Tuesday, February 14, 2017

High-Rent Blight at 4th & Bank

There used to be a laundromat on West 4th and Bank. I often took its picture because it seemed like a particularly poignant laundromat, especially at night. The laundress would stand working in the window, folding clothing. She had a habit of hanging the peels of clementines to dry on the window's grillwork, creating flowery shapes. At Christmastime, she'd hang candy canes.

One day, her window was gone. The Marc Jacobs children's store next door expanded into it. And then, this past spring, the whole laundromat vanished.

Its boutique replacement is called Le Labo, manufacturers of fine perfumery.

Everything is faux rustic and old-timey artisanal, right down to the "lab technicians," who wear waxed canvas aprons imported all the way from Brooklyn.

They've got a scent diffuser made from an Edison bulb and a hunk of wood that's been "forged from the reclaimed wood of New York’s water tanks." It sells for $590. Everything in Le Labo is pricey. Like their Concrete Candle, "another result," they say, "of our obsession with craftsmanship. It has been poured in our lab in Mississippi and its concrete vessel has been handcrafted in California." It comes in a shipping crate "inspired from shipping crates." It sells for $450.

If you find the prices shocking, you can't say you weren't warned. On their window, Le Labo sports the following quote attributed to Thomas Edison: "We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."

Yankee Candle proves that wrong, but it's not the actual quote. Edison wasn't trying to elevate the candle's socioeconomic status. What he originally said in 1880 was: "After the electric light goes into general use, none but the extravagant will burn tallow candles."

Since I wrote up this post a couple of months ago, the Marc Jacobs children's store--the one that encroached into the laundress' space--has shuttered. It sits empty with windows blackened.

Across Bank Street, a space that was most recently--and very briefly--Hamilton's soda fountain also sits empty and for rent.

And next to that is yet another empty space. This one was a coffee place that took over when the great Left Bank Books got the boot, along with its laundromat neighbor. Now the coffee place is kaput.

Left Bank moved a few blocks away, but couldn't make it and shuttered that spot last year, just like many displaced small businesses. They've been replaced by a designy shop "born out of a palpable void in the lifestyle market for quality, accessible, home goods." And how long do you think that's going to last before high-rent blight comes to claim it?

So, to circle back, we once had a bookstore and a couple of laundromats that served a necessary function and had been around for ages. And now we've got three empty shops next to a shop full of extravagance that will likely be empty in another year or two.

Meanwhile, I miss the bookstore. And the woman with the orange peels. 


Mitch Golden said...

As I am sure everyone knows, this is not confined to The Village. My neighborhood (UWS) likewise is loaded with empty spaces. Only a moron would open something in one of them, because the rents are absurd, based on landlords' wet dreams of what they can get for the places.

Downtowner said...

I used to eat at La Focaccia, where that soda fountain was, quite often. A great little Italian place. I remember when the corner was more modest. Sadly, the restaurant suffered a flood that shuttered it - and now it sits empty.

I mentioned this spot in a song I wrote about NYC disappearing...

Jon Whitney said...

Used to drop my laundry off there when I lived on W. 11th. They did great work and were very kind. Sad that were pushed out and that the West Village has lost it's uniqueness.

justinjarboe said...

A gentle reminder of the globalized capital and unregulated american style capitalism destroying the most vibrant of places in in our country.

Unknown said...

Many, many years ago ( in the 60’s) on the southeast corner, was a small Irish deli/grocery called Shanvilla. The owner, Pat, let neighborhood kids run up a small tab for Hostess snack cakes and candy,, to be settled weekly from our allowance. Sigh.

David George said...

This tagline alone:

"born out of a palpable void in the lifestyle market for quality, accessible, home goods."

puts this on my must avoid list.

Here's hoping the 'designy' shop owners go to Austin or Portland...anywhere but here.

Richard Federico said...

I think we're at a turning point now as landlords with overactive salivary glands are gonna have to swallow their copious amounts of oral fluid. Prospective merchants now have their pick of shuttered spaces. Too bad this has to come after so much of the landscape has been needlessly changed over in what I call the worlds biggest crime scene. Greedy property whorelords beware!...the rent blight is too damn high!

RSB said...

I suppose Fourth Street is the most important street to me in the Village, maybe New York. When I moved to the city in 1984, we were walking randomly and went into Fedora. Martinis I think, and pretty bad food. Charmed. By the next spring, I was working as a waiter at Perry's, which was shabby but had an excellent cook. I was semi-out, but not to my college buddies who worked there with me. The manager was enamored of me, which I deflected with some poise. I generally took a cab back to Avenue A after my shift, remember one night being in a traffic jam on 14th Street because The Palladium was opening. Lovely spring nights.

For the better part of two decades, I lived right around Fourth. I'm glad that Tartine still exists -- I'd go by for a croissant to go several times a week. Excellent croissants, almost as good as Patisserie Claude. Anyway, Fourth held out a long time. Marc Jacobs certainly broke the camel's back.

Vanished... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJwvdUjNPTU