Friday, July 30, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The Villager covers the closing of Fedora. [Villager]

Get ready for your subway ride to be 1,000 times worse. [Gothamist]

Bloomberg: "all my friends have bedbugs; what am I going to do?" [BU]

Bedbugs spread--in graffiti. [EVG]

In the verbal, persnickety (just the way I like it) Village: Please admonish!

Mott and Houston, then and now. [Dino's]

New York photos from Alex's lost box of the past. [FP]

How to make a bench out of NYPD barricades. [NYS]

A sad goodbye to Village Fabrics. [Blah]

A little yunnie self love outside the LES Whole Foods. [BB]

Thursday, July 29, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Grumbling about what happens to your identity when you walk into a reality-TV shoot starring Paula Deen or a slab of bacon, etc. [The Grumbler]

You don't glad about your status and place in society? Want to be always #1? "Very dangerous" sex and drug trafficker meets Personal Growth Lessons:

Why did Gary Shteyngart leave the Lower East Side? He explains, "I need a building that’s really weenie friendly." Although, he says, "It's still the only diverse neighborhood left in downtown Manhattan. The three H’s: Hasidic, Hispanic, and Hipster." [TLD]

Get a slice of the High Line. [FNY]

13th Step Owner decries the frat rap. [EVG]

Bowery broker wants a "cute little" wine bar. [BB]

Jukebox at Mars Bar is "fucked up." [SG]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fedora's Goodbye

It's official. The sign on the door that used to say CLOSED MON & TUES has been folded back on itself to simply say CLOSED. Why bother writing a new sign?

In the menu box on the brick wall, an image from long-ago times, a photo of a young Fedora and her husband, Henry. Fedora's goodbye is simple and true: "It couldn't have happened anywhere else. Thank you, Greenwich Village!"

Somehow, this song keeps playing through my head...

Further reading:
A Night at Fedora
A Regular Remembers
Fedora's Last Days
Fedora Returns

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The new Fedora, with its "speakeasy vibe," will be serving "classic French cuisine." [WSJ]

Arihood guest-blogs at Grieve. [EVG]

See all of Captured online. [Blah]

Check out the new issue of Sensitive Skin.

In Chinatown: "There are a few swindlers around this area, please ignore their make up stories." [BB]

"Over the next month, more than 64,000 incoming freshmen will descend on New York City’s campuses." [NYT]

Long-time Fort Greene residents discuss the recent changes: "one of the things I noticed was, Whoa, where’d all the white girls come from?" [Gothamist]

On the LES, a synagondo stuck in limbo. [TLD]

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mel's Place

In a city where passersby throw their fists at shoeshine men and shoeshiners set fire to rival shine booths, let's take pleasure in the presence of Mel's Place, a shine stand just north of Times Square, blessed with originality and nostalgia.

It's a ramshackle contraption on wheels. It features a bench with two chair tops that have had their legs sawed off. It has four foot rests and a roof to keep off the rain. These makeshift, personalized booths used to exist all over town.

They were like the newsman-owned newsstands, like Petrella's Point, before Bloomberg turned them all into ticky-tacky boxes.

Inside, the signs say, "Mel's shine brings out the soul in your shoes." Nice. And: "Mel says... When there's a shine on your shoes, there's a Mel-o-dy in your heart," which is a line from a song best known from the musical The Band Wagon, starring Fred Astaire. But here's a pretty fantastic rendition from the Lawrence Welk Show, featuring a tap-dancing U.S. Marine in full dress blues.

Really, that's the feeling you get when you get a shine from a stand like Mel's.

Friday, July 23, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Thanks to the reader who sent in this photo--the new owner announces his win today on Joseph Leonard's chalkboard: "Every man ought to have one well-fitting Fedora." Hopefully, it will also still fit the people who kept it alive for over 60 years:

Romy walks into Fedora--"a little breath of honest-to-goodness old New York caught in amber"--and her piece will make you cry. [WIC]

$69 hot dogs for sell on the Upper East Side. [Eater]

"Suffer yourself" with Empire, the 8-hour film by Warhol and Mekas, at Anthology Film Archives this Saturday. And those who "heroically endure" the whole thing will win a prize! [WSJ]

Congratulate Rag & Bone for saving the bones of Cafe Colonial from becoming a bank. [EVG]

A Night at Fedora

Last night, Community Board 2 voted to move ahead with the new plan for Fedora. We still don't know for sure what the future holds. Will the people who love Fedora today be able to enjoy it tomorrow? Or will they be pushed out by the new crowd? You have just 3 more days to experience Fedora as it is. Here's the scene from a recent night:

It's 5:00, Fedora Dorato arrives from the grocery store on the arm of a young man who carries her bags of tomatoes, lettuce, and other essentials. After settling in, she sits down and quietly applies Scotch tape to her restaurant's frayed menus, wanting them to last, even though, as of July 25, they'll belong to the past.

