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I first got involved in left-wing politics in 1987 at the age of 15. I became an Anarchist in 9th grade (1988) and started hanging out in the LES.

THE ANARCHIST SWITCHBOARD (Spring 1988- Summer 1989)

The first spot I stumbled onto was the Anarchist Switchboard located in the basement of 324 East 9th Street between 1st and 2nd. I think it was opened in 1986 by a guy from the Libertarian (aka Anarchist) Book Club. A girl from my high school took me down there. It was a dingy one-room spot with couches, exposed lightbulbs and red concrete walls. I liked it a lot, and gave them my birthday money to help out with the rent.

Some local @’s ran a small bookstall out of the place, but it was hardly ever open. They also had speakers and hosted organizing meetings and poetry/ folk performances. There was lots of activity in NYC and on Long Island that came out of that place, including NYC’s first Food Not Bombs. The spot also produced 11 issues of a zine (BLACK EYE) and a pamphlet (“Bakunin On Violence”).

The Anarchist Switchboard also figured somewhat in the August 1988 Tompkins Square riot. Lots of Switchboard folks were there. The Switchboard was also the victim of a right-wing skinhead mob attack on July 4, 1989 and several people were badly injured (they were looking for “flagburners”).

Eventually the Switchboard (which was started as a “free space” experiment) was taken over by a mob of junkies. They slept there and stank the tiny place up. Everybody stopped going there, and there was an outcry from the neighborhood to shut the place down. And down it went.

SABOTAGE (Fall 1989- Summer 1990)

A crew of people from the Switchboard wanted to start a more professional-style bookstore. They quite ambitiously rented a storefront on St. Mark’s Place (96 St. Mark’s btwn. 1st and A). Sabotage opened in the Fall of 1989.

It was a great place. They had shelves and shelves of awesome books, and the place was always abuzz with activity (often too much). Lots of activities related to the squatters movement and the height of the struggle in Tompkins Square Park.

In March 1990 a punk rocker was killed by right-wing skinheads just up the street from Sabotage. July 4, 1990 an Anarchist picnic was attacked by this same mob of right-wing skins.

Sabotage crashed and burned. The neighborhood was hot because of lots of clashes with the police around the park and in the squats. There was a lot of aggro and pressure. Eventually, the collective that ran the place split in two. The bookstore got taken over by an assortment of LES crazies and didn’t last a minute. The more level headed Anarchist segment dropped out and put out a pamphlet explaining their side of things (“What Ever Happened To Sabotage?”).

@ CENTRAL (Winter 1990- Summer 1991)

@ CENTRAL was started after SABOTAGE. They were located east of the Tompkins Square Park at 208 East 7th Street between B & C. I remember the collective having a lot of punk women involved in it. They had regular film showings and vegan café events. Didn’t spend much time there.

BLACKOUT (Spring 1995- September 2000)

I recall Blackout growing out of the editorial collective of LOVE & RAGE but don’t quote me on that. Located at 50 Ave B between 3rd and 4th Street. Probably the most professional of all the Anarchist bookstores. Definitely the best stocked with Anarchist books. Not really sure why it closed- it had probably just run its course and the neighborhood also changed a lot due to gentrification. Blackout saw Anarchism move from being an LES phenomena to getting more associated with the next generation of activists: Reclaim The Streets, Critical Mass, anti-globalization activists, etc.

MAYDAY BOOKS (Winter 2000- Current day)

Out of the ashes of Blackout came Mayday Books. NYC’s current Anarchist infoshop is located in the entrance to Theatre For A New City at 155 First Ave. A good source for Anarchist reading material, and a good place to get plugged in to what’s going on with NYC Anarchists