Tuesday, September 30, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

With the Wall Street crash, I may be reporting on a whole different kind of vanishing. And here's one now: Whole Foods is dead in the toxic waters of Gowanus. [Curbed]

Now if only the Whole Foods in Union Square would close in time to let the 89-year-old Jefferson Market take a breath. The neighborhood shop is on the verge of vanishing. [Times]

How can you tell the health of seedy old Times Square? Like sea turtles in a revived East River, prostitutes have been discovered at 42nd and 8th. [Curbed]

65-year-old Emerald Inn to close due to massively rising rents. [EVG]

UWS theme-dive bar Yogi's is closing on 10/4--girls, pick up your brassieres and go home. [NYBarfly]

Can we all agree to start using the term "Meatpuking"? [Grub]

A burly bouncer guards the potted bamboo at the Cooper Square Hotel--or maybe they just know 98% of the neighborhood would love to hurl a brick through the joint:

New York Magazine's 40th Anniversary edition is chock-full of good stuff. Here's a sampler:

The yuppies have won, says Jay McInerney: "yuppie culture has become the culture, if not in reality, then aspirationally. The pods have pretty much taken over the world. The ideal of connoisseurship, the worship of brand names and designer labels, the pursuit of physical perfection through exercise and surgery—do these sound like the quaint habits of an extinct clan?"

Woody Allen mourns vanishing New York: "There are times where I’d finish a movie, like Everyone Says I Love You, and five places in the movie would be gone before it came out. Le Cirque would be gone. The bookstore on Madison Avenue would be gone. I couldn’t keep up with the rate of change, and the change was always the progression, really, of opulence."

Remembering old Times Square with one of Show World's former "jizz moppers," who says, "To me, wholesomeness—especially in the Times Square area—that’s what’s disgusting."

The New York Jew has vanished: But after the crash, "We can reopen the delis and bakeries, and celebrate the wisdom of our sages who knew that worldly success is fleeting, and that the secret to happiness is fear of God, a bowl of hot chicken soup, and a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn."

Philip Glass' biggest New York fear ("That it might become an ordinary place") is kind of the same as Sarah Jessica Parker's ("That all the bodegas, Korean markets, and delis will close and I’ll have to get my paper and milk at CVS").

Richard Price has hope for the LES: "Everybody thinks it’s a done deal and it’s all yuppie. Man, that thing, I mean, there’s more afterbirth than rebirth. You go half a block, and you’re in China. You’re not even in China, you’re in Fujian Province. And then you go into the projects and you’re in black-and-Hispanicsville. And then you go over here and you’re in Orthodox Jewville. And then you got the kids that, it’s like they’re in Rent but they have credit cards. So they don’t have to say, 'Ooh, light my candle.' They’ll go to Restoration Hardware and buy a fucking lamp."

Monday, September 29, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Brian Berger, writer and blogger behind Who Walk in Brooklyn, sent in this shot of what happens when you outsource New York's "street furniture." Can you find the typo? Luckily, a passing copy editor made the correction. Nice going Cemusa!

"The rich are staging a coup!" [Michael Moore]

The New York Times has been chock-full of good stuff the past couple of days. Here they cover the drama of Extra Place--and toss VNY a little linkage. [Times]

NYU students have moved into Gramercy Green, the luxury condo-dorm that devoured a block and continues to mount the Gramercy Pawnbrokers. Said student Damon Beres, "Young students like us don’t need this quality of living or, at the very least, we don’t need it provided by our college." [Times]

Read Damon's full story on his blog: "Perhaps NYU could’ve done something better with its hundreds of millions of dollars, something other than establishing a beautiful castle for college kids to dump in."

You've got to have balls behind the wheel to withstand being swallowed by the blob of the Cooper Square Hotel. Here's a rare backside shot of Hettie Jones' home. The hotel occupies the first two floors and added this wraparound tail that seems to let guests peer right into the tenement. The builder did say it's "an asset that guests in the $100 million hotel...may peer down on a tenement roof where laundry is being hung out to dry. 'That’s the kind of thing people want to see,' he said." [Times]

photo by the times

Let's tear down some big ugly buildings, including the Astor Place tower: "The East Village...has emerged as a crossroads between the world of would-be punks, awkward students and rich Wall Street types. The Gwathmey building serves only the last camp: it’s a literal manifestation of money smoothing over the texture of everyday life." [Times]

Saying goodbye to Shea Stadium. [Times]

Check out Margaret Atwood's new book: Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. [Times]

Get ready to glimpse the hideous future: With Americana at Brand, you can live in your condo at the mall--in a faux neighborhood--and never interact with anyone from outside. [Times]

NY Post steers clear of the LES on Saturday nights because it's "Meatpacking District Lite. Overpriced drinks? Check. Annoying restaurants? Check. And don't even get us started on the people... one of the more obnoxious night-life scenes." [EVG]

MePa creep is creeping further north on 9th Ave, filling in the blanks, as two more luxey-looking shops open next to Homestead:

Bowery Outsiders

On Friday night, Slacktivist John Penley was on hand for the Outsiders art show at 282 Bowery, the former Adams Restaurant Supply, next to be transformed into what I like to call "Pastis East."

