Posts Tagged ‘East Village’

Turn of the century Cooper Square

November 12, 2009

A web of elevated train tracks is flanked by sloped-roof buildings on the right and lovely Cooper Union—described in this postcard as “the Cooper Institute”—on the left.


Looks like some really sweet buildings have long since disappeared.

“La Festa Di Santa Lucia” on East 12th Street

April 13, 2009

This 1960 painting, by New York City–born artist John Costanza, depicts a 1930 street fair on East 12th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A in honor of St. Lucy (there she glows in the first-floor window).


This East Village neighborhood has long since ben colonized by professionals, hipsters, and NYU students. But decades ago it was home to a cluster of Italian immigrants.

A few reminders still exist: Veniero’s pastry shop, Lanza’s restaurant, and the former Italian Labor Center on East 14th Street, with its terra cotta panels depicting family life and work.

The tango composer from East Ninth Street

February 19, 2009

The East Village has always been home to musicians, but I’d bet that few could play the bandoneon like Astor Piazzolla.

astorpiazzollaBorn in Argentina in 1921, Piazzolla moved with his parents to a tenement building at 313 East Ninth Street. 

He took up the bandoneon—an accordian-like instrument popular in Argentina and Uruguay—at age eight, supposedly after his father bought one for $19 in a New York pawn shop.

Piazzolla moved back to Argentina in 1937, where he eventually went on to popularize nuevo tango—a style that brought jazz and classical sounds to traditional tango music.

Listen to Piazzolla’s Soledad and Milonga Del Angel here.

The original Stuyvesant Town

January 10, 2009

Before the 9,000-apartment, red-brick housing development across Fourteenth Street opened in 1947, a small walk-up tenement at 219 Avenue B had the Stuyvesant name on its far more humble facade.

“Stuyvesant Apartments” is serious faded and covered in grime, but it was constructed in 1910, predating Stuy Town by 37 years.


There’s a lot of Stuyvesant in the vicinity: Stuyvesant Street near St. Mark’s Church, the old Stuyvesant High School building on East 15th Street, and Stuyvesant Square off Second Avenue in the teens.

No wonder: Petrus Stuyvesant, the Dutch-born director-general of New Netherland, had his farm—or bouwerie—here in the 1600s.

A faded ad reappears in the East Village

November 24, 2008

When old buildings are rehabbed, long-lost ads come back into view. This one is on Third Avenue in the East Village. Hudson’s was an army-navy emporium located at Third and 13th Street, a place to buy work clothes, camping supplies, and assorted surplus items. 


Opened in 1922, Hudson’s bit the dust in the early 1990s.

W.H. Auden: An English poet in the East Village

October 24, 2008

Poet Wystan Hugh Auden arrived in New York City in 1939. After stints at the George Washington Hotel on East 23rd Street and in Brooklyn Heights, he and companion Chester Kallman settled into a second-floor apartment in an unremarkable tenement at 77 St. Marks Place.

They lived here from 1953 to 1972, a year before Auden’s death at 66.

Auden in his St. Marks Place digs. Hannah Arendt reportedly described his living quarters this way: “His slum apartment was so cold that the toilet no longer functioned and he had to use the toilet in the liquor store at the corner.” The building now houses a restaurant, La Palapa.

Auden may have been British by birth, but some of his poems referenced New York. “September 1, 1939” starts: “I sit in one of the dives/on Fifty-Second Street/Uncertain and afraid/As the clever hopes expire/of a low dishonest decade.”

Another, from 1947, is titled “In Schrafft’s,” the name of the chain of ice cream parlor/restaurants that dotted the city until the 1970s. It begins: “Having finished the Blue plate Special/And reached the coffee stage/Stirring her cup she sat/A somewhat shapeless figure/Of indeterminate age/In an undistinguished hat.”

St. Mark’s street punks, then and now

June 25, 2008

This week, New York magazine has an article about the latest generation of kids who have recycled the punk aesthetic, hanging out on St. Mark’s and bemoaning the fact that the East Village 1980s punk scene is long over. “St. Marks used to be, like, a punk block,” one kid says. “Now it’s like fucking BBQ chicken and fucking Chipotle, whatever that store is.”

But was the East Village of the 1980s really so punk? In a piece from the August 1984 East Village Eye, punks hanging out on the same stretch of St. Marks complain about the same things as their 2008 counterparts, namely gentrification and “middle class assholes,” as one kid put it. 

East Village Eye photo

From the 1984 article: “Though Sid, 14, lives with his parents in Brooklyn, he feels right at home at the corner of Ave. A because ‘there are normal people here.’ If he had his way, in the year 2000 there’d be a hardcore monument commemorating that very intersection ‘to the people that rebel.’ What the rebellion stood for, he was hard-pressed to explain.”

“Avenue B—the Place to Be”

June 18, 2008

“3 Teens Kill 4” is a great name for a band, isn’t it? The weather was probably hot as hell on July 11, 1982—the afternoon they played at Tompkins Square Park, according to this ad from the East Village Eye.

The East Village’s public housing history

June 1, 2008

In 1934, the city bought a stretch of dilapidated tenements on Avenue A and East Third Street, then spent a year renovated them. They collectively became the first public housing in New York history.

Appropriately called the “First Houses,” they were home to 122 families in 1935. The three- and four-room pads cost a bargain $6.05 per room. This original photo is from the New York City Housing Authority.

At the opening ceremony, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated the houses. “There is sunshine in every window” exclaimed Mayor LaGuardia, commenting on the fact that 20 families were moving in from old-law apartments that had few or no windows at all.

In the 1930s the city went on to build massive, federally funded projects in Harlem, Williamsburg, and Red Hook. Today, about 350 developments house more than 400,000 people all over the five boroughs. 

Here’s a view of the houses today, from Avenue A. If you didn’t swing around the corner and see the sign marking them as public housing, you’d never know.


The East Village “Groovy Murders”

April 29, 2008

This unremarkable tenement building at 169 Avenue B hides a gruesome secret. In October 1967, rich-girl-turned-runaway Linda Fitzpatrick was found bludgeoned to death in a sleeping bag in the basement with her drug-dealing boyfriend, James “Groovy” Hutchinson. 

The murders triggered much hand-wringing by parents and authorities on why “good” kids like Linda were turning to drugs and the East Village hippie lifestyle. Read her story in the terrific Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times article by J. Anthony Lukas. (Unfortunately, you have to pay for it in the NYT archive.)