Saturday, February 6, 2016

The End of St. Mark's Books

After fighting to stay alive for so long, this finally looks like the end for St. Mark's Bookshop.

They're having a 50% off everything clearance sale right now, and folks are saying the store might shutter as early as the end of this coming week.

Go buy a book. While they last. There's not much left.

I've got no more words for this loss. 

Read the story of St. Mark's long fight to survive:
St. Mark's Success
Michael Moore at St. Mark's
Columbia's Precedent
An Open Letter to Cooper Union
Buy A Book Weekend at St. Mark's
Xmas in September
St. Mark's Vestibule

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Carnegie Deli Comeback

Is the shuttered Carnegie Deli coming back?

Reader Brian Fitzgerald shared the following via Twitter:

"We would like to set the record straight," begins the December 17 letter posted in the window, "Carnegie Deli will reopen in 2016. We are ONLY temporarily closed."

It continues: "being closed has been a painful hardship on our family, employees and a heartbreak to our loyal customers. Over the past several months, we have experienced a number of surprise setbacks including: many unforeseen structural complications, months of inspections, and required renovations that have taken much longer than any of us expected."

(Sounds a lot like what happened to the B&H.)

Shuttered by the City last April when a possible illegal gas hookup was discovered, right after the Second Avenue explosion, the Carnegie deli has been closed since. As Ted Merwin wrote in the Post, "The loss of the Carnegie would be an outsized one for New York." It's been here since 1937.

Last month, the upstairs tenants got their gas turned back on--a hopeful sign for the restaurant. And in other hopeful signs, even in the recent blizzard, the neon lights of the Carnegie Deli were blazing:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

La Lunchonette Souvenirs

You can now take home a piece of La Lunchonette. Owner Melva Max is selling many of the items from the restaurant this week. She writes on Facebook:

"Please contact us at with any questions on what we are selling and how to buy! You can also come by the restaurant this week. call ahead 212 675 0342 as the landlord plans to do some work and we may be closed at that time."

The items for sale include art, antiques, kitchen equipment, dishes, and glassware.

La Lunchonette was forced to close by the High Line Effect, when its building--along with its neighbors--was sold to be demolished for a luxury condo.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Trowel and Square

The Trowel & Square Ballroom on Harlem's 125th Street had a great old sign. The typeface. The word "ballroom." And "social functions." Good stuff.

Anyway, it's gone.

The letters have been ripped down and the sign has been covered with a Ripco real estate banner. The Salvation Army thrift store on the first floor has also vanished. The entire building is available. It sold in 2014.

Located in the Croft Brothers Building, the Trowel & Square used to be the Tusken Ballroom, "used at least once as a meeting place by Malcolm X and his recently-formed Muslim Mosque, on June 22, 1964," according to Daytonian in Manhattan.

And next for this space? Probably another chain, as the whole of 125th Street is being wrapped in chains.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Little House on 18th Street

When La Lunchonette closed on New Year's Eve, forced out of business after the landlord sold the building, I wondered what would replace it -- and what would happen to the little house behind the front tenement along West 18th Street.

Berenice Abbott photographed the house in 1938, along with its equally diminutive neighbor.

via MCNY

Probably dating back to the 1880s, the two structures are hardly changed today. One had clearly been a stable for horses. It still has its arched hayloft window.

The interior of the living space above the restaurant looks like a hayloft, with wooden beams and ceiling. But it won't be here for long.

La Lunchonette's owner Melva Max told me that the little house will be demolished. A new luxury condo is coming. People are excited about it because it's made of wood, it's designed by Shop, the architects who did the Barclays Center, and we're all paying for it, through a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

(If you've got some free time, check out what Shop's Vishaan Chakrabarti thinks should be done with the area south of Penn Station. Hint: redevelop the whole neighborhood--those manufacturing zones "have an enormous potential to be part of our new economy in New York City.")

475 West 18th, Shop Architects

Also falling to make room for the new building are the two galleries on 10th Avenue to the north of La Lunchonette.

Three businesses and five good old buildings, all gone for one more luxury condo.

And the High Line Effect just keeps on chopping 'em down.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Ziegfeld


By now you've probably heard the news that the Ziegfeld movie theater will be closing after 46 years.

It is "not a movie palace from the golden-age of movie palaces," as James Barron recently pointed out. But it was modeled on them, upholstered in red velvet with crystal chandeliers and plaster filigree.

It is not the original Ziegfeld, opened in 1927 and demolished in 1966 against public protest. The original was meant for live theater, the Ziegfeld Follies, not movies. When it opened, Will Rogers said, "I hope you never have to put in a movie screen." But it did eventually become a movie house, before it was sold, razed (along with two apartment buildings), and replaced by a skyscraper.

When the current Ziegfeld opened, the owners celebrated its "space-age technology." Ziegfeld's daughter, Patricia, remarked, "Progress seems to do nasty things to tradition, doesn't it?" But, she continued, "tradition has been preserved in this new theater... I'm sure Daddy would have approved of it since everything is so Ziegfeldian."

On Saturday nights, for a short time, formal attire was required by moviegoers.

The Ziegfeld is also not--as many are saying--the last single-screen movie theater in Manhattan. For that, we still have The Paris, which dates back to 1948.

What the Ziegfeld is, more than anything, more than any other, is enormous. The auditorium is vast, with rows of red seats stretching back and up into the horizon. It was a thrill whenever a blockbuster played at the Ziegfeld because that's where you'd want to see it. Big movies need big screens in big auditoriums. And when you went to a movie there, it felt like a special occasion--like an event.

The Ziegfeld has history. Forty-six years is not a century, but it's still a significant vintage. And attached to that forty-six years is the name. Ziegfeld! So New York.

And with vitrines placed throughout the lobby, it also houses the Ziegfeld Museum, a collection of artifacts from the original Follies.

What will happen to the Ziegfeld Museum? To the costumes that once belonged to divas like Lillian Lorraine? And to the programs and photographs from other performers long gone? And the bust of Fanny Brice? What will happen to the bust of Fanny Brice?

Not to mention the weird "STORY OF THIS WOOD" plaque screwed to the wall, informing moviegoers: "Carbon 14-isotope dating shows this wood has been buried in a peat bog near Cambridge, England, since 2120 B.C."

What will happen to all that when the Ziegfeld becomes an upscale corporate event space?

The first movie to play in this theater, back in 1969, was Marooned, a space-age thriller. The last movie will be Star Wars, another story in outer space. What does it all mean?

We hear Thursday may be the last day.

During this weekend's blizzard, New Yorkers lined up to get inside. To say goodbye. They took pictures of the old place. They stroked the velvet walls. They stood in the long, wide aisles of the auditorium and bemoaned the coming destruction. One man looked up at the sky-high ceiling and said, to no one in particular, "Where else can you have an experience like this?"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Oyster Bar

No, not the one in Grand Central Terminal. The other one, over on 7th Avenue and 54th Street. You might remember it was forced out of business in 2014 after 55 years.

At the time, the restaurant's hostess told me that the new landlord refused to renew their lease. "I think she'll keep it empty," she said. "I think the building is coming down."

She was right.

The Oyster Bar has sat empty ever since--their neon sign moved to Delancey--and now plans have been filed to demolish the building.

New York Yimby reports that a 29-story, mixed-use building is coming to replace the Oyster Bar's building and its little neighbor:

"Retail will occupy the first six floors, filling 38,236 square feet. The seventh floor will be devoted to recreation space, and then the eighth through 19th floors will have three units each. There will be just two units a piece on the top ten floors, followed by a roof deck."

On it goes.