Friday, July 31, 2009

Lee's Laundry

VANISHED

On West 4th Street, next to Left Bank Books, Lee's Laundry has closed after 30 years in Greenwich Village.


photo: me-myself-i's flickr

A reader sent in a flickr link with the news, saying, "I asked Mr. Lee if I could take his photograph. but he said 'No, I'm too sad.' When I asked if the rent had been raised too high, he said no, that was the strange thing, he had not been offered a lease. It was a very sad scene, nothing was left in the place except Mr. Lee and the clothes that hadn't been picked up by their owners hanging on the rack... I wonder if this location is destined to be another Marc Jacobs?"


photo: my flickr

I have been watching the little Chinese launderer's for awhile now, wondering how long it would last. Surrounded by Marc Jacobs boutiques, it was like a vulnerable gazelle circled by hungry lions.

It had the tell-tale signs of an imminent vanisher--peeling paint, an interior that makes you want to peer inside, a sense of mystery. It gave you a feeling other than the plastic taste in your mouth that much of Manhattan now gives. It gave you an old New York feeling. And now it's gone.


photo: my flickr

Please read "About the Lees", where a long-time neighbor writes, "I have grown up with the Lees. They were there when I came home from high school and went to pick up my dad’s shirts... I bet they’ve been there for you too."

See Also:
Chin's Laundry

*Everyday Chatter

The newest glass tower on 14th and 3rd is rising--here comes another box of nothing:


The backlash against the Williamsburg backlash is backlashing. [Curbed]

David Cronenberg to adapt Don DeLillo's "Cosmopolis" for the screen. [LM]

East 3rd Street men's shelter getting rowdy in the EV. [Gothamist]

A peek inside the old Charles theater on B. [EVG]

Someone doesn't like "slavery" massage parlor ads in the Voice. [BB]

Enjoy the cheap lunch special at Ola Polish Deli in Ridgewood. [BBK]

Penis Art

At the risk of being NSFW, I offer the following puerile observation.

On my recent tour of the "upper High Line" area, I passed a gallery exhibit entitled NAKED! A better title would be PENIS! because all of the images were of naked men, or just disembodied penises.

Anyway, when I stepped outside the door, I noted a curiously shaped puddle on the sidewalk.



Did the curator plan this?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Just after news of Max Brenner's demise from the EV, the signage is off like a prom dress and workers are already gutting the place of all things bald and chocolate:


On the license notice announcing a new Chipotle for the former Food Bar in Chelsea, someone has scrawled: "another F...g McDonald's? There's one right up the street!" Chipotle, McDonald's, it's really all the same:


Cinema Nolita closes on Mulberry. [BB]

Make a last visit to the lovely and lost Peter's grocery. [FNY]

Bloomberg deports homeless from NYC, begins construction on giant velvet rope to keep rabble out of Manhattan. [NYT]

Sign the petition to save Rudy's, one of the last real dives in Times Square. [LM]

Looking back at a landmark countercultural theatre on Ave B. [EVG]

Another skinny building has been revealed--the glass box that is replacing the more interesting 61 Fifth. [Curbed] Read about the old building here and here.

In Glover's Mistake, "an archetype emerges: the disaffected blogger, 'searching not for things to love but a place to put his rage.'" [NYer]

Novelist Michael Idov on pretend BoHo businesses in NYC: "This is not a real commercial culture. A certain class of people decided to play entrepreneurs and decided to play restaurateurs, and their friends decided to play along as customers." [TONY]

Custom Guitars to 7th

Last September, I wrote about the sudden closing of Addukkan on 7th Street. Then in April, permits went up in the window, including for a kitchen. The architects were the same ones who did Jamba Juice. I got worried.

Since then, I heard from sources on the street that a guitar shop is coming to this space. I doubted the rumors, wondering: It's a big space in a bad economy, and what kind of guitar shop needs a kitchen? But now, two neon signs are sitting uninstalled in the window of the still-empty shop: FRAMUS & WARWICK guitars.



Framus guitars was founded in Germany in 1946 and later took on the name Warwick. The Beatles played Framus guitars. So did "Canadian hard rock power trio" Triumph.



On the Warwick online forum, this address is noted as the "Custom Shop." According to this video, Framus' Custom Shop is expanding into direct sales with a "new headquarters in Manhattan"--and they're bringing their guitars to the "boutique level."

Prices for a custom Framus can range from $1,748 to $17,498. Is it safe to say these are high-end instruments--for rock-n-rollers who buy their shredded leather pants and $700 Cheap Trick tees at the nearby Varvatos maybe? Well, it's better than a Jamba Juice.

The kitchen question, however, has yet to be answered.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Let the de-gentrification of the "Vanishing Block" of 9th Ave begin. MePa is not moving in (yet). A taker has been found for the long-empty Chelsea Liquors spot. It's a Subway:


"the High Line project...is set to destroy the Chelsea gallery scene as we know it. Just as SoHo quickly transformed itself ten years ago into Fashionista Central, so the High Line will become the enemy of high art and the locus of the frivolous..." [Artnet] via [Conscientious]

When public parks go stealthily private--on the High Line: "Celebrity endorsements (Edward Norton, Diane Von Furstenberg), caps on visitor attendance, adjacent real-estate development, and a dense police presence compared to other parks have all contributed to the appearance of something less than fully public." [NYM]

The WaMu on 2nd Ave and 8th St is becoming yet another Chase. Does this mean the 2nd Ave Deli will move back into the Chase spot two blocks north? Wishful thinking...


Bruni beats up on the Cooper Square Hotel: "The hotel tries to claim the neighborhood around it as a party zone on a homogenously slick, glossy par with South Beach or West Hollywood." [NYT] via EVG

In a recent study, "when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting." Is it any different when walkers text on the sidewalk? Okay, no one dies, but those giant handbags with all the metal bits can really hurt. [NYT]

South Brooklyn Casket Co.

There's something about the South Brooklyn Casket Company. Maybe its the name, the startling word "casket" right out there in the open as you walk along Third Avenue in Gowanus. Maybe it's the fact that you can see right into the warehouse, to its cache of caskets, all gleaming silver and polished wood, waiting to be filled with, let's face it, your future.



The company was founded in 1931 by Thomas Pontone and was more recently acquired by the larger Milso Industries, which is the name on the trucks you will see carrying the coffins out of the low brick buildings in Gowanus and to their customers. But the buildings haven't changed, they're still ramshackle and a bit ominous. You might find yourself lingering there, watching the boxes come out in bunches, and wondering who will lie inside them.



A few years ago, the Times wrote about how the coffin company has inspired writing and art, including a video that appears to have nothing to do with South Brooklyn Casket, and a book filled with stories that Kirkus called, "Mostly about homosexual desire, narcissism, and the fear of physical decay."

If you're so inclined, you can buy t-shirts here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Say it ain't so! Guss' Pickles is leaving the LES for Brooklyn. One more reason to stop loving the LES. [LD]

Is this the t-shirt of NYC's new generation? They used to love the city, now they believe the city loves them. Trust me, yunnie, the city loves no one:


Hipsters upset about the Crusty invasion of dead Williamsburg condos have retaliated with irony, creating the Gutter Punk Foldable and writing, "they've invaded the 'burg and now we can expect a surge in lyme disease from the ticks festering in their nasty-ass beards." [FW]

L Magazine blogger Jonny Diamond rages at hipster-on-crusty hatred--and, in the process, sums up "the gentrifying pattern of the Lower East Side (aka the East Village) which went artist/junkies, crusty/huffers, yuppy/alcoholics" vs. the Williamsburg pattern, which "has kind of gone artist/alcoholics, hipster/cokeheads, yuppy/artisanal beercoholics." [LM]

Russel Brand on Orchard [BB] and R-Pattz all over the EV [EVG]--must be cool here.

