Tuesday, January 31, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Take a peek at the newly renovated, cleaned-up park at Bleecker and 11th--sponsored by an anonymous donor the neighbors believe is Marc Jacobs:


There is only one record store left on St. Mark's Place. [EVG]

Under the Coney Island boardwalk, a remnant of a vanished bar. [ATZ]

A last look at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. [LC]

What happened to the ex-chorus girls and vaudevillians of the Whitby? [ENY]

Memories of Bleecker Bob's. [FP]

Romy offers some notes about Vali. [WIC]

Walking Stuyvesant to Tompkins Square. [FNY]

Pint of No Return

After a mere three months, The Pint of No Return has closed. It's yet another casualty for the ever-changing corner of 13th and 6th in Manhattan.

You might recall when the gelato shop Maximo Pino opened here in January 2010. That was replaced by the Rockography lounge in March 2011, which was in turn replaced by sports grille Blitz! Brasserie last summer, which then morphed into The Pint of No Return in October. That makes four scrapped "concepts" in just two years. And they're all from the same owner.



Someone's got to have a winning idea for this corner. How about:

Brooklyn Bacon N' Brew: A taste of "authentic" Brooklyn, featuring chef-selected pairings of pork products and small-batch beers.

Bespoke Burger: Each patty is hand-crafted and signed by a certified burger artisan to bring out the complex flavors ground beef was meant for.

The Meatball Warehouse: Nothing but meatballs--all made from locally sourced New York City meats, including Coney Island sea robin, Central Park squirrel, and super-fresh, street-to-table "squab."

Nevermind, looks like they're going to try a European espresso bar next. Says The Real Deal, "The West Village will be adding yet more European flair to its tree-lined streets as it welcomes an espresso franchise direct from the continent." How long do you think that will last?

Previously:
Maximo Change-O

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rockit Scientist Records

VANISHING (for now)

After the announcement that Starbucks will (maybe) take over Bleecker Bob's (then again, not), here comes more bad news for record-store lovers and vinyl aficionados. Rockit Scientist Records on St. Mark's Place is shuttering at the end of February.

It's another case of a landlord hiking rent.



Owner John Kioussis told me, "my lease is ending and i don't want to renew at the current rate, i asked for a rent reduction and was turned down. While business wasn't great, it just isn't worth paying $8500 a month."

Kioussis hopes the shop will last through March. After they close, he plans to do mail order for a bit, then "I'll look to reopening sometime in the summer if i find something reasonable."



Opened in 1996, Rockit Scientist used to be on Carmine Street. In 2003, when it moved to St. Mark's Place, the Times published a long and loving tribute to the store, describing "why places like Rockit Scientist still exist in a retailing landscape marked by vast impersonal megastores and their online brethren."

"More broadly," they wrote, "it is why places like New York still exist, places where clutter and congestion may not be mere inconveniences but the catalysts of random discovery or accidental innovation, where a store selling the most specialized merchandise can attract a large clientele, and where one can find a sense of community just by opening a door."

Today, with a 7-11 moving in next door, maybe the Rockit Scientist space will get a Subway--or a Starbucks. That's about all that can survive here now. So much for random discovery, accidental innovation, and community.



As Kioussis says on the shop's Facebook page, independent record stores are "hassle-free places to hang out, to talk rubbish fearlessly, to argue loudly without being asked to move on, to form bands, to see bands, to hand out flyers--even to not buy music. Indie record shops have something the major chains will never replicate no matter how many surveys and spreadsheets they employ: they are cool."

And so another piece of cool departs from St. Mark's Place.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bleecker Bob's to East Village?

Yesterday, the Times confirmed that Bleecker Bob's is leaving the Village--and that Starbucks is moving in. Now Ken Mac passes along this interesting comment from his news-breaking post:

"not sure who this reporter spoke to since he doesn't mention anyone by name, but Bleecker Bob's is currently looking at spaces in the east village. we are definitely NOT planning to close. please email us at bleeckerbobs@yahoo.com with any leads on storefront. thanks and stay tuned."


