Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vernacular Typography

Vernacular Typography is the creation of graphic designer and Brooklyn native Molly Woodward, who has spent the past decade taking photos of the city's "found lettering." All over the city, and the world, local signage is disappearing and being replaced with mass-produced signs and the brands of global corporations. Molly is trying to preserve it--and she has a Kickstarter campaign to help do that.

I asked her a few questions about "endangered local signage."


from Vernacular Typography

Q: How are you defining "Vernacular Typography"?

A: I guess it should technically be Vernacular "Lettering," but I define Vernacular Typography as the found lettering that exists in the built environment and surrounds us everyday. It doesn't have to be pretty or use an existing typeface, it's just any visual representation of language.

Q: How do you think New York City's vernacular typography differs from other cities around the country and the world?

A: New York's vernacular typography is unmatched in terms of intensity and variety of signage. On any given block, you can see the city's forgotten history through the layers of still-visible signage in basically any medium. The typescape is also much denser than in other places because the city evolves so rapidly and retail turnover is so high.


from Vernacular Typography

Q: Which New York City typefaces are your current favorites?

A: I'm partial to the type and signs I grew up seeing every day, most of which have disappeared (Gertel's Bakery) or whose surfaces seem to be slowly melting away (Ideal Hosiery).

I love any type that somehow still clings to life or relates directly to a time and place (Horn & Hardart Automat).

And of course, you can never go wrong with beautiful neon (Montero's).


from Vernacular Typography

Q: What do we lose when the vernacular typography of the city streets vanishes from sight?

A: A sense of the city's history, and also a precious visual resource. Typography can you tell you a lot about local culture and urban communication and when we don't see it, our sense of the city is diminished.

Q: What do you think might be the psychological impact of living in a city where the native typography is replaced by homogeneous corporate signage?

A: I think there's less of a personal connection to a specific place. With standardized corporate advertising, signs are no longer representative of a group of people or a neighborhood, just a business that could be anywhere in the world.

For natives, connections to the past are lost, so a sense of home or a memory of a place is devalued. And for visitors, there's less of the unique experience you get from traveling someplace new.

Vernacular typography is such an incredible marker of regional identity, spatial orientation, and even personal history. If we lose it altogether, we not only lose that individual and cultural connection, but also a physical map of the city, which is why documentation and preservation are so important.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Little Rickie vs. Starbucks

About a week ago, a Starbucks opened on the corner of E. 3rd Street and 1st Avenue. As Grieve pointed out, it's a Starbucks "Reserve," which means it's special. Starbucks says it's there to remind us of "the early days of the specialty coffee business that we helped to create."

In other words, they want us to feel like we're in a real place and not a fake place. I guess that's why the signage is hand-painted on the bricks. It's more rustic that way. Maybe, if it looks authentic, it won't be egged or covered with GET THE FUCK OUT signs.



Before Starbucks came to this corner, and before its predecessor The Bean, there was Little Rickie.


Tom Perottet

Originally opened on First Street in 1985 by Phillip Retzky, Little Rickie moved to 49 1/2 First Avenue in 1987. They sold nostalgic, kitschy novelties--a lot of Elvis and Jesus, Mexican Day of the Dead skeletons, and vintage stuff. It was a great little place.

(You might argue that Little Rickie was an early gentrifier of the East Village, but then I'd have to repeat myself for the thousandth time about how the hyper-gentrification of today is very different from the gentrification of the 1980s and 90s, and how Little Rickie and Starbucks are not the same thing, and then I'd tell you to read the first chapter of Sarah Schulman's book The Gentrification of the Mind, and I'm really not in the mood for all that, to tell the truth.)


New York magazine, 1987

The Little Rickie people also had principles. When Pee-Wee Herman was arrested for indecent exposure in 1991, Retzky refused to raise the price on his Pee-Wee dolls--unlike many other merchants, he didn't want to profit from Mr. Reubens' penile misfortune.

Ironically, Little Rickie was sued by Starbucks in 1999 for selling stickers that changed the words on the Starbucks Coffee logo to say FUCK OFF.

Starbucks also sued a number of other local businesses for distributing the stickers, including Alt Coffee on Avenue A. Said the owner of Alt to the Times, ''New York City is being mallified and when you start to sterilize things and limit choices, people in the East Village don't like it.''



People in the East Village still don't like it--hence the eggs and GET OUT signs--but more and more people in the East Village do like it. Take a walk by the special new Starbucks today and you'll find it filled with customers.


New York magazine, 1987

What I miss most about Little Rickie is the vintage photo booth. I took many a photo in that booth and always enjoyed seeing the black-and-white strips taped to the front window. You never knew who you might find there--the famous and the semi-famous, including interesting characters like Punk Rock Pat.

There's a Facebook page for posting photos from the Little Rickie booth. Looking at them now is to see the past, the people who made up the East Village in the 1990s. Ghosts of the old neighborhood, they're a different breed.

If they were all still here, and still young, would this Starbucks exist?

If this Starbucks had a photo booth, what sort of personalities would fill it today?





Monday, February 27, 2012

Manganaro's

VANISHED

It has happened. After 119 years in business, after being on the brink of closure in recent years, the great Manganaro Grosseria on 9th Avenue has shuttered.


all photos: my flickr, 2008

A reader alerted me this weekend, writing, "Walked by Manganaro's today and saw a sign that said they were serving their last Sunday lunch... The window display is bare and you can see the ancient glass and wood sliding doors. All of the photos are boxed up and on the floor. There are no more tables and chairs in the back. Out front, decades worth of paper signs, chairs, and baskets were in the trash. The place looks like a movie set now, empty and displaced from time. I fear the place will be gutted to make room for a Subway."

A call to the restaurant confirmed they are closed and their website has the following note: "As of February 27, 2012, Manganaro Foods will no longer be open in New York City. We will let you know when we re-open. Thank you for your many years of patronage. We look forward to serving you in the future."



One year ago, the family put their building up for sale, saying "We've had it." But they weren't quite ready to go. As co-owner Seline Dell'Orto told the Observer in March 2011, they were keeping the business open "Because it’s a hundred and twenty fucking years old and it’s beautiful."

And it was beautiful. From the hanging salamis to the big Toledo scale, to the wood paneling in the dining room with its old chairs and tables, to the photos hanging on the walls, it was beautiful.

The brusque greetings of the Dell-Orto sisters were beautiful. The way they refused to tolerate the bullshit of difficult tourists and such was beautiful (though some well-meaning folks got caught in the crossfire). Listening to them complain about Bloomberg and yuppies while you ate your tortellini was beautiful.



I absolutely loved Manganaro's and everything about it. When I was in the neighborhood recently, visiting the Elk Hotel, I thought maybe I should walk down for a meal. But it was late and I figured they'd be closed--and I thought I'd have another chance.

Now I'm kicking myself. Yet again.

The note on the website says they'll reopen and look forward to serving us in the future--so maybe there's hope. Maybe it's just a remodeling. Or maybe they're moving. Either way, it won't be the same and I'm just heartbroken over this one.



Further reading:
Manganaro Grosseria
Red Sauce Joints

Friday, February 24, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Luna Lounge owner on the LES: "you get what you deserve in this life, I believe. And, because few people were standing up for places like Collective: Unconscious, Tonic, CBGB and Luna Lounge, the Lower East Side must now live with obnoxious bistros that cater to people with little interest or understanding of the former importance of this neighborhood." [EVG]

Death of a bodega prompts "No more yuppies--bring back our bodega" graffiti on E. Houston. [BB]

CB2 says "No!" to NYU's monster expansion. [Curbed]

Glenn Beck attacks the Park Slope Food Co-op for boycotting Israel. [BP]

When being an iPhone zombie just isn't enough:


Check out the LES Film Fest lineup. [TLD]

Harlem neon nocturne. [NYN]

Anapoli ice cream parlor celebrates 115 years in Bay Ridge. [NYDN]

Redesigning 51 Astor Place with "fragments of lost East Village landmarks." [Curbed]

March 9: Networked New York--with blogger panelists. [P&W]

"In Williamsburg, where tattooed moms and mustachioed dads trailed by toddlers are an increasingly common sight, the area is suffering from a shortage of family-size apartments with three bedrooms or more." [WSJ]

1961 on 9th

A somewhat belated post about last week, when the Coen Brothers took over a block of E. 9th Street and transformed it, storefront by storefront, into a dreamscape of Greenwich Village circa 1961.


more photos on my flickr

It was a treat to walk down that block, lined with antique cars, and to step back in time, in a way.

There was the Kettle of Fish, before it was taken over by Wisconsinites and became a home of Packer fandom in so-called "Little Wisco." I went to the real Kettle of Fish when I first arrived in the city, hoping to find some kind of bohemians, poets, like there used to be--but all I found were frat-boy types. It was my first disappointment.



The Coens also created a faux used bookshop. I gazed longingly at it, wishing it were real. It looked so inviting, so tempting, with its flopped-out awning and carts loaded with books--a dying thing that once seemed indestructible, eternal. It hurt to look at it.

Remember when bookstores were everywhere in the city? It wasn't long ago--not 1961, but 2001.



There was a poetry cafe, too, called the Gaslight. The next day, it went back to being an artisanal beer shop.



I kept thinking about the choices the Coens made. The storefronts they created all seemed to belong to a certain category: dive bar, poetry cafe, bookshop, record shop, thrift shop. All things vanishing and vanished, all things once so integral to the city.

There's not much to say about it, really, except that it made me feel melancholy and wistful, walking down that make-believe street, and I wondered if the New York I once loved will only be permitted to exist in Hollywood sets.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

VANISHED

This past summer, while summing up Bleecker Street's Luxe Blitz, I wrote: "Today, from 10th Street all the way northwest, the only businesses left on Bleecker that aren't high-end mall stores or intimately connected to Sex & the City are the art gallery A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (since 1976) and the 22-year-old Arleen Bowman boutique."

And then there was one.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place is gone after 36 years. A "Store For Rent" sign hangs in the window.

The realtor crows in the listing, "This is the 1st time in over 3 decades this Store has become available! Located in the heart of the Far West Village Gold Coast Retail Mecca along side Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Michael Kors and INTERMIX."


today

Of course, it was impossible for Tom Martinelli's little gallery and frame shop to last here, not with Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Juicy Couture, and all the rest squeezing and clawing, spreading like a virus along a street filled with red-soled, toddling vampires out for a fix, trying to be the next Carrie Bradshaw, trying to swallow the city whole.

In 2008, Sarah Jessica Parker, the original Carrie who helped launched the luxification of western Bleecker with one bite of a pink-frosted cupcake, talked to Emily Nussbaum at New York Magazine about how she worried that "a friend who owns a framing shop will get priced out."

The cruel irony is too obvious to mention.

As for the Arleen Bowman boutique, last Mohican, you are now in New Bleecker's sniper sights.


2009

Further reading:
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
Bleecker's Luxe Blitz
Manatus
More Jane, Less Marc

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Inside the Elk

Mark Schulte has been a lease-holding tenant at the Elk Hotel for the past 5 years, moving in permanently after 15 years of being a transient guest at the 87-year-old flophouse off Times Square.

On February 7, he tells me, he and the rest of the Elk's tenants arrived home to find new staff working the front desk and two days' notice to vacate the premises. Without warning, the building had been sold to landlord Martin Sanders at Mollaney Investments in a purchase that nearly completes the acquisition of an entire block of tenements along 9th Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets.


all photos: my Flickr

As Mark walks me down the Elk's murky hallways, I step carefully across checkerboard linoleum floors so mushy it feels like my feet will break right through. Here and there, we pass over the litter of syringe wrappers, cigarette butts, and beer bottles. We peer into abandoned rooms, miserable warrens of cracked walls and moldy ceilings, some just big enough for nothing more than a twin-sized mattress. In one room, a dead mouse swells on the carpet.

Says Mark, "They have not done any cleaning or maintenance work since February 2. If the place was ever considered dirty, it's really dirty now."



He explains what's been happening over the past month. "The new landlord picked off the low-hanging fruit," he says, by offering small buyouts of $2,000, then $5,000. The drug addicts and many of the elderly took the cash and left. About a dozen lease-holding tenants remain.

One who might have taken the buyout, but didn't get the chance, was a woman named Diane. Her body was found by Mark and a neighbor on February 10 in Room 211. It had been decomposing in bed for two weeks. As we stand in front of the NYPD-sealed door, the smell of human decay is still pungent.

"I wasn't sure what I was looking at," Mark says, "It was not recognizable as a body." It looked like a pile of blackened rags with a hot-pink wig lying on top of it. A friend down the hall who just happens to work as an embalmer identified the body as Diane, a well-known tenant who had recently dyed her hair pink. She used to sit outside Port Authority and panhandle with a sign that said "Times have been tough." This is how she paid her $180 monthly rent at the Elk.



Another tenant, called "Pops," isn't budging. An 85-year-old war veteran, Pops can only hobble from his room to the shared bathroom and back. He can't walk down the stairs, so he sends his neighbors out for coffee and sandwiches. His window looks out on the well-known Pepsi sign--his view for many years.

Then there's the tenant that Mark and his neighbors "affectionately refer to as Coo-Coo." Suffering from some unknown mental illness, Coo-Coo roams the halls in dirty underwear, picking through the garbage to take items back to his room--empty tuna cans are a favorite--where he hoards them in a kind of nest. He begs the neighbors for cigarettes, and carries a thick bankroll of Guyanese dollars--worth almost nothing. Coo-Coo's response to the buyout is: "I'm staying."



While the Elk was known for being a holdout of Times Square seediness, with rooms on the first floor renting by the hour and filled with the dramatic moaning of prostitutes, most of the permanent residents who remain are like Mark--"average guys," he says, who found themselves couch-surfing on one couch too many, and discovered cheap rent and privacy at the Elk Hotel. They make their living as cooks, musicians, performers.

Retired, Mark spends his time writing and doing volunteer work, mostly for LGBT causes. He's a veteran of ACT UP and Queer Nation, he says, "So I'm not afraid of getting in people's faces." He has a lawyer and is fighting for his rights, as life at the Elk has deteriorated fast in the past few weeks.



"On Saturday, February 11 at 8:30 A.M.," Mark tells me, "a demolition crew came in, removed all the doors from vacant rooms, and carried out everything but the sinks." On the night of February 13, with about a dozen holdouts remaining after the buyout deadline, "the heat and hot water was turned off... We spent a very cold night," says Mark. The next day, the tenants went to court and got their heat back.

"Now we're just waiting to see what the landlord's next move will be," Mark tells me. "I'm going to ride this out. They're probably going to demolish the building and I'm willing to leave, but I need more than $5,000. That's not even enough for a deposit with first and last month's rent someplace."

And what will happen to Pops and Coo-Coo, he wonders, and to other tenants like them who cannot advocate for themselves and have even fewer resources? $5,000 won't help them find and keep a new home. It will, however, pay one month's rent on a two-bedroom at the Elk's high-end new neighbor, the Orion.



A 58-story glass shaft of luxury condos and rentals, the Orion towers over the Elk. It also used the Elk's air rights, so nothing tall can be built on that corner. According to online records, the Elk's new landlord now owns almost the entire block, from 568 - 578 9th Avenue, minus 572 (that one has a partial vacate order, due to its uses as an illegal hostel and illegal massage parlor).

