The Pathology of the “East Village”

[Updated 10/10]

I started a version of this article many weeks ago, after a post on EV Grieve
ran with this photo:

eliciting this comment:

evg-heroin-tsp-0805-1635

Then recently, in an article about a memorial in Tompkins Square Park for a “crusty” who died, one commenter wrote:

evg-comment-light-violence-0919-1052 1

Comments such as these are not uncommon. There’s some troll element, to be sure, but most of it is legitimate (in that it’s not trolling). Since that time, I slowly gathered examples to demonstrate that there is a vocal faction of people in the “East Village” who are basically misanthropes. I wasn’t very active collecting this, but all of a sudden a truckload of it fell into my virtual lap!

But first, I must digress.

***

Early in the week of September 22, this sign went up in my neighborhood:

atwe4sba-anti-drug-mtg

On September 24, this story ran on EV Grieve:

evg-drug-mtg-story

I attended the meeting. My original estimation of the number of people in attendance was 35, including the representatives of the 9th Precinct and District Attorney’s office, but I was later told that the sign-in sheet at the desk showed it was closer to 50. Almost everyone had a story, of drug use (mostly heroin) taking place in their vestibules, dealers operating out of a renovated but unoccupied building, dealers having keys to the NYCHA buildings and operating out of them, members of community gardens who have all but abandoned the gardens because of drug dealing in them… They came from all through the neighborhood, from 3rd and 5th Streets as well as both avenues, even Houston Street. Many of them said they heard about the meeting from EV Grieve.

The attendees were 80%+ black and hispanic, most over 40. Some live in the NYCHA buildings under siege. Some were representatives of shelters and treatment centers in the area. Many have lived here since the 1980s and were founding members of the community gardens on the block. That might fit the demographic of people in this area who attend meetings, but it also demonstrates (spoiler alert!) that they weren’t young transplants trying to sanitize the neighborhood.

There will be a follow-up meeting October 9. In the intervening time, people with sales/use taking place in their buildings will approach the owners and try to get the building registered in the city’s Trespass Affidavit Program. And everyone was urged to call 911 when they see drug sales/use taking place. The 9th Precinct rep said that despite the number of stories people had, there have been very few calls, so they were not aware of the severity of the problem.

***

It didn’t take long after EV Grieve’s post for the rats to emerge! One response on the blog itself:

evg-drug-mtg-0925-1320

But the EV Grieve Facebook page is where the worst appeared. (Coincidentally enough, an article appeared on Slate the same day, titled “Facebook’s for Middle-Aged Narcissists”.

I divided the Facebook comments into two categories: Presumptuous; and Misanthropic.

Presumptuous

0924-0905b

0924-0936

0924-1003

0924-1009

Misanthropic

0924-0904

0924-0905a

0924-1016

0924-1025

0924-1214

0924-1323

0924-1649

One of the things discussed at the meeting is that the dealers will smile at residents, to try to ingratiate them. It’s no different than greeters in stores: it’s part of their selling strategy. To think that this demonstrates beneficence on their part is naive.

***

I don’t think there’s a single one of them who doesn’t argue from a white-privileged position. Why is it always older, white people who glorify drug sales/use? I think it’s because they know they won’t be directly affected by it — only peripherally, like the people who think Giuseppe Logan being mugged is a small price to pay to keep people they don’t like out of the neighborhood.1 They chose to live here when they could have chosen to live somewhere else.2 They see it taking place, but it’s not their lives that will be destroyed by it.

No doubt they find it romantic, or adventuresome. This is their “authentic” New York neighborhood. This is how they define themselves, as people who lived under harsh conditions and survived. There’s a song (I forget the name of it) with a line “New York is where people go to live out their fantasy of being Lou Reed.” It’s telling that no one ever imagines themselves to be Johnny Thunders!

lou-reed-johnny-thunders

***

I want to be clear that I’m not lumping together everyone who moved here in the 1970s/80s, only the sociopaths. There were definitely people who had a larger social vision, of taking back the land, of the right to the city. But these people did not view the heroin trade as positive in any way.

Marlis Momber, a local photographer, has a photo called “No No Drugs 1986” that shows a demonstration winding its way through the streets of the “East Village”. A copy of it hangs in the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union:

no-no-drugs-1986

Other examples:

local-east-village-momber
Photo by Marlis Momber, via The Local East Village.

villager-marlis-momber-interview
Interview with Marlis Momber, in The Villager.

drugs-demo-nyt-1983
Pace, Eric. “Lower East Side Residents Protest ‘Drug Drive-Ins’.” NY Times, October 23, 1983. [Almost 30 years to the date! –Q]

***

Looking at current movement in this area, you would think these people would oppose the heroin trade because it wasn’t local. Opium poppies do not grow locally. The processing is done outside the neighborhood and employs no local residents. The dealers live outside the neighborhood and for the most part, so do the buyers. There is nothing local about any part of it.

=-=-=-=-=

1 Two days after the claim that “light violence is a small price to pay”, this story appeared on EV Grieve:
evg-giuseppi-logan-jumped

2 Rosalyn Deutsche and Cara Gendel Ryan, “The Fine Art of Gentrification,” THE PORTABLE LOWER EAST SIDE, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 1987, 22 Jan. 2013.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hector
    Feb 11, 2015 @ 19:33:48

    Good evening , that picture of the demo’ on 3st I believe couldn’t be ’86. There seem to be folks from the Young Lords Party in the photo, of which I was a member, and the Party had long disbanded and gone underground… I can’t swear to it because I couldn’t zoom in enough to make positive IDs but I thought I would share my thoughts with you. Thanks…

    Reply

    • Quilas
      Apr 16, 2015 @ 19:26:23

      Hector,

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply; I haven’t kept up with this blog lately.

      The photographer lives near me — now that it’s warmer and people are outside again, I’ll ask her about it when I see her, and reply here again.

      Reply

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