In the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, of 2014, parades of hipsters and cool dads pushing strollers march from artisanal cheese shop to artisanal vegan cheese shop. In the Williamsburg of 1974, violent gangs, like Phantom Lords, the Satan Souls, the Dirty Ones, and the Driggs Boys of Justice, stomped around, terrorizing the neighborhood. Over in Bushwick (real estate agents hadn’t yet dubbed the neighborhood “East Williamsburg”), the Savage Nomads, the Devil Rebels, and the Imperial Survivors reigned, among others. In 1981, community leader Luis Garden Acosta called northern Brooklyn the “killing fields” for the number of teenagers killed in gang conflicts.
Vintage Brooklyn’s gang activity is mapped out in a New York Times graphic from August 1, 1974, which New York City history blog The Bowery Boys recently dug up. The map reveals that The Warriors–the 1979 cult classic in which cartoonishly stylized gangs roam the subways–is a more realistic depiction of the anarchic city of yore than viewers in a post-Bloomberg era might think. (The names of the real gangs were certainly as menacing as the film’s fictional ones).
The Bowery Boys’ research revealed bloody details of gang feuds: In 1972, an altercation within the Young Barons caused the death of one man and another man’s nose to be cut off; in 1973, a fight between the Devil Rebels and the Screaming Phantoms in Bushwick led to two Rebel deaths; and in 1974, the Times reported on the extortion schemes of various northern Brooklyn gangs, including the Outlaws, the Tomahawks, and the Jolly Stompers (not listed).