Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hyper-gentrifying 14th

I was just thinking about how truly remarkable it is that much of 14th Street, from east to west, has not been hyper-gentrified.

Yes, there's the Apple Store at the western end. Yes, a Target and maybe Trader Joe's is coming to the east. And Union Square is strangled in chains. But much of the rest miraculously remains Chinese takeout joints, 99-cent stores, other discount shops, diners, and one beloved doughnut shop. It attracts a diversity of New Yorkers, many from lower socioeconomic circumstances.

And now this.



Gothamist reports that, in response to the impending L Train shutdown, Transportation Alternatives has a plan that "envisions a 14th Street free of car traffic—a concept with the endorsement of city planners, politicians and advocates—plus a six-stop shuttle bus operating on dedicated lanes, and protected bike lanes. The shuttle would connect to a new cross-bridge bus, carrying Williamsburg commuters on a dedicated lane over the Williamsburg Bridge. Among the runners-up are a proposal for temporary barriers separating dedicated bike and bus lanes on 14th Street, and a plan that would close certain blocks of 14th Street to traffic."

We all know that one powerful way to hyper-gentrify a neighborhood, or a cross-section of the city, is through transportation alternatives, i.e., bike lanes and trolley cars. Pedestrian plazas, as Bloomberg's transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn showed, made property values shoot through the roof in Times Square. These are proven tactics. Conservatives love them because they're good for the rich. And liberals love them because they're environment friendly. But they are not friendly to a diverse, affordable, and equitable urban environment.

This plan is not a done deal by a long shot. But it's worth noting that developers and urban planners have their eye on the scruffy remains of this holdout corridor. Enjoy it while you can.

UPDATE:
Any time I've ever mentioned bike lanes as anything but an all-good thing, people become apoplectic, both the pro-development neoliberals and the lefty bike advocates. For the record, I own a bike and I ride in the bike lanes. I enjoy them. They still are used by mayors to spur and reinforce gentrification by attracting "creative economy" consumers, tourists, and residents (see the work of Richard Florida and Jamie Peck). Same goes for pedestrian plazas (though I don't like them). See Google. See also Google. See also this PDF from Sam Stein.





Monday, April 17, 2017

No Thanks, No Tech Hub

This Saturday, April 22, show up for a rally to save the neighborhood just south of Union Square Park.

Over just the past couple of years, we've watched this area be demolished and rebuilt into yet another dull center for luxury housing and corporations. Speculators are buying up whole buildings and evicting them of their small business tenants.

This is happening, in part, because of Mayor de Blasio's plan for a "tech hub."


the proposed tech hub on 14th st.

As GVSHP's Andrew Berman wrote in The Villager: "the new building would tower over its neighbors and form the lynchpin of a new 'Silicon Alley' the mayor hopes to develop between Union Square and Astor Place."

This is not a neighborhood in need of revitalization. It is already vital, its old buildings buzzing with small businesses from bottom to top. Say "no" to more luxurification. Say "no" to more corporate chains. Say "no" to more small business evictions.

Rally with GVSHP on Saturday at 3:00pm, on the east side of Broadway at 11th Street.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New Quad Signage

Yesterday, the new Quad cinema got its new sign. It's a 3-D effect. With slots along the sides for digital display of current movie titles.



I took a peek inside. There are digital movie posters where there used to be paper. A wall of TV screens in the back. On the side, there's a wine bar with a tile floor that spells out QUAD.

Fancy.

The website is up and the new place opens this Friday. Early word has been good, so let's hope it's still welcoming to the city's scruffy cinemaniacs.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Dressing Up High-Rent Blight

Two years ago, Icon Realty purchased 57 Second Avenue for $30 million.

The two retail tenants, Alex Shoe Repair and Allied Hardware, were on month-to-month leases and soon removed via steep rent hikes -- $26,000 per month for the hardware shop and $14,000 for the cobbler.



Both businesses were mom-and-pop run for decades. They provided necessary services to local residents, and their storefronts provided visual interest to the avenue.



I liked walking past to see the giant hammer in Allied's window under their colorful sign. I especially liked the odd paintings that framed Alex Shoe Repair, and the typed poem in the window that Hettie Jones wrote for the cobbler.

These places were useful, local, and idiosyncratic.



Then they were gone.



