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exhibition

THE LOWER EAST SIDE PHOTOGRAPHS

GALLERY KINZ, TILLOU + FEIGEN | 529 West 20th Street | New York | Sept 10 - Oct 27, 2007
TAGGED: NEW YORK TIMES + VILLAGER + DOWNTOWN EXPRESS + TRIGGER + IRAK
Photo by Clayton Patterson: Lower East Side, view #1Photo by Clayton Patterson: Lower East Side, view #2Photo by Clayton Patterson: Lower East Side, view #3Photo by Clayton Patterson: Lower East Side, view #5Photo by Clayton Patterson: Lower East Side, view #6Photo by Clayton Patterson: Lower East Side, view #7
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

INTRODUCTION: Patterson has been a ubiquitous presence of the Lower East Side of Manhattan since the early 1980's, and is widely known for his dedicated documentation of this historic and now fast changing neighborhood (i.e. vanishing neighborhood, courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg and City Planning co-conspirator Amanda Burden's campaign of development solely for the sake of developers). He has been a conscientious chronicler of this urban magnet for the disenfranchised that has long been recognized for its creative influence far beyond its humble street corners.
Born in 1948, Patterson and his companion, Else Rensaa, moved from Calgary Canada to New York City in 1979. Since 1983 they have lived in the building they purchased on Essex Street, which by 1986 also served as the as the home of the Clayton Gallery and Outlaw Museum, showing artists outside the mainstream. Although trained as artists, they consciously sidestepped the confines of the art world. For many years they were in the spotlight of the vogue for their custom embroidered baseball caps that were sought after by celebrities and the cognoscenti. An ardent community advocate, Patterson also co-founded the New York Tattoo Society and helped win the fight to legalize tattooing in the City.
Patterson has created an extensive and always expanding photo and video archive of the Lower East Side. He has continually taken portraits of people posed in front of the graffiti-scrawled door to his safe haven storefront, to then be displayed in the window that the local kids dubbed the "Wall of Fame". He was there in 1988 during the Tompkins Square police riots (and has been arrested more than a dozen times for photographing the police), and he was at the closing concert of CBGB's in 2007. The New York Times describes Patterson's endeavor as such:

He has amassed a huge day-by-day visual history of the area, told mainly through unpretentious portraits of its myriad and diverse faces: tenement kids and homeless people, poets and politicians, drug dealers and drag queens, rabbis and santeros, beat cops, graffiti taggers, hookers, junkies, punks, anarchists, mystics and crackpots.

This is a collection of photographs unequaled in its power to portray the people and times of a unique neighborhood that has become synonymous with American underworlds and subcultures. Patterson is a street photographer in the tradition of Weegee and Gary Winogrand, but his project is so life-encompassing that it is perhaps more akin to some outsider or conceptualist obsessively documenting one's environs. Patterson's photographs show an unedited humanity upfront and close-up. Each picture represents a door to a fascinating story, one that he can annotate with a sharp recollection and sensitive perspective.
He has also published two well-received anthologies: "Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower East Side," 2005, and "Resistance: A Radical Political and Social History of the Lower East Side," 2007. Two more anthologies are in the works: "Jewish History of the Lower East Side," and "Tattoo and Body Art in New York City". A documentary on Patterson and the Lower East Side titled "Captured" by Dan Levin, Ben Solomon and Jenner Furst is seen much through Patterson's lens and will soon be premiered with screenings worldwide. Excerpts of the film will be on view during the exhibition.

