Wednesday, May 27, 2009

July 4th, NYC, 1992 by Joseph Scafuro

Sometime around 1991 or 1992 at twilight on July 4th, I was  walking along Canal ST. in NYC. I was shocked (yes really shocked) at what I saw and experienced. It was a scene of complete mayhem! There were people shooting sky rockets horizontally down the side walk into pedestrians. Canal and Broadway had to be closed because people were heaving M-80's (large + powerful, resembling a 1/4 stick of dynamite) from roof tops as quickly as they could light them, landing on and under cars as they drove by and exploding with great force. One blew up a few feet from my head and left me shell shocked. The police and fire department were in evidence but strangely passive. I had a camera and a few rolls of film and tried to photograph the mayhem but it was difficult and a bit dangerous (the three twilight blue photos are from Canal st). Canal St. was the old dividing line between China town to the south, and little Italy to the north. I walked North into Little Italy, thinking that the show was over.Well it wasn't, just a different, slightly less dangerous (but just as crazy) show. Here there were sometimes huge displays of professional grade fireworks being set off in the narrow intersections of Little Italy. In other intersections people dumped case after case of firecrackers, jumping jacks, bottle rockets, and anything else they could get there hands on, then doused it with gasoline, It burned so fiercely that the pavement below caught fire. And still, no sign of the Police or Fire department (I suspect there may have been other forces at work in Little Italy). In 1993 Rudy Giullani ran for Mayor of NYC. In 1994, for better and worse, he took office. The times changed and under Giullani all of this came to an end. With hindsight I wish I had documented this less casually, but I also feel lucky to have stumbled on to a bit of the old New York just before it's demise.

Click on any photo to enlarge

The Players

The Fireworks

The End