A Mars Bar Neighbor Ready to Move On

John Vaccaro, who lives above Mars Bar, has made peace with its imminent closing – and the loss of his home – and is prepared to move on.

When John Vaccaro’s loft is torn down this August he will not be sad. When asked what he will miss, “Absolutely nothing,” is his immediate response.

Mr. Vaccaro is one of four tenants, in addition to the Mars Bar and Joe’s Locksmith, being pushed out of 11-17 Second Avenue this summer as the building’s owner, BFC Partners, moves ahead with plans to build a luxury high-rise.

Mr. Vaccaro came to New York in 1961 and enjoyed a successful career as a theater director. Back then, he says, “We all knew each other,” referring to the artists and musicians — Andy Warhol among them — that roamed the East Village in its bohemian heyday.

Now, looking down from his fire escape just above Second Avenue, Mr. Vaccaro says that those days are gone.

“Who are these people down there?” he protests. “I don’t know any of them.”

vaccaro2Joshua Davis Some of Mr. Vaccaro’s artwork.

In 1976, Mr. Vaccaro first rented his loft at a time when, he says, it was being used by squatters and hippies. He spent months installing electricity, heat, and such basic amenities as a kitchen and a bathroom before finally moving into the space in 1977.

Through the years, he drifted in and out of the apartment when he “got bored with it.” This included stays in TriBeCa, Park Slope, as well as several stints in Italy, the longest of which was three years.

Mr. Vaccaro moved back into the loft permanently after 9/11. He had been living just a few blocks from the World Trade Center and was home that morning, having returned from a trip to Italy a few days prior.

The memories of that day still haunt him, and his return to the East Village did little to ease his mind.

“I returned to the East Village, which was not the East Village that I had known in 1961,” he recalled, enunciating each syllable as if he were instructing an actor about how to deliver the lines in one of his plays. “It was completely different. The artists were all gone. The hippies were, of course, all gone. They used to be all over the streets.”

vaccaro1Joshua Davis Mr. Vaccaro in his living room.

By the end of the month, Mr. Vaccaro expects to have moved out of the East Village, this time possibly for good. Though BFC Partners will be accommodating Mr. Vaccaro to the tune of a two-bedroom apartment in the new building for only $10, it is not guaranteed that he will want to come back — at least not as a permanent resident.

“I have come to accept what has happened,” he said.

Mr. Vaccaro plans to move out of his apartment June 30, leaving behind an East Village that he struggles to recognize.