Remembering the Toy Tower

Many of you may remember the unusual, eclectic toy tower that once stood in the 6th & B Community Garden on Avenue B and East 6th Street.  The East Village has a wealth of community gardens and 6th & B is definitely one of the most spirited in the neighborhood.  The garden was started in 1982 when a committee of the 6th Street A-B Block Association asked the city’s Green Thumb program for a lease, though before they were able to receive the lease the group had to clear the 17,000 square-foot site of its rubble.  In the spring of 1984 an official lease was granted and the garden established partnerships with both the Green Guerillas and the Trust for Public Land.

L: Eddie Boros' Tow Tower with the 6th & B Community Garden's "Hands-On" fence in the foreground (image courtesy of Gothamist); R: a closer view of the Toy Tower (image courtesy of Gammablog)

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Meet the Village’s Newest Landmark!

On Tuesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated 154 West 14th Street, at the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue, an official New York City landmark!

154 West 14th Street

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Pushing the Envelope on Avenue A

101 Avenue A -- home to the Pyramid Club, photo courtesy of Barry Munger

101 Avenue A, photo by Barry Munger

While Greenwich Village will always be equated with the Gay Rights Movement, particularly for its role in the series of protests at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, the East Village is also known for pushing the envelope for gay culture. And no establishment played a bigger role in that process than the Pyramid Club, located at 101 Avenue A between East 6th and 7th Streets.

The Pyramid Club was a defining club of the East Village scene in the 1980s, particularly known for politically conscious drag performance art. A hangout for both the fashionable showing off their latest looks, as well as for the counter cultures emerging in the neighborhood, the Pyramid Club was established by Bobby Bradley, Alan Mace and Victor Sapienza and featured drag dancers, radical theater, and music, and dance parties. An insider’s history of the club’s early days, written by performance artist Iris Rose as part of a panel discussion on the history of 101 Avenue A, can be found on GVSHP’s website.

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This Day in Greenwich Village: The Stonewall Riot

Today marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a series of riotous protests at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village that many scholars consider the launching pad for the modern Gay Rights Movement. In 1999, GVSHP and the Organization of Lesbian and Gay Architects and Designers, gained federal recognition for the site when it became the first place associated with LGBT culture to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Left: Stonewall in 1969 (photo courtesy of Larry Morris for the NY Times); Right: Stonewall today

Located at 51-53 Christopher Street, the Stonewall Inn, like many other gay bars in New York City, was run by members of the Mafia, who were able to skirt around the red tape often thrown in the way for gay establishments seeking liquor licenses. Organized crime figures would either obtain illegal liquor licenses or pay police to turn a blind eye to the sale of alcohol.  Stonewall did not have a liquor license, but was operating as a private club, since “clubs” were not required to have a liquor license. However, the sale of liquor was prohibited and Stonewall never had a cash register, keeping money in cigar boxes.  Admission was strict due to a fear of plainclothes police officers.

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A Peek Back at the Village’s LGBT History

View A Guide to Lesbian & Gay New York Historical Landmarks in a larger map

The Village erupted in riotous celebrations this past weekend at the news of passage of marriage equality legislation, which carried over into the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride March that ends in Greenwich Village.  Of course the Village and East Village hold a special, even unique, place in the long struggle for lesbian and gay rights, with the June 1969 riots against police at the Stonewall Inn, a bar in the West Village, considered by many the start of the modern gay rights movement.

But this is only one of many ways in which our neighborhoods have played a crucial role in this movement, and GVSHP is proud of its role in documenting and highlighting the Village’s rich and sometimes hidden history of LGBTQ culture and protest.

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Seen and Heard Around the Village 6.19.11 – 6.25.11, Part II

Seen and Heard Around the Village 6.19.11 – 6.25.11, Part I

From Banking to Biscuits: 143-145 Avenue D, Part 5

This is post #5  in a series devoted to our ongoing research of 143-145 Ave D, documenting all of the detours & discoveries uncovered along the way. For background, see parts one, two, three and four.

143-145 Avenue D

If you’ve been following our forays into the rich and storied history of 143-145 Avenue D, you’re aware of its transformation from one of the earliest and most significant buildings in Alphabet City to its years as the Strangers Hospital. But it gets even more interesting. In the early 20th century, 143-145 Avenue D became part of the F.H. Bennett Biscuit Company (later know as the Wheatsworth Company) complex, which was deemed so significant that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission recently designated a portion of the complex an official landmark. F.H. Bennett, which had outgrown its previous building at 138 Avenue D (since demolished), purchased both 139-141 and 143-145 Avenue D in 1920 for use as its new facility.
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Call 311 About 43 MacDougal Street!

GVSHP and neighbors have long suspected that there might be squatters living inside 43 MacDougal Street, the deteriorating, 1846 landmarked building about which we’ve blogged before. Yesterday neighbors woke up to find that the facade had gotten a fresh coat of graffiti, so we just ran over and snapped a photo. As it appears, if someone is not actually living inside the building, they certainly have easy access to vandalize the upper floors.

43 MacDougal Street

But whoa, hold on! Today apparently brings new, bizarre surprises. Let’s zoom in a little closer on that photo…

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Another Chase? Don’t Bank On It

We were – to put it calmly – a tad bothered when we read recently on EV Grieve that 160 Second Avenue (corner of East 10th Street), the former home of Cafe Centosette, would house a Chase Bank/Starbucks combination package. Since the cafe’s closing last April, we had been holding out hope that whatever replaced it would honor not only the architectural integrity of this building, but the neighborhood’s history as a center of small business.

Well, all hope is not lost. Having learned that the sign on the storefront is a hoax, we are relieved that Chase has no plans (at least, of which we’re aware) to give this storefront its standard, formulaic architectural treatment. Indeed, much of the exterior of 160 Second Avenue has survived since its construction in 1892. The upper stories are laced with carved ornamentation and that rounded cornice is a lovely defining feature. While the existing storefront is not original to the building, it at least respects the building’s historic character and has continuously fostered beloved neighborhood small businesses.

160 Second Avenue, on the NE corner of East 10th Street

As we breathe a sigh of relief, let’s visit the site…
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