“Illegal Living”: A New Biography of a Soho Building by Professor Roslyn Bernstein

  • By CUNY J-School Staff

Professor Roslyn Bernstein, who teaches Feature Writing at the CUNY J-School, has come out with a new book, “Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of Soho.”

Co-authored with Shael Shapiro, “Illegal Living” is the story of the building at 80 Wooster Street and the people who lived and worked there. The first of 16 artists’ coops started by George Maciunas, founder of the Fluxus art movement, Fluxhouse Coop II spurred the development of SoHo in lower Manhattan and the spread of worldwide loft conversions.

The building was a magnet for the avant-garde who were drawn to Jonas Mekas’ Cinematheque, a ground-floor space that hosted happenings, film screenings, dance and theater performances, concerts, and art shows. Hundreds of artists including Trisha Brown, Richard Foreman, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Hermann Nitsch, Nam June Paik, and Andy Warhol showed their work in and around the building.

Illegal Living’s intimate portrait of a single building over 40 years highlights the complexity of an artist coop and puts into question any simple take on who wins and who loses when neighborhoods change.

The New York City book launch was held Sept. 21 on the ground floor of 80 Wooster and the European book launch took place in Vilnius in late May.

The book is on sale in the MoMA bookshops and on Amazon.com.