Friday, April 30, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The Times visits Freddy's for a last call. Bloomberg's muscle wins again. [NYT]

The man who gave birth to the Anthora, the city's iconic Greek coffee cup, has died. Let's hope his cups don't vanish with him. [NYT]

Take a look at ABC No Rio Dinero. [EVG]

After the fire, 283 Grand comes down. [BB]

Patti Smith stopped by St. Mark's Books, made some recommendations. [SMB]

What's to become of the Limelight? This bus ad tells you everything you need to know about what to find there and who will be there:

Back to the Backside

If you were around last summer, you might recall the seasonal saga Notes from the Backside. Written by neighbors of the Cooper Square Hotel, they began with a megaphone and ended with the the hanging of an actual douchebag. In between, their poopy laundry lines made it to 1010 WINS and the New York Post.

Now, as warm, giddy, loudmouth weather descends upon the East Village, the Backsiders creep out of hibernation to report all about it.

One Backsider writes:
"This morning I wake up at 5:20 am--still dark out--to the sound of huge, heavy metal clanging. I get up and look outside and some guy at the hotel has a little lit workshop. He's installing these huge metal planters. At 5 am. I ask him to stop and remind him that he's not supposed to be out there till 10--according to their liquor license. And, to his credit, he does.

This is just a week after I hear some guys laughing on the patio at 11:30, a few feet from my bedroom window. They also claim to be working on the planters.

The planters were supposed to have been filled with 4-foot bamboo before they opened their patio for business this season, according to their liquor license. Right now their patrons can and do look in our windows and make eye contact with us.

We were thinking of this deterrent":

Thursday, April 29, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Bleecker = "Gold Coast for designer boutiques" as rents continue to skyrocket. [WSJ] via Curbed

Stacy Torres writes about the pain of losing St. Vincent's. [NYDN]

Goggla shows video of Fairey's latest, simultaneous mural going up at Wooster and Grand. [youtube]

Someone sticks a little sticker on the Houston Fairey:

Joe Sitt reveals plans to demolish pretty much everything in Coney Island and replace it with fast food joints. [NYO]

Take a look inside what's to go in Coney. [KC]

Are noisy EV bar owners finally shaking in their boots? [EVG]

Ray denied social security benefits. [NMNL]

Saying goodbye to Admiral's Row. [GVDP]

Billy on The Wall

Billy Leroy is the owner of Billy’s Antiques and Props, on the Bowery since 1986, and still hanging on despite a recent doubling of the rent and a raid from the NYPD. As The Villager wrote, "CBGB may have closed, high-rise luxury co-ops are invading the area, the local American Apparel is attracting yuppies in droves. A Whole Foods mega-supermarket has opened on the other side of the street, but Billy’s is still hanging in there."

Billy also happened to hold the lease on the Houston Wall, where Deitch Projects has displayed murals by Os Gemeos and Shepard Fairey, along with a reproduction of a long-buried work by Keith Haring. Billy wrote in and let me know about his instrumental role in bringing the Haring back to life.

photo: Billy Leroy

He recalls: “In 2005 I was working on a project around the wall, a sorta cafe with Bistro tables, when I discovered through research that the wall had been Keith Haring’s first mural. I thought it would be cool to clear away the rotting bathtubs and wrought iron and recreate the mural.

I brought the whole project to Tony Goldman. Unfortunately the project fell through. A few years passed and Tony teamed up with Jeffery Deitch and the Keith Haring Foundation. Since I was renting the whole property, Tony had to get me to release The Wall from my lease. We made a deal and the new Wall started.

But there was one fly in the ointment. The OMNI mural was still up and OMNI had to be contacted. Fortunately, I knew him and explained that they where going to paint over his mural and do a 50th anniversary to Haring. He was not thrilled but I convinced him. So that’s how the last illegal mural was painted over, and the rest is history."

photo: Billy Leroy

"When the workers started scraping away the years of old paint, giant chips of florescent orange paint fell to the ground. I gathered them into a bucket--they were the original Keith Haring and I have a bucket full."

photo: Billy Leroy

"Am I happy about the new Wall? Yes, because the neighborhood has changed forever and we have to deal with the new people on the Bowery. But I am strong believer in the spirits and ghosts of the old Bowery and they will never leave! Just hang out in my shop at night and things can get pretty creepy."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Sadly, the ginormous fingernails have vanished, without a word--going as mysteriously as they came:

Keep up with the yunnisphere as grueling narcissists are Tweeting Too Hard.