Ken Mac

Maybe they can move into the soon-shuttered Holiday Cocktail Lounge.

Novelties Gone

Awhile ago I looked at the rarity of the word "novelties" on city signage. Now, it's even more scarce. One of the prime examples has vanished.


2010

In the flower district, from this floral supply store, NOVELTIES has been torn from the sign above the plate-glass window.

Parts of the facade are plywooded and a scaffold casts it in shadow. It's hard to say for sure, but this floral supply shop may be vanishing, too, with its window full of glitter pine cones, spools of ribbon, and green bricks of floral foam all covered in dust.


today

More Flower District:
Superior Florists
Rob Warren Books

Another word to read about:
Appetizing

Thursday, January 26, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Bad day--first, Bleecker Bob's is turning into a Starbucks, then the Holiday Cocktail Lounge is closing, and then...

The last H&H Bagels location has been seized and shuttered. [Eater]

Timboo's of Park Slope is gone. [OMFS]

From strip club to strip mall, on the sad fate of JJ's Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge. [BP]

The man who played Juan Epstein in Welcome Back Kotter is dead. [NJ]



Artists attack Gowanus Whole Foods plan. [Racked]

The last days of Little Italy (I miss Sal the barber). [LIFE]

Excerpts from the New York diaries. [MF]

On Fraunces Tavern. [NYDN]

Take another look into the old Hollywood theater of Avenue A--before it's demolished. [EVG]

Holiday Cocktail Lounge

In case you're still alive after hearing about Bleecker Bob's becoming a Starbucks, don't put those heart-attack paddles away just yet. Grieve just brought the depressing news that the beloved Holiday Cocktail Lounge will be shuttering forever--this Saturday night.


my flickr

Grieve writes that a "tipster notes that the Holiday as we know it will close after Saturday night. 'Locks will be changed immediately.' We understand that another bar will take its place. What happens to the current appearance is unknown. Per the tipster: "Another EV historical institution gone.'"



On the Holiday:
History of the Holiday
Stefan Lutak, 1920-2009
Holiday Survives

Bleecker Bob's

VANISHING

Sweet suffering Christ, when will it end? Ken Mac over at Greenwich Village Daily Photo just reported the staggering news that Bleecker Bob's record store is becoming a Starbucks.


1983, NYU, via Flaming Pablum

He writes on his blog, "I walked into Bob's the other morning and asked him straight up, 'Is a Starbucks moving in here?' He replied 'Maybe,' not 'absolutely not!' The manager of Cafe Reggio confirms the Starbucks takeover of Bob's space, adding 'Starbucks will take 30% of our business. All the NYU kids want their mocha frappuccino.'"

Killing two birds with one stone, Starbucks?

Torrisi on Rocco

When we first heard that the super-trendy Torrisi would be taking over 90-year-old Rocco's on Thompson St., I contacted the Torrisi team and asked them some questions about their plans and their decision to move into the ousted third-generation business' space when many already empty spaces were available nearby.

They didn't respond. But they seem to be answering my questions--and some of your comments--in yesterday's interview with the Observer.



Per the Observer:


The sniping came via comments appended to various blog posts concerning the newest addition to the Torrisi family: In November, the partners signed a lease for a Thompson Street space that, until now, housed the old-school red-sauce Italian joint Rocco Ristorante. The original owner’s rent was more than doubled by the space’s landlord. Rocco’s owner threatened to take the landlord to court, and the classic neon red ROCCO sign with him.

The new restaurant, which won’t open for “a while” (per Mr. Zalaznick) will cap an extraordinary growth period for the Torrisi empire, which seems to have struck a nerve by bringing a modern sensibility to Italian-American staples.

Still, the idea of the buzziest new restaurant group in town replacing a 90-year-old standby has generated a certain amount of controversy.

“This space was going to be available whether we took it or not,” Mr. Carbone noted. “And hopefully we’re going to be able to get in there and honor its history.”

“People want to talk about New York vanishing,” Mr. Torrisi piped in. “I think we’re rebuilding it.”

