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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cooper Square

Cooper Square is the place where some well-known neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan shake hands: Bowery, NoHo, Greenwich Village, East Village and Lower East Side. It begins at the end of the Bowery, the road splits in two like a wishbone, and after crossing St Mark's and Astor Places, the eastern street becomes the Third Avenue, and the western street becomes the Fourth (Park) Avenue. So if you are in NY for one hour only, this being your only occasion to be in NY, and want to see all these neighborhoods and streets and avenues at one go, Cooper Square is the place to be.

Located in the middle of the thing, the Cooper Union is just the splitter, so to speak. It's an impressive building housing an impressive university. The three schools within Cooper are for architecture, fine arts and engineering. All tuition is supported from private funds, and to be selected as a student is a very hard matter. It was founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, a great industrialist, philanthropist and inventor who started from a very modest social condition and came to be in 1876 a presidential nominee. Cooper designed and built the first steam locomotive in the US, and he had the idea of free tuition and rigorous selection for his Cooper Union.

Peter Cooper
looking north at the monument on a sunny midday
photo: Jim Henderson
no copyright infringement intended

A building that I happened to visit once was the Village Voice, the famous alternative weekly. For me it has been totally unexpected, I had just come to NY for two days to meet a Romanian friend who was visiting. I had taken the Chinese bus from DC, and I was in Chinatown by two o'clock. There were still two hours before the meeting, and I went firstly to a small café or pub on the Bowery, somehow facing the 1st Street. You know that's virtually impossible to find the 1st Street, believe me or not I did. There was a literary gathering in that place and my sister Jill was reading an essay, kind of psychological stuff or something. Some guys that I knew very well were there, among them Steve Dalachinsky, the poet and jazz lover. After that, my other sister Pola took me to the Village Voice to a party. I stayed for half an hour and I left then to run up to the NY Public Library on Fifth Avenue, to meet my friend. I am telling all this just to show you how freaking busy social life in NY is.

Well, I should tell you also about the McSorley's Old Ale House, but this deserves a separate story, that I'm thinking to put here in near future. It's a too great story, and I will follow the fascinating essay of Joseph Mitchell. All in good time.

(New York, New York)


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