Friday, May 29, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

In more pool party news, the Gansevoort Hotel brings the Hamptons to the Meatpacking District with a party that goes on and on--"get your glam on"--Sunday nights from noon until sunrise? It's a good thing no one lives in that neighborhood anymore. Right? [CF via Eater]

Uh-oh, H&H Bagels seized. For now. [Eater]

Another great thing about the blogosphere. Last month I asked if anyone had images of the Astor Riviera Cafe. This month, one came in--a postcard scanned and sent in by New Yorker cartoonist Joe Dator. (Note the bookshop upper left--will we ever see the word "Scholarly" on a sign in Astor Place again?):


Joe Dator also makes films. And he's got something on his website that cat lovers and fans of 1970s New York crime TV will really enjoy. Click to see...Boris!

Leather daddy Lenny Waller sends in this slideshow of Times Square back when the city was gritty.

If the city is financially thriving, as Bloomberg says, do we really need his financial genius for another term? In this video, he silences the reporter who dares to ask such a disgraceful question. [RS]

Obama busts Bloomie, "vowing to meet with 'a leader who rules over millions with an iron first, who owns the airwaves and uses his power to crush all who would challenge his authority at the ballot box...it's good to see you, Mayor Bloomberg.'" [Daily News]

Has the junkie nap returned to luxe Manhattan? [HG]

So a guy in a pink shoulder-sweater walks into Mars Bar... [EVG]

BaHa goes to Greenpoint for some serious meats. [SE]

The Other Backside

Back to the noise wars, yesterday, the Lo-Down reported on this week's community meeting to combat excessive noise coming from the Thompson LES hotel. One of my tipsters, a resident of the backside tenements, was also on the scene and submitted the following details:

"People were upset about the pool noise," the tipster reported. The hotel hosted a pool party last week and "it was disgustingly loud." How loud was it? See for yourself. That same tipster sent in this video:



Also reported from the meeting:

Management promised to put sound meters in resident's apartments so "we can hear what you hear" and adjust levels accordingly."

"The one thing that got a giggle from everyone is that management promised to email us with a list of events before they happened. One resident (who lives next to the tent) effectively said, 'What good will that do? So I know when not to stay in my own apartment in case I want to sleep?'"

Finally, there will be another meeting with hotel management in 30 days.

More Hotel Noise News:
Note from the Backside 1
Note from the Backside 2

Thursday, May 28, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Not only is poet Frank O'Hara's last home being demolished for what neighbors say will be a new condo, it has also attracted a big rat:


The city officially begins the eminent domain process in Willets Point. [ITT]

As the city prepares to steal private businesses from Willets Point and replace them with luxury hotels and shops, it's training those skilled workers in how to properly serve the future customers of those luxury hotels and shops. How generous! [NYT]

Another upside to the economic crash, the monstrous tower planned for 8th Ave between 45th and 46th has been scrapped! Frankie & Johnnie's lives on. But, as Lost City points out, its neighbors were destroyed for nothing. [NYT]

When we lost Theatre 80 St. Marks, my heart broke. But at least it stayed a theater. Now it's shutting down to become "a commercial enterprise." [EVG]

Affluent teens may be forced to spend their summers babysitting or working at the local Hispanic community center. And the world will be a better place for it. [NYT]

Tipster Reed sent in a link to photographer Richard Friedman's treasure-trove of pics from late-60s, early-70s NYC. Can you spot the women's prison that once stood in the Village?

Our friends the Meatpacking Cats enjoy a breakfast of canned vittles--someone in that basement is taking good care of them:

Post Pillages East Village

For some time, the New York Post has notoriously been ripping off blogger Miss Heather over at New York Shitty. She writes about neighbors angry at ice-cream truck noise, a day later, the Post is on the scene. She writes about weird graffiti, bam, there's the Post with an "exclusive." In that case, the journalist defended himself saying that because he went to the scene and did his own research, that counts as an exclusive.

