For years, warm weather in the East Village has been heralded by an influx of young, tattooed visitors carrying backpacks and bedrolls and wearing clothes so stiffened with grit that they have come to be known in the neighborhood as crusties.Really? Well, maybe they're more victims of the dreadful Obama economy. Perhaps if there were fewer ATMs, the scenic Tomkin's Square Park landscape would again be dotted with leeches laying about, getting drunk and being a nuisance to normal human beings who might like to enjoy their neighborhood park. But to the Times, they're romantic figures.
Their arrival in Tompkins Square Park has become a predictable harbinger of spring, a surviving custom in a neighborhood that has undergone various upheavals and changes over the past several decades.
But this year, they have not materialized. People have reported stray sightings of one or two visitors, but nothing like what the neighborhood has come to expect. No one knows if they are simply late this year or if, for some reason, they will not come at all. Either way, their absence has been conspicuous.
“It’s like the birds aren’t migrating this year; the salmon aren’t swimming upstream,” said Chris Flash, an East Village resident who runs a local bike courier service and an underground newspaper called The Shadow. “The whole ecology of the neighborhood is out of whack.”
The visitors are seasonal nomads, crossing the nation in rough accordance with changing weather patterns, heading south or west in the winter and venturing toward the Northeast in the summer months. Many travel along rail lines like the Union Pacific and the Norfolk Southern, hoisting themselves into empty freight train boxcars.They even have a website devoted to these lowlifes. Here's a look at one of these charming young men. His name is Trash Can.
Several cities are known to be relatively hospitable to the travelers, among them San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va. In New York, the group has become such a fixture in Tompkins Square Park that the area where members have generally assembled — near the park’s western edge, just south of the Temperance Fountain — is known as Crusty Row.
There, the travelers could typically be found relaxing on wooden benches and whiling away the hours talking (adventurous tales of illicit rail travel were popular), drinking (preferred beverages included cheap vodka, malt liquor or “space bags,” the name given to the silvery bladders found in boxes of wine) and smoking (self-rolled cigarettes predominated).
I don't know what these cops are doing. Fucking assholes. I've met cool cops, I mean. A good majority that I met do suck but there's a lot of cool cops. I can't hate on them. Like today we got caught at our squat where we were sleeping and the cops they just, "they're like I don't care what you do. Just leave. Just don't ever come back." They didn't even care so. Under this bridge. Under the Williamsburg Bridge. In this big fenced in area. They didn't say anything really. They just told us to move. So really really can't hate all coppers. Those cops seemed like assholes a little bit.The Times seems wistful, crestfallen they haven't appeared. It's like their whole ecosystem seems out of whack. What will become of the Crusties?!?!
I guess they were down there shooting up. Cops walked up on them. Just busted them. Yeah kicked them out of New York. It's crazy. I'm surprised they didn't take them to jail or anything. Anywhere else. It's crazy out here. Up north it's crazy. In Texas, that type of stuff don't go. Certain towns. They'll either like, if you were to talk back to them, like certain towns, like Austin or something they would definitely try to rough you up a little bit. Or would have definitely took you to jail. Yeah they definitely got lucky on that.
Over the years, some people who frequent the park have expressed distaste for the travelers, saying that too many drink alcohol openly and that they tend to create a disorderly atmosphere. Others have been more tolerant, arguing that whatever harm the travelers cause is only to themselves. Susan Stetzer, the district manager of Community Board 3, suggested that many East Village residents had accepted the visitors.Can benefit concerts be far off? I can see it now: Save the Crusties!
“People just don’t make a big deal about them,” Ms. Stetzer wrote in an e-mail, adding, “At least they are quiet.”
On a recent afternoon, Crusty Row was empty, save for a few parkgoers. Levent Gulsoy, 55, gazed toward the empty row of benches where the travelers used to gather. “That’s not a good sign,” he said. “When one species disappears, others tend to follow.”
Of course if any of this human debris crashed some East Hamptons soiree held by a New York Times honcho I doubt they'd be so favorably welcomed.
H/T Tim Blair.