Several residents have passed along the sad news that longtime East Village resident, Roland Legiardi-Laura, died on Wednesday of cancer. He was in his early 60s.
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe on East Third Street, where he served as a director, posted this on Facebook:
With sadness and fond memories, we raise our glasses to poet, filmmaker and longtime Cafe board member Roland Legiardi-Laura, who passed today. A champion of East Village arts groups, Roland directed the Fifth Night Screenplay Series, founded Power Poetry and co-directed the film "To Be Heard." He was a friend and mentor to many, and he will be greatly missed.
In July 2000, The New York Times profiled Legiardi-Laura (focusing on how he bought a derelict loft space for $10,000 in 1978 inside the former Tompkins Square Boys' Lodging House on Avenue B at Eighth Street):
A poet and filmmaker, Mr. Legiardi-Laura, 47, is perhaps best known as a director of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the East Village institution he helped to revive after years of dormancy. His colorful curriculum vitae also includes "Azul," a documentary he directed about the Nicaraguan passion for poetry, and founding Words to Go, a traveling troupe of poets who brought verse to museum steps and street corners.
Now, he is beginning work on a three-part documentary about the history and purpose of American public schooling. "Roland is that rarest of modern social phenomena," said John Gatto, the 1991 New York State Teacher of the Year, who was the project's inspiration. "He is a significant player in cultural and community affairs who's not beholden to institutions or corporations -- a citizen, in the Jeffersonian sense of the word."
Mr. Legiardi-Laura is also the consummate autodidact, the sort who knows the ages of trees in Tompkins Square Park because he dug up the original survey maps.
And he is passionate about the East Village. Asked what he likes about it, he replied, "I'll give you a history of the neighborhood, briefly." Then he continued, straight-faced, "Twelve thousand years ago..."