Longtime East Village homesteader Michael Shenker has passed away..... Friends placed a tribute in front of the former squat at 209 Seventh St., which he helped restore starting in 1987.
Here's a passage on the former squats by Lincoln Anderson in The Villager from 2009...
Michael Shenker came to live in the East Village in 1970, a 15-year-old, half-Jewish kid from Long Island. His model mother had been the Ipana toothpaste lady in TV commercials, which sometimes featured cameos by him and his brother. But things at home weren’t going well, and Shenker decided he had to get out.
The bohemian East Village, with its rocking music scene at the Fillmore East, naturally drew Shenker, an aspiring musician. At first, he was homeless, hanging out and crashing at night with members of a tough Puerto Rican gang. Working odd jobs — one saw him cleaning McSorley’s urinals — he eventually managed to get his own place. But the storefront he was living in had a fire, and then his rent quadrupled in the early 1980s, and he found himself again facing homelessness.
One day, he recalled, as he was sitting in Life Café, “This weird girl Natasha I used to play chess with looked over at me and said, ‘Mike, have you ever heard of squatting?’”
[Top photo by Fly; bottom photo by Caroline Debevec — both via The Villager]
He was also featured in New York from 1996. You can read that piece here.
I asked a few of his friends for comments:
I've known Michael since I was around 19 years old ... One thing about Michael is that before Ray's was going to be visited by the Board of Health for a few violations...Michael was there and helped with tiling the floor and cleaning. He also helped many of the squats with getting their electricity done. I'm sad that he's gone.
Barbara Robin Lee:
I'm going to remember him joyfully playing the piano with gusto and lots of talent. I loved his love for music and art. He was an amazing electrician. He was a strident political activist. He was a lover, a saucy flirt in the first degree. He knew no fear. That's about all I can say right now. Above all else, he was a good sober FRIEND!