Viewfinder | ‘It Really Was A Village’

Michael Sean Edwards on East Village life in the 1970’s and 80’s.

2nd Ave. and 6th Street, 1980

“One of the things that most struck me about the East Village when I moved here in 1978, and what made me love it so much is that it really was a village; an enclave in NYC that felt like old Europe rubbing up against the new wave.”

Avenue A and Seventh Street, 1979

Leshko's Coffee Shop

“The hub of the Ukrainian village seemed to be the corner of Seventh and A where the old Leshko’s was. The men would sit in the park across the street on a Sunday after church and play checkers (among other things no doubt).”

St. Marks Place, 1980

Valencia Hotel, St. Marks Place 1980

“Up on St. Marks proper, the punk downtown vibe had really got a grip. This picture of Trash n Vaudeville and the Valencia Hotel is very reminiscent of how the whole block looked in those days.”

Seventh Street and First Avenue, 1979

East Village Fruit Exchange

“The East Village View Fruit Exchange was another fixture. There really weren’t that many places to buy produce in the neighborhood. The family who ran it were a little odd. When I was taking this photo the owner came out on the street and yelled at me, ‘Hey! Why don’t you take a picture of my ass!’ with an appropriate gesture.”

Second Avenue, 1989

Outside 2nd Avenue Deli

“Up on Second Avenue the remnants of the old Jewish vaudeville presence were still there. This photo of the Second Avenue Deli was taken on a Saturday (or during Passover; I don’t recall) and the deli was closed. The ladies wondered why I was pestering them.”

Avenue A near Fifth Street, 1979

Ave. A near 5th Street 1979

“Further south on Avenue A was the cluster of baby stuff stores — Burger and Klein, Schachter’s and Lester’s, which was the last to go, just a few years ago.”

10th Street and Avenue A, 1988

Sunday 10th Street and Ave. A 2 1988

“I lived on 10th Street across from the St. Nicholas Church from 1981 until 1999 and saw the congregation gradually diminish —the funerals that were held there with increasing regularity, the NJ license plates of the cars as the children of these old immigrants came back to see their parents and grandparents off. Every year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday the block would be closed for the procession to the church. There were so many people there, carrying lanterns and ringing bells and it was quite beautiful. The last time I saw it there were very few.”

Avenue A and St. Marks Place, 1979

Alphabet City, Ave. A and E. 8th Street 1979

“The death of the old was visible in other ways. The abandoned pharmacy at the corner of Avenue A and St. Marks Place was dead when I got here and stayed that way a long time, its storefront advertising long gone products and medicines. There was another one just like it a block away at the corner of Ninth Street and Avenue A, which became the Pharmacy Restaurant and is now Doc Holliday’s Bar. The one pictured here is now Nino’s Pizzeria.”

Second Avenue and Sixth Street, 1980

2nd Ave. and 6th Street, 1980

“You could not buy an English language newspaper east of Second Avenue; Spanish and Ukrainian only. No kidding. Nobody from uptown ever bothered us in those days. It was The Land of the Lost — except it really wasn’t.”

Michael Sean Edwards is community contributor to The Local East Village. His photography can be seen here.

This post has been changed to correct an error; an earlier version misstated the former location of a pharmacy near Tompkins Square Park.