The Bowery gets more glass. [Curbed]

The Jane Ballroom rises from the dead. [Gothamist]

Who's your favorite New York poet? [P&W]

Woodside's "running whatsit." [LC]

Enjoy the guide to Landmarks Preservation. [EVG]

Fans of Joe Jr.'s keep hanging on. [BB]

Coney gets a new ride. [ATZ]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

When hipsters move to Chinatown: "look, this is Manhattan: Neighborhoods change, neighborhoods become yuppie. I don't feel I'm doing anything criminal by living here. I don't know, maybe I'm being naïve. It doesn't feel like an issue to me, but maybe that's 'cause I'm on the good end of it." [Voice]

Tourist information that's useful, a sticker on the subway:

Selling Willets Point, piece by piece, while the holdouts hold. [CR]

This is your last week to visit Freddy's, before the city wields its eminent domain wrecking ball. [FIB]

The East Village is now a suitable location for Smurfs. [EVG]

Photos of NYC in the 1970s by Allen Tannenbaum. [COS]

About Those Holes

Yesterday, the New York Times' ArtsBeat Blog followed up on the recent attacks on Shepard Fairey's Houston Wall mural, asking if this weekend's puncture should "be considered an attack... Is it mere hooliganism? Or is it, in the vein of Mr. Fairey’s friend Banksy, all an elaborate stunt?"

Blogger Melena Ryzik spoke to Mr. Fairey, who has not seen the damage. He said he expected to see tags and stickers and such on the work, “Because I’m straddling the line between all these different worlds--the fine art world, the street art world, commercial design, fashion--I think I’m a target for a lot of narrow-minded people who just aren’t comfortable with my multi-platform approach."

“If that’s how they express their view is by vandalizing my mural, that’s fair. I assume that they think that putting a bullet hole through it is a clever interactive addition, which I actually agree with.”

Animal New York shows a later photo with more holes--mine (both above) were taken on Saturday night--which means there may be more than one rock-tosser.

Fairey's straddling does seem to be stirring up feelings. It's good to live in a world where artists can make money and have a wide audience for their work. And yet there seems to be a line that gets crossed in the hearts of their fans. Is it when they design shopping bags for Saks? And what does it mean when their approved canvas includes controversial walls, like the ones on the Cooper Square Hotel and the Ace Hotel?


I'm an admirer of Fairey's work, especially the early Andre the Giant viral stuff, but about all this, I have mixed emotions. I feel for Fairey, but I also understand the rock-tossers' motivation.

Earlier this month I wondered if the Houston Wall, once Deitch is done with it, will fall back into the hands of renegades. Maybe it already has. The best thing Fairey and Deitch can do is to allow the mural to become street--let the taggers, rock-tossers, and sticker bombers do their thing. Let the layers pile up, let it become an organic urban collage. Just let it be.

In any case, Fairey's team will be out to Houston soon to fill in those holes.

Fairey Gets Targeted
Buffing Mr. Brainwash
Revs/Cost Vanishing

Monday, April 26, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Graceland shutters after 25 years on Avenue A. [NYDN]

The Empire Diner launches its official Goodbye page.

Ghost signs across the blogosphere. [CR] this weekend an old Coca-Cola sign in Soho gets covered in a drug-hazed flip-flop:

my flickr

The B&H gets new, old-looking, not bad signage. [EVG]

As the subway swells: "There was enormous growth at the Bowery station on the Lower East Side." [NYT]

Prankster sticks a Target logo on Fairey's Houston mural. [ANY]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Fairey finishes the Houston Wall in quickie wheat-paste fashion [Gothamist]...

...while a sneak peek has been sitting on a Dumpster outside the Cooper Square Hotel. Is one more "street" than the other?

A fruitstand comes down on Bleecker and reveals a wall of scrappy 1980s-era advertisements. [GVDP]

Coney Island deteriorates under Thor's hammer. [ATZ]

Someone hates New York. [FP]

At Atlantic Yards, the last holdout goes. Would you turn down $3 million, knowing you'd be booted anyway? [Gothamist]



I got a few emails this month from readers telling me about the closure of Tah-Poozie, the little toy and tchotchke shop on Greenwich Avenue, and asking if I knew anything about its possible future.

Author and Vanity Fair editor David Kamp wrote in, describing Tah-Poozie as "that rare novelty shop that was a proper novelty shop, as opposed to a sex shop. Lots of miniature wind-up toys and fake vomit, no dildos."

While Les Desirs champion Stacy Torres recalls, "it's been around since I was in elementary school... Please let me know if you've heard anything. I'd love if it just moved again, but I doubt it."

Mike Rogers, New York Magazine

Time Out Kids reported that the store closed on April 5 after 23 years in business.

New York Magazine once told the tale of owner "Shmuzie Tah-poozie, a kibbutznik who picked oranges all day. Now the tables are turned and Shmuel Kerhaus has the rest of us picking things from his goodies store, Tah-poozie (Hebrew for orangey)."

(Urban Dictionary offers another, way more visceral, definition of the term, for the scatologically curious.)

Nothing more is known at this time, except that Shmuel and his Tah-Poozie have left behind many heartbroken lovers of mood rings, pooping pigs, and fortune-telling fish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lost Renwick Found

In a follow-up to my post Before the Village 7, reader, long-time East Villager, and blogger Mark Kane sent in this photo from the late 1970s, showing the lost James Renwick building that was replaced by the Loews theater in 1989.

3rd Ave. between 11th and 12th, looking west

"This picture was taken off my terrace, facing west," Mark writes. "The NYU Third Avenue North isn't anywhere near built yet. The building in question is visible on the corner. You can make out the windows and pilasters."

close-up of Renwick building

"You can see the steeples of Grace Church and St. Ann's," he tells us. "The small Hopper-esque buildings on Third Avenue disappeared when the landlord pulled some of those 'decorative' columns from the storefronts, only to have the building facades collapse. Ooops!"

Where those three-story brick buildings used to be, there's a parking lot now, and a big blank wall often used for ginormous billboards.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Exchanging Pete's

I like seeing old restaurant signs with the words "STEAKS" and "CHOPS" on them. You don't see these words together very often. They're on the Washington Square Diner sign. They were on the Skyline Diner sign, which has vanished along with the Skyline. And they were also on the sign for Pete's Place, which vanished from Gramercy's 3rd Avenue about two years ago.

my flickr, 2008

Barry Popik's Big Apple tells us that, in the 1920s, Pete's was an ice-cream parlor called the Gramercy Sweet Shop, where you could get Chop Suey Sundaes, Pineapple Temptations, and Broadway Flips. Then it was Pete's, for I don't know how long.

This month, after sitting empty for a couple of years, it has turned into Exchange, a Wall Street-themed bar, which seems like bad timing, if you ask me.

Watch the CNN Money video

Author, Gramercy resident, and JVNY reader Charles Bock writes in with the news, saying:

"...what could be more fun than hanging out at the stock exchange? Wait, the thing that would be more fun would be if you could drink beer and watch prices roll by on red LED boards!

It could have been a little fun if the place would have been called sexchange, because lord knows the city could use a few more transvestite bars. Honestly, I'd even be willing to call it even if it was a transvestite bar with stock quotes. At least that would be original.

But no. It's exactly the crapfest you would expect."

"It makes the energy good."

