By Paul Critchlow
Edward R. Enderlin, who considered the streets of the West Village his true home for the past three decades, died on June 17th. Mr. Enderlin, who was 64, had suffered from heart and pulmonary conditions and passed away at The Lee (133 Pitt Street, near East Houston Street)—the subsidized housing facility where he had resided for several years.
Known as ‘Ed’ or ‘Eddie’ to the many neighborhood residents who knew him, Mr. Enderlin most regularly frequented the corner of West 4th and Perry Streets. In his later years, even in a wheelchair, he cut a striking figure with his chiseled face, unruly ponytail, rust-colored beard, and eclectic manner of dress. He loved to regale passersby with colorful stories of his past as a Texas oil field construction mogul, a minor-level organized crime figure in Miami, or his time in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Mr. Enderlin liked to call himself the ‘Mayor of Perry Street’ or, in more expansive moments, the ‘Mayor of the West Village.’ His favorite haunt was on West 4th Street near the doorstep of Sam’s Deli; local proprietors and customers alike often engaged with him in good-natured banter.
Although homeless for more than 25 years, Mr. Enderlin did not lack industry. He made his living scavenging discarded home furnishings, electronic items, and books, and selling them to the secondhand thrift shops that once dotted the West Village. He performed odd jobs, painting, hauling, or even housesitting for some families. And, of course, he had a well-rehearsed litany of needs with which he solicited personal donations.
Mr. Enderlin also became a local celebrity. Film students at NYU often interviewed him or featured him as a character in their work. One prominent photographer included his portrait in a series called Old Masters, which hung in the Brooklyn Museum of Art. And, for a time, he became a side attraction for tourists visiting the “Sex and the City” steps on Perry Street. For $1.00, he told them, they could take his picture, and for $2.00, he added, he’d get out of the way.
Born in Cuero, Texas, he was the first of five children born to an Air Force mechanic and his young bride from New Jersey. Mr. Enderlin told friends that he had rebelled early against all forms of authority, completing only one year of high school. He lived variously on Long Island and then the New Jersey shore, where he married, divorced, and fathered two children. Estranged from family, he bounced around the South in a series of odd jobs, one of which led him to New York in the early 1980s.
He immediately took to the “quiet streets and tolerant people” of the West Village, he said, and considered it home.
Gentrification, he had said, dried up the vintage goods business; the influx of affluent new residents proved less generous than the old ones being forced out. Several years ago, he finally accepted admission into government-subsidized housing at The Lee, operated by the nonprofit Breaking Ground.
A memorial service will be held on September 7th at 2:00 p.m. at The Lee. Mr. Enderlin’s remains will be interred at the Calverton National Cemetery, in Calverton, Long Island.