Tuesday, December 6, 2016



Publishers Weekly reports today that Brooklyn's beloved and excellent bookstore BookCourt will be closing at the end of this month.

They've been open since 1981. In a public statement, the owners announced their retirement--and sent their regrets.

Author Emma Straub is working on a solution. She writes on her site:

"A neighborhood without an independent bookstore is a body without a heart. And so we’re building a new heart.

We’ve spent the last few months looking at spaces, getting our math together, and thinking about light fixtures. We have secured initial funding and crossed our fingers. And so, dear Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Columbia Waterfront, and beyond…you won’t be lonely for long. Books are magic, and we want to make sure that this neighborhood is positively coated in bookish fairydust for decades to come."

Fingers crossed. In the meantime, New York--you make me heartsick more and more every single day.

Depression Sign

"Depression is a flaw in chemistry, not character," the gold and brown painted sign read. And then it was gone.

On a wall high above the Gray's Papaya at West 72nd and Amsterdam, the sign had greeted commuters, hot dog eaters, shoppers, homeless people, and other assorted New Yorkers since sometime in the 1990s. A few months ago, it was painted over, whitewashed and vanished.

"Through the years it’s clear the sign had become a comfort to people," West Side Rag noted in their report on the whitewashing.

No one knows why the building management decided to wipe it out. And at such a bad time, when so many New Yorkers are feeling the deep blues and could use a little comfort.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Finnegans Wake


Reader Steve wrote in awhile back to tell us of the demise of Finnegans Wake: "The corner has been sold for condos and it will be closed next July. It’s a tragedy."

So I went by for a drink. Or two.

In business since 1972 and located on First Avenue at 73rd Street, the place is just as Steve described, "a real neighborhood Irish pub filled with great locals that skew a bit older." Indeed, New York magazine says, "Those without an AARP card or a solid knowledge of the surrounding neighborhood may feel a bit out of place, but Finnegan's certainly offers a quaint alternative to the usually far-younger postgrad mob."


The bartender, a very friendly guy, informed me that a 33-story tower is coming. (The news originally came out in July. The Post lays the blame on the "Second Avenue Subway real estate boom"-- so say a prayer for Heidelberg and the rest of Yorkville's German soul.)

The bartender also noted that one business on the block is giving the developers a fight. Stay tuned.

(And here's an explanation of why James Joyce put no apostrophe in Finnegans Wake.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rodeo Sign

After nearly 30 years in business, Rodeo Bar closed in 2014 due to rising rents and encroaching chain stores.

This summer, Kips Bay Corner reported that the Gem Saloon would be moving in, a bar and restaurant by the owner of Phebe's and Penny Farthing. They're doing a "complete makeover."

So, as of today, there's goes the old neon sign.

Heidi MacDonald, via her Instagram

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gleason's Gym

Gleason's Boxing Gym, in DUMBO before it was fashionably DUMBO, moved locations yesterday.

It hasn't gone far, just around the corner. But the gritty old joint is packed up and gone, and the new place is shiny and, well, new. As Alex Vadukul wrote in the Times last week, "the relocation leaves behind an era’s worth of sweat and grime that has accumulated in this temple to the sweet science."

Jared Goldstein

Jared "The NYC Tour Guide" Goldstein shared a few photos of Gleason's last day in the old spot, just as it was being dismantled.

Jared Goldstein

I can't say I've ever been a boxer, but I went now and then to Gleason's twenty years ago, just to be in its atmosphere. I remember walking there through a Brooklyn waterfront wasteland, smoking a cigarette while standing in some yellow weeds full of trash.

I was heavy into Joyce Carol Oates' "On Boxing," which I recommend, if you want to read something beautiful about the brutal sport. At the time, it was all poetry to me.

I'd go to places to watch bouts in dumpy joints where you sat in metal folding chairs, so close you could see the sweat spray off the boxers' bodies on impact.

At Gleason's, I'd just hang around to watch the fighters practice. I tied a few loose laces on their gloves. That's all. It was a moment, a long time ago, when I wanted to be close to something I couldn't quite name.

Jared Goldstein

That dumpy old DUMBO is gone. And so is that old Gleason's. The last time I went, in 2008, it all felt changed.


Born in the Bronx in 1937, moved to Brooklyn in 1984, Gleason's still survives. And that's more than you can say for many real New York places.


They posted shots of the new gym on their Twitter feed. Same color scheme, just shinier. It probably smells like fresh paint and off-gassing vinyl.

Let the sweat and grime begin.

Gleason's Twitter

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Lyric to Tivoli

Reader Pat lets us know:

"a new diner finally replaced the old Lyric," in Gramercy. "Don't know much else, I only used to get breakfast in the Lyric, so not sure how the prices compare. Anyway, it is a diner, the new Tivoli."

The Lyric vanished, then returned, then vanished again last spring. This summer, DNA reported that Gus Kassimis, owner of the Gemini Diner on East 35th, planned to open the Tivoli. He calls it a "traditional diner with newer flair." Score one for Greek diners. And just in time, too.

Yesterday, George Blecher at the Times published an evocative piece about the city's vanishing diner culture:

"Losing New York diner culture would probably be a watershed in the city’s history. How will New Yorkers get along without these antidotes to urban loneliness?"

“The coffee shop orients us here, in this city and not another,” Jeremiah Moss, of the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, said. “If we are regulars, we become known, connected, to a network of people who remain over the span of years, even decades. In the anonymous city, these ties can be lifesavers, especially for the elderly, the poor, the marginal, but also for all of us. Without them, the city becomes evermore fragmented, disorienting and unrecognizable.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bricken Arcade Elevators & Operators

Like many of the lobbies and entrances of our old buildings, the Garment District's Bricken Arcade Building is getting a glossy contemporary makeover. Reader Leah Mulartrick wrote in to let us know:

"I am sorry to report that the elevators were replaced in the Bricken Arcade building where Mood Fabrics is at 225 west 37th. The elevators were beautiful and old and had operators. Much to my dismay, I went to Mood Fabrics the other day and the elevators were replaced with generic silver boxes."

BEFORE. Source: 42 floors

What a difference it makes.

I have not been to the Bricken Arcade, haven't visited Mood Fabrics nor taken a ride in the elevators. But it's clear from the photos that something warm and humane has been taken away.

AFTER. Photo: Leah Mulartrick

And what happened to the elevator operators? A number of Mood's customers have posted photos of them online. One called the men "chivalrous."

Leah recalls, "I would exchange pleasantries and request my floor. Then they would pull the lever and off we would go. It was the same operators for years."

Source: NBC

Source: Rita's Sew Fun

Source: Blog for Better Sewing

Sadly, elevator operators, like general warmth and humanity, are vanishing fast all across the city.

Source: Lola-N, flickr