My first apartment was so small I had to step outside to change my mind. The year was 1968. The apartment was on Sullivan Street, just below Prince, in a smaller, older building behind a more conventional building. It was an 11 x 11 studio with a separate, tiny kitchenette. It was small but the windows faced south and it was sun-lit and quiet.
The rent was $105 a month, which my mother considered exorbitant. Her comment after much hand-wringing: “Oh, why don’t you get yourself a nice studio in Lefrak City.” I ignored that suggestion. I was going to be from Queens, not in Queens. I was going to live in the Village, and at that time South Sullivan Street was the Village. Savvy real estate guys had yet to invent SoHo.
Of course, Sullivan Street south of Houston was not the Village of My Sister Eileen. It was an Italian neighborhood with a live poultry market around the corner on Prince Street and butcher shops with sawdust on the floor. There were also any number of Italian grocery stores where I bought prosciutto and Parmesan.
Up on Houston Street, I became addicted to spinach and cheese ravioli from Raffetto’s pasta shop. And every June, the Feast of St. Anthony took over Sullivan Street. I had only to step out my door for sausage and peppers and zeppoles. I ate cheaply and well in the almost three years I was in that apartment.
In the spring of 1971, I gave up my apartment and embarked on a six-month trek through Europe. When I returned, the rent-control laws had changed! After an illegal sublet (from which I was evicted) I found a home on Barrow Street in the West Village.
I love my Barrow Street apartment but the rent keeps rising. I often walk over to my old neighborhood where much more than rent control has changed. Most of the old stores are gone now and Anna Wintour holds fund-raisers for Barack Obama in her Sullivan Street townhouse. What has not changed is the spinach and cheese ravioli at Raffetto’s and I’m still addicted.