Old Photos Of New York City & Snow

A Big Snowstorm In New York? Not a Big Deal In The Past

Some vintage photos of snow in New York City and thoughts about how we cope with it

1905 Fifth Avenue & 27th Street after a big storm

1905 Fifth Avenue & 27th Street after a big storm photo Detroit Publishing

New York City is getting some snow on January 23, 2016. Possibly a lot of it. You know what I say to that? It’s snow, it’s not a big deal.

On January 3, 2014 just days after taking office as mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio blundered in panicking and declaring a disaster before any snow had fallen. The big predicted blizzard that shut down the city including the schools: it ended up being five inches of snow.

1935 snowstorm effects on midtown Manhattan. Life goes on.

1935 snowstorm effects on midtown Manhattan. Life goes on.

The media in its 24 hour news cycle has to generate ratings and viewers. It broadcasts “news” that conveys sheer panic every time New York is slated to receive almost any amount of snow above three inches. Then the mayor or governor gets on TV surrounded by a bunch of sycophants who just stand there and in somber tones take turns assuring viewers that everything will be all right.

1908 horse drawn trolley trudges through New York's snow covered streets

1908 horse drawn trolley trudges through New York’s snow covered streets

This phenomenon of turning every single snowstorm into some crisis is ridiculous and what’s more: it never used to happen. Approaching snowstorms now start a vicious circle by both media and politicians of fear, seriousness and over-protection in the name of safety. We have become a society that seems to be having a hard time dealing with snow, let alone nature.

1908 Snow at night on Riverside Drive Viaduct photo NY Edison Co.

1908 Snow at night on Riverside Drive Viaduct photo NY Edison Co.

First, the media has to blow almost every snowstorm out of proportion. 24 or more inches of snow? Yeah, that might be a problem. Twelve, possibly sixteen inches? Please. Deal with it and get on with your life.

Circa 1905 Curling in Central Park photo Detroit Publishing

Circa 1905 Curling in Central Park photo Detroit Publishing

Second, the politicians and agency heads warn of all the dangers us in a demeaning manner. Especially the mayor whether it was Bloomberg in the past or De Blasio, or Governors Cuomo and Christie get on TV and make proclamations about “staying off the roads” and other no-brainer statements to reinforce to the sheep, “we’re in charge and handling this emergency.” An emergency is when the power goes out for days, flooding is rampant over a wide area, there is no heat, there is no food or water and your life or home are in peril. If you’re driving in a blizzard there is usually a pretty good reason for it. You are probably a medical worker, firefighter, policeman, sanitation worker or have a true emergency to be driving. It’s not like the average person just goes out for a drive to pick up a newspaper when the roads are barely navigable.

circa 1905 children with sleds in Central Park

circa 1905 children with sleds in Central Park

Growing up, I don’t remember the sense of panic which now seems to accompany every snowstorm in New York City. People lining up in supermarkets to buy bread, milk  and other staples as if there will not be another food delivery for a fortnight.

1917 snowstorm has cars covered in snow

1917 snowstorm has cars covered in snow

Besides unmitigated disasters such as superstorm Sandy or blizzards like the one that dumped nearly 27 inches of snow on the city on February 11-12, 2006, life generally goes on as usual when it snows in New York City.

1899 Cleaning up after New York's blizzard of 1899 photo Detroit Publishing

1899 Cleaning up after New York’s blizzard of 1899 photo Detroit Publishing

Sure we got snow, sometimes a lot of it. And we can have difficulties traveling or getting around. But the food doesn’t run out, the snow eventually melts and most people who choose to live here generally enjoy the change in weather. Those are the New Yorkers I know and the New York I want to be part of.

February 4 1936 Pedestrians help one another on slippery snowy sidewalks in New York photo Acme

February 4 1936 Pedestrians help one another on slippery snowy sidewalks in New York photo Acme

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