8. Former Nuclear Fallout Shelters Are Scattered Around New York City From the Cold War
Although the Cold War is long over, you can still see remnants of it in New York City. If you’ve ever seen the faded yellow and black signs reading “FALLOUT SHELTER,” it means you’ve casually strolled by a building that was once used as a place for evacuation in the event of a nuclear explosion. While it’s hard to determine the precise number of former fallout shelters around the city, several are still marked by the weathered fallout shelter signs left over from the Cold War days, when we feared annihilation at any minute.
Under Governor Nelson D. Rockefeller, who reigned during a time when fear of nuclear destruction was at its peak, New York had tens of thousands of fall out shelters, or even more. Rockefeller created a mandatory state shelter program in 1960, but soon made it voluntary, with building owners opting into the program. According to Gothamist, Rockefeller was apparently so supportive of fallout shelters that he built them under his Executive Mansion in Albany and his homes in Maine, Westchester County, and Fifth Avenue.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy created a national fallout shelter system, and at the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, shelters rapidly multiplied throughout New York City. This program entailed inspectors to survey buildings to determine if they could survive nuclear explosions. Identifying and certifying shelters was in the hands of local civil defense agents, and once buildings were certified, the government would hand out placards.
Unsurprisingly, most fallout shelters have been converted back to regular usage, and the fallout shelter system has since come to an end. The agency that sponsored the program was terminated in 1979. Read more here.