Volume 80, Number 52 | May 26 - June 1, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Squatters made their mark with graffiti, banners, art

The street art of the squatter and anarchist scene in the East Village in the late 1980s and early ’90s had a definite cultural impact and a strong political message. “At the time, you had all this vacant property that was owned by the banks and the government — and thousands of people were homeless on the streets,” recalled documentarian Clayton Patterson. In the early ’90s, the 13th St. squats between Avenues A and B — one of which is shown above — were the center of a thriving squatter movement. Right, a mural by Siobhan Meow outside Umbrella House squat on Avenue C was defiantly D.I.Y. “That was the whole idea of the squats, of the saw — build your own life, build your own home, build your future,” said Patterson. Below left, ominous warnings, like this one on an East Village bus stop in the late ’80s, proliferated. “The anarchist graffiti kind of freaked people out,” the documentarian noted.

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