Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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: Craig
Occupation: Musician/Graphic Designer
Location: 9th Street
Time: 4:15 on Monday, Aug 22

I was born in Queens, but I’ve been here in this neighborhood since 1976. A lot of my friends lived here, and it was the East Village. It was a lot different than this. People didn’t east go beyond First or Second Avenue.

It was like not living in the city, because it was so desolate. It was very empty, because a lot of stuff beyond Avenue B was all abandoned. It was like a quiet neighborhood with hardly any people. I thought it was nice. The occasional gunshot; that was it.

I’ve lived in at least eight or nine different places in this neighborhood, uptown, on the west side. I’ve been all over the place, but mainly here. I mostly lived in storefronts because I liked having a backyard, but it wasn’t cheap so much. It was cheaper than other places, but it wasn’t exactly cheap. I think right about then, you could get a walkthrough for $75 a month before 1975, but then all of a sudden the prices just went up.

There were so many little clubs around here, especially the Puerto Rican social clubs, but they’re all gone now. There were so many of them, little bars... There was all sorts of little stuff around here. Sometimes they were open for a week; sometimes they were open for a couple months, but that was it.

I was a graphic designer, artist, musician — stuff like that. I started out in publishing. I was a graphic designer and then after about 10 years I went into advertising and then stayed in that for 10 to 15 years, but I didn’t really like that. So now I’m just hanging around. I had always been a musician since high school. I went to school for music. I play guitar and I used to play violin but I haven’t played that in years. I played in miscellaneous bands.

I don’t think anyone actually thought anything important was happening around here. We were just trying to survive and have fun. There was all sorts of stuff going on at the time, and I think people didn’t really have to stick to one thing to make a living. Now it’s just suburban. Once I saw all these people having kids here, I knew the neighborhood was gone. I guess that was around 1988 or 1991.

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


Anonymous said...

"Once I saw all these people having kids here, I knew the neighborhood was gone."

This x 1,000,000. Frickin' rolled ice cream on every corner but not a single Planned Parenthood.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the serenity of not having dumb sidewalk-clogging suburbanites and the bars that cater to them.

Anonymous said...

He reminds me of my uncle bob. The kind of guy you'd want to meet up at a bar, grab a beer, shoot some pool, and talk about real life. What a cool bloke.

Anonymous said...

"Once I saw all these people having kids here, I knew the neighborhood was gone. I guess that was around 1988 or 1991."

Sorry, I have to react to this comment. Another self-centered individual. The world only exists for him and people like him. They somehow are the "true" residents of the East Village--not those horrible people who come in with kids. What pretentious bilge! Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

Before people "started having kids here", did fully-grown cool kids sprout spontaneously from the short-lived clubs and bars? Did hip musicians and drug-dealer lookouts grow out of the rubble in the lots east of 1st? My family had kids here for generations, and the neighborhood wasn't gone when my grandparents or parents were born. It's gone when people give up on it and let their negative attitudes cloud the joy and community that makes this part of New York great and unlike any other neighborhood.

JM said...

I can see how that comment about kids could rile up a few people, but I know exactly what he meant. I had the same feeling back then when that happened.

There had to have been kids here all through the years, of course. But I hardly saw any until that late 80s-early 90s period. No parent would let their kid into the park, and you just didn't see strollers.

It was the way it was. The kids that were around were kind of scarce and often somewhat invisible. You could live inside a few blocks and not see any for days.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Anon 9:19

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1975, so I wouldn't know or remember what the city was like then. Why do others wish to live in the past during the good old days? I agree with one of the last commenters. The EV isn't just for people like him or his neighbors. It is for all of us. And, we must adapt to change. I think the neighborhood has improved in many ways. Is it as cool and untouched as it used to be? Fuck no. But is it a drug wrenched hoodlum where you can't go anywhere with a gun to protect yourself? Fuck no. The EV is still a cool place, where kids, families, singles, gays, everyone from different races and religions can merge. The EV belongs to us all. Let's live in the present. Good luck to this man.

Anonymous said...

I feel the statement "once I saw all these people having kids here" referred to the influx of couples who now felt it was SAFE to raise a family here, as opposed to (when I moved to this area) the view that it was OK to live in the East Village when you were childless, but that having a child meant moving to Queens, Brooklyn, or the suburbs for a "healthier" environment.

Certainly lots of families raised children here for many generations, but I think the man who was interviewed was speaking about the absolute CHANGE to the area when, post-Giuliani, people began to feel raising children here was a "safe" thing to do.

The man who was interviewed saw the change, and I did too. The people moving in & raising kids for the past 20 or so years are of a VERY different mindset (and financial level!) from the local families who raised their families here in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's.

The families I see around me have children below the age of 18, and even if their kids go to public schools, most of those families have 2nd homes upstate or on Long Island, and their children go away in the summers, but not to day camp - but rather for a month in China or Italy or wherever. And the children are all learning Mandarin or whatever 2nd language is "trendy" these days.

To give an instance (one of many I see on my own block), a family living a few doors down from me is RENTING for $6,500 a month (they've been there 4 years so far), and their young child is never seen on the street except when leaving the building or coming home. They have a house in the Hamptons, etc. The parents have an extremely entitled attitude, but that just makes them one more entitled household around here. These are NOT the people who grew up around here 40 years ago! No blue-collar anything, that's for sure. You have to be able to afford the rent or the cost of a condo, plus all the extras for the "right" sort of lifestyle.

