Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Coney Island Rally


In what is probably the biggest and most devastating vanishing of 2008, with our backs turned, in the dark of winter, Coney Island has been destroyed and snatched, from one end of the boardwalk to the other. When spring comes, nothing will remain.

Rally New Year's Day at noon. Click here for more information.

"A few days before Christmas, Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s agents began evicting longtime tenants by cutting off locks, asking for triple the rent, or refusing to discuss 2009 leases. On Christmas Eve, huge custom-sized "Space For Lease" banners were put up on Ruby's Bar & Grill, Nathan’s Boardwalk store, Cha Cha’s, and others businesses on Thor owned property in Coney Island."

NOTE: Ruby's will be open and hosting polar there's another reason to go out into the cold.

See photos of the devastation here

2008 Vanishings

The year in review. It's a staple. To keep it simple, if hardly exhaustive, here's my list culled only from the 2008 Vanishing New York archives. For other end-of-year lists and round-ups, see Lost City, EV Grieve, Bowery Boys...

Last year I added ages to the vanished places. This year the list is too long to bother tracking all that down. Also for 2007, I broke it up into two posts, one for the vanished and another for the probably-will-vanish. This time I've combined it all into one.

Second Childhood
The Minetta Tavern (as it was)
Bobby's Happy House (and more of 125th)
Mili Quality Cleaners
A. Fontana Shoe Repair

Chez Brigitte
Taxi Ray Kottner
Nick's Hairstylists
Cafe Figaro
Nusraty Afghan Imports
Kim's Mediapolis
Tribal Soundz
The Pioneer Theater
The Tower of Toys

Chelsea Liquors
Five Rose's Pizza
Angelica's Herbs
David's Bagels
Nikos newsstand
8th Street Salvation Army
Yankee Stadium
Shea Stadium

Along with more vanishings of:
Parking Meters
The Bowery
Elizabeth Street

Not coming back?
The Holland Bar (suspiciously gutted)
Vesuvio Bakery (rumored to be sold)
M&G Diner ("on vacation" since the summer)

Antiques Garage: lease extended
Sweetheart Coffee: successfully reopened
Kim's: opened a new store on 1st Ave
Cheyenne Diner: still planning a move to Red Hook
International Bar: reopened under new management
12th Street (now Atlantic) Books: moved to Brooklyn
Yes, This Is Charlie's: moved to Ave C
St. Brigid's Church: preserved by anonymous donor
Sophie's and Mona's: saved by a family member
Sunshine Hotel: lease extended
Streit's Matzo Factory: off the market

Love Saves the Day: closing in January
The Henington Press: closing in January
P&G Bar (as it is): moving in February
Chez le Chef: closing in March
Chelsea Mobil: sold
Pen & Brush Club: for sale
Kim's Video Collection: going to Sicily
David's Shoe Repair: in trouble

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kim's to Sicily

Like the Moondance Diner before it, another New York icon has been forsaken by New York and found love in another country. Kim's collection of videos is going to Sicily.

December 31 is the final rental day and after that, off those thousands of movies go to a town called Salemi, an ancient village undergoing renovation after a tragic earthquake, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Vittorio Sgarbi, called "one of the oddest and most colourful figures in contemporary Italy" during his "celebrity coup." It's because of this tragedy and the resulting "Progetto Terremoto," in English "Project Earthquake," that Salemi has been able to take on the collection of films.

According to the extensive informational poster on display in Mondo Kim's on St. Marks, "The town of Salemi is planning to launch the Neverending Festival, a non-stop public projection of Kim's Video Collection DVDs in their new home."


In addition, "For paid-up Kim's members, access to the collection will always be free of charge. Furthermore, Salemi will provide accommodations to both Kim's members and students who want to have access to the collection at minimum charge."

Hear that? Let's go to Sicily and watch Teenage Devil Dolls and Delinquent Daughters!

But we better go soon, because it sounds like this little town is undergoing the dreaded "Soho Effect." According to Wikipedia, it's going to look very familiar, very soon: "the mayor is hoping to turn Salemi into a popular vacation destination for the wealthy, the affluent, celebrities, and others who have the extra capital to expend on a real estate project."