Her first customer has arrived, a daily regular. He walks on the arm of his nurse, flashes a bright-eyed grin from beneath his Stonewall cap, and takes his seat for what must be his millionth meal in Fedora's pink-lit sanctuary. Steadying herself with a cane, the hostess gets up to greet him like the old friend that he is.

The room is hot and humid. It's nearly 7:00 now and the place is lively. With news of the upcoming closure, people have come to say goodbye. They take pictures and pose with Mrs. Dorato who, at 90, is still busing the tables. She walks up and down, her back bent, her arms loaded with liquor bottles, empty plates, loaves of bread in red plastic baskets that probably date back to the Eisenhower administration.

She steadies herself on the shoulders of men in their chairs. Her hand alights, here and there. You feel her coming before you see her, smiling in her white nimbus of hair. She puts her cool hand, smelling freshly minted of Ben-Gay, on my bare arm and asks, "Are you finished with that glass? May I take it away?"

I ask her what she will do after the place is closed. "I don't know," she says, "Every day, for 60 years, I baked and I cooked. Now what?"

George, the friendly and acerbic veteran waiter, rushes back and forth, frantic in the crowd. The place is usually sleepy and he's the only one on duty. When asked for a refill, he says, "Not right now. Give me 100 minutes!" He admonishes me to clean my plate, to eat the beets I've left behind, then says in sympathy, "I hate beets."

photo: compliments of Anne Bernstein

A trio of young women walk in, looking lost. Under trendy Sinatra-style fedoras worn at jaunty angles, their faces glow with a blue iPhone splash of light. They adjust the over-sized handbags on their shoulders and uneasily shift their feet. The gray-haired gay regulars give them a glance, then go back to their meals.

I think: These girls must have read about Fedora on the blogosphere, on Eater or Grub Street, and came to see what the fuss is all about.

Harried, George approaches them. He throws up his hands and makes a gesture of futility, as if to say, "I don't know where you're going to sit." There are some empty tables, but why bother? The place is busy enough. He hustles away to refill drinks. The girls, slightly stunned, wander back outside. It's not their place. Not yet.

More Fedora:
Fedora Returns
Fedora's Last Days
A Regular Remembers

Thursday, July 22, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Good read: "New York? The whole damn place has been turned into a suburb," sneered David Harvey, startling a roomful of New Yorkers who prided themselves on the same things he derided: the makeover of the city's parks; the new network of bike lanes; the pedestrian malls along Broadway. [FastCo.]

NBC Feast outlines tonight's Fedora debate. [Feast]

On a hot summer day, take a walk through the cool and fragrant gardens of the Flower District, before it's nothing but hotels:

32-year-old Ennio & Michael forced out by NYU rent increase. [Eater]

General Toe's Chicken and other fun misspellings from Goggla. [TGL]

The offices of Hachette Book Group overcome by bedbugs. And the hits keep coming. [RS]

Looking at Crustypunks. [EVG]

LES actually stands for "Lotsa Expensive Stores." [BB]

"Vanishing City" the film is finally complete--check out the trailer.

What are you doing to make the city a better place? "If I notice a distracted cellphone user peering at my ankles -- using me as a guide through sidewalk traffic so they can update their Facebook page or argue with a Customer Service representative while on the move -- I try to lure them into vehicle traffic to get run over." [Restless]

Outside the Ace Hotel, a couple demonstrates face-to-face "conversation" in 2010:

A Regular Remembers

Villager, author, journalist Warren Allen Smith has been going to Fedora on West 4th for nearly 50 years. As Fedora gets ready to close and change hands this coming Sunday, July 25, I asked Warren a few questions about the place, his memories of it, and what it means to him.

photo from WASM's website

How long have you lived in the Village and when did you first begin going to Fedora? What was it like then?

