A new book takes a look at the past, present, and future of St. Mark's Place, one of the city's more iconic streets -- the epicenter, some say, of what's hip and cool. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Visit St. Mark's Place with Ada Calhoun, and you can learn a lot about the street where she grew up.
"The city was broke and people weren't picking up trash. And this was before the pooper scooper law, so the streets were disgusting. Tons of drug addiction everywhere," she said. "When I was a little girl, it was not the most wonderful place to be."
But she came to love the three blocks from Cooper Union to Tompkins Square Park so much, she wrote a book about it, "St. Mark's is Dead." Not that she really believes that.
"The joke is that people have been saying that since at least the 1800s," Calhoun said. "In 1811, when the grid came in, people said, 'It's all over. That's it.' And then, of course when these buildings, like this one, went up in the 1830s, they were like, 'It's all over. There goes the neighborhood.' It had been a beautiful farm."
Calhoun chronicles the street's history as a haven for
immigrants and free thinkers, each building having many lives, like one between Second and Third avenues.
"It was the center of cultural life for little Germany, and then it became the center of cultural life for the polish community, it was called the Dom. And then it was taken over by the beatniks, and then the hippies, then by a rehab center."
Along the way, there was also the Electric Circus, a psychedelic free-for-all.
The street has always been a magnet for the countercultures of the day.
"The beats and the hippies and yippies and all these radicals, and then the hardcore kids and skaters in the '90s," Calhoun said.
In 2015, St. Mark's Place continues to evolve, ike the city itself.
"There's this Malcolm Cowley quote, 'Bohemia is always yesterday.' I think it does exist in the past for people. It's hard to imagine it right now as wonderful as when they were young. But I think it's still pretty great," Calhoun said.
To celebrate the release of "St. Mark's is Dead," Calhoun is having a book release party. It's going to be at Cooper Union in the Great Hall from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on November 2. There is also going to be a punk rock cover band.