More on Kim's:

Monday, December 29, 2008

P&G Lingers

Believing the Upper West Side's P&G bar would close on December 31, I visited this weekend to say goodbye. But the bartender informed me they'll probably linger on until sometime in February--the new place isn't ready just yet. He also reported that their sign, that beloved antique neon that everyone hopes will survive, probably won't be going with them. It's too old, too brittle to make the journey.

On Saturday the New York Times also visited the P&G, wondering if its patrons will follow the classic dive to its new, larger, and more deluxe location. Glenn Collins writes:

"The future P&G, with its 2,700-square-foot public space, is three times as large as the old 860-square-foot bar, has four rooms and will offer a fireplace for the poolroom-and-dartboard set. A rusticated structural wall will be an ornament, instead of the kitschy Austrian castle and forest fantasy mural signed in 1943 by a rye-drinking artist who executed the scene to pay his bar tab. Some regular customers worry about being dispossessed. “'I’ll feel out the new place,' said Patrick Duffy, a stagehand who has been a regular for more than a decade. 'But we don’t know if the new place is for us--we’re old school.'

As the Observer noted last month, the new place will be a full restaurant, where bags of Doritos will be replaced by storied steaks and chops, along with gourmet burgers. Said owner Chahalis, “I make these awesome teriyaki garlic-saffron-rubbed burgers.”

There was nothing rubbed with saffron when I visited. Decked out for the holidays, the bar was hung with Christmas stockings, names of regulars written on them in glue and glitter. As I sipped my final drink, gray-haired men (mostly) stood outside smoking. Younger men, in jeans and work boots, came inside shouting about baseball and football, their faces unshaven. A woman in a black beret sat on the corner stool, not saying much, just drinking.

These old-schoolers just don't seem like saffron-rubbed people. And without them, without that gorgeous neon sign, without the cracked and peeling 1943 mural of the Austrian forest, let's face it: The P&G is going to vanish.

Friday, December 26, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

A little mid-holiday round-up of the past week's news:

Hey, great news! Streit's matzo factory is going off the market--after bidding the city goodbye about a year ago, they're saved by the economic crisis. Visit the factory virtually, then go grab some hot matzo and have a Happy Hanukkah. [Forward] via [BBoogie]

see all my photos of streit's here

I've been in denial about what's happening to Coney Island. It's really, really bad out there. Looks like Thor has put everything up for lease. VNY reader Jack Szwergold sent in pics of his trip out there yesterday. Check out his devastating flickr set: Christmas Day at Coney Island.

Robin Raj to stay alive--in another form--and the frat bar isn't coming! [EVG]

"8 Yunnies puking" make their way into a very special new holiday song. [STLL]

Chris Shott talks with the Jane Hotel protesters at the Waverly--meet them here at the Bowery Hotel. [NYO]

Forgotten NY took a last look at the recently lost South Ferry station. [FNY]

Good news from Jefferson Market, which may be inexplicably rising from the dead. [FP]

Love Saves the Day is leaving, as reported here and here, and we can't get enough. Here's another look at the vanishing shop from Lily Koppel. [NYT]

Eartha Kitt, who I always wanted to see at the Carlyle and never did, has died. [Gothamist]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Joe Jr.'s

Decked out for Christmas (with a menorah stuck in there for diversity's sake), Joe Jr.'s on 6th and 12th is like one of those panoramic sugar eggs, you know, the ones you look into and see all the glittering excitement going on inside.

One of two Joe Jr.'s in town (the other's on 3rd Ave), who knew the Village diner attracted celebrities and their ilk? It nearly vanished in 1994, when the Times interviewed Isaac Mizrahi on the subject, who said:

"It's like everybody's dream diner, the perfect New York diner. Sort of tatty around the edges, very tatty around the edges. Excellent tuna-fish sandwiches on rye toast. Excellent scrambled eggs. Amazing immediate delivery. And it's such a fixture in the neighborhood. They make really good hamburgers. It's the kind of place that you would never think of going to, and suddenly it becomes your favorite place because it's so comfortable. They're very friendly."

Going on fifteen years later, Joe Jr's is still there, still "tatty around the edges," and still a friendly fixture in a vanishing village.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Capturing Manhattanville

A couple of weeks ago I found the photography of Daniella Zalcman on Flickr and was struck by the simple beauty and urgency of her project: A photographic preservation of the Manhattanville section of Harlem in its final days before it is crushed by Columbia University's eminent domain--just approved by the state of New York.

Daniella, a student at Columbia, is also a freelance photographer for the New York Daily News. She maintains dan.iella, a blog called theonetrain, and just last week she launched the impressive site, where you can find her photos of this vanishing neighborhood, along with interviews and historic information. I wrote to Daniella and asked her a few questions.

Riverside Viaduct, by Daniella Zalcman

Q: What made you decide to photograph Manhattanville?

A: I started photographing Manhattanville three years ago when I arrived at Columbia and heard about the impending expansion plans. Columbia is planning to build another campus in West Harlem from 125th to 133rd Streets, between Broadway and 12th Avenue in the area informally known as Manhattanville. At the start of this semester (my final one in college), I decided to turn those photos into my senior architecture thesis. While I have expressly avoided injecting my own opinions and sentiments into the final product vis a vis Columbia's plans and the conflicts that they have generated, I do firmly believe that this area is worth documenting.

Q: What is it you are trying to preserve about this neighborhood?

A: Manhattanville has had a bizarre place in New York City industrial history. In the 1850s, the area was a wooded valley nestled between Morningside Heights and Hamilton Heights. But by the turn of the 20th century, it became this veritable transit hub for Manhattan. It was home to the first elevated subway platform in the world, the Riverside Drive viaduct, and the Harlem River Piers, which at the time was one of the most trafficked shipping points in New York. During the 50's and 60's, however, the rest of New York City caught up and Manhattanville faded into obscurity. The area has mostly stagnated since then, but it's caught on the cusp of its final reincarnation before Columbia permanently installs a series of shiny Renzo Piano buildings, and I think it's important to capture that moment.

Sprayregen's Tuck It Away, by Daniella Zalcman

Q: Many people (and Columbia U.) might say there is nothing there of value. They say it's blighted. What did you find there?

One thing Nick Sprayregen said to me was particularly interesting--he's been in the neighborhood since 1980, and according to him the conditions that characterize blighted property really only emerged once Columbia had acquired a significant percentage of the existing real estate and evacuated the businesses and residents. I only came to New York in 2005, so I'm in no real position to know what the area was like before then, but since I've arrived the neighborhood has become increasingly deserted and grim.

Amrik Singh, by Daniella Zalcman

Q: Sprayregen and Singh are the last holdout businesspeople there. Many people might say, "who cares about a gas station and a storage facility?" Do you see any reason why we should care?

A: I do. It's not necessarily that we should care about the gas stations and storage facilities, per se -- though those types of businesses have really come to define this particular area of West Harlem -- but more that I believe it's worth caring about the families who have owned these places for the past 30 years. That might be a little overly sentimental, but I can understand both Nick Sprayregen and Amrik Singh's complete distaste for Columbia's use of eminent domain. At the same time (and as a Columbia student), I sympathize with the university's need to expand. And yes, Sprayregen and Singh are essentially the final two barriers to the development of this site -- though now that both properties have been declared blighted and the state has approved Columbia's use of eminent domain, it seems like a matter of time before they'll be forced out.

Further Reading:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jane Protest on Bowery

Last night, a handful of residents from the Jane Hotel, formerly the Riverview, stood outside the Bowery Hotel to fight against harassment and eviction. In their small but sturdy ranks, while Bowery swells sneered and scoffed at them, as cops threatened to arrest them, they quietly held up signs and passed out fliers that said: "Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson, You may own a fancy hotel, but... You are still slumlords!!! Shame on you!"

They will be protesting again tonight at 7:00 outside the Waverly Inn (see report) and they welcome you to join them.

Goode and MacPherson are the entrepreneurs behind the Waverly Inn, Maritime Hotel, and Bowery Hotel. They bought the 211-room Jane Hotel in January 2008 and immediately began eviction proceedings. First went the transients, the protesters told me, including elderly, physically and mentally disabled, poor, and otherwise less-than-fortunate New Yorkers who made their home at the SRO.

"I asked the hotel staff what was going on," one protester said. "I mean, these guys I knew for 10 years, and they said, 'We can't say anything about it or we'll be fired.' But we knew what was happening. People were being preyed upon."

The permanent tenants, some paying as much as $1,000 a month for a room without a bathroom or kitchen, began to go next. But some have stayed to fight. Today, there are 38 people in the tenants' association, but many are afraid to stand up for themselves. Only 5 showed for the protest last night--mostly artists and musicians. They said, "We know we'll be harassed for this."