Fernando Vargas, my companion for 40 years, and I started Variety Recording Studio on 46th Street in Times Square in 1961, just across from what then was called the 46th Street Theater (where Rudy Valee and Robert Morse were starring in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying). Because we wanted a restaurant where we could take customers, he chose Fedora's although not having been there--one of our recording engineers suggested it.

But when I met her and asked about arranging a charge account, she said she only had cash customers. "What if I prepaid with $100 and, when that was gone, I'd prepay more?" We were both business people, and she said her sister Norma who worked at Variety just down the street from us would handle the bookkeeping--she ate there nightly. "Besides, I wasn't sure your and Fernando's checks were any good," she explained recently, a guilty smile on her face, now 5 decades later.

Until Fernando's death from Karposi's sarcoma in 1989, we continued prepaying and taking our customers there. Not Liza Minnelli, the 12th grader at Scarsdale High School when we recorded her first demo with her pianist Marvin Hamlisch. But we took some of our VIP clients there. The night that Jerry Herman and his party were there and he saw Fernando sign a bill, he said loudly, "Who was that!" Actually, we didn't know who he was either. . .

Warren and Fernando, from WASM's website

What are your fondest memories of the place?

One night someone sent a manhattan up to my table when I was with my polyamorous lover and 4-time Tony Award nominee Gilbert Price. (Watch Mr. Price singing, "I've Gotta Be Me.")

The person was pointed out to me, but it was the first time I met Carl Edelson, the person in charge of towels at the Everard Baths. He had a young lover that he wanted us to record and upon whom he spent so much money that I bought him a manhattan up. The kid may have had talent, but it wasn't singing. Not like Gilbert!

my flickr

Can you tell us about some of the faces on the wall? There’s “Fernando” in leathers, and a blonde young man, as well as others. Did you know any of them?

It wasn't my Fernando. The only photo I remember is of Fedora in her sports roadster. Can't you just imagine a young and beautiful Fedora, her hair flying, driving with the top down on curvy New Jersey or Connecticut back roads!

In Gossip From Across the Pond, you call Fedora a “refuge” during the time of the Stonewall riots. Can you say more about what it meant to have a safe and welcoming place like Fedora in that era of history?

As documented in Stonewall Uprising that I reviewed for The Villager, the 1960s and 1970s were wonderfully dangerous until we were confronted with homophobia, at which time those of us who were pragmatic simply avoided violence by moving away. But those of us who might be pegged as being faggots found it often was not easy to move away from trouble. For many, unfortunately, it's the same now.

Fedora's was definitely a refuge where the waiters were gay, you could camp it up and be yourself, and no problems occurred. What was ironic was that Henry, Fedora's good-looking husband behind the bar, was such a surprise except to those of us who knew him and loved to hear him tell his stories about the place's once being a speakeasy; about the night Mayor Jimmy Walker was upstairs drinking illegal liquor and a squad of cops somehow got in and when the mayor asked what they wanted they sheepishly said they were looking for the men's room and exited fast; about a young gal who brought her relative poet Carl Sandburg to dine; about Edward Albee's being a regular when he wrote The Zoo Story directly across the street.

my flickr

Today, Fedora is known as a place for gay “gentlemen of a certain age.” What is Fedora’s ongoing importance to this clientele? Do they still need such a refuge in 2010?

She and others of us "of a certain age" found this phrase cruel, and I've a psychological block and can't think of the name of the VIP who made it.

The reason so many of Fedora's clients dine regularly, even faithfully, is that nowhere else is there such a bargain. Nowhere else can you use a rotary pay phone. Nowhere else is change limited to installing a new light bulb. Nowhere else can you carry on a conversation with someone several tables away, and others will join in. Nowhere else do you love being insulted by the witty waiter. Almost nowhere else can you find deviled eggs as an appetizer.

Where do you—and the rest of the gang—plan to go once Fedora, as you have known it, is closed?

On closing night I intend to try to get addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses to see if some of us can keep in touch. So far, I've heard of no other place that would be a natural.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Friday: Coney Island-style fashion show. [CIC]

Grieving the loss of Label: "the end of an era as a giant Duane Reade opens down the block and Cafeteria’s offspring, Delicatessen serves up its $10 Heinekens. See ya." [ILNY]

Avalon Christie gets a Subway sandwich chain. [BB]

Learning to live with new bike lanes. [EVG]

Alex has some Hopper fun. [FP]

Jill reflects on the EV Blog Mafia. [Blah]

A documentary on Basquiat with footage from 1985. [NYT]

Jonathan Ames' "Extra Man" premieres in the city. [NYO]

Sander Hicks seeks the truth: "I feel a little like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver... Like all of my life has been leading to this-to the Truth." [NYO]

Moms & Pops

Artist Nate Padavick did a series a few years back called Alive & Kicking: NYC Independent Business Owners. These 17 portraits of the city's "moms and pops" were exhibited at Jeffrey's Meats in the Essex Street Market, and now you can see them online here.

