Bed-Stuy, Do or Die…

Today is the 25th anniversary of the premiere of “Do The Right Thing,” the movie that catapulted Spike Lee to prominence. I remember him filming it in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, specifically one scene where a young boy runs down the street, and is almost hit by a car. This mural, painted on the side of one of the buildings in that neighborhood served as a backdrop during several scenes. It stayed on the building for many a year afterwards:



“Bed-Stuy,” as it’s more commonly known, was a war zone back in 1989. Crack had gripped the community by the throat. The resulting drug gang wars made mincemeat of so many young lives. The summer nights were a cacophony of music, people talking, or yelling, and the sound of gunfire. Working that year is something that is so seared in my memory, I can still vividly recall it all. Cops were still carrying revolvers (“wheel guns”), out gunned by those wielding 9mm’s, Tec-9’s, Mac 5 and 10’s, and the occasional AK-47. Crack houses were death traps, and no EMS unit – including mine – would ever respond into a known one without a police presence of some kind.

Lee captured a lot of the feeling and desperation of the streets, but he couldn’t encompass it all.

“Da Mayor (Ossie Davis): Doctor…

Mookie (Spike Lee): C’mon, what. What?

Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.

Mookie: That’s it?

Da Mayor: That’s it.

Mookie: I got it, I’m gone.”

It’s a shame so many didn’t listen to Da Mayor’s advice.

…Oh, and one more thing….

This was what I did for 22 years. This was filmed in NYC, specifically the South Bronx, in 1986 for WCBS. I began working in Brooklyn not long afterward, but had been working in Manhattan prior. Take what you see here, put it in Brooklyn, and you get a good idea of what EMS life was like in NYC back then, before Times Square became Disney-fied, before gentrification began sweeping the city, before Giuliani, and before 9/11, when everything changed…