Monday, August 17, 2020

Waste

This article in the Guardian begins, "On a damp and humid Thursday afternoon Manhattan’s Union Square is looking sorry for itself. There’s 73,000 sq ft of empty retail space up for grabs at 44 Union Square in the now boarded up neo-Georgian landmark that was once Tammany Hall." 

What it doesn't mention is the fact that several small mom-and-pop businesses were pushed out of the building in 2016 to make room for, undoubtedly, more chain and luxury businesses that would fit the class of workers intended for the building's high-tech makeover. 

 

 

Frank's Wines & Liquors had been there for over 40 years. A deli went, along with a smoke shop and magazine shop. Also pushed out were the New York Film Academy and the Union Square Theater.

It's unlikely that those high-tech workers are coming. And the chain stores probably aren't either, since they've now "abandoned" Manhattan after helping to destroy it. 

It is deeply regrettable that the leaders of this city didn't pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act or reinstate commercial rent regulation when it would have made a difference. How many small businesses will we lose to the pandemic after they survived the Great Depression, the major fiscal crisis and high crime of the 1970s, September 11, the financial crisis of 2008? Some even survived the pandemic of 1918. Because when the rent is reasonable, businesses can survive even the worst catastrophes.

 

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bluestockings

The wonderful, radical, fiercely essential, collectively owned Bluestockings bookstore and activist center is leaving.



"This is not goodbye," they write. "This is 'wait for our new location announcement,' hopefully soon."

"Though we wish we were making this decision on our own terms, our decision has been forced by the demands of our landlord for more money and by their inaction on necessary repairs to the structural damage our wild little slice of space has endured over these last 21 years."

Let's hope they stay in the neighborhood of the Lower East Side, though that seems rather unlikely. UPDATE: So happy to hear that Bluestockings bookstore has the keys to their new home--still on the LES--at 116 Suffolk! Here's a chance to send them some money for their move.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Odessa

VANISHING

UPDATE: False alarm! Now they say they're just renovating.

Back in 2013, the old Odessa closed. This Odessa was also known as the "dark" Odessa. It was the first Odessa and the one I loved best. Now the new Odessa, also known as a the "light" Odessa, is closing.


Odessa in miniature by Nicholas Buffon

When the old Odessa still existed, I didn't go much to the new Odessa because it felt redundant and too new when it opened back in 1990-whenever. Then, when the old Odessa closed, I went to the new Odessa (which was no longer new) because it was no longer redundant and, in fact, was one of the only places left in the East Village where you could get a simple diner meal and not be surrounded by the worst people.

Now it's closing. Their last day will be July 19.

You can't go inside to sit and eat because we're in a pandemic, remember? But you can order something to go and while you wait you can imagine that you're sitting inside, as if it's a normal day, in a normal time, and everything is not on the verge of disappearing forever.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Washington Square Bloodied

In the aftermath of yesterday's incident of police brutality against New Yorkers participating in the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality, someone has made a bold statement in Washington Square Park.



Early this morning, I went by the park to find the statues of George Washington on the Arch vividly splattered in blood-red paint. (Below his feet on one side, graffiti from weeks ago still shows "fuck12 since 1492.")







On the other side of the arch, more blood splatter. (Above more faded graffiti: "Stolen Lands FTP.")



Crime scene body outlines ring the fountain, one after another, their torsos and heads blasted with red as if shot dead.




While some of the paint was still wet, bits of rubber balloon left behind, detectives surveyed the incendiary work of graffiti art.



A cooler full of watery, blood-red paint stands open before the spectacle.



This will be temporary, paint washes off, but the lives lost to police brutality will never be made whole. This statement is a reminder that the city has blood on its hands. Yesterday's violence erupted when police arrested people for graffiti--and the crowd of queers resisted. We might remember Michael Stewart, a graffiti artist killed by the NYPD in 1983. And Stonewall, as we all know, was a riot.



There's a tradition of putting political graffiti on the Washington arch. It has survived it. Many times. It'll survive again.




Meredith Jacobson Marciano, 1978


Carole Teller, 1980

*UPDATE: Within a few hours, the statue is made white again:


photos of cleaning by Ann Pellegrini












Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Fear City: 2020

In 1975, when Mayor Abe Beame planned to lay off thousands of firefighters, police, and other law enforcement officers, their unions, operating under the name Council for Public Safety, took revenge by printing up a harrowing leaflet designed to keep tourists out of New York.

Entitled “Welcome to Fear City,” it featured a grim reaper on the cover. The advice included: (1) Stay off the streets after 6 p.m., (2) Do not walk; (3) Avoid public transportation, i.e., "never ride the subway for any reason whatsoever”; (4) Remain in Manhattan, restricting your movements to Midtown only; and five more helpful tips written for the express purpose of scaring the daylights out of New York’s 16 million already nervous tourists.



Now someone quite clever, who knows their New York history, has revised the pamphlet for today. At a Black Lives Matter rally in Bryant Park, I came upon this new version, a Survival Guide for protesters in New York.



On the front, the old Grim Reaper skull has been refashioned wearing a police officer's hat with the letters ACAB.

Inside is a guide to what to do if you're arrested, how to deal with pepper spray and stingray trackers, what to wear to a protest, and more.



There's no credit for the creator of the pamphlet, but readers are directed to linkt.ree/acab to make donations to the movement, sign petitions, and get more information.


Record Mart

VANISHED

After 62 years, Record Mart, "the oldest record store in Manhattan," has closed.


photo: Jesse Jarnow

Untapped Cities reports the sad news, “I’d seen them clearing the store out last week but I thought it was because of the fear of looting.” It was not the looting. It was "due to the pandemic," according to a sign on their door, which also reads, "We are moving into the vintage audio business, where we buy, refurbish, and sell audio equipment. Please visit us at recordmartwifi.com to browse our selection, or if you want to contact us to sell your audio gear."

I was last inside Record Mart in December. I worried about it then and bought a few things. I also took this video. A little moment of joy under the ground at Times Square.






Sunday, May 31, 2020

Downtown Protest for Black Lives Matter

Yesterday, I marched with the Black Lives Matter rally and protest that kicked off from Union Square and traveled to the West Side Highway and through the Village. I broke off there, but they continued their march, until night fell and they settled back at Union Square.





In the dark, the protest turned into a rebellion, some call it a riot, as protesters smashed and set fire to police vehicles and broke the windows of nearby bank chains.

I went back out around 10:30 p.m when the streets of the East Village were silent, except for the sound of police helicopters overhead.

Second Avenue was covered in trash and burned mattresses left on the sidewalk by the people who've moved out after coronavirus. Protesters had smashed windows and Link surveillance kiosks, leaving the streets littered with broken glass and the charred remains of mattresses.



On Broadway, between 8th and 12th Streets, the protesters were quiet behind a police barricade. Some lit fires in trash cans strewn into the street.



Then a shift came and a stampede of protesters ran downtown, dancing and singing, in jubilation. They smashed the windows of the Wells Fargo bank in three loud whoomps and then continued down into SoHo, where they would spend the night smashing banks and looting major chain stores, including Adidas, North Face, and Urban Outfitters.



Walking uptown, another sudden shift came near 9th Street and I was caught in a group running in panic from the police. I pivoted and twisted my ankle as a bicycle cop tackled a young woman, pushing us both into the iron fence at Grace Church, where I managed to get away.



This morning, the damage up and down Second Avenue in the East Village and Broadway into SoHo is considerable. While the group hit a few small businesses, they mostly targeted banks--I counted 11 smashed and/or covered in graffiti--and large corporate chain stores.

The targets seem consistent with the overall messaging of the protesters.




The Adidas store, looted:



Clothing hangers litter Houston Street:



In the Journeys store, among the broken glass, a message left behind:



Swatch store, looted -- emptied out:



Starbucks smashed:



Bank of America smashed:



In the middle of Broadway, in front of Bloomingdale's, a mini police car sits charred and turned on its side:



At least 5 polices vehicles were left smashed and/or charred by fire. Most can be found parked on University Place just below Union Square:



Messages were spray-painted onto Broadway in Union Square and onto the Citibank:



Including one for Governor Cuomo:



Most of the graffiti around town was anti-cop, anti-capitalism, and in memory of George Floyd:





This one says, "We'll change the world with flowers or we'll change the world with guns":