Wednesday, April 30, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

A grim look at the future LES, where super-high rents are "buoyed by the arrival of high-profile newcomers like the men’s wear designer John Varvatos." As one luxury shop begets another... [Times]

Landmarks Preservation Committee says the Provincetown Playhouse isn't worth saving. [Curbed] ...And the new playhouse is revealed. [Curbed]

Here we go again--how many of us will be pushed to Philadelphia after the next round of rent hikes? [Gothamist]

"Park Slope has so much juice, just like Manhattan. It's got a lot of pizzazz and energy." And that means it's about to be put through the Darren Star machine. For all who believe the boroughs are safe from being SATC'd, here is the future. [Gothamist]

The saga of 49 E. Houston and Steve Stollman continues. [Voice]

Take a peek at our dear, old redbirds at the bottom of the sea. [City Room]

When you're super-rich and you run out of room, what's there to do except buy a passel of townhouses and stick 'em all together in one big mother of a McMansion? [Times]

Mansion (of Death) Sold?

I recently reported that the Stuyvesant Polyclinic on 2nd Ave between 8th and 9th returned to the market as a single family. Today, the “Buy This Mansion” signs have been taken down from where they were (illegally) bolted to the landmarked, 124-year-old, carved terra cotta fa├žade, and demolition men are hard at work on the interior.

Unless it's been rented out for another TV show, apparently, someone heeded the signs and bought this mansion. The demolition guy I talked with believed it had sold and said, "I don't know what they're gonna do with it, but they can't do much--it's a landmark." So who bought it?

The broker's listing hoped a rock star like Lenny Kravitz would buy the building for $13 million and install an “indoor/outdoor saltwater swimming pool exiting to your gigantic organic garden” along with other whimsies. I got very curious about what’s inside and while the place was being shown last week, I sneaked in to take a few interior shots.

It does look impressive. But I don’t know where Lenny's swimming pool and garden is going to go, because there is no backyard. A quick peek through the windows of the neighboring Ottendorfer Library reveals a weird outbuilding connected by a passageway taking up the entire rear space.

Maybe this was the electroshock therapy room. Or the leeching room. As a century-old medical clinic, this building’s got some very special amenities--though the broker failed to mention the full-service mortuary (they've since ripped down this sign). Forget Kravitz. My money says Marilyn Manson's moving in.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Show World Center

Show World Center, the last of that bastion of all things nasty, is gasping its last breath on 8th Avenue. Today, Curbed and Gawker both picked up on the Post's report: "The Times Square area's once-raunchiest location is up for lease or sale, possibly spelling an end to what's left of porn king Richard Basciano's Show World Center at Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street."

I am stricken by the news. Though Show World mostly disappeared a few years ago, it still retained a neon-lit rabbit warren of backroom and underground porn-tastic hideaways filled with video peeps, DVDs, magazines, and toys. You enter on 8th Avenue, but follow the many doorways and stairways, and you'll find yourself cast down and back, emerging after your adventure into daylight on 42nd, next to the entrance to a hotel that sports a gold glittering lobby.

(You will also find a treasure-trove of vintage Penthouse magazines, dating back to the 60s and 70s, on sale for a few bucks.)

It seems odd that Basciano would be selling the L-shaped building that also houses, in addition to Show World Center, his Times Square Arts Center, because he just signed a deal to develop more "wholesome" entertainment for the location. And last month he put up this flashy sign outside Show World's 42nd Street entrance/exit:

Just as the family-friendly Laugh Factory disguises a backroom packed with smut, I suspect this news is not what it appears and perhaps we haven't seen the last of Show World. It is still, even in its vanishing, the best show left in town. Especially now that the Playpen has been reduced to this sacrificial mudhole:

Sucelt's Replacement

While, in this case, I can honestly say, "at least it's not a bank or a Starbucks," still...

...for this we lost Sucelt?

P.S. How many "portable devices" can you find in this picture?

Minetta May Day

This post originally appeared on Eater, but I repeat it here because I think it bears repeating.

Very soon the venerable Minetta Tavern will close and go to Keith McNally, the man behind Pastis and Balthazar, often blamed/credited with turning the Meatpacking District into "MePa." Last week I went into Minetta for a final meal and cocktail and talked with owner Taka Becovic who told me he plans to close "May 1...or maybe a couple days later." That's not May 6, as a bartender told Grub Street, so if you want to be sure you get a chance to say goodbye, you'd better go by May Day.

Originally from Montenegro, near Albania, Taka first worked as a busboy at the Minetta Tavern. Thirteen years ago, he bought the place and kept every inch of it intact, including the Italian menu, which will change to French bistro food under McNally.

“I like old-fashioned places,” Taka said, “family-style Italian.” The music he had playing was Frank Sinatra, Keely Smith, Eydie Gorme, the music that must have been loved by the first owner, Eddie “Minetta” Sieveri, a fan of boxers, wrestlers, and starlets.

Sieveri returned to the Tavern every year for his birthday until his death. When the landlord raised the rent too high for Taka, Sieveri’s son tried to buy the place, but it was out of his reach too.

taka becovic looks out to the street

“I’ve got a regular customer in his 80s,” Taka told me, “When he heard I was selling he asked, How much do you need? A million? Two million? He was ready to give it to me.” Taka didn't disclose the rent his landlord was asking for, but he did bemoan the fact that rents around there are "all $50,000 a month and up," so we can just imagine the sum.

When I asked Taka what his hopes are for the future of the Minetta Tavern, he looked off into the distance. “It’s very hard,” he said, to think of saying goodbye. He hopes McNally won’t change the place too much. The wooden bar, with its stained-glass shelving, dates back to the Tavern’s opening in 1937. The walls are covered with priceless art and photographs. Taka’s favorite is the painting of Village legend Joe Gould, but he won’t be taking it with him. McNally bought the whole lot, every last item, down to the hand-cut silhouettes, made by a German artist, that trim the top of the bar.

Monday, April 28, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Dutch Kills gets killed by glassy, spaceship hotels--14 are going up in just an 8-block area. Locals watch their neighborhood vanish before their eyes. [NYT]

I've been wondering what's happening to the Hotel Breslin residents now that their home is going boutique hotel with developers whose philosophy is "all about taking historic buildings to the next level." Which means booting existing tenants. [Chelsea Now]

View the trailer for Nick Schlyer's film: Voices of the Breslin.

Photographer Jill Freedman returns to the city she documented in the gritty 70s and 80s. She captured ambivalent feelings about those times, saying: "There are days I walk down the street feeling its ugliness on my skin like a sunburn...other days when I can hardly catch my breath for the beauty of it." [NYT] Watch the great interview with Jill:

photo: Jill Freedman

24-year-old LES boutique leaves Ludlow because it's just too touristy. [Urbanite]

In other fabulous urban street photography, EV Grieve turns us on to the work of Matt Weber, whose images of the Garment District look like something from 50 years ago. [EVG]

photo: Matt Weber

But, wait, there's more: Check out a show of photographs by Barbara G. Mensch--she snapped the vanished working class men of the South Street Seaport and Fulton Fish Market, about which she said in a great interview, "Now I look at this place, and it’s like death to me. There’s nothing living." [City Room]

Andrew Berman is "leading the charge" against NYU's plan to demolish Provincetown Playhouse. [Curbed]


Last week, New York magazine published a neighborhood guide to Yorkville, and once that happens you know the area will soon be vanished. The guide, with map, does provide a handy tour of Yorkville's oldest survivors. It's not a neighborhood I spend much time in, so I went up there to pay a visit before it's too late. I'll be posting more soon, but I thought I'd start off with the Heidelberg restaurant.

the Georgica condo rises next to and above Heidelberg

Dating back to 1936, it's the last of Yorkville's once-plentiful German restaurants. The Times aptly described it as "swathed in history, presenting its worn and faded face without touch-ups or apologies." Heidelberg is a comfortable place to be--and the place to be is most definitely the bar.

Presided over by a smiling, bespectacled, and gray-haired barmaid named Hilde, the bar is where red-faced men drink their beer from boots made of glass. The 2-liter boots require a credit card deposit and, while a sign states they are meant to be shared, not consumed by individuals, I saw at least three people huddling around their own, personal bootfuls of beer.

Enjoying my bratwurst and beer, I sat next to a friendly guy who grew up in Yorkville. He told stories about playing stickball in the streets, collecting lost Spaldeens from rooftops, working at Ruppert's Knickerbocker brewery, and playing pinochle with old men who only spoke German. I wondered if his family were descendants of those lost on the steamboat General Slocum.

Historically, Yorkville became a German neighborhood after New York's worst human disaster prior to 9/11, the burning of the General Slocum in 1904. At that time, today's East Village was known as Kleindeutschland, and most of the close to 1,300 who perished on the Slocum were Germans. The tragedy was so great, many residents of Kleindeutschland could no longer bear to live in a neighborhood that reminded them of their loss. So, perhaps ironically, they moved to Yorkville--whose shores had been washed in the bodies of their loved ones.

But for years now, the Germans have been leaving Yorkville. At, they cite rising rents as the primary cause. Luckily, the owners of Heidelberg own the building, which right now is practically shaking with the racket of their new neighbor's rising: Georgica, a family-friendly, 20-story, cantilevered condo tower is having its concrete poured, a noisy, noxious business that is killing Heidelberg's outdoor dining.

"I drink your milkshake!"

A century ago, it took a major disaster to drain an entire community from its neighborhood. Now all it takes is uber-gentrification.

Friday, April 25, 2008

More Moonlighting

Here are the links from part two of my two-day stint as guest blogger on the Curbed network. Please visit the links to read the complete stories and view photos:

*Everyday Chatter

Only the elderly care to save the villages from the grip of NYU. Is that true? [Observer] via [Curbed]

Check out this review of the Bob Gruen opening at the old CBGB 313 space. Life (and art) goes on... [Stupefaction]

Grub Street reports the Minetta Tavern will close May 6, but Minetta's owner told me it's more like "May 1...or so." He's not sure himself, so you make sure to get there before May if you want to say goodbye to this Village landmark before it gets Balthazared. [Eater]

Is nothing sacred? In Bay Ridge a luxury developer has had 211 century-old corpses dug up and relocated from their places of "eternal" rest to make room for his condo. Even in death, we can never escape the creeping hands of eviction. [Gothamist] A Bay Ridger is on the scene.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Moonlighting on Curbed

For the next couple of days, I'll be guest blogging on Curbed. I will add links here to my posts there as they go live. Please click through to Curbed for the full stories and photos:

Steal This Laptop

I’ve noticed more and more that New Yorkers have become rather cavalier about their possessions. Parents leave $500 strollers unattended on sidewalks. Girls leave bicycles unlocked on the street. Now here’s a guy with total confidence that his iBook will never get swiped.

At the weird "MePa Plaza"—that popular little patch of exhaust-choked potted plants on the 9th Avenue median strip—I watched a guy walk away from his laptop. He disappeared for a couple of minutes. Where did he go? Then I spotted him yards away flirting and bumming a smoke from a girl on the other side of the plaza. He never once turned to check and make sure his laptop was still there.

So what is this about? A sign of low crime, a new freedom in the city? No. It's a sign of people who are clueless, who can afford not to care if their stuff gets stolen. I mean, hey, this was right in front of the Apple store--if your iBook gets swiped there, you can just buy another one. It's a chance to upgrade. No biggie, right?

