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whose streets?
our streets!

whose streets?
our streets!

NYC 1980-2000

Gallery Show

Bronx Documentary Center

January 14, 2017 - March 5, 2017

614 Courtlandt Avenue (@151st St.)

Bronx, New York 10451

   (718) 993-3512

   info@bronxdoc.org

Opening Reception

January 14, 2017, 6:00pm

Gallery Hours

Thursdays – Fridays   3-7pm

Saturdays – Sundays   1-5pm

New York’s streets were turbulent in the 1980s and 1990s, as residents marched, demonstrated, and rioted in response to social changes in their city as well as national and international developments. The profoundly unequal economic recovery of the 1980s, dependent upon investment banking and high-end real estate development, led to heated contests over space and city services, as housing activists opposed gentrification and called attention to the plight of thousands of homeless New Yorkers. Immigration made New York City much more diverse, but a significant proportion of white New Yorkers opposed civil rights and acted to maintain racial segregation.

Attempts to combat the high crime rates of the 1970s and early 1980s exacerbated concerns about police brutality, as innocent black and Latino New Yorkers died at the hands of the police. The culture wars wracking the nation had particular resonance in New York, a center of avant-garde art as well as of gay and lesbian and feminist activism, on the one hand, and home of the Vatican’s spokesman in the U.S., Cardinal John O’Connor, and a significant culturally conservative Roman Catholic population on the other.

A cohort of photographers, born between 1950 and 1970, committed themselves to documenting these struggles for social change as they unfolded. Progressive and independent, some published their work in The Village Voice, the nation’s first alternative newsweekly, and some joined the cooperative photo agency Impact Visuals, dedicated to social documentary photography. Collectively, their photographs, which have never before been exhibited together, chronicle New York’s history from 1980-2000.

Photographer Bill Biggart at work.

Bill Goidell

Whose Streets?

Our Streets!

NYC 1980-2000

New York’s streets were turbulent in the 1980s and 1990s, as residents marched, demonstrated, and rioted in response to social changes in their city as well as national and international developments. The profoundly unequal economic recovery of the 1980s, dependent upon investment banking and high-end real estate development, led to heated contests over space and city services, as housing activists opposed gentrification and called attention to the plight of thousands of homeless New Yorkers. Immigration made New York City much more diverse, but a significant proportion of white New Yorkers opposed civil rights and acted to maintain racial segregation.

Attempts to combat the high crime rates of the 1970s and early 1980s exacerbated concerns about police brutality, as innocent black and Latino New Yorkers died at the hands of the police. The culture wars wracking the nation had particular resonance in New York, a center of avant-garde art as well as of gay and lesbian and feminist activism, on the one hand, and home of the Vatican’s spokesman in the U.S., Cardinal John O’Connor, and a significant culturally conservative Roman Catholic population on the other.

A cohort of photographers, born between 1950 and 1970, committed themselves to documenting these struggles for social change as they unfolded. Progressive and independent, some published their work in The Village Voice, the nation’s first alternative newsweekly, and some joined the cooperative photo agency Impact Visuals, dedicated to social documentary photography. Collectively, their photographs, which have never before been exhibited together, chronicle New York’s history from 1980-2000.

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brian palmer

New York City simmered with racial tensions in the 1980s and 1990s. Working-class white youth in Brooklyn and Queens attempted to preserve segregation through violence directed at people of color who ventured into “their” turf. Civil Rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton led tense protest marches through white neighborhoods, met with jeering counter-demonstrators. Tensions boiled over in a three day race-riot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in August 1991, pitting Afro-Caribbean and African American residents against the Orthodox Jewish community.

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Brian Palmer

Excessive use of force was a key issue for African Americans and Latinos in the 1980s and 1990s, who protested violent treatment by the largely white police force. Responding to a number of high-profile cases and despite vigorous opposition by police, in 1993, Democrat David N. Dinkins, the City’s first African-American mayor, created its first all-civilian police complaint review board. Republican Rudolph Giuliani defeated Dinkins in the 1993 mayoral election, pledging to crack down on crime; the “stop and frisk” policy adopted by Police Commissioner William Bratton led to an increase in complaints of police brutality against African American and Latino young men in particular.

