Bowery & Bleecker Street 1981. Edward Grazda /

By Mark McConville

THE MEAN streets of New York City during the 70s and 80s have been revealed in a series of stunning photographs showcased in a new book.

Incredible images portray the grittiness of the city that never sleeps before the big clean up as a TV is pictured on fire on the footpath, a cowboy gets his shoes shined by a young black boy and people lie on the streets as graffiti urges America to pull out of wars.

Bowery 1970. Edward Grazda /


Other striking shots show an elderly man reading a newspaper on the subway with the front page detailing the murder of John Lennon, women standing on street corners and an old dollar store standing out among the houses.

The black and white pictures are from Mean Streets by Edward Grazda, published by powerHouse Books.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, the institutions of power in New York had failed. A bankrupt city government had sold its power over to the banks, and the financiers’ severe austerity programs gutted the city’s support systems.

Bowery 1973. Edward Grazda /


Most of the city’s traditional industries had already left, and those power brokers in charge of the new system retreated to their high rises and left the streets to the hustlers, preachers, and bums; the workers struggling to get by; and a new generation of artists who were squatting in the empty industrial buildings downtown and bearing witness to the urban decay and institutional abandonment all around them.

For the tough and determined, the quick and the gifted, the prescient and the prolific, a cheap living could be scratched out in the mean streets.

Broadway & 55th Street 1970. Edward Grazda /


Renowned photographer Edward Grazda began his career in that version of NYC. The black and white photos in Mean Streets, collected here in print for the first time, offer a look at that hardscrabble era captured with the deliberate and elegant eye that propelled Grazda to further success.

It’s a version of New York that has been all but scrubbed clean in the financially solvent years that have followed, but the character of the city has been indelibly marked by the scars of those years.

Mean Streets by Edward Grazda, published by powerHouse Books is available for buy now:

Bowery 1976. Edward Grazda /