Ada Calhoun has lived in Williamsburg since 2001. Brooklyn’s once-desolate loft neighborhood has become so congested in recent years, she says, she and her husband now avoid the Bedford Avenue subway stop.
It’s not the first New York City neighborhood she has witnessed experience major upheaval. The daughter of art critic Peter Schjeldahl, Calhoun grew up on St. Marks Place, the historic three-block section of Eighth Avenue in Manhattan’s East Village. Her new book, St. Marks Is Dead, follows the centuries-old saga of the neighborhood, from the aristocratic Stuyvesant family through the immigrant anarchists of the early 20th century to the Beats, Yippies, and punks of the postwar years.
Nelson Algren loved Chicago’s Division Street, and Atlanta’s Little Five Points is sometimes called the South’s own Haight-Ashbury, but there is no block in the country quite like St. Marks, which has kept its cool through more turnovers than a Dutch bakery. Still, we asked Calhoun to help choose a few comparable crossroads of culture.