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Rebuilding Radio Clinic

July 9, 2015 in History

July 09, 2015 5:00 a.m.

Radio Clinic was one of the 1,616 stores looted during the 1977 Blackout in New York City. In the days after the blackout, the chances of Radio Clinic’s survival looked pretty grim. In the wake of a large-scale disaster the precipitous event might be over; the fires put out and the hurricane waters receded. But for the small business owners whose stores were destroyed, the fight to survive was just beginning. Jen Rubin, the daughter of Radio Clinic’s owner, writes about her father’s experience after the Blackout.


The day after the looting, my dad stood on the sidewalk at Broadway and 98th Street contemplating the ruins of what, just hours earlier, had been Radio Clinic. It was seven in the morning, and while sporadic looting was still going on in other parts of the city, it was over on 98th street. Once assured it was safe to go inside the store, my dad walked to the back office to find a broom to sweep up the broken glass. The trapdoor to the basement warehouse was open letting him know the looters found the staircase to the rest of the merchandise. He didn’t see how the looters could possibly have gotten the large appliances up the steep sailor staircase, but he anxiously climbed down to check for himself. The hundreds of boxes of air conditioners were still there, abandoned in a heap by the foot of the ladder. The lack of an easy way out of the warehouse made all the difference. In the midst of all the bad news, the lingering heat wave was a kernel of good luck. If the heat had loosened its grip on the city in the days after the looting, Radio Clinic would never have made it. Even though Radio Clinic was decimated and everything was stolen off the commercial floor, the store still had a stockpile of air conditioners during a blistering hot week, when New Yorkers were desperate for them.

Surveying the wreckage that Thursday morning, my dad decided he would re-open by 9 a.m. on Saturday, just two days later. As my dad swept the shattered glass, his employees started to trickle in. The light and electricity were still out and there was no way to know whether it would be hours or days until the power outage was resolved. The …read more


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