These buildings house a simple, but motley collection of first-floor businesses, like Dave's Tavern, the New Panda Chinese restaurant, a bodega, a barber shop, and Papaya Dog.

How long will this block remain standing?


Orion--right next to the Elk's entrance

Over drinks at the 9th Avenue Saloon, Mark recalls his years at the Elk, remembering when the first-floor business belonged to LaFleur's, a transgender hustler bar run by locally famous drag queen John LaFleur. That was the 1990s and the neighborhood was a much different place.

"But I knew this was coming," Mark says of the hotel's demise. "Because it didn't make sense that the Elk was still there, being what it was. It used to be there were a number of hotels like the Elk. It's a way of life that's disappearing. You could come to New York with nothing, arrive on a bus at Port Authority, and get a cheap room around the corner, so at least you had a place to stay. And that's all vanishing."

"How do you think people without money come to New York today," I asked.

"They don't," Mark said.


Mark looking up at Pops' window

See more:
Elk Hotel vanished
Elk Hotel
More photos inside the Elk on my Flickr

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

The urban etiquette signs keep getting better and better:


The Famous Original Ray's on 6th and 11th, shuttered last October, then revived by rival Ray's in December, will now be reopening under its original Original Ray's owner. Astounding. [DNA]

Edmund White reads tonight at Three Lives & Co.

Chairman of Community Board 4 sticks it to the new Chelsea Hotel owners. [youtube]

Wednesday, Big Nick's Burgers rolls back prices to 1962 to celebrate 50 years on the Upper West Side. [WSR]

Trash & Vaudeville: "the last surviving punk rock boutique in NYC." [BI]

The East Village, "last authentic neighborhood in NYC," says real estater, getting hotter and fancier every day. [EVG]

At the changing corner of 12th and Broadway. [FP]

Cheeseburgers at the Old Homestead. [TWM]

Great shots of Brooklyn's old Parkway Sandwich Shop. [BYP]

The destruction of Coney's antique trolley relics. [ATZ]

Blimpie Base

The Subway sandwich shop that replaced Intervideo in the East Village has been open for a couple of weeks, and First Avenue between 6th and 7th is now a nearly unbroken chain of chains--Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's, Subway, Ricky's.



As Subway continues its juggernaut across the city, let's look back at its predecessor and competitor--Blimpie Base.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, the Hoboken-born Blimpie Base multiplied across the city (here's one on E. 14th), taking over a few bohemian haunts. It replaced a place called the Ham & Eggs on Broadway and 72nd, recalled in Richard Goldstein's 1973 New York essay on the Continental Baths as "a sort of leather Sardi's." He dubbed the replacing Blimpie as "asexual...and onion-y at that."

In 1969, they famously took over the beloved Cafe Figaro at Bleecker and Macdougal. The Times called it "the orange and white chain of hero sandwich shops proliferating through the area." A young man searching the ruins of Figaro for souvenirs said, "A Blimpie’s? They might as well change the name to Pizza Square."



Here's what the Village Voice had to say in 1971 after the Blimpie had opened:

"A symbol of what’s happening to the Village is the Blimpie Base sandwich shop at MacDougal and Bleecker Streets. The Blimpie occupies the spot where the Café Figaro used to be. The Figaro was forced out by high rents in January 1969. It may have been the best of the Village coffee houses. It had the beautiful, easy ambiance about it that flavored the whole area… Walk into Blimpie today and you’ll find that it has carried on the tradition of influencing the neighborhood. But not in the same way. An unnatural silence hangs in the air… A feeling of foreboding seeps out of the Blimpie and spreads like a stain down Bleecker Street."


photo by machine stops, 11th St. & 6th Ave.

We might be hearing echoes of the present day's disdain for chains, but it's not the soul-sucking nature of fast-food chains the author is talking about--it's the fact that this Blimpie was filled with junkies on the nod. Other authors recall this notorious spot as "sordid" and a "harbinger of...decay."

We could use a sordid harbinger or two these days.

Friday, February 17, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Somebody would really rather have a public park in the empty lot where the Astor Place Death Star is scheduled to land. These stickers and more are up all over the plywood:


Foodie trucks headed for Coney Island. [ATZ]

Oh God, the rescued Hinsch's is closing again. [Eater]

Sadly, Elegant Woolen & Silk leaves Orchard St. [BB]

Cruising the West Side piers in 1976. [Gothamist]

Mourning the loss of Jamaica's Estates pharmacy neon signage. [NYN]

What's it like to travel the texter-heavy sidewalks of the city in a wheelchair? Not so good. [AANY]

Standard Full Monty

The free porno show at the High Line's Standard Hotel is back on--in full Monty. The Grumbler has more photos (that may or may not be safe for work).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chelsea Rooftop

The new owners of the Chelsea Hotel plan to put a rooftop extension with a bar on top of the bohemian icon--and they've applied for a two-story scaffold to go up there. Last night, the Community Board 4 Landmarks Committee held a meeting to hear the Chetrit group's proposal.

Sherill Tippins, author of the upcoming Dream Palace: The Extraordinary Life of the Chelsea Hotel, reported on her Facebook page that the event was "packed with concerned residents and people from the neighborhood," but the actual hearing was postponed "because the owners refused to say what they wanted to use the new rooftop structure for."

Living with Legends reports that the owner and architect "had lots of pretty pictures that didn't reveal much. When questioned for further details, the group proceeded to stonewall the Committee." DNA Info reported that a lobbyist for Chetrit said of the rooftop construction, "That could mean a bar. That could mean a lounge. That could mean a spa."

So goes the ongoing battle for the hotel's rooftop.


all photos: 2007, my flickr

In 2009, the new manager at the time told Rolling Stone, "I'd love a rooftop bar here," and announced to tenants that he would seize the roof's flourishing gardens. Ed Hamilton at Living with Legends called this harassment to get the 10th-floor residents to move and the first step in putting in a club. Soon after, hotel management destroyed the gardens--taking chainsaws to the roof forest, planters, and vines, to the honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, and lavender.

I have visited the Chelsea's roof just once, in 2007, before the gardens were destroyed. I never posted the photos I took, but now seems like the time.



It was a misty October morning when I climbed to the roof, not the greenest time of year, and the flowers had long finished blossoming, but there was a vividly lush jungle up there.



The roof was a maze of corridors and stairways. Between architectural pyramids and parapets, vines swooped over trellises, cascading down into sequestered gardens marked by rickety furniture and doors painted with fantasy landscapes.



A pair of hammocks hung between the brick chimneys, waiting for warmer weather and lazy days.



Today it's cluttered with construction. But I never went back to the Chelsea roof. This is how I want to remember it, as a dreamscape, a strange retreat from the world, quietly humming with life.

Imagine this all gone, destroyed, chainsawed into pieces. Imagine what is coming to replace it--another thumping luxury lounge, another place for the masters of the universe to feel above it all.

But maybe there is hope after last night's Community Board meeting. Sherill Tippins told me, "It was inspiring and exciting to see the residents of the hotel, the Chelsea Hotel's neighbors, and the members of the community board recognize and defend the value of this iconic building. I feel so much more confident now that this community, as well as the structure itself, has a chance of surviving the trauma of this change."



See more of the Chelsea roof and its view on my flickr.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Tonight at 6:30: See what the new owners plan for the Chelsea rooftop--and tell them "Hell, no!" [LWL]

Gird your loins--here comes the glassy corporate monster about to land on Astor Place. IBM and Microsoft drones are on their way! The Battle for Astor Place rages on! [Curbed]


E. 9th Street turns 1960s for a Coen Brothers movie. Wish the bookstore was real. [EVG]

More neighborhoods are trying to zone out the chain stores. [Curbed]

Brooklyn parents are getting their kids hooked on little Babyccinos--customers of future Starbucks. [Eater]

Goodbye Holiday

We got a heartfelt comment this week from the Lutak family about the end of the Holiday Cocktail Lounge.