They don’t yet know exactly what they’re going to do with the space—no plans as of yet for the concept, the menu, the design, or even the name.

One thing about the Torrrisi boys’ growth into the old Rocco space is certain, however: They are definitely keeping the sign.

End of excerpt


Rocco shuttered: Stacy's Home Journal

So I guess accepting the landlord's inflated offer is not contributing to the demise of the existing business? All of this makes me tired.

Rocco's shuttered earlier this month and, at this point, all I want to know is: what's up with the sign? Is it going with Rocco's or staying with Torrisi? And will we see a Fedora-style xeroxing of it eventually?


Further Reading:
Red-Sauce Joints
Rocco Ristorante
Rocco's Update

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tiffany Diner

I've been reading David Wojnarowicz's diaries, In the Shadow of the American Dream, for its detailed chronicling of New York City in the 1970s. At one point, he heads into "a new New York dive restaurant," the vanished Tiffany diner of Sheridan Square.


Tim Faracy, flickr

He describes the clientele: "three no-wave women behind us in the next booth with black short razored hair and gold-black circles around their eyes and cheap plastic black-and-white bulby earrings and sleazo clothes, neat lookin' and they left after flashin' us some lingering stares, over to the other side in a booth were two women on quaaludes nodding out over eggs and toast, chewing with eyes closed for minutes at a time, and the rattle of cars on the street, the crowds drifting by, one girl who was stunned tripped and dropped her radio which shattered into various pieces and got up smiling and walked on."


Shannon Davis, flickr

By the time I got to Tiffany's, the No Wave women were long gone, but the pink Formica had not yet been ripped out. I'd heard about the place and went in search of some kind of Village scene.

In 1995 the New York Times described it as "a dowdy, low-budget gathering place for a colorful cross section of Villagers. For the price of a cup of coffee, playwrights and older New Yorkers bought endless hours in the diner's gaudy pink booths. Gay men and lesbians considered it an all-night embodiment of the Village's tolerant spirit."


Tony Perez, etsy

After a fire and renovation in 1995, Tiffany's lived a little longer. But by 2001, after over 30 years in business, it was gone. A realtor hyped the space by naming its neighbors: "GNC, CVS Pharmacy, Gourmet Garage, Jekyll & Hyde, Citibank, Duplex Cabaret, Federal Express, and New York Sports Club."

Today it's a Bank of America.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

The East Village in chains: St. Mark's will have a 7-11 and 1st Ave gets its Subway. [EVG] [EVG]

A walk from Madison Square to Union Square. [FNY]

Pilar Montero's obituary. [NYT]

Meet Fanelli's Serbian boxer bartender. [Eater]

Alex in NY unearths a treasure trove of vintage Village photographs. [FP]

"In the last decade, the city that always (and somehow never) changes has shuffled itself all around. Notorious urban tundras are now upscale shopping zones. Areas that were once synonymous with exclusivity have given ground to mass-market chains." [WSJ]

Horse walks hiding in Greenwich Village. [ENY]

Today: fight against the seizure of books with the OWS Library at the Red Cube. [PL]

The Fate of J.J.'s Navy Yard

Our friend at One More Folded Sunset points us to a recent New York Times Living In profile of "the two-block-wide semi-industrial neighborhood of Wallabout," which has, apparently, been "coming into its own." And you know what that means.

Embedded in the story is this stomach-churning bit of information about J. J.’s Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge: "its new owner plans to lease to a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Subway."

Dunkin Donuts and Subway? It's a double whammy.


SWTCurran

J.J.'s Navy Yard closed in 2010 after over a century in business.

Once catering to the men who built warships for World War I and II, in its final days, it continued to serve as a second home to locals and Navy Yard laborers. So not much changed here between 1907 and 2010--except maybe for the addition of scantily clad dancing girls.


still from New York Dive (go to 2:33)

I never took the chance to go inside (still kicking myself), but filmmaker Reed Korach did for his movie New York Dive.

