Not many mayors in NYC. I don't mean elected politicians, but residents who spent so much time on their block that their names became synonymous with the neighborhood. Ricky Powell wasn't just a street photography legend, he was the mayor of Greenwich Village. He was the only person whose face was as recognizable as the Jefferson Market clock and the Big Yard at P.S. 41. Ricky's face was a Greenwich Village landmark.
I first met Ricky in '98 when he snapped a 'flickeroni' of my brothers Max and Sam for one of his books. Turned out, according to both Ricky and Max, they knew each other back in P.S. 41. Which is impossible, since they're more than ten years apart in age. But native New Yorkers will bullshit you about anything if it adds to their lore, and for Ricky, it was that Max was a talking head on ESPN. For Max, it’s that it was the legendary Ricky Powell. Hilarious how they stuck to such an easily debunkable story. Also kind of touching.
I lived with my folks in Greenwich Village after college, deep into my 20's in the same apt they raised me in. I grew up on 11th Street, Ricky was on 10th, both just above the park. And even though he'd long moved out of his mom's place and further west, he'd occasionally stop by our spot with a signed copy of a new book, or just to say hi. One time when he buzzed up, I hid in my room just to be an antisocial prick. I feel great about that now.
Anyway, we became friends over the years, and I was lucky enough to guilt him into letting me snap a few shots of him as we walked around the vill and talked business (about this site actually). Nothing ever came of it, but I just stumbled on the pix, and in light of the 1 year anniversary of his death, I thought it would be fitting to post them. Enjoy.
Always with his hand radio
Old habits die hard
RIP Ricky Powell
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