Monday, April 19, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The Times Square public lounge-o-rama sinks to a new low with giant plastic baseball mitt seats for tourists to rest their weary backsides:

Meet Mr. Feibusch of the ZipperStop, “Unzipping America since 1941.” [NYT]

Ray becomes finally legal! [NMNL]

Meet the Newspaper King of Chelsea. [WIC]

You gotta love lost telephone exchanges on city signage. [FNY]

Tuesday: Check out the latest Vanishing City event. [EVG]

New Yorkers with doormen potentially freak out about not having a doorman: "Who will safeguard my apartment as I sleep? Greet my children when they come home from school? Accept deliveries? Clean the hallways? Sort the mail? Operate the elevator? And who, for goodness sake, will let the cleaning lady in?" [NYT]

Houston Wall gets primed for Shepard Fairey. [BB]

Enjoy Richard Sandler's "Former New York" at the Millennium Film Workshop. [Gothamist]

Even today, now and then, "indie bookstores truly are the ones that can be movers and shakers when it comes to a book." [NYT]

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lora Tagged

This week, I reported on AOL News' Bill Morris' account of the removal of the Lora Deli graffiti mural, a decade-old piece on Avenue D.

Now Mr. Morris sends in the following photo of the gray-washed wall:

Graffiti photographer Karla Murray, says Morris, was prophetic when she predicted about the buffed wall's future: "it'll probably get covered over with tags--the kind of graffiti nobody wants."

Morris told me, "Less than 48 hours after she said that, a crew of no-talent taggers bombed the Lora Deli wall. Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg, for working so hard to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

"'The city looks great at this moment of history because of the tsunami of money that washed over it for a couple of decades. But this is the turning point. From here forward fewer things will get fixed every month. After a while it will show. We'll get back to conditions like the 1970s rather quickly..." --Kunstler

Are annoyed neighbors throwing Shamwows at noisy Bar 81 loudmouths? [EVG]

Evicted by Thor, a Coney ride finds a new home in Honduras. [ATZ]

The misleading and vanity addresses of Manhattan. [IL]

As artists and hot dogs are kicked out of public parks and off public sidewalks, the dreaded cupcake is welcomed with open arms. [GG]

Getting ready for demolition in Chinatown... [BB] and the damage done. [TLD]

"When did libraries become a cacophonous combination of cafe, video store, music store, computer lab and playground?" [NYT]

As the Internet "grows up," is it the death of anonymous commenting? [NYT]

An interview with Banksy in TONY. He makes a good point: "There’s obviously nothing wrong with selling your art—only an idiot with a trust fund would tell you otherwise. But it’s confusing to know how far you should take it."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lora Deli Graffiti


Alphabet City has lost a long-standing piece of graffiti, what AOL News' Bill Morris calls "an exuberant 60-foot-long, 10-foot-tall mural celebrating street life, female beauty, tropical sunsets, the Puerto Rican flag and Al Sharpton."

It was on the corner of Avenue D and Fifth Street, on the side of the Lora Deli & Supermarket, and it had been there for a decade.

from Addisko's flickr

"Depending on your point of view," writes Morris, "New York City's 'quality of life' had just improved a notch, or the city had become a little bit more faceless and bland."

Photographers Jim and Karla Murray, authors of Broken Windows: Graffiti NYC, agree with the latter sentiment. Said Karla, "That wall (on the Lora Deli) beautified the neighborhood. It's free art in a neighborhood where a lot of people can't afford to go to a museum. You're taking away the flavor of the neighborhood and putting up a gray wall. And it'll probably get covered over with tags -- the kind of graffiti nobody wants."

Google Maps

It still lives, for now, in Google Maps' street view, partially obscured by a delivery truck from Fernando's Bakery. But in non-virtual reality, it's nothing more than a long, dull wall of gray brick.

Of course, we're seeing this trend all over town, in the buffing of the Roxy graffiti and Revs/Cost High Line pieces, and in the institutionalization of the Houston Wall.

Now the white-washing has come as far as Avenue D.

photo: Bill Morris

Said the Times in 2005, "The frenetic about-face that transformed Alphabet City from a drug-infested no man's land to the epicenter of downtown cool hasn't quite made it to Avenue D, and some predict it never will." But as Grieve has pointed out, Avenue D is fast getting glassed and sold off piece by piece.

