David Godlis Took Abbie Hoffman’s Apartment Because It Was a Steal

David Godlis- A photographer and East Village resident from Marit Molin on Vimeo.

For over thirty years, David Godlis, a photographer who got his start shooting punk bands at CBGB, has lived in a fifth floor walk-up at 30 St. Marks Place. After Godlis (who goes by his last name only) moved into the apartment in 1977, a neighbor clued him into its unique back story: It was once rented by Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman.

Hoffman first moved into the building’s basement unit (BW) in 1967. According to FBI files available on the Internet, that’s where, on September 6, 1968, he was interviewed about his role in the riots at the Chicago Democratic convention earlier that year.

Around 1970, Hoffman moved into unit 4D. He lived there until 1974, when he skipped bail after a drug arrest. Another tenant then occupied the unit, to be replaced by Godlis in 1977.

Shortly after Godlis moved in, an elderly neighbor told him that Hoffman had died in the apartment, but it soon became clear that he had merely gone underground (indeed, when Hoffman reappeared in 1980, Godlis was at the press conference to witness it). That neighbor recalled beautiful bookshelves filled with “crazy” books.

“I can only imagine they were radical and socialist,” said Godlis.

So who might have visited the apartment? “I know who Hoffman was friends with, so I can only imagine,” said Godlis, rattling off names like John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Norman Mailer, and Allen Ginsberg. “Also, The Fillmore East (a rock venue) was around the corner on Second Avenue near Sixth Street, so any rock group that played there that was politically inclined in the sixties, which would include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, the MC5 and countless others.”

True to many old tenements, there is no sink in the bathroom.

“My mother had told me to check that there was running hot water in the tub, which I did,” said Godlis. “I didn’t notice that there was no sink until I had moved in.”