He interviewed the owner and one of the dancers, who said, "people come here, some people need somebody actually to sit and talk, it's not just all about the dancing and feeling up on nobody. Some people just need that common, you know, communication."


E.V. Grieve

E.V. Grieve went in, too. He recalls, "Eventually around 10 p.m., a lot more women are suddenly in the bar... they walk in, talk with the bartender, spend a lot of time in the women's room. Soon, there are anywhere from five to 10 women va-va-va-vooming around in lingerie, bikinis, etc. Oh! They're all very outgoing, especially when there are just two of you in the bar.

Every few minutes Delicious or Cinnamon or Diamond walks up and asks again if you'd like a dance."


Google streetview, 2011

You're not going to get any of this at Dunkin Donuts. And you're not going to get it Subway, either.

They’re taking away a piece of history,” said owner Steve Frankel when the building was sold for $3 million. He told filmmaker Reed Korach, "If I close everything down, what am I gonna do, sit on my couch and get fat and dumpy? I don't want to do that. I'm not ready to die yet."



gutted and glassed--Brownstoner, 2011

Monday, January 23, 2012

Absinthe at Otway's

If you haven't yet been to the William Barnacle Tavern at Theatre 80 on St. Mark's, go now. But not too many of you at once. The place is, as promised when it opened in 2009, "A quiet cafe where people can hear each other talk, and you can hear yourself think."



On a cold winter's night, wander in for a warming glass of absinthe. Bartender and life-long theater owner Lorcan Otway prepares the drink using a combination of the traditional and the "Bohemian Method."

He pours the liquor into a shapely glass imported from France. He sets a slotted spoon over the top, perches a sugar cube there and sets it burning. The blue flame is extinguished by drops of ice water dripped from an Art Deco absinthe fountain--a glass jar held by a silver goddess. The sugar cube crumbles. The drink turns milky.

You can stop there or ask Mr. Otway to mix it into a "Puca," his own invention. Named for a goblin of Irish folklore, the Puca is a combination of absinthe and Bailey's Irish Cream. Mr. Otway slowly pours the Bailey's down the inside wall of the glass so that it falls below the absinthe, creating a two-toned cocktail.



While he's pouring another, and while you're drinking, Mr. Otway will tell you stories about the theater and the bar, especially its history as a speakeasy. This is also the home of the Museum of the American Gangster.

If you're lucky, he will hand you a hardhat and lead you down into the basement where gangsters once hid their millions and rigged the windows with dynamite so they could make their escape through tunnels dug beneath First Avenue.



Back upstairs, the absinthe will make you very mellow very fast. Your fellow patrons all have a similar glow. No one is yapping on the phone. Everyone is talking to each other--about gangsters, strippers, the old East Village, music.

The tavern is other-worldly. You feel like you've come upon a weird oasis, as if you've slipped through the time-space barrier and landed in some alternate reality. It's not the absinthe, because you feel it the moment you walk in. Everyone else feels it, too. Newcomers step through the door with exclamations of relief--a quiet bar in the East Village!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Payphone

Another payphone has bitten the dust.

It happened a few months ago, on the corner of 7th and 1st in the East Village. I took a photo of the extraction, but never bothered to post it.



It wasn't the infamous Pee Phone, but I'm sure it had its moments. There's nothing there now but a pale square of cement, cleaner than its neighboring squares.

Payphones are vanishing from the city all the time, never to return. Let's take a moment to remember this one and imagine all the junkies who once relied on it, all the lovers' quarrels it endured (receiver smashed into cradle), all the people who needed it for yelling at AT&T when their phones went out, all the drunk drivers who backed into it while trying to park, all the times a person in need slipped her finger into its slot, hoping to find a quarter but mostly coming up empty.

Such was the life of a city payphone.


Google streetview

See also:
Pupkin's Payphones
Payphone Man

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Manhattan '43

I got an email awhile back from a fellow named George Miller down in Florida. He sent along a couple of photo slides that his father took in Manhattan in 1943. He especially thought we'd be interested in seeing these two shots of Leon & Eddie's:



The first photo is taken from a very tall building (probably the RCA Building) and shows the roof of Leon & Eddie's painted in white with the words: UNDER THIS ROOF STARS SHINE ALL NIGHT. It's a rare view. And you get a great glimpse of 52nd Street before it was all bulldozed, back when it was known as Strip Street.