One woman showed me a book of photos of hallways under construction with crumbling walls, exposed wires, rats, open jugs of toxic chemicals. "This is how we've been living for the past year. With them banging on our heads all day and night. And do you know what they do? These snooty people tell us, 'Shhh...we have guests.' They tell us to shush!"

Much like the hotels Chelsea and Breslin, the Riverview attracted a clientele of artists and eccentrics, the people who once thrived in New York City. The hotel was originally built in 1908 as The Seaman's Institute for the purpose of housing seamen and later, briefly, gave refuge to the survivors of The Titanic. It is a landmarked building.

In the Observer, the proprietor of Socialista, the hotel's trendy basement club, looked forward to the current renovation, saying, “That hotel has so much potential... They’re going to bring a great crowd to the neighborhood."

The tenants from last night's protest see it much differently. Said one, "It used to be a good place to live. Nothing fancy. Just friendly. Now it's full of assholes. They come in and out of Socialista, screaming 'fucking faggot' at people and peeing on our door."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Cemusa, that European machine that turns out clones of "street furniture," just can't figure out how to spell anything in New York City. [BB]

A bit about the history of the R&L Restaurant--which came before and after Florent. [Eater]

Pub crawlers take over EV, go to Zum Schneider and "talk like a nazi." [EVG]

Closed by the DOH: Song 7.2, with all the creepy pictures outside (a tongue made of strawberries my favorite worst). [CR]

Loving the Orange Hut in Woodside, Queens. [LC]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Is the city now using "trench warfare" to renovate the East Village, one collapsing building at a time? I didn't see that in the rezone plan. [EVG]

If you're one of the few of us who still don't have cable or digital, if you're still enjoying your clunky old analog, your TV might go blank today. Am I the only one who resents this edict? [yahoo]

What happens to those parking meters once they're taken away? I asked a DOT guy this morning and he said: "They go to Queens." Queens is getting Manhattan's hand-me-down meters. But probably not any from the East Village. Ours are incorrigible, irredeemable, too resistant to renovation. "These ones with all the stickers and graffiti," the guy told me, go in the trash. It's just not worth it to scrape and repaint them.

"...wouldn't it be great to see a bunch of angry West Village cranks getting in the way of paparazzi at the Waverly Inn?" Yes! [NYM]

"Walking Sisters" given their walking papers, as a convent is shuttered in Brooklyn after 146 years of helping the helpless. Women like these once kept urban communities functioning. (With apologies, I think of Mary Tyler Moore's hardy, social worker nun opposite Elvis in "Change of Habit.") [NYT]

South Ferry Station

"It’s not the cry of the dodo bird, but it’s about to vanish forever," wrote the New York Times last week, "and it goes something like this: 'Passengers, you must be in the first five cars in order to exit at South Ferry.'

"It is the cry of the No. 1 subway train conductor. Hundreds of times a day for decades--sometimes garbled, sometimes virtually inaudible, sometimes ringingly clear--it has serenaded downtown-bound straphangers as they approached the line’s terminus at the tip of Manhattan: the anachronistic, 103-year-old South Ferry station, where the truncated and sharply curved platform has room for only half the cars on the train. But one day next month, the last cry will die upon a conductor’s lips as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority opens a new South Ferry station directly beneath the old one."

a sign that will soon vanish

I rode the #1 to South Ferry this weekend to hear the conductor's cry for the last time. Sadly, I got the garbled, inaudible version, but I did get to run from car to car at Rector Street, the conductor pointing out the open window with a gloved hand, saying, "This car, this car."

I took some shots of the soon-to-be sealed platform. Its replacement, according to the Times, "will be spiffy and a bit sterile," like "a new hospital wing." As goes the rest of the city, hushed under a stark, iPod-white blanket of cleanliness. 2nd Ave Sagas has a full slideshow, revealing decorative glass and stainless steel--because everything in the city now has to look like a condo, like a Cemusa, etc.

The old South Ferry platform is grimy, curved, and foreshortened, wreathed in safety chains beneath a low ceiling on which ancient rosettes and figure-eights still blossom in their peeling paint. On the walls, dating back to 1905, terra-cotta plaques show a man working the tiller of a sailing vessel, navigating between blue sea and blue sky, a cornucopic festoon above his rigging.