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REVIEWS:

Clayton Patterson brings his Outlaw Museum to Chelsea

BY JEFFREY CYPHERS WRIGHT

in: The Villager | Volume 77, Number 14 | September 5 - 11, 2007
Source: http://www.thevillager.com/villager_227/claytonpattersonbring.html

Clayton Patterson photographWith one eye on the hood, and one eye on history, Clayton Patterson says he has taken over a half million photos of Lower East Side denizens in the last three decades. In this place where worlds within worlds exist, Patterson has sought out those who stand out, especially “the forgotten ones,” he says — though not for long: From Sept. 10 through Oct. 27, their portraits will be on view at Kinz, Tillou + Feigen.
The show is Patterson’s first in Chelsea and came about through an Upper East Side connection, Billy LeRoy. An antiques dealer with a downtown heart, LeRoy showed Patterson’s work to Michelle Tillou and Lance Kinz. They decided to open the season with the color portraits’ daring and gritty realism.
A working class boy from Western Canada, Patterson studied art in college, and got a job teaching it in Eastern Canada. After a trip to New York in 1976, he moved to the city and made sculptures and painted while earning a living in a fine art print shop. His long-term partner, Elsa Rensaa, also a painter, worked as a chromist, turning copies of original art by big-name artists into prints.
The burgeoning art world of Soho didn’t appeal to the couple. “It was all about money, sex and drugs in terms of getting ahead,” Patterson says. He was more comfortable as the president of the New York Tattoo Society, where he “was instrumental in legalizing tattooing in New York City.”
Patterson is best known for his tapes of the Tompkins Square riot of 1988. His three and a half hours of footage documented the legendary battle over the neighborhood’s control of the park. The footage also led to the incident being officially referred to as a “police riot,” setting the stage for an overhaul of the Police Department.
Asked what he thinks of other photographers, Patterson cites an affinity with Weegee and Winogrand, Walker Evans and Jacob Riis. Of Edward Curtis’s portraits of Native Americans, he says, “He had empathy with those people… love and a connection. He could bring real individual life to people who are generally thought of as generic.” Likewise, he sees his subjects as “human beings,” not stereotypes.
Patterson’s work, he says, “has always been about community and the neighborhood as a whole. In my sculpture I used debris off the street. It was archeological in a sense.” And as he shifted to photography, that sense became “part of the photo, capturing the meanings, spirits and essence of a time, period and place” as well as “the character, personality and how a person looks.”
In 1983 Patterson and Rensaa moved to Essex Street and opened the Outlaw Museum of Art. The Museum’s shows “were integral to the whole thing — because once again, it’s community. I’ve always been outside the system and I would get substantial players within their own realm to show: Jerry Pagane, Charles Gatewood, Man Woman, Dash Snow, Boris Lurie, the No! artist.”
His graffitied door became a backdrop for many of the photos Patterson would take of the neighborhood kids and then post in his window or hall. One of his tricks would be to get the kids to say a naughty word so they’d smile instead of looking tough. “I wanted to capture their good side, not the bad side. I photographed people in poverty and gave them dignity and honor.”
Of the fifty-some photos in the show, most are portraits. Many of these characters are destined for obscurity or worse and some are legendary in their own universe. There is an occasional homeless person living in a box. Undercover cops making a bust. A masked dope dealer in shades posing, a gun in one hand and dope in the other. Spider Webb tattooing painter and illustrator Joe Coleman.
In spite of the exotic underground portrayed, an everyday quality is served straight up. There’s nothing gussied up here — it’s all about the subject. The eyes really do look at you, and Patterson doesn’t get in the way. Performance artist John Sex, still full of promise, gazes penetratingly across the years at us from a time that was wilder and freer, before the specter of AIDS.
Who will exist in the L.E.S. of the future is one of Patterson’s questions now, even as he edits several historical books about the area for Seven Stories press. Two have already been released, including one on film and one on politics and resistance. A documentary on Patterson himself titled “Captured,” by Dan Levin, Ben Solomon and Jenner Furst, will soon be released. Excerpts from the film will be on view during the exhibition.
This show is the beginning of Patterson’s new over-reaching project. He’s beginning to work on documenting and organizing his massive archives so there will be a record of this place at the turning of a century, and the end of an era. Urgently, his eyes twinkling, he says he wants to make sure that “the fringe of genius does not get forgotten.”

