Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sally Young & Cooper Square

cool stuff from sally

Artist Sally Young makes t-shirts, stickers, postcards, and lots of other things -- including what she calls “goofy little pamphlets” -- about the destruction of the East Village where she has lived for the past 27 years. And while she is currently putting together an accordion book of images taken from the demolition of Cooper Union’s Hewitt Building, she’s been most interested lately in researching a building that was destroyed to make way for the Cooper Square Hotel, that glassy monstrosity at 5th and Bowery.

the hotel today, a giant above the bricks
click to see chimney stains on left-most building

Previously owned by Peter Cooper and built on the Stuyvesant Farm property, Sally told me, the building was once a Colonial. After it came down and before the hotel went up, you could see the outline of its gambrel roof. The demolition also revealed wooden walls and stone foundations. A pair of dark smoke stains from the building’s twin chimneys could be seen snaking up the bricks of the house next door, artifacts from long-ago nights spent by the fire.

Sally took photographs of these revelations before they disappeared. She loves the rich history of the neighborhood and has created a little book called Deconstructing Bowery in which she has listed the names and occupations of the people who made Bowery their home in 1825. It’s a collection of chairmakers and watchmakers, butchers and bakers, hatters, tobacconists, and makers of sandpaper.

27 Cooper Sq, future nightclub

When towers go up, we lose all of our history, near and far. Poet Hettie Jones (ex-wife of Amiri Baraka and one of the last beatniks) lives at 27 Cooper Square, one of two still-standing original buildings on the block. She refused to leave when the hotel came, so the hotel built around her. Her little brick tenement looks like it’s being ingested by glass and steel.

There are controversial plans to install a club and two bars in the hotel, one of which will be outdoors and end just 30 inches from a neighboring building's windows. The hotel lounge is going into the tenement's first floor space, currently shored up by wooden beams. This amoeba-like incorporation of the smaller building is a potent symbol of the way development is devouring, decapitating, and disemboweling our city.

Like Sally Young’s t-shirts say, visit the East Village and “come see what’s left.” Every day, there is less and less to see of what the neighborhood used to be. What will remain to remind us of how we got here and the people who came before us? Without a past, how will we even know ourselves?

You can order your own t-shirts and more by contacting Sally at aloysious@mindspring.com.

No comments: