34 Things Only Kids Who Grew Up In NYC In The ’90s Will Remember

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of chalked IDs, student MetroCards, and the fear of West Nile.

1. You could tell how cool someone was by how many Jansport strings they had on their bookbag.

Bonus points for straps decorated in Wite-Out.

2. If you were born in a year that ended with a round number, getting into bars with your chalked ID was a cinch.

Tom Ahearn / Creative Commons

Emmy Favilla


1983 + red pencil + white pencil = easy one-way ticket to boozetown. 1981 took a little more skill. (And you never forgot to change the expiration date too.)

3. When bouncers got hip to chalking, you spent $40 on a fake ID from some sketchy tattoo or “tobacco” shop in the Village…and it never worked.

Sony Pictures

4. So you learned to avoid the bars and clubs that had scanners (aka most of the cool ones).


Beyond My Ken / Creative Commons / via commons.wikimedia.org


RIP Limelight, The Tunnel, and The Roxy.

5. And if all else failed, you could always go to an all-ages show at Castle Heights or the Knitting Factory.

Greg Davis and Ben Vida / Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

6. Shutting down all the strip clubs in Times Square somehow made it even more intolerable…except for this saving grace.

JMM / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: workinpana

AKA the mecca of your teenage existence.

7. And the chances of your face actually being seen on camera on TRL were slim to none, but it was still worth cutting school early to try.

MTV / Via 90s90s90s.com

8. You were both devastated and intrigued by the switchover from these to these:

Jessamyn West / Creative Commons / via commons.wikimedia.org

EyOne / Creative Commons / via commons.wikimedia.org


9. And you tested the limits of your student MetroCard on holidays — praying you wouldn’t get caught by a transit officer and served a ticket.


“Oh, sorry, officer! I thought it was totally legal to use my card on Columbus Day…”

10. You knew which train stations it was safe to jump the turnstile at and which weren’t.

(But sometimes you still got caught — and your parents were PISSED.)

11. And you felt a weird nostalgia for the graffitied trains of decades past, mourning a colorful bygone era every time you spotted one in the wild.

JJ & Special K / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: sweet_child_of_mine

12. Becoming a bona fide celebrity dermatologist was as easy as putting up approximately 100,000 subway ads and never, ever updating them.


13. The giant keyboard at FAO Schwarz was just as cool IRL — if not cooler — as it seemed in Big.

14. If you went to public school, you knew which lunch options to avoid like the plague. Lukewarm fish disc with a square block of cheese in the middle? Uh, no thanks.

Gveret Tered / Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

15. You knew what every illicit drug was by the time you were 7 years old because of the “drug-free dances” (?) your school held.

“Hey, Mom, what’s cocaine?” —third-grade you

16. You were convinced you were going to die of asbestos poisoning every time you stepped foot into your decrepit school building.

Dewitt / Thinkstock

17. You made a beeline to the giant bubbles as soon as you got to the Hall of Science before everyone else in your class got there first.

18. The kids in Brooklyn and Queens always felt like this on their day off on Brooklyn-Queens Day.

Cartoon Network

And with good reason.

19. During after-school bodega visits, you learned that sometimes a potato chip is not just a potato chip, but the very thing your existence depends on.

Wikiwiki718 / Creative Commons /


Me + Crazy Calypso = 4eva

20. And your leftover lunch money went exclusively to quarter water and 50-cent ice tea cartons.

21. Your radio was always tuned into one of four radio stations: Z100, Hot 97, K-Rock, or KTU.


22. And even if you weren’t into top 40, you still totally went to Jingle Ball with your friends who got tickets because the FOMO was real.

23. You used the Village Voice to find out about cool upcoming shows.

24. You knew one of the best music shows around aired not on MTV but on WNYC.

25. And you remember exactly where you were on March 9, 1997.

26. You may have spent more than one hungover morning with a greasy plate in front of you at this place.

JIm Henderson / Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

27. You knew just which corner of Union Square to hang out to check out all the skaters.

28. If you were a punk, you could always find someone you knew at Tompkins Square Park.

29. The cube at Astor Place was a meetup spot for the ~alt~ kids, from ravers to goths.

Beyond My Ken / Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

30. And just up the block, 8th Street Lab was THE place for all your raver essentials.

31. You developed a unique sense of slang.

Michael Perez for BuzzFeed

32. When it was 103 degrees out on a sweltering August day, you knew exactly which block would have the hydrant running.

Bitchcakes / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: bitchcakes

33. And you learned what true fear smelled like in 1999, when they sprayed because of West Nile and everyone was told to stay indoors.

Comedy Central

And you were probably really annoyed you had to stay INDOORS all day with your FAMILY on a perfectly nice day.

34. You’ll always consider New York to be the greatest place on Earth — and couldn’t imagine how you would’ve survived growing up anywhere else.

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