Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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: Margery Teplitz
Occupation: Massage Therapist
Location: Avenue A, Between 4th and 5th Street
Time: 4:30 on Weds, March 12

I was born in Chicago. I was around 30 when I moved here. I was living in San Francisco and needed a change and always wanted to live in New York. I used to work in restaurants in those days but I’ve been a licensed massage therapist since 1992.

I have been on the Lower East Side since 1989. I lived on Rivington Street for a couple years when it was the wild wild east and I moved to Ludlow Street, just south of Houston in 1991. It was rough and ready — a lot of fun, dangerous, very old New York. Everything was negotiable with landlords and things like that. You didn’t need to prove that you made $80,000 a year in order to move into an apartment. Even though it had its dangers, it was much more fun.

My favorite aspect of the neighborhood was that anything goes. This was the land of the freaks. There used to be anarchists all over the neighborhood, but most of them have died off. One of my favorite moments was [going to] Wigstock. It was a Labor Day event that used to start in Tompkins Square Park. It was a family event believe it or not but it was all drag queens. I remember seeing RuPaul and Debbie Harry and everybody wearing wigs with their kids on their shoulders.

The past 10 years we’ve had around five construction sites on one block. I have giant holes and cracks all over the inside of my apartment — over every part of my building. All the artwork is out of their frames and the landlord keeps saying, ‘Oh we’re going to come and do it,’ but it never quite happens. It’s been that way for two or three years.

I’m very political and I like that about this neighborhood — that people seem to give a shit. Right now we’re battling this restaurant that they are trying to open in my building called Sweet Chick. They have not been able to get their liquor license but they’re building it up anyway. I met the owner at the Community Board 3 meeting and he seemed like a normal person, but he’s hired one of the biggest shark lawyers in the city, Helbraun Levey & O’Donoghue.

From the look of their plans, they want to put the exhaust system in the airshaft, which goes right next to my bedroom as well as a bunch of others. They also want to remain open 17 hours a day cooking fried food in a 120-year-old building that’s basically like a sieve. My neighbor upstairs makes chili a couple times a week and you can smell it for seven hours, so you can imagine fried chicken.

We’re trying to get pro-bono legal representation, which the state bar refused to help us with. They said they don’t do those type of things, but who needs help more than us? I volunteered for Bill de Blasio and this is his kind of issue and I emailed him. They said, ‘oh yes,’ and nothing, and I emailed the governor and they said, ‘oh yes,’ and nothing. We still hope we can turn it around.

I’m not against gentrification — gentrification is a fact of life, but if you look at cities like London and Paris they manage to gentrify and change while maintaining the architectural integrity of the city. We’re supposed to have a reasonable quality of life, which does not include a blaring exhaust system 17 hours a day and the smell of fried chicken.

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


Anonymous said...

amen to that last sentence and good luck to her!!

Anonymous said...

Great interview. I hear her on the comments about the restaurants. These old buildings weren't configured for restaurant kitchens and exhaust systems. I am surprised when I see what restaurants get away with.

Anonymous said...

Their arrogance will be their downfall, if they don't get their liquor license, which they shouldn't.

bowboy said...

Great shout out for Wigstock. When it was in TSP, Lady Bunny was my roommate. Good times.

And, if Bill DeB doesn't take a stand soon for preserving housing like hers that's already here, as is the case in these other cities mentioned, he's going to lose my support. Recall!

nygrump said...

Wow, there is so much energy against DiBlasio, I've never seen a population so anxious for him to "fail" - the guy wasn't in office 30 days before the "they "started in on him. He never even had the traditional 100 days honeymoon from the media. thats Corporatism!

bowboy said...

nyg - are you sure that's what "Corporatism" is? Maybe I misunderstand the word or something. But, I voted for him because he said he was going to preserve affordable housing. If the only way to do that (and it's not) is to destroy the low-rise character of historic areas, or to toss out protected tenents to build tall buildings with only 20% affordability (up to $160,000/yr), then call me a Corporatist... but I still don't think that's what it means.

nygrump said...

I wasn't clear, bowboy, my corporatist reference was to the mainstream media. We are in agreement about preserving affordable housing. I;d like to see him take al leadership position on the massive problem of noise pollution, and not only bars but any business that uses certain machines outside of daylight hours. Low frequency noise intrusion is a form of pollution just like radiation or chemical releases and just as toxic but there is no leadership to fight it.

moe said...

Every time I see the guy the last couple weeks he has got Sharpton by his side, if he is not actually up at Sharpton's headquarters. That alone shows me a lot about the guy. Nothing good.

Yes I guess I am a racist, of course.

Anonymous said...

Try Tenants and Neighbors for help.