The feeling of outrage and despair in the neighborhoods that were plundered during the blackout were replaced yesterday by an even more overwhelming concern – did the devastation represent the death blow for these already failing areas?
Along the streets of the South Bronx and Harlem, in the shopping areas of parts of Brooklyn and Queens, merchants swept up glass and debris. Workmen nailed plywood across burned-out store fronts. And on almost every street corner, men and women clustered to ask each other whether their neighborhoods would ever return to normal.
One of the worst hit blocks in the South Bronx was 138th Street between Brooks and St Anne’s Avenues.
Before the looters came, Joseph Weinstein’s 27 year old store, Superior Furniture, had been full of living-room and dinning-room sets, small appliances, refrigerators, television sets and more than 40 glass chandeliers. Yesterday the store was vacant except for 4 chandeliers, four heavy couches and several bookcases. At Lee’s Store, a men’s clothing store on 125th street in Harlem, Gary Apfel said the looters had not only taken all of the clothing but the mannequins as well.
At Amsterdam and 92nd, the gates to Capri furniture store and been torn off and a total plundering took place. According to many people who were on the block, the initial break in paved the way for whole families to come in and help themselves to furniture.
Witnesses said their was almost a carnival atmosphere, a neighborhood celebration.
A block down on 91st and Amsterdam, Emil Bernath’s furniture and lumber store was looted of thousands of dollars worth of bookcases, beds, cabinets, tables and other furniture. A radio that had been chained to a radiator was ripped away. Mr. Bernath is a survivor of both Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
At 182nd Street and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx two storekeepers drove their cars onto the sidewalk in front of their store Wednesday night, headlights on and sat in their cars prominently holding machetes. Their store was not damaged.
Three persons were killed and 59 firemen were injured in a wave of 1,037 fires during the blackout.
excerpt from Deidre Carmody NYT 7/16/77