By James Maher
Name: Anthony Pepe
Occupation: Nurse, Waiter, Retired
Location: 2nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues
Time: 2:30 on Thursday, Aug. 30
"I’ve lived in this building since 1971. I’m retired. Half the time here I was a waiter and then I went to school and I became a nurse at a hospital in Brooklyn. I came here at the time because it was cheap… then.
This block, up until the middle of Koch’s administration, was a very bad block — mostly drug addicts and welfare recipients. It was not a safe block. I didn’t really feel like I had to watch out myself because I was young and young people don’t care, but it was bad for women sometimes.
At one time the cemetery across the street was a forest. It was so unkempt. You couldn’t see inside. People used to throw garbage in there. Why, I don’t know, and it used to have a lot of cats. No more. Also, a man once was burglarizing the top floor of this building and he fell off and another time a drug addict was injecting himself up on the roof and badaboom. Both dead.
It started to get better in the early '80s, although whether it’s better at worse I don’t know. It was an improvement, but it has become too expensive. We still have reasonable rents but the stores are just so expensive now. Key Food was once so cheap. Cheap. Now you can’t go in there; they think they’re Whole Foods.
I miss the old timers; I hardly know anyone in my building. All the landlords are turning their apartments into little hotels, which is illegal, or they only rent to NYU students. They get a big turnover that way. There are a lot of tourists that stay here. The landlords make money and I guess it’s cheaper for the tourists."
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.