The Teen Menace on MacDougal Street


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March 17, 1966, Vol. XI, No. 22

The Children’s Hour, or Curfew on MacDougal St.

By Stephanie Harrington

A teenage girl who looked like a boy stopped short in front of the entrance to the IND on Sixth Avenue and 8th Street last Friday night as a teenage boy who looked like a girl emerged from the lower depths. They embraced ecstatically.

“Going to the Night Owl?” she asked barely suppressing the excitement that seemed to go with the mere utterance of the name.

“Later, baby,” not losing his cool. The question was academic. Where else?

She hurried down the street to the high school heaven.

A little boy in big boots urinated against the side of a building on Minetta Lane, smashed a bottle on the anointed bit of wall like all the nailsy guys in all the movies he’d ever seen, and advanced onto MacDougal Street. He made his way through the teeming horde of teenagers. Teenagers running, teenagers walking five abreast, teenagers crowding the adult enemy and each other off the sidewalk. Teenagers overflowing onto the street, teenagers shouting insults at teenage drivers honking their fathers’ horns all the way down to Bleecker Street. In the opposite direction, past the teenage tough beating up on a nice middle-class teenage boy dressed like a tough, past the under-age peacock strutting down the street, tapping his shins with a coiled bull whip on 3rd Street just west of MacDougal, the Junior Achievement dropouts converged on headquarters, the rock and roll playpen called the Night Owl.

But unbenownst to them, another kind of night owl was among them. James L. Marcus, an unsalaried special assistant to the Mayor who has been assigned the task of cleaning up the MacDougal-Bleecker Street area, was winding up his turn on the night-owl shift at City Hall with a tour of the front lines. He had arranged the tour to acquaint City Youth board director Frank Arricale with the “places his youth are spending their evenings.” Particularly concerned with the traffic in goofballs, marijuana, and sex, Marcus ended his Friday night stroll with an announcement that he intends to investigate the feasibility of establishing a curfew for youngsters under 16. He also suggested that more police be assigned to the area, that the Tactical Patrol Force be deployed there more regularly, and that traffic be re-routed to eliminate automobile congestion.

Village Democratic Leader Edward L. Koch told The Voice that he appreciated the fact that Marcus was doing his best to find a solution to a difficult problem. Koch added, however, that he was opposed to the idea of a curfew, viewing it as an anti-civil libertarian approach. He suggested that one alternative might be for the police to take the names and addresses of minors they suspected of illegal activities and contact their parents.

Marcus was given his MacDougal Street task after a recent meeting of the MacDougal Street Area Neighborhood Association at which Deputy Mayor Robert Price promised residents of the beleagured area that the administration would assign a full-time trouble shooter to the neighborhood. Although Marcus estimated that his Friday night visit was about his tenth in the last two weeks, he is not able to devote all of his time to the job since he also has the responsibilities of cleaning up Times Square and of overseeing the Water Department until a new commissioner is named.

Koch organized the MacDougal Street Committee in answer to pleas by residents for help in combating the transformation of their neighborhood into a teen Times Square.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]