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Monday, September 01, 2008

Traffick

From From Thanksgiving to Christmas

Shortly after I moved into my apartment last year, the superintendent for the building was fired. As a parting farewell, he destroyed the locks on the outside front door. It seemed he had neglected to perform any kind of maintenance as the next superintendent found serious plumbing problems, and corners of the basement were apparently piled with rat droppings.

Next up was a very personable superintendent named Al. Al grew up around the corner from where I'm living. The East Village. More specifically, Alphabet City.

From Winter / Spring

This is an area where a large part of New York comes to dine and party at night. It's lively, and it feels like a neighbourhood as opposed to faceless blocks of apartments. Al told me stories of the history of the area. A couple decades ago few people would set foot here. Broken down apartments, drug addicts, and trafficking ruled the streets.

People would drive in from Jersey, put money in the one small window of an apartment block that wasn't boarded up, take the drugs that were handed back, and drive out. A network of tunnels connected the basements of apartments along Avenue B from 2nd St. all the way to 14th St. Useful for escaping when the police mounted an occasional raid.

From Spring / Summer

2nd St. and B is where I live now. The gym I go to is situated in a basement of a building on B. There are at least 5 bars and restaurants on the one short stretch of street between 2nd and 3rd. Every Friday and Saturday there are crowds of people dressed up outside these places.

From Spring / Summer

I moved without the faintest idea of the history of this area of New York. It's strange to think how it's changed. Not all traces of the past have been erased, of course. The East Village still has a grungy feel about it. Uneven pavements, pothole-strewn streets, lots of brick and concrete. A few weeks ago I sat in Tompkins Square park, the site of rioting and police brutality when police tried to evict homeless 20 years ago. As I ate my falafel, I saw a fight break out between a group of drug addicts. Nearby on the grass people lay tanning and young families with babies picnicked. A strange mix.

I've yet to delve into the history of New York. Maybe because the size of the city makes it a daunting task. It's a shame I don't know more people like Al to make it personal. Now I don't even have Al to hear anecdotes from - he quit after a short time, and the building management has managed to get through two more superintendents since then.

2 comments:

Lilia said...

Wonderful photos and narrative as always. Thanks for the post, Nigel. It was great hanging with you in Switzerland!

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to read your colourful reporting again :) Many thanks,

M