The signs came down. The funny little paintings were painted over. And Icon's advertisements went up. The two storefronts sat that way for awhile, the picture of high-rent blight.

Now, Icon is dressing them up--and they're getting that look. You know the look. The "nice" look.



It's the look of sameness. The look of nothing. The look of the zombie city.

We see these same facades everywhere. Soon will come little chains--little taco chains or "juicery" chains--decked out in Edison bulbs and subway tiles. Or maybe a Starbucks. Maybe a place that feeds you charcoal shots so you shit black, because shitting black is now good for you. Or maybe an Aesop with their "fragrant botanicals and skin-softening emollients," or else that other place, the one that looks like Aesop and sells candles for $450.

Better yet, how about a bone brotherie? How about some more macarons?

Whatever comes, it won't last long. It won't last decades. It will come and it will go, and the neighborhood will feel that much less like a neighborhood. Again.





Saturday, April 8, 2017

Angelica Sale

Angelica Kitchen closed yesterday after 40 years in the East Village. The place was mobbed. If you missed out on a final meal, you can visit today and tomorrow for their memorabilia sale:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Save Our Small Businesses

As more and more mom and pops vanish from the face of New York City, people are getting sick of it, and the idea of saving them keeps coming up in the media.



This past week, NY1's "In Focus" with Cheryl Wills had two segments on the subject.

In the first (watch here), Wills talked with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich about the problem of chain stores in the city. As Brewer noted, "We don't live in a mall in the middle of Minnesota. We live in New York City."

Of course, without real policy changes, like the Small Business Jobs Survival Act or commercial rent control, like we had from 1945 - 1963, New York's looking an awful lot like a mall in Minnesota. And it will only get worse.



In the second segment (watch here), Wills spoke with The Commissioner of the NYC Small Business Services, Gregg Bishop, and the President and CEO of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, Mark Jaffe.

Unfortunately, neither had any meaningful response to the problem of unreasonable rents.



Over on the Brian Lehrer Show, Tony Danza called in to ask Mayor Bill de Blasio what he was doing about what he called "neighborhood wasting disease."

Said Danza, "You know we have so many longtime establishments that have anchored neighborhoods in this city that are just being pushed out by exorbitant rents. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t know how you legislate that. But I’d just like to know what your thoughts are about going forward. Like, where I live on the West Side, on one block – and this is the truth, this is what’s really kind of startling, is that Starbucks had to leave because they couldn’t pay the rent."

The mayor did not have a useful response (read the full transcript). At one point, he replied, "Look, let’s be really cold here. It’s a free enterprise society that is not particularly warm and friendly to things like older stores, mom-and-pop stores. I would urge the landlords to be less greedy." (Three years ago, when I asked him on Reddit what he would do, he had a few better answers.)



The only way to regulate human greed is through policy. And, let's be clear, this is not a free enterprise society. It's a rigged society that gives deals to large corporations and developers.

Chain stores get taxpayer subsidies in this city. They get selected by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). They get preferential treatment from banks. This is not "market forces." This is corporate welfare. It's time to put an end to it. There are solutions.

Visit #SaveNYC and learn more about what we can do to stop the death of New York's soul. We've even made it easy for you to write letters to City Hall.













Monday, April 3, 2017

Cat's Paw Girl

VANISHED

There has been a shoe repair shop at 74 E. 7th St. for many years. Most recently, it was David's. Before that, it was A. Brym's. And for all those decades, a Cat's Paw advertisement stayed stuck to the entryway window.

Now it's gone.


before

"Thin heels by CAT'S PAW," the circular sign read. "For those who want the best!" In the center of the circle, a smiling blonde cuddled a pair of kittens.

In this following photo from the 1960s, we see that Brym's had two copies of the ad--one decal on the front window and the other in the entryway.


Edmund V. Gillon, Jr.

You can catch a glimpse of them again in this next shot from 1980. That's likely the year that David's moved into Brym's. The front-most Cat's Paw girl probably vanished when David painted the window with his name, but the second sticker stayed.

And stayed.

I liked seeing her when I brought my shoes in for repair.


photo: Michael Sean Edwards, 1980

David's Shoe Store closed in 2013 when the landlord hiked the rent too high. It sat empty until recently. Workers are now building out something that looks like it will serve food. Maybe Japanese. Anyway, not shoes.

As expected, they have scraped away the Cat's Paw girl and her kittens, the last remnant of what was.