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.
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.
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.
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.
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."