The homeless have always been rather fond of Thompson Street between Houston and Prince, perhaps because of Eileen Lane Antiques, whose sprawling steps seem to have a soporific effect. But neighbors were still surprised by the latest non-residential resident: Jimmy Tarangelo, who lives in an RV.
The scruffy 52-year-old showed up in August with his used, 20-foot-long “Boise Cascade Aristocrat,” which he bought for $700 from a friend in Islip. Before that, he was living in a van on Macdougal Street, having been evicted from his $252.79-a-month rent-controlled Leroy Street apartment (originally inhabited by his parents) for what Tarangelo refers to as a “clutter problem.” This included, among other things, ten rescued cats. A judge’s order (extended at least once) said he needed to deal with the disorder.
Having placed nine of the cats in homes, Tarangelo today resides in the RV with three mutts—Spot, Cinnamon, and Pickles—and the remaining black tabby, Samantha. He works as the super for a building on Charlton Street, with no spare apartment. A self-described “fix-it guy,” he also does “minor car repairs, handyman work, a little locksmithing” and sells stuff at flea markets. Much of his inventory is stored in the RV.
Tarangelo admits it’s getting cluttered. He and the dogs sleep on top of plastic bags filled with clothes he’s trying to sell. Papers and old sunglasses are strewn across the dashboard; tabloids are stacked on the shotgun seat, along with empty bottles of Pepsi and Poland Spring. (He collects refunds.)
He’d be rich today, Tarangelo says, if only his ex-wife had helped in 1988 with a $50,000 down payment to become the exclusive Staten Island distributor for Snapple, “before everyone started drinking those fancy iced teas.”
“There’s no forgiving for that. I wouldn’t get married again if the woman had a zillion dollars,” he says.
Some people have complained about his barking dogs and the RV’s possibly deleterious effect on property values, but one resident, Marcee Healy, says, “He watches out for the neighborhood. When he goes to stay with friends, I get worried.” (Tarangelo showers at friends’ places; the RV has no bathroom.)
And the cops? “I’m pretty sure there’s an ordinance you’re not supposed to live in a vehicle on the streets of New York,” Tarangelo says. “But this cop came by Saturday and says, ‘Are you living here.’ I say, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘Oh.’ He didn’t really bother me.”