Posts Tagged ‘Astor Place pedestrian plaza’

The “epidemic of peddlers” at Cooper Square

February 9, 2012

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.”