Tuesday, June 27, 2017

40 Years ago - - the 1977 summer in NYC

On that oppressive and sticky July evening, I was enjoying my rainbow sherbet while my parents and I were watching TV - - suddenly a little after 9, the lights in our fifth floor apartment went out.   We looked out the window and saw the entire Flatbush, Brooklyn neighborhood in darkness, unaware of a massive blackout which brought NYC into darkness.  The next day, we went outside to see the commercial strips of Parkside Ave and Flatbush Ave in ruins, stores looted as owners guarded whatever little is left of their merchandise.

That was one of the many facets which collectively made up the summer of 1977 in NYC - - one summer which nobody will ever forget - - Star Wars, NY Yankees with the Reggie/Billy Martin feud, the Son of Sam terrorizing Queens and Brooklyn, the second blackout in 11 years, and the dirty NYC Mayoral race - - how an unsung hero from Greenwich Village would win it and save NYC from heading deeper into financial abyss.

Let's look at these five:

1.  Star Wars:  Jaws defined summer blockbusters, Star Wars wrote the book on  science fiction sagas. The groundbreaking film written and directed by George Lucas defined the generation where everyone would be dressed up as a Stormtropper or Darth Vader while having a great love story of a would be Jedi named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who rescues Princess Leia and leads the rebels in the destruction of the evil Empire and the Death Star.  The film thrilled millions of moviegoers all summer long.   And where else to watch this film but the 2,100 seat Loews Astor Plaza in Times Square with it's massive 70MM screen and Dolby sound - - the cheering of an sold out audience would rock the basement.   The Astor Plaza is now gone but the legacy of Star Wars remains a worldwide icon.

2.  NY Yankees:  I remember the 1977 Yankees - - Guidry, Munson (sadly he was killed in a plane crash in 1979), Randolph, Rivers, Catfish Hunter, and the feud between manager Billy Martin with Reggie Jackson, a scruffy right fielder who struggled most of the season - - only to redeem himself and the entire Yankee team in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with only three at-bats, three pitchers he faced (Mike Torrez, Burt Hooton and Elias Sosa) - - one pitch each, and three hard swings of his bat - - 3 home runs in one game which led the Yankees into their first World Series Championship in over 15 years.  Jackson earned the nickname Mr. October, and Yankee manager Billy Martin a longer tenure on his job.

3.  Son of Sam:   Throughout 1976 into the summer of 1977, the .44 caliber killer or more known as the Son of Sam, would terrorize blonde women (and some men whom they were with) in parked cars within the outer boroughs of The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, killing six and injuring nearly a dozen more.  The Son of Sam's reign of terror in a city already filled with fear triggered the largest manhunt in NYC Police Department history with as many as 250 officers/detectives working on this case.   At the end, it was a parking ticket which the vehicle was traced to a David Berkowitz of Yonkers, an ex-Marine and postal worker who delivered mail by day and killed people at night.     On August 10, 1977 New Yorkers who stayed up late watched or listened to the news that the Son of Sam was taken into police custody - - and he had the nerve to say to the Yonkers and NYPD  cops that his neighbor's dog ordered him to carry out the killing spree.  David Berkowitz is presently serving multiple life sentences..

4.  The 1977 blackout:   In 1965, New York experienced it's first blackout on a cold November day.  However, the 1977 blackout occurred on July 14 during a hot, muggy, and miserable evening when a lightning strike at the Con Edison power plant in Buchanan, NY triggered an 1 hour chain reaction which blanketed the city's metropolitan area (including New Jersey) into total darkness by 9:30 PM.   Right after the lights went out, looters took advantage on anything that was not nailed down in stores.  Beds, electronics, TVs, groceries, furniture - - anything that can be carried out or hauled by truck - - looters terrorized the city, especially Bushwick, Brooklyn and the south Bronx.   Within minutes, stores were cleaned out by looters, every NYPD officer was called into service and precinct prison cells were filled, courts were overburdened with many perpetrators (and a lot more who were never caught from the pilfering.)

5.  The 1977 NYC Mayoral race:   NYC was still hemorrhaging from the 1975 fiscal crisis which NYC teetered on the brink of bankruptcy as well as the destruction of the Bronx's housing market and the city's rising crime rate.   Incumbent Mayor Abraham Beame was faced with five candidates running for the Democratic ticket, all eager to kick Beame out of City Hall.   Did you know about Bella Abzug?   She led the pack in the Democratic Primary race, but Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch got first and second places, respectively - - knocking Beame out of his tenancy.  However, neither candidate achieved the 40 percent mark to win the primary outright so a runoff two weeks later was done.  In the runoff, Koch won New York with 54 percent of the vote against Cuomo's 45 percent. Cuomo was undeterred by his loss to Koch so he went on the November ballot as a Liberal while Roy Goodman would represent the Republican party in the election.  Round 2 of Koch and Cuomo was no contest despite mudslinging between Koch and Cuomo as Koch went on to win the November Mayoral election.  For NYC, it was a new beginning with a new incoming Mayor in 1978 and Koch was the man which he would really save NYC from the 1975 financial ruin.  Of course, Cuomo went on to win the NY State Governor race in 1982.  But it was Ed Koch, a Bronx-born and longtime Greenwich Village resident - - who invented the catchphrase "How am I doin?"

