Tent City to tattoo artists, etched in L.E.S. history

Photos by Clayton Patterson
Photos by Clayton Patterson

Around 1992, Stanley Sydorowitz a.k.a. “Cowboy Stan” spoke at a memorial in Tompkins Square Park for a woman named Barbara. She had reportedly been struck in the head by a police officer a year or two earlier in one of the neighborhood’s many street clashes during that turbulent time. Also pictured, from left, are Robert Lee Marion a.k.a. “Loanshark Bob,” a man named Alfredo and Barbara’s husband, Chris Henry. Marion was known for stridently proclaiming his theory of “povercide,” that the government was killing people through poverty. Henry and Barbara were members of the sprawling homeless Tent City that had occupied a large swath of the park until it was dismantled under Mayor Dinkins in 1989.


Tattoo artists recently came together to pay homage to Tom DeVita and enjoy his artistry at a show of his drawings, sculpture and shadow boxes at King’s Avenue Tattoo, on the Bowery at Spring St. From left, Nick Bubash, a tattoo artist from Pittsburgh who used to work in New York and learned from DeVita; Lori Leven, owner of New York Adorned, on Second Ave. at Second St.; DeVita; and, standing, Chris Grasso, who recently filmed a documentary on the legendary ink maestro for Vice. “DeVita was famous on Fourth St., between C and D,” said Lower East Side documentarian Clayton Patterson. “He would work from early in the morning until noon. Ed Hardy admired and supported him. DeVita tattooed a lot of the Puerto Rican guys from around here and the Chinese gangs, Sanitation workers who were getting off of their shifts, or starting their shifts. … Things like that.”