Build More Luxury Condoms. [NYS]

Village neighbors score a big kill--the much-despised Beatrice Inn goes down. [Gothamist]

Soho neighbors also score, putting the kibosh on the "Mondrian Menace" outdoor scream machine. [Curbed]

Our local Slum Goddess jams in France with R. Crumb, friends, and family. [SG]

East Village Pears

At the northeast corner of 13th and 3rd once stood the Stuyvesant Pear Tree, planted in 1667 by Peter Stuyvesant and felled 200 years later by a winter storm and a wayward horse in 1867. Below is a rare photo of the tree in better days.


photo from NYPL

The plaque that marked the presence of the pear tree has a long and circuitous history, which you can read about here in the Villager. In short: In 1890, the Holland Society erected the plaque on the wall of the Pear Tree drugstore, later Kiehl's, at 13th and 3rd. When Kiehl's moved one step to the north, the plaque came down, went to St. Marks Church, then to Mr. Charles Schlesinger, who owned the Bendiner & Schlesinger lab building at 3rd and 10th.

Then Kiehl's expanded back into its original corner spot, which was re-dedicated Pear Tree Corner in 2003, after L'Oreal bought out the long-time local business. And the historic lab building was demolished in 2005 to build what is now an SVA dorm. The plaque, once green, was given a deep cleaning and placed back in its original spot.


photo by WallyG

Because 10th Street is rather elegant here, unlike 13th, and intersects with Stuyvesant, it has the sort of block association that does things like plant trees. Inspired by Stuyvesant's pear and the misplaced plaque, in about the 1970s the block association lined 10th St. with flowering pear trees. This trend was then repeated all over the East Village.

“We were one of the first streets to have them," the block association president told The Villager, "Now they are ubiquitous."

So, when in spring you are enjoying the papery flutter of the pear trees' white blossoms, and in autumn admiring their glossy red leaves--they are usually first to flower and last to fall--you can thank Mr. Schlesinger (Jr.) for keeping that plaque in its wrong place.

Monday, July 27, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Hey Murray Hill douchebags: Party with 100 people in this sick Orchard St. douchepad. [BB]

Noisy, illegal hotel (packed with crazy Canadian girls) freaking out uptowners. [Gothamist]

Partying renters are not properly respecting the condos they've been invited into. [Curbed]

Just don't rent to America's Top Models--you might end up with this twisted nightmare. [Gawker]

On 14th and 6th, the long-empty storefront with the LYNN's ghost sign has found a tenant--one of the 9,000 7-Eleven's coming our way to kill our bodegas:


Visit the incredible Chez Ralph in Red Hook. [NYP]

Is American Apparel firing workers the owner deems "unattractive and thus detrimental to the 'AA aesthetic'"? [Gawker]

In a highly funded campaign, who's actually volunteering for Bloomberg? [NYM]

SuperDive--a different kind of velvet rope. [EVG]

The Cabinet Shop

The Cabinet Shop on 7th Avenue in Park Slope has closed.



People stop by the window to look in at the empty store and exclaim, "Oh! I was just about to buy new cabinets!"

They take a few moments to read what might be the bitterest farewell note ever posted by a shuttered mom-and-pop. And that's a compliment. They excelled at bitter signage--like the "No Cell Phones" sign that I loved (not everyone loved it--see this rant/parody from FIPS).

Here, they stick it to all the window pickers who never bought, and to Ikea--without naming names--we know who they mean when they say "inferior quality, cookie cutter mold made objects" that waste money and crowd landfills.

It's a must-read--click to enlarge:



Now, if you're shamed and still looking for durable, handcrafted items, their workshop at 712 5th Ave, between 22nd and 23rd, is still in operation.

Friday, July 24, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Cute video alert: Freaky puppy with extra leg escapes life in the Coney Island freakshow--not the local Coney Sideshow, but the one that came from Hollywood. [Gothamist]

More on the Hollywood freakshow. [CR]

What's it like to party at the Coop? Jill gives the inside scoop. [EVG]

Mmm...the Clover Delicatessen. A place I worry about. [GVDP]

Just released: Lost & Found, New York stories from Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. [SMB]

Upcoming "Tenement Talks" include Colum McCann (7/29) and "Automats, Taxi Dances, & Vaudeville" (8/11). [Tenement]

100 disappearing things. [Wired]

NYC Cups

Last weekend, when I ordered a chocolate egg cream at Ray's Candy, it inexplicably came in a Wolfgang Puck coffee cup (click to view) instead of the usual Greek-design "We Are Happy to Serve You" cup so emblematic of the city. I thought little of it, figured he got some deal on cheap cups, finished my egg cream, and tossed the cup away.

Last summer's egg cream at Ray's:


Remarkably, the next day, City Room solved the mystery, telling the story behind the recent proliferation of random coffee cups of New York. Jennifer 8. Lee explains, "much of the eclectic assortment of cups are part of a lively underground market of what are called 'misprints'....they are overruns, discontinued prints, leftovers from promotions, or the results of cup-using vendors who go bankrupt, leaving the manufacturer with unwanted cups."


photo: Angela Jimenez for The New York Times

Aside from Wolfgang Puck, the random cups advertise banks, football stadiums, soft drinks, and pharmaceuticals. Aside from my feelings about ubiquitous advertising, I am now left to worry that the iconic "We Are Happy to Serve You" cup is about to vanish from the city.

I am not alone. Some years ago, an artist named Rodger Stevens had the same concern. As the Times wrote in 2005, "Horrified, Mr. Stevens began assiduously collecting--or, more precisely, not discarding--as many different cups as he could find. Even after realizing that his panic had been premature, he continued adding to his collection. Today he has about 100 cups..."


photo: Angela Jimenez for The New York Times

In that article, Mr. Stevens had some rather eloquent things to say about the cup, so I will let him say them:

"These little cups are its distinctive birthmarks. They are all little bits of proof that this is New York and not someplace else."

Having them replaced by upscale coffee shop logos (his fear at the time) is "something akin to plastic surgery, an eradication of blemishes that might denote age or a certain, lower status."


photo: Angela Jimenez for The New York Times

The Times article also tell us, that the cup's "design dates to the mid-1960's, when the Sherri Cup Company of Kensington, Conn., designed it to appeal to the hundreds of Greek coffee shops then operating in the city. The cup was named Anthora, a muddled version of Amphora, the Greek word for the ancient jars depicted in its design."

The design changed over time, but stayed identifiable. Says the 2005 article, "Greek motifs continue to adorn up to 40 percent of 10-ounce cardboard cups in New York." But that was then. Today, we are besieged by "misprint" cups. In the near future, will the Anthora cup only come in ceramic? Or as coin purses?

As Anthora cups disappear from the streets of New York, you can still buy the cup in bulk here. It might be time to stock up.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

I just realized that I missed my own anniversary. On July 15, this blog turned 2. It's now officially a toddler that refuses to eat what I put in front of it. You can read about my first anniversary here. Here are 5 of my favorites from back then:

The Diesel Wall, hyped by the corporation as a kind of public art project, is now more obviously what it really was all along--a big ad:


Ikea quits the free rides. This is how they getcha--the big retailers come in with all kinds of treats, lull you to sleep, then one by one, the treats disappear. [BP]

Time Out New York seems to think the Cooper Square Hotel is "cool" and "edgy", just like the old school East Village. [TONY]

Will 1st Avenue and 6th Street, already overcrowded, get its own MePa-style Bacchanalian Brunch nightmare? [EVG]

People respond to the glorious 500-foot rule. [Eater]

City painter Sharon Florin has a show coming up 7/30. [SJF]

Are hipsters getting dangerous? First, they beat up one of their own in Bushwick, then (according to this commenter) they harass and assault the owner of Moishe's Bakery in the EV. Must be those frayed parental lifelines.

