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Abbie Hoffman: East Village Counterculture Icon

Abbie Hoffman, born Abbot Howard Hoffman on November 30, 1936, was an American political and social activist who co-founded the Youth International Party (“Yippies”) and was a member of the Chicago Seven. A leader of the counterculture movement of the late 1960s and a vocal anti-war proponent, it is no wonder that he found himself in the company of compatriots in the East Village.

“New York is naturally fantastic — especially where I live — just one gigantic happening,” he wrote while living on Avenue C and 11th Street. Hoffman arrived in the city in 1966 divorced, jobless, and estranged from his family. Hoffman promptly set out to organize political and spiritual movements which he believed would alter the course of Western politics.

Hoffman, along with Jerry Rubin, established the Yippie political group while living in a basement apartment at 30 St. Marks Place. From 1967-1974, 30 St. Mark’s was the epicenter of counterculture and the headquarters for the Yippies. Hoffman often spoke of the East Village as “the real hip underground, the successor to Greenwich Village as the heartland of bohemianism.” In Hoffman’s mind, the Yippies would be an answer to the hippie movement, which he believed was aimless and drug-centered and could not accomplish the kind of change in United States Foreign policy that he envisioned.

30 St. Mark’s Place

According to FBI files on Hoffman, he resided at 114-118 East 13th Street as of December, 1970. The book Assault on the Left: The FBI and the Sixties Antiwar Movement, by James Kirkpatrick Davis and Edwin Hoyt, states that Hoffman and his wife Anita lived in a rooftop apartment in this building in the area South of Union Square, years before its formal conversion to residential use.

114-118 East 13th Street

Hoffman remained a well-known leader of the counterculture movement throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. During this period Hoffman staged many theatrical antics with fellow Yippies around New York City, including the infamous incident in 1967 which involved raiding the New York Stock Exchange with a group of protesters and throwing both real and fake money down on the trading floor in protest of capitalism. He frequently made national headlines with his theatrical protests. He vowed during an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., to levitate the Pentagon, claiming he would attempt to use psychic energy to raise the building until it would turn orange and begin to vibrate, at which time the war in Vietnam would end. Fellow East Villager and friend Allen Ginsberg led a series of Tibetan chants to assist Hoffman in making the Pentagon building rise!

Abbie Hoffman suffered from manic depression throughout his life and, despite his success as an organizer and activist, took his own life at the age of 52. Upon his death, The New Yorker, which referred to him as “a polemicist, with a sense of humor”, observed that “Hoffman led 3 lives … social activist, yippie anarchist and white-collar impostor.”

You can learn more about Abbie Hoffman, as well as scores of other fascinating people and places in our interactive tool “South of Union Square Map and Tours” which brings users on unique and unexpected journeys through this rich historic neighborhood. In addition to featuring basic information on each one of the two hundred buildings located here, the tool includes nearly forty themed tours that showcase the neighborhood’s many dynamic and varied layers of significance. The South of Union Square Map and Tours is an ongoing project, and is consistently being updated as new information comes to light.

One response to “Abbie Hoffman: East Village Counterculture Icon

  1. Thanks, Lannyl, for writing about Abbie. He was born in Worcester, MA, and attended Clark University there. I attended his funeral, which began with a procession from his mother’s house to the Temple, led by Pete Seeger. The eulogy was delivered by his cousin, Sydney Schanberg (of “The Killing Fields” – about photographer friend Dith Pran – and the New York Times.) I first met Abbie in the fall of 1968 as he came walking into Tompkins Square Park. Recognizing him, I said, “Hello,” and asked, “How are you?” He replied: “I’m having a bad trip!” [!] That was Abbie. Don’t forget, when he lived on the Lower East Side he was the manager of something called Liberty House. He was warm and brilliantly funny, and it was a terrible and tragic loss when he took his life in “New Hope,” PA. See: “In 1966, a small store called Liberty House, with precisely this in mind, opened at 343¼ Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Abbie Hoffman, through his involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was the manager. Liberty House sold handbags, book bags, dresses, children’s clothes, pillows, quilts and other “crafts of freedom,” as they were known, produced by an outfit called the Poor People’s Corporation.” NYT https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/nyregion/liberty-house-closing-manhattan.html

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