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Antiques-and-props man helps photog get his props

By Gerry Visco

in: DOWNTOWN EXPRESS | Volume 20 Issue 17 | September 7 - 13, 2007
Source: http://www.downtownexpress.com/de_226/antiquesandprops.html

It was a typical night over at Billy’s Antiques & Props on E. Houston St. hard by the Bowery. You’ve seen the place — arrayed on the sidewalk in front of the old green tent, a collection of stylish vintage bureaus, funky coffee tables and kitschy objets d’art for sale by offbeat characters.
Enter and you’ll find the eponymous storeowner, Billy Leroy. Look for the tall dapper figure of a man with a long, light-brown ponytail, tattoos peeking out from his elegant custom-made shirt. And lurking in every corner and hanging from the ceiling of the tent are demons and gargoyles, Jesus with a bloodied crown of thorns, stuffed foxes and other fauna in a tableau of fabulously secondhand treasures from everywhere.
And who better to sell such relics than Billy Leroy, who’s on stage here every day of his life, the carnival barker and emcee of the flea market where everyone, famous and humble alike, comes by to sit on a couch, open a bureau drawer, people-watch and play with Kill-Joy, the store’s affectionate Rottweiler mascot.
The store is still a salon and social epicenter of the Lower East Side, the way things used to be before big money took over. Sure, Leroy is here to make a profit of sorts, but for him, his antique business is a labor of love and a place where he, his wife, his friends and customers can come together. CBGB may have closed, high-rise luxury co-ops are invading the area, the local American Apparel is attracting yuppies in droves. A Whole Foods mega-supermarket has opened on the other side of the street, but Billy’s is still hanging in there.
The tent’s been pitched at 76 E. Houston St. since 1986, when it was called Lot 76 and run by former owner Rob Fennick. When Fennick passed away in 2003, Leroy took over and, despite rising rents, has been able to hold his own.
“Luckily, I have a progressive landlord,” he enthused with a grin. The flophouses are gone and the infamous “bucket of blood” bars, notorious watering holes for many a down-and-out drunk, have vanished. Like dinosaurs in a time warp, a few of the remaining Bowery bums emerge from hiding, lugging stuff to sell at Billy’s. Sometimes they’ll jump into the conversation or try to help make a sale. The shop is tolerant of eccentricity and that’s what makes Billy’s different from a chain store. This ain’t no disco and, as Leroy’s Web site proclaims, it ain’t no Crate & Barrel either.
Indeed, if he likes you, Leroy might even show you his “Lion Boy.” He keeps it in an old ornate cabin, stored in a formaldehyde jar. It’s a human fetus with its head fused to its back, giving it the appearance of having a mane. It’s actually a girl.
The neighborhood spirit of the Lower East Side lives on at Billy’s, whose owner takes pleasure in doing favors. For example, Leroy was instrumental in Clayton Patterson’s upcoming art opening at Kinz, Tillou + Feigen, one of New York City’s foremost art galleries, on Sept. 10. Artist, photographer, author and Downtown personality, Patterson has an archive of more than 200,000 photographs documenting the inhabitants of the Lower East Side over the last 25 years. Leroy helped select the images for the show himself and, because he believed in the value of the work, went out and pitched the project to art galleries. Both Leroy and Patterson were thrilled when the Chelsea gallery said yes.
They’ve been friends since the late 1990s because Patterson is a regular visitor to the tent. Other well known customers of Leroy’s include Jim Jarmusch, Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, photographer Nan Goldin, other artists, rockers, movie stars, hookers, hipsters, gangstas, playas and newly arrived investment bankers and hotshot corporate lawyers.
