The New York City of 1972 was a desperate, narcotic haze of failed urban planning, poverty and criminality. Mayor John Lindsay had inherited a city teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, rife with racial and social unrest, and hobbled by strikes of every kind by city workers and other labor unions–as well as a blackout; in which the power grid went down and made the city doubly terrifying. New York City, for a time, resembled the Gomorrah that the rest of America thought it was.
Lindsay was considered presidential timber, and briefly abandoned office to run for president in the 1972 primaries. He dropped out soon enough after a few poor showings. His opponents, quickly pointed out what they considered the ruinous condition of New York City. Lindsay became an easily assailable candidate.
John Lindsay was an odd duck in New York politics. He was Kennedy-handsome, liberal (but not too liberal) and in any other environment, an attractive prospect for the presidency. Though, with New York as the backdrop for his ambitions, the foundation of his political structure, an example of his leadership…he was fucked.
John Lindsay started out in politics as a Republican. It’s thought that civil rights is what led him to jump to the Democratic party, though it was probably more to better his chances in New York City as a pol.
While every news outlet in the country was writing New York City’s obit; the city’s cultural zeitgeist roared forward. Its artistic activity manifested itself in one of the richest periods in the city’s history. A cursory look around the landscape found Warhol, The Velvets, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Johns, Ana Mendieta, Eva Hesse. . .this list goes on and on. The New York of 1972 was affordable. The city of disrepair was a place artists of every stripe could find a way to survive, create, and thrive. All they had to do was hustle.