Curated by NoLIta participant Vijay Prabhabar
10 jun 2014 by art:i:curate team
As part of our 'Curated by NoLIta' project, we met with the curators: people living and working in the neighborhood.
Ky Katrensky met with Vijay Prabhabar, who prefers NYC over any other city.
KK: How do you normally take in art?
VP: Either at gallery openings or at museum trips, hopefully with someone much more knowledgable than I am, though I'm not afraid to go alone. Assuming we're leaving music and larger pieces (such as buildings) out of the discussion.
KK: What does the term "curating" mean to you?
VP: The careful selection of any set of things such that their interplay is significant.
KK: When did you move to NoLIta/LES and why?
VP: I was living on the Upper West Side, taking far too many cabs downtown. My friends would consent to the yearly field trip to the UWS, but I was really pulling teeth to get people to come up there, albeit they had good reason given how suburban and sleepy the neighborhood can be. One day, I was at my local bar and I realized that I had to be 20 years older, have kids and have them go to college before I had anything in common with the other patrons. I was also right across from Central Park but my building wasn't dog friendly. So I found a dog-friendly apartment downtown the next day and moved.
KK: Where did you live before and where are you from?
VP: I grew up in Baltimore though I'm from Indiana. I've lived in London, Stockholm, San Francisco, Austin and Chicago. They all pale in comparison to NYC.
KK: What do you like best about your part of town and what don't you like at all?
VP: It's really a neighborhood. I walk down the street and run into people every day. New York is a city of transients. If you meet someone, there's some amount of sizing up where you figure out if they are just another visitor or if they are made of the right mix of guts, ability, and passion to stay. NoLIta seems to have a set stalwart folks who aren't going anywhere but a stone's throw away. There's a degree of looking out for each other that I really like. Maybe I've just found a community?
KK: What sets NoLIta apart from the surrounding neighborhoods?
VP: Unfortunately, less and less these days! It's natural though - neighborhoods creep into each other and change is going to happen. But NoLIta still has a lot of long time residents, both people and places, that give it a lot of character.
KK: Favorite New York moment?
VP: It's hard; it feels like a lot happens! But here's an example -- the night before my ill-fated move to Austin (which was a terrible place to live), my friend and I were talking and he couldn't believe I had never been to Tavern on the Green. So he made a plan and took me on a whirlwind tour of all the things in NYC that I'll miss by leaving. We went to a lot of places that night, but the one I remember most was the last one. It was summertime so we ended the night going to Tavern on the Green, chatting and dancing with random strangers, listening to the band play in Central Park with the trees lit up with lanterns. The next morning, I woke up and got on the plane. The plane banked over Central Park and I realized I had made a grave error.
KK: Do you know any of your neighbors?
VP: Yes - I know lots of them.
KK: Do you hope to connect with your neighbors through this project?
VP: I certainly don't claim to know them all. Like I said, people come and go all the time, but it would be nice to get to know them nonetheless.
KK: Are there any notable neighborhood characters?
VP: Everyone over here is a character!
KK: Do you have a local hangout spot in the neighborhood that is community oriented
VP: Not really one - I think there are some reliable bars and restaurants where the staff remembers who lives around the corner so it feels a lot like "Cheers" when you stop by. The rent has been going up so a lot of the local spots closed and they've been replaced by the $15 tastes-like-everyone-else cocktail bar that really just caters to tourists. I don't blame the bars and restaurants though - it's expensive to stay open!
KK: Have you heard any stories about the history of NoLIta?
VP: I feel like a lot of the people I know ARE the history of NoLIta! Of course, they aren't that old, but you can't miss it's manufacturing roots.
KK: What do you see as the future of NoLIta?
VP: Frankly, any neighborhood that is as popular as this one is is going to "expand" as far the realtors go. They have a product to sell, and if it's on the wrong side of some street, that's not really going to change anything for most people anyway. For example, "SoHo Court", a building on Houston, is on the north side of the street and it's north of NoLIta! But given the popularity of SoHo, TriBeCa and the Village, NoLIta is pretty much squeezed into the space that it occupies. No doubt, people take parts of Chinatown and call it NoLIta, but, really, who cares? You have to be a really petty, small person to care about what other people call the place where you live. It's NYC after all. Today this is cool and tomorrow, you might as well live in Jersey. But if you like it, what's the loss? Maybe the rent will go down...
KK: Tell me something about yourself.
VP: The dog's name is Indiana. We're both from there.