The erasure of the Lora Deli graffiti is just more evidence that Avenue D has been targeted by the powers that be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Schwartz for Rent

In August 2008, I took a tour of the shuttered Schwartz funeral home on Second Avenue, thanks to the founder's great-grandson, Andy.

I wrote about the funeral home's long and interesting history (Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were memorialized here) and reported that a Duane Reade was planning a move into the space. Then the economy crashed, things changed. The space stayed empty.

This week, a sign appeared on the facade: "Extraordinary retail space for lease."

Extraordinary is right. Too extraordinary to be a Duane Reade. How about a theater? Or a permanent house of worship for Reverend Billy? Or...?

P.S. A couple other changes on the block have happened since that last post. Max Brenner is now an HSBC bank and Tasti-D-Lite is an eyeglass store.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Atomic Passion


After 17 years in business on East 9th Street, Atomic Passion has closed. Calling it "The End of the Atomic Age," Dirt Candy shares the sad news, saying, "This is the kind of store that makes a neighborhood in New York." Agreed.

It was one of the last of the old-school vintage shops in the East Village, along with the vanished Love Saves the Day and Howdy Do.

After the co-owner Justin Vogel told the Post in January that his shop might be closing, I stopped in. I snapped a few pictures, bought a couple dirty magazines, and said goodbye to the taxidermied squirrel.

At the time, Vogel seemed resigned to Atomic Passion's fate. He expressed mixed feelings, including a sense of relief. It's tough to run a small business in the East Village, especially one that hearkens back to the way the neighborhood used to be.

Here's what the Times said upon their opening.

Stepping into Atomic Passion was like walking backwards in time, back to the early 1990s. It had that still-sort-of-1980s, bathtub-in-the-kitchen, Christmas lights on the ceiling kind of vibe. Old Devil Moon gave you that feeling, too. It's a feeling that's vanishing more and more.

Writes Dirt Candy, "Most people didn’t notice Atomic Passion close, but if you were on East Ninth Street last week you would have seen part of the city die."

Now I wonder: What will become of the armless, fishnet-stockinged ladies on the brick up above?

P.S. Thanks to Grieve for pointing us in the direction of Terry Richardson's online diary, where you can find many photos of Atomic Passion and the goodbye party.

*Everyday Chatter

Arthur Ave. parking lot attendant turns 100. [CR]

Say hello to Pablo of the Stanton Tailor Shop. [BB]

Stumbling upon Spanoramic Recordings ("Solo Para Adultos"). [WIC]

Alec Baldwin. Colson Whitehead. A city lost and found. [NYNS]

Billy's Antiques still waiting for their hello from McNally--says the pizza at Parisi is better. Maybe the Pulino's bodyguard can chaperone him across that "sketchy corner." [Villager]

She's back. With her glitter Blackberry, car keys, and lip gloss, the horrible "Generation O" girl has returned to the streets. She's a trender and a spender. And she "indexes high for word of mouth."

Canceling a food order in the EV might get you arrested. [EVG]

Where are the bones from under Trump Soho? [Curbed]

South Brooklyn Pizza almost ready to open in the EV. [Eater]

What will become of the Ridgewood Theater? [Gothamist]


A mysterious set of enormous fingernails has appeared on the bricks above Seventh Avenue at 11th Street.

There's no text accompanying the black-and-white image.

Is it an advertisement? Is it art?

It hovers right above Fantasy World, the sex-toy shopping center.

Are the two related?

There is such a thing as a fingernail fetish (NSFW). Maybe this is an homage to all the folks who have a thing for giant claws.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


On Charles Street near 7th Avenue, through a locked and rusty wrought-iron gate marked 58A...

...there's a long and narrow passageway between two buildings...

...that leads to a secret yellow house with red trim. A wreath decorates on the door. A curtain hangs parted at the window. Who lives there?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

M&G Plucked

According to a commenter here, in Harlem the beloved M&G Diner is being plucked by souvenir-hunting buzzards--or maybe just heartbroken lovers of the M&G.