Here's Leon & Eddie's again, up close, complete with a sailor in the picture. It is 1943 after all.



I liked George's father's slides of the city and asked him for more. He digitized and sent along a handful. These were my favorites. Here's a wartime scene of Rockefeller Plaza. The statue of Prometheus is tarnished and grim beneath the words: UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER.



Nearby, a troop of young Nazis go goose-stepping past, decked in gas masks. This represented "The Militarization of Children," part of the Office of War Information's "Nature of the Enemy" exhibition, aimed to "expose the Nazi philosophy of 'fear, slavery, and death.'" (See more shots of the show here.)



After fear, slavery, and death in 1943 New York, you could head over to Larry Sunbrock's Big Top Circus on 50th Street behind the Roxy Theater. Sunbrock's circus didn't do very well and soon closed due to financial troubles.



It would return again to the city, however, and in 1947 Sunbrock's employee, a daring young man named John Ciampa, aka "The Brooklyn Tarzan," would be arrested after scaling the exterior of the Astor Hotel in a publicity stunt to promote the ailing circus.

Check out the incredible footage of Ciampa climbing tenement walls and running atop a subway train in Brooklyn here.



For more of this time in the city, read Jan Morris' wonderful book Manhattan '45.

And there's lots to see and read in these posts about Leon & Eddie's and Strip Street.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

A fantastic collection of Village Voice ads from the 1960s--it was a city of Nina Simone, dollar-fifty breakfasts, John Giorno's Dial-A-Poem, dancing at The Dom, plus dining at the intimate Beatrice Inn. [SYC]


Very exciting Upper West Side zoning may stop banks and chains from spreading like the plague. As Avi says, "what’s the point of living in New York? You could just as well move to Connecticut." [WSR]

A 7-11 is replacing the XXX video place on E. 14th St--right next to IHOP. Enjoy your dead suburban experience. [EVG]

Poet Elizabeth Bishop's paintings on view at Tibor de Nagy until 1/21. [PRD]

They've taken the subway car out of Golden's Deli on Staten Island. The rent was too damn high. [HNY]

Art, poetry, and more coming to derelict Park Slope building, once home to eccentric art bar the Landmark Pub. [BP]

Read an excerpt from East of Bowery by Drew Hubner and Ted Barron. Luc Sante calls it "raw and lyrical." Buy it in print at St. Mark's Books. [SS]

Coney Island 'possum rides the D train. [NYT]

Who lives in the Village today? Multimillionaire guys who love "adventure stuff" and who decorate their apartments like "super-luxe" hotels. [NYT]

On the LES

This interview with third-generation Lower East Sider Chris Quinones from The Lo-Down is too good not to excerpt. (Thanks Goggla.) He loves the Cup & Saucer on Canal and Eldridge because "it’s authentic and it doesn’t come with some lame-ass foreign name. You say, 'Can I get a cup of coffee,' large or small, milk or sugar – that’s it. Not 'Venti,' 'Fettuchini,' 'Lamborgini' or whatever they have at Starbucks."

And here's his answer to the question "What sort of changes have you seen in the neighborhood in the last few years?"



"Are you serious? Dude, it went from Heroinville to art school hipster dudes with ugly flannel shirts and lame-ass facial hair. But I have to say, I can come home from work without having to worry about a junkie sticking me for my sneakers. The food and bars are all cool, the neighborhood has a lot of hot girls now – it’s safe, I can get Thai food, vegan food, get a quick workout and go to a bar themed after Detroit all on the same block. So that’s cool. But, the looks I get from these fuckin’ out-of-towners like I don’t belong in the neighborhood are infuriating.

It’s hard to find New Yorkers anymore; everyone came from middle fucking America for the 'Big City experience' and in turn gave me a 'everyone from outside of NYC is fucking lame' experience. (Disclaimer: I’ve met some amazing people from outside New York. It just pisses me off every time I try and (get lucky with) a chick, she’s telling me about some lame art/dance school degree and how she misses Cleveland or Michigan or fucking Pennsylvania or whatever else.)

It would be refreshing to talk to someone who was actually BORN in Bushwick, not someone who just moved in with three white girls from Utah and thinks they can shout out, 'Brooklyn!' every time a Notorious B.I.G. song comes on at the club. Not cool.

Another thing – when NYC was dangerous, it was cheap to live and party here, only because none of these assholes wanted to live here. Then they found out how lame it is everywhere else in the world outside of NYC and they realized if they want that bullshit art degree to get them any type of money, they had to try and get a slice of NYC pie. Now none of us locals can afford to live in the very same city…that we made awesome. Now we all have to move to lame-ass New Jersey or the fucking Bronx?!?!? Keep your fucking Asian fusion and vegan restaurants. Gimme New York the way it was before."

To read the rest, visit The Lo-Down.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

The once-wonderful Gordon Novelty Shop is getting filled--with fancy kitchen wares from Williamsburg, because food is New York's fetish. [Racked]

Ed Hamilton talks about the Chelsea Hotel demolition--and we learn what a PFA is--on the Mike & Judy Show. [M&J]

Check out Death and Life on the Bowery: an interview with Drew Hubner and Ted Barron. [NSTAW]

Bloomberg gets heckled and shouted down by crowd in Harlem. [RS]

Signs of Coney's Club Atlantis resurface. [ATZ]

A new batch of ghost signs. [FNY]

Script in New York neon signs. [NYN]

The last remnant of Mars Bar fades away. [EVG]

Pilar Montero

Montero's Bar announced on their Facebook page yesterday the sad passing of matriarch Pilar Montero:

"Pilar passed away Saturday night and will be missed dearly by her family and friends. On Tuesday, January 17th, there will be a one-day viewing at Raccuglia & Son Funeral Home, which is located at 323 Court Street at Sackett Street from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m... Please feel free to pass this information on to others. We welcome you to share your memories of Pilar here, on our Facebook Page. We at Montero's thank you for the love and support."


photo: Fred Conrad, NY Times

Pilar and her husband, Joseph, opened Montero's on Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue in 1947. It was once a haven for longshoremen and sailors--some of whom still find their way here during Fleet Week every year.

Reported the Times in 1995, Pilar "was born on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village and first came to Brooklyn as a little girl on the ferry on which her father worked." She recalled meeting her husband to blogger Lisa Leland, "When we met he was on a sea-going tug because there was a war going on." Says Leland, "In her youth, Pilar was a performing ballerina in her family's native Spain."



She and Joseph ran the bar together through the years, hosting a few luminaries, including (by legend) the King of Denmark. They rented a room upstairs to author Frank McCourt. According to McCourt's memoir Teacher Man, Pilar liked him because he "wasn't like the rest of the Irishers, who wanted to fight fight fight."

After Joseph retired to Spain in the 1990s and passed away, Pilar remained at her usual post, on a stool at the bar's corner, where she was well-known and loved by the regulars.

Said the Times of Pilar in 2006, "She is a human time machine, saying things like, 'Max Schmeling was a good-looking man' with such authority that you have no reason to doubt her."



Previously:
Montero's Bar

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hotel Chelscheetz

Commenter Jeff calls our attention to the (real or faked?) Facebook profile pic (changed since this posting) of boutique hotelier Ed Scheetz, who is now heading up the management of the newly gutted Chelsea Hotel.

Says Jeff, "Its Patti smith standing in front of the Chelsea with Robert Mapplethorpe and Ed has photoshopped his face onto Roberts head!! and it says Hotel Chelscheetz."



This has to be a satire from a disgruntled tenant inside the hotel--right? If it is, it's no doubt a first volley in what will be a long battle against the new management. And if it's real? Oy.