More than 6 feet 3 inches with a long, wiry beard, Patterson seems like a tough guy — he’s renowned for filming the Tompkins Square Park riots in 1988, which he says was responsible for his being arrested 13 times and getting several teeth knocked out by the police. The burly, longtime Lower East Side resident originally hailing from Calgary, Alberta, is one of Billy Leroy’s biggest fans and the feeling is mutual.
With connoisseur Leroy’s eye for cutting-edge art developed through years of dealing in antiques and collectibles, he urged Patterson to exhibit his work officially, in a gallery. Like many artists, Patterson had neither the talent nor desire to sell his own work to one of those slick, upscale galleries. He himself runs a storefront gallery out of his home on Essex St. called the Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Museum specializing in artists outside the mainstream — but of course nowadays outsider art has become chic. Patterson has been written about in numerous publications and is the author of two books about the Lower East Side — “Captured” and “Resistance” — and is finishing up two more volumes, one about tattoos and the other, a compendium of Jewish lore from the neighborhood.
Yet Patterson’s comprehensive and fabled collection of photographs illustrating the rich social history of the area has never been publicly exhibited. Who better to represent Patterson’s work than another renegade, the ever-debonair and charming Leroy, who hung out with the rich and famous as a youth — he grew up on E. 87th St. between Park and Madison Aves. and was educated at elite prep schools in the U.S. and Switzerland. He played football at Northeastern, but to satisfy his creative urges switched to the Art Institute in Boston and graduated in 1984. He then married and had a daughter and began working at Grey Advertising as an art director. However, he soon became bored with corporate life.
“I started dabbling in antiques,” Leroy said. “I remember my father taking me to the Paris flea market.” He started buying and selling art and antiques on the side. Things started slowly and he was only making $13,000 a year, but then business quickly started to pick up.
“I bought a painting for 2,000 and sold it for 6,” he said. “Ever since then, I’ve been an antique dealer.” Transitioning to selling antiques, he quit his job and moved his family to Paris for a few years. When they returned to New York, he got obsessed with motorcycles and became a bit of a biker. As for his home life, “we started to do the suburb thing in Paramus,” he recalled. As he adopted a scruffier lifestyle and started amassing tattoos, he and his wife divorced. Drinking too much and partying was fun for a while, but by the late 1990s he had a revelation that his life needed more purpose. He settled down when he took over his antiques business on E. Houston St. and married singer Lorraine Leckie.
Knowing intimately the worlds of wealth and Downtown art, Leroy had the polish and the moxie to represent Patterson’s work to the galleries Uptown and the rest is history.
On a recent Friday summer night, Patterson stopped by the tent to say hello. An oversized painting of Hannibal the Cannibal Lecter, with his characteristic rubber mouth restraint, was prominently displayed this night.
A guy in an S.U.V. with his family pulled up.
“I love that painting,” he called out. “How much is it?”
Leroy always rises to the occasion.
“I just got that, it’s fresh. Three thousand bucks.”
But the man in the van was on his way home.
“Come back tomorrow, let’s make a deal,” Leroy said.
Leroy’s wife, Lorraine, who had just played a gig at the Mercury Lounge, sat on a couch strumming a guitar. Customers came and went, buying and selling, talking and hanging out. It was the Lower East Side the way it used to be — and here at Billy’s Antiques & Props it still is.