I can't help thinking: What if these were made into action figures? Then we could play with them in Randy Hage's miniature city, and never have to leave our apartments again.

“My inspiration for the NYC collection was a Russian tailor named Emilio who owned a shop on the street level of my old apartment building on 16th Street near 6th Avenue,” said Nate.

“Emilio was a neighborhood fixture who could always be counted on to give you his detailed criticisms on any topic from politics to the neighborhood to the pain-in-the-neck customer who just left the shop. And to top it off, he was a great tailor. Sadly, due to rising rents, Emilio left, which is the plight of many small businesses and why I decided to celebrate one of the institutions that gives New York its backbone and makes the city so unique.”

Read an interview with Annie here

“Nate has chosen an amazing group of people to feature in this series and I am proud, overwhelmed and excited to be a part of this important project,” said Jeffrey Ruhalter of Jeffrey’s Meats.

“The people that Nate chose, and all of the other independent business owners in this city offer something that is hard to find these days. In the past the butcher, the baker, the bike repairman, they were the face and the service behind their business, but that has changed. Big retailers do a fine job of servicing their customers, but do they really know who they are? When little kids come up to you on the street and offer you a warm smile and a hello you begin to realize how important our role in the fabric of this city’s economy actually is.”

Read about:
Annie of DeRobertis
Moishe's Kosher Bake Shop
Jeffrey's Meat

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fedora's Future

This email just came in. It appears that Fedora's neighbors are concerned about the new owner's plan to keep the restaurant open late (originally proposed for 4:00 AM, changed to 2:00 AM--via Grub St.).

While there are still many unanswered questions about the future plans for this business, losing the new owner may mean losing all of Fedora. It's a tough call. Wherever you stand on the issue, go July 22 to get information and have your voice heard:

Dear Friends of Fedora’s,

A completely unexpected and rather unpleasant situation has just appeared that threatens the future of Fedora’s.

A few neighbors have suddenly expressed concerns about the future management of the new Fedora’s. Specifically they are concerned about the hours that Fedora’s will be open. Their demands are such that the new owners may balk at making the commitment needed to keep the Fedora’s that we have known and loved for decades.

For generations the Dorato family has shown its deep commitment to the Greenwich Village community. The new proprietor of Fedora’s was chosen very carefully. As prime Greenwich Village commercial property, it would have been easy to find a developer that would have ignored Fedora’s rich history. You are all aware of what has happened to beloved establishments in the Village. The new owner has made firm assurances that the new Fedora’s, while updated and spruced up, will still be the welcoming spot we have all enjoyed for so long.

Your help is needed:
Community Board 2 is meeting Thursday, July 22 @ 6:00 PM- Elizabeth Irwin High School, 40 Charlton St. in the auditorium

THE PUBLIC SESSION BEGINS AT 6:00 PM. SPEAKERS' CARDS WILL BE ACCEPTED FROM 6:00 TO 6:30 PM. Reports from the Chair, District Manager, Borough President, Standing Committees.

Mail comments to
Community Board #2
3 Washington Square Village 1A
New York, NY 10012

We realize this is extremely short notice. If you can attend and voice your support, please so do. If you cannot, please write a letter today to express your concern that we may yet again lose a neighborhood institution. Or, you can email the community board at


Fedora’s has been welcoming Villagers since 1952. It was originally opened as a speakeasy in 1919 and when prohibition ended, it was opened as Charlie’s Garden.

Fedora has been welcoming us all with a warmth and charm that is legendary in the Village. Won’t you please help to make sure that it is around for future generations to enjoy?

Please help us get word out.


