Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sile's Gun Sign

Reader Monique wrote in to say: "The Sile sign is gone on Centre Market Place, seemingly overnight. I work on the block in a converted gun shop and was comforted by its sight daily. All of a sudden it is gone, turned into white... nothing."

The white nothing, photograph by Monique

I wrote about the vanished gun shops of Centre Market Place back in 2011--trust me, it's a fascinating bit of history.

The Sile sign was the last remnant of the gun district. These little things. They matter in the psychogeography of the city.


Monday, March 27, 2017

The Lost Village

On April 4, at the New York City International Film Festival, you can see Roger Paradiso's "The Lost Village," the story of NYU and real estate in Greenwich Village.

Here's the synopsis:

"Once a haven for the proverbial starving artist who brought creativity as their currency, the Village is now a hangout for cover bands and Wall Street hipsters hopelessly aspiring to recreate something that is lost. We encounter testimony of NYU students turning to prostitution to pay NYU’s predatory tuition that fuels NYU’s real estate ambitions.

We find 'Mom and Pop Shops' in trouble. Their closures have changed the culture and character of our Village. High rents and no regulations cause over 1,000 small businesses to leave New York City every month.

Can the Village be saved? Or is Greenwich Village lost forever?"

Watch the trailer here:

The Lost Village Trailer 2.28.17 from Roger Paradiso on Vimeo.

See the film at The Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, April 4 at 8:00 p.m.

Angelica Kitchen


After 40 years, Angelica Kitchen is closing.

Civil Eats

Gothamist reports:

"The restaurant had been struggling for several years, particularly because rents in the area have become almost unbearable for independent businesses. A new lease McEachern signed in 2014 was for over $21,000 a month—keeping in mind that doesn't include additional expenses including utilities, taxes, insurance, payroll, etc.—up from $450 a month when the restaurant first opened nearby on St. Marks Place."

Pearl Paint Luxe

The trophy hunters have snared Pearl Paint and stuck its head on a pike.

Curbed reports:

"Pearl Paint, the beloved downtown art supply store, closed in 2014, but a piece of the shop still lives on—in the new, pricey rentals that have just hit the market in its former Canal Street headquarters. Listings for four apartments that sit atop the former art shop just appeared, with the cheapest going for $16,000/month, and the priciest—a top-floor penthouse—asking $18,000/month."

And: "Unsurprisingly, they’re using the store as a selling point: the brokerbabble touts the apartments as being part of 'the stunning residential conversion of the iconic art store,' and the neon 'Pearl Paint' sign that once hung on the flagship is now installed in the building’s lobby. (One could see this as either a nice piece of historic preservation, or an egregious way of capitalizing on the store’s historic cachet. We’ll let you make that call.)"

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


If you haven't yet gone to see the Martin Scorsese show at the Museum of the Moving Image, go soon. You've got another month.

It is pure New York.

That's all I've got to say about that.

And this is the table and chairs from Scorsese's parents' home on Mulberry Street, as seen in the great 1974 film "Italianamerican."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

City of Sin

Back in the "crime and grime" 1980s, Michael DiPaolo walked the streets of Times Square (and "other equally sleazy parts of New York City") with a hidden camera, secretly filming the whores, hustlers, homeless, and other denizens who came out after midnight. The result is "City of Sin," a compilation of footage from DiPaolo's nighttime walks.

I asked the filmmaker a few quick questions:

What inspired you to do the hidden camera?

Well my “day job” at that time was videotaping confessions for the Brooklyn DA’s Office, where I also did some surveillance stuff and I thought I could get a more “real” unguarded view that way. In addition, I was planning on going down to the West 20s/30s to video the prostitutes, and I knew that there would be no way in hell to do that without hiding the camera. Finally, I wanted to get some background footage for a couple of shot-on-video features I would later complete in 1988 and 1989--Bought and Sold and Requiem for a Whore.

What was your technique?

I would put the camera--a Panasonic VHS camcorder with a wide-angle lens--inside a black gym bag that had a hole cut out on one end. Then I placed black gauze/screening over the hole. I would start recording about a 100 feet before turning onto the block I was going to shoot, then just kept walking and pointing the camera in the direction of anything interesting. But I made it a point of trying NOT to look where I had the camera pointed and I always kept walking. By doing it this way, I never knew what I had until I got home and was able to screen it.

Did you ever get caught -- or worry about being caught?

The only time I was “caught” was when I stopped walking to shoot an argument/fight outside Port Authority. One guy noticed and said something, so I immediately walked away. I was most worried about getting caught when I was shooting the prostitutes and pimps and police down in the relatively desolate West 20s/30s. Actually, I think I was most worried about videotaping the police, as they especially don’t like to make “unscripted” appearances on camera.

Do you ever go to Times Square anymore?

I still do pass through Times Square--with great sadness--as the very first place I went to when I first moved to New York City back in the early '70s was the Times Square that I had read so much about. To me it was magical, some sort of profane church for the lonely where I worshiped until Disney came along and turned it corporate.

Some people say the cleaned up Times Square is an improvement over the "grime and crime" of the past. What do you think was valuable about the old Times Square in your film?

Times Square BD (before Disney) was a unique, one of a kind place offering a cultural smorgasbord that could only have existed in New York City and nowhere else in the entire world. It has now become just another outdoor corporate mall replicated hundreds of times around the world.

Also, it was for New Yorkers (including those who choose to come to New York to make it their new home) of all cultural, financial, and racial variations, as well as the tourists. Today it seems to be catering mostly/mainly to the tourists.

Watch the film trailers here and here -- and find out more at Black Cat Cinema.

Monday, March 20, 2017



photo by Brian

Brian writes in about the closure of Merchants, a popular Chelsea restaurant that had been at 17th Street and 7th Avenue for 25 years:

"The owner was papering up the place because they closed on the 28th. I knew that the day was coming because a developer bought the corner of that block and shuttered the health food grill and the bodega last year. In fact, the bodega owner I’d known for 16 years was so upset that he went home and died of a heart attack. They had just put money into remodeling, a brand new awning, and repainting. Now it’s a graffiti magnet."

I reported on the bodega's closure in July. It is, indeed, still sitting empty, more high-rent blight, collecting graffiti and garbage. The new awning has been carved up, the name of the store removed.

Brian continues:

"I spoke with the owner of Merchants and he told me landlords in the area are using the new Barney’s as a benchmark for their rents, meaning they’re not going to be affordable to the average non-corporate lessee. You need Walgreens or Red Lobster dollars to afford to open. He’s been looking to stay in Chelsea but says the prices are so high he’d have to do something beyond selling food and drink to actually make money."

And, as with many closures, there's a goodbye sign on the door. This one encircled with a glitter heart.