In the late 1970s, I lived with my two children and for a while with the composer Rain Worthington, in an illegal (to live in back then) loft on the corner of Duane and Greenwich Streets in lower Manhattan, a neighborhood historically known as Washington Market, but which real estate interests would rebrand as Tribeca.
My kids played a few blocks away at The World Trade Center plaza, and in the towers themselves. They were like the mountains in our back yard. The old West Side Highway, only blocks from our loft, was defunct, unused by cars in years, and broken at the end which made it possible to walk up the broken part and hang out on what had been a highway but was now chipped concrete with weeds growing wild in it, like a scene in a dystopian sic-fi flick, only real.
Me and my neighbors, the few other artists and outlaws living in illegal lofts down there then, would hang out on the defunct highway on warm sunny days, sunbathing and watching our kids ride their bikes over the broken concrete, helmet-less. A few blocks lower, toward Chambers Street, a tall wire fence had been installed on the other side of which what looked like a beach was being created.
On warm summer nights some of my neighbors would climb the fence and have beach parties near the river, like other beach communities, only not. That was actually the landfill for what became Battery Park City. The neighborhood changed so much over the next decade and more that on returning to it in recent years I constantly get disoriented and not realize when I'm only doors away from my old loft building.
Where once there were only truck docks or empty warehouses or industrial buildings there are now high-rises and fancy restaurants and all that gentrification jive. Nice for the people living there and I suppose for those who got money to move out of their lofts and found something they could like elsewhere, but for most it was the end of an era and of an intimate creative neighborhood.
I was back living in Jersey after forty years of living elsewhere when 9/11 happened, and still there when this recent attack occurred, both in my old downtown neighborhood. It's been heart rending and continues to be.