This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.
307 East 12th Street from across the street. (Photo: Katie Schlechter)
The commotion began as Gertrude Williams strolled home from her cashier job at an uptown restaurant. At Broadway and 39th, a strange man tried to strike up a conversation. Annoyed yet accustomed to such unwanted attentions, she ignored him. But he persisted. The New York Tribune described what happened next: “Raising her pugnacious right, she caught him square on the jaw.”
Three years ago, Daniel Lopez injured his knee. The 37-year-old native of Mexico never had health insurance, so he waited until the pain got so bad, it wouldn’t allow him to work anymore. Only recently did he get surgery.
His knee is still swollen. “It hurts,” he says. He can barely walk, much less work. But he wouldn’t miss a meeting of his United Handymen Workers Cooperative.
Residents hang out at Umbrella House’s new rooftop garden (Photo: Nicole Disser)
After a visit last year to ABC No Rio, a former squat building turned community space still very much awaiting its day for the ambitious makeover plans to get underway, I didn’t know what to expect from Umbrella House. The latter is a former East Village squat that, after years of push and pull with the city over legalization, became a fully legal, limited-equity affordable housing co-op. But then I caught up with Steven Englander, who now works at his former residence ABC No Rio and has lived at Umbrella House for about 16 years.