Now they're pillaging the East Village blogs. They did it to EV Grieve, calling their story on the Bullet Space squat an "exclusive." And now they're using me.


photo EV Grieve

In today's paper, as Grieve alerted me, they get the "scoop" on the war between the Cooper Square Hotel and its neighbors. While I'm happy to see the beleaguered neighbors getting more press coverage, my blog should be mentioned and credited, especially when it is being directly ripped off.

It's inevitable that stories are inadvertently shared. Bloggers often find themselves covering the same material, often unknowingly. Most I know try their best to give credit when it's obviously due.

The Post writers reference the content of my Notes from the Backside posts without crediting me as their source. They wrote:

"One resident, armed with a megaphone, leaned out his window and greeted a patron who strayed out on the patio after it was closed. When that didn't work, he placed the megaphone next to a stereo speaker and shared a crude comedy skit."

This comes directly from my posts here and here--though they get some of the details completely wrong. Gothamist calls the Post article "a shameless jack of original reporting."

Tell the Post our neighborhoods are already being ripped off and co-opted by big business. We're not going to let them do the same thing to our neighborhood blogs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Notes from the Backside gets matrixed! Well, sort of. In this week's New York Approval Matrix, the Cooper Square Hotel's closeness with its neighbors has been deemed "Despicable":


A new blog in town checks out some cool rusty stuff at Pier 54. [RB]

The spirit of P&G still alive. Says the owner: "I’m going on a moral crusade against shake-shack. Why do people wait an hour in line for a burger?" [NYB] via Curbed

"Remember the Woody Allen of the seventies, the guy who several generations of New Yorkers decided was the comedic poet laureate of their era of the city? ...Whatever Works is, in essence, the missing movie from that period." [NYM]

Christopher Street bear bar The Dugout inexplicably becomes Ramrod--but is the original classic really back? And, more importantly, are the (NSFW) porno walls still present? [JMG]

Scant reminders of the old Tribeca. [GVDP]

St. Brigid's scaffolding comes down but the old gal's not looking so good. [EVG]

Grieve finds a fan in supporters of no-doggie laws. [CR]

Times Square Erasures

Checking in on a couple of tombstones--the new buildings that mark the gravesites of two of my favorite vanished Times Square institutions--I found again just how completely the past is erased.

Where 1551 Broadway once held not just the Howard Johnson's, but the Gaiety and a whole lot of history, the American Eagle Outfitters building has risen.



It looks quite tall, but when you really look at it you realize it is less building and more scaffolding for advertisements. There are a few floors that actually have windows and interiors, but look at the rest. It's a middle finger just waiting to be covered up with billboards.



Over on 8th Avenue, at the former site of the Playpen and the Funny Store, two gems demolished in December 2007, Tishman's new hotel tower is being faced in stone and white glass:



The buildings that stood before these new structures were, in a sense, "green." They were constantly being recycled. They lasted for a century and went through several permutations and uses. You could see their history in their faces, layers under layers, of time's passage.

Will these new buildings ever become anything but what they are? I think of the final lines of James Wolcott's must-read piece in this month's Vanity Fair:

"What bothers me is that if New York plunges into a second go-round of the 70s, this time with additional angst, we’ll still be stuck with all those spiky glass buildings that have gone up in recent years, reflecting our own overreaching folly back at us with sterile mockery. Really, I much prefer rubble."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Please attend the Community Meeting to discuss nightlife noise from the LES Thompson Hotel: May 27, 6:30 p.m., in the Raphael Hernandez Community Room, 189 Allen (bet Houston & Stanton):


Inquiring minds want to know, what goes on inside the Free Willie Nelson? [EVG]

Enjoy Christmas on the Bowery--back in the bad old days. [AP]

"If New York City were to slide back into the crumbling anarchy of the 1970s, as some fear, would that be so bad?" ..."Artists’ lofts--boxcars of light, raw space, and drafty windows—were actually occupied and used by artists and not titled Eurotrash, trustafarians, investment bankers, hedge-fund hotshots, and similar bonus babies who would model their cheekbones and cutlery collection on Patrick Bateman’s in American Psycho." [VF] ...but people in Kansas disagree.

