You may have heard the rumblings since last fall that "Slacktivist" leader John Penley was moving away from the neighborhood for the wilds of Erie, Pa. It is true...and today's Washington Square News has a feature on Penley, who's giving his extensive photo collection to the NYU Tamiment Library. (Scoopy reported this last month -- Runnin' Scared had the news back in October.)
To the article!
Penley made a name for himself documenting the turmoil of life on the Lower East Side and protesting big business, including NYU expansion, through the last decades of the 20th century.
“This one is my favorite,” Penley laughed, holding a Daily News front cover photograph he took after he discovered locals were growing marijuana plants in Tompkins Square Park.
“It was obvious. I mean, I know what pot plants look like,” Penley said. After Penley called the Daily News, a reporter from the paper went to the scene and brought a leaf of the plant to a professor at NYU who confirmed it was, in fact, marijuana.
Penley started taking photographs as a journalist in Nicaragua in 1983 when he covered the Contra War and continued to document life in the Village until about six years ago.
“I quit. I got completely burnt out. You know, it’s a very hard way to make a living. I was arrested multiple times,” he said. “I got tired of looking at stuff like fires and car wrecks.”
The activist will move away from the Village to live in Pennsylvania next month where he plans to deejay at his friend’s bar and ice fish in his spare time.
“To be honest with you, I’m really sick of the [Village]. The people who would generate creative things there have been forced to leave the neighborhood,” he said.
Hordes of NYU students only add to Penley’s annoyances with the comparatively bland flavor of the area has taken on in recent years.
“I think it was irresponsible to dump that many students on the Lower East Side without educating them about how to behave in our neighborhood,” he said.
Meanwhile, who will step up to become, as the Post famously described Penley last July 31, "New York City's cuddliest anarchist"? No one, of course!
Previous John Penley coverage on EV Grieve here.
[Photo for WSN by Arielle Milkman]