Description & Building Alterations
This six-story building was constructed in 1897 for owners Jonas Weil and Bernard Mayer and designed by architects Schneider & Herter. The building was originally occupied by 31 families and the basement was to be used for stores.
The building became a squat around 1987 after falling into disrepair due to a fire. The squatters rehabilitated the structure over the years, and after a deal with the city, became legal tenants and owners of the buildings. The building’s history of squatting is not uncommon for the East Village in the 1980s; a number of other squats in the area have become legal apartment buildings.
The six-bay wide facade features arched window enframements on the third and sixth stories, and the original cornice has been removed. It is clad in buff brick with brownstone and brick string and belt courses. There is decorative brownstone detailing on the first floor, and it appears that the left entrance has been relocated to the ground floor. A panel in the shape of a diamond is affixed to the top, and it reads “1899.” The entrance lintel is made from bottles that emit a colorful glow at night, according to a Village article (see sidebar).
The well-known squatter organizer and community electrician Michale Shenker lived here. After repeatedly connecting formerly abandoned newly-squatted buildings to electricity via the street system, it is reported that Con Ed left a note in a manhole asking “Mr. Shenker” to please stop it. The well known graphic artist Fly also lives here. One resident, a local Yoga/Asana instructor, installed a Japanese style soaking bathtub. The Lower East Side Ecology Center operates a compost drop off in the community garden next door.
From the NYTimes Abandon It, And They Will Come by Amy Barrett October 6, 2002.
Andry, Sophie and Aaron Yafet, 209 East Seventh Street
Moved in 1987. Invested at least $10,000.
Squatter monthly payment: $100. New payment: $400 to $500.
Sophie: ”My husband, Dan, explained to me what a squatter was when we were in Madagascar. I met him while he was working for the Peace Corps. When I came here in September of ’98, my husband had already put in all the windows, leveled the floor and done the doors, the plumbing and electricity. I never really had to live like a squatter. I feel lucky. Of course, you always want to make a place better. We have exposed brick walls, and I want to make them fancier, bring out the natural red color with polyurethane. We meant to do it, but I got pregnant. And the fumes aren’t good for kids.”
Block : 390 / Lot : 050 / Building Date : 1897 / Original Owner : Jonas Weil and Bernard Mayer / Original Use : Residential / Original Architect : Schneider & Herter