New York City in the 1980s

For the 1980s in New York, music seems to tell the story. It speaks of a very complex time. And they weren't always the good ol' days. Take The Message, a song by Grandmaster Flash, written about life in our city, released in 1982: "Rats in the front room."

The city was on edge. Crime, drugs, poverty. Ellen Carey, an artist/photographer moved to SoHo. Her rent was $300 per month. We caught up with her in her old neighborhood. Even for Steve Lewis, known for his grit, the streets were to be wary of. We caught up with the nightclub icon outside Limelight.

While Steve and Ellen both remember how dangerous Downtown was, they both speak of how it somehow lead to something incredibly special -- a creative boom took place in the 1980s beyond what the city witnessed before or since that time.

Out of a grimy Manhattan canvas, the arts scene exploded, launching, you name it - musicians, photographers and painters. Not just artists, but entire genres were created.  Lewis is amongst those who say New Yorkers of diverse backgrounds used to actually mix in this melting pot. They fed off each other and inspired each other.

Like now, many in the 1980s felt 14th Street divided the culture Uptown and Downtown. Only downtown was the undesirable one because it was so unsafe.

Donald Albrecht is a curator of architecture and design. He remembers the time well, and says contradictions can fuel artistic progress.

And while the 1980s are a definitive building block in New York's culture, what fostered a creative boom then, some believe is now, gone. A time that has passed. All the more a time in our city's history to appreciate which generation will next fill these shoes, and when.