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Clayton Patterson: The Lower East Side Photographs

in: TRIGGER | New York | September 10, 2007
Source: www.triggermagazine.com/archives/2007/09/clayton-patterson-the-lower-east-side.html

Patterson has been a ubiquitous presence of the Lower East Side of Manhattan since the early 1980's, and is widely known for his dedicated documentation of this historic and now fast changing neighborhood (i.e. vanishing neighborhood, courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg and City Planning co-conspirator Amanda Burden's campaign of development solely for the sake of developers). He has been a conscientious chronicler of this urban magnet for the disenfranchised that has long been recognized for its creative influence far beyond its humble street corners.
Patterson has been a ubiquitous presence of the Lower East Side of Manhattan since the early 1980's, and is widely known for his dedicated documentation of this historic and now fast changing neighborhood (i.e. vanishing neighborhood, courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg and City Planning co-conspirator Amanda Burden's campaign of development solely for the sake of developers). He has been a conscientious chronicler of this urban magnet for the disenfranchised that has long been recognized for its creative influence far beyond its humble street corners.
Patterson has created an extensive and always expanding photo and video archive of the Lower East Side. He has continually taken portraits of people posed in front of the graffiti-scrawled door to his safe haven storefront, to then be displayed in the window that the local kids dubbed the "Wall of Fame". He was there in 1988 during the Tompkins Square police riots (and has been arrested more than a dozen times for photographing the police), and he was at the closing concert of CBGB's in 2007. The New York Times describes Patterson's endeavor as such:
He has amassed a huge day-by-day visual history of the area, told mainly through unpretentious portraits of its myriad and diverse faces: tenement kids and homeless people, poets and politicians, drug dealers and drag queens, rabbis and santeros, beat cops, graffiti taggers, hookers, junkies, punks, anarchists, mystics and crackpots.
This is a collection of photographs unequaled in its power to portray the people and times of a unique neighborhood that has become synonymous with American underworlds and subcultures. Patterson is a street photographer in the tradition of Weegee and Gary Winogrand, but his project is so life-encompassing that it is perhaps more akin to some outsider or conceptualist obsessively documenting one's environs. Patterson's photographs show an unedited humanity upfront and close-up. Each picture represents a door to a fascinating story, one that he can annotate with a sharp recollection and sensitive perspective.
He has also published two well-received anthologies: "Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower East Side," 2005, and "Resistance: A Radical Political and Social History of the Lower East Side," 2007. Two more anthologies are in the works: "Jewish History of the Lower East Side," and "Tattoo and Body Art in New York City". A documentary on Patterson and the Lower East Side titled "Captured" by Dan Levin, Ben Solomon and Jenner Furst is seen much through Patterson's lens and will soon be premiered with screenings worldwide. Excerpts of the film will be on view during the exhibition.

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Clayton Patterson Sep 10 - Oct 27, 2007 at KINZ, TILLOU + FEIGEN Gallery

This entry was posted on Wed., Sep 5th, 2007 at 2:38 pm and is filed under NEW YORK NEWS.
in: IRAK Blog | New York | September 5, 2007
Source: http://irakny.com/blog/clayton-patterson

1. Saptain Chit Says: September 5th, 2007 at 3:19 pm Such as The Irak

2. The Wizard Says: September 5th, 2007 at 3:44 pm Look for Ace to make an appearance on the gallery walls.

3. El Wiz Says: September 5th, 2007 at 3:47 pm Patterson has been a ubiquitous presence of the Lower East Side of Manhattan since the early 1980’s, and is widely known for his dedicated documentation of this historic and now fast changing neighborhood (i.e. vanishing neighborhood, courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg and City Planning co-conspirator Amanda Burden’s campaign of development solely for the sake of developers). He has been a conscientious chronicler of this urban magnet for the disenfranchised that has long been recognized for its creative influence far beyond its humble street corners.
Born in 1948, Patterson and his companion, Else Rensaa, moved from Calgary Canada to New York City in 1979. Since 1983 they have lived in the building they purchased on Essex Street, which by 1986 also served as the as the home of the Clayton Gallery and Outlaw Museum, showing artists outside the mainstream. Although trained as artists, they consciously sidestepped the confines of the art world. For many years they were in the spotlight of the vogue for their custom embroidered baseball caps that were sought after by celebrities and the cognoscenti. An ardent community advocate, Patterson also co-founded the New York Tattoo Society and helped win the fight to legalize tattooing in the City.
Patterson has created an extensive and always expanding photo and video archive of the Lower East Side. He has continually taken portraits of people posed in front of the graffiti-scrawled door to his safe haven storefront, to then be displayed in the window that the local kids dubbed the “Wall of Fame”. He was there in 1988 during the Tompkins Square police riots (and has been arrested more than a dozen times for photographing the police), and he was at the closing concert of CBGB’s in 2007. The New York Times describes Patterson’s endeavor as such:
He has amassed a huge day-by-day visual history of the area, told mainly through unpretentious portraits of its myriad and diverse faces: tenement kids and homeless people, poets and politicians, drug dealers and drag queens, rabbis and santeros, beat cops, graffiti taggers, hookers, junkies, punks, anarchists, mystics and crackpots.
This is a collection of photographs unequaled in its power to portray the people and times of a unique neighborhood that has become synonymous with American underworlds and subcultures. Patterson is a street photographer in the tradition of Weegee and Gary Winogrand, but his project is so life-encompassing that it is perhaps more akin to some outsider or conceptualist obsessively documenting one’s environs. Patterson’s photographs show an unedited humanity upfront and close-up. Each picture represents a door to a fascinating story, one that he can annotate with a sharp recollection and sensitive perspective.
He has also published two well-received anthologies: ‘’Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower East Side,'’ 2005, and “Resistance: A Radical Political and Social History of the Lower East Side,” 2007. Two more anthologies are in the works: “Jewish History of the Lower East Side,” and “Tattoo and Body Art in New York City”. A documentary on Patterson and the Lower East Side titled “Captured” by Dan Levin, Ben Solomon and Jenner Furst is seen much through Patterson’s lens and will soon be premiered with screenings worldwide. Excerpts of the film will be on view during the exhibition