What will happen to the old platform's details? Will they be entombed like the beauties of buried City Hall? Or dislodged and framed as artifacts in a museum?

A century from now, will anyone bother to save, or even worry about saving, the plain black-on-white lettering of the new South Ferry?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meter Massacre

As Grieve reported earlier today, and as I covered here, the parking meters of the city are vanishing and today was D-Day for many in the East Village. Passing by, I caught the DOT in action.

Their process is swift and powerful. As if removing a rotted tooth, they drill and drill, working in a circle around the base. A second guy loosens the meter, pushing it back and forth. Liquid is poured into the hole, maybe water, to soften the concrete and the mud beneath. The meter is wiggled again.

You see it yield, giving up its hold on the city's street.

Then the second guy, bending at the knees and hugging the meter like a fainted lover or a choking victim in need of the Heimlich, lifts it from the sidewalk.

He carries it away and tosses it in the truck, on the growing pile of other bodies.

*Everyday Chatter

Dubai's Palazzo Versace to offer refrigerated beaches! Says the developer, "We will suck the heat out of the sand to keep it cool enough to lie on...This is the kind of luxury that top people want." And then we will provide the softest sands made from the pulverized bones of harvested human babies! Mwah-ha-haaaaa! [Treehugger]

Is Blue & Cream really desperate? The Hamptons shop on Bowery has gone "ghetto," covering the neighboring Chase bank with postcards--taped to the door and the ATMs, stacked on the ATMs and the tables. Everywhere! That Avalon rent hike must hurt:

Time stands still at the White Horse tavern. [ENY]

As Astroland is destroyed, piece by piece, are we also losing Denny's ice cream stand? [KC]

But, please, not Ruby's too! We said goodbye to Ruby's in the summer of '07. Let's hope she keeps surviving. [Gothamist]

The original Five Roses say goodbye with historic photos in the window of their shuttered pizza parlor. [EVG]

Welcome to the new era of CBGB. [Stupefaction]

Hope aboard an SATC bus tour--and buy some SATC-approved sex toys. [CR]

Angelica's Herbs


Pretty much without a trace, Angelica's Herbs, long on 1st Ave and 9th St (anyone know how long?) is empty. The sign is gone and there's little left but the soft waft of herbs, like a faint cloud around the gated entrance.

A tipster wrote in about it and I went there to find a man scraping and painting. He was just hired to cover up the graffiti with a coat of fresh paint so the landlord doesn't get fined by the city. He has no idea what's coming next. We speculated and agreed: hopefully not a bank.

We looked skyward and pondered together, as many folks in the neighborhood have done for years, what might be hidden inside the top floors, their windows sealed by warped plywood. "God only knows what they'll find up there," he said, his voice filled with the thrill of mystery.

Like the old candle building on Elizabeth, the upper floors of Angelica's building have seeded wonder in many minds with fantasies of green and fragrant bales of marijuana, or the skeletal remains of long-dead hippies, or oompa-loompas busy mixing up a wild batch of Window Pane. Who knows the wondrous secrets hidden there?

Monday, December 15, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Absinthe is set to open in the former B&M meat market space on 1st Ave between 6th and 7th. It's got beer taps, a bar, and a backyard dining area. CB3 approved their license with several anti-noise stipulations, including: "it will close the backyard at 9:00 P.M. all nights and cease operation of the backyard if there are any noise complaints from residents."

Go deep into the Donnell destruction with a library employee, as another public facility is laid waste for another luxury hotel. [Driven by Boredom]

14-year-old cheese and antiques shop to fall. [CR]

Check out the changing face of Long Island City in paintings by Sharon Florin. [LIC]

The battle for 47 E. 3rd may be over, but Ekonomakis is still fighting. [EVG]

The former Tea Lounge, beloved of the Park Slope stroller brigade, is not going to be a bank, as rumored. Mommies, come get your bubble tea:

Met Food says thanks for helping them wrest a new lease from NYU--and announces an upcoming renovation. And, hey, chuck steaks for $1.99:

Henington Press


On 6th Avenue in Park Slope, the Henington Press sits on the first floor of an old brick building. I've passed the sign many times and always found it lovely in its simplicity. I took this picture earlier in the year, worried it might not last much longer.

