The Worst Disasters To Ever Occur In New York History

Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, New York City is the most populous city in the country and is the largest metropolitan city in the world by urban landmass. Not only is it beautiful and impressive with all of its skyscrapers and parks, but it’s also a hotbed of diversity and a living breathing museum in itself. It’s one of the most recognizable symbols of the United States, and has been described as “the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world.” However, as grand as it may be, that doesn’t mean it’s safe from tragedy, quite the opposite, actually. Take a look to see some of the worst things to ever happen in New York City.

See the fire that destroyed New York while it was still under British control!

The Ninth Avenue Drerailment Happened At The Worst Time Possible

Ninth Avenue Derailment
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During morning rush hour on September 11, 1905, a Ninth Avenue train in Manhattan was traveling at a speed of 30 miles per hour when the train was accidentally switched onto a curve. The train driver, Paul Kelly, reacted quickly and broke as soon as possible.

While the lead car stayed on the tracks, the second car was thrown off, landing in the street, sparking an electrical fire. The second car had been flipped upside-down and the roof had been torn off. Regarded as the worst subway accident in New York history, it resulted in 13 deaths and 48 serious injuries.

It’s Still Unclear How The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Was Started

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Bettmann/Getty Images

The Triangle Waist Company was located on the 8th, 9th, and 19th floors of the Asch Building. The factory employed around 500 mostly women immigrants cutting and sewing fabric. On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire started in a scrap bin under a cutter’s table on the eighth floor. There’s still debate whether it was from a cigarette, match, or even a sewing machine malfunction.

The fire grew to become uncontrollable, leading to the deadliest industrial disaster in New York’s history and one of the deadliest in the United States. It led to the death of 146 garment workers, mostly women, ranging from ages 14 to 43.

The American Airlines Flight 320 Crash Led People To Distrust A Certain Type Of Aircraft

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On February 3, 1959, American Airlines Flight 320 was traveling from Chicago Midway International Airport to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport. The plane crashed into the East River during landing, killing 65 of the 73 people on board. The plane was a Lockheed L-188A Electra, a plane that was recently introduced to American Airlines.

The Civil Aeronautics Board determined that the probable cause of the crash was due to a premature descent below landing minimums. However, this was the result of numerous different factors, including some that weren’t human errors.

The Happy Land Fire Was An Act Of Arson

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Bettmann/Getty Images

The Happy Land social club was located in the West Farms section of the Bronx in New York City. On March 25, 1990, 87 people died in a fire that was an act of arson, many of whom were young Hondurans that were enjoying a carnival. Julio Gonzalez, a Cuban refugee, was arrested not long after, and it was discovered that his ex-girlfriend was a worker at the club.

The building was closed for a short time in 1988 for code violations including a lack of fire exits, sprinkler systems, and alarms. It was the deadliest city fire in New York since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and coincidentally happened on the same day 79 years later.

The Great Fire Of New York In 1776

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VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

Beginning September 20, 1776, and continuing into the 21st, a severe fire burned through what was then the West Side of New York City. It broke out when British forces occupied the city during the early days of the American Revolutionary War. By the time the fires had ceased raging, over a third of the city had been burnt down.

The parts of the city that weren’t affected were then plundered and essentially destroyed by other means. Although there’s no clear indication of who started the fire, both sides blamed the other.

The sinking of the PS Slocum is still remembered today and is coming up soon.

September 11, 2001, Is A Day That Will Never Be Forgotten

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The September 11 attacks, otherwise referred to as 9/11 was a series of coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. Four airplanes were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes were then crashed into the North and South World Trade Center Towers.

A third plane was partially flown into the Pentagon. Thanks to the heroes on United Airlines Flight 93, they stopped another set of the group’s terrorists and managed to crash the plane in a field. Overall, 2,996 people died, over 6,000 were injured, with citizens and rescuers still dying from respiratory issues today. It is the deadliest terrorist attack of all time and the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers.

American Airlines Flight 1 Crashed Immediately After Takeoff

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American Airlines Flight 1 was a passenger flight leaving from New York International Airport headed for Los Angeles International, which is now JFK. On March 1, 1962, Just two minutes after takeoff, the Boeing 707 rolled over and ended up crashing into Jamaica Bay. The final death toll was 87 passengers along with eight crew members.

According to the Civil Astronauts Board, the crash was due to a defect in the automatic pilot system. This resulted in an uncommanded rudder control system input, causing the plane to roll and crash. At the time it was the fifth and deadliest Boeing 707 crash.

The Malbone Street Train Was Going 30 Miles Per Hour Over The Speed Limit

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On November 1, 1918, in the final days of World War I, an elevated train made of wood with five cars was going under a tunnel beneath Malbone street. The train hit a curve going between 30 and 40 miles per hour when it was designated to be handled at six miles an hour.

The second car derailed leading the preceding car to do the same. Although the middle two cars were virtually entirely destroyed, the first and fourth cars were only minorly damaged, and the fifth was unharmed. Regardless, at least 93 people died with countless more injured.

The New York City Draft Riots Changed The Demographics Of Manhattan

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DEA/BIBLIOTECAAMBROSIANA/Getty Images

Between July 13 and 16, violence broke out all across Lower Manhattan as a response to laws passed by Congress drafting working men to fight in the American Civil War. The rioters were mostly white working-class men of Irish descent who feared black people were taking their jobs.

It was also a sign of hatred toward the wealthier classes who could afford $300 to hire a substitution to take their place in the draft. Originally fueled by discontent for the draft, it eventually turned into a race riot with white males killing around 120 black individuals. To this day, the riots remain the largest and most racially charged insurrection in American history.

