Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Noury & Goliath

It was built by the Astors in 1855. A little more than a century later, it housed a 24-hour topless joint. And then, after selling in 1979, it was the RSVP Club, where revelers would continue their revelry after a night at Studio 54, climbing onto the rusted, weed-covered High Line to be sprayed with a hose.


my flickr

The 1990s passed quietly here, and the building became shrouded in mystery, an enigma carved with hearts and arrows in what was once the desolate Meat Market. In the window, a For Lease sign claimed this "historic cabaret" held secret tunnels within its depths.

Today, 155 years after it was built, and not even 1 year after the Standard Hotel and the New High Line opened, the building is rubble. Yesterday, Curbed reported that Novac Noury's crazy little building was demolished by the City.


photo: Curbed

One of the last of the old Meat Market characters, according to The Villager, Noury made his mark in the 1970s as the developer of "a patented wireless keyboard in the shape of an arrow (actually it was based on the Wrigley’s spearmint gum logo) that shot fire, shaving cream and water. Prancing about in a one-piece, tiger-print outfit and a mask while wielding the enigmatic instrument, he became a fixture on the disco scene. He would prop the keyboard against his crotch, while suggestively thrusting his pelvis and blasting out whatever substance--sparks, cream, H20--fit the mood and music."

But the mood has changed here.


Villager photo by Talisman Brolin

The owner of the Standard Hotel tried to buy Noury out a few years ago. Noury refused, planning to build on his own property, adding up to 10 stories for a "mini-inn," as he told The Observer in 2007. As Scoopy put it, Noury's plan included "a cascading, 40-foot-high waterfall abutting Balazs’s new hotel" and an addition that "will reach no higher than the Standard’s third floor and block a mere, oh, four to six of the boutique hotel’s 343 rooms."

Surely the hotel management didn't like that idea. The Standard enjoys unobstructed 360-degree views--so guests can see out, and visitors to the High Line can see in.

In 2007, Noury claimed the construction of the Standard caused damage to his building, "UNWANTED DESIGNER CRACKS IN THE 'HISTORIC ASTOR BUILDING' THAT WERE SUSTIANED …ALL CAUSED FROM THE CARELESS/SELFISH GREED FOR NEW TERRITORY."

He shows the pounding from construction on his Youtube channel.


my flickr

It's a classic David and Goliath story, heard all over town as new developers press their shining towers into derelict neighborhoods, places where people at the margins carved out a creative existence and held on for decades.

Visitors could also look down from the shiny new High Line and see Noury's back patio, a jumble of artifacts you couldn't help but gaze at, trying to figure out what was what--a Statue of Liberty, old TVs, a porcelain urinal--collectively, a remnant of a lost New York and a neighborhood once filled with oddball characters. Some might have called it an "eyesore," and as we learned from last year's canceled Leather Fest, with the new standards in this part of town, the eyesores and oddballs aren't allowed here anymore.


my flickr

Once the nouveau Joneses arrived on the block, plans to demolish Noury's place hurried through the system. Papers were filed and swift action taken. Before Christmas, the Department of Buildings barred him from the building and began emptying it of his possessions--mostly music equipment and keyboards--along with Noury's white Excalibur limousine, which came out covered with scratches.

I imagine it's the same limo that ferried passengers from Studio 54 to Little West 12th, back when the cobblestones ran with bovine blood and human effluents. Before it smelled of money. Before it belonged to the cupcake girls and the Wall Street boys. Before it turned into a single shimmering mountain of glass.

Last month, watching his possessions piling up on the street, Noury put it simply in his own words, "Thanks to the Standard for ruining this block."

13 comments:

EV Grieve said...

Heartbreaking...

And The Standard did more than ruin a block...they helped change the character of an entire neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah, your blog is a God send! OMG! It's weird that I stumbled on your blog when I was looking for an entirely different subject on Google but it was meant to be! Three years, on a very bored and angry night, I decided to vent on Craigslist about the disappearing NYC and I got so many feedback! I've saved them and will forward them to you if you like! Also, strangely, I went out on one date with Mike Joyce from Stereotype designs 4 years ago. How weird! Doubt he remembers me but it's good to know he has the same sentiments about the city.
Yours truly,
Made and raised in NYC female.

Bowery Boogie said...

heaven forbid anything stand in the way of the glass, even if it's been there longer.

BrooksNYC said...

I toggle between rage and despair. The next juicy, popping sound you hear will be my head exploding or imploding, as the case may be.

Ken Mac said...

fantastic sadness. Ive always wondered about that weird wall work

Goggla said...

Oh no! I've always wondered about this festive little building...it drew my eye every time I was around there and the contrast between it and the ugly eastern-block air-conditioning filter looming in the background made it stand out even more.

This was one tiny bit of the old meatpacking district I remember...and will now only have to remember. Sad.

VeryBlasted said...

Mike Bloomberg and his rich friends wants us all to leave. They treat us like cockroaches. Unfortunately, this is no surprise....

Gaziano said...

The Lord God said to the Serpent:

Because you have done this,
 cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; 
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
 all the days of your life.

Melanie said...

I remember NYC and environs looking trashed--everyones' trash was in a lot(abandoned lot btw)trash was trash in those days--no one wanted to be here--it was dirty and gritty and you had to watch your back--then the trash got better--then the trash became crap. Live and Learn.

JackS said...

Sad, but there is one key line in “The Villager” piece that isn’t mentioned here:
“Plus, the building, 51 Little W. 12th St., was zoned for cabaret as well as adult use, only the former which he needed for his plans. [...] He bought the building and started evicting people.”

Hard to swallow how one form eviction is somehow better/worse than another. Granted, this guy seems tons more fun, NYC & unique than a lot of the Meat Packing District folks nowadays. But let’s be fair.

Still sad.

Jeremiah Moss said...

good point, re: that bit about evicting. i'm sure he was no angel. one could argue he was just as much a party crowd guy as anything Balazs could dream up. and probably more risque. now it just seems the power differential is so vastly unbalanced.

Anonymous said...

How did the city get the legal right to evict Noury?

Tony Spad said...

I have been a long time lurker to this blog and are enjoying seeing photos of "old" New York as I remember it, but do not enjoy the heart and sole being removed from this wonderful city. I am 47 years old and remember the Meatpacking and West Village area well from the "old" days. I was wondering if you had any info you could provide on what was on The Standards Highline property before construction. I was able to visit the Vault on November 19, 1994 (funny how you remember certain dates in your life!) and believe the lot behind The Standard may have been the final location of The Vault.