*Everyday Chatter

Brooks weighs in on the new Fedora--with mixed feelings. [LC]

The Stage follows in the footsteps of its across-the-avenue neighbor, B&H, and installs a new sign that looks a lot like the old sign. It loses something, but remains true to the original:

Before (from Kitty Kowalski's flickr)


Ludlow at night: "Groups of teetering girls in cocktail dresses, who may have gotten lost on their way to the meatpacking district, are also swarming... a playground for 22-year-olds." [NYT]

Remembering when the music on Saturday Night Live was dangerous. [SYFFL]

St. Mark's has a moment of wonder: "some strange guy putting some kind of geisha makeup on." [SG]

The Kupferberg memorial: "the kind of event that could make an upper-middle-class twenty-something who lives in a market-rate apartment nearby—for example, me—feel that maybe, even now, there still is something to the idea of the East Village." [Tablet]

Penis wars on the Fairey mural and icy wars on Ave A. [EVG] & [EVG]

Tapestries from a bygone Village weaving studio. [BAT]

Get your anti-BP shirts on Orchard. [BB]

St. Vincent's wall of goodbye notes gets washed in green paint...

...but the fence out front gains a Ghost Bike with a very angry note, "If less [fewer] hospitals equal more dead Wall St. thieves, the correction is good--F--you NYC! 2010":

Sensitive Skin

Sensitive Skin magazine used to live on the Lower East Side. Now, you can only find it archived at the NYU Fales Library, a relic of the paper-rich early 1990s. But the zine has been revived, by publisher Bernard Meisler and managing editor Tim Beckett, and it's taking a new shape online. I talked with Meisler and Beckett and they told me all about it.

print, 1993

Sensitive Skin was printed on paper, back in the pre-digital days, between 1991 and 1995. What made you decide to revive it and make the leap to the small screen?

Bernard: I've always been proud of what we created back in the day, and thought it would be cool to bring it back. I make my living as a developer and I realized that I could really stretch the magazine, make it what I had only dreamed of 15 years earlier - include music, videos, applications, old copies of the magazine - and to do it in a way that was cost-effective, and didn't take up all my time.

Tim: On my way back from a couple of years in the UK, I discovered a couple of copies of Sensitive Skin in my storage up in Canada. Going through them, I was struck by how fresh a lot of the writing seemed. I think this is part of some desire for change in the air after the stifling atmosphere of the 00’s, which was such a Godawful and boring decade.

Many of the names featured in the print magazine are emblematic of the early 1990s East Village writing scenes. I often wonder what these people are up to these days. How do you see the electronic version as connecting the old voices with new ones?

Bernard: They're all still doing their thing, far as I can tell. Sparrow's always publishing little bon mots on his Facebook page, which is a natural for him - as well as Mike Topp, Jose Padua, Bob Holman - they're always printing poems on Facebook, which is one of the things that inspired me – seeing how people were connecting on Facebook.

I want the magazine to become a social network, a place where people can hang out. We've only scratched the surface so far, by having a comments section, and social networking badges, at the end of every story. But we've got a lot of interesting ideas that we'll be implementing over the next few months. It's going to be very, very cool, I promise you.

Coming out of the East Village in the early 90s meant a very particular personality—transgressive, marginal, with punk and/or beat influences. The East Village is a radically different place today. Will the magazine still be identified with the East Village and, if so, what does that mean in 2010?

Bernard: I've got a wife and tweenish daughters, I work for a major media corporation for my day job, and I teach software to college kids on the side. But I'm still punk as fuck! I hope that answers your question...

Seriously, what the East Village meant to me, in a word, hopefully, without sounding too corny, is "freedom." When I moved to the East Village in 1984, you could smoke dope in the Life Cafe, spray paint the walls, open an after-hours club in your living room - anybody remember Chandelier on Avenue C? – and nobody gave a fuck. I'm pretty sure 8BC, the old nightclub, got its electricity from running extension cords to adjacent buildings. Neither Nor, Limbo Lounge, the original Save the Robots - none of those places had a license. In short, you could get a place in the East Village, for like $180 a month back then, and just do whatever the fuck you wanted. You could pay your rent by working 1 day a week, or selling pot, or whatever. In a way, the Internet affords us this same kind of freedom today. It's an incredible opportunity for all artists and publishers.

Also, I remember back in 1995, people were already nostalgic for the East Village of the 1980’s. The East Village was cool until operation pressure point, or the Tompkins Square riot, or Rudy Giuliani. Of course, in 1984, people were already lamenting the lost East Village. It’s sad the way NY is getting homogenized but I can’t help but think it’s all just a part in a cycle.

