The drag queens who once paraded through the hallways are long gone.

The rundown walk-up on the Lower East Side’s Rivington Street was a refuge that offered freedom and acceptance, though it was rife with burglaries and drugs — and no shortage of mischief, when Pierson Tyler-Leonard moved in some 35 years ago. He fit right in.

Then the Lower East Side changed, snuffing out the spirit of the gritty tenement. He found himself surrounded by button-down professionals who marched off to day jobs in sales, marketing and tech. To him, they represented the erasure of a neighborhood.

When a couple moved into the neighboring apartment six years ago, Mr. Tyler-Leonard assumed they would be like the others. Margaret Kieu was a project manager for BlackRock and her husband, Yuriy Nartov, owned a Queens dance studio.

But the couple baked him pies, looked after his Jack Russell terrier, Mrs. Doodlebug, and carried his groceries up three flights of the five-story building. He gave them gifts plucked from his closet: a worn pair of Tod’s dress shoes, in a size 9½, too large for Mr. Nartov, and Marc Jacobs sunglasses, the lenses scratched. “But they were kind gestures,” Ms. Kieu, 33, said.

Mr. Tyler-Leonard, 58, was in poor health and rarely left his apartment. “I have no relatives, no children. I had nobody to help me and they stepped in,” he said.

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