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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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