March 14th — A Big Day for Village Birthdays
March 14th is a date when several people with important connections to the Village will celebrate, or would have celebrated, their birthdays.
Diane Arbus would have turned 92 tomorrow. Arbus was a mid-20th century photographer whose work largely focused on people marginalized by society, including nudists, ‘transsexuals’ (a term used by her and others to describe her subjects at the time), circus performers, and people with a wide variety of disabilities. Arbus’s first Greenwich Village address was a rear carriage house at 131 1/2 Charles Street to which she moved in 1959 (read more about the house’s history from the NYC and NYS landmark designation reports on our website here). She lived there until 1968, when she moved to 120 East 10th Street on Renwick triangle, just around the block from GVSHP’s office (learn more about the history of Renwick Triangle and the surrounding St. Mark’s Historic District here). In 1970 she moved to the since-landmarked Westbesth Artists Community, where in 1971 at age 48 she committed suicide.
Although Arbus’ photography received great accolades, it also received significant criticism and charges of exploitation of its subjects. Although she did not want to be known as a “photographer of freaks,” it is what to many she came to be known for.
“Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still adore some of them, I don’t quite mean they’re my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe.”
Another March 14th birthday belongs to Jerry Greenfield, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. Although born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Jerry lived for a period in 1973 with his Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen on East 10th Street.
More important to GVSHP’s mission and history is renowned architecture critic and Pulitzer Prize winner Ada Louise Huxtable, who would have celebrated her 94th birthday March 14th as well. According to her obituary, “At a time when architects were still in thrall to blank-slate urban renewal, Ms. Huxtable championed preservation — not because old buildings were quaint, or even necessarily historical landmarks, but because they contributed vitally to the cityscape. She was appalled at how profit dictated planning and led developers to squeeze the most floor area onto the least amount of land with the fewest public amenities.” Although she did not live in the Village, her opinions regarding the scale and qualities of neighborhoods are certainly in tune with GVSHP’s mission, such as our efforts to affect the rezoning plan just released by the City that would weaken neighborhood zoning protections and lift height limits for new development by as much as 20 to 30% within contextual zoning districts.
Last but not least, my mom will celebrate her 60th birthday on March 14th. Born, raised, and still living on the Lower East Side, she has dedicated her life to helping others as a special needs educator and dean of schools for students with autism and other disabilities. Happy birthday to a great lady, mom, and grandmother, I love you!