As someone who has lived in New York off and on since 1999, I’ve seen a small part of the neighborhood change, gentrification, and the age old struggle between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ play out in the city. Some see the chain stores and sanitized streets as an upgrade from the gritty city of old; while others mourn the loss of what they see as unique New York culture. I wanted to show the word ‘decay’ on one of the most famous streets in the East Village, St. Mark’s Place; which has managed to hang on to ‘old’ New York, even as the chain restaurants and wealthy NYU students continue to wear down some of its rougher edges. As we were taking our photo one of the longtime residents of the neighborhood bobbed and weaved past us, manic in both his speech and expressions, his time in the village in the 70’s and 80’s seemingly having taken a very visible toll. He joined us for a last photo and video where he insisted on being his own letter, ‘Z’. After the photos we stood around wondering what else to do with our shiny, gold balloon letters; Mr. ‘Z’ suddenly and definitively provided our ending when he grabbed one of the balloons and popped it with a reverberating bang. We nervously laughed as we ended up popping the rest of them, childishly enjoying each mini explosion. Two days after our shoot we were stunned and saddened to watch three buildings around the corner from where we had shot our photos destroyed in what appears to have been a gas related explosion and fire. Decay is all around us in this city; but so is rebirth. Sometimes you don’t get one without the other.
– Jessica Horani
Location: 58 Brooklyn Ave
United StatesPerformed in: 2015