With no placards, chants, or crowds, the silent protest looked a lot like part of the show. Something Penley himself observed, chuckling as he taped dollar bills to the "gallery" window, each bill graffitied in black Magic Marker with the words "worthless," "eat the rich," "riot." Every time he taped another dollar, a flurry of cameras snapped him in action. It might have been performance art.

Bowery Grover

The show included Jonathan Yeo's pornographic Paris Hilton and his lovely leaves, which at first glance look like nothing more than an homage to autumn, but on closer inspection reveal pornographic ins and outs.

The artists on display at the Outsiders show are in no way outsiders. They are insiders, well paid, represented, and collected.

As Penley said to the Post, "This is not street-level graffiti or poor starving artists from the area... They're all rich. Paul Insect's last works were bought by Damien Hirst for $1 million. And they are all Brits. There are plenty of local downtown artists more deserving."

Joey Skaggs suspects the show has launched a Banksy "hoax" around the neighborhood. A Banksy mural just went up in SoHo, too, but if it's painted by the media company that does H&M and Diesel ads, is it really graffiti art? Lazarides, the curator of the Outsiders show, also represents Banksy.

outsider kiss

Watching Penley tape up the bills, I heard a young man say to his date, "I'd like to rip those dollars right down and then you know what I'd do? I'd go right out and give them to a homeless person."

Moments later, an actual homeless person, a crusty kid, swooped in, and like a seagull snatching french fries from a beachside picnic table, grabbed handfuls of dollars, slamming the window and twisting balletically to grab even more, before running off down the Bowery.

Penley watched him go and, chuckling, began taping up more dollars.

More Slacktivist coverage:

Friday, September 26, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

More news in the study of narcissistic disorder among us: Facebook a bastion. [SciBlog]

Just stumbled upon a cool blog: Check out The Bridges of NYC.

Enjoy the latest installment of lost city photos from Alex in NYC. [FP]

Someone has decorated the former Chocolate Bar windows in the Village. What do Obama and little Nicholas Bradford have to do with each other? Eight is Enough! Get it? Say NO to McSame and the Mean Girl:

Yesterday, 100s of Bailout protesters piled crap under the ass-end of Wall Street's ballsy bull--it was all about bullshit. [NYMag video]

Grieve's got the scoop on the protest and much more from Wall Street, tracking the events of the past week with its "giddy undercurrent." [EVG]

Why $700 billion for the bailout? Just cuz it's supersized, says the US Treasury. [CR]

photo: majickthise flickr

"Unschooling" is what city moms do instead of home-schooling--it means staying up late in Soho bars, sleeping late so mom can work on her novel, and playing in the mud while the parents drink beer. [Gawker]

Avalon just wants to give back to the community, they say about their plans for Extra Place. [Curbed] ...Possible uses for this city-owned site will be discussed at the October 7 CB3 meeting, 6:30pm, 333 Bowery. Let them know what you want done with Extra Place.

Hope springs eternal--Second Ave subway, connecting the Upper East and Wall Street to the LES, may never, ever happen. [Gothamist]

Meet the lovely Lenny of Something Special. [GVDP]

Get your Irish up at the Butcher Block with BaHa. [SE]


Very quietly, without warning, the Addukkan Moroccan crafts shop on East 7th Street has shuttered. A For Rent sign is in the window.

Described as a shop for "Exotic crafted Moroccan jewelry, music, light fixtures, ceramics, tiles, mirrors and art," Addukkan has been on the street for many years. I don't know much else about it. The owner used to sit outside, a fixture, a familiar face.

