Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Shutters at the Breslin

The Hotel Breslin has been slowly vanishing in the grip of its new owner, "mega-chain waiting to happen" Ace Hotels. For half a century, the Breslin has been a haven for "eccentrics"--artists, writers, transsexuals--who might not easily find a comfortable home elsewhere in the city. Chelsea Now recently covered the story of the remaining 90 or so tenants and their fight to keep their homes. Filmmaker Nick Schlyer profiles a number of residents in his film, Voices of the Breslin.

But what about the many street-level businesses that have vanished from the property lately, locked behind pink-painted shutters?

The Observer mentioned them back in January, saying, "Managers of three stores told The Observer they recently received termination notices, giving them 30 to 90 days to move out. 'It hurts,' said one shopkeeper, who’s been doing business on the block for almost 13 years."

Today, a walk around the building, counting as you go, reveals approximately 14 small businesses have been shuttered, while only 3 remain. Most of these businesses were perfume, jewelry, and clothing shops, part of the Wholesale District's hubbub.

In their place, we will have West Coast chain Rudy's Barbershop, Portland chain Stumptown Coffee, and another restaurant from Spotted Pig/Rusty Knot owner Ken Friedman. This area, quickly Vongerichtifying, has been dubbed SoMa, for South of Macy's. A cute real-estate nickname is the death knell for a neighborhood, more proof that many want to see this "seedy" and "unseemly" district be swept clean.

Interestingly, SoMa is also a San Francisco nabe nickname. With the coming of the West Coasters, is this all part of the ongoing Californication of New York City?

How long will the rest of the neighborhood's wholesalers last? Here are 2 of the Breslin's remaining 3:

They are not beautiful, but I like looking at the wholesale shops. I like their displays of tacky gold necklaces and wristwatches. I like the dark-haired girls who stand in the windows polishing the jewelry with soft cloths. I like the slick men dressed in faux ruby- and diamond-encrusted denim suits. I like the shops filled with tiaras, wigs, yo-yos, glittering baseball caps, baby dolls, and inflatable Spider-Men--all of it out of reach without a reseller's license. I like the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-story windows filled with strange junk, bare lightbulbs, turning fans, and men in undershirts sweating over unrecognizable labors.

I like it all much better than what's to come.


Anonymous said...

Here is a question I read up on Gothamist the other day. I too would also like to know the answer.

Someone has to explain something to me. I see all these institutions being priced out, yet the stores stay unleased. Coliseum Books close a year and a half ago and the space is still available. How are landlords possibly making money?

Anonymous said...

If you ever go out for a stroll in the UPW, Central Park, or Murray Hill, you'll see a lot of people wearing a California college sports apparels such as California, UCLA, Stanford (these are the ones I've noticed, so far). I used to only see them weekends, or I could usually tell before that they were tourists, but now I think they reside here.

Woh, Coliseum Books closed? Is this the one by Bryant Park?, 'cause I know the original one closed in 2002. Where the heck have I been?

Anonymous said...

knicksbasketballny, I am taking a guess here, but I believe the landlords are "warehousing" the vacant spaces until they can remove ALL tenants (residential or business) and then demolish the existing structures to build bigger, taller new developments.

Because of the escalating influence of predatory equity firms, "landlords" can afford to take a rent loss of a few months or even years. The pockets of PredEq are that deep. PredEq predicts that any losses will be recouped once they rebuild and sell new luxury apartments and rent space to high-end tenants.

If this plan will indeed work out for these greedy, destructive bastards still remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

Any Aldous Huxley fans out there?The name "SoMa" is actually quite apropos in that context. That's all the yunnies ever do, anyways - forget about reality and indulge themselves with their soma so that they may continue to live in an artifical fantasy world.

Jeremiah Moss said...

nice, bob! here's the wiki definition of SOMA: In Western culture Soma always refer to some form of intoxicating drug. In Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World, Soma is the popular dream-inducing drug which is employed by the government as a method of control through pleasure and immediate availability. It is ordinary among the culture of the novel for everyone to use it for whatever various practices: sex, relaxation, concentration, confidence.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeremiah, off-topic, but I thought you'd be interested. That horrible blog, North of 96th Street? It's been "removed" from the web. See here:


So either it was a parody and, after being cited by the NYT, the jig was up, or, if sincere, the guy read what the interwebs had to say about his smugness and idiocy and he gave up.

Either way, I'm curious!

Nick said...

Hug me 'til you drug me, honey
Kiss me 'till I'm in a coma...

Anonymous said...

Sheep on Drugs Indeed

Who are these people and where are they hiding.

What is going to happen when there is a consumer revolt and no one wants up scale. When the socialy accepted thing is not to spend money.

Anonymous said...

I live in San Francisco and can assure you that none of the old-time, leather and beard denizens of South of Market call it SoMA. It was a real-estate concoction born of the 90's tech-boom and is part of the same moronic lexicon that attempts to re-brand my neighborhood (The Mission,) "The Mish" or South Brooklyn SoBroCoCa or whathaveyou. I believe it not of a Californication of New York but a global phenomenon of cultural erosion and cutesy hegemony.

Anonymous said...

It is still a horrible area so bad
that an occasional homicide or stabbing on West 28th street near
Broadway hardly gets a comment in the
press as it's only an African Peddler
fight.The 13th precinct don't give a crap either.
The B. tenants will be bought out one by one just you wait.
But will be living in Astoria,no doubt.
The Tin pan Alley historic building
will go as well,one by one in the same neighborhood.
This is the word of Lord Bloomberg.