4. s.poe Says: September 5th, 2007 at 8:44 pm HE WAS ALSO A PAPARAZI AT SEMZ’S FUNERAL. OH WELL, AT LEAST HE’S GOT A NICE SMILE

5. just...thru Says: September 6th, 2007 at 3:58 am PATERSON MANAGED TO GET A PICTURE OF THE DETECTIVE VERSION OF GEORGE CASTANZA

6. wwf Says: September 8th, 2007 at 9:33 am yo! Is that a young Vince Mcmahon!

7. clayton Says: September 12th, 2007 at 8:22 pm To ESPO- as for the SEMZ comment- the end of someone’s life, the funeral, is the last social gathering most people will have with friend’s, loved ones, those who respected the one who passed. A funeral is also for the Infories and a way to pay respect. One way I pay respect is to do what I do. I documented Joeys funeral. And you made a comment at the end about taking photos. I said the family will want photos- they did. I got them to them- You bet me a dollar and lost- you forget? Besides, like Joeys song says he was a King- Kings get their funeral documented. I just documented another King/Allan Boy funeral- got love and respect- they got photos. Wheres the beef? Clayton

8. s.poe Says: September 14th, 2007 at 9:45 am no beef, I dont yell at crows in cornfields either. did the pictures you give the family have the ©CLAYTON PATERSON on them? you can take photos, I can cringe, deal?

9. clayton Says: September 15th, 2007 at 12:33 pm you can do what ever you want to do- deal?

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Paths of Resistance in the East Village

By JOHN STRAUSBAUGH

in: NEW YORK TIMES | September 14, 2007
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/14/arts/14expl.html?_r=1&8ur&emc=ur&oref=slogin

