By James Maher
Occupation: Retired, Teacher
Location: Village View, First Avenue
Time: 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 21
This is part 2 of the interview with Joe. Find part 1 here.
When I went to high school, I didn’t pay any tuition because I used to help out in the church, in St. Patrick’s — the original cathedral on Mott Street. I would suggest anybody, even if you’re not Catholic, to go over there because there’s a lot of history, and not only in the church but underneath. They’ve got catacombs and people buried down there.
I went to cathedral school, which was where you went to become a priest. Then when I graduated, I didn’t want to go to cathedral college because that was where you went before you went to the seminary. So I gave it up and I went to NYU.
We moved to Village View in 1964, when the co-op first went up. This area here on First Avenue, before they built these co-ops, they were all low buildings like the ones across the street. Mostly all the stores were carpet stores. They used to sell carpets, rugs, and across the street they had two Army-Navy stores. When World War II was over, they bought all that surplus stuff and sold it in the stores.
These buildings were supposed to be city projects. Lindsay became mayor and there was no more money. Just the concrete frame of the building was up and not the walls, and it stood like that for almost two years. Finally they made some kind of deal. NYU took over half of the mortgage of this place. They still own it. They don’t want to give it up. Then they made it co-ops. They took away a lot of the living room space and put terraces in.
These buildings became co-op, and a lot of good people from the city moved in here. They gave the people who lived in the neighborhood first choice, but a lot of people didn’t have the money to buy the apartments. Many people who came into the building at first were originals. That’s why you had a lot of Polish, Ukrainian and Italians in the building. It’s like a melting pot in here.
I worked at NYU. I was an anatomy teacher, and after that I retired. Most of the school was very small here at one time. They only had a little part of Washington Square. Most of their buildings were up in the Bronx in University Heights. When the real estate transition came about, NYU sold most of those buildings up in the Bronx and with all the money that they got, they bought all those factory buildings down here when the factories moved out. On Broadway they had all these hat companies. That was big in those days. So NYU bought those buildings, they renovated them, and they made classrooms.
NYU happens to be a very, very wealthy institution. In fact, it’s the second biggest private school in the United States. Between the night, the weekend, the part time, NYU has over 50,000 students. They own quite a number of businesses. They’re landowners and besides that they own businesses that people will to them. They owned Mueller Pasta. Langone gave them $200 million dollars just to put his name on the medical center.
I made my money and got out. It was good in a way and it stunk in another way. It was close for me, but it was very cliquish. It was not what you know, it was who you know.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.