Another casualty in the 7th Street Clearance, which began (in my mind) in January 2005 with the closing of George's Bar and the opening of the Velvet cigar lounge, which has attracted its share of masters of the universe. Though now I wonder if they'll be vanishing next.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Today at 4: No Bailout for Wall Street protest. [Naomi Klein]

Tomorrow night at 6: Slacktivists zero in on their next protest site--the graffiti art show at the future "Pastis East" on Bowery. [EVG] and [NMNL]

Condo buyers are defaulting on their contracts--and boom! The Condopocalypse has begun. [Sun] via [Curbed]

And now the banks are backing out, scaling back on new outposts in NYC. Bye-bye banks! [Gothamist]

Oops, not so fast. Condo Yves is getting a bank. It's not a shiny, glamorous Chase, though. It's a, umm, Bank of Smithtown? Apparently, Long Island's "Premier Community Bank":

I guess Yves' dream of attracting "flagship retail" didn't pan out. The rest of the first floor space will be taken up by the Core real estate marketing company, who brought NYC a whole bunch of big condos--which may or may not get swept up in the "default phenomenon" linked to above:

Patrick Bateman, the American Psycho, is coming to a Broadway theater near you. Just in time, as Wall Streeters lose their minds. [Gothamist]

"There is certainly a food chain of greed, from the lowliest house-flipper in the Southern California exurbs to the Hamptons hedge fund manager." [Times]

esquared notes, "Apparently, people would rather know more about cupcakes than the financial crisis." [mojo]

Bowery survivor lived in a box, enjoys Whole Foods. [CR]

Saturday night: Take an evening to Save the Bowery at the Bowery Poetry Club. [SLES]

Enjoy "Up on the Roof," a movie about Williamsburg's rooftop pigeon coops.

The NY 40

Time Out has a cover story on the 40 most loved New Yorkers and their thoughts on the city's changes and future. A selected selection:

Amy Sedaris: "The future and fear is that it is turning into everywhere else and street names will eventually be replaced with corporations’ names: Meet me on the corner of Johnson & Johnson, west of Procter & Gamble, take the Costco 1 train, switch at Bell South. I’ll be in front of Mega Wal-Mart next to the Pfizer museum. Bullies always win."

David Cross: "Should I get out of the East Village now? Can you keep the proliferation of the mallification of New York to Times Square, which is already ruined? ...My pressing urgent hope is that the city is able to keep its character and doesn’t sell out to corporate interests... I remember when the Gap opened on St. Marks Street, and I remember when it closed. Throw it all in Times Square! That’s where people go who want that shit anyway."

Nellie McKay: "Unfortunately, the city’s been sold to the rich, and development is out of control. I feel the city is losing a lot of its character and a lot of its diversity. Those are positives that are going away from the city, and so if we can work and stave off people who are in it to make a killing and instead retain a lot of the things we love the most, that’s the way to go."

Patti Lupone: "I so preferred it when my life was in danger walking the streets of Times Square. I would rather have a sex shop than an Applebee’s."

Kelly Reichardt: "the future of New York is that it continues to become this amusement park. We need to get the peep shows and dirty bookstores back on 42nd Street so that people will go visit Disney in Florida and California. We need more mo’-better rent protection, fewer NYU dorms and more off-leash hours."

John Zorn: "Everyone is complaining about the East Village—I love the East Village. I’ve been tromping around it since 1965 and it’s a beautiful place. Sure it’s changed. People sometimes have a very hard time accepting change. Remember what Heracleitus said: You can’t step in the same river twice."

And on the list of loved but hated New Yorkers? Sarah Jessica Parker and Darren Star--"They made it okay for the rest of the world (and their tour bus) to think NYC is all about Cosmos, pricey shoes and rent-controlled apartments"--and The Magnolia Bakery girls--"They made people believe cupcakes were cool [but] that it was acceptable to wait in line for an hour to get one."

Cupcake Trash

As the city creaks and groans in a shift to something like its former life, fighting off the culture of the last decade, listen closely. In all that creaking you can also hear the death rattle of the cupcake as it prepares to jump the shark.

Two years ago, TIME branded them as "fake happiness...the dessert of a civilization in decline." One year ago, the Times called attention to the growing war on cupcakes, and Blog Chelsea celebrated the death of "the hideous and disgusting" Burgers & Cupcakes after previously begging New York to "Send the Chelsea cupcake to Hell!"

More recently, Jennifer 8. Lee proposed the cupcake might be at a tipping point, and Grub Street responded by declaring themselves "cupmudgeons," wondering, "Is there no place for gloom and doom in this happy world of pink frosting and Day-Glo sprinkles?" Performance art troupe Unison Fetish uses song and dance to critique the Magnolia cupcake as a "cultural fetish object" and symbol of mass consumerism.

If Magnolia is the epicenter of the cupcake contagion, then Greenwich Village must be ground zero for cupmudgeonism.

One Village resident told the Villager that the Bleecker Playground is “an absolute hellhole,” thanks to Sex & the City fans throwing their Magnolia trash on the ground. “It is completely a mess and littered with little cupcake holders,” she said, and "Magnolia Bakery is also to blame for doing nothing to keep the park clean."

I went by to check it out and found the park packed with dozens of SATC tourists munching, licking fingers, scattering crumbs for birds, and clamoring around stacks of cupcakes served in plastic tiers on a bench. The garbage cans overflowed with icing-smeared boxes and paper cupcake wrappers. A flurry of napkins and wrappers were tossed on the ground--perfect snacks for the pigeons and rats.

While I managed to spot a rare red velvet, chocolate was by far the most frequent wrapper found.

I didn't see anyone from the bakery in the park, but they do have a little "urban etiquette" sign in their window.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

New East Villager Rachel Weisz doesn't see what all the complaining is about: "Everyone talks about how New York used to be. The East Village is how I imagine New York used to be. What's happening behind that door? There are just very authentic little pockets of life going on." Very little is left, indeed. [Vogue]

Some folks are getting cautiously giddy about a return to 1970s NYC. [Voice] via [EVG]

First we got cloned newsstands, then matching robot bus stops--now it's happening to subway entrances. That condo-Cemusa look is everywhere in our Stepford city. This one seems to be courtesy of the very-glassy Bank of America building:

Witness the death of a newsstand. [Curbed]

Read an interview with Paul Auster: "I have this secret desire that one day New York City would secede from the United States and become an independent republic." [Gothamist]

When the kids run up a huge credit card bill, spending on parties, clothes, etc., with no thought of the consequences, should Mom and Dad bail them out and pay off their debt? Or should they let that be a lesson? Seems the government is a typical parent of the 2000s, ready to let Junior get away with murder. Tell Congress to STOP THE BAILOUT. Should we pay for Wall Street's greed, the same greed that has been destroying our city?

Tom Wolfe: "The new Wall Street is Greenwich, Conn. You don’t need these big glass silos full of people." [NYO]

Speaking of which, it's about time for a new Bonfire: "This is a city now built on excitement," Wolfe said to the Times last year, "a Disneyland...with no industry other than the excitement of just being here."

"Fuk Wall St." says Gowanus building. [Curbed]

“Today we face what economists call the gravest economic danger since the Great Depression," Mr. Reid said on the Senate floor. “We’ve come to this point after eight years of President Bush waging a war on fiscal responsibility. His Republican philosophy of removing all accountability from big business — and expecting no responsibility from them in return — has created this crisis that now threatens to devastate America’s working families.” [Times]

New York Pentimento

I wrote this post a couple months ago and kept it in the backlog. Now it seems more apt than ever.

Back in June, the New York Post, with unusual eloquence, wrote, "Does it feel some days as if New York--wealthy, successful, seemingly at the top of the world--is slipping back into the bad old days of crime, noise, dirt, rudeness? Like pentimento rising from an old canvas..."

I love the word pentimento. In her memoir of the same name, Lillian Hellman defined it beautifully: "Old paint on a canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman's dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter 'repented,' changed his mind."

Is the city changing its mind about the sterile suburbanite it has become? Perhaps it is repenting, a word that also means to regret.

Graffiti and panhandling are both on the rise. Subway rats are running amok. Fines for turnstile jumping have increased. Flashers are flashing. Transgender prostitutes are coming back to the Village. The crusties have returned to the Lower East Side. Even the squeegee men have come home to roost (and squeegee women, too).

Something is happening.

Entropy persists. Nature reigns in all her chaos.

where gum once was, gum-ghosts remain

An upscale cafe moves onto 9th Avenue and sends a worker out front with a metal brush and a can of Ajax to whisk eons of dirt from the cracks. A boutique hotel employs a man to steam-scrub each black disk of gum from its piece of pavement.

Scrubbing against the chaos, keep on scrubbing. The gum comes back. The grit returns. Whatever you do, weeds and wildflowers will invade your manicured garden. Just as, from the sands of a nuclear desert, irrepressible seedlings emerge.

At this very moment, they are breaking ground.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Bye-bye Batemans: "Wall Street hotshots were never beloved figures on New York’s cultural landscape. It’s no coincidence that the protagonists of books and movies like 'The Bonfire of the Vanities' and 'American Psycho' tended to be narcissistic jerks, or worse." Says one hotshot post-crash: "This is definitely going to suck the fun out of the industry." [Times]

Wall Streeters turn to God as money fails them. Says one Reverend, "People are just sitting there, praying or crying and definitely exhausted." [Reuters]

(Upscale) strippers going broke since market crashed--maybe there's hope for old dive joints, like defunct Billy's Topless and the Baby Doll, to make a comeback. [EVG]

The bright side: "maybe Manhattan will become affordable again, and cool, and dangerous. Dangerous in theory, but not to you or your family and friends. Dirty, but in a good way." [NYer] via [EVG]

From tipster Reed, the once Bohemian and iconic Cafe Figaro is now officially one among America's 9 million Qdoba Mexican Grills:

The branding of New York City "has had negative effects on the diversity and the affordability of the city; the dynamic mix of the economic base of the city; and the resilience of the city in response to crisis, because it’s so dependent now on finance, real estate and tourism." [Times]

Bye-bye Bratz: "The Bratz dolls, a frequent target of those who bemoan the hyper-sexualization of young girls, have taken another hit." [Times]

"The Bowery is nightlife... where New Yorkers can sip expensive drinks and still step over the homeless who are sleeping outside the Mission. It's faux authenticity that the youth crave. The Bowery. Shudder." [DBTH]

In the tanking economy, Brooklyn's mom and pops survive by slashing prices and "treating their customers like family." [NYDN]

Borough Park's Dairy Luncheonette gives you a "that old, homey feeling." [NYDN]

Monday, September 22, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Angry drunk guys from Jersey ran their car over the Tompkins Square farmer's market--maybe it was the same jerks who got kicked out of Momofuku. Nah, plenty of jerks to go around... [NMNL]

SLA renews Beatrice Inn's liquor license against community protest and CB denial: "'Advise us on how to get rid of this place,' pleaded one aghast neighbor." [NYO]

"Over the last two years, news accounts across the country have chronicled the death or serious injury of people who walk into traffic while texting." Fewer texters to annoy the rest of us. [Times]

Gas station owner to Columbia U: “This business is like part of my family. Money is not everything. You don’t sell your children.” [Times]

Enjoying the new anti-condo sticker-itti on the LES. [EVG]

Looking for a "Kill Your Landlord" T-shirt? You found it! [Blah]

Next at bat: Goodbye Shea Stadium. [BBs]

Yankee Stadium

The Yankees have left the stadium.

Fans today are grieving for the sacred soil as they look forward to the handsome new ballpark, which physically resembles the 1923 original, gut-renovated in the 1970s, though spiritually it will resemble something more like a luxury spa for the very wealthy.

Says one angry sports writer:

"The Yankees are blowtorching all this glorious history--not to mention the unmatchable history generated by Yankee Stadium I--for luxury boxes and premium seats. Those 8 million people passing through the Yankee Stadium turnstiles the past two years? The wrong kind of people.

Modern sports economics have no interest--absolutely none--in the common man. You do not matter. The Yankees are only interested in the kind of people who will populate the luxury suites and who will pay somewhere between $500 and $2,500 per person, per game, to sit in the first five to eight rows of the new ballpark. These are the kind of people who, as a Yankee Stadium website explains, will get 'an exclusive experience for those with discerning taste who seek the very best that life has to offer.'

In the new ballpark, people in the 1800 Legends Field Suite seats 'will delight in the premium amenities, including cushioned seats with teak arms, in-seat wait service, concierge services, private restrooms and a delectable selection of all-inclusive food and beverages.' For these people there will be, of course, a 'private entrance, elevator and concourse.'"

But that's from the Boston Globe.

new stadium images

For some reason, most New Yorkers just don't seem angry about what's happening in the Bronx. I went up for a visit to say goodbye this weekend. Fans were ebullient, drinking at Stan's, with no air of sadness or impending doom. I don't know--maybe people want seats with teak arms.

The old seats were nothing fancy. Not the ones from the original stadium and not the ones from the renovated stadium. When the original was gutted in 1974, the chairs were sold cheap--only $7.50 (plus 5 empty packs of Winstons) at Korvettes discount stores:

The new old ones are expected to go for $1,000 apiece at auction:

New York Magazine predicts the big yard sale will net $50 million. Think they'll pay back the taxpayers who are floating the demolition and construction?
  • For great pics of the old, old stadium, click here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

The Marc Jacobs effect may be spreading ever more--to the East Village! And that potent pink cupcake just keeps on crumbling. [Racked]

The clean-up and securing of Jackson Square Park might be in full effect, but as 1 Jackson Square begins to rise from its foundations, they're also getting a bit of old New York--their very own squeegee woman, helpfully cleaning the windows of passing cars:

Read an "excerpt" from The Carrie Diaries, the new young adult novel about Sex & the City's Carrie Bradshaw. [Jezebel]

I wrote about the Avalonization of Extra Place here, and we've seen the developer's plans here, but today we learn that Avalon plans to buy this public street from the city and make it their own private enclave. What's next? [SLES]

The "avant-garde, rebellious spirit" of the East Village is now summed up in one of its first luxury condos, Red Square. Which shows us: When all authenticity has been erased, those that pretended to be authentic will be remembered and celebrated as nostalgic containers of the real. [EVG] ... This was the Red Square developers' plan all along.

Revisit one of my favorite vanished spots: The Times Square HoJo's. [GVDP]

At 7:00 tonight, at Bluestockings Books & Cafe, 172 Allen St., Chelsea Hotel blogger Ed Hamilton reads from his book Legends of the Chelsea Hotel.

When the Ukrainians asked Cooper Union not to block the view of their church, is this what they had in mind? I guess this design element was meant to appease the community, but a mirror to the church was not the original promise of transparency:

Happily, the monster "hive" also blocks views of the Cooper Square Hotel:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Blogger deleted this original post...sorry for the 404...

On 14th and 6th, the Asian-chain takeover continues as New York's first Cookout Grill has opened, complete with a Korean caveman mascot made of (slightly obscene) balloons. Wakamaru, eat your heart out:

The end of Chinatown is at hand--as the Times declares it on gentrification's cusp and the owner of Girls Love Shoes says “It’s crazy how things are blossoming here. It’s definitely becoming a little mecca.” [EVG]

Bowery, get ready for the coming of "Pastis East." [BBoogie]

Why I now feel ashamed to admit I live in the EV. The new stereotype: It's the home of "Snotty...Rich people who come from a rich family." [TONY]

Jefferson Market needs your help:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Addendum to Sinking Ships, Limp Dicks: Fran Lebowitz on the crashing economy: "I can’t wait! Just when you think how horrible New York has become in terms of things interfering with the tone of the city, they’re finally leaving! The rich people! They’re leaving! They’re leaving!" [NYO]

Join Danny Meyer and the Union Square bigwigs tomorrow, 9/18, for a celebration to save the park from privatization. [SUS]

Super-trendy EV bar Death & Co. is fighting eviction. [Grub]

Compare the beauty of old buildings built for the poor to the sterility of new buildings for the affluent. [BBB]
Always wanted to buy a magazine storage box for $150,000? Now you can. [Times]

Eldridge Books

With all the hype and anti-hype surrounding The Eldridge--that LES club with the gold floors and gold-sprinkled cocktails for $32--what I have found most intriguing and vexing is the faux-bookshop facade.

Book lovers have already been fooled. Grub Street wrote that The Eldridge has turned away at least one "book collector who spotted a certain tome in the window that he had spent 25 years looking for." And for only 27 cents!

Which book was it? Was it C.P. Snow's The Conscience of the Rich, The Letters of Sigmund Freud, the Weight Watchers cookbook? These are some of the titles you'll find in the window of The Eldridge.

Generally, when I visit someone's home for the first time, I look at their books to tell me something about them. In bookshop windows, the displayed titles tell you about the shop, the values and tastes of its owners and clientele. Collections of books are (usually) meaningful. So I wondered what meaning might be contained in the assortment that decorates The Eldridge's exterior.

Perhaps a bit more invested in this than I should be, I plugged a bunch of the titles into Library Thing, the online book catalog that connects people with like-minded readers. I found few readers who shared many of The Eldridge's books--most shared only one or two titles in common. Four was the max, held by one "shushpence" who has 2,515 books in their library, including many collections starring Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

And coming in with 3 matches? Ernest Hemingway. Turns out that Papa and The Eldridge both have the following titles in their collections (you'll notice the Weight Watchers cookbook is not on Hem's list):

So you might think, if The Eldridge were a person, it would be macho, literary, and into hunting big game. But it has more books not in common with Hemingway's 7,411.

If I had to guess, based on its book collection, I'd say the Eldridge personality is someone approximately in their late 50s who is concerned about their weight but loves food. Socially insecure, Eldridge works to be the life of the party by arming itself with witty insults, funny stories, and clever quotations for use during anxiety-producing cocktail parties. While Eldridge has an intellectual streak, it secretly prefers to read women's melodramas.

Or it's just a totally random assortment and there is no personality behind those books.

Books in New York today are often props used to sell products. Or they're bland decorations, for example, when wrapped in uniform colored paper to match the decor. Unless they're eradicated completely, banished from stark condo homes. When asked why no bookshelves, some condo-dwellers reply, "We don’t need to have books out. We know that we know how to read.

And of course, used and independent bookstores are vanishing from the city. So it's no wonder many people have been insulted by The Eldridge's choice to disguise itself as one, especially in a neighborhood once filled with books and people who endeavored to read them.

One anonymous commenter to an Eldridge review on the blog Mona's Apple put it bluntly when s/he wrote: "everytime i walk by this shithole i wish there were a real used book store there instead of another wannabe hangout for attention-starved zombies. the irony of the club's facade is the ultimate kick in the balls to the normal people residing in the LES."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Mike Albo spies "pencils that have been chewed by the celebrated TriBeCan writer Max Blagg on sale for $25 each" at the new J. Crew store (in a former bar that was a liquor store). [Times]

...and take a look back when J. Crew Liquor store was an actual liquor store:

Unearthed! The pool where Esther Williams once swam for Fox Movietone, long buried beneath Sony BMG's soundstage on 54th, now demolished for another condo tower. [Avatar]

Back to Doyers, where the battle for Chinatown rages on: Says Apotheke partner, “I’d like to maintain authenticity while I’m at the same time gentrifying.” Another says only the neighborhood natives have a right to complain. Exactly why we all must speak up. [TO] via [Eater]

More on the David's Bagels closure backlash. [Gothamist]

The EV fights back against bars--The Box and more denied liquor licenses. [Eater] & [SLES]

At Philippe Starck's appropriately nicknamed "yoo" condo tower, a fiddler fiddles while Wall Street burns. [EVG]

On the new Yankee Stadium: "the lettering 'Yankee Stadium' behind home plate is gold leaf. Its glass windows, which workers inside were cleaning with squeegees, are shiny and reflective like an office tower’s." [Times]

Business is tough in the Kingdom of Teacups. [Times]

On the new pixelated Rubik's Cube known as 56 Leonard: "it is another step in the transformation of Tribeca into Triburbia, where nannies push strollers by day and black towncars idle at night. Manhattan as stage set for wealthy foreigners and tourists."[TM] via [Curbed]

Monday, September 15, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

The David Barton sales office is open at Astor Place. Maybe if that Barnes & Noble's catchphrase had been "Read Fucker!" they could've made it:

Remembering David Foster Wallace: "He talked about how difficult it was to be a novelist in a world seething with advertisements and entertainment and knee-jerk knowingness and facile irony..." [Salon]

...he "used his prodigious gifts as a writer...to create a series of strobe-lit portraits of a millennial America overdosing on the drugs of entertainment and self-gratification." [Times]

Novelist and playwright Arthur Nersesian on the new East Village: “Oh, God, we’re living in a hell that I can’t even begin to describe!” [Times]

Scary 57-story monster condo coming to Tribeca looks like a precarious Jenga tower just waiting for a strong wind to topple it. [EVG]

...and fully loaded with amenities, the monster condo will even squeeze out a giant mirrored poo (that some poor slob will have to polish daily):

Anyone remember that scene in Gattaca where Uma takes Ethan's hair to a DNA tester to see if he's a good catch? Well, 11 years later and we're already there. Choice quote (there are many): “I have a very low chance of becoming obese,” Ms. Trump said. “That makes me exceedingly happy.” [Times]

Celebs see High Line as a metaphor for Calvin Klein: "an old, functional thing that’s now going a bit wild." [Villager]

A StuyTown resident writes an open letter, boycotting the 14th St. Hot N Crusty that "killed David's Bagels." [ST&F]

Back in February, a VNY reader wrote in about their concerns for 89-year-old Jefferson Market. Now the owner is asking for "support during a rough patch." So go buy some quiche, already! [NYM]

Some little somebody in the shadow of the big old Toll Brothers tower is jealous--and undergoing Extreme Makeover-style surgery to compensate:

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gated New York

This Observer article deserves its own post, belonging as it does in the Suburbanization of New York annals.

In it, you will read about the world of New York's suburbanized gated communities. It's an odd world, custom-made for The Joneses, personalities recently attracted to the city, harboring fantasies of total cleanliness, safety, convenience, and spaciousness.

It's a world peopled by 20-something interns who can somehow afford to split rents of $3000+ a month, who come to New York from the Midwest, eschewing things like walkups because living in a gated, fully loaded environment "is just so much better in so many ways. It's like living in a hotel. Everything's always convenient, always safe, always clean. You don't have to worry about gross things. Like mice! And creepy things like that."

If "Consume!" is New York's post-9/11 war cry, then "always convenient, always safe, always clean" could be the city's post-post-9/11 mantra.

photo: sunset flame's flickr

Says another 20-something resident of luxury housing, "It sometimes feels like I'm not in New York when I'm in the building... It's trying to have things that a suburban housing complex would--everything at your fingertips, where you don't have to leave [the building] much if you don't want. But it's not big enough. It's not big enough to do that. It needs a swimming pool."

This reminds me of another Observer article from last September, on New York's growing car culture, in which another young arrival chose to have a car in the city because it made her feel "not like such a city person."

photo: sunset flame's flickr

I've asked this before, and since I do tend to repeat myself, I might as well say it again: Why come to New York City if you are disgusted and frightened by city culture and don't want to live an urban life?

I like cleanliness, safety, and convenience, too. And I can understand wanting more of those qualities at 40--but at 20? How much is enough? And at what cost?

*Everyday Chatter

In making my Bowery Tsunami map last night, I noticed some changes to the Cooper Union "Hive" building. It's become more undulating, more bulbous, more wacky. Here's the architect's rendering from March and then today:

Everything you might want to know about the Donut Riot. [Villager]

Don't miss Pickle Day--hurry, before every last well-preserved treat is removed from Orchard Street. [EVG]

Vesuvio Bakery closed for renovations--it is missed and rumors say it may never reopen. [Eater]

Enjoy the "21" Club of old with Burt Lancaster. [HG]

This weekend: Watch ladies in pink dance worshipful, "Unison Fetish" circles with Magnolia cupcakes on Bleecker. [cupcakes] via [esquared]

I'm pretty sure they're on our side:

Luxury buildings secure NYC's Joneses in suburban-style gated communities. [Observer]

The final days of 12th Street Books are upon us. Before they move to Brooklyn, fill up a bag for just 5 bucks:

Bowery Tsunami

Curbed's announcement that 257 Bowery will be turned into a big glass box means that the building that long held M. Kabram & Sons will be vanishing. It is only the latest victim in the unnatural disaster that is sweeping down Bowery today.

Begun by three Kabram brothers in 1908 and moved to this location in 1920, the restaurant supply store began renting its wares to television and movies in the 1950s. A diner counter appeared in The Honeymooners. A pizza oven starred in Goodfellas.

The Kabrams sold the building (it was sold again in May for $8.5 million) and auctioned off their inventory earlier this year. Clyde Haberman covered the auction for the Times, reporting: "Just about every inch of space was crammed with wooden bars, booths, cappuccino makers, ancient cash registers, grills, soda dispensers, cigarette machines, menu boards with removable letters, butcher-paper cutters, mounds of cups and dishes, malted-milk blenders and a few tabletop juke boxes flipped to Connie Francis and Nat King Cole tunes."

For these and other relics from a vanishing New York, former city of goodfellas and honeymooners, the Bowery is becoming a gallery destination simultaneously turning into a luxury playground, like SoHo and west Chelsea before it--though usually galleries get about a decade headstart. Not anymore. Collective Hardware has come, Bowery Boogie reports the arrival of Small A Projects, and Downtown Express has the story about "major Chelsea art gallery" The White Box, "decamped for the Lower East Side."

The White Box's director "forecasted that about 150 to 200 galleries will eventually move to the L.E.S., but that they will ultimately be displaced by upscale residential and retail development. 'This neighborhood will change irrevocably,' he stated. 'It’s a natural pattern we have in New York, constantly.'"

Again we hear the common fantasy that the profound and excessive change we've seen in the city over the past decade is the same as the "natural" and constant flow of change that has made New York the living organism it's always been. It's like saying, "Since the climate has always changed naturally, there's no such thing as global warming." It may calm one's fears, but it just isn't true. Meanwhile, the water is rising.

Today's change is undeniably faster, bigger, and more monocultural than what we've had in the past. Over more than the past century, the Bowery has changed--its tenements held industrial supply stores, then opera houses, then vaudeville houses, then flophouses, then artist's crappy lofts and kitchen supply stores. How this rate and scale of change can be deemed synonymous and harmonious with the current tsunami, in which those tenements are bulldozed in bunches to erect glass towers for the uber-rich, I cannot fathom.

This tsunami is not to be outrun. No neighborhood is safe. When it's done, there will be nothing left but the tidy, shiny mess it leaves behind. And there will be no going back.

Take a walk down Bowery and see how complete the transformation is becoming. Bring along my half-assed map that includes only a handful of the changes that have come, and keep coming, since just 2005. Let me say that another way. Four years ago, none of this existed. That's fast, that's big, and that's not business-as-usual in the ever-changing city:

From north to south: