Posts Tagged ‘East Village in the 1980s’

The Russian dictator waving to Houston Street

May 30, 2013

RedsquarecityrealtyThis hand-sketched ad for Red Square, the artsy, “luxury rental” apartment building on Houston Street between Avenues A and B, comes from a 1990 issue of Interview.

Anyone who has seen the building, which towers 13 stories over a low-rise stretch of Houston, will recognize the big block “Askew” clock on top, with its out-of-sequence numbers.

The other unusual feature on the building’s roof—the statue of Russian dictator Vladimir Lenin, his hand raised in victory—wasn’t added until 1994.

Redsquaread2So why is a statue of the leader of the Russian Revolution on a Manhattan apartment building?

It’s a nod to the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union back in 1989, the year the building—appropriately named Red Square—was built, reports this New York Times article.

“The 18-foot Lenin statue was originally a state-commissioned work by Yuri Gerasimov, but the Soviet Union’s implosion prevented the statue from going on public display. It was found by an associate of [a building co-owner] in the backyard of a dacha outside Moscow.”


And it’s no accident that the statue of Lenin is positioned so it’s facing the Financial District.

“Mr. Shaoul noted that Lenin faces Wall Street, capitalism’s emblem, and the Lower East Side, ‘the home of the socialist movement,”’ added the Times.

What a downtown or Brooklyn rental cost in 1983

January 31, 2013

A 1200 square foot Soho studio for $1350 a month?

An impossible find in 2013—but available 30 years ago (perhaps even without a fee!), according to this ad from the May 1983 issue of arts and entertainment monthly the East Village Eye.


It’s not the only rental that sounds absurdly inexpensive to New Yorkers conditioned to pay an average of up to $3,973 a month for a Manhattan apartment these days.


If you were willing to give “historic” South Williamsburg a try, you could score a two bedroom “modern” rental for $330 a month. Broadway and Marcy Avenue was probably a pretty rough place though.


An East Village subhed in the three digits per month? That was the going rate for this three-room place on Second Avenue and 10th Street, according to this East Village Eye ad from September 1984.

Music and theater on East 10th Street in the ’80s

December 27, 2012

LimboloungeIf you found yourself looking for entertainment in the East Village 30 years ago, you might have ended up at the Limbo Lounge, described as a “gallery and performance space; serves refreshments” in this 1984 New York cover story on the newly hip Lower East Side.

This is where campy cult play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom got its start in 1984, two years before the Limbo Lounge closed.

Then there’s 350 East 10th Street, the former PS 64, decommissioned as a school and used for years as a performance space for community groups, artists, and musicians.

Rockers, rappers, breakers, and scratchers—and local punk band 3 Teens Kill 4, wonderfully named after a New York Post headline! Both ads come from the May 1983 issue of the East Village Eye.


Julian’s: an old-school pool hall in Union Square

December 12, 2012

When the 1920s theater at 138 East 14th Street bit the dust in 1997, more was lost than just the Palladium nightclub, which had occupied the space in the 1980s.

On the second floor was the cavernous Julian Billiard Academy, run since 1933 by the Julian family but operating as a pool hall since 1916. Until Julian’s shut its doors in 1991, it was New York’s oldest billiards room and once one of hundreds across the city.


“Old school” is the way ex-customers describe it. Like the rest of this stretch of East 14th Street, it was slightly seedy but safe, attracting “students, actors, businessmen, and bums” and providing “safe harbor at most hours of the night and morning.”

What brought it down? High rent, of course. According to a New York Times article, it went from $300 a month in 1933 to $6,000 in 1987.

”I don’t know what I will do when my lease is up in four years,” the 53-year-old owner [Ron (Julian) Hickers] said as he looked out the window at a luxury apartment building rising across East 14th Street. ”I may just hang it up and go to Florida.”

Today, 138 East 14th Street is the site of NYU’s Palladium Hall dorm.

Here’s a link to a terrific grunge-era photo of the entrance of Julian’s, from a blog called The Devil Wears.

[Top photo: Courtesy Warehouse Magazine]

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.”

Super cheap East Side apartments in the 1980s

September 26, 2011

Do you ever wish that you could go back in time and pay 1980s prices for Manhattan real estate today?

If you could jump in the way back machine to 1984, a one- or  two-bedroom apartment in the Norfolk Arms at 170 Norfolk Street could be yours for under $65,000.

What would you pay these days to live in what was then a dicey block on the Lower East Side? According to Streeteasy, the number would be in the vicinity of a half million.

The “Village East” address in this ad isn’t specific, but 2,500 square feet of “rawish” loft space for under two grand a month sounds like a steal.

Both ads come from the September 1984 issue of the East Village Eye.

Vintage ads for downtown clubs from the 1980s

April 15, 2011

They’re long gone, the spaces they once occupied now housing much less cool venues—even a shopping mall.

But in the early and mid-1980s, these were the dance clubs and after-hours spots where the cool kids hung out.

Save the Robots operated at 25 Avenue B—near the corner of Second Street, a notorious heroin cop spot—as a semi-legal underground club. Club kids, drag queens, and bar employees from other establishments finally off work after 4 a.m. were frequent customers.

“In the olden days of a mere two years ago, 8BC had a log cabin ambiance—dirt floor, no heat—and didn’t meet a single licensing requirement,” wrote C. Carr in On Edge: Performance Art at the End of the Twentieth Century, published in the 1980s.

The performance space-slash-club only lasted a few short years, but it hosted artists and bands from Karen Finley to They Might Be Giants, with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat on the walls.

Nightlife king Peter Gatien opened the Limelight in a circa-1845 Chelsea Episcopal church in 1983. Its rise as a goth dance club and club kid drug mecca has been pretty well-documented.

Who would have though that in 2011, it would be the site of the Limelight Marketplace, sort of an upscale mall with boutiques and food stalls?

All ads come from various issues of The East Village Eye.

When indie video stores popped up in the 1980s

February 24, 2011

It’s August 1984, and while thumbing through this month’s edition of downtown arts newspaper the East Village Eye, you come across this New Wave–esque ad.

How exciting to see that a video store will be coming to East Ninth Street. I bet it did a pretty good business there for awhile too.

Early 1980s fashion at an East Village boutique

November 19, 2010

Wide shoulders, severe hair, geometric earrings: the model posing for this 109 shop ad, found in a copy of the East Village Eye circa 1984, epitomizes that downtown 1980s look so many trendsters are copying again.

109, which was actually at 115 St. Marks Place, was pretty pricey.

“Daniel Nord’s man’s jacket in black and mustard is $235; a woman’s brown wool knit suit by Dianne B. has a loose cropped jacket ($280), a short, snug skirt ($115) and a matching striped T-shirt ($95),” states a 1989 New York Times fashion piece.

The 1980s “art junkies” of Avenue B

November 1, 2010

“East Village galleries are multiplying like white rats,” states an article in the October 1983 edition of the East Village Eye.

That’s just a slight exaggeration. Roughly between 1980 and 1987, hundreds of galleries opened in the neighborhood, making Second Avenue to Avenue B the center of an art scene that drew inspiration from punk, graffiti, and performance art.

This party pic from the East Village Eye suggests that much emphasis was placed on the scene as well as the art itself.

The end of the East Village as a gallery mecca has been attributed to many things: the 1987 stock market crash; AIDS; the death of Andy Warhol in 1987 and protege Jean-Michel Basquiat a year later; and of course, rising rents.

It’s been memorialized in books and museum retrospectives, like this one at the New Museum in 2004.