By James Maher
Name: Maria, who is a little camera shy, and Brisco
Occupation: Retired, Property manager
Location: 3rd Street and 1st Avenue
Time: 3:30 p.m. on May 2
I moved here in 2001. Originally I’m from the Murray Hill area. It’s called Kips Bay now. That area has also changed. It was not as infested with drugs as it is down here. It was predominantly an Irish-Italian neighborhood. Not many Hispanics like myself, but it was a community, with social clubs.
It was a great neighborhood – doors were left open, and people watched over one another. It was very friendly and there were a lot of families. The Madison Square Boys Club was up there on 29th Street between First and Second avenues. It’s now a charter school. There was also a Girl’s Club on the 30th Street side – both of them are gone. It’s too bad. That was a great thing to have. I was a member of the Girl’s Club and we used to go back and forth just to use the pool. They also used to have dances in there.
It was also a tenement-building area, and now they have these high rises going up. It’s really taking over. I think it was around the 2000s, maybe a little earlier than that. The buildings started to change, and now mores o than ever. It’s incredible. I was one of the original tenants there of a Mitchell-Lama building and it was pretty affordable. Then they went to market rent. It’s now called Kips Bay [Court]. Back in the day when I was there, I was paying $800 and change. When I started there, I was there for almost 25-30 years, and the rent was $300-something for a one bedroom with a terrace.
There’s a different kind of feel in Kips Bay compared to down here. I feel like you need to stretch up with the shoulders as you go uptown. Down here it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s so much fun. When I moved here my shoulders went down – more relaxed. It’s more diversified – you find blacks, Hispanics, whites, and you find some yuppies down here too, but it’s cool. Everybody’s in the mix down here. It feels like everybody’s pretty cool around one another.
I just retired – it’ll be one year. I was a property manager for a real-estate company on the Upper West Side. There were two buildings that I managed. They were hotels at one time. Ethically a lot of the stuff that was going on in these high-rise buildings… rent stabilized people were being pushed out. That sucked. Ethically, there was a lot of stuff that I really didn’t approve of… but I worked for a big company. It was also male oriented.
I was there for a good 15 years, but it was tough. I started out as a security guard. I had hit my bottom and couldn’t get work. I lost my job in the financial industry – I was an over-the-counter trader. It was a big change.
Oh man, I started down there in the 1980s. There were no computers really. I started out there, went through the rock 'n' roll stuff and alcohol. To get back to work. I left for California, but I didn’t make it there because I was still running from whatever. So I started as a security guard and then I wound up assisting the managing office, then I wound up being the assistant manager, and then I wound up being a manager, and then the story goes on. But it was cool. I felt like… you put the footwork in and then you turn your life around. I thought I was tough, but I’m really a mush.
I do photography on the side now. I just got back from South Africa. I did some safari work there and took like 1,700 pictures and my buddy took 2,000. I was there for six weeks and then I went into the mountains for a month to a silent retreat, meditating. It was hard coming back. Integrating wasn’t easy, but it’s good for the soul.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.