“You know, the primary thing about a New York apartment is that it must be quiet,” says the artist Taylor Mead, who has lived since 1979 in a 260-square-foot hovel on Ludlow Street. “And have nice light.” New York artists have always been famously accommodating about their accommodations, choosing to live here as spartans or slobs (or both) rather than anywhere else. This is the city at its most romantic—though, as Mead would tell you, romance isn’t easy. In 2002, he received an eviction notice. “They had the building fumigated because it was infested with cockroaches.” He was allowed to stay, but many of his belongings and work weren’t. “Now the apartment is a worse wreck than before,” he says. “My ceiling is collapsing, there’s no water coming in—but I’m afraid to complain, because they’ll inspect it again.”
This article has been corrected to show that William S. Burroughs lived at 222 Bowery, not 222 Broadway.