When I saw that a street-level medical office in my neighborhood had been rented by a PEDIATRICIAN, I realized the neighborhood I'd known was gone.

Now I am surrounded by precious snowflakes of all ages, from those in SUV strollers (pushed by mom, dad or nanny - each one talking on their cell phone or checking email), to kids being shepherded to play-dates or some other indoor activity, to those fabulous super-snowflakes that got admitted to NYU & grace our area with their sparkling presence.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:02:
The incipient racism about Chinese children is unacceptable. Also unacceptable is the vast generalization about people having homes in the upstate or on Long Island. So what? Does that make the ineligible to live in "your" East Village? Oh, and only these people check their cell phones incessantly? What world are you living in? And you don't? And from whence this "snowflakes" term--spit out what you mean. I can't fathom what underlies your anger. If the neighborhood you know is gone because a pediatrician moved in, perhaps it is time for you to leave for some child-free part of the city or upstate rural community where you can remain isolated with your prejudices and myopic world view. Are you stalking this family--you seem to know an awful lot about them--their rent and their comings and goings. Jealous are you!!

Anonymous said...

What is this term snowflakes?

cmarrtyy said...

I moved here in the early 70s. The EV wasn't the American Dream. It was about people who had their own dreams. Most of them have moved on. Now we're like every place else... We are part of the American Dream.

Anonymous said...

The neighborhood sucks Big time now. Take it from someone who
grew up and barely made it through Avenue D in the 60's and 70's it SUCKED ALOT MORE THEN.

Anonymous said...

@11:27am: WTF is wrong with you? I said NOTHING about "Chinese children"! You are twisting (or failing to comprehend) what I have written; that is your problem.

Yes, as a long-time resident of my block, I DO happen to know my neighbors and how they live and that they have second homes, and where their children spend their summers, etc. Your comment about "stalking" is completely off the wall; perhaps you don't interact with people in your "world."

"Jealous"? Thanks for my laugh of the day! I wouldn't trade places with anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Please explain what you mean by snowflakes?

Anonymous said...

I am not 11:02, but "snowflake" generally refers to someone who is unique and special. Or, at least, brought up to believe they are all that.

afbp said...

7:10AM "not a single planned parenthood"

you were able to
set civilization
1,000 years :(

Anonymous said...

Sanity does not exist in these comments...

Anonymous said...

Zappa said it best.

Anonymous said...

The influx of families (and nannies!) in the neighborhood, especially over the last decade, has had an impact, in my opinion. But it's not only the families (who years earlier would not have given a second thought to living here at all), it is also the general attitude of those with money for lux housing, trendy dessert dining, etc., They act as though they are the only ones entitled to be here. To those people: There was a decades-long exodus of cool-ass people who left and/or got evicted to make way for the likes of your lux living and those of us who remain HATE IT WHEN YOU CLOG UP THE SIDEWALKS WITH YOUR GIANT STROLLERS AND THEN STOP SUDDENLY TO CHECK YOUR "SMART" PHONES. Perhaps you are unaware, but ask any old school NYer: there was once an unwritten but somehow instinctive code of universal urban conduct that enabled everyone to navigate a few inches of personal space while moving through a crowd, though admittedly, that was before Instagram and the selfie generation. I mean, I cannot ever leave my apt. without walking through a god-damned photo shoot because of some lame half-cooked street art. You people are boring and ridiculous: stop taking photos of heart murals and cheese sandwiches. Also: I like this child-hater, lol, just kidding.

Anonymous said...

Interviewee Craig and 11:02 and 12:19 commenters are on the money. Honorable mention for 12:26's never-say-die attitude.

Anonymous said...

Who lives in the EV today and how many kids they have is an irrelevant issue. What they are doing, or in this case not doing, is the central question. The golden era of punk NYC, roughly from 77 - 81, started
a cultural, social, and artistic revolution. That's long dead and gone, but I wouldn't call the EV bland - it's just different. NYC has always been about money and real estate so gentrification was inevitable. Back in the day it was a cesspool of violence, drugs, and corruption. It was also brilliant time- wild, decadent, thrilling. And cheap apartments which allowed all the creative arts and great music scene to flourish. The rents went up, the scene slowly imploded. It's what drove William Burroughs to move back to Kansas in 1981 to live in a bungalow he bought for 29k. The death of Andy Warhol a few later was the final nail in the cool as fuck downtown coffin. As Lou Reed astutely wrote in Sweet Jane, "Those were different times."

Anonymous said...

Stop with the negative comments. He's merely a man with his own opinion, who was around to witness and experience NYC before many of us were born, the many who happen to read this blog. He is old school. That's fine and cool. He offers some insights into the past. And we should try to respect his POV. I am only 31 and would like to know more people like him because he has a vernacular we could all learn from. Peace.

Anonymous said...

So much pent up frustration with you east villagers. Maybe grieve should just start an addition to his awesome site and call it SOUND OFF!!!

Scooby said...

9:49 - thank you. Much respect for your words. Well said.