Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

July 15, 2008

The Wanton Destruction of Washington Square Park

Longtime Greenwich Village resident and activist Sharon Woolums fought for three years to save Washington Square Park. In the video above, she sings about the forces that ultimately doomed the park to a radical redesign.

One of the most familiar places in my life was Greenwich Village's Washington Square Park. While I no longer live in Manhattan, I grew up just a few blocks from the park, spent many hours there, and always accepted that it was a sacred institution that wouldn't be sacrificed to the interests of developers. So I was shocked when I visited the park a few weeks ago and saw that it had been fenced up, torn down, denuded of ancient trees, and basically destroyed, all in the interests of making it "better utilized" (i.e. more conducive to gentrification).

I write a lot about the inevitable passage of time and the erosion it causes to cyber properties on this web site. Still, it was a blow to see one of my neighborhood's major gathering places looking like a desert, and I got angry enough about it to produce the video embedded above, starring community activist Sharon Woolums, who fought valiently for three years to save the Park, but was ultimately defeated by powerful entrenched interests. You can learn more about the ghastly destruction of Washington Square Park over at

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August 28, 2007

The Closest I'll Ever Come to Sharing Screen Time With Robert De Niro

The Belmore Cafeteria in 1975. Photo by Steve Baldwin

I bought the new release of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver last week for two reasons: my VHS copy has worn out and I wanted to see whether the producers of the new Sony Two-Disc Collector's Edition actually included the footage they shot last year when I talked with them about the Belmore Cafeteria, a place I used to hang out in a lot back in the 1970's that featured largely in Taxi Driver.

Sure enough, I made it into a couple of "Featurettes:" "Taxi Driver Stories" and "Travis’ New York Locations."

Thanks, Marty and crew! It was a great honor to contribute something (mainly, the photo I took of the Belmore back in 1975) to the understanding of a truly classic American film. The city it portrayed may no longer exist but its portrayal of a tormented soul struggling with pathological loneliness continues to resonate. As writer Paul Schrader notes in his commentary, Travis Bickle's pathology is trans-historical and it lives on in the millions of confused young "nobodies" in the world for whom violence provides the only apparent path to meaning.

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