By James Maher
Name: Jesus Picayo (and daughter Alina)James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.
Occupation: Landlord (Miami)
Location: 5th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues
Time: 1:30 pm on Saturday, Oct. 13
We moved here in 1996. I was born in Cuba, but we were living in St. Thomas and we got hit by two hurricanes, so in ‘95 I just left for good. My mother was here; my brothers were here. I moved to Second and B. The price brought me here and the neighborhood was starting to change already.
I own some property in Miami, some row houses that I rent out. But I don’t like Miami. I just came from there and they stole my tailgate off my truck. I’ve had people break in and cause $100,000 in damage to the building for $500 in copper wire and pipes.
This was an area where at one point you couldn’t live. On the corner of B and 2nd they would sell like a million dollars in drugs a day. You’d find bodies in bags in the gardens. It was rough. By the time I got here you could still see some drug addicts and there was a lot of window breaking in cars. Around, Avenues A, B, C and D, all the way up to Tompkins Square Park it was mainly Puerto Ricans who lived there. Unfortunately, people have been driven out now.
Yesterday I had to kick the local drunk out of my building because he peed all over the entrance. He won’t move unless you hose him with cold water. And he hates water; he won’t take a shower, so you gotta hose him. And he says ‘ah, I’m gonna kill you,’ and so I sprayed him and he got up, but he can’t even really walk. This guy’s been here for over 40 years, between C and D, on the street. He will go to the check cashing place on Houston and open the door for people and he’ll make $50 in a few hours. So I deal with him. He has some interesting stories when he’s not drunk.
Almost everything is gone. The old Sidewalk used to be really good. It’s still there but it’s changed. There was a record store where Dunkin' Donuts is on Delancey, by the bridge, and it was really good because all they sold was Puerto Rican music, salsa. There was a lady that worked there and I used to go a lot and talk to her and she knew every song I was looking for. She was great; that was a good place. I also remember all of the little places that sold fried food on Clinton Street; they’re all gone. There were a lot of bakeries there. I mean, a lot of them were drug fronts, but they’re all gone now.