Tim: I agree about that sense of freedom. For me, that had been true in the squatter’s scene in 80’s London, or Montreal for a time, even Vancouver when I first started hanging out in the punk rock scene when I was a kid. We want to be identified with that bohemian sense of freedom commonly identified with the old East Village, but since I have lived all over the place, I tend to see it more in global terms than located in just the Village. You could go to Camden Town, London, or the Plateau in Montreal – or any formerly bohemian area in the Western World - and find pretty much the same process as the Village.

digital, 2010

The magazine used to be marketed as “dark and the disturbing.” Is that still your aim? And what place does dark and disturbing have in today’s culture?

Bernard: Did it? I remember saying we “made reading literature as fun and easy as watching TV.” I don’t know, if you want dark and disturbing, read the newspaper. If we’re in any way punk, it’s as a rebuke to all the dark and disturbing stuff that goes on around us--we acknowledge, play with it, transform it.

Tim: I’d say we’re underground. There was a phase at the end of my ‘bohemian’ life where everyone I knew was on destructive paths – narcotics and what have you. Up close that, ain’t pretty – or romantic. Certainly though, there is more than enough room – and reason – today for anger, for carving out a space outside the mainstream.

Can you say more about your slogan: “Post-beat, pre-apocalyptic”?

Tim: When I was a kid, me and all my friends were convinced the apocalypse was just around the corner. It’s funny to think of it now – how we lived then, squatting in central London, living in cheap apartments right downtown - the luxury of youth! Apocalypse did come for us in a way, just not the way we expected.

Bernard: By the way, that was only the slogan for our first issue – next time it’s gonna be “100% vampire-free art and literature since June 2010.”

Read Sensitive Skin here
and visit their Facebook Page here

Monday, July 19, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Fedora asks for your memories. This sign is up in the old menu box on the building. The family "would like to give customers the opportunity to comment, express their thoughts, and share their memories." You can send in email or leave notes at the bar:

Remembering the Washington Heights riots of July 1992--in two parts. [UC] & [UC]

Rescuing an old, overgrown Jewish cemetery in Ozone Park. [IL]

The "pancake lemmings" of Clinton Street. [WL]

The battle for the Houston Wall goes on and on... [EVG]

"The East Village is arguably the neighborhood-blog capital of New York, and its bloggers are a reflection of the neighborhood: various, and a little cranky." And here comes NYU's LEV. [CapitalNY]

ShyMob shrines on Rivington address "our primal cravings and desires." [BB]

July 27: Professor Peter Kwong speaks about gentrification and Chinatown, launching the project "OPEN CITY: Blogging Urban Change, where fellows collect oral history from residents of Chinatown/LES, Sunset Park, and Flushing." [AAWW]

July 26: Check out Criptease "a radical, joyful and uproarious night of sexy fun, striptease, and comedy, from performers with and without disabilities that like to push the boundaries of what crips are and aren’t meant to do." [LPR]

The bed bug plague is spreading. [Gothamist]

Three Years

Last week was the third anniversary of this blog, and I sort of forgot about it. So this is a belated announcement of that, and it's also a chance to introduce a new blog.

Over the past three years, I've gotten a great amount of gratification from writing this blog and especially from interacting with readers. It's also been frustrating and, like other bloggers we lost this year, I've thought about stopping.

Sometimes I get tired of it. Other times, it feels like not enough. I had no grand plan when I began in July of 2007, and launching was very spur of the moment. Since then, I've expanded beyond my original mission of preserving the vanishing aspects of the city. In some ways, I have felt that this unintentional expansion has diluted that mission. I am also feeling the need to stretch a bit. With that in mind, I am launching a new blog called The Grumbler.

The Grumbler is the person who walks down the street muttering about everything that's annoying--like yunnies, cell-phone shouters, and the proliferation of the word "artisanal." He is in New York, but his scope is global. The name comes with thanks to Roy Edroso at the Village Voice, who gave me that title back in January when I talked to him about my grumbling habit. Still, it won't be all complaining--The Grumbler will also write about good things, like books and movies and I don't know what else just yet. We'll see what happens.

Jeremiah will stay here, posting about things relevant to Vanishing New York. When he has nothing much to say, he'll simply put up a link to The Grumbler that day. Together, we should still post at least once a day, Monday to Friday.

Jeremiah and The Grumbler will probably sound a lot alike, since they are both aspects of myself. If you enjoy my more curmudgeonly and critical posts, you will like The Grumbler. If you're the sort who gets annoyed by my critiques about people, contemporary culture, technology, etc., you should stay right here.

