Reader DK writes in about the death of one of the Times Square area's last seedy blocks, West 40th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, across from the Port Authority bus terminal.
He says: "what used to be such a proud block:
$1 pizza • dive bar • secret afterhours • parole bldg • alley • porn • tranny bar • dance studio • rehearsal space • porn • chinese • liquor • porn
is transforming into this:
7/11 • hotel • hotel • hotel • parking • condos • condos • sports bar • gym • bank"
after: with another new building behind it
DK was living in 306 West 40th when the building next to his, 308 West 40th, was demolished.
There's not a lot of history to find on this building, but there is a bit. In the 1990s, New York artist Bill Sullivan ran a small press from #308, publishing many gay and lesbian writers. The first floor was home to A&S Magazines, where (said New York magazine) "owner Kurt Westphal sits strumming his guitar among some 925,000 magazines, some of which date back to the 1920s."
The building was sold in 2007 to Sam Chang, the prolific hotelier, and the spot is to become a 14-story, 53-room hotel. It's hard to imagine another hotel being necessary on a block recently loaded with hotels.
the hotel encroachment on the block
DK says #306 is probably next for the wreckers. I went in to check out the XXX business on the first and second floors. Upstairs, a crowd of hustlers wait around the buddy booths, all men of color. "Wassup," they say, sizing up every potential trick. "Wassup."
Downstairs are rubber toys and the nastiest DVDs you can imagine--I won't go into the details--along with a trio of booths containing LIVE GIRLS. This is a true rarity. Sadly, when I was there, the Live Girl was out to lunch. But the sign over the booths is priceless.
It reads: "This form of entertainment is purely a fantasy and should not be taken in any other way. Everything said and performed in the booth is just a pretend fantasy and should not be taken with any seriousness or reality. Enjoy your fantasy. May it be a good one."
DK wrote up the following description of the block, the buildings, and the working girls who've made it their place of business:
to the ladies on my block, it was their workspace. my building is next. they use the porn store below as a home base of sorts and the hallways up by me as a "break room." when my building is gone, they'll have no space left. so they're all planning on converting from outdoor to indoor ho's. there aren't a lotta their type left. most of the streetwalkers went online in the mid 2000s. they're the last of a dying breed.
Nietzche the ho is the oldest. i don't know her age. i'd guess late 40s but she looks older. she's got a really dry blond perm. kinda looks like a dolly wig that was left in the desert. she has a funny superstition. she doesn't verbalize anything negative. if she has anything bad or negative to say, she either simply doesn't say it or if she has to say it she'll write it down. so it's kinda funny, cause she looks, frankly, very tired and grouchy all the time. but the words that come out of her mouth are anything but.
she doesn't like the "change," she doesn't want to go online for work. she prefers the streets. i know this because she asked me to show her how craigslist and other online adspace worked and she grew uncharacteristically silent to the point where she wasn't even paying attention. she was kind of staring into space and muttering under her breath. so i stopped my lessons and said "OK. i know you aren't trash-talking my lesson under your breath, so what is it? i know this is upsetting having to change your way of life, but..." she interrupted, "no, that's not it." well, what is it? but of course she wouldn't verbalize it. so finally i made her type it and she typed this: "2 cops i didn't know wanted me to suck for free. i said no. one pushed me down. so i bit him. but then he choked me and i passed out."
i asked her where she woke up and she went back to speaking: "in the container next door."
"in the container next door? you mean the dumpster, they left you in the dumpster?"