Upper High Line

Recession or no, construction continues full throttle along the High Line's yet undeveloped northern parts. Curbed recently reported on a giant hotel and condo complex that will take down a few of the existing low-rises and blue-collar businesses. There are gaping holes where more hotels will grow. Condos bloat and shoulder their way between leather bars and strip joints. Before we know it, the entire neighborhood as it currently exists will have vanished.



Today, it is not yet the glittering showpiece the developers want it to be. It's still raw. Still rough around the edges. There are interesting things to see. Like fully functioning scrap yards.



Auto repair shops where busy mechanics take their breaks in the noontime sun, to sit on the sidewalk with eyes closed, catching short siestas.



Flat fix shops with tires stacked in neat, braided piles. Taxi garages and medallion operations. And the fantastic Terminal Food Shop, aka Poppy's, serving deli food under big animal heads since 1981.



Out here, you feel like you're on the edge of things, outside of today's city. It is an odd sort of respite. No one walks with cell phones here. No one pushes double-wide baby strollers. There is no noise of clacking heels bearing down on you. The sidewalks are uncrowded. You pass by weedy little lots that smell of wildflowers and bodily fluids.



At the end of the High Line, at 10th Ave and 30th St, where it breaks into a dead-end spur and bends west to empty into the railyards, it's still wild on top, overflowing ungroomed and ramshackle.



Underneath, invisible men make their beds.



And cast a vivid litter of rose petals.




See all my photos of this area on my flickr

Also see:
The New High Line
Poppy's
Glassing West Chelsea

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Good news! 500-foot-rule strengthened by NY State--a neighborhood victory over the nightclub juggernaut. [Eater]

Jill says: Stop the SuperNoise of Superdive. [Blah]

On 23rd and 7th, Burritoville to become Lucky's Famous burger shop. Famous? Well, there's one on 52nd and now they're spreading:


And right next door, what was (I think) a frame store is becoming...a Michigan Militia or some other paramilitary hideout? Hard to tell with the U.S Marines and "Don't Tread on Me" flags draped in the covered windows:


See the "Teeny Bop Horde" as Gossip Girls take over Little Italy. [BB]

Another take on the recession's upside for NYC: "some of the worst kind of New York types are less in evidence. The wannabes who walk down the street shouting into their cell phones, trying to look like wheeler dealers, the masters of the universe types who stare .....somber and smug.... through the tinted windows of their black limos; the over dressed, over jeweled and over-ampted shoppers for whom nothing is quite right. You know the types?" [HuffPo]

After more than 50 years, Peter's corner grocery vanishes. [EVG]

Thor to Coney: "I'm the guy who controls this--it's my sandbox." Click for a pic of baby Sitt. [ATZ]

Her New York

I recently stumbled upon a Lower East Side blog called It Was Her New York. It's different than many of the other neighborhood blogs, mine included. I liked it, so I contacted its author, C.O. Moed, and asked her these questions.


photo by Ruben Guzman

Q: I like the quietness of your blog. It feels somehow outside of the blogosphere hubbub. Like you're walking a different wavelength. How would you say your blog compares to other EV/LES neighborhood blogs? What made you start it?

A: The blogs of the East Village and Lower East Side are so much more “here and now”--a street-citizen journalism. Very similar to the way word traveled on the LES when I was growing up--someone would see something, tell someone who told the shopkeeper who told the next customer who called his/her spouse/ kid/ neighbor and before you know it everybody knew everything and usually someone was in trouble with their mother.

