Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village.



By James Maher
Name: Hal Hirshorn
Occupation: Artist
Location: St. Mark's Place and Avenue A
Time: 3:15 on Monday, Aug. 29

I came here after college in my early 20s. Oh you know, everybody comes to New York and there was a lot going on then. It was the tail end of the 1980s art scene. I just missed the East Village art boom. I got here in the summer of 1989 and by then most of the galleries moved to SoHo. I lived in the West Village because at that time there were apartments that were slightly cheaper than the East Village. Otherwise, I would have gone East Village. Everybody had talked about how the East Village had been priced out, but that’s nothing in comparison to today.

I’m a painter and a photographer. My studio is in Brooklyn now. I do oil painting, these strange abstractions that are a cross between landscape and abstract paintings — imaginary landscapes. There’s always been a back and forth between the two from the beginning of landscape paintings that were considered abstract paintings.

It’s been up and down, but I managed to hold things together somehow. The art world is doing well right now, so I’m OK. I have some people who work with me in terms of dealing and stuff like that. But that’s changing too and now everything in Chelsea is coming back to the Bowery and Lower East Side, but not the East Village.

Basically within a five-minute walk [today] most of the East Village that I’ve known over the course of 25, almost 30 years is gone, just gone, not like in bits and pieces, shifting here and there — just one fell swoop. Just to see everything radically redeveloped is what’s so stunning, because it used to happen in bits and pieces as the real estate went up. Now they’re doing blocks instead of buildings.

Bloomberg in his third term gave away much of the city to developers under the table. De Blasio seemed really great. I don’t know whether he’s had his hands too full or maybe he’s not as left as he said he is, but… he’s become very nebulous. But before de Blasio, you had other people like Mark Green running against Giuliani or I forget who ran against Bloomberg, but these guys didn’t stand a chance. They were just crushed.

Giuliani was real estate friendly, lets say, but he wasn’t like a real estate mogul. I think what we’re seeing right now is just a direct result of Bloomberg. He’s treated the city as though it were the Bloomberg Corporation’s property and his to sign off and sell away.

There was a rent stabilization law that was trying to cut back on rent stabilization and rent control, and they came up with a figure where anything above $2,500 was considered luxury housing. In those days, if you were able to afford an apartment that was that much money, you were pretty well off. Now that’s like kids out of college or crazy situations where you have four people living in apartments.

It’s almost reverting back to the tenement-like density and that’s just a result of the rent, unless you’re well off enough to be able to have over $25,000 a year to spend a year on rent. But the whole thing of the $2,500 figure is that is where the regulation was cut off, so now real estate, a lot of which was protected has effectively become market rate, and then the only thing that can change that is some big downturn or catastrophic event.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.

32 comments:

Donnie Moder said...

The paintings are very good, very ethereal. Anyway, this article is another example of so much of everything boiling down to real estate in the EV these days. Rent stabilization is an antiquated system that was really only meant to be temporary. It has many flaws and inequities, but is the main thing that is stopping the complete turnover of the EV to richer hands.

Anonymous said...

I just wish these out and about interviewees would stress less what the EV was like 20, 30, or more years ago when they first came to live in the EV. Is there nothing that they find exciting about the current EV? Is all of the energy that they seem nostalgic about gone? I just don't think so. I am sorry, I find these laments, boring. Notice the difference when a young(er) person is interviewed. One senses the vibrancy, the hope, yes, the awareness that life is expensive in the EV and that succeeding in NY in 2016 is not easy--but always enthusiasm shines through. I know almost instinctively when someone starts I came here 20 years ago we're in for a lecture about what the EV was really about and how the energy has been drained out by greedy landlords. Oh beau jours!!

Anonymous said...

Regarding 7:52's suggestion about more focus on current EV life etc and positive aspects...

Personally - disclosure I am a native, fourth generation New Yorker :) - I really like hearing about EV in the day.

The change in the EV, in NYC, particularly since about 2009 (is that when Bloomberg rezoned?)is stunning and appalling.

We've had various groups of friends visiting from Europe this year, all of whom had last been in NYC over 10 years ago. They enjoyed their visits particularly museums - but won't be back anytime soon.

They were dismayed by the new glossy buildings all over and the loss of neighborhoods and loss of authenticity. We took multiple walks through Manhattan and Queens including areas I had not been to in a few years. We were all stunned at the chain stores everywhere whether fast food like Chipotle or upscale bakery chains like Mayson Kayser or mall stores like Sephora etc. Unbelievable.