Now we hear that the press is closing soon, after 96 years.

from my flickr

WNYC has an excellent radio interview and short film, sure to make you cry, with the owner of the press, David Harris. In the cluttered wonder of his shop he explains how the business was founded in 1912 by his grandfather, Isidor Harris. He still has the beautiful Kluge letterpress the shop started with. He's hoping to find a home for it--to sell it or just give it away.

"I love this press," Mr. Harris says, the Kluge chugging in the background, "It's like my wife, you know. Or child. I love it. It's attached to me."

from the film

He is selling the building, though it pains him, and moving to Israel. As he's packing up, so many things remind him of his family. Sometimes he just goes down to the shop, behind closed doors, and cries. He says, "It hurts but I gotta come to the realization that it's gotta come to an end."

On a more recent night, for sale signs in the window:

Friday, December 12, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

In covering my post on Antique Row, Izzy of Racked asks a provocative question: "Can you mourn the loss of a store where you've never shopped?" You know my answer (can you love someone you've never kissed? or grieve for endangered animals you've never fed by hand?). What do you think?

Love Saves the Day employee says he's "tired of hearing customers tell him how upset they are about it." Take an almost-last peek inside this popular and beloved shop. [Gothamist]

Revisit the old EV with What About Me. [EVG]

Send the Coney rocket some love. [Curbed]

Times are tough, unemployment's up, but the folks in LaBarge are looking to staff the old Moondance Diner. Maybe all those out-of-work Wall Streeters should go west and "Join Team Moondance!" [Moondance]

The building where Magic Shoes magically keeps going out of business, again and again, might really be falling this time. Can the next-door Pizza Box be far behind? [Curbed]

And another kitsch shop to shutter: Mr. Pink on W. 16th is closing. This was rumored in 2007, announced to vanish in June by Racked, but with the For Rent and Closing Sale signs now it looks like it's really, really done:

Antique Row

With the announcement of yet another village antique shop closing I figured it's time to put this post together. Shophound (via Racked) notes that Kyner Antiques at 827 Broadway is shuttering, with the rent going for $65,000 per month. (The neighboring Lions has also fallen, now covered in graffiti.) The blogger asks if antiques are disappearing from Broadway. The answer is yes.

And whatever virus is killing them has long been spreading around the corner to 11th Street. For months, the shops there have been falling like dominoes.

Walk down 11th between Broadway and University and you walk a gauntlet of defunct shops, empty windows, For Lease and We've Moved signs. Paramount Antiques. Big Apple Antiques. While the big Broadway shops are turning into condo sales offices, the storefronts on 11th are being transformed into yoga stores and boutiques that sell clothing for dogs.

A few months ago I asked one of the shopkeepers, a grizzled man who has long intrigued and intimidated me, what he thought was happening there. My question offended him. "When was the last time you bought?" he asked. I told him I don't buy antiques. He sniffed, indicating that I had my answer. When I inquired further, he barked that I should learn to keep my curiosity to myself.

While I don't buy antiques, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy and value their existence. I like walking that block in the mornings and seeing the shipments coming in. There are still dealers surviving and keeping the street alive.

Through their gorgeous gate, Royal Antiques regularly welcomes truckloads of golden chairs with arms made of serpents and crusty chandeliers that look like they came from the ceilings of medieval castles. You never know what you'll see there. You might come upon a life-size stag, its antlers green with verdigris. Or a nude nymph reclining on a chaise lounge, her bronze breasts gleaming in the sun.

With Antique Row vanishing, soon these unusual treasures will all be gone, replaced by doggie sweaters and yoga mats. I probably won't be buying them either.

All my Antique Row pics here

Thursday, December 11, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Matt Harvey talks to Phil Hartman about the closing of the Pioneer and explores a vanishing East Village over the decades. [NYP]

Please stop! Astroland rocket atop the fabulous Gregory and Paul's to be sold for scrap?! [Curbed]

Ever-vigilant Grieve finds the Vigilant Hotel, a real flophouse somehow still alive. [EVG]

The Ohio Theater is likely closing. Says art director Robert Lyons: "It's not the first cultural institution to succumb to real-estate pressures... Soon we're going to have a city without any cool theater spaces." [VV]

VNY on flickr

A Gowanus before and after. How quickly our urban landscape is radically changing. [Curbed]

Orchard Corset, still surviving on carpetbagged Orchard Street, just launched a sexy new website. [OC]

Chez le Chef

VANISHING: March 2009

A reader wrote in to tell me about the impending demise of Chez le Chef, a "quirky and cool" restaurant at 29th and Lexington. "If you haven't been there," he said, "you should check it out before it closes."