Roman Lutak writes, "Would like thank everyone who attended, contributed, socialized, was over served, lived, or in anyway uplifted and made it the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. The last three years have been extremely difficult since my dad Stefan left (February 3, 2009). This was not an easy decision or done out of haste. But the reality of the matter is the Holiday as everyone really knew (knows) was really Stefan. Once he passed, it was never going to be the same. No new employees or managing was going to change that."


Stefan, by Mike Marvin

He continued, "As I said in yesterday's NY Times interview 'I am going to finally get a chance to grieve' without the responsibility of maintaining the 'Holiday' legacy. As stated, I had no intention of leaving my mark on it since this was really my mother and father's legacy. And can rest knowing that they are the ones who will always be identified as the legitimate face and spirit of the Holiday. There will be no 'new' Holiday since I would not allow (legally) to use any combination of the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. It ends with my dad as sole face to always be associated with 'HIS' Holiday. Thank You for all the memories and some of the nightmares. The Lutak Family."



As you may know by now, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge has been taken over by the founder of the Pirate Booty snack company. He and Barbara Sibley, the owner of neighboring restaurant La Palapa, will be turning the space into a restaurant that "will echo the restaurants that have disappeared, with a menu offering those foods New Yorkers 'miss' like Shepard’s Pie and fish 'n’ chips."

Sibley told Grub Street, "We're going to try to preserve as much of the history as possible."


at La Palapa

I hope that's sincere. We've heard it so many times--and been disappointed so many times by owners who then gut our favorite places, and essentially bar the door with extravagant prices and obnoxious clientele. People like to say you can't turn the city into a museum, but you can preserve its treasures and still thrive. It happened for Eisenberg's--why not the Holiday?

La Palapa is in the building where W.H. Auden once lived--Sibley put a plaque on the front of the restaurant stating this. Auden was also a famous regular at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, and Sibley is said to be a fan of the poet. She once told the New York Times, "we joke that the spirit of his martinis runs through [La Palapa's] margaritas.''


Auden on St. Mark's Place, Richard Avedon

Let's hope that Ms. Sibley and the new owner take into consideration the community that supported the Holiday through the decades. And may they at least opt to keep the wonderful semi-circular bar whose soft-worn wood once propped the elbows of the great poet. That treasure would be too much to lose from a neighborhood already awash in grief over so many losses.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

R&L Lunch

Yesterday, Gothamist posted a gorgeous group of photos by Sol Libsohn, all taken of New York City restaurants in 1938. The first photo in the batch has no story attached to it, but it jumped right out at me.

Do you recognize it?


Sol Libsohn, MCNY

Aside from looking rather Hopperesque, this image of the R&L Lunch looks very familiar--as the earliest incarnation of the former Florent. It's that little 69 in the upper left corner that really gives it away.


my flickr

This space opened as the R&L luncheonette in 1938--making it brand new in the above photo. In 1955, it became the R&L Restaurant, with the lovely chrome sign that remains today. Owned by Ari Lucas, the R&L was a place where longshoremen and meatpackers would dine at night--they called it "Eatem and Beatem," according to the Chicago Sun, "because they would zip in and out around 3 in the morning."

In 1985,
Lucas' daughter took over the R&L and rented it to Florent, which closed to great communal sorrow in 2008. Today it's some kind of upscale wine bar. Is the "R&L" in the floor still there?

In any case, it's always exciting when these rare photos surface, helping us to reassemble the scattered pieces of the vanished city.


close-up

P.S. Also familiar--that menu board. Though Florent's was covered in a kind of poetry.