Blashko is an artist who has lived on St. Marks Place since 1955 and has
witnessed many changes from the picture window in his first floor apartment.
Throughout the 1950s Polish, Ukranian, Jewish, and Italian immigrants were
the mainstays of the community. The fifties also attracted the Beat Generation
- Thelonius Monk, Charlie Mingus, and others played cool jazz and made history
at the Jazz Gallery and at the Five Spot.
The '60s brought throngs of creatively-costumed hippies.
Head shops proliferated and Tompkins Square Park became the east coast center
for smoke-ins and outdoor rock concerts. Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg
lived nearby and roamed the neighborhood, spreading revolution and love.
During 70's the Saint Mark's movie house on the corner
of Second Avenue showed great films for about $2 and the few "straight"
people in the audience would get high inhaling their neighbor's smoke. Above
the movie house, the Negro Ensemble Theater provided wonderful and provocative
drama. Today the movie house is a GAP, and the theater is a video store.
The Reagan era in the 1980s brought "gentrification",
meaning skyrocketing rents, the ubiquitous art galleries (as opposed to
the 60s "poster shops") and the near disappearance of the ethnic
A new group of migrants, "the Homeless" moved
into Thompkins Square Park along with a new generation of disaffected youth,
"Punks", who were even more gaudy and definitely more nihilistic
than their predecessors. The city's "war against the poor" culminated
in the Tompkins Square Riot of 1988, when police and citizens clashed over
the forcible removal of hundreds of people from their makeshift shelters
in the park.
At the end of the decade the hyped-up market burst,
and "for rent" signs appeared for the first time in years. In
spite of all the changes, Saint Mark's Place still affords one of the most
engaging views of humanity and its discontents in New York City, especially
for those like A. Blashko who are compelled to draw.
If you like A. Blashko's drawings, you can purchase
"Saint Mark's Place", a velo-bound book of black-and-white illustrations
for only $15, including shipping & handling. Blashko also produces original
color art for purchase.
To purchase a book or inquire about color originals, call (212) 475-4944.
©1998. New York Trash. All rights reserved.