By James Maher
Occupation: Retired, Social Worker
Location: 10th Street and 1st Avenue
Time: 1:15pm on Monday, December 3
I’ve lived in Manhattan my whole life. I was born on 26th Street and I lived in Stuyvesant Town for most of the time, and I’ve been living in this neighborhood for 5 years. But I had relatives living on 7th Street since I was born, so I’ve always been around here. I would visit my grandmother and my aunt. That’s why I feel very connected to this area.
I’m retired now. I was a social worker for the Veterans hospital on 23rd Street. I worked there for 30 years and then I just felt like I had enough. It was a hard job but I was glad that I did it.
In the last several years, I worked in a program for women veterans. I totally changed what I did. That became a whole different thing because their needs weren’t being met by the hospital because the hospital was used to serving men. That was very different and a lot of the women had a lot of problems.
Unfortunately, the VA is closed right now because of the storm. They had very bad electrical damage and they don’t know when it’s going to open up. The veterans who depend on it have to go to the Brooklyn VA or other places.
During the 1970s and 1980s, it was a horror show around here. Unfortunately, a lot of the bad stuff is the stuff that stands out. Like, I still get creeped out whenever I go over to Tompkins Square Park. Even though it’s OK there now basically, I can’t psychologically, I just cringe when I walk near that Park, because it was so horrible. I remember these tents and burning garbage cans and all of these really awful, dangerous homeless people. Avenue A was my cutoff point; I wouldn’t walk further east. Avenue B, C, D — forget about it.
I had a boyfriend in college — both his front teeth were knocked out in Tompkins Square Park. I think it was just a night mugging and it didn’t even seem that shocking to me.
And then I had this other boyfriend who lived on the block where the Hells Angels lived, and he went into a supermarket. I’m not sure if it was a Key Food or an A&P, but he was attacked in the supermarket and he had to pick up a broom to defend himself in there. I think he went in there to steal tuna fish.
My favorite place right now is this little dive — it’s just a counter and there no tables. It’s called Stage [Restaurant] and it’s next to that "Stomp" show. I love that place. I get their beef goulash; and their potato pancakes; and pierogies; and blintzes; and soups; and meatloaf; just about everything that I’ve had there is really good. You can go and spend 12 bucks for a full meal and the guys are so nice.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.