Paolo and friends, many who grew up on the tenement side of Soho, hold an annual Fourth of July holiday street bash, the likes that the rest of trendier-than-thou Soho never sees.
For years, the party used to be in the nearby plaza previously known as Soho Square on 6th Ave, closed a couple of years back for renovation, and now a bit too chichi. Revelers emigrated to Spring Street near Sullivan, bringing the party into a lane in the street and along the sidewalk.
The morning of the Fourth, the setup begins, eventually with two grills, tables for food and fixings, a tub for ice. This year there was even a tent for shade. Chairs find their way onto the sidewalk.
Paolo gets a sprinkler cap from FDNY and concocts a creative street installation with water action, his surfboard and a faux duck. Passersby walk through the good-humored goofiness of this unique holiday observance and are invited to join. Throughout the day the menu includes sardines, sausages, hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken.
On a long weekend from Dallas, a couple walking Spring St. to Soho stop for the eats and stay for a couple of hours, schmoozing with the locals. Seniors gravitate from Vesuvio Park for a change of scenery and some bar-be-que. Some folks happening on the scene hang out for a quick pict and for others, the surreality is awe-inspiring. Always there are smiles.
Neighbors come and go, while grilling continues into the early night.
This annual tradition is a reunion for many of the guys who grew up in this ‘hood, but the gathering has also become the go-to party for all ages rooted in the neighborhood. The open inclusive vibe where all are invited is the most welcoming block party that this city sees.
(*Soho Square, originally created in 1945 contains a larger-than-life-size statue of Uruguayan independence leader and national hero General Jose Artigas. It received a 5 million dollar face-lift in 2017/18, supported in part by the local Business Improvement District (who maintains it), NYC Economic Development Corporation, and City Council.
Picnic tables removed were never replaced, the General was moved, and installed attractive “designer benches” encourage people to stay but “not too long.” The uncomfortable benches are not ergonomic with a rigid perpendicular backrest, they’re designed for long-legged people and for your behind—a sitting surface has spaces so far apart that long-term sitting is undesirable. The plaza’s name was subsequently changed to Spring Park.)
Photos by Tequila Minsky