The Loft: an Urban Commune for Alternative Living

The urban commune The Loft works towards being a successful, peaceful community within the city of New York.

| September/October 1970

Reprinted with permission from Zygote Magazine. 

"The Loft," as it is called by its denizens, is one of the rapidly growing number of city communes that have sprung up in New York and other urban conglomerates in recent years. As with most new endeavors, all the commune members are intent upon making it a success—a place where they will be free to express themselves and pursue their chosen interests, a central unit where they live and work together toward creating an alternative lifestyle.

I was very interested in understanding the workings of a city commune, realizing that if such a thing caught on in the huge metropolises of Amerika, that the whole idea and function of the city would change from a place which departmentalizes people, to a place which brings people together harmoniously to work toward their common and individual goals.

The Urban Commune

The Loft, according to Finley, an articulate and together member, "is a widely diverse group of people in a highly pressurized urban situation . . . a kind of situation where everybody can get his own head together, his own talent together, his own interest together . . . really make them work the way he wants them to, and yet let the total thing flow as a very real organic community." The word 'organic' means that the community will evolve in its own particular way, the variables being the people who live together. Laws in themselves will not be imposed, but will be organically developed to suit the needs of each person as well as the commune as a whole.

I had originally planned to conduct an informal interview with some of the communards, having brought with me a list of questions which I thought would more or less, cover what the commune was about. It didn't take me very long to see that this was too structured, and wouldn't work at all; after a half-hour or so, we broke up our little circle. I walked around the commune talking to members as they went about their everyday tasks. This was much more to their liking and they were freer to discuss their feelings, impressions, and ideas with me than they had been in the interview situation.

I was first taken on a tour of the commune to get a sense of the physical layout, its possibilities and its limitations. The commune itself occupies two loft-sized floors in an old building on lower 2nd Avenue, Manhattan. The main floor contains a huge kitchen-dining area, with a table big enough to seat all 27 communards and various friends during meals. (There were also 6 cats and a rabbit.)

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