Donnie Moder said...

I like the series, each one, and thankful Mr. Maher does it. A work can't be all things to everyone. Perhaps someone else can focus on today's youthful up and comers. The site is called evGRIEVE.

Anonymous said...

He is a handsome and mysterious bloke...

Anonymous said...

This man has great insight. My rent for the entire year is $23,000. I live alone and am not well off by any means. I struggle to keep my head above water. It is is exhausting and unrelenting for how expensive NYC is now. I am a 40 year old man who dabbles in writing and side gigs. Yes, it is my choice to not have roommates for a small place, but at my age, I refuse to share a space with anyone other than a partner. I am a man, not a kid. Most rents for studios now go for at least 2k a month. And, most are shitholes. It's disheartening that most studios on the most basic of levels are unattainable due to cost. Yes, the east village has changed, sadly. And it appears too be getting worse. I walk the hood a lot too, and Mr. Maher is right. The entire neighborhood is a different place.

blue glass said...

anon 7:52 AM
the reason the "young" appear to be so energetic is that they are young anf energetic. it is also that they have time and money. they don't have to work three jobs and live with 5 roommates in order to survive nyc rents. so yes, it is the greedy landlords that have sucked the energy out of our meighborhood.

that sense of community is almost totally gone, replaced by the hip, cool, temporary flavor of the day, filled with loud, rude, entitled trust fund kids, bros, students and tourists. all also temporary. this is their new playground - the east village/lower east side - overpriced, pretentious and LOUD.

what we really want when we talk about old times is to have some local spots where our neighbors gather, that reflect what was "the neighborhood" when it was one.

Anonymous said...

...it is the dullness of an increasingly homogeneous culture. Chain stores and restos everywhere. And hotels.

Anonymous said...

It's bigger than Bloomberg. Similar situations are unfolding around the world. Internet, globalization, misery loves company, men can't keep their jiz in their pants.

Anonymous said...

There was never much of a gallery scene in the EV. Literary and musical…yes

Anonymous said...

NY Times article by Russell Shorto discusses similar issues facing Amsterdam - loss of community as new affluent/transient population moves in.

And per NY Times op-ed essay, Venice has been overwhelmed by tourists.

Anonymous said...

You can never know what the East Village was like unless you were here then..30 years ago and more and took part in that culture..otherwise you are talking out of the left side of your mouth and know not what you are saying..haa haa..cause I know and it was dark and gritty and a whole lot more..
Tired of hearing shit

Anonymous said...

Agree with his comments re DeBlasio. I agree I thought a lot more was going to happen with him in office.

Gojira said...

I, too, agree about DeBlahBlahBlahsio. I voted for him expecting something different, not Bloomturd Light.

And to the Anon. who is tired of coming to this site and reading the comments waxing nostalgic about the way things used to be, question for you - why do you read them? Since you obviously were not here in the "bad" old days (although the fact that so many of us who lived through them prefer them to the "new" New York ought to tell you something), you would not understand that there is NOTHING to get excited about in the East Village any more. What, should we gasp in awe at yet more 19th century buildings coming down so they can be replaced by hideous "luxury" condos, transient hotels or dorms? Should we applaud the regular rooftop ragers that disturb our sleep, or the BoozeCons that clog our sidewalks? Should we cheer when yet another small local business goes under, to be replaced by a cookie cutter establishment offering precisely the same stuff 8 others in a 3-block radius do? Caper about in a happy jig when we see another bar shoehorned into an already overburdened-with-liquor-licenses area? How would you LIKE us to respond to the destruction of the old, the familiar, the welcome, or to the knowledge that the powers that be in the city so many of us love fiercely have decided that we no longer matter, our wishes can be ignored, our past deleted? At no point in peacetime history prior has there been such rapid wholescale change - it came in increments, but now our developer overlords can't wait to plow under hundreds of years of the past in their fevered quest for more, more, more - property, money, prestige - it's their very own scorched earth policy. Nothing to get excited about there, is there? Or am I missing something? But since my - and others' - love for what once was disturbs you, I ask again - why do you bother?

blue glass said...

anon 1:17 PM ...it was dark and gritty and a whole lot more...

i was here 30 years ago.

it was the "whole lot more" that made this a neighborhood.
did you not see any of that while you were here?

Anonymous said...

What a cool fucking dude. He doesn't bullshit and is to the point. Best to him!

Anonymous said...

Calm the fuck down everyone. It was dirty Gritty and really..a whole lot LESS. This was a fucken dirty and decrepit neighborhood. It is bland and boring now however danger still lurks when one least expects it to..This is still New York FUCKING City after all.

Anonymous said...

"I think what we’re seeing right now is just a direct result of Bloomberg. He’s treated the city as though it were the Bloomberg Corporation’s property and his to sign off and sell away."

Mr. Hirshorn is 1,000% correct.

Anonymous said...


Gojira, I am Anon 7.52, Don't Assume. I moved to the EV when I was 20 years old (in 1964). I lived in the same building until 1989 and then I bought an apartment and have lived in it until now--and plan on doing so until. . . So don't assume that I don't know what the EV was like. My point was that I find the repeated rehashing of how the EV has changed and it isn't like it used to be--boring. If you are still living here? Why? What keeps you here? I'm here because of friends going back 40 or more years made at Phoebe's before the covered terrace was added, friends made at LaMama, at Theater Genesis, at various clubs, and art galleries (International With Monument, Nature More), etc. That was my life and my experience. And the young people living here now will have their experiences. Sure things have changed--and it is important that people have memories of what their youth was like. But my memories shouldn't denigrate the experiences of young people now living in the neighborhood. Yes it is sad that they will never have a memory of looking for an apartment at Turk's. As much as the EV has changed. I live here because I continue to be stimulated by the new people I meet. My own work (yes, published writer writer and retired civil servant) is shaped by my past and by my contemporary experiences. I love this neighborhood. So don't tell me who I am.

Anonymous said...

5:39 PM gets the I Don't Know What I Am Talking About (But I'll Say It Anyway) Award. I agree the EV was dirty. And still is dirty. And will always be dirty. But decrepit?

Anonymous said...

@8:21pm: What you are missing is that the young people around here now are mostly just "passing through" this area for a year or two after college. That is not the same as those of us who've lived here for decades, put down roots, etc. THAT difference makes ALL the difference!

Anonymous said...

The east village has lost its soul......artistic vibe....I came in early 90s. Missed the 80s. But I love to hear about the old times. I mourn for the lost soul....I arrived late but it was still here. I hate hate hate the ugly glass buildings that replace churches and tenements. Worst of all...the rude rich kids. They aren't making memories here ...it's a loud party for them then they move on. Why do I stay ? Cause I know people here and it's been my home for a long time. I do love our gardens. I love to hear the old stories ....keep them coming .

Anonymous said...

The EV was gradually turning into East Hampton, prior to the glass buildings.

The glass buildings are more representative of Twitter and yelp, than any political machine.

Anonymous said...

footnote

I don't mind glass buildings if they're well sited, made. Sadly, they usually aren't.

Thank you for the mention of International with Monument. As a young kid, the furthest east galleries I can remember were upstairs, along lower Broadway.

Anonymous said...

the whole lot more is what I liked best Blue Glass and I know what I am talking about!!

Anonymous said...

I love the East Village. I loved it then and I love it now.

Anonymous said...

In the EV for 23 years now. The landscape has turned into a testament to narcissism and arrogance. Ain't worth the quality of life hassles anymore.

I'm moving to LA.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last commenter. The landscape of this city has turned into a cluster of narcissism and arrogance. It is more crowded, ridiculously expensive, and unfamiliar. As someone who moved here from LA 16 years, I don't think it is any better there either. LA is one of the most shallow places on the planet. I don't know if there are any big cities out there that are cool with edge. Maybe Berlin?

And, yes. Manhattan is like the Hamptons with glass towers, rich kids, and bros.

Anonymous said...

He reminds me of my uncle. Mysterious. Honest.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:01 gets the "I must be really something But I am not" award...I grew up down on Avenue D when it was Dirty Dangerous and certainly not Desirable. Don't tell me what I see and What I saw. I saw lots of Death and Dying down there. You see and saw none of it...Take a hike back to the Burbs and dont bother writing when you get there.

Anonymous said...

12:26 am: are you really moving or are you going to airbnb your apartment?

Anonymous said...

10:18 am. Good point. The EV varied more from ave to ave in years past so we should be careful of generalizing. Avenue D was a world away from First Avenue so we no doubt had different experiences. Not so decrepit to me except for my apartment. For me the balance has $hifted and I feel like I am at the top of the seesaw and I am not coming down. My apologies you have a right to your opinion.