This is the story of Carol and Richard Quigley (CQ and RQ), life-long residents of Greenwich Village. Part of the “Baby Boomer” generation, they grew up during the economic and cultural changes of the 1950s and ’60s right here in the West Village. WestView News (WVN) interviewed them at their long-term fifth-floor walk-up apartment.
WVN: Born and raised in Greenwich Village would seem to be a diminishing quality in a city of transients and newcomers; what is your personal story; what kept you here?
RQ: Not driving! Everything I needed was around you. I’ve grown up by the Chinese laundromat and we wore clean uniforms to school laundered at Spotless Dry Cleaners. We had three grocery stores within thirty feet of my house, and I could walk out alone anytime and bring home groceries for my family. Almost every block on Bleecker had stores. Zito’s Bakery for a treat; they made the bread, rolls and stuff at twelve or one o’clock in the morning, and they would give us some fresh out of the oven. Bleecker used to have pretty much every block east of 7th Avenue with fruit and produce vendors. It worries me there’s fifteen to twenty stores closed between 6th and 8th Avenues.
CQ: Now we have to take buses to shop for food. The neighborhood markets are too expensive.
RQ: I guess all but a handful of the people, maybe seven I have known for years here—they’re all gone (moved). Somebody told me it’s the rent prices and everything else going up.
CQ: We were both born at St. Vincent’s Hospital; our son was born there. Both our mothers passed there.
RQ: My siblings were born there also. Both my parents died there.
CQ: My cousin has a beautiful house and property in New Hampshire, but everything is at least a forty-five-minute drive. My father was born on Bleecker Street. My mother was born in Schenectady, again a forty-five-minute drive to get anywhere.
RQ: We were in Nashville recently and there were no convenience stores where we stayed at a hotel downtown. We had to walk almost a half a mile just to get water or a sandwich. My brothers live in New Jersey; you got to hop in the car to do anything. Here you can roll out of bed, and everything is here.
CQ: Strolling down Bleecker or side streets, I remember window shopping in antique stores. The neighborhood is changing.
WVN: You have seen the streets and buildings change (all the gas stations are just one example); what strikes you as the most controversial changes? What do you miss the most?
CQ: The biggest shame is the closing of Saint Vincent’s Hospital. Richard and I feel that it is a shame that so many businesses have closed in The Village. It looks like a ghost town. Hopefully a way will be found to stop the landlords and politicians from killing The Village.
WVN: What strikes you as the most beneficial changes to the streets and buildings?
RQ: Hudson River Park, but that’s the only thing. I would not go down there back before the Park, when [there was] a lot of activity with people doing their thing down there, since there were a lot of trucks that were parked and left open at night. But then they finally got rid of all those empty trucks and spaces, and that is one of the best things, I would say. Now they have a tennis court, they have a skateboard park, miniature golf course, a basketball court, swimming activity; that is really a major difference.
WVN: What are your fondest memories—of people, places, or things—in The Village?
RQ: The original 6th precinct station was on Charles Street, and as a kid they were able to give a kick in the ass if you acted out of line, but because of the mixed neighborhood, it was very different about getting along. When I was really little, I was exposed to neighbors of Irish, Puerto Rican, and two black families and we all got along. In the summertime, because of the heat, and we didn’t have air conditioning, a lot of what we did was outside, even late at night we’d play. Sometimes we opened up the fire hydrant to spray water for a wonderful couple of hours. When the police we knew were getting off duty, they let me know to shut it off so we wouldn’t get a ticket; then we’d pull out a big wrench, a monkey wrench.
CQ: When this apartment became available it was in the front of this building, the sunny side, and then my bedroom had all the sun.
RQ: My father would whistle; I could hear his whistle three blocks away and I knew I had to go home. I don’t know whether it’s for dinner or to go to the store or something; I had to drop everything I was in the middle of. I would never take [away] my childhood for anything; if I had to go back to it, I would want it to be the same way anyway; to be so active, it was insane.
CQ: Yes, it really was an important aspect of just being a kid growing up.