I began this blog to save the heart of a video doc project, IT WAS HER NEW YORK during a time I was losing so much--a suddenly ill parent who had been the main subject of the doc, a departing partner, and a constantly eroding home/ city. Each day there was less and less that I recognized and more and more that I was losing. So each moment I wrote about was layered not just with my own 48+ years of memories (I’m now 50) but also the memories of my family’s life here. (There seems to be so few corners of this city that don’t hold something of our lives here.) Perhaps it makes the tone of the blog a bit more nostalgic and perhaps sadder, more heartbroken. But I felt desperate to preserve or document what was being erased and I wanted to do it in the voice of my people – my family, my neighbors, my friends, my neighborhood, my New York.


photo by C.O. Moed

Q: You say your blog explores "the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's, and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification." Can you say more about this connection between the city and your mother?

A: Florence was a charming, eccentric, visionary, failed, indomitable, fox-trotting-with-the-girls pianist and more so, an artist. She, like the city, could only survive in a place that allowed expansion past conformity and small-mindedness. Even as dementia and illness slowly dissolved her ability to read music or the paper or write coherent ideas she still existed, seeking to speak to me about my writing, movies, art, food, and people who annoyed her. And to me, New York City has always done the same. No matter what stupid, overpriced, indulgent disaster takes the place of a mom-&-pop business or service, the heart and soul of New York still seeks expression that could only come from a city built on immigrant dreams and outrageous desire.

But regardless of that fortitude, it began to feel as if each day Florence got sicker, another hardware/diner/ shoe repair/ bookstore/ everything-you-need store disappeared. They both were literally disappearing together.

Also, this city was as much my mother as Florence was. I learned on its streets to survive and thrive as much as I learned to be an artist from under Florence’s piano. It was devastating to lose both of them. So I began to write to ensure they continued in one way or another. It helped me keep my own self and soul visible and living.


photo by C.O. Moed

Q: What do you/will you miss most about New York's tender rubble?

A: That’s like asking a fish at the fish market what it misses about the water.

It’s not just the neighborhood stores where I got what I needed, no matter what it was, the store owners who knew me, the neighbors on every block who looked like me or looked like who I grew up with, the waitresses in the diners who allowed me to sit with a tea as I sulked over bad love poems at 4am, or how everyone at the bar had the same amount of money or lack thereof in our pockets. I miss the sounds, the smells, the tastes that could only come from all of the above. I don't recognize these basic elements in my city anymore except in small moments and tiny corners, which is what I try to preserve in the blog posts. But what I miss most is the accent, the insight, the moxy, the rhythm, the walk, the eye, the street life and the cultural/human space to stretch into full self. I miss the city where how I move and breathe is normal, not an anomaly.

Q: When you say "It Was Her New York," what does that mean? How would you describe your mother's New York?

A: There's definitely a proprietary stance in the Her. Florence's New York allowed for the struggling artist to afford an apartment so they could begin their life in art and meet and join together with others doing the same. Her New York allowed for immigrants to begin again and expand into dreams of their own making. Her New York was where the freaks and revolutionaries were welcomed to change the world. All this was possible because there was housing, grocery stores, work spaces and opportunities that were all affordable to those with not much money in the pocket.

Where in today's New York is any of this possible? New York stopped looking like Florence (white hair, old woman in sneakers and jeans running wild and alive) and started looking like young Sex In The City on bad acid. We the people of HER New York were relegated to being outsiders.


photo by C.O. Moed

Q: Your bio says you were born on the Lower East Side when it was still a tough neighborhood. How did you experience that toughness?

A: LOL. Because it was still dicey to walk down the street and not get your ass kicked in. And I grew up in the good part of a bad neighborhood. Look, this life wasn't great but I didn't know that until I left the neighborhood and met people from higher classes/better neighborhoods. To me the toughness of home was normal and I didn't think it was such a big deal to grow up with the assumption of having to be a bit street smart to avoid getting beat up.

But until recently I still operated under that assumption. It's only when I started to notice that people didn't really have to pay attention on the street at night that I saw things were changing. Or when a friend took out of his bag a REALLY expensive video camera and I was like put that away you want to get mugged? and he said, "CO, look around you," and pointed to the fancy little cafes surrounding us. And DON'T get me started about how people carry their wallets and keys and handbags. I'd be a rich woman if only I could morally excuse stealing.

