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December 22nd in NYC History

Posted: Dec 21, 2012 | 5:32 PM

1882:  First electric Christmas tree.  Edward Johnson, an Edison Executive, outfits his tree with 80 red, white, and blue bulbs, the size of walnuts, on a revolving tree in his home on 136 E 36th St., near Lexington Ave.  19 years later Edison will market Christmas lights, but they were expensive, mostly used for store window displays. 

1883:  Marcus Hurley, 3 Olympic Cycling Gold Medalist (1904) and 3 time Columbia Basketball All-American (1905-07), born in New York.

1895:  The Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee debuted the modern one-star flag of Puerto Rico at a meeting in Chelsea. It was illegal to display the flag in Puerto Rico, but the design is officially adopted when the commonwealth establishes its own constitution in 1952.

1917:  Mother Cabrini, the first American resident to be canonized, known for her work with poor and sick New Yorkers, died at 67.  She founded 65 orphanages, schools and hospitals.

1937:  The Lincoln Tunnel opens.

1945:  Diane Sawyer, television journalist from "Good Morning America", born.

1960:  Jean-Michel Basquiat the artist born.
  He died at 27.

1962:  Old Town Bar wishes actor Ralph Fiennes a happy birthday in 2012.

1984:  Bernhard 'Bernie' Goetz, 'the subway vigilante,' a slight white man, provided his own version of "Death Wish" and "Revenge of the Nerds" when he brutally shot four black young men with criminal records who were harassing, threatening, and robbing him on a crowded train.  

Goetz was on the lamb for over a week until he turned himself in. 

He was charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, and illegal gun charges.  He was convicted for illegal gun possession.  He served eight out of twelve months.  


The New York City of the 1980s was an intense period for the city with a sense of danger and violence pretty much anywhere anytime, especially in the subways. 

Violence broke out anywhere over haircuts, and more commonly and more viciously, over: race, class, and robbery.

New York City's violent crime rate was 70% higher than the national average. 

Now NYC, with 20% of its violent crime rate of twenty years ago, is the FBI's "Safest Big City in America."  

Goetz: survivor of several attacks before his big case:

Earlier, in 1981, Goetz was violently robbed in the subway, and the assailants had him detained in jail! 

His assailants escaped serious consequences, even though Goetz is still chronically injured from the incident. 

Subsequently, Goetz used an illegal gun to fend off two additional muggings. 

His fourth incident in three sparked a national debate in 1984-85.

The upshots:

Most of Goetz' assailants/victims quickly returned to committing even more serious violent crimes. 

One of Goetz' victims/assailants is paralyzed and has brain damage.  As far as I know, these injuries assisted him in becoming a law-abiding citizen.

A Bronx jury, after a civil lawsuit trial that took 11 years to happen, awarded the criminals/victims a $43 million judgment, but it doesn't seem that they've seen money from it.  (Bronx juries are renowned for their lenience on criminals, locals, and peoples of color.)

Goetz still lives at the top of Greenwich Village, running his electronics repair business, Vigilante Electronics.  I think I've seen him at least once.  He appears earnest.

Goetz advocates and cares for the squirrels of NYC. 

He has run for local office on a platform of vegetarianism, especially in the NYC schools.  

In 2010, 80% of Black and Hispanic NYC Public High School students, the great majority of our one-million public school students, will either drop out or graduate with substandard educations.

Here are Goetz' websites:



2000:  Madonna married film director Guy Ritchie, who moved her from NYC.  They divorced in 2008, paving the way for her return to NYC at an Upper East Side townhouse.


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