Chef Frederic (nee Friedhelm) Piepenburg began Chez le Chef as a pastry shop on York Avenue in 1987, but it all comes to an end in March 2009.

The chef is done with cooking full-time and plans to settle down to writing cookbooks and anecdotes, of which he must have plenty--he was "the Sultan of Brunei's personal pastry chef, the man who kept Coco Channel in sacher tortes and the Saudi Prince in puff pastry," according to the Daily News, and "Director John Huston had Frederic flown to the set of Night of the Iguana in Mexico City to whip up his specialties for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton."

photo: joaoleitao's blog

When you go, you'll find the front door is made of plywood, thanks to a recent accident in which a taxi tried to drive through the entrance. But don't let that dissuade you. The atmosphere alone makes this restaurant worth a trip. A photo of the offending taxi stands on a table inside the door and you'll be greeted by Chef Frederic--a children's book character come to life, complete with a tall toque and extravagant, snow-white whiskers.

On the walls are pictures of him with such luminaries as Ornette Coleman and Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

New York wrote of the place, "It's hard to take it all in." True enough. On the second floor, with a view of the Empire State Building, I sat beneath a mural of an owl that bears a striking resemblance to the chef himself. The tables are crowded with little decorated Christmas trees, dried flowers, and plush bears clutching "I Love You" hearts. The place looks like it was decorated by an exuberant child and her Grossmutter, all busy and blushingly girlish.

It's yet another taste of eccentric New York that is vanishing.

You have until the end of winter to try Chez le Chef's brunches accompanied by accordion music, breakfast delivered to you in bed, dinners of coq au vin with a German touch, and pastries once enjoyed by Liz Taylor and Dr. Ruth.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

A reader sent in this link to the work of Jon Hammer, painter of "groovy old joints," the vanishing pubs and bars of the city. Check it out. [JH]

MTA finds new way to torture us with advertising. [Gothamist]

The freebie L Magazine offers an article on old technology still alive in the city. [LM]

BaHa gets cheesy at Little Italy's Alleva. [SE]

One of my favorite novels, Revolutionary Road, is soon to hit the big screen. That always makes me nervous. The Observer reports: Mendes didn't "fuck up." [NYO]

Is the entire East Village for sale? [EVG]

LES fenced in by cartoon character advertisements. [BBoogie]

El Diario replaced by el Wino. [GVDP]

Vesuvio Bakery

Vesuvio is for sale, Eater reports. And it's not the first time in the past 5 years. In 2003 Anthony Dapolito, after more than two generations, sold the place to his neighbors the Gigante sisters-in-law. They all grew up together and the Gigantes promised to uphold the Vesuvio tradition.

Downtown Express reported: "Dapolito, 83, worked as a boy in the bakery on Prince St., decades before the neighborhood came to be known as Soho. His father and mother, Nunzio and Jennie, immigrants from Naples, opened it in 1920 and Tony went on to own it after they died."


Only months after selling the business, already in poor health, Mr. Dapolito died. On the passing of the man that Ed Koch called "the heart and soul of the Village," the bakery was bedecked with flowers. Vesuvio then went through a months-long renovation and reopened as a cafe.

Not everyone was happy with the new smells of sandwich-making. One neighbor started a petition to stop the "stink," saying, "The smells in question are of mostly grilled chicken, onions, basalmic [sic] vinegar and garlic." But such complaints probably had nothing to do with the closure of Vesuvio for another renovation in the summer of 2008.

Or did they? This anonymous Lost City commenter has more info on the feud behind the scenes.

Locals and fans around the globe went nuts when the bakery didn't reopen in timely fashion and, by the fall, they had covered the sign on the door with begging and pleading messages. Some weird shoe display turned up in the window recently, and now Eater reports a craigslist ad that indicates Vesuvio is for sale once again--as a "cafe or retail shop." Maybe Mr. Dapolito didn't like those sandwiches either, and put the malocchio on the place.

But unless another friend of the family turns up, or a Vesuvio fan who values the history of the place takes pity on the old bakery (the rent is pretty cheap!), I fear we may see this icon vanish, just as Zito's vanished. Be afraid.

All my Vesuvio pictures from November 2007