Pete Van Leeuwen, a founder of Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, talks flavors, competition, and finding the sweet spot where everything comes into balance.
It was Wednesday night, also known as Yippie Soapbox Night, at 9 Bleecker Street and some of the old gang was gathering. Outside the building, David Peel, a 1960s troubadour known for an ’80s anthem of sorts with the refrain, “Die Yuppie Scum,” was reminiscing about the Grateful Dead.
Inside, a man strummed a guitar and sang the words to “For What it’s Worth,” the Buffalo Springfield paean to protest and paranoia. About 20 people watched. One man pumped his fist in time with the music. Another tapped his cane.
For 40 years, the three-story brick building at 9 Bleecker Street, just west of the Bowery, has been associated with the Yippies, or members of the Youth International Party, which was started by Abbie Hoffman and others. In 1973, a group of younger members, called Zippies, moved in and named the place Number 9. They bought the building in 2004 after a prolonged rent dispute, then opened a cafe and museum there.
But their battles were far from over.
Since 2009, the Yippies have been fighting an attempt by a lender to foreclose on Number 9. Last month, they suffered a setback in that case when a judge appointed a receiver to manage the building and collect rent.
As gentrification has changed the NoLIta neighborhood, Number 9 stands out like an old tie-dyed T-shirt in a sea of cocktail dresses. Many of those who frequent the place relish that raffish status and at one point on Wednesday night a longtime Yippie named Aron Kay brought up the building’s history and recent difficulties while addressing the crowd.
He noted that Number 9 had been used as a place to publish newspapers, like The Yipster Times and Overthrow, as well as an organizing spot for pro-marijuana parades, anti-nuclear protests, and demonstrations held during national political conventions.
“We have been an ongoing center to promote the First Amendment,” said Mr. Kay, who is known for flinging pies at ideological adversaries like the Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy and the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. “There are almost no places like this left but Number 9 will prevail.”
That may not be easy. In court documents, Steven L. Einig, a lawyer for a company called Centech, which holds the building’s mortgage, stated that Yippie Holdings, which bought Number 9 along with a nonprofit called the National AIDS Brigade, had failed for more than five years to make payments on the $1.4 million mortgage.
A lawyer for Yippie Holdings, John Diffley, said in an e-mail that his clients “were compelled into foreclosure with payments being rejected” by Centech as part of a scheme or plan to take over the building.
Meanwhile, Judge Jeffrey K. Oing of State Supreme Court has granted a request by the company to appoint a receiver to manage the building and Mr. Einig has written that those using the premises should pay $15,000 to $20,000 per month in rent. A foreclosure case is continuing.
Mr. Einig did not immediately return a phone call on Sunday evening.
The outcome is of particular interest to Dana Beal, a Yippie leader who moved into the building in 1973 and has used it as a headquarters for a group called Cures Not Wars that campaigns for medical marijuana and promotes Ibogaine, a derivative of an African shrub that researchers have said can interrupt addiction to substances like tobacco and heroin.
Mr. Beal is in prison in Nebraska, after being convicted of transporting 150 pounds of marijuana in a van. Speaking from a hospital in Nebraska, where he recently had surgery, Mr. Beal said that he wanted the city to intervene in the dispute with Centech and ensure that such advocacy work can continue at Number Nine.
“This building is important as history,” he said. “We’re going to mount a campaign to save it.”
Displays inside Number 9 attest to its countercultural past. There is a framed copy of the original Youth International Party manifesto hanging on a wall. Nearby is a scarred and patched door that was damaged in 1981, when a small explosive detonated outside the building.
But in recent years Number 9 has taken on a new life. Occupy Wall Street protesters began using it as a meeting spot in 2011. There are poetry readings there, hip-hop shows, comedy revues and a regular event called Drug War Trivia Night.
On Saturday evening, about 40 people, most in their 20s, gathered in the building’s basement to watch a series of bands with names like Cannonball Statman and Black Market Merchants.
Among the crowd was Roger Walsh, 20, from the Upper East Side, who said he had first visited Number 9 about a year ago, while performing with his band, The Lounge Act. He had returned many times since, he said, drawn by a sense of camaraderie.
“There’s a community,” he said. “The feeling of coming here is like the feeling of going back to the house you grew up in.”