Yesterday Curbed reported that a former bike shop at 49 East Houston is to become a giant, 14-story, tumorous, cantilevered, residential building. Awful to contemplate, especially considering that the bike shop was not just a bike shop.
photo: Richard Perry/New York Times
The building, built in the 19th century, was owned by Steve Stollman who used the space to sell antique bars as well as original Automat machines. It was always fun to go inside and see Steve's Automats, along with a strange collection of people, posters, and other unusual things. He originally had 85 Automat machines--Abe Lebewohl even put one in the entrance of the Second Avenue Deli.
As they say on Passover, "It would have been enough," but 49 E. Houston was about even more than those lovely Automats.
Stollman used the space to provide a refuge for bicycle activists, including Time's Up and Critical Mass. And, as a former newsstand vendor himself, he also gave "aid and comfort to news dealers who are fighting the city's plan to replace their stands with little more than tricked-up billboards," according to an extensive New York Times article, aid and comfort that was--and still is--much needed as the city continues, like the big bad wolf, to blow down those houses of sticks and replace them with condo-style glass boxes.
Said Stollman to the Voice, "There is a kind of mall pall, a horrible gray uniformity," those glass boxes bring to our streets.
Steve sold the building earlier this year. I don't know why. According to the Times article, he had promised his partner, Melissa Miller, he'd someday sell and move upstate. Maybe that's what he did.
today, #49 ready for demolition
Said Miller, "It used to be you could walk around the city and see these little stores and you wondered what they did inside...It was curious. It was whimsical. Now there is no whimsy. There is only hard-edged business. Steve's is one of the last places of whimsy that I know of. It's a dying breed, places of whimsy."
Now Steve's place, too, must be counted among the city's bitterly regrettable dead.