Back in 1989, I befriended a guy named Sam I was working alongside of at SPIN Magazine, where I was toiling paylessly as an intern in the vain hopes of entering the fast-paced and oh-so-lucrative world of “music journalism.” Sam was originally from North Carolina, but was pursuing his own dreams of working at SPIN while also acting as a house-sitter for his alma mater, Appalachian State University. His school owned a massive loft down in TriBeCa. The address was 67 Vestry Street.
Despite being a native of the Upper East Side, I was pretty versed in all things “downtown” by this point, but TriBeCa still mystified me. Believe it or not, in 1989, the notion of TriBeCa being the exclusive hotbed of bespoke affluence that it is today seemed pretty laughable. Sure, there were some intrepid folks who’d taken full advantage of the neighborhood's expansive industrial spaces by converting them into cavernous homes, but the area was still largely amenity-free, whisper quiet and forbiddingly desolate in the small hours.
In any case, in short order, I was soon regularly boarding the downtown 6 train from my perch up in Yorkville on the Upper East Side to Sam's sprawling loft-space at 67 Vestry (the trip from the Upper East to Lower West took an eternity). I remember several evenings procuring beer at seemingly the only deli for miles around (one block north from Wetland's on Hudson Street), and then Sam and I would repair to the roof of his building with a boom box and a couple of sixes to hang out and drink irresponsibly while staring across the river at New Jersey (or watching the furtive cruising action along the still undeveloped promenade of the Hudson River below). Getting home after these evenings wasn't always that fun, given the sheer amount of real estate I had to traverse, but I was young, spry, reckless and stupid.
Sam ended up moving to Portland, Maine after a year or so there. Even by the time of his departure from that sleepy area of TriBeCa, though, I noticed things slowly changing. More restaurants were opening up. Apart from a random party at some neighboring loft within 67 Vestry after Sam had left, I figured I'd probably never set foot in that building again, which kinda made me sad. I'd had some good times there.
Strangely enough, however, by the second half of the 90's, another friend of mine moved into 67 Vestry. I'd initially befriended Tod [A] during his days fronting the mighty Cop Shoot Cop at the dawn of the `90s, but by the middle of the decade, he'd jumped ship from that outfit to explore more expansive musical pastures with an amorphous new outfit called Firewater. Firewater signed to an indie label called JetSet, and Tod ended up getting romantically involved -- and then married -- to the label's founder Shelley. The couple set up shop at 67 Vestry as both their home and JetSet headquarters, from whence they issued albums from bands like 16 Horsepower, Elysian Fields, The Go-Betweens, Prolapse, Mogwai, The Jesus Lizard and Luna (along with, of course, the excellent Firewater). All of a sudden, I found myself again darkening the doors of 67 Vestry. You can actually see the interior of the building's stairwell (and the surrounding neighborhood) in the criminally rarified video for "Green Light" by Firewater.
Tod and Shelley stayed at 67 Vestry for a few years. I remember speaking with Tod on September 11th. He'd gone to that same roof that morning and seen proceedings first hand from a horrifying vantage point.
In ensuing years, Tod, Shelley and JetSet ended up departing 67 Vestry. All the same, whenever I am downtown in that neck of the woods, I cannot stop myself from strolling by or pointing it out. Those are my kids up top, standing it its doorway from a couple of years back. It will always be a favorite locale of mine.
So why am I bringing all of this up now? Well, in the wake of a post I did a little while back wherein I tried to replicate certain iconic photos of various rockstar types, a reader named Paul wrote in about 67 Vestry. Here's what he had to say.
I and 67 Vestry Street Tenants came across your blog and your search for 67 Vestry Street and Laurie Anderson's photo shoot.
I live at 67 Vestry and actually knew the creators of Jet Set Records as at the time they were just above me on the fifth floor. Here is why I am writing to you. This building has enormous history attached to it. Many artists have lived here such as Andy Warhol John Chamberlain Bob Wilson and Marisol just to name a few and Wim Wenders shot and filmed part of the film American Friend on sight outside and inside. if you look at the 58th minute you will see our building 67 Vestry Street. Watch from 58 minutes to 2:00.30 Nicholas Ray and Dennis Hopper.
Well this beautiful building which was built in 1896 by Frederick Philip Dinkelberg (the A&P building) 67 Vestry Street New York -- the same architect who was involved in building the flat iron building, may no longer be and torn down by its currant landlord.
I myself am an artist and have been living and painting here since 1988.
Here is the story: We Vestry Street tenants found out recently that our Landlord is actively planning on building a new building where our building is. North TriBeCa and NY is going mad with developments of soulless buildings !!!! Our building may soon be next on the list of monstrous developments, if we do not act fast. Our building is Landmark worthy and that is why we are applying to Landmarks to get it Landmarked.
Tribeca Trust has made a petition for our building and we need as many signatures as possible.
I am hoping you maybe able to add your name to the petition to save our building from the fate of so many other buildings!!!
There are about only 4 original warehouse left on the TriBeCa waterfront (two of the four will most likely be demolished as they belonged to Pontes). For the most part, the rest are new, disastrous constructions by developers. There is a campaign to request for our building an evaluation for Landmark, as our landlord/real estate mogul has filed an application for construction of a new building, first step before demolition. Below is the petition and history of the building.
Protect the Historic A&P Warehouse at 67 Vestry St. in Tribeca Truly hope you will sign the petition as we need as many signatures we can get. Hope you are well,
Protect the Historic A&P Warehouse at 67 Vestry St. in Tribeca
Check out this article for more details on the situation.