Before the luxe hotels, pretentious condos, and plans for a pedestrian plaza, the Astor Place-Cooper Square area in the 1980s and early 1990s was crammed with peddlers selling anything: books, old clothes, worn shoes, toiletries (I saw a half-empty box of tampons once!), and other items salvaged from trash.
The caption to this photo, from the June 1985 edition of the East Village Eye, takes a sympathetic view toward the peddlers.
“Cooper Square street peddlers compete for sidewalk space and cope with the ever-present threat of police sweeps,” it reads.
Not everyone felt the same way. A New York piece from 1993 called “The Village Under Siege” described it as “a sidewalk market” providing “cover for fences and drug dealers.”
Later in the article, a rep for Cooper Union described the peddlers as “Bangladesh on the north and Calcutta on the south.”
Tags: Astor Place peddlers, Astor Place pedestrian plaza, Cooper Square street peddlers, Cooper Union, East Village Eye, East Village in the 1980s, East Village in the 1990s, New York street, Street Peddlers in NYC