Are people bombing Starbucks because their logo looks like Queen Esther? [RS]

The "herring people" hover outside Clinton Street Bakery. [WL]

The demolitions continue in Chinatown. [BB]

From a tipster: "This formerly blocked painted billboard has now been exposed at the corner of Broadway & 76th":


Shepard Fairey designs Saks 5th Ave's Communist-style ad campaign. [NYT] via [ADB]

Addicted to your screens? "increase in screen use has rewired our brains and led to a decrease in our empathy and our ability to read facial language." [ABD]

As more "green" condos and towers blossom, remember: "there is nothing green about construction." [ABD]

One more from Micah White: "The Kindle is not a book. It is instead a machine mimicking the external traits of a book while destroying the essence of the book: the trace of the author, the community of readers and the call to deep, meditative reflection." [ABD]

Note from the Backside #2

Welcome to the second installment of Notes from the Backside, where neighbors of the Cooper Square Hotel tell their tales of what life is like in the Coop's posterior--and how they're coping. (I may have to expand the definition, as emails are also coming in from the derriere of Thompson LES.)

June 2 is the official meeting to discuss the problem and we hear the hotel owners will be there, too. Until that grudge match, enjoy the following Note from the Backside...



"We had a delicious victory yesterday. We saw that the hotel’s co-owner was sitting on the patio a few feet from our window. We put our speakers at the window.

But what to play?

The un-coolest thing we could come up with was Roger Miller and Conway Twitty’s greatest hits. Then we put on this vile, 7-minute comedy routine about a prostitute and a banana. And set it to repeat."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Meatpacking Cats

Making way for another glass tower, Interstate Foods, one of the largest meatpacking plants in the Meatpacking District, has been closed for some time now. It seems its roommate, Atlas Meats, is gone, too. The once-busy building has been quiet for weeks. The metal hooks that once hung so evocatively from the rusty canopy are gone. No meat deliveries come here anymore. The sidewalk, once slippery with a white film of fat, is bare.

But at least two denizens of the meatpacking plant remain.



From an open cellar door, a pair of recently unemployed tabbies sun themselves on a warm day in May. A concerned friend has left cans of cat food open on the top cellar step. But the cats don't bother with this fake stuff. They know real meat. They know scraps of prime beef and chicken. They know the thrill of hunting for live prey.



They are a bit battered, rough around the edges. Kind of greasy. Not the sort of cats a woman walking by in couture would stoop to stroke behind the ears. But one man comes by. Dressed in dirty coveralls with his name stitched on the pocket, blue tattoos on his arms, and an eye that looks like it has seen better days--he's a little rough around the edges, too.

He crouches down and puts out a hand. One of the cats ignores him, too lazy in the sun, but the other begins meowing, almost a complaint, as if to say, Get away. Undeterred, the man makes a soft, reassuring sound. The cat approaches, rubs against the man's red knuckles. They stay this way for a few minutes, the cat circling the man, letting him pet her head, retreating and returning.



When the man has had his fill of cat-love, he gets up to go. Seeing me watching, he explains, "I just love cats." The tabby follows him for a few steps, then retreats to her spot in the shade.

Without the meatpacking plant and its vermin to be hunted, where will these cats go? Maybe the Von Furstenberg store next door will take them.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Villager reports: "yuppie bar" that "keeps the street awake all night every night" gets verbally abusive with noisy neighborhood girls who can't afford prom dresses. [EVG]

How did I miss this? StuyTown's newest residents show how StuyTown is bringing sexy back. May not be SFW! [STLL]

Why yunnies flock together: "It felt great to be in a room where I felt people matched up with how I look and act, and are ahead of the game...I even had a guy tell me outside the bathroom, 'You’re a good looking dude.'" [DBTH]

Checking in with Frank O'Hara's place, the scaffolding is up and the demolition has begun:


Another stabbing makes Greenwich Village officially a "sketchy" part of town. [Gothamist]

Enjoy a cavalcade of vanishing ads. [FNY]

Just because Washington Square Park looks "nice and pretty," doesn't mean it was all good. [WSP]

Why I love Fleet Week: I keep hoping those sailors in Times Square will break into song... [P&W]

