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A Night on the Streets


2 a.m., Upper West Side

"I have a lot of names,” says the man sitting under some scaffolding outside a vacant Upper West Side storefront at 2 a.m. Call him Connie, he says—that’s what his father called him. He left home early—his parents had issues, he says—and has been homeless most of his life. He avoids the shelter system and social services. “Paperwork, rules, questions. I prefer getting stuff on my own.” He lives on about $15 a day in panhandled donations. “It’s enough to survive if you can get free clothes, free food.” Until recently he lived near Tompkins Square, “but it’s more civilized here,” he says. The Upper East Side is where he gets the most static: “The cops don’t like it when you’re too close to the mayor’s place.” Connie says he doesn’t do drugs. “There never was a salesman that could entice.” Tonight, he’s eating a mound of moist coffee grounds from a paper cup, like it’s a scoop of ice cream. “El Pico coffee,” he says. “It’s good. It’s like a cough medicine—a multipurpose medicine.”


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