My New York: Part II

II. The 1980s

Crosby Street / Spring Street, New York, 1978
Thomas Struth (German, born 1954)

The 1980s in New York City was a good time. The epicenter of that for me was Crosby Street. In the late 1970s, my father and his girlfriend-soon to be wife--bought a dirt-floored basement warehouse and converted in into their studios-gorgeous wood floors, gallery-white walls, kitchen, bathroom, the works. Except it wasn't zoned for residential: no one was allowed to live there! Every time someone came to the house, we rolled up the mattresses and hid them.

Crosby Street at that time was a grizzly corridor. Almost a glorified alleyway, it was only seven or so blocks long, starting at Howard Street and running only up to Bleeker. That scene in Ghost when Patrick Swayze was murdered in that dark grimy doorway? Filmed across the street from us. They ultimately bought half the first floor above and ran stairs up. Looking out the first-floor window into the parking lot next door, I would see the hookers turn tricks. The upstairs used to be a shady gambling joint called the Four Deuces. My dad leased it from a guy called Junior, who would always be sitting outside the Spring Street bar in his undershirt and cane. Upon asking Junior's last name, he just said Junior, and signed the lease "Junior Junior." The place had been firebombed a few times and there were gunshot holes across the front grate. When my dad bought it, it still had the full bar in there. When the renovation was finally finished, they held an exorcism, just for good measure.

Growing up, I would come to NYC from California as often as I could, usually spring, summer, and winter breaks. As a young kid, it was just magical to explore Chinatown with the arcades that had games where you matched wits against a chicken, slurp down sesame noodles from Hunan Taste on Boyers Street and pick up prosciutto bread and smoked mozzarella on the way home. I remember sitting in the back room at Fanelli's eating burgers with my dad trying to pronounce "Venezuela" after Miss Venezuela had won Miss Universe in 1979 and wondering if my dad was telling the truth when he said Mike Fanelli used to put shoe polish in his hair back in the day. As I got older, I would wander starry-eyed through the cobblestone streets of SoHo with the funky shops and galleries: Untitled, the fabulous postcard store; Rocks In Your Head, record coolness; Leo Castelli, Les Deux Gamins. I used to love to visit the plant store on Spring Street: two 15' stories filled with trees, mist and cats. How I miss sitting on the stoop of Whole Foods watching the people go by!

As I hit my teens, New York was all about the clubs: Nell's, Danceteria, Area, The Tunnel, The World, Madame Rosa's. I had a much (much) older boyfriend at the time and he did a lot of interiors at clubs. Plus, he shared a summer house with the doorman at the Tunnel and the owners of Area, so we got in and drank for free! Getting ready listening to T Rex, hanging out till daybreak. Frankly, that is all I remember. I guess I had a bit too good of a time!


  1. wow, cool story. does your family still own the place crosby street?

  2. yes. the parking lot next door is now this:



  3. did you know that i used to live with cyrena hausman? seriously. and i was half in love with eric, the other owner of area. this was in ojai, long after we all got out of both nyc and sd. s went on to design and renovate chateau marmont and set design.