The Mayor of Upper Orchard Street

Posted on: March 3rd, 2010 at 6:18 am by

You probably know Nathan.  If your daily travels bring you past the corner of Orchard and East Houston, chances are you’ve encountered the man.  He’s a true neighborhood character who lives on the green benches outside American Apparel.  Just the other day, we sat down with Nathan to have a candid discussion about his relationship with the Lower East Side.

This image has been archived or removed.

Nathan aptly calls himself the mayor of upper Orchard Street.  And it’s not without reason, either.  He always has a finger on the pulse, as it were.  For the last seven years (give or take), Nathan has been living in this vicinity, always with a watchful eye.  His original home base was a chair outside Ray’s Pizza on East Houston, where the owners would sometimes let him crash in the basement.  But the pizzeria was busted for involvement in a drug ring years ago, and Orchard eventually became his de facto home.

This image has been archived or removed.

While squatting in this high-traffic locale, Nathan provides a distinct service.  To keep in the good graces of the community and the nearby business owners, he is, in effect, the guardian of the streets.  Outside security, as he calls it.  Armed with broom and dustpan, he sweeps the sidewalks between Allen and Ludlow while watching out for proprietors’ cars and any tomfoolery; he’s even broken up fights and testified against hoodlums. The nearby eateries are generally grateful for his watchful eye and assistance, and usually reciprocate with food – Katz’s, Bereket, Ray’s Pizza, etc.

This image has been archived or removed.

Despite his street-bound situation, though, Nathan doesn’t seem to have regrets, and carries himself rather confidently.  He is quite affable and gregarious by nature, saying hi to nearly everyone and making plenty of friends. Many residents know him by name and keep him stocked with enough cigarettes and coin to get by.  While he doesn’t panhandle per se, his goal is to scrape together at least $30 per diem to stay afloat.

And, of course, he is not without plenty of hilarious stories.  When asked about the craziest thing he’s seen lately, he recalled an event in 2003 outside Ray’s Pizza.  One random night, a woman stepped out of her car fully naked wearing only high heels.  She proceeded to walk into the pizza shop and back to her car without incident.

Have a story about Nathan?  Please share!

Recent Stories

Clayton’s Corner: Overthrow the Wrong Way

In this installment of Clayton’s Corner, photographer Clayton Patterson shares news that the Overthrow boxing gym on Bleecker Street is back in action. Then, crosstown on Essex Street, two cops stopped for a quick slice. However, flouting traffic by driving the wrong way to park in front of Champion Pizza. This move seemed to irk […]

How COVID and a Bus Stop Chased Benson’s from Essex Street

The following guest post was penned by Boogie reader Sydney Fishman. For five years, Benson’s held down the corner of East Houston and Essex Streets with craft beers, sumptuous burgers, and the occasional movie night. The movie nights, according to owner Annie Morton, were the highlight of Benson’s tenure on the Lower East Side. Before […]

Next Phase of Market Line at Essex Crossing Now Visible

With scaffolding and other construction elements removed from The Artisan building at Essex Crossing, another part of the Market Line is coming into focus. Unlike the westernmost third of the Market Line, this section beneath 180 Broome Street feels less like a dungeon. Design elements, including massive grand staircase and full facade glass open the […]

14-Story Eldridge Street Hotel Hit with Stop Work Order

The hotel newcomer underway on lower Eldridge Street – recently topped out at fourteen stories – met the might of the city. Inspectors from Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order on 79 Eldridge about a week ago. It’s a full order which only allows work “to provide shoring for all staircases and provide design […]

Eighteen Groups Sign Open Letter Demanding Transparency over CB3 Removal of Committee Chairs

Eighteen community groups within Community Board 3 on the Lower East Side this week co-signed an open letter to city and state officials urging inquiry into the removal of Alexandra Militano and Carolyn Ratcliffe as chairs of the SLA and Arts & Culture subcommittees, respectively. The shakeup, apparently inspired by a stated “new direction” for […]