A close-up look at the wonderful creatures carved into Bethesda's staircase. [SNY]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Sad news for Park Slope--the venerable, 38-year-old Record & Tape Center evicted. [BP]

photo: my flickr

The Bowery hotel I didn't think was coming--is coming. [EVG]

The groper of Ave A puts on her wings and flies away. [NMNL]

The yunnipocalypse strikes LA: "The trendonistas still flock to Barneys, but it’s just to eat lunch and buy a lipstick." [NYT]

NY Post preps to steal another scoop from the Shitty. [NYS]

Peter Pan Donut Shop

On my brief visit to Greenpoint, I was delighted to stumble upon the Peter Pan Donut Shop. Readers have been telling me to go there and I just never did. Now I walked through the sea-foam green entryway and took a seat at the back end of the snaking counter, where I ordered a chocolate egg cream and a toasted coconut.



Within minutes, the counter began to fill with old-timers, regulars, and I got the sense I had swiped someone's seat.

A woman wearing a wild auburn wig sat beside me, ordered an egg cream, and buried herself in the Post. A man who talked like Ralph Kramden sat on the other side, soon joined by his pals. Everybody knew everybody. They talked about ailments and hospitalizations, the recent death of Dom DiMaggio, and recounted the passings of their wives.



Now and then, they lapsed into silence, licking the stirrers from their coffee cups. Then the chat began again. They said things like "A nice piece of fish" and "What's wrong with 'dem Yankees, they can't win, eh?" One man, the Kramdenish one, opined, "Somehow, every year, seems like Father's Day always gets overshadowed by Mother's Day."

The waitresses, in green smocks with pink collars and cuffs, chatted with the men. When a favorite song came on the radio (Lady Gaga on an AM/FM with glowing dial), the girls broke into spontaneous, appropriately awkward, teenage dance.

Being in the Peter Pan Donut Shop is like being in Brooklyn, which is where you are when you're there, but it's the real Brooklyn, the lost Brooklyn, the one you hope to find when you go there but rarely do.

Here it is.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

On the new book Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior, by Geoffrey Miller: "The grand edifice of brand-name consumerism rests on the narcissistic fantasy that everyone else cares about what we buy." [NYT]

What does it mean when the sellers of half-million-dollar condos start advertising on lamp posts along with all the "Man with Van" and "Lost Parakeet" people?


...not to mention the Dump Bloomberg Now people. Spotted on Fifth Avenue:


East Village and Lower East Side declared a "danger zone" of violent assaults. [EVG]

After the fire, not just one or two buildings will fall--an entire block in Chinatown is slated for the wrecking ball. If you ask me, this stinks of backroom schemes to wipe out a chunk of unprotected neighborhood and put up a glass tower. [BB]

...Downtown Express shows this is the second time this year that 103 East Broadway has been controversially evacuated by the city. It is also the address of former sweatshop.

A first look at the newly reopened Washington Square Park. [WSP]

Looking back at the history of dumbbell tenement design. [Blah]

Notes from the Backside

With the patio lounge of the Cooper Square Hotel open and loudmouth weather upon us, the hotel’s unwitting neighbors, whose tenement bedroom and living-room windows are front-row for the hubbub, have become restless and frustrated.

Now and then, notes and photos come out of that tenement. The photos show just how close "too close" can be. The notes outline the many creative ways one can pay back the annoyance. As long as these dispatches from the Coop's posterior keep surfacing, I will gather them here as “Notes from the Backside."



Note from the Backside #1:
"got to try the megaphone this week. About 2 am a drunk woman came out to the patio and wondered at its beauty. I pulled out the megaphone and said in a store announcer kind of voice 'Attention Cooper Square Hotel douchebags: shut the hell up and get off the patio.'

Didn’t work. She said 'That makes my new york experience complete' and continued to yammer away."

Monday, May 18, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Jake Mooney revisits the lost Mooney's Pub of Flatbush Ave and finds a new bar--with a decent mix of old and new. [NYT]

Buildings destabilized by fire to fall--a chunk of Chinatown gone. [BB]

Grieve talks to the director of the East Village History Project. [EVG]

New blog in town, Amusing the Zillion, visits Coney to find Thor's promises fallen through. [ATZ]

Attend the Save Coney meeting Tuesday at 7:00. Click for info.

