By James Maher
Occupation: Musician/Graphic Designer
Location: 9th Street
Time: 4:15 on Monday, Aug 22
I was born in Queens, but I’ve been here in this neighborhood since 1976. A lot of my friends lived here, and it was the East Village. It was a lot different than this. People didn’t east go beyond First or Second Avenue.
It was like not living in the city, because it was so desolate. It was very empty, because a lot of stuff beyond Avenue B was all abandoned. It was like a quiet neighborhood with hardly any people. I thought it was nice. The occasional gunshot; that was it.
I’ve lived in at least eight or nine different places in this neighborhood, uptown, on the west side. I’ve been all over the place, but mainly here. I mostly lived in storefronts because I liked having a backyard, but it wasn’t cheap so much. It was cheaper than other places, but it wasn’t exactly cheap. I think right about then, you could get a walkthrough for $75 a month before 1975, but then all of a sudden the prices just went up.
There were so many little clubs around here, especially the Puerto Rican social clubs, but they’re all gone now. There were so many of them, little bars... There was all sorts of little stuff around here. Sometimes they were open for a week; sometimes they were open for a couple months, but that was it.
I was a graphic designer, artist, musician — stuff like that. I started out in publishing. I was a graphic designer and then after about 10 years I went into advertising and then stayed in that for 10 to 15 years, but I didn’t really like that. So now I’m just hanging around. I had always been a musician since high school. I went to school for music. I play guitar and I used to play violin but I haven’t played that in years. I played in miscellaneous bands.
I don’t think anyone actually thought anything important was happening around here. We were just trying to survive and have fun. There was all sorts of stuff going on at the time, and I think people didn’t really have to stick to one thing to make a living. Now it’s just suburban. Once I saw all these people having kids here, I knew the neighborhood was gone. I guess that was around 1988 or 1991.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.