Gay New York Lower West Side 1970 - 1990

Photography by Leonard Fink

Text by Perry Brass

(We found these pictures on Homodesiribus recently, and asked Lustspiel's friend and correspondent Perry Brass: "Was this the lower East Side of Manhattan?"  Here are his answers:)

"Wow, these are fabulous picture. No, it wasn't the Lower East Side, it was the West Side, near the West Village, in what were known as the "Sex piers," a series of huge abandoned piers that had once been part of the cruise ship lines that dotted the West side up to about 34th Street. Several of these piers below 14th Street became "colonized" by gay men for cruising, sex, socializing, and schoozing.

This went on from about 1974 until the end of the 1980s, when the piers were either torn down or were rehabbed into money making venues, like what are now known as the Chelsea Piers, a very upscale sports, eating, and entertainment complex.

The piers were a real part of gay life downtown—I spent many weekends at them. One of them became the primary pier and on a Sunday in the summer, you might see 400 naked gay men sunning themselves in the open extension, out on the Hudson, in clear site of boats along the river. Inside the piers were warrens of offices, storage rooms, old bathrooms, etc. where open hot spontaneous sex went on.

At night, the piers were pretty dangerous: they were frequented by homeless people, waterfront prostitutes, drug addicts, etc.

Still, some men went there at night, with flashlights, and had sex there, too.

I remember going to one one night with a sweet guy I'd met in a bar and we walked out to the open end, where huge ocean liners once docked, and had sex under the stars—right there in the middle of New York, really.