Wednesday, September 11, 2013

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: Sven Furberg
Occupation: Video Engineer
Location: 1st Street between 1st and A
Time: 4:20 on Sunday, Sept 8.

I came here from Sweden, from Stockholm in 1979 to listen to music and I ended up staying. I came here in 1979 the first time and moved here in 1980. I was 23.

My good friend had gotten an apartment on Ridge Street and it was $135 a month for a five-room apartment. From one window you could see the Chrysler Building. It was funky — very primitive. Those days are gone. So I arrived in a cab and there was so much going on on that block. We got below Houston and I asked him to take another circle around the block to see what was happening before I got off with my suitcases.

I had my first slice of pizza at Rosario’s Pizzeria on Houston Street. I remember they asked me if I wanted it to go or to eat there and I didn’t know what to say. They all laughed. I still eat there. It’s moved to Stanton.

My first thing for money, I found a couple of TVs on the street, fixed them up and sold them. I’ve always been a technical person. I was a bench tech for a while, doing video, doing shows, lights. There’s a similarity between electronics and music in some ways for me. I had that interest in electronics and so I applied it to my career. Now I’m a video engineer.

I play the Mandolin. I like to play music in the parks. I like this little community park on 5th Street. I came here to play music. I’ve played music all my life. There was a lot of interesting music going on when I came. And there still is, but it’s not quite the same. Talking Heads was one of my favorite bands to see. I saw everything. I loved to go see Latin music. There used to be a lot of music in the streets, just people playing. The first night I came to New York I went to CBGB to see DNA. DNA was an experimental avant-garde group at the time. The guitarist Arto Lindsday was in it.

So many people went away in the AIDS crisis. I had a lot of friends who died. That was the 80s. The whole club scene was much wilder and much different before all that. In 1979 when I got here it was crazy, it was so much wilder. Then in the 80s there was a big party scene. I remember clubs like 8BC on 8th between B and C.

I had a nice moment when that hotel went up on Rivington. Before they finished the penthouse it was a raw space and me and my friends, we just asked, ‘Can we go up?’ and they said, ‘Sure, no problem.’ So we went up and hung out there and had a party up there. And then we asked, ‘Well can we come back again?’ ‘Oh, sure.’ So we came back the next night with wine and cheese and everything and had a big party up there with a 360-degree view of the Lower East Side that you never saw before.

It’s been a rich life here. I don’t regret coming here. It’s a beautiful neighborhood but I kind of miss the way it was. There was a sense of a real edge. Back then you had to be much more street smart. It was tricky, funky, you had to be careful. There was a sense of reality. Now it’s not the same kind of reality. It feels unreal."

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


Anonymous said...

Aaaah this was a great read. Sven's story makes me feel like I was born in the wrong generation. Would have been cool to be surrounded by people with a real sense of edge to them. I moved to East Village in the 2000's and it SUCKS to be surrounded by NYU kids.

Dying On Bar Time said...

Loved this!

Marty Wombacher said...

Great addition to the series. $135 for a five room apartment! Those days are long gone!

emily said...

Great story on an amazing musician and a long time NY'er. Maybe you'll get lucky and be serenaded by Sven.

Penny said...

Not the garden on 6th Street? Where is this little community park on East 5th Street... I have to wander more in the neighborhood!!

Uncle Waltie said...

@ Penny: The only thing I can think of is that little sliver of a park with a few benches across the street from the 9th Precinct, between 1st and 2nd.

Simon1961 said...

Sven's story resonated with me (came here from England in 1983 at the age of 21, and now work/built a life for myself in film&tv.) I will say hello to him, as I live nearby. Thanks to James Maher again for this series; so good to be reminded of the more interesting/substantial people that live here with us, who aren't the "woo-ing" doucheoisie. I think he's referring to El Jardin del Paraiso

Displaced Native said...

Unfortunately, all these wealthy newcomers who complain that they wish they could have seen the wild, fun new york are the main reason its over. They sanitize everything to make the scared, sheltered, suburbanites feel safe. If you don't have roots here, the best thing you can do if you want to help protect whats left, is to leave. Plus, there is nothing left here to like. I grew up in the "kids" era in downtown manhattan, and trust me, its over for good. American "cool" just doesnt grow in rich parts of town. For example, Michigan Kids: Stop ruining our city, when your own state desperately needs you. Go find the next cool thing in detroit and stop being such biters.