The Sinking Of The PS General Slocum Was A True Nightmare

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HultonArchive/Illustrated London News/Getty Images

The PS Slocum was a large sidewheel steamboat that wasn’t exactly known for its safety, experiencing numerous collisions and groundings during its service. However, things turned deadly on June 15, 1904, when the PS General Slocum caught fire and sank while traveling down the East River.

In total, 1021 of the 1,342 on the ship died, making the sinking New York’s most devastating disaster in terms of death until the September 11 attacks. Although the captain is responsible for the safety of the passengers, the owners of the Slocum neglected the ships’ safety, allowing its fire hoses to rot and leaving life rafts inaccessible.

See which disaster caused more destruction than it cost to build the Eerie Canal!

Eastern Airlines Flight 663 Crashed Trying To Avoid Another Plane

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Eastern Airlines Flight 663 was a passenger flight going from Boston to Atlanta, yet had stopovers in New York City, Richmond, Charlotte, and Greenville. However, on February 8, 1965, after taking off from JFK airport in New York, the Douglas DC-7 crashed near Jones Beach State Park.

Tragically, all 75 passengers and five crew perished in the crash. The Civil Aeronautics Board claimed that an evasive move by the pilot to avoid a Boeing 707 caused the pilot spatial disorientation, leading him to lose control of the aircraft.

Eastern Airlines Flight 66 Crashed Because Of Harsh Weather

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On June 24, 1975, Eastern Airlines 66 was on a routine flight from New Orleans to New York City. When approaching John F. Kennedy International Airport, the plane crashed, killing 113 to 124 people on the plane.

The crash was attributed to a wind shear caused by a microburst. However, it was the airport and flight crew’s job to recognize that there was a severe weather hazard. At the time, the crash was one of the deadliest in United States history.

The Park Slope Plane Crash Killed Six People On The Ground

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On Friday, December 16, 1960, a United Airlines Douglas DC-8 was about to land at John F. Kennedy Airport when it collided with a TWA Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation that was descending into LaGuardia Airport. One of the planes crash-landed on Staten Island and the other into Park Slope, Brooklyn. All 128 people on both flights were killed along with six unfortunate people that were killed by debris.

It’s known as the Miller Field crash in Staten Island and the Park Slope crash everywhere else. At first, one 11-year-old boy survived by landing in a snowbank that helped extinguished his flaming clothes. However, he was severely burned and inhaled burning fuel, killing him the next day.

American Airlines 587 Re-Sparked Fears Of Terrorism

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On November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587 was scheduled to fly from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Las-Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed and landed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens.

All 251 passengers and 9 crew members perished in the crash. The crash was especially memorable because it took place in New York within a year of the September 11 attacks. Initially, people thought that it might have been another terrorist attack when in reality the plane’s vertical stabilizer had snapped off.

The Great Fire Of 1835 Caused More Damage Than It Cost To Build The Eerie Canal

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On December 16, 1835, the biggest fire in United States history at the time occurred in New York City. It began on a cold winter night and blazed for over 15 hours, engulfing the financial district, and decimating everything below Wall Street. In total, it burned over 600 buildings and could be seen as far away as Philadelphia.

Because of the fire, lower Manhattan has very few pre-19th-century landmarks, with many of the streets being widened to improve movement within the city. The destruction cost more to repair than it cost to build the Eerie canal and forced the New York Fire Department to change their practices.

The 1977 Blackout Caused A Lot More Trouble Than Expected

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Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images

In 1977, July 13 and 14, lightning bolts tripped the circuit breakers in a Hudson River substation, resulting in the shutting down of Con Ed. This then led to two days of chaos in which 1,616 stores were looted and rioting took place in over 30 neighborhoods. More than 1,300 different fires were set and there was the largest mass arrest in city history of 3,776 people.

Damages came to be over $300 million with only a few neighborhoods not affected. Because of all the grief caused by the blackout, the city installed numerous back-up generators that are now frequently monitored.

The City Is Still Recovering From Hurricane Sandy

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Allison Joyce/Getty Images

In the fall of 2012, New York City was hit by Hurricane Sandy, a superstorm that ended up flooding the city’s streets and subways, starting a fire, and causing blackouts in Manhattan. People were killed by falling trees, downed power lines, and the overall dangerous effect the hurricane was having on the city.

Beach boardwalks and Rockaways were destroyed, and the property damage was well into the hundreds of millions. Some children had to change schools for the semester and the city is still working on putting all the pieces back together.

The 1980s AIDS Epidemic Can Still Be Felt Today

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Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

Although it was happening all over the country, New York City was hit especially hard with an AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. It was the most affected city in the country and is believed to have spread so quickly due to the large presence of the gay community in the major metro area.

The spread of AIDS led to a widespread fear across the city putting many people in a form of hysteria. In 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new plan to “End the Epidemic,” using a variety of different strategies.

The Fire On The Lexington Only Left Four Alive

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DeAgostini/Getty Images

The Lexington was a paddlewheel steamboat that was commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt in early 1834. It operated along the Atlantic coast of the Northeastern United States between 1835 and 1840. On the night of January 13, 1840, the ship’s smokestack caught fire, quickly igniting the 150 bales of hay and cotton nearby.

The flames were impossible to extinguish and evacuation was the only option. The ship’s lifeboats quickly became overcrowded and sunk, leaving the majority of the passengers swimming in the water. Of the 143 passengers, only four managed to survive.

The Great Blizzard Of 1888

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Bettmann/Getty Images

The Great Blizzard of 1888 or the “Great White Hurricane” was one of the most severe blizzards in American history. The East Coast going from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine was completely frozen over. The snow fell from anywhere between 10 and 58 inches with winds over 45 miles per hour in parts of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

In New York, transportation was impossible for days and the New York Stock Exchange closed for two of them. More than 400 people died because of the conditions with 200 dying in New York City alone.