Prabhupada's loft in the Bowery had been difficult to access, and I thought, "A ground floor place would be good." I was going down the rental column, and the first or second place that I called was the storefront at 26 2nd Avenue. I met the agent, Mr. Gardner, a sprightly-looking, youngish, good-natured man who was wearing tennis shoes, denims and a T-shirt, and I told him about Prabhupada--how he was a scholar, and author, and a spiritual leader, and that the Prime Minister of India appreciated his work. Mr. Gardner was quite impressed. He liked the idea of somebody like that renting the storefront. Then Srila Prabhupada and Karlapati, Carl Yergens, arrived and were introduced. We went into the storefront, sat on the ledge just inside the window, and discussed wheter or not we could pay the $100 per month rent. Prabhupada had some very interesting things to say, but we did most of the talking. In the course of the conversation, we found out that there was also an apartment available on the other side of the courtyard for $80 a month. Prabhupada thought the storefront and apartment were suitable for his needs. In front of Prabhupada and Mr. Gardner, Carl and I had a little powwow as to how we could pay the rent, and we decided that between us it wouldn't be a problem. Mr. Gardner said that he would repaint the apartment, which would take a few days, and then we could move in and Prabhupada could start giving classes. We didn't tell Mr. Gardner about harinam and mridangas and kartals but about yoga classes. At some point during the conversation, Prabhupada said that Mr. Carl (he used to call us by our first names with a "Mr." appellation) and Mr. Michael were trustees of our Society. We talked a little more, and Prabhupada presented a set of three Bhagavatams, First Canto-Parts 1, 2, and 3, to Mr. Gardner. Mr. Gardner was a little reluctant to take them, but Prabhupada insisted and then signed them. Mr. Gardner was humbled and honored by getting these books and said, "Oh, thank you, it is very kind of you." That was a substantial gift. Prabhupada, with his distinguished, transcendental presence, began to talk about how we were going to create a Society. He said to Mr. Gardner. "We would also like you to be a trustee of our Society." Mr. Gardner thought for a minute, looked at the books, and said, "Okay."
We talked a bit more about what Prabhupada was doing, how the Movement was expanding, and how Prabhupada liked America. Then Prabhupada said that Mr. Carl and Mr. Michael were trustees, and, as all the trustees do, they pay a subscription of $20 dollars a month. He said, "We would like you to participate in this way too." Mr. Gardner hesitated for a moment, but then agreed. Prabhupada said, "Of course, it will be easier for you if you just deduct it from the rent. So we immediately got a $20 discount on the rent. Mr. Gardner was a little taken aback, but he agreed. When all was said and done, Mr. Gardner was in good spirits.
Before Prabhupada moved in, he asked me to go to Con-Edison and see if we could get the deposit, which was substantial for us, waived because we were a charitable organization, not a commercial venture. So I toddled to the Con-Edison office and explained Prahupada's desire and the reason for it. But I was talking to a brick wall. Con-Edison doesn't make those kinds of arrangements. We would have to pay like everybody else. I wasn't a daring and active devotee, and so I said, "Okay, that's the system, that's the way it is." When I reported this back to Prabhupada, he wasn't happy at all, and eventually Prabhupada went to Con-Edison himself and convinced them to waive the deposits on the utilities for these two places.
Then, over a period of one or two weeks, things started happening at 26 2nd Avenue. This dingy place was transformed by the addition of carpets, tapestries, paintings, and many guests. One of the guests was Allen Ginsberg, which inspired everybody to come and take part in the kirtans more. This was the beginning of Krishna consciousness spreading outside India.