Q: Do you still live on the LES? A lot of people say the LES is better off now that it's "safe." As someone who lived through the tough times, do you agree?

A: I live in the East Village which is NOT the LES. The LES starts at Houston and I grew up on Grand Street. (Just overheard this faux-artist try to impress some girl by saying with a certain amount of mall-bought jadedness he lived in the LES on St. Marks Street. I mean, please. Sorry I digress...)

Safety has been bought with gentrification. How come the neighborhood wasn't cleaned up before tenements were renovated and tiny apartments rented for ridiculous amounts of money?

The danger on the street wasn't some cool slomo sequence in some edgy movie. It was my friend in the hospital for months because five guys jumped him and beat the shit out of him. It was seeing drugs destroy my first boyfriend. It was Florence getting repeatedly mugged and punching back to keep her bag (she did, successfully). Or me being stranded on the other side of Tompkins Square Park one late night and staying in a really dangerous and violent situation because walking through the park (a park I had played in as a little kid) was more dangerous and violent.

So yeah, I'm glad it's safer. I'm glad the night streets are filled with young people shouting woo woo under my window who aren't worried about getting shot mugged jumped raped killed. I just want to know why this couldn't have happened when it was still my or Her New York.


photo by C.O. Moed

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

No Pecs, No Sex

Tables of books have now been replaced by giant, purple, crushed velvet couches...



...spooky skeleton chairs with matching alabaster male torsos...



...crazy AK-47 coffee tables, pillars wrapped in lace-up leather corsets...



...lots of muscles and even more mirrors--as the David Barton gym has officially opened in the former Astor Place Barnes & Noble.


but look! he's reading a book!

Koi Denied

Mega-restaurant Koi was denied licensure at last night's CB3 meeting. Even though they are purchasing the former Salvation Army building, and their real estate agent stated that beautification of the building was contingent on them getting a liquor license, the board shot them down, citing increased traffic, noise, and 19 other liquor licenses within 500 feet.



After several hours in a stifling hot community room at the JASA Center, a team of 6 Koi representatives, all of whom wore all black, stood up to make their case. There was a palpable shift in the desultory air--a sudden rising of energy. The Koi people handed out fliers with blueprints (6,000 square feet, 230 seats!) and menus (Kobe beef potstickers!), and told the board they'd like to provide a "warm, inviting environment" for the community--with business hours until 4:00 in the morning.

Community members spoke next, beginning with Stuart Zamsky, representative of the 5th St. Block Association, who said that the recent proliferation of hotels, bars, and restaurants on the Bowery "has turned this neighborhood into a free-for-all, like Mardi Gras. People come here from all over with a sense of entitlement--they scream and yell all night and make the neighborhood unseemly."



Here's an abbreviated play by play of the rest, written as a "scene." Imagine the two characters, CB3 and Koi, each as a kind of chorus, as these lines were spoken by various individuals in the two groups:

CB3: What makes you think you'll get business until 4:00 in the morning?

Koi: The tourists from all the hotels will come.

CB3: [incredulous] No, they won't. The hotels are at 60% occupancy. And they all have their own bars and restaurants. You'll attract people from outside the neighborhood. A lot of people.

Koi: Isn't it a good thing for us to come and bring a lot of people down here?

CB3: Have you guys ever been out here at 1:00 AM on the Bowery? You can't get here in a cab, there's too much traffic. If you want to come here by limo, you're hosed. No one can get down here.

Koi: This restaurant will bring people who will help all the small businesses.

CB3: If anything, you'll hurt the small businesses! Will this help the neighborhood? No. This won't be a restaurant for the community. The median income in this community is $31,000. I bet the median income of people coming to this restaurant is $31,000 x 5.

Koi: What do you see moving into that space with the economy as it is?

CB3: A theater would be great. The Amato Opera House is closing, that would be a great place for an opera house.

Koi: Or a hotel could come in and build it up!