Dave Cook of Eating in Translation tells us, "Not only has the colorful 'diner' sign been loosened, but the lettered curtain of the awning has been removed, along with most of the awning itself."

from Eating in Translation

The M&G closed "for vacation" back in 2008 and never reopened.

2008, my flickr

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Please, please, please don't let those Waverly/Beatrice types take over the wonderful Fedora restaurant. [Eater]

Miracle: A used bookstore is coming to Avenue A. [EVG]

If everyone obeyed the (unwritten until now) sidewalk rule of "Stay to the right," the city would be a better place. [BB]

Steve Stollman's automats, moved from Houston St., are being pushed out of Harlem. [NYT]

When German McDonald's makes cupcakes about New York neighborhoods. [Eater]

Jane Jacobs on the bad gentrification: "when a place gets boring, even the rich people leave." [Atlantic]

Going to Puglia Ristorante. [LC]

If Tina Fey had a penis, she'd stick in one of Greenpoint's Peter Pan donuts. [GPs] via [Eater]

Condopocalypse Now

Back in January, The American Prospect was all about The Post-Boom City. I just got around to it. In her essay "Gentrification Hangover," writer Alyssa Katz discusses "how New York could create affordable housing from its empty glass condo buildings and failed takeover projects."

Some excerpts:

"Commuters arriving in Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge are greeted with a shiny vision of New York City's future that never came to be: condo buildings with names like the Oro, the Toren, and Forté, towering monuments to real-estate developers' credit-bubble hubris..."

"On the opposite sidewalk of Flatbush Avenue one drizzly fall evening, more than a hundred demonstrators, members of the Right to the City Coalition, drew attention to another possibility: A city starved for affordable housing could find it in the glassy confines of failed luxury dreams..."

"New York City made the Scarface mistake: It got high on its own supply."

photo by Lori Nix

Remember back in October 2007, when New York offered its "Doomsday Primer"? They commissioned artist Lori Nix to do these photographed dioramas of abandoned condo towers and Wall Street offices, and we fantasized about the "condo-pocalypse."

Who imagined we would be there in just a couple years? The article in American Prospect might give us hope, but Katz has some words of warning:

"Bloomberg is unlikely to concede that his coddling of luxury developers has only deepened the city's perpetual housing crisis. Nor has his administration rid housing-subsidy programs of their fatal flaw: They eventually expire. Most of the affordable housing New York City has been building under Bloomberg won't be affordable anymore by 2030. Even the condos the city hopes to turn into middle-income residences will eventually revert to top-shelf prices."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bleecker Corner

From my meager collection of scanned old photographs, I found this shot of the corner at Bleecker and Christopher. I liked the little grocery store for its vintage signage and the words "FANCY FRUITS." It is possible that DAIRY means not that the store sold milk, but that it once served kosher, maybe the remnant of an old dairy lunch counter.

circa 1995

This building, Forgotten New York tells us, is one of the oldest in the Village, "constructed during the Jefferson administration" and photographed in 1935 by Berenice Abbott.

1935, Berenice Abbott

Today, like a lot of things on Bleecker, the storefront houses a boutique. LTJ Arthur is a French luxury brand. Says Racked, the shop carries something called "charentaise lounge slippers." A different sort of fancy fruit.


See Also:
Times Square 90s

Friday, April 2, 2010

Weathermen Easter

Happy Easter weekend from the house the Weathermen blew up.

Except now, instead of radical bomb-makers, it's filled with stuffed plush bunnies, flowers, plastic eggs, and a Paddington Bear doll that gets a costume change according to the seasons and holidays.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

An interview with the author of East Fifth Bliss. [EVG]

Queer theater in New York, with Robin Bernstein. [P&W]

Orchard's "tower of rust" condo to get a gallery. [BB]

In-&-Out Burger hoax "occupies" long-empty and sad Gordon Novelty shop. [Eater]

And be sure to wipe off that subway seat before you sit down...some hipster genitals might've been rubbing on it. [Gothamist]

Houston Wall

The graffiti wall on Houston is scheduled to undergo another change, from the Os Gemeos mural to something from Shepard Fairey. (He's also looking for more wall space.)

