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February 16, 2017

‘Stay away from New York City if you possibly can’ – An Anti-Tourist Guide to NYC in 1975

Travelers arriving at New York City’s airports in June 1975 were greeted with possibly the strangest object ever handed out at the portal to a great city: pamphlets with a hooded death’s head on the cover, warning them, “Until things change, stay away from New York City if you possibly can.”

Welcome to Fear City: A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York (1975) was published by the Council for Public Safety—police, firefighters and other unions. New York City was in dire financial straits and Mayor Abraham Beame had proposed heavy cuts in municipal services.

The pamphlet—with a skull on the cover—was aimed to discourage tourists from visiting New York City. The pamphlet had received such negative publicity that it was not distributed, although the unions distributed other pamphlets to get their message out. Inside was a list of nine “guidelines” that might allow you to get out of the city alive, and with your personal property intact.
  • Stay off the streets after 6 p.m. — “Muggings and occasional murders are on the increase during the early evening hours.”
  • Do not walk — “Try not to go out alone.”
  • Avoid public transportation — “Subway crime is so high that the City recently had to close off the rear half of each train in the evening so that the passengers could huddle together and be better protected..”
  • Remain in Manhattan — “Restrict your travel to daylight hours.”
  • Protect your property — “The city is urging everyone to engrave identifying numbers on all property.”
  • Safeguard your handbag — “Never let it out of your hands; above all, never let it out of your sight.”
  • Conceal property in automobiles — “Remember too that auto thefts have increased this year.”
  • Do not leave valuables in your hotel room, and do not depot them in hotel vault — “Hotel robberies have become virtually uncontrollable.”
  • Be aware of fire hazards — “Try to avoid buildings that are not completely fireproof.”
Negative nicknames for New York City during this economic crisis period included “Default City,” “Fear City” (by the police and fire unions), “Stink City” (sanitation unions), and “Stupid City” (teachers unions).







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