Reminisce about the old Lower East Side at the Tenement Museum 5/27.

Hipsters now wearing "I'm a Fucking Hipster" sweatshirts. [NYS]

Howdy Do

VANISHING

After more than 15 years in the East Village, Howdy Do is closing. "Lost Our Lease" is the reason written in the window and signs went up yesterday announcing a big STORE CLOSING sale.



Opened in the early 1990s by ex-club kids and drag divas Michael Torres and Ryan Lance, the tchotchke store moved into a space on 7th Street formerly occupied by an egg shop. Since then, they've expressed their creative touch and love of kitsch with thoughtful window displays filled with vintage goods.



Michael and Ryan opened the place because, as they told The Villager in 2006, "We were tired of working for large companies and having them make money off our ideas and creativity and wanted to work for ourselves in an environment where we could make our own hours, dress code, and rules."

Since they moved to the neighborhood, they have weathered its evolution toward mediocrity. As they said in the Villager, "The East Village has changed dramatically. We originally moved to the East Village because we wanted difference. Now, New York University has acquired so much property for housing due to their popularity... Hotels have opened up left and right, including a Howard Johnson Hotel on Houston Street. There are more and more chains like Starbucks opening up..."



After the closure of Love Saves the Day and the ongoing assault of 7th Street (recently dubbed an upscale culinary hub by the Times), it is distressing to lose yet another piece of what once made the East Village different. As more of that lost neighborhood slips away, be sure to hurry by and pick up a Charlie's Angels lunch box or a Culture Club t-shirt--and bid adieu to Howdy Do.

Friday, May 15, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Striking a blow against rampant Vongerichtification, Village neighbors vandalize Beatrice Inn--tired of loudmouth "Eurotrash"! [Eater]

eater photo

More on the Tompkins Square Park beatings that no mainstream media journalist has yet to acknowledge. [NMNL]

Eater points us to the LES Forum, where the sentiment about loudmouth bars and "crazy no-bar people" is: "Looks like the peace and quiet crowd has mobilized. Now is the time for those who represent the future to do so, shouting them down at every turn. Let fun rule." Disagree? Join the Forum.

That smoke you smelled last night? It was a fire in Chinatown. The intrepid Bowery Boogie has the scoop and the morning aftermath. [BB]

...and the Hong Kong Supermarket that burned--BaHa was there last year, "noodling around." [SE]

The new P&G has opened. As for the neon sign, Adam Sandler, put away your million--"'We hope to have the corner crown of the old P&G sign up in the new location," said the senior Mr. Chahalis... As for the beloved neon martini glass on the old sign, Steve Chahalis said, 'We may mount it on the wall inside the bar--presented like a work of art.'" [DJ]

As another XXX DVD shop closes, a tally of Times Square's adult survivors. [EVG]

Brooklyn 11211 gives a rebuttal to my Franklin Street post, and offers a Jane Jacobs vision. [B11211]

Another Manhattan Starbucks has fallen! [Eater]

Watch the Dance Parade tomorrow.

Google Streets

One of the tools people like me use when we want to see the vanished city is Google Maps' "Street View." As today's New York changes at lightspeed, Google inevitably falls behind. Until they catch up, we can still find buildings that have since fallen, businesses that once were, empty lots that are now condos. EV Grieve illustrated this beautifully in a post just yesterday.

But Google being Google, it's always working to catch up and soon those images will vanish, too, replaced by the new.



Earlier this week, I spotted the Google cam car in Chelsea, one of the fastest changing parts of town. If you ever wondered how they do it, here it is. The device holds 9 cameras, all looking in different directions, including straight up at the clouds--for reasons only Google knows. The driver just drives while the cameras do the work, always watching, never blinking.



Right now, those images of the lost city are vanishing, wiped out by this roving eye in the sky, replaced by the new blocks with their condos, brasseries, and boutiques. Enjoy them while they last.

