Someone posted the above photo on the Facebook group NYC 1950 to Present several weeks back, and it immediately struck a chord with me (click on it to enlarge). The poster didn’t know the photo’s origin (it turns out it was taken by one Sven Kierst in 1981). This is, of course, the corner of East 7th Street at Second Avenue. In later years, this corner would become the vintage shop Love Saves the Day (immortalized in “Desperately Seeking Susan”) and later still a restaurant called Sushi Park.
The gent at the phone booth is, most likely, one Nick Marden of the Stimulators (I initially misidentified him as drummer/future Cro-Mag Harley Flanagan). I also love the flyers adorning the walls advertising upcoming gigs by then-prominent East Village bands like Von Lmo and The Senders. This photograph handily encapsulates almost everything I love about an era of Downtown Manhattan that simply does not exist anymore.
But yesterday, this photo took on a little extra resonance.
I was uptown yesterday afternoon when my iPhone started buzzing with texts from friends telling me that St. Mark’s Place was on fire. By the time I got back downtown around 6:30 pm, it was utter chaos around Astor Place and points east. Between the sirens and the thick, acrid smoke that was blowing west, there was an eerie familiarity to proceedings. Wanting to get a closer look, I strolled around Cooper Union, but couldn’t seem to get any further than Third Avenue. But looking beyond the fire trucks and swarms of fire fighters, reporters, cops and onlookers, all I could see was smoke engulfing the entire block.
I walk down East 7th Street between Third and Second Avenues pretty frequently. As regular patient at East Village Chiropractic, you can find me strolling down that way at least once a week. I’m also a big fan of Jimmy’s 43, the subterranean bar just beneath Burp Castle and, of course, McSorley’s. But beyond the dozen or so businesses that operate off of East 7th, there is also that storied Ukrainian church, community center and scores of homes. I can’t help but think of all those lives displaced. You just don’t expect a street you regularly walk down to suddenly be the scene of such catastrophe.
As far as I know, the building in the picture at the top of this post has collapsed. My sincere condolences and best wishes go out to everyone in this community.