CB3: [with increased incredulity] Ha! Lots of luck to them! In this economy? Besides, it's the mayor that likes hotels, not us. We only let the hotels in by force.

Koi: The residents who came to our meeting the other night said they liked the look of the restaurant, because we're not making it modern--even though they're not happy with it, overall, they're glad it's not being built up.

CB3: Listen, your restaurant chain is in Midtown, Vegas, L.A.--this is the Bowery. It's not the same thing. We don't have the infrastructure to support the extra traffic. This is a destination restaurant. No matter where you put it, people will come. So put it in the South Bronx!

Koi: [irritated] We're going to beautify the building! What you want in this economy is just not going to happen. A theater? [scoffs] Who's going to open a theater here?

CB3: You may not have been reading about it in the news, but the neighborhood has been at war with the outside world, trying to preserve its identity, and this restaurant is just another beacon of "It's all over."

The End

Monday, July 20, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

As noisy, obnoxious bars and restaurants spill to gentrified Long Island City, people are freaking out LES-style. [Curbed]

Tonight: Tell the SLA, "No more liquor licenses in the EV!" If it's giving you a headache and keeping you up at night, then stand up and be heard at the CB3 meeting. (Click the pic to read details.)


Koi sushi says they'll be low-key on the Bowery. Meanwhile, celebs and fashionistas gear up for this "in-crowd magnet." They go before the CB3 tonight. [EVG]

5 Rose's Pizza miraculously did not become a bank or a Starbucks. Iggy's Pizzeria now has signage and the place is spruced up with a pressed-tin ceiling and flat-screen TVs--so we'll see what that's all about. They're also up at the CB3 tonight:


7/23 at Otto's Shrunken Head: Go to the benefit for Ray's Candy and help save this EV institution. [Shadow]

How the foodies are ruining junk food by making it fancy. Sort of. [NYT] Anyway, check out this great parody blog: Fancy Fast Food.

Discover remnants of the Mayfair movie palace in a Times Square BBQ joint. [GLF]

Enjoy a little real-estate Schadenfreude today. [NYT]

Go inside the engine room of Coney's Wonder Wheel. [NYT]

Take a visit to Arthur Avenue, which has yet to be ruined. [NYT]

The Giglio

Last year, I went to see the Dance of the Giglio in East Harlem. This year, I went to see it in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where it is the centerpiece of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.



In East Harlem, the Giglio structure is made of wood and in Williamsburg it's metal. The Williamsburg feast is also bigger, more crowded, and on narrower streets. But the feeling is the same. It feels like New York. People talk with Brooklyn accents, they wear gold chains, pinkie rings, and cream-colored loafers. They say Madonn' and minchia. Their tattoos are far from ironic.



We sang the Star-Spangled Banner and the monsignor said a prayer. After the Giglio singer sang the traditional Italian songs, he did Sinatra. "Start spreadin' the news..." as the Giglio went up and down, around and around, making its precarious and glittery way along the street.



A few hipsters wandered in with their Super-8 movie cameras and Wayfarers, but the crowd was decidedly Italian-American of the classic Brooklyn type. It felt like stepping back into a time when these people actually lived in the city. (I know some still do, but the numbers are waning.)



When the Boat Singer announced that "one of our own, a paesan" Danny Aiello was in attendance, the crowd went wild.

The NYPD escorted Aiello through the crowd, gently asking people to back up. But people wanted to get close to the Italian-American hero. It was as if they all knew him personally. "Danny! Hey, Danny!" they called, "Over here!"



An older guy standing near me said, "I know Danny Aiello from way back. I was in The French Connection and that's where I met him." Except Danny Aiello wasn't in The French Connection. Maybe the guy was thinking of Fort Apache the Bronx.



The crowd pushed and pressed. Aiello graciously shook hands and posed for photos. He was patient and affectionate with everyone who crossed his path. Women kissed his cheek. Men did too.

"Minchia," said one woman behind me, "You'd think he was Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph."