Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Out and About in the East Village

In this ongoing 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: Candice Brewer
Occupation: Pharmacist
Location: Avenue A, between 2nd and 3rd
Time: 3:30 on Monday, Oct. 31

I sell drugs for a living. I’m a pharmacist. I’m an Army brat, so I’m from all over the place.

I moved here in 1978, I’ve lived on 7th Street and 11th Street, and then I moved down to below Houston Street in 1986. Everybody I knew lived down here. Affordability brought me here too, because it was a real dangerous neighborhood. I certainly didn’t go to the lettered avenues. That was way too scary, and there were blocks that I wouldn’t even walk during the day. They were too deserted.

If you ever looked at some of the old photographs, you’ll see that there was nothing going on. The buildings were burned out; the cars were trashed. I would walk home in the middle of the street, because people could come out from between the junked cars and places like that. I had the keys in my hand, and always checking before you opened your door so somebody wasn’t behind you. I’ve come out of my house and seen the police going, ‘Freeze!’ And I’ve seen busts where they’ve knocked down doors… and all the helicopters. Now I’m the scariest thing on Avenue C.

Like all of Ludlow Street, Orchard Street went dark at 5. It was all fabric stores and a lot of it was gravestone stores. The Mercury Lounge was a store for gravestones and you got free parking for a half an hour — you know, cause you could make that decision in half an hour. You can see along Suffolk Street, there are still some of the hoists and tackles on some of the old buildings, so they could pull the gravestones in to do the carving.

I love the music scene. You’d see a lot of interesting people, and there were a lot of artists living around here. There used to be such good clubs around here. It was really a fun time. The Ludlow Street Café, which doesn’t get a lot of press anymore, was the first bar on Ludlow Street, and that was like our living room. I think that came in around 1985, maybe even before Max Fish I believe. We would have parties there, Christmas parties, and birthday parties. It really was our community center – our country store so to speak.

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


equilibrist said...

"Now I'm the scariest thing on Avenue C"--ha!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding the Know Nothings here how dangerous the Avenues below 'A' were. I still shudder thinking about what it was like for me and my family to grow up there.

Anonymous said...

Love seeing residents who have been in the neighborhood for a while knowing it is safer and much better now. I feel as if I read some comments on these threads of people who want the neighborhood to go back to the way it was. Viva la Gentrification. Makes our neighborhoods safer and I am willing to pay slightly extra per month for quality neighborhood tenants!

Anonymous said...

@4:09pm: "Viva la gentrification" eh? I wouldn't mind it IF the new tenants were "quality neighborhood tenants" - but that is NOT the case!

What we do have are what I call "Icon Idiots" (or "I've-been-conned" Idiots) who are paying through the nose for a slapdash "renovation" and who think their ridiculous rent entitles them to behave any way they wish: blasting music, having loud parties until 2am in the backyard or on the roof, etc. They have zero concern for their building, their neighbors, their block or anything other than what they feel like doing (basically, they're baby Donald Trumps).

So you'll have to forgive me for not joining you in "welcoming" the invading hordes of low-quality tenants I see in the buildings around here. One of the newest neighbors on my block is a DRUG DEALER who doesn't even bother to keep much of a low profile. I don't see much difference between the "bad old days" and now, really.

Gojira said...

By the "Know Nothings," Anon. 12.27, I assume you mean those of us who yearn for an earlier East Village. I've lived on 11th and B for 38 years, and saw firsthand the drugs, the gang wars that the drug dealers on 11 A-B had with those on 11 B-C, the arson fires, the abandoned buildings, the empty lots. And I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. Despite all of the above, it was still a much more vibrant, interesting, edgy, challenging and individual neighborhood. Some might like living in what the EV has become, a bland, overstuffed paean to mindless consumerism, but there are plenty of us who do not.

Anonymous said...

Gojira, I mean this honestly, not flamingly: Why not move? We live in the present, not the past. It's expensive and difficult to move. But your mental health is worth the effort. Ours too, 'cause we read your bitterness all too often. Will we see you at the "Stop the Demolitions" rally tomorrow? That's the best thing any of us who mourn the old E.V. can do right now. Put your action where your mouth is -- or rather, where your repeated-ad-infinitum typed tirade is. Do something constructive for a change. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

@4:58pm: "Why not just move?" I'm not Gojira, but wow, "just move" is a simplistic answer! How about: I'm not moving because this is home, because there is no such thing as "just moving" in NYC, because after nearly 4 decades here one is enmeshed in the fabric of the neighborhood, and because one may have a job that cannot be easily reached from the outer boroughs (b/c that IS what "just move" means), or, if one is retired, one might want to experience the comforting continuity of living in a community where one has roots.

I realize the concept of having roots in a community is not "trendy", but I honestly find the current "let's tear it all down and put up expensive new rentals/condos" POV to be offensive. There IS value in people who live in a community for a long time - their presence gives stability to themselves, to their community, and to NYC.

I'd like to see NYC do something constructive for a change, namely: Value long-term residents, especially those who were here through the bad old days and who remember when the headline said "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD".

Where is it written (except in the Scrooge-like hearts of developers) that the only good tenant is a new, young tenant who'll move out in a few years? Essentially, we are being told every day that natural turn-over in our communities is not fast enough - we're not dying fast enough, it seems, so every effort will be made to push or force us out of the way.

Long-term residents give stability to the neighborhood and the city. What's left after those people are all told to "just move"? What's left, IMO, is a neighborhood that's essentially one big Air BnB, or like living in a gigantic motel. And nobody I know wants to live long-term in a motel.