Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Douchebag Storage Locker

Last week, we looked at the destruction of the historic Blatt Billiards building and the opinionated graffiti on its "Work in Progress" poster.

On the image of the glassy luxury tower to come, people had written: "Ugly Work in Progress," "YUCK," and more.

The poster was quickly replaced with a fresh one and covered in plastic, presumably to deter the detractors. They have not been deterred.

This week they added "UGLY" and the colorful descriptor "Douchebag Storage Locker," with an arrow pointing straight at 809 Broadway, so there could be no mistake.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Think Less

Barnes & Noble is removing its stores from Queens, including a location in Forest Hills that preservationists tried to save. It's ironic to fight for a chain, but the neighborhood is otherwise a bookstore desert. And what's coming to replace it? A Target.

Meanwhile, on Fifth Avenue and 18th Street, the flagship Barnes & Noble bookstore (since 1932 and closed in 2014) has been completely transformed into a Banana Republic.

The plaque on the outside wall ("Founded 1873") has been pried off, leaving a shadowy scar on the masonry.

Inside, a message for all who might still think books have value: THINK LESS.

(I took this picture awhile ago, so it may not be there anymore. It was there when they opened.)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Strip Street

Today, a repeat of an old favorite: The once wild life of 52nd Street -- speakeasies, jazz, strippers with monkeys!

It was known, simply, as The Street. Arnold Shaw, its main historian, wrote in 52nd St., "If you flagged a taxi in NYC and asked to be taken to The Street, you would be driven, without giving a number or an avenue, to 52d between Fifth and Sixth avenues."

William Gottlieb, 1948, looking east from 6th

Click here to read the entire story.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Palm


Back in June, thanks to a tipster, I first reported the intel that the original Palm restaurant was gone for good.

Earlier this week, The Real Deal confirmed that the owners have sold the building for $5.9 million. But will it be preserved? Will the historic, priceless murals be cherished and maintained for the next generations? Don't hold your breath.

Yesterday, Eater posted photos of the restaurant's interior, its wonderful murals painted over, destroyed. One of the buyers, Steven Kachanian (of the apparently not ironically named Klosed Properties), told The Real Deal, “We’re working with some high-end tenants looking to do some major work to the property."

What the fuck is wrong with people? This was the original Palm restaurant, 90 years old, gorgeous, storied, beloved, its walls covered in caricatures hand-drawn by some of America's most celebrated cartoonists. This was a one-of-a-kind treasure, never to be reproduced. You can't buy this kind of uniqueness, it has to grow organically and mature over time--over a century of time. But we're living in a fucked up city where fucked up people do fucked up things like destroy art, culture, and history--all in one fell swoop if they can manage it--just to replace it with something banal and miserable from the monoculture of the day.

If people can't see the value in preserving something so obviously exquisite and exceptional like the Palm, there is no hope. Just put in a cupcake shop already and call it a day.

The Palm is Vanishing

Update: Zagat published a statement from the owners. In part, it reads: "The beloved hand painted caricatures were housed on walls made of plaster, which made it impossible to remove the caricatures for preservation purposes. Photos and videos have been taken of the famous walls prior to the sale for our internal preservation purposes."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Before & After

A black-and-white photo of the northwest corner of 11th and University in the Village recently came to my attention. Shot by Edmund V. Gillon in 1975, it shows the Village Voice offices next to the Cedar Tavern.

I thought it deserved the "before and after" treatment.

After the Village Voice, there was Jack Bistro. Villagers wept when they were forced out by a rent hike in 2013. Long a home for artists and poets, the Cedar was shuttered in 2006, demolished, and turned into condos.

Today, in their places, there's yet another TD Bank branch and yet another outpost of a chain salon that specializes in the removal of body hair via hot wax.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blatt Now

Just south of Union Square, on Broadway near 12th Street, Blatt Billiards sold their building in 2013 after 90 years in business. IDM Capital, a "syndicate of Israeli investors," paid $24 million for it.

Now it's being destroyed.

In 2013, Curbed reported that the new owners would be adding ten floors to the existing building, but that plan must have changed. More recent reports state that the "two-phase project entails the construction of 10 floors above a five-story office building...followed by the conversion of the existing structure."


The latest renderings show the historic structure is nowhere in sight, replaced with yet another chilly monstrosity. 

In the architect's images, the cast-iron building has been swallowed up in a sleek glass tower with the words "new style" written across the front. No cast-iron facade, no spandrels, no colonettes.

Today, at the 809 Broadway demolition site, passersby have written their opinions of the development on the poster tacked to the plywood.

"UGLY WORK IN PROGRESS," says one. To which the opposition has replied, "You're [sic] taste is in ur [sic] ass."

"YUCK," says another. 

An arrow points to a neighboring antique building and says, "Beautiful Building." While up above, in a speech bubble, the new tower speaks: "I'm judging you."

The Blatt building was constructed in 1887, a cast-iron beauty among others of its type. It's listed on the Endangered Cast Iron Buildings in NYC list, where it is noted that the Times once described the building as "perfect in all its details."

Was somebody not paying attention here?

I liked looking up at that old building, especially on warm days when the big upper-floor factory windows were open and you could look in to see the men making pool tables, sawing and sanding the rosewood and maple.

I liked seeing that funny name, BLATT, written across the front ("since 1923"). And, now and then, I liked going inside and looking at all the things they sold -- stained glass pub-style chandeliers, dart boards, boxes of shimmering dice.

It was a beautiful thing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bicycle Habitat

The original Bicycle Habitat opened on Lafayette Street in 1978. It is now being forced to close due to a massive rent increase.

photo: Andrew Burton, NY Times

Reader Wendy points us to a report from Bicycle Retailer: "Rent for the 244/242 Lafayette Street store, which encompassed two storefronts and about 2,300 square feet of space, was $21,000 a month. And [owner Charlie] McCorkell said his rent was going to increase by nearly 3 1/2 times to $72,000 per month, which wasn't sustainable with the revenue from bicycle sales."

The shop and its owner have long advocated for a bike-friendly New York. It is also a favorite of celebrities. Wrote the Times in 2012, "On any given day, you might see Jake Gyllenhaal. Or Matthew Broderick or David Byrne. David Beckham has been said to swing by, just for some much-needed air."

But in today's New York, doing good business and making money won't keep you afloat. Not when landlords can hike the rent to enormous heights--and favor national chain stores.

"I am concerned about the future of SoHo," Charlie McCorkell told Bicycle Retailer, "as more and more of the stores, galleries and artists who transformed the area are being replaced by eateries and high-end chain stores. Will SoHo become another high-end suburban-like mall, lacking local flavor?

Bicycle Habitat's last day will be September 30. The store will merge into its other location three doors down.

If you want to the city to put a stop to these insane rent increases, join #SaveNYC and support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.