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Your NYC Summer, 2017 outdoor movie guide

Summer season is here - - with Memorial Day kicking things off, it's time for vacations, street fairs, amusement parks, and most of all, outdoor movies.  Outdoor movies have been a longtime NYC staple and this year is no different with more offerings and more places to go.  Here is the complete list I know of (and some in Westchester and Long Island).  NOTE:  Always read the rules on each linked website, as some items may be prohibited, such as lawn chairs at the Bryant Park festival.  Most locations offer free popcorn and snacks.

1.  Bryant Park Film Festival:  The grandaddy of outdoor movies is now in their 23rd year with a rescreening of their first ever film at the great lawn, the original King Kong (1933).   Other notable films being shown this year are On The Town (June 26), The Muppets Take Manhattan (July 3), and the ultimate escapist Hitchcock film, North by Northwest (August 14).  The lawn fills up VERY fast as it opens to the public at 5 PM, so get there early if you want a good spot.

2.  NYC Parks Free Summer Movies  :   NYC Parks has the largest selection of free summer movies across all 5 boroughs.  They are great places to go if you don't want to deal with the crowds and parking like Bryant Park.  The list also includes the Hudson River Flicks at the two piers along the Hudson River - - Wednesdays for the adults at Chelsea Piers (Pier 61) and Fridays for the kids at Pier 46 near Christopher St.  I don't know why the Lego Batman film is scheduled for Wednesday when the site notes these films are rated PG-13 and up.

3.  Movies with a View at Brooklyn Bridge Park:   Another popular outdoor movie spot is also among the most beautiful and scenic places to watch a film, Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Right by the East River in DUMBO you can watch a great film on Thursdays from July 6th through August 24th with the final being show by popular vote of the three films, Footloose, Dear White People or Network.

4.  Rooftop films:   This independent website has different venues showing indie and documentary films - - some require advance ticket purchase while others are free.  As the name implies, some of their locations are at rooftops which is a neat and cool way to watch a film.

5.  SummerScreen at McCarren Park:   10 years strong, this Greenpoint, Brooklyn staple has another stellar lineup of Wednesday night films, including an audience pick for the finale on August 9th.

6.  Bronx Terminal Market Rooftop Films:   Right at the 145th Street Bridge and the Major Deegan Expressway is this interesting place of history, the Bronx Terminal Market - - once a month for the summer months, the rooftop is another place to watch family friendly films in the Bronx.

7.  Waterside Plaza movie nights in August:  It's in a semi-remote location off the FDR Drive and the M34A SBS+ bus route - - but it has a great view of Brooklyn and the East River but Monday nights in August is a great spot to watch a film right by the East River,  At this time, the 2017 schedule has not been released yet so check back on that link in July for more detailed information.

8.  Central Park movies:  Also in August, the Central Park Conservancy has their annual outdoor movie list.  Check back on the accompanying link for more info in July.

9.  Prospect Park Summer movies under the stars:   Enter from Grand Army Plaza and walk to the long meadow.    

And the outdoor movie fun is not limited to NYC - -  Westchester County and the eastern part of Long Island (which I call Nassau and Suffolk Counties) both have a short list too.


1.  Wednesday movie nights:   County-wide, they are showing outdoor films on select Wednesday nights, however there is a $5 admission for adults.   Each week is a different venue, so please check their calendar carefully and plan ahead.

2.  Hudson River Museum:   Nestled in the NW section of Yonkers, they use the outdoor amphitheater to show concerts and movies.  On select Saturday nights, they show family classics such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.   Check the events schedule and plan ahead as always.

3.  Ridge Hill Movie Mondays:   Right off the NY State Thruway and the Sprain Brook Parkway, Ridge Hill has three movies showing on alternate nights.   FYI:   Parking is only available in garages and costs $3 for the entire day.

4.  White Plains Movies:      Various locations - - dates are July 10 at Mattison Park (The Little Mermaid), July 11 at George Washington School (Finding Nemo) and two other movie night locations, both showing Moana.


1.  Jones Beach:  Thursday nights (and an non-Thursday), movies are shown at the bandshell.   Remember, there is a fee for parking at Jones Beach.

Other locations where you can watch outdoor movies are Eisenhower Park in Garden City (their 2017 schedule has not been announced yet), Baldwin Park, and other locations.  You also might want to look into websites like mommypoppins.com   and Life on Long Island which update their list of summer outdoor movies - - there will be announced by late June too.