P.S. The NYPD agrees this is a stupid idea, as they post flyers stating the obvious: "Never leave your pocketbooks, wallets, laptop computers unattended, even for a brief period."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

I just posted on Steve Stollman's place on Houston, wondering where he went and why. Looks like, thanks to a buyback, he might be coming back in 2 years--but the bike activists may not be coming with him. [Voice]

Of course, Steve would have to move back into a hideous, tumorous, monster of a building made by someone called "Sultan's DaVinci." [Curbed]

At long last, the subway barber photographer is back in action. [Subway Barbers]

The "Iron Triangle Freeze Out" is already killing the small businesses of Willets Point. [NYDN]

Join the anti-gentrification romp in Tompkins Square Park this Saturday and celebrate through your pain. [SLES]

Michael Perlman, savior of diners, is profiled in the Observer. [NYO]

And it's another boutique hotel for rapidly dying Chinatown. [NYO]

Poseidon Bakery

Ninth Avenue is fading fast, so I'm highlighting some of the businesses along that vanishing thoroughfare before they go. I recently covered the soon-to-perish block between 17th and 18th, along with Manganaro's (not vanishing) and the Cheyenne Diner (moving to Red Hook).

Still alive and kicking between 44th and 45th, don't miss the Poseidon Bakery. As far as I know, it is not vanishing. Yet.

The Poseidon has been in town since 1923 and is the last bakery in the city where they still make their own phyllo dough by hand. Opened by Demetrios Anagnostou, a baker from the island of Corfu, the Poseidon is run by family, including Lili Fable, third-generation baker and one of the founders (in 1973) of the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival, which is coming up in May.

The inside of the Poseidon, with its blue and white paint job, feels not unlike walking onto a fishing vessel. There's something very "seaside" about it. It also looks like it hasn't changed in several decades. Let's hope it keeps its New York Character in this sea of radical change.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Varvatos Reimagined

After my night outside the grand opening of Varvatos' new Bowery store, I went into the shop for the first time. Walking in, I got a confusing mix of emotions. It feels almost authentic. The vinyl, the scabby walls, the ragged clothing. I found myself feeling "not bad" about it. But then you look closer: The records are preciously pricey, the walls are preserved under Plexiglas, and the clothing is beyond pricey--a used Cheap Trick t-shirt goes for $250.

photo: hardcore shutterbug

While I expect many pro-Vongerichtifiers to support Varvatos' move into the CBGB space, I keep thinking about the surprising pro-Varvatos outcry from punks and other neighborhood people. That night, and in the media, they kept saying, "It's better than a Starbucks or a bank."

This sentiment echoes throughout the debate. From the Times' report, Jesse Malin of D Generation said, “I’d rather see this than a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Starbucks,” and Blondie's Clem Burke said, “It’s better than if it was a Starbucks or a bank." Bobby Steele repeats it in his account of the evening on his myspace page, "this was gonna become either a Starbucks or a Chase bank."

photo: semi-automatic gwen

In an interview with MTV, Varvatos says, "it won't become a bank or a Starbucks or whatever." New York points out that Varvatos believed he rescued the space from becoming a bank, saying "You’re not going to put a bank in here."

The repetition of "It's better than a bank" is hypnotic and serves to distract us from reality. It's a false dichotomy. George Bush uses this tactic--make terrorism the enemy and Bush the hero, so if you're against Bush then you must support terrorism. In this case, if you're against Varvatos, you must be on the side of Starbanks.

photo: bill shatto

I don't disagree that it could have become a bank, but let's think more critically. Are these really our only choices? Why can we not imagine anything other than a bank, a chain, or a super-luxury store for our city?

What if we used more creativity? What if, instead of a high-end shop that caters to the very wealthy few, Varvatos had preserved the space as beautifully as he did, then installed his wares in one section of the space, leasing the rest at reasonable rents to local small businesspeople? He could have a real thrift store, record store, and others represented. He could make a deal with BRC and have homeless men and women working the shop.