Meanwhile, driving the Google cam car is not a bad gig. His next stop? Dubai.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

1975 mural vanishes from Delancey Street. [BB]

Take a walk down Memory Lane, back when the East Village still had certain cobbler shops and butcher shops, CBGB was not Varvatos, and condos were yet to come--way, way back in the distant bygone year of...2007. [EVG]

Gaze at the stars on Manny's walls. [GVDP]

A "living museum of sad stories" remains on the Bowery--but this flophouse's owner, hotelier Sam Chang, asks the city for a "hardship provision." [NYT]

In this age of "bleakonomics," is the suit dead? "What has landed on the slag heap of style is the old three-button power suit: slickly conservative, oversize and overpriced." [NYT]

Check out Joel Kotkin's, "The Luxury City vs. The Middle Class." [via Bstoner]

In Bloom York City (run like a corporation), Lehman investment banker now in charge of housing the poor. [Gothamist]

Greenpoint: Post-Apoc

As in many parts of the city, in Greenpoint, it's in the industrial section where many condos are being built. The affluent are being drawn to the edge of the world, where the air smells like slaughterhouse and bricks tumble from crumbling walls. Viewed from Franklin, it is artful decrepitude (a boutique here even has the Terminal Warehouse printed on an American Apparel t-shirt). From the riverside, and up close, it's a bombed-out, dystopian setting where violence feels utterly possible.



Around the corner, a group of guys are drinking 40s, radios blaring from tricked-out cars. They watch a pair of artists spray-paint a memorial mural, an urban gravestone for two dead young men of color: Rest in Peace, it says, for D'Nice and Chunk. A grim reminder that not everyone here expects to survive to middle age.

The poor and the people of color exist on this edge--renters, unlike the Polish, they are being pushed out.



But can luxurification really happen in the shadow of burnt-out warehouses, in the deep hole of the New Depression? A hasty handwritten note replaces permits in a plexiglass box on the much-hyped Pencil Factory lofts: "Job site shut down 5/5/09."



There is a rat problem on gentrifying Franklin Street. Next to an outdoor cafe filled with baby strollers and lap dogs, flyers taped to lightpoles assert, "This is dangerous and unhealthy."



And, as anyone who's read New York Shitty knows, the place is dotted with dog shit.



But if you like the post-apocalyptic allure of the industrial landscape, where homeless men gather in dark corners down dead-end streets and pit bulls cavort off-leash, you'll enjoy this edge of Greenpoint. There is always interesting signage--Syrup of Figs refers to an ancient laxative. While you drink your latte, just close your eyes to the signs of despair.



What makes the three Greenpoints briefly touched on here (Manhattan Ave, Franklin St, and the industrial) so interesting is that, together, they illustrate a New York neighborhood in the midst of hyper-gentrification.

On Manhattan, you find the old neighborhood, a close community of Polish immigrants and small businesses. On Franklin, you find the pioneers of gentrification, the artists and intellectuals seeking affordable housing and a community of their own. You also find some of the neighborhood's poor, black, and Latino. Here, cropping up through the poverty, in the industrial despair, alongside those hipster pioneers, you find luxury condos that herald the future.

The drive of big development is to merge all three Greenpoints into one uniform culture--and it won't have spray-painted memorials, or quirky thrift shops, and it won't serve pierogis, unless they are "artisanal."



It happens so quickly now, that evolution to hyper-gentrification. It decimated the Meatpacking District and the Bowery in just five years. It has dramatically altered the sensibility of the East Village and made major inroads into Harlem. Williamsburg was gone in the blink of an eye.

If you want to see hyper-gentrification in action, go to Greenpoint.
Get off the G train at Manhattan Ave, walk up the street, have a meal. Cross to Franklin and do the same. Then walk on West St. Don't talk on the cell phone or listen to your iPod. Really pay attention. You can't miss it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Under the scaffolding of the still-climbing, window-blocking Chang hotel on 4th Ave and 13th St, huge wraparound Armani Exchange ads...


...attract a graffitied message from a passerby: "Luxury is killing mankind."


From the department of crazy fascinating comments, a reader writes about the P&G neon sign: "a staff person told me the neon exists and that adam sandler offered them 1 million for it."

New East Villager moves above McDonald's, gets upset about french fry smell, commenters suggest litigation. [AT]

Bloomberg's henchmen in Willets Point harassing the guys at Bono Sawdust? [QC]

A note on the name of Boulud's Bowery restaurant, DBGB: "the early-on matter of a cease-and-desist from the owner of the CBGB name has been resolved, and Boulud negotiated full rights to the name." [Grub]

Provincetown Playhouse demolition update. [BB]

In The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn, Ellen Levitt looks at what became of the borough's ex-shuls, some of which became synagondos.

At Elite Shoe Repair on 10th, closed by fire, you may now pick up your shoes:

Greenpoint: Franklin St.

The signs of gentrification so glaringly missing from Manhattan Ave are abundant on Franklin. Not only the tell-tale businesses, but the people. Within minutes of stepping onto the sidewalk there, you will be bumped by someone talking on a cell phone. Even though Manhattan Ave is more crowded with pedestrians, people there know how to walk. They move to the right, as New Yorkers have done for generations. I tested this on both streets and I can assure you: On Manhattan they move to the right, on Franklin they don't.



On Manhattan Ave., it's discount stores selling flowery women's house coats called "dusters." On Franklin, it's high-end boutiques. There are no diners here, no Polish markets. There are outdoor cafes packed with wafer-thin women cradling chihuahuas in their laps, bars with clever names, "craft brew" beer stores, and coffee shops filled with bearded men peering at Mac laptops through chalk-white Wayfarer shades.

It is just one block away from Manhattan Ave., and it is a completely different universe with a completely different culture.

Overheard: "Oh my God, try the iced tea. It's blood orange and pear. Amazing. Especially when you've got a huge hangover."



To be honest, part of me wants to enjoy these new and independent businesses. They only span a few blocks, and they're off to the side. As Miss Heather attests, Word is a great little bookshop and Kill Devil Hill is filled with appealing curiosities. I'd like to lose myself in the fantasy of a "perfect mix": a liveable neighborhood filled with menschlich people and a handful of "cool" places to hang out with people who are, admittedly, more like me (in some ways).

But we all know that handful never contains itself. I looked at those "cool" places, and thought: This is The Blob. It grows and grows, and as it grows, it eats everything in sight. There will be no stopping it.

Already, the Horror of Greenpoint has landed. That Carnival cruise ship has docked at the Galapagos and boatloads of hungry monsters are coming ashore.



The luxury condos, lured by the hip cafes and shops, have taken over warehouses and factories. Tearing down buildings, they span whole blocks, sprouting towers at their centers. They muscle their way between smaller, cheaper homes, asserting themselves as "bigger and better!"



This is the second Greenpoint on our tour, and it threatens to destroy the first. But there is also a third Greenpoint, a sinister, dystopian layer surrounding the luxury.

Next stop: Post-Apocalyptic Greenpoint...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

A wilding gang is beating people in Tompkins Square Park. One 26-year-old woman, after being beaten with bottles and sticks, went home and died. If Lesia Pupshaw had been a banker, stumbling home to her condo drunk and high on coke, it would be called a murder, not an overdose. And you would have read about her by now in the New York Times. But she was a heroin user and a "crusty" kid. So you haven't. Thankfully, we have Bob Arihood. [NMNL]

image from Village Voice, 2000

The just-vanished Chelsea Court Meat Market is being replaced by another meat market. Amazingly, a new butcher shop is coming to this spot, Knickerbocker Meat of the Bronx. (Thanks to the tipsters for this one.):


The New Yorker visits the ever-vanishing Music Row to say goodbye to Manny's. [NYer]

Why I avoid my local F station like the plague between 5 and 7pm on weekdays. [EVG]

Get ready to have your heart warmed: A mother's lost diary from 1939 turns up at the Strand's bargain rack, and the good folks at Freebird Books Google its way back to the son it was intended for. [FBB]

Find out why Sinatra loved Patsy's restaurant. [CR]

In the New Yorker poem "Bleecker Street," Philip Schultz wonders if:
"Perhaps these three Chinese girls
giggling into cell phones, lavishly spending
each moment of their youth, truly believe
the mountain of self has no top
and each breath is a reckoning with fate?
Perhaps these shiny boutiques, each
so resolute, so eager to please, are weary
of decorating the illusions of another century..."

