Historic, but not famous

Isaac Hopper, abolitionist, prison reformer

Isaac Tatem Hopper (1771 – 1852) was an abolitionist who was active in Philadelphia in the anti-slavery movement and protecting fugitive slaves and free blacks from slave kidnappers. He moved to New York City in 1829 to run a Quaker bookstore. From 1841-1845 he served as treasurer and book agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1845 he became active in prison reform and devoted the rest of his life to the Prison Association of New York.

He influenced his daughter, who started the Women’s Prison Association to work for prison reform as well. His work was known by legislatures in Albany and the governor trusted his opinion on the pardoning of many prisoners.

The Isaac T. Hopper Home of the Women’s Prison Association

The Isaac T. Hopper House, a Greek Revival townhouse at 110 Second Avenue in the East Village of Manhattan stands in his honor and for the work he did with the Quakers and prison reform. The house has been part of the prison reform system since the 1870s. It continues to serve as a half way house for female prisoners.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, and was designated a New York City landmark in 2009.

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Historic, but not famous

Terry Taylor, homeless activist
Memorial March for Terry Taylor (1994)

Terry Taylor was a homeless man, an activist for the rights of the homeless. He considered himself an activist for human rights and marched on Washington in 1989. He marched against police killings, and for health care and welfare. He lived in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village of Manhattan on the night the police raided the park and removed over 300 homeless people in August of 1988.

He died in 1992 of AIDS at St. Vincent’s hospital.

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Historic, but not famous

Liz Christy, community garden builder

Liz Christy was a founder of the urban community garden group, Green Guerillas. She was the first Director of the Council on the Environment, in New York City’s Open Space Greening Program and LCBH garden was the first winner of the American Forestry Association’s ‘Urban Forestry Award.’ In 1973, Liz Christy and a group of gardening activists were planting window boxes, vacant lots with ‘seed bombs’ and tree pits in the area. They saw the large rubble-strewn lot as a potential garden and in December went to the City to find a way to gain official use of the land. Volunteers hauled the garbage and rubble out, spread donated topsoil, installed a fence and began planting. In 1974 they received permission to use the space for $1 a month. The first year, sixty raised beds were planted with vegetables, and then trees and herbaceous borders were added.

The garden she founded and that is named for her is on Houston Street and Bowery (the NorthEast corner). The first community garden in the five boroughs of New York, it is one of the earliest community gardens in the northeastern United States and where you can find the tallest Dawn Redwood tree in NYC as well as hundreds of plants native to North America. This garden sparked a neighborhood garden movement throughout all the boroughs of NYC and the green guerrillas held workshops on how to start a community garden.

Liz Christy Garden is open to the public on Saturday from noon until 4PM, all year, on Sundays from noon until 4 PM, May to October, and Tuesday & Thursday evenings from 6 p.m. till dusk from May until October.

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Historic, but not famous

Howard Otway, revival movie theater
Howard and Florence Otway

Howard Otway (1922 – 1994, an actor, author and singer owned and directed Theater 80 St. Marks, the longest continuously running movie house devoted exclusively to revival films and plays in New York City. His theater, at 80 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, began its film revival program in 1971 with an opening-night celebration at which Gloria Swanson was the host. Designed and built by Mr. Otway in 1966, the theater was previously the home of the Manhattan Festival Ballet and of theatrical productions that included the 1967 musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Mr. Otway began his professional career at the age of 14 as a band and radio vocalist in the Middle West. He moved to New York at the age of 19, acted in stage productions and toured with Ms. Swanson in “Let Us Be Gay” in the early 1940’s.

He bought the building at 80 St. Marks Place in the East Village in 1964 from known Gangster Walter Scheib and found safes that had been left by  Frank Hoffman, a Bavarian-born bondsman turned bootlegger , but they were empty. Scheib held the mortgage until the $64,000 was paid for the building. Otway did fall behind in payments for about 6 months and hid from Scheib, but that all changed in 1967 when You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown was successful and allowed him to pay off the loan.

The building is now occupied by Theatre 80 St. Marks, The Museum of the American Gangster and the William Barnacle Tavern. It is owned by Lorcan Otway, Howard’s son.

The Theater is struggling. You can support the theater by going to one of its many shows or making a contribution through their website.  

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