At age 25, Michael Perlman has become a veteran preservationist in New York City. Who said "Don't trust anyone under 30?" I did. Well, I take it back--Michael gives me hope for the future. After succeeding in rescuing the Moondance Diner from destruction, he is now turning his powers of preservation to the threatened Cheyenne. I interviewed Michael over email and asked him about his work with the Moondance and his hopes for the Cheyenne.
Michael at the Moondance
photo credit: Mike Dabin
With the Moondance, he said, “I was aware that freestanding diners were pre-assembled and manufactured to move, so I figured ‘why not pick it up & move it?’” He then convinced Extell Development to donate the Moondance to the American Diner Museum in exchange for a tax write-off, and the rest is history—the Moondance is now beloved in Wyoming and should be opening its doors in June.
Could the same happen for the Cheyenne? It can if George Papas (owner of the Skylight Diner and landlord of the Cheyenne property) donates the moveable structure to the American Diner Museum instead of demolishing it. So far, Papas is open to that possibility. As he told Urbanite, "I would really love for somebody to take that away and put it somewhere." Michael happily confirmed that Papas supports the move, provided the diner is structurally sound.
Ironically, Papas is reopening the defunct Market Diner nearby and the Cheyenne used to be one in a chain of Market Diners, as seen here:
photo: John Baeder
The Cheyenne is a nostalgic gem and well worth saving, Michael says, as “the last streamlined railway car-inspired diner in Mid-Manhattan. It was pre-assembled by Paramount in 1940 and retains a majority of its original/distinctive elements. The facade features vertical and horizontal stainless steel securing bowed colorful enamel panels, wrap-around windows, a curved entryway with glass block, and a reverse channel illuminated neon sign. It was recently granted first prize on NYC-Architecture.com’s Top 10 New York Diners/Restaurants.”
photo: Michael's flickr: Still a favorite spot for cabs
Michael hopes that the diner will not go as far as the Moondance did (hopefully not all the way to the real Cheyenne), but might find a place somewhere in the outer boroughs of the city where New Yorkers can continue to enjoy it.
photo: my flickr
Every New Yorker can be a preservationist. Michael recommends that we all survey our neighborhoods “for places that hold the greatest sentimental value, initiate character, and preserve our city's diverse architecture and culture." Filling out the LPC's Request for Evaluation form is quick and easy. It’s up to us to “advocate for landmarking before more cherished sites fall victim to the wrecking ball and the unidealistic real estate craze. Once a site is endangered, it is often too late.”
But don’t be discouraged, Michael writes, “A landmark is (ideally) in the eyes of the majority. I encourage the public to share their landmarking/preservation concerns with me, and especially let me know if a diner or another meaningful type of establishment is at risk, or on their preservation wishlist. My e-mail is always open: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
In addition, Michael asks, "Does anyone know of someone who is hoping to purchase a classic diner if the current tenant, Spiros Kasimis, can't afford the rigging and lot acquisition costs?" Drop him a line today if you're in the market to adopt this imperiled souvenir of the real New York.