Monday, May 11, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

More and more people are catching on to the bright side of this recession. In New York, Jennifer Senior writes about how the money-crazed days made people into anti-social, unempathic, well, yunnies. On a psychologist's experiments: "Just thinking about money made her subjects less likely to help strangers struggling with their belongings. Just handling money made her subjects less sensitive to physical pain." [NYM]

The collapsed building on 14th I reported on last week has now been completely stripped of its facade. You can see into people's bedrooms. At the building's feet, the klieg lights and wires from the accursed Sorcerer's Apprentice. (Curbed has the update with more pics):


Young men are wilding in Tompkins Square Park--one young woman is dead. [NMNL]

Not everyone's excited that Love Saves the Day is becoming yet another ramen place. [EVG]

A fantastic chance to catch up with the ladies who were once Miss Subways. [Gothamist]

Neighbors fight to save the mosaic that has graced 88 Perry Street since 1972. [Flickr]

me-myself-i's flickr

Alex wrestles with the meaning of a world in which CBGB and John Varvatos t-shirts co-exist. [FP]

Ken gives us reasons to go to Hoboken. [GVDP]

On the street in Greenpoint, two perfect candidates for the wonderful Museum of Bad Art. Words do no justice, just feast your eyes...and before you ask, yes, that is a woman with a uni-boob wrapped in an actual hot-pink mesh thong:

Greenpoint: Manhattan Ave

Traveling from the yunnie cacophony of the East Village, riding the L train packed with twitchy hipsters, to emerge from the G train and onto Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint may be akin to stepping off a Carnival cruise ship bloated with ticky-tacky people, their lips smeared with Chocoholic Buffet, and walking into the Edenic wonder of the Galapagos Islands.

You are simply in another country. One that remains mostly unspoiled and untrammeled, where the natives practice strange and wonderful customs--like saying hello, holding the door for you, and wishing "Bless you" when you sneeze. Instead of talking on cell phones, they are talking to each other or just not talking. Instead of ramming you with baby strollers filled with atrophying children, they let their kids walk.



I have been to Greenpoint just twice and saw only a sliver. For a thorough account of the goings on in this part of Brooklyn, see Miss Heather's extensive reporting at New York Shitty. Forgotten NY has also covered the neighborhood here and here. But even a sliver gives you a good sense of the strong community still thriving here.



I was shocked by the lack of gentrification. Yes, they have Chase Banks and Dunkin Donuts, even a weird Starbucks in a former theater, but these all have a run-down look about them and they don't keep places like the Peter Pan Donut shop from being packed with satisfied customers.



People speak Polish everywhere. And it's not just the older people--it's the twentysomethings in their trendy sunglasses, the teens, and the kids, too. Dinner at the Happy End will surround you in Polish. Its dark, Eastern bloc decor might intimidate you. But you'll be welcomed by a friendly young waiter who will urge you to eat the salad, the best part, the part that gives you vegetables. And the kielbasa, perfectly cooked by a staunch woman in a hairnet, is incredible.



At the Manhattan 3 Decker diner you can get a three-decker sandwich (a club sandwich) and enjoy the bickering of the owners, a Greek couple who reply to one another, "And the horse you rode in on!" Meanwhile, regulars are greeted by name and the waitstaff knows their favorite tables. And the children--you won't notice you are surrounded by them because they are so well-behaved, quietly eating grilled cheese sandwiches and coloring in books. A mother tells one, "When I was a girl, I wasn't spoiled. My mother disciplined me."



Walking west, you pass lovely rowhouses on tree-lush streets, and fantasize about living there. "Greenpoint is unspoiled!" you think, "How could it be?" Then you come out to Franklin Street, where you see the future of Greenpoint. It's a completely different world, running just one block parallel to the world you just left, and it is spreading.

Next Stop: Franklin Street...