Thursday, June 2, 2011

Regrets and Bad Vibes

As I pick and plough through my stuff getting ready to move I get periodic waves of panic and regret over what more I imagine I could have done with my building over the years, beyond making it my home. For instance we had, have, around 2000 square feet of ground floor commercial space. The 'storefront' as we call it, is now an absolute filthy wreck, one part warren of abandoned rooms once occupied, incredibly, by a doctor's office called the St. Marks Women’s Health Collective (we still get mail for them) and the other part a more open space in the back with ruined french doors that lead to a dead end alley of sorts, an 'outside space'.

After the lady doctors split sometime in the early 90s, (I suspect for more hygienic horizons) the storefront was then occupied by one of our building-mates, a somewhat engineer of sorts. He had commandeered the entire space to hoard mountains of old computer equipment, and none of us had any access until after he left, which he did suddenly one day in the early 2000s, miraculously disappearing along with most of his storefront stuff. Unlike our more rustic places, he left behind a completely finished duplex apartment across the hall from me in the front top and 3rd floors, connected by a cast iron spiral stair. I didn’t go into his place for a long time after he left, not until it didn't feel like his anymore. He was a very surly, sometimes violent and divisive force within our little tenants association, and since he left us our group has gotten along quite well, something unheard of among NYC coop boards, de facto, as ours is, or otherwise. If we were so inclined I suppose we could have burned sage or done some feng shui thing to dispel the palpable bad vibes, but we just let the space sit. It has since come in handy occasionally for studio visits or when I've had a big project to produce. Except that while making his exit our ex-colleague tore all the electric out, so it's day use only. I have strung lights up in there on occasion, but its a pain and taxes my electric.

Back down to the storefront: I could have had a gallery, performance space, free-for-all-whatever-gathering-happening-space, a space. I could have proposed any number of projects in the back, accessed by CUANDO's long defunct hallway. One would enter from the street, travel the long hall to arrive at, what… a robust lawn growing under fluorescent grower lights? a gallery of blacklight paintings? (no), and installation of anything at all I could have curated, or invited someone to curate involving other artists from the neighborhood. Never mind that I no longer know any artists from the neighborhood. I could have found some I'm sure. I could have shown my fabulous telephone wire piece down in there if I had done it. I could have started something that might have become part of the grassroots artistic fabric of the neighborhood, or that might have contributed to, represented and help sustain the area's gritty past creative energies in the face of growing threats from gentrification and developers. This is what goes through my head every once in a while these days. Stuff I would, could, and should have done with this precious chunk of decrepit Manhattan real estate.

Other HDFCs did it, managed to engage the neighborhood by providing public-ish exhibition and performance spaces over the years, and some are still going to this day, such as Bullet Space on east 3rd street.

But the truth is that we in this building were never the 'community' types. For one thing, our median age was above that in most homesteaded buildings, and most of us are well past gritty and way over making the scene. Despite my current few regrets, we have kept a low profile here on 2nd Ave., and basically desire quiet, not drama, even of the staged variety.

1 comment:

  1. After Charas was shut down, all these groups were looking for new spaces and places to meet and organize. You might have just had someone else be in charge of it vs. you all having to figure it out.

    I hear your regret of not using this valuable space but if you are ever in that situation again ... or know of someone who is, please keep that in mind.

    I appreciate what you've written here and understand it's been a long journey.

    Why are developers so interested in glass buildings vs. something with a bit of charm? I can't figure that out.