By James Maher
Name: Terry and Harmony
Location: Second Street and First Avenue
Date: Thursday, March 30 at 3:30
I’m from Philadelphia. I came here in 1980. I had just finished graduate school in fine arts in Oklahoma, and after that I was very ready to experience the city. I’ve lived in my apartment for 32 years.
I was looking for a place for myself – when I moved in my rent was $276. My block was pretty much just all empty, burned-out buildings and junkies. It was very quiet. I had friends who refused to visit me and this and that, but I don’t think I ever felt really in danger. The junkies had their business, and I had mine, and they left me alone.
When I first moved in there, the super was this old Irish woman – she was really a remnant of the old Irish immigration that came through here, and then I had a Puerto Rican super. He was found tied up and murdered in his apartment one day.
There were a lot of fires on my block that were either set or just convenient. Operation Pressure Point took place for months — there were cops on every corner and they were just mass arresting everybody. They knew who you were, if you lived in the neighborhood, and they kept an eye. They were just arresting people – like the plumber came and he had to show his ID, so that pretty much emptied out a lot of the junkies.
I’m a fine artist, a painter. I’m working in oil pastels - small because I work in my apartment and so the size limitations are there. I had a few shows in places like Gargogyle Mechanique and Gallery Amazonica ... but I never really got into the whole art scene, which flourished in the 1980s.
At one point there were quite a few galleries around here. I remember going to openings and seeing people like Keith Haring. There were performances and this and that almost every night. It was a lot of fun. There were after-hour clubs in abandoned buildings. There were art centers. There were all kinds of places that no longer exist.
I think the last remnants of the neighborhood that really have that community feel are the community gardens. There is now much more of a young, drunken, kind of boozy brunch crowd. There’s only about three or four of us who have lived in my building for more than 30 years. Now the turnover is so fast with a lot of college kids and young working kids. Unfortunately, our new landlady is not giving out new leases, so it’s a little concerning because we pay our rent.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.