Meanwhile, listen to Ed Hamilton talk about the hotel and last week's Patti Smith kerfuffle on the Mike & Judy Show.


Recent Chelsea coverage:
Patti at the Chelsea
No Patti, No Mob

Friday, January 13, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Chelsea residents reveal the secret Patti Smith "shrine." [Gothamist]

Bloggers Marty and Melanie star in a story by Mick--don't worry, it's SFW, no exchange of body fluids. [MAM]

The replacement for Ray's Pizza on Prince has opened--it's a pizza place run by Italians. And "The former site of the Ray's restaurant alongside the slice shop will become a luxury spa." [DNA]

Enticing and mysterious photos inside the abandoned Avenue A theater about to be demolished. [EVG]

Inside Lucy's Bar on Avenue A. [Eater]

The Times checks in on Little Wisco: "a Wisconsin accent [is] both out of place and right at home in Greenwich Village, 'Is that unbelievable or what?'" [NYT]

Check out the women photographers of the Lower East Side at the 14th Street Y.

No Patti, No Mob

Last night, at the request of the Chelsea Hotel's tenants, Patti Smith canceled her show at the hotel. She said on her website, "My motivation was solely to serve the tenants. If this serves them better, than I am satisfied."

The hotel tenants were happy and thankful. But then people wanted to know: Was the flash mob "die-in" still on? In the lead-up to the mob, I heard someone had planned to burn Patti's memoir, and an artist in the hotel sketched her as a witch crushed beneath the hotel. That all seemed a bit extreme--would people be showing up with torches and pitchforks?


from Living with Legends

I'm not sure you can cancel a flash mob once it's been called into existence. There are no "how to" instructions online for doing so and Bill Wasik, inventor of the flash mob, offers no advice in his book on the topic, And Then There's This. Since the die-in was meant to offer support to and solidarity with the tenants in their plight to save their homes and the integrity of the Chelsea Hotel, then why not let the mob be? Concert or no concert, a die-in at the Chelsea still seemed relevant.

By 7:55 a small crowd had gathered under the Chelsea awning, watching a crew load Patti Smith's sound equipment into a van. When 8:00 came, nobody dropped dead, nobody lit a lighter, and nobody recited any song lyrics. The crowd stood there, looking around, waiting for something to happen. A handful of reporters holding notepads and long-lensed cameras waited for something to happen. Nothing did. Who wants to lie down on a cold, wet sidewalk anyway?

People walked along carrying shopping bags and checking their texts. It was just another night on 23rd Street. Except that it wasn't. The tenants had succeeded in getting their message across. The mainstream media listened--and so did Patti Smith. If the potential for a mob helped, then the potential-mob did its job.

There are still many questions to answer about the hotel's future. Rooms are still being gutted. Tenants are still fighting eviction. When will the city sit up and take notice? As hotel tenant and blogger Ed Hamilton told WNYC, "one of the things that everyone's been harping about" is "why didn't none of these celebrities who’ve lived here come to our aid."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

I'm posting at The Paris Review Daily today--a kind of behind-the-scenes blog-walk back in October to visit Ray's Pizza--if you like it, please leave a comment there. Maybe I can do some more. Thanks for reading. [PRD]

This week, street artist Jay Shells turned a JR eye on the old Village Paper into an exuberant homage to Clockwork Orange:


A round-up of media coverage of Patti Smith's controversial Chelsea Hotel concerts. [LWL]

The Voice reports on the Chelsea story. [RS]

If these walls could talk--an inside look at the Chelsea Hotel with a 17-year resident. [MF]

Take a photographic walk through the East Village in 1997. [EVG]

Retail company REI to turn public Sara Roosevelt park into advertising opportunity, aka "Winter Wonderland." [BB]

A "monster deal" for Shake Shacker Danny Meyer at Bloomberg's Hudson Yards. [Eater]

A 7-11 is birthed beneath the Flatiron Building. [FP]

Casinos for Coney? [ATZ]

Patti at the Chelsea

Last night Patti Smith played a private concert at the Chelsea Hotel. Reported Ed Hamilton, blogger at Living with Legends, on his Facebook page, "tenants were not invited... Gene Kaufman, the architect, is in attendance."