This would have created a democratic mix of high, low, and middle range experiences, all in support of each other. The rich could still choose to buy Varvatos' $250 Cheap Trick shirts while others could buy the same items for far less money. This is what New York City used to be. A mixture. A variety.

photo: Victoria Will/NY Post

Luxury shops don't save our city. Let's not be fooled by the rhetoric. We do have other alternatives.

More coverage of Varvatos' opening night:

Cheyenne Saved

Michael Perlman sent me a press release with the good news: The Cheyenne Diner is staying close to home!

"The architecturally & culturally significant Cheyenne Diner has been purchased, and will gain a new lease on life when transported to Red Hook, Brooklyn. A contract has been signed between property owner George Papas and its new owner, Mike O'Connell of O’C Construction, son of influential Red Hook developer, Greg O’Connell."

Greg O'Connell has been called "the real Goliath in Red Hook" for being its biggest property owner, but he actually sounds like a decent guy--"a socialist developer," according to this interview, in which he worries about the loss of artists and mom-and-pops.

If he truly is this conscientious and if his son takes after him, then the Cheyenne might really be in good hands.

Monday, April 21, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

May 3, 1:00-3:00, 9th Ave and 17th St: Chelsea activists Miguel Acevedo and Gloria Sukenick are putting together a protest to help save the mom-and-pop shops of 9th Avenue. For more info about the committee, call Miguel at 646-671-0310 or Gloria at 212-741-3562:

The Post mocks: "boohoo, it's unfair, etc., etc." that CBGB is now a high-end clothing store. [EVG]

Bob Arihood posts his excellent pics and account of the Varvatos opening night on Bowery, with insight into the fights that ensued. [NMNL]

Bobby Steele recounts his Varvatos night fight: "They were telling me what 'PUNK' is. 'It's not punk'. So, I finally had enough, and said 'This is PUNK!' and spit on them." [The Undead] via [Can't Stop The Bleeding]

A festive Record Store Day was had by all. [Stupefaction] [Flaming P]

The NYPL has a show coming up on the use of eminent domain in the city. [Urbanite]

The Nuyorican Poets Cafe turns 35 on May 3 with a big bash. [NYDN]

Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Chelsea Hotel, May 9 - 11, with "Chelsea Hotel Through the Eyes of Photographers." Curated by Linda Troeller and David Elder:

photo: Linda Troeller

Marciante's New York

It was on flickr that I became acquainted with the work of Tony Marciante. I was searching for images of Ratner’s Second Avenue when I found his collection covering a fire at 2nd and 5th in 1969. Impressed with his evocative work, I asked him to join the Vanishing New York flickr group and I interviewed him for this blog.

woman with rescued parrot

Tony Marciante has been taking photographs “off and on” for the past 40 years. Born on the Lower East Side and raised in Brooklyn, in the 1960s he moved back to the neighborhood where his grandmother had immigrated in 1906 and where she stayed to the end of her life.

He lived throughout the 60s on 7th Street, in an East Village he recalls as “magical and full of life,” filled with “immigrants, Beats and Hippies. It continued to be a modern-day melting pot. Outside of St. Mark's Place, the old shops and the streets looked like they did since they were settled by my grandmother's generation.”

ladies at Schrafft's

He began taking pictures in 1964 and “fell in love with the way things looked photographed, to borrow a phrase from the great Garry Winogrand.” Walker Evans became an influence and, looking at his photographs, you can see the resemblance.

Though he lives in California now, when he visits his family in Brooklyn he always makes a point to see his old neighborhood. He told me, “It is still energizing to me, but different. The wonderful edges are gone. It's not working class any more. You really do need to have money to enjoy the City, where as back then, a basic salary would get you an apartment, money to eat out every night, and great music to listen to whenever you wanted.”

fat men's shop, 3rd and 10th

Tony is one of the many great street photographers of the city who has never published and the only photograph he ever sold was in 1971 to the Museum of Modern Art for $25. He was recently featured in the Sonoma Valley Art Museum's biennial and you can find his images on the website as well as his flickr stream. Maybe one of these days the city he memorializes so beautifully will find a place for his work.

