A Slow Ride Back to ’75 on East 11th Street

We’re always on the lookout for album covers shot in the Village, East Village, or NoHo.  Many of the great album covers of the last half century were shot on our streets, so you might say it’s a bit of a preoccupation of ours (see prior post, “It Happened Here: Album Covers“).

So imagine our surprise when we discovered, thanks to an eagle-eyed former GVSHP staff member now living in Tennessee, that we’d missed an album cover which was practically right under our noses.

look familiar?

The cover for British rock band Foghat’s fifth and most successful album, 1975’s “Fool for the City,” was shot right outside our offices on East 11th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.  In fact, the Neighborhood Preservation Center in which we are located, and the front door to our offices, are located right over the guy with the fishing rod’s left shoulder!

One of the great things about album covers shots of the neighborhood is their ability to show what has, or hasn’t, changed over the years.  While the East Village has changed a lot over the intervening thirty-six years, not a lot has changed, physically at least, on our block, as evidenced by this image (though I must say that in nearly ten years working here, I have never seen anyone fishing out of the manhole on 11th Street).  That at least in part results from the fact that St. Mark’s Church (the back of which is visible over the urban fisherman’s right shoulder in the picture), as well as the Neighborhood Preservation Center, are located in the St. Mark’s Historic District, one of the city’s earliest designated historic districts.

While the rest of the street does not enjoy such protections (a fact we hope to see remedied one day soon), a 2008 rezoning of the neighborhood which GVSHP, the local Community Board, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and a broad coalition of community groups successfully fought for should help to preserve the scale of the street, providing few if any opportunities for out-of-scale new construction.

That’s not to say there have been no changes on the street.  In 1986, NYU added the monstrous Third Avenue North dorm to the far end of the block, which is certainly a prominent presence (if you want to help fight NYU’s current overwhelming expansion plans for the neighborhood, CLICK HERE).

NYU's Third Avenue North dorm, the one brutal intrusion into our block since 1975's album cover photo. A 2010 rezoning will make more of the same impossible.

The Neighborhood Preservation Center, GVSHP's home, today (formerly the rectory of St. Mark's church).

There have, however, been positive changes as well.  In 1988, a devastating fire gutted the rectory of St. Mark’s Church,  designed in 1901 by renowned American architect Ernest Flagg.  Through innovative financing mechanisms structured around principles of supporting historic preservation, the building was renovated and restored from the inside out, and re-opened in 1999 as the Neighborhood Preservation Center.  GVSHP is one of the three resident partners of the Center, and we are proud and fortunate to call this great space home. And while the 2008 rezoning of the neighborhood covered our entire block from 100 feet east of Third Avenue, it actually did not include the site of NYU’s offending dorm, the rest of Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, or the midblocks in between.  A second rezoning, which we successfully fought for in 2010, remedied that, making the construction of new dorms like this one impossible under the existing zoning in the future.

Just a note for those who don’t have Foghat’s “Fool for the City” on rapid rotation on their Ipod — the album and perhaps even the band name may not sound familiar, but you are more likely to know the eight-plus minute original version of the classic rocker “Slow Ride” which appeared on the album, later immortalized in films such as “Dazed and Confused” and used in TV shows from Seinfeld to That 70’s Show and My Name is Earl.

Listen to it here:

If we’ve missed any other neighborhood album covers, let us know!

 

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Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.