford had declared he would veto a federal bailout. It looked like the Big Apple was stewed.
The world had written off New York. The feeling was mutual: the city had written off the world. Between 1970 and 1980, the city lost nearly a million residents, over a tenth of its population. Still, New York attracted people who, against the reigning wisdom, would not or could not live anywhere else.
In 1975, some hundred thousand new New Yorkers were born within the city limits. I was one of them. In the same year, the photographer Meryl Meisler left the middle-class comforts of North Massapequa, Long Island and moved to ‘the city’, to focus her lens on the lives of New York. ‘What’s so great about New York? I mean, it’s a dying city,’ Annie Hall says in Woody Allen’s 1975 film, a tribute to the neurotic splendor of 1970s New York.
The worlds of that New York were smaller, more contained and more vivid than today’s sprawling, serious and somewhat sanitized city. Back then, if the town was really going under, those who remained to live through the decay were determined to dance among the ruins.
Camera in hand, Meryl Meisler captured the demimonde dancing on the city’s grave and then some. But she also looked for the life and the humor of the city’s broken streets. She did not indulge herself in the spectacle of wreckage; she set out to document its many humanizing moments. Compassion radiates from her viewfinder and lights up her subjects. In a flash, the faces of the city of my youth come alive in her images.