Friday, June 6, 2008

The Lower East Side: There goes the neighborhood

That's the headline for the May 28, 1984, New York magazine cover story that I recently came across. The piece begins in the early 1980s with the rotting hulk of the Christodora and the young man eager to own it, Harry Skydell.

Skydell's enthusiasm was indeed mysterious. The sixteen-story building he wanted to buy, on Avenue B facing Tompkins Square Park, was surrounded by burned-out buildings that crawled with pushers and junkies. It was boarded up, ripped out, and flooded...Early in the seventies, the city had put up the Christodora up for auction and nobody bid.

The building was eventually sold in 1975 for $62,500. (Last I saw, two-bedroom units there -- roughly 1,100 square feet -- average $1.6 million or so. Of course, they're rarely available.)

The article talks about the influx of chain stores, art galleries and chic cafes. "And real-estate values are exploding" as a result. Said one longtime resident on the changes: "I've lived in my rent-controlled apartment for years and pay $115 a month. I live on the Lower East Side. The young kids who just moved in upstairs and pay $700 a month for the same space -- they live in the East Village."

There are so many interesting passages in the article by Craig Unger that I'd end up excerpting the whole thing. So it's below. You can click on each image to read it. Meanwhile, what do you think would be the headline for this story today?


Anonymous said...

Great find. I love the photo of the tennis dudes strolling by Life Cafe.

Anonymous said...

So, how is this different from these new generation of gentrifiers? Just because they're not "artists" , they can't move-in to the EV?

Anonymous said...

Artists don't move into the LES(EV) anymore. They're all in Brooklyn and Queens. And they took all of the energy that made the LES(EV) great with them. The East Village is just a pretentious moniker.

Cap'n Transit said...

The article says that Slydell bought it for $1.3 million, and sold it a year later, unrenovated and unoccupied, to another developer for $3 million. Apparently Vincent d'Onofrio sold a combined three-bedroom condo on the fifth floor of the Christodora for $2,600,000 last January.

jw said...

thanks so much for posting this, its amazing how current it feels. $150,000 for the penthouse? unimaginable now! And those pictures are great. Pat Hearn looked so young! its amazing to think about how many people from that generation are just physically gone now.

Anonymous said...

"Kill The Poor"

Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the Neutron bomb
It's nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
But no less value to property
No sense in war but perfect sense at home:

The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight

Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor:Tonight

Behold the sparkle of champagne
The crime rate's gone
Feel free again
O' life's a dream with you, Miss Lily White
Jane Fonda on the screen today
Convinced the liberals it's okay
So let's get dressed and dance away the night

While they:
Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor:Tonight

Jill said...

Wow thanks for posting this. My husband worked for Sam Glasser during this time for about 2 years, which is how we got our apartment. According to him, Sam seemed to have a genuine interest in the arts and bought 2 paintings from him (then lost them!) and hired artists to do odd jobs and construction. We ran into Sam a few years ago at the Philharmonic with his new pianist wife - he was living in St. Louis gentrifying their loft district. Times change, people don't.

Sir Cumstance said...

The picture with the the shop ENZ on St. Marks Place is now truly historical since it recently became another shop to sell "quick junk for tourists". ENZ (still owned by Marianne) is now on
2nd Ave next to Love Saves The Day.
I was the one who dressed the window that day and Perry can be seen in the photo doing the manequins hair :)


Anonymous said...

this is too funny... i guess everyone in williamsburg & bushwick can stop feeling original. you can eat at the other life cafe anytime in good old bushwick brooklyn. mmmmm...

emily xyz said...

Wow. I actually remember when this article came out. I was living in a "3 bedroom" apt on Ludlow St (about 600 sq ft) w/ bathtub in kitchen at $425/mo -- a fantastic place. We painted the walls black & gold and put up beautiful collages and laid down a few layers of carpet (found on the street) and rehearsed our band all day. Barely employed, you could live on rice n beans n drugs. My boyfriend worked at Life Cafe, so there was always food and beer. 8BC was like a second home to us. There was always something incredible going on there. I remember reading this article at the time and thinking, Who are these ASSHOLES and why can't we just GET RID OF THEM!

Having said that -- the LES in the 70s and 80s was a rough, noisy, dirty, scary place to live. For every fun, fucked-up club night, there was a mugging at gunpoint or rape at knifepoint. It was the best place on earth if you were an artist, performer, writer, musician in your 20s. I'm glad I lived there when I did, but I would never wanna do it again.

samson said...

Yes, I paid $3M for the Christodora House and I borrowed $2M of that at 24% interest. What a great building! What fun it was to renovate. The Black Panthers had been the last occupants. It was TRASHED. While my flooring subcontractors were installing the last of the oak flooring in the building, someone stole the engine and back seat out of their car which they had parked across the street from the building. The neighborhood was off the charts. I loved it. Sam Glasser