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Lisa Kahane

Global conflicts resonate strongly in New York City, particularly among its many immigrants and their descendants, as well as among pacifists and environmental activists. In 1982, the Nuclear Freeze Movement held one of the largest rallies in the City’s history in Central Park, as demonstrators urged President Ronald Reagan to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons and save the world from the threat of a nuclear winter. Some New Yorkers opposed U.S. military intervention in Central America in the 1980s and called for peace during the First Gulf War (1990-1991), while others took to the streets in protest of religious conflict in Northern Ireland and the Middle East in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Donna Binder

New York City was an epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which disproportionately affected gay men. Members of the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) staged dramatic demonstrations, including political funerals, and committed acts of civil disobedience to draw attention to the very high death rates from and inadequate medical care and support services for those infected with the virus. ACT UP called for the development of affordable, effective treatments and an end to the widespread homophobia which shaped responses to the epidemic.

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carolina kroon

In the early 1990s, queer activists sought to broaden the gay and lesbian movement to incorporate bisexual and transgender people, and more fundamentally, to reject binary sexual and gender categories such as “straight” and “gay.” Emerging out of AIDS and reproductive rights activism, queer activists mobilized in response to homophobic violence against LGBT people and the Religious Right’s assertion of a heterosexual, patriarchal norm for American citizenship during the culture wars. In New York, direct action groups such as Queer Nation and the Lesbian Avengers formed to increase the visibility of LGBT people and to create safe spaces for them to be out in public. Many of their direct actions included public displays of affection that affirmed the sexuality of LGBT people, which was especially significant given the context of the repression of gay sexuality during the AIDS epidemic.

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T L Litt

Abortion rights were hotly contested in the 1980s and 1990s as a newly invigorated anti-abortion movement used street theater, civil disobedience, and violence to close clinics, while pro-abortion rights activists demonstrated in support of women’s access to abortion and escorted patients into clinics. Randall Terry, who founded the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue in 1986, called on supporters to block entrances to women’s health clinics and to actively confront women trying to enter. During the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City, Terry brought national attention to the issue as he was arrested for arranging to have an allegedly aborted fetus delivered to Bill Clinton.

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Q. Sakamaki

Access to affordable housing was a key goal for many activists. As New York City’s economy recovered from the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, real estate developers began building luxury apartments in formerly working-class neighborhoods, demolishing low-rent single resident occupancy (SRO) hotels and leading to record levels of homelessness. In August 1988, conflict over gentrification and the right to public space came to a head in the Tompkins Square Park riot, as police attempting to impose a curfew on the park charged activists, leading to 38 people injured and more than 100 complaints of police brutality. In May 1995, conflict over housing again came to a head in the Lower East Side, as police used an armored vehicle to evict squatters from two tenements on East 13th Street, some of whom had occupied the buildings for more than ten years.

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Lisa Kahane

Income inequality and poverty increased in New York City in the 1980s, and residents and workers struggled to preserve public services and to oppose wage and benefit cuts during this period of post-fiscal crisis austerity. In 1991, students at the City University of New York (CUNY), which had been tuition-free until 1976, went on strike to protest a proposed $52 million state budget cut to CUNY as well as rising tuition and the elimination of scholarship monies. Striking students shut down 6 of the 21 campuses and won a reduction in state cuts and the tuition hike. The recession of the early 1990s worsened conditions for poor and working-class New Yorkers, who suffered from high unemployment rates well into the decade. Labor unions saw growth in organizing service sector workers, particularly health care workers, and fought to maintain workers’ standard of living.

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Les Stone

Abortion, gay and lesbian rights, sex education in public schools, and censorship of the arts were key touchstones in the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s, which pitted feminists and gay and lesbian rights activists against members of the Religious Right, who opposed the expression and representation of non-heterosexual marital sexuality. Feminists also demonstrated against rape and sexual harassment, and called for greater inclusion of the work of women artists in New York’s museums, as well as in positions of political leadership.