Years ago, before the pilings had gone rotten and jagged like a row of rotten teeth, the piers were still lined with abandoned houseboats. At a time when gay sex was illegal, this was a busy pick-up spot. The empty homes gave cover from the elements and a semblance of privacy. Sometimes a boat’s floor gave way, and its occupants would drown in the Hudson River. Still, for gay men and trans teens, the block at the end of the West Village was a refuge from a hostile culture.
The piers have undergone an almost unrecognizable transformation from just 10 years ago, when the city began renovating the stretch of waterfront that runs parallel to the historic West Village, let alone 50 years ago, when the bodies of young gay and transgender men would be fished out of the river. Today, luxury condominiums line the highway, and the crumbling waterfront has been transformed into a park frequented by tourists and locals.