More photographers of vanishing New York:

the gayety, now village east, 2nd and 12th

Friday, April 18, 2008

Varvatos: Birthplace of Punk

Last night I stood outside the grand opening of the John Varvatos store on Bowery, watching and listening to the battle for New York's soul rage on. When I arrived, Varvatos was on the sidewalk being interviewed for a film about CBGB's by rock documentarian Ernie Fritz. Varvatos talked about all the good he believes he's doing for rock 'n' roll and the neighborhood.

Varvatos and Sid Vicious

Soon, the fashionistas and old punks started rolling through the labyrinth of ropes guarded by big, burly bouncers and girls with clipboards dressed in "Varvatos 315 Bowery: Birthplace of Punk" t-shirts. I was not on their list and could not get inside.

I waited for Rebecca Moore and her protesters to arrive. Reverend Billy was in the group. I asked him why he came out for the protest. He told me, "I'm dismayed by the blasphemy of CBGB's being overtaken by what looks like Soho. Are we going to get Soho'd all the way to Alphabet City? Where do we draw the line? Punk was an egalitarian movement, it was about low prices, and it resulted in this very culture that these moneyed people are now enjoying."

more protester pics

Rebecca, Billy, and their posse chanted "Down with $800 pants!" Not everyone agreed. Heated exchanges ensued. Arturo Vega, Ramones artistic director and designer of their logo, got into the fray. He had just been telling documentarian Fritz, "It's natural. Everything dies and transforms. The excitement is still here. The tourists will come. In there, you're closer than ever to rock 'n' roll."

Now he got in Rebecca's face. The screaming match consisted of Vega shouting that Varvatos is a great guy and this store is the best thing that could happen to the CB's space and what would have been better, a fucking bank? a fucking Starbucks?

Monte Melnick and Arturo Vega

Rebecca shouted back, "Can you understand the connection between a music venue where anybody could get in and this? This is a whitewash!" They changed their chant to "Who cares if John's a nice guy!"

They got a similar argument (Varvatos is keeping the music alive, etc.) from a former member of The Misfits who pushed at the protesters in rage and finished his diatribe by shouting, "I am on the side of New York City fucking rock 'n' roll!" before spitting on Rebecca's sign. (More coverage of the loogie hocking here.)


The bouncers did not step in during either of these altercations, which at times seemed about to erupt into physical violence, but they did manage to push a few homeless panhandlers down the street and away from the fashionistas. Other homeless men shouted from the shelter above, "Why don't you shut up, we're sleeping here!"

I went around to Extra Place, roped off as the backstage area, where a "talent trailer" was parked among luxury cars. I watched Joan Jett climb out of a black Cadillac. This gave me an adolescent thrill and I stuck around on the sidewalk long enough to hear her do "Bad Reputation" from deep inside the bowels of Varvatos.

Joan Jett

Randy Jones and Pattie Boyd

"The Lower East Side is dead anyway, at least the music is still here," people said, like weary citizens of a defeated town occupied by an enemy army, repeating and repeating: "It's not so bad. It could be worse. It could have been a bank or a Starbucks."

Sid and girls on cell phones

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vanishing City Bloggers

Patrick Hedlund of The Villager interviews "savvy bloggers" me and Brooks of Lost City for their Mixed Use column this week. Check out the complete article here and here's an excerpt:

The brains behind Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York and Lost City consistently update their metro-centric Web sites with original news about neighborhood openings and closings, and commentary on the city’s ongoing evolution, with an overriding sense of mourning for the New York of yore.

"Unfortunately, there’s always stuff to write about,” said Lost City blogger Brooks of Sheffield, who, as a working journalist by day, uses a pen name for his site. “These places are treasures, and once they’re gone, they’re irreplaceable.” Lost City, which recently chronicled the changes — or, as Brooks found, lack thereof — on the Lower East Side’s Ludlow St. over the past decades, often breaks news that feeds some of the city’s larger real estate media, such as and the big dailies.

The same goes for Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, whose proprietor Jeremiah Moss — also using a nom de plume — offers “a bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct,” according to the banner atop his site.

“When you have a blog that just accumulates so much, you realize just how truly overwhelming it is,” Moss noted of his aggregated posts, which number more than 300 since the site’s launching less than a year ago.

Moss first reported the recent closing of the Cheyenne Diner, which later appeared in the pages of the New York Post and The Villager’s sister paper, Chelsea Now, as well as on a handful of other Web sites. J.V.N.Y. was also first to break the news about the likely loss of eight businesses on Ninth Ave. following a large real estate deal.... “I’d like to see a city in which everybody can have a niche and survive,” he said. “I don’t want everything to be the same, and I feel like that’s what we’re moving to."

*For more savvy NYC bloggers, please take a visit down my links list--we're all helping each other by sharing info, tips, and eye-opening posts on the state of our vanishing city.*

*Everyday Chatter

Protest at Varvatos on Bowery tonight! There's nothing we can do but at least it feels like something. [Bk Vegan] via [Curbed]

Varvatos preserving the aggression, excitement, passion of CBGB's? He says his shop is "made for this neighborhood." [Observer]

Rocco, the barber of Spring Street, is cutting his hours. Ethan Hauser, I have two suggestions for you: The New Barber Shop on 9th Ave and The Clover in Park Slope. But you better go soon. [NYT]

Elettaria, the first of 8th Street's trendy-luxe new wavers, is a favorite of "rowdy bankers and...striking blondes debating the merits of launching their own reality show." [TONY] via [Curbed]

The new New York: Where even the city buses are lux-lux-luxury! But do they come with diplomat plates? [City Room]

The EV is pissed at Frank's flood of 20-somethings "on their cell phones, flinging around their elbows." [Eater]

Many more citizens bristle in the company of crowded, noisy, annoying restaurants. [NYT]

NYC gets SATC'd. Again. [Racked]

Last week, AMNY featured a story on Bloomtown: "You can sum up the Bloomberg legacy in two words: luxury city." Reed of New York Lost got creative with their cover and added a few more of Bloomberg's "gifts" to our city. Can you name them all?

In last night's debate, Clinton and Obama both favor taxing the super-rich. Bloomberg does NOT like that idea one bit, especially not for the uber-affluent of NYC. [Sun] via [Curbed]

Say it ain't so--my old butcher, Kurowycky Meats, long vacant, may become a celebrity chef's latest trendy restaurant. [Eater]

Priced out of Brooklyn, priced-out-of-Manhattan Manhattanites are now fleeing to the Bronx. [Gothamist]

...Probably a good idea, because look what they're doing in Queens: Decimating lovely old houses, erecting pieces of crap, then pissing all over that new crap. [Queens Crap]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Met Foods vs. NYU

Tipster Sally fills us in on last night's very successful CB3 meeting where NYU and the East Village community gathered to discuss the fate of Met Foods. She writes:

"NYU has met their match. The room was packed with the community--young, old, in between. A young, fashionable NYU student who shops at Met Foods came to say she was outraged at NYU, the school she'd dreamed about going to since she was a child. People, many NYU graduates over the years, spoke eloquently and intelligently about what NYU is doing to the neighborhood. NYU is a not-for-profit organization that took in the neighborhood of 1.6 billion dollars last year tax-free!

Over 2500 signatures were gathered on a petition, and 300 more on an online petition in less than 2 weeks, and NYU was told if they don't work with Michael (Met Foods manager) and his brother, we'll get 10,000 more. NYU was told by the audience that they need to be 'punished' and investigated. People called for the withdrawal of their not-for-profit-status. We asked as a community that the lease should be renewed for a long time--Michael wants his son to eventually be able to run the store--with no rent hike, that it should be a give-back to the community for all the damage they've done.

The community-relations person that was sent from NYU stated at the beginning of the meeting that Michael was not working with them, etc., etc. (the Villager article reported on what she said), and she started with this again. By the end of the meeting she was saying that a deal would be worked out with Met Foods."

Let's keep our fingers crossed that the people win this battle in the ongoing war against our neighborhood. You can sign the online petition or go to Met Foods and sign in person.

Steve Stollman's Place

Yesterday Curbed reported that a former bike shop at 49 East Houston is to become a giant, 14-story, tumorous, cantilevered, residential building. Awful to contemplate, especially considering that the bike shop was not just a bike shop.

photo: Richard Perry/New York Times

The building, built in the 19th century, was owned by Steve Stollman who used the space to sell antique bars as well as original Automat machines. It was always fun to go inside and see Steve's Automats, along with a strange collection of people, posters, and other unusual things. He originally had 85 Automat machines--Abe Lebewohl even put one in the entrance of the Second Avenue Deli.

As they say on Passover, "It would have been enough," but 49 E. Houston was about even more than those lovely Automats.

Stollman used the space to provide a refuge for bicycle activists, including Time's Up and Critical Mass. And, as a former newsstand vendor himself, he also gave "aid and comfort to news dealers who are fighting the city's plan to replace their stands with little more than tricked-up billboards," according to an extensive New York Times article, aid and comfort that was--and still is--much needed as the city continues, like the big bad wolf, to blow down those houses of sticks and replace them with condo-style glass boxes.

Said Stollman to the Voice, "There is a kind of mall pall, a horrible gray uniformity," those glass boxes bring to our streets.

Steve sold the building earlier this year. I don't know why. According to the Times article, he had promised his partner, Melissa Miller, he'd someday sell and move upstate. Maybe that's what he did.

today, #49 ready for demolition

Said Miller, "It used to be you could walk around the city and see these little stores and you wondered what they did inside...It was curious. It was whimsical. Now there is no whimsy. There is only hard-edged business. Steve's is one of the last places of whimsy that I know of. It's a dying breed, places of whimsy."

Now Steve's place, too, must be counted among the city's bitterly regrettable dead.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rhinelander Remains

New York is filled with hidden pieces of its own vanished history. One of those pieces is tucked away behind the big yellow public school on 11th Street and 6th Avenue. There you will find, built into the back wall of the school's cafeteria, an impressive set of Gothic-revival wrought-iron railings. These are all that remain of Rhinelander Gardens.

Berenice Abbott photo

my flickr

Built in 1854 and designed by James Renwick, architect of Grace Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rhinelander Gardens featured decorated balconies and front gardens. Looking at it now, you might think it was for the very wealthy, but its rental apartments harbored many artists. John Cheever lived there. So did Robert Motherwell. Theodor Dreiser wrote An American Tragedy here.

Rhinelander Gardens stood on 11th Street for a century before it was demolished. In the 1950s, the city wanted a school and the choice was between Rhinelander or Patchin Place. (Back in the day when writers and artists could survive and produce in the city.)

Poet Harvey Shapiro tells the story of the battle in Dan Wakefield's excellent book New York in the 50s, saying that the Patchin Place people (himself, e.e. cummings, Djuna Barnes) must have worked harder with their petitions and protests because Patchin Place still stands and all that's left of Rhinelander Gardens is that salvaged section adorning the school that replaced it.

It is mostly forgotten now and the railings have achieved a sort of invisibility. Only people attached to the school can enjoy them, but they might not even see them. I snuck back there to snap these pictures, accompanied by a mother who was pleasantly surprised to see something she'd never seen before. "I never noticed that," she said. "God, they're beautiful."

See all my photos of the Rhinelander relics on Flickr