Many years ago, back in 1984 maybe, I was walking home from the Wall Street area, up Pearl Street, when I passed this building, The Bindery. It had been newly made into luxury condos. But before that it was a book bindery.
Anyway, walking home I came upon a large number of boxes of books outside the entrance to the building. People were rummaging through them so I joined them.
Just then a woman came up and asked what we were doing. I told her, and she said “You shouldn’t take these. They should be donated to the library.” I paused for a moment then continued rummaging.
Every time I pass this building I think of that episode, of the woman saying the books should be donated to the library. She was right I guess, they should have been. But the people who should have donated them were the people who put them out on the curb. It was almost night — none of us were in any position to haul the books to whichever branch of the public library does the receiving.
I got a few good books that night; I don’t remember which ones now. I’m sure I still have them. I think The Iliad (translated by Richard Lattimore) was one of them, because I can’t remember where I got it, but I know I didn’t come to New York with it, and I know I’ve had it for almost as long as I’ve been here.
Anyway, passing by this building the other day I noticed that things are not so well at The Bindery. This tattered canopy is not just a sign of the current capitalist crisis either — this looks like it’s been in decline for some years now. It’s not so surprising to me. It’s a terrible location. It’s outside the Seaport area and just a few feet away from the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. All those years ago I thought “What a bad place to live.” Looks like I was right again.