Twenty years ago today the movie ‘Kids’ was released. The film is about a day in the lives of a group of New York City teenagers. The film received more than its share of negative reviews and accusations of exploiting and sensationalizing its teenage subjects. But unsurprisingly a movie about young people being independent and participating in adult activities like sex, drugs, and violence had its following among teenagers.
Also noteworthy, the movie was cast with non-actors, some of whom went on to great careers in film. Chloe Sevigny was working at Liquid Sky in the Village when she was cast, a store that catered to rave scene that was very popular in the mid-90’s. Rosario Dawson was cast right off an Avenue C stoop. Rolling Stone and the NY Times wote articles and BAM held a retrospective around the 20 year anniversary.
Love it or hate it, the movie reflected a lot about life in the city at a time when it seemed to many to be spiraling out of control. Crime had hit all-time highs in the early 90’s, and crack and AIDS were scourges which ravaged many communities. Nevertheless, some of the recent retrospectives look back at city life in the 80’s and early 90’s with nostalgia, finding it “authentic”, “gritty”, and certainly more affordable than now.
Those with a less rose-tinted view of the time might want to read the August 16, 1993 New York magazine cover story “The Village Under Siege.” That describes a graffiti-covered, often dangerous environment filled with actual and perceived threats of street violence and drug abuse. The article describes the area near Washington Square Park as “an aural, visual, olfactory, and sometimes physical assault on simple decency“. One of the most memorable and controversial scenes in ‘Kids’ was the beating scene shot in Washington Square Park. The park certainly had a great deal more drug-related activity then. Mayor Giuliani’s anti-crime initiatives eventually blanketed the park with surveillance cameras, and as time went on most of the crime and drugs disappeared as part of a citywide and national trend in crime reduction. The park is different than it was 20 years ago in many respects, with new playgrounds and lawns filled with sunbathing locals and NYU students.
Regardless of its condition, Washington Square Park has always been central to the Village. Off the Grid has looked at many other aspects of Washington Square Park such as its history, its Christmas tree, how it appeared in Washington Square, its music festival, and of course, the Arch- one, two, three times.