For a long time the East Village was an urban frontier. The upper half of the Lower East Side, stretching from Houston Street north to 14th Street, and from Third Avenue and the Bowery to the East River, it was a toehold in America for generations of new immigrants — Irish, German, Jewish, Ukrainian, Puerto Rican and others — and a magnet for artists, bohemians, radicals and reformers. It has often been ravaged by grueling poverty and neglect. But it was also an area of intense cultural activity that changed the world.
Beginning in the 1980s and accelerating in the 2000s, new waves of affluent “immigrants” came to tame the frontier. Condominium towers reared up from blocks of old tenements. Many tenements themselves were renovated, with expensive rents and lofts worth more than a million dollars. Artists’ studios and corner bodegas gave way to chic shops and trendy bistros.
The East Village has been dragged up-market, but isn’t going without a fight. The photographer and videographer Clayton Patterson has documented the changes since he came here from Calgary, Alberta, in 1979. Mr. Patterson, also the editor of “Resistance,” a sprawling collection of essays on the contentious politics of East Village real estate, recently took me on a tour.
We began in Tompkins Square Park, a focal point in the neighborhood’s history, which before the 1800s was soupy swampland and marshes. The East River shoreline was where Avenue C is now; everything east of that was built on progressive stages of landfill — including, amazingly, rubble from bombed London, shipped across the Atlantic after World War II to form part of the foundation for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.
The park was opened in 1850. Poor immigrant families lived crowded into dilapidated shanties and later the brick tenements that still surround it. They came to the park for a breath of air and to protest their dreadful living and working conditions.
In 1857, a year of bank failures and economic panic, they were attacked by police while protesting the lack of jobs and food. In 1863 the park was a staging area for the deadly Draft Riots that inflamed much of Manhattan. In 1877 5,000 locals who had gathered to hear Communist speakers preach revolution tussled with police and National Guardsmen.
During the Vietnam War many antiwar rallies were staged in the park, and the Grateful Dead gave a concert there in 1967. Wigstock, the annual drag festival, began there in 1985. At that time the park was used around the clock. Homeless people camped in one corner, drug dealers had another, and neighborhood families shared the rest with punks and anarchists.
On the night of Aug. 6, 1988, the New York Police Department met with resistance trying to enforce a new 1 a.m. curfew. Mr. Patterson videotaped for more than three hours as a melee spilled out to the streets. Police batons cracked heads, bottles flew, and mounted officers galloped up Avenue A in bizarre cavalry charges.
As dawn broke over the littered and bloody streets, protesters attacked the 16-story Christodora House, facing the park at East Ninth Street and Avenue B. The Christodora, built with charitable donations and opened in 1928 as a high-rise settlement for poor immigrants, had fallen into the city’s hands in the 1960s and had been abandoned. Renovated and reopened as luxury condominiums in 1986, it was a looming symbol of “yuppiefication” for the protesters, who smashed the glass doors and dragged a potted tree from the lobby into the park.
Behind the construction shed on Avenue B between Seventh and Eighth Streets stands another symbol of change: St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, begun in 1848 by neighborhood Irish dock workers. Once serving a thriving parish, it was closed in 2001 by the Archdiocese of New York, which cited structural damage (an ugly crack scars the Eighth Street wall) and a dwindling congregation. Gutted, its pews and stained-glass windows smashed, it awaits its fate as preservationists — helped by a celebrity or two, including Matt Dillon — have fought in court to save what’s left from the wrecking ball.
Behind the Christodora on East Ninth Street sits the massive, crumbling hulk of the former Public School 64, closed in 1977. It also waits forlornly, as preservationists have wrangled in court with a developer who wants to build a 19-story high-rise on the site.
In the 1960s and ’70s, the area between Avenues A and D became largely Hispanic, known as Loisaida (Nuyorican for Lower East Side) and Alphabet City. Neglected by slumlords and city services, the neighborhood had one visible sign of real estate activity: the arson that routinely destroyed abandoned buildings, which were then razed to leave debris-strewn lots.
In the early 1970s local residents began to create community gardens on many of those city-owned lots. The city auctioned off a number of the lots to private developers in the 1980s and ’90s, but other gardens were saved and now operate under the auspices of the Parks Department.
The enormous weeping willows at La Plaza Cultural, on the corner of Avenue C and Ninth Street, are fed by the same underground springs that once made the area a swamp. One of the largest and lushest gardens, the Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden, was begun in 1983 with a few small plots of vegetables among the rubble of demolished tenements. Today, one of its founders, Joanee Freedom, told me that there are about 90 plots, where neighbors grow everything from string beans and cucumbers to ferns indigenous to this once marshy area. A speckled koi chases goldfish in an artificial pond, and there’s a small stage for cultural events and weddings.
The garden is also noted for the “Tower of Toys,” the lofty, gravity-defying wooden spire erected by the garden’s longtime gatekeeper, Eddie Boros, who lived all his life in an apartment around the corner until his death last April.
In the 1980s and ’90s, squatters commandeered more than 30 abandoned buildings, some because they could no longer afford the rents in the neighborhood, others as a political stand against gentrification. Mr. Patterson filmed the small armies of riot police and armored vehicles that the mayor, then Rudolph W. Giuliani, sent rumbling down the streets to evict squatters.
“It looked like the Russians invading Budapest in 1956,” Mr. Patterson recalled.
In 2002 the city made it possible for occupants of 11 remaining squats to develop their homes as low-income co-ops. The defiantly scruffy See Skwat (155 Avenue C, between 9th and 10th Streets) still displays a handmade placard on its fire escape declaring, “This Land Is Ours — Not For Sale.” Interestingly, and tellingly, it is sandwiched between a cafe and a bar, Rico and Royale.
There are also still signs of earlier groups that lived and struggled in the neighborhood. Walking west along Sixth Street, past long rows of still-standing tenements, Mr. Patterson noted that for much of the 19th century, the area was known as Kleindeutschland, “Little Germany,” the largest German enclave outside Germany itself. On June 15, 1904, about 1,200 people from St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (323 Sixth Street, between First and Second Avenues, the site of the Community Synagogue since 1940) died when the steamship the General Slocum, taking them on a day trip up the East River, burned. It was the deadliest disaster in the city before Sept. 11, 2001. It traumatized the community and hastened residents’ flight to uptown areas like Yorkville.
They left a few wonderful buildings behind. On Second Avenue between Eighth and Ninth Streets stand the magnificent Freie Bibliothek and Lesehalle and, next door, the Deutsches Dispensary, now the Ottendorfer branch of the New York Public Library, and Stuyvesant Polyclinic. Completed in 1884, their facades feature sculptured terra cotta putti, owls, globes and portraits of famous Germans.
From the 1950s through the ’80s, the East Village was home to Beats, then hippies, punks and post-punks. It earned the name East Village to distinguish it from the older Greenwich, or West, Village. Artists’ studios and galleries, performance spaces and music clubs bloomed on every street.
There’s nothing to see there now, but in 1959 the artist Claes Oldenburg had a studio at 46 East Third Street, while next door at 48 was the Artist’s Studio, where Jack Kerouac stood on a ladder and read from “On the Road” to an audience that included Allen Ginsberg and Amiri Baraka, then known as LeRoi Jones.
St. Marks Place, then as now, was “the most commercial strip, and the gateway from West to East,” Mr. Patterson explained. In the ’60s the Bridge Theater, formerly at 4 St. Marks Place, held performances by Yoko Ono and the Fugs; Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin founded the Yippies in a basement apartment at 30 St. Marks Place; and at the Polish hall known as the Dom (19-25 St. Marks Place), Andy Warhol presented the Velvet Underground. That site is now apartments and shops.
In the early 1980s Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibited at 51 St. Marks Place, and Gracie Mansion had a gallery across the street at No. 54, now the site of a new midrise building.
“A lot of artists did important work in the East Village,” Mr. Patterson said. “They were here because they could afford to live and work here. They can’t anymore. Now it’s the American Montmartre. Tourists come to see where that culture was.”
One surviving artist, Jim Power, has adorned scores of lampposts in the neighborhood with his mosaics since the mid-’80s. You can spot them all along St. Marks Place, from Tompkins Square Park to Astor Place. Mr. Power is homeless. He and his dog, Jesse Jane, sleep on the same sidewalks he beautifies.
And that shuttered, anonymous spot at 315 Bowery (between First and Second Streets)? Less than a year ago it was CBGB, the birthplace of punk rock in the ’70s. Standing outside, John Holmstrom, the publisher and editor of the scene-building magazine Punk, remembered that in 1975 he was “a little nervous about coming down to the Bowery, because it was a very dangerous neighborhood.”
“But I really wanted to see the Ramones,” he added. “And it was great.” He soon moved to St. Marks Place “because I wanted to be in walking distance of CBGB.”
CBGB closed in October 2006; its founder, Hilly Kristal — who named the club CBGB & OMFUG, for the kind of music he wanted to present: “country, bluegrass, blues and other music for uplifting gourmandizers” — died last month at 75. But hey, you can have your picture taken under the street sign for Joey Ramone Place (East Second Street), and buy a T-shirt at the CBGB souvenir shop on St. Marks Place.

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