An Evening in the East Village

Our book club meets every month at someone else’s home.  The host serves dinner and we all discuss the book.  Always an enjoyable evening with a mixed group of minds with interesting perspectives and of course, all well read. 

This week we went to the East Village.  It wasn’t exactly one of the book members homes but a friend of hers who has enough room for all 9 of us.  His place was on 8th between B and A.  A very old building that had been designed by Frederick Olmsted who designed Central Park.  Big huge staircase, large landings, fantastic fireplaces.  Built sometime in the 1800’s. 

What struck me about the building was a few things.  I could close my eyes and go back in time to the 60’s and 70’s where true pioneers were putting their stakes in the East Village.  Fast forward to the early 80’s and the village was beginning to take change.  The Gap even had the gall to erect a store on the corner of St. Mark’s and 2nd.  Eggs were thrown at the windows.  Not pretty.

My guess is the guy who owned the apartment lived through the majority of those times.  He pioneered, he saw the changes and is still seeing the changes.  As I looked around his place and the building I began to think about the recent acquisition of Stuyvesant Village for $5.4 billion.  How that purchase will more than likely be a seminal turning point for life as we know it in the East Village. 

People now see new restaurants that are high end, just wait. 

I went home and talked to Jessica about it.  I realized that she might be the last of the youth to meet the pioneers of the 60’s.  I guess you could call them the hippies of the Village.  As real estate changes, they will go elsewhere and they won’t be able to afford to stay in NYC.  Their presence in the Village will soon fade away.  The next generation of those people won’t live here.  She said but Mom, those people are either my friends parents or my friends grandparents.  They are a generation that has past.  I thought about and the truth is she is right.

Even is a groovy artist who is trying to make their way in this city would probably look at the apartments in some of these buildings and want to clean them up and still put in a Viking Range.  I am not passing judgment whether that is right or wrong but it just is.  The generations since the 60’s have really not had any sacrifices.  There has been nothing to protest even though we are in the midst of an awful war.  Everyone who has been brought up post-Vietnam have different expectations and perhaps different values. 

Funny enough, the book we discussed that night was the Emperor’s Children.  The book was about a group of pretentious 20 year olds who just graduated college coming back to live in NYC.  They wouldn’t dream of living in an old apartment in the East Village or better yet even have a real hard working job so that book was sort of poignant to the entire evening. 

Our kids go to a school that really celebrates the values of diversity, social change, progressive values, etc. which are consistent with the pioneers of the East Village.  Perhaps different faces, different clothes, different apartments but the same basic principles.

I really enjoyed being in that apartment on 8th and B the other night.  It really made me wonder about NYC where we are, where we are going and where we were.  I hope that we can continue to capture a bit of the way we were for future generations.  At least I am hoping that we are.