A series of decaying wood and steel structures extending into the Hudson River along the West Side Highway from Christopher Street up to Chelsea, the piers were popular gay cruising spots back in the 1970s. The vibe was open, loose and sexy.
The years between Stonewall and the advent of Aids were a period of sexual freedom and celebration in the West Village and the piers were at the center of a scene that in retrospect seems bittersweet.
Nelson Sullivan’s “The Piers in New York City in 1976” is a short 8mm clip which captures a transitional time between hope and harsher realities.
Until his fatal heart attack in 1987, Nelson Sullivan spent much of his life documenting the Manhattan downtown scene of the the 1970s and 80s. You can see his work at the 5 Ninth Avenue Project on Youtube. It’s a treasure trove of videos, including Lady Bunny, RuPaul, Larry Tee, Michael Alig and the Club Kids, Sylvia Miles, Michael Musto, Albert Crudo, John Sex, the Pyramid Club, the Limelight and Palladium.