An audience member--invited to the party by the hotel's controversial new management company, King and Grove (a "lifestyle hotel brand defined by modern luxury with eclectic influence")--tweeted a photo of Patti onstage in the hotel's ballroom. Hamilton shared the link:



It's hard to accept that Patti Smith would work with the developers who are gut renovating the Chelsea and evicting its tenants.

An anonymous commenter here was at the show last night and wrote: "It was for 'press' but it seemed more like friends of the owner. First let me say that Patti Smith thinks she is doing the right thing by just being a positive presence." However, says Anon, "To say that 'I just want to do good' and turn a blind eye to the means to the end result is unacceptable... I leave Ms. Smith with these words: "Indifference to injustice is the gate to hell.'"

Tonight, she's playing a concert for the tenants--a move that many are not happy about. Wrote the Times last night, "Some wondered whether the new owner, the Chetrit Group, was using Ms. Smith in a craven attempt to make peace. Others demanded that Ms. Smith cancel the show."

Smith responded to the negative press on her website, outlining how she is working with the hotel's new management (without pay) and saying, "My small performance for the tenants was my own idea. My hope is that we might have a nice evening and the opportunity to communicate directly. I am an independent person, not owned or directed by anyone. My allegiance is to the Hotel itself, and I have done nothing to tarnish it."

I'm a fan of Patti Smith, of her music and her writing, and I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that she believes she's helping the tenants and keeping the Chelsea's spirit intact. But I'm not sure what to think.



If you're confused, too, and you'd like to make a statement about all of this, but you're not sure what kind of a statement to make, come to tonight's flash mob. Lie down and "die in" in front of the Chelsea at 8:00 p.m., concert time, raising a lit lighter in the air and reciting the lyrics to "People Have the Power" (click for lyrics to print), then leave. If it's still raining, turn to the hotel, light the lighter under your umbrella, recite the lyrics, and go.

What does it mean? I'm not sure. I do know that the tenants have been fighting this battle by themselves for years and they're getting picked off one by one. The people of the city have not shown up outside the hotel to lend support with any kind of protest. So look at it that way--or just see it as something to do as Patti plays guitar while the Chelsea Hotel dies.


Also read:
Find a New City
Patti's Allerton
Scribner's Bookstore
Last Night at the Chelsea

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rose's Turn Today

"For 56 years," wrote the Times in 2007, "since it opened during the Truman administration, 55 Grove Street in the West Village has been a piano bar, cabaret and comedy club for the quick-witted and full-throated. First it was Upstairs/Downstairs, then the Duplex (which remains open at another location), and finally it became Rose’s Turn."

Rose's Turn closed in 2007, ending 56 years of history. Let's take a look at what has replaced it.


before


after

55 Grove is now the home office for interior design firm S.R. Gambrel. Town & Country called Mr. Gambrel "the darling of young Wall Streeters ... the go-to decorator for a great many of today's young titans of finance and technology."


after

What was a ramshackle, nondescript tenement is now a sleek showplace, like something flown in from the Hamptons. An alabaster lioness guards the big front window.

An apparent master of transformation, Gambrel has also taken a "nightmare" of a Village apartment building and turned it into his own luxury townhouse. (The man played by Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon once lived there.)


before, New York magazine

For half a century, 55 Grove underwent change--from one cabaret to another--then came the 2000s when we have just three choices for what will replace the old city: stratospheric luxury, pricey artisanal independent, or national chain.



It's startling to walk down Grove Street today, to pass Marie's Crisis and Arthur's Tavern and then to come upon Gambrel. I wonder what else will be transformed here--we've seen what happens when the neighbors go upscale.

I'm getting worried for Arthur's and Marie's
with their gritty, old facades, their rusted neon signs, their hard-won character. Is someone already plotting their demise? Are The Joneses, concerned about property values, looking upon these classic New Yorkers and thinking, "This just won't do"?

Let's pray they own their buildings.