While we're enjoying these murals, it's important to keep in mind their hidden subtext--how they are, in fact, a cog in the wheel of the Big Machine that is turning the Bowery into a luxury lifestyle destination.

2008, from Super Touch

Long an open canvas for graffiti artists, the celebratedly sanctioned muraling of the Wall began in 2008 when Deitch Projects recreated Keith Haring's work from the 1980s, one that Jeffrey Deitch called, "a fabulously renegade piece of New York City public street art."

As Deitch told the New York Sun, "At the time, the corner of Houston and Bowery was the center of the downtown art world, because the galleries were in SoHo and the artists were in the East Village. 1982 was the peak of this downtown art world culture, and it's also when it started going mainstream. This project is a celebration of the dynamism of this time."

Original mural, 1982 photo by Tseng Kwong Chi

The dynamism of renegade street art going mainstream is one that gets many people riled up.

Mr. Brainwash gets labeled a FAKE and covered up by street artists. D*Face stops defacing and moves into a gallery. Shepard Fairey designs an ad campaign for Saks. The Cooper Square Hotel adds "graffiti" to its wall.

Sometimes, walking the streets, it's hard to tell if you're looking at gallery art, graffiti, or advertising. Questions about authenticity, reality, and intention arise. As for the Houston wall, it is playing a transformative role in the Bowery's conversion from Skid Row to intentionally created "art district" to high-end consumer playground--a replay of the Soho Model.

And it just happens that the man who created the Soho Model is also the owner of the Wall.

1983, photo by Martha Cooper

Since perhaps as early as 1984, the Houston wall has belonged to a real estate company called Goldman Properties. Developer of luxury condos and hotels, art philanthropist Tony Goldman donates the wall space for the Deitch murals.

Writes Ocean Drive magazine, "'Visionary' is the word most often used to describe Tony Goldman by those who have worked with him during his 40 years of rejuvenating neighborhoods. 'Tony will take the most barren, uninteresting space and infuse it with a vitality that you just didn’t think was possible.'"

Goldman is credited as a creator of liveable neighborhoods. Haute Living has called him "the founder of New York’s Soho... He was a pioneer into the area, snatching up properties as quickly as he could...renovating and turning them into lofts, the living style of the future."

Here's the Goldman guide to Neighborhood Building 101. Simply put: "Control the street life" and "effectuate what the vibe is going to be."

1990: photo by Verplanck

The New York Times this week featured Goldman and his move into Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, which appealed to him because, he said, “It had an urban grit that was ready to be discovered and articulated.”

The Wynwood street artists who came before Goldman aren't entirely happy about the project. Wrote The Biscayne Times, "The murals at 'Wynwood Walls' are not graffiti. They are paintings, and Goldman has hired 24-hour security to make sure no one defaces them. As [artist] BooksIIII points out: 'Look, they’ve got tended grass and lighting and whatnot. Our stuff is still unpoliced; It’s just out there on the street.'"

Wynwood has also been known as "Little San Juan" since the 1950s, and Goldman, according to the New York Times, believes the Puerto Rican population there won't be displaced by his plans. But we all know how Soho-ification goes.

2006 photo, OtherThings

For years, until Goldman and Deitch's Haring recreation, the Wall was, as Luna Park says, "a highly contentious graf spot." Often (but not always) illegally, they painted over each other without the interference or direction of mastermind gentrificationists or urban Svengalis. It was, by and large, an organic thing. It just happened--unlike hyper-gentrification, which doesn't just happen, but is carefully plotted, orchestrated by the powerful and the patient.

2006, legal Jace mural, from Razor Apple

The Fairey show signals the end to Deitch Projects and I wonder what will happen to this wall, once it has outworn its use. Will it be sold? Torn down? Or will it be permitted to fall back into the hands of renegades?

If there are any left in the neighborhood.

2007, legal OMNI, from Super Touch

More NYC street art:
Stolen Legos
The Decapitator
Bloody Payphone
D*Face Paints
Industrial Art
Mom & Popism
Revs/Cost Vanishing