Thursday, September 20, 2007

My stay at the Home for Wayward Girls

'Gramercy Park' by George BellowsLast Sunday's New York Times blasted me to the past with this article about the Salvation Army's Parkside Evangeline Residence. When I first moved to New York City after college, I needed a place to stay while I was interviewing for jobs and looking for an apartment. I spent about 10 days at the Parkside Evangeline, which I insisted, then and now, on calling the Home for Wayward Girls. I think it cost $35 a night.

This women-only, single-room-occupancy, extended-stay hotel was a throwback even then, with its dingy decor and prim rules about male visitors to your room (as in, none allowed. Not that I had anyone to invite up). I didn't eat in the dining room or spend any time in the lobby -- if I wasn't out prowling for a job or an apartment, I holed up in my room with a few books and a tiny radio for company.

I did have friends in the city but I mostly remember feeling lonely and scared. I'd lived in Philadelphia for the past four years but was still felt like a total rube in NYC. Sleeping alone in a dim, narrow room, skulking down the hall to use the bathroom, and communicating with the outside world via the hallway pay phone didn't help at all. Nor did the bank screwup that left me with almost no cash (or credit) for a few days, weighing whether to spend my last $1.50 on a subway token or a bagel on the morning of an interview.

And I never availed myself of my one and only chance to visit Gramercy Park! Curses.

As for the plan to evict the remaining tenants from the Parkside Evangeline and sell the building, I can't say I blame the Salvation Army. Yes, the deal stinks for the current residents and for people in the position I was in. And it's a shame to see one of those places that makes New York New York be turned into yet another luxury condo. But all that sentiment and $1.50 will not even get you a ride on the subway.


Julie Pippert said...

What an interesting experience to have.

Do you think there was another alternative?

Using My Words

Julie Pippert said...

Errr, by alternative I mean sell the building and put up pricey condos...something else that could have been done?

Using My Words

thailandchani said...

It is unfortunate that temporary housing like that is disappearing. It seems to be everywhere. At the price you mentioned though, it was not that different than Motel 6. Maybe that's the rationale. :)



Magpie said...

I thought of you when I read that piece...

I'm somehow glad that your stay there was less than makes me feel better about the Salvation Army's decision to monetize their asset.

Mayberry said...

Julie P: That's a good question. I wonder if the S.A. could have or should insist on mixed-income housing in the space. But I also wonder if those projects ever actually work.

mothergoosemouse said...

I can picture what you saw and imagine how you felt. Gives me shivers. New York is not an easy place to make yourself at home (but well worth it once you do!).

I can't blame the SA either. I imagine that they are maintaining the buildings at a loss, even with the deteriorating conditions cited by the residents. They are a charity, yes - but I wonder if the residents are truly in need of the charitable services that the SA provides. Particularly those residents who have lived there for years and years.

Lisa said...

Had no idea the Salvation Army had a service like that in NY. THat's really interesting. Sorry to hear its closing tho.

Liz said...

what a neat post to stumble upon...

and as a new yorker, i'd give my left one to see the gramercy park. but i can understand not knowing what you were missing when you had so much else going on.

glad i came upon your blog, i'll come back and visit soon!

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

Wow, that must have been so wild. I freaked when we moved to Denver, I can't imagine New York. By myself. You a brave girl.

Jenny said...

There's something so poignant about this. It made me homesick for something I've never known.

That's good writing.