Tibor Kalman and Lenin in the East Village
If you find yourself walking down on Houston Street, the border between the East Village and the Lower East Side in Downtown Manhattan, you might notice a huge apartment building with a beautiful clock on top of it. 250 E Houston, also known as the Red Square Building, has an …
If you find yourself walking down on Houston Street, the border between the East Village and the Lower East Side in Downtown Manhattan, you might notice a huge apartment building with a beautiful clock on top of it. 250 E Houston, also known as the Red Square Building, has an interesting New York story to tell and its main characters are Vladimir Lenin, designer Tibor Kalman and gentrification.
The year is 1989, the East Village is giving in to gentrification; the last artists, bohemians and criminals north of Houston are moving down once for all, scared away by Starbucks and preppy bros. New luxury condos are emerging everywhere in the area. But one of this buildings looks different. 250 E Houston, was developed by owner Michael Rosen, a former professor of radical sociology at NYUm. He hired Tibor Kalman of M & Company to design the building’s identity and most famously the clock on top of the building.
The controversy around the building’s branding emerged from it being a luxury apartment but using as a selling a “bohemian/adventurous” lifestyle in the middle of a tenement based neighbourhood. Red Square is considered one of the pinnacles of gentrification in lower Manhattan. M & Company’s brochure read ”… Red Square is essentially a luxury housing development…in a tenement neighbourhood. As such, it was designed to appeal to a narrow audience of people with resources who wanted to live in a hip, extreme and even dangerous neighbourhood.”
But the story doesn’t end there. To make things a little bit weirder, from 1994 to 2016 an 18-foot tall statue of Vladimir Lenin stood on top of the building. It was a Soviet-commissioned heroic sculpture by Yuri Gerasimov, but when the USSR collapsed, the statue was never officially unveiled. Rosen’s co-developer, Michael Shaoul, found it in Moscow, and it has been part of the building since 1994 when it was purchased from Gerasimov. The meaning of this symbolic statue is unknown but some consider it as a final insult to the face of the radical past of the East Village and it’s fall to corporate hyper-gentrification.