Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mini Lower East Side

Over the years, I've profiled the work of a few miniaturists on this blog (Alan Wolfson, Randy Hage, Nicholas Buffon), artists who render the city smaller -- and thus preserve some facsimile of what was.

This week, Sensitive Skin magazine shares the work of Dennis Gordon, who created a whole Lower East Side in miniature -- or, at least, a dreamlike representation of what the Lower East Side once was.



Here's Gordon:

"I felt extremely comfortable in the midst of neglect and decay. The abandonment, loneliness, and isolation inside the structures grounded me despite the risk (though the buildings were abandoned by society, I was hardly alone). I discovered an escape from the boredom of inhabited space, and grew lost within the wealth of bygone architecture and design. I felt like I was participating in some grand installation of living art. The decay was dynamic, the interiors different if I revisit them in a year. New levels of rust and mold. Brick disintegrating and nature slowly prevailing, ailanthus trees growing through floors, replacing man-made elements. Where some people saw eyesores, I saw the labor of architects, craftsmen, and assemblymen using complex machinery built as durably as the products they made. To me, each abandoned building tells a story from our past, and all these buildings tell a collective story of our present, of an era of greed when everything–from architecture to wares to art–is disposable, replaceable."

Read more and see more at Sensitive Skin.




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Second Ave San Loco

The Second Avenue San Loco taco joint supplied my first meal in the East Village, 23 years ago. I ate those crunchy tacos on my fire escape after a long day of moving in. Back then, it was across Second Avenue, a hole in the wall bedecked in yellow and red.

The place was always full of customers. On its last night, it was packed. And now it's gone. The rent was too damn high.

In the plastic-covered windows, the owners have posted an "I Love NY" sign. The neon lights are dark.



I talked to co-owner Jill Hing last year about San Loco's struggles. She told me:

"There are many factors that contribute to our struggle to survive--and the noose definitely keeps tightening. Our customer base has been mostly squeezed out of this neighborhood as a consequence of hyper-gentrification. Rent is a constant source of stress. In our case, as with many long-standing businesses, we are at the mercy of the landlord and live in fear of our next rent renewal."

That fear has come true. As it does every day for many long-lived small businesses in New York City.


The last--as good as the first

For other San Loco locations, click here.




Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SP’s Nuts & Candy

Tribeca Citizen reports:

"SP’s Nuts & Candy, the store at 166 Church that you probably know as We Are Nuts About Nuts, is closing at the end of July."

Why is it closing? Is it because people don't buy enough nuts? Is it because tastes have changed? No, it's because "the landlord didn’t seem to want him to renew."



As the Times wrote in 2010:

"There are plenty of places to buy nuts in Manhattan, from Whole Foods to CVS to the occasional subway platform. But if you want them fresh, perhaps even still warm, from the roaster, SP’s Nuts and Candy may well be your only option.

Once upon a time, shops like this were a staple of city life, quick stops for a cheap, salty snack and a whiff of nuttiness. Today, SP’s owner, Michael Yeo, is keeping alive a New York tradition that has all but vanished over the past several decades, one he simply happened into."



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vanishing New York Book Party

Come celebrate the publication of Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul.



Where:
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby St, NYC

When:
Thursday, July 27, 7:00pm

Books will be on sale. I'll be reading and signing. There will be refreshments. And--bonus!--downtown legend, the great Penny Arcade, will be performing. Looking forward to seeing you there!

View the invite and RSVP on Facebook







Monday, June 19, 2017

Talk of the Town

For the past 10 years, since July 2007, I've written this blog openly under a pen name. Now, as my book is about to publish on July 25, I figured it's time to come out of the blog closet. A decade is long enough.

I tell my story to Michael Schulman in this week's New Yorker magazine, on the pages of the "Talk of the Town."




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Croman + Rikers

On E. 6th Street, someone has spray-painted a big yellow heart encircling the words "Croman + Rikers":



The graffiti refers to the local "Bernie Madoff of Landlords," as the attorney general called him. He is serving a year in jail at Rikers Island after being charged with 20 felonies.

(Thanks Michael Hirsch for the tip.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

More High Line Gloss

So this building is gone. Was it the last of the scrappy meatpacking buildings? The only one not to be demolished or gutted and glossed?



It had sat empty for years, blue and gloomy, waiting for slaughter. Nothing this close to the High Line is allowed to live.



I liked walking around it, behind it, where people rarely walked. The tourists and shoppers, so cautious, stayed away from it. It must have frightened them in its ragged old bricks. Now that it's gone, the tourists and shoppers are suddenly there.



What's coming to take its place? As the big machines dig their hole, a sign on the horizon urges, "GLOSSIER." Of course. The new building must be glossy. Made of glass and twist. Even though so many glass towers are bad for city life.

The shiny box coming to 40-56 Tenth Avenue has been named "Solar Carve Tower." Because, in the deadly age of global warming, the sun worshippers will not be deterred.



“In addition to producing a faceted, gem-like facade," reads the press release, "this integrated response allows the building to benefit the important public green space of the High Line—privileging light, fresh air, and river views to the public park—while also becoming a new iconic silhouette on the New York skyline."

Here's the rendering on the plywood wall.



I like to play a game with architectural renderings called Count the White People.

I counted approximately 70 cut-out people total -- on the street, on the High Line, and inside the building itself. They are shiny-happy, strolling, working, talking on cell phones. And 68 of them are (apparently) white.

Then there's this guy. He's the only one who might obviously be a person of color. He's also the only one I found who is used twice--his clone stands across the street, back turned.

Make of this what you will.



Now I'm worried about the Liberty Inn. It stands across the street, behind the construction site, where it was always protected from MePa's reach. Like I said, the tourists and the shoppers never went back there. Now they will. Now the little Liberty will be exposed. We've seen that happen many times before.

Back in the day, the building housed The Anvil. Today, the Liberty Inn is a "romance" hotel. They offer short stays. By the hour. You know what that means. If you want to experience it, I suggest you go sooner than later.

How long will the glossy people let it remain?