I hope that most of you will read the new blog, and that it will give me the space I need to continue blogging for awhile longer.

Anyway, onward to The Grumbler...

Friday, July 16, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Now Victoria's Secret gets infested with bed bugs! It's becoming Biblical. [Racked]

Happy Birthday Bowery Boogie--cheers and many more! [BB]

Bar owners convince CB3 to approve their plans for a theater-lounge "experience" in the former Amato opera house. [Eater]

Kicking it old-school on St. Mark's Place:

The International's Molly and Shawn approved to take over Lilly Coogan's. [EVG]

More clues about the unearthed ship at the WTC. [CR]

July events at Stuytown's Oval Concierge. [STLL]

Thursday, July 15, 2010


By now, you may have heard that the Fedora restaurant will be closing on July 25 and that it will be renovated and turned into a "casual elegant supper club” by successful restaurateur Gabe Stulman, who spoke of his intentions to "keep most of the cherished design details, along with the name, of the restaurant intact."

Grub Street reports that Stulman said he will "restore Fedora to what it looked like in the thirties and forties." But Fedora didn't open until 1952.

Still, as Grub Street said, "fauxstalgia joints are tres chic these days," referring to a recent New York Times piece about how "a pride of reincarnated restaurants," including the Minetta Tavern and Waverly Inn, have helped turn the Village into "a theme park of the past" complete with "a vision of a lost bohemian New York--albeit with a well-heeled clientele and prices to match."

Will this be another example of theme-parking the past? We've seen it happen not only to restaurants but to Vesuvio Bakery and CBGB. More and more, beloved icons of the city are getting their guts ripped out for revamping, given over to the wealthy, made exclusive, though the husks are kept intact for the cultural cachet they bring to the new owners, who pride themselves on their dedication to preservation, and receive praise for saving the old holes in the wall from turning into banks.

The history at Fedora is significant. On the walls are photos of the men, mostly gay men of the Stonewall era, who made Fedora their home away from home.

It's the "closest thing I know to going home to Mom, especially if Mom had a sense of camp," said one regular to the Times in 1992.

In 1999, the Times described it perfectly: "Walk into Fedora Restaurant on any given night, for example, and you enter another era. Faded pictures recall bygone days when gay men packed the place on West Fourth Street with laughter, song and the camaraderie that comes from being in a refuge from a hostile world. Today, fewer of the regulars from those days stop in. But there are those who still do, gentlemen of a certain age, some with ascots and walking sticks. Others pop in only occasionally, for nostalgia's sake."

Those of us who are homesick for the old city do need refuge from what has become a hostile world. Fedora is such a refuge--from the cell-phone sleepwalkers, the frat-boy tag teams, the screaming sororities.

What will it be when it becomes the New Faux-dora?
Whose home will it be then?

all photos, my flickr

Read my past Fedora coverage:
Fedora Returns
Fedora's Last Days

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

"The fate of West Village legend Fedora has been decided: Gabe Stulman of Joseph Leonard, has signed the lease, and will be taking over operations after closing for a renovation that will keep most of the cherished design details, along with the name, of the restaurant intact." [Eater]

Artist Paul Richard unveils a new sidewalk work, the large carbon footprint:

Carpetbagging slicksters try to hoodwink CB2 about their nefarious plans for the Bowery "strip." [EVG]

Photos of lost NYC street murals. [FP]

"In New York City, especially in Thor’s Coney Island, if you see a building being demolished without a posted permit, say something. Call 311 right away." [ATZ]

In the silence after the city slaughters its geese. [CR]

Remembering Steinbrenner. [Gothamist]

Condo launch parties ain't what they used to be: "Gone are the trapezes, replaced by fried chicken and beer." [NYO]

Tour Woodside with Forgotten New York.

57 Great Jones

At 57 Great Jones Street, there's a little meat shop called Japan Premium Beef. It's been there for maybe a year and it has the look of the New Bowery--blank, white, expensive. Coolhunting said, "even vegetarians can appreciate its spare, minimalist decor, befitting a scene from a sci-fi flick or contemporary art installation."

image source

They think of their meat as art--it is definitely "curated"--and sell that super-trendy wagyu for $40 to $50 a pound. The people who go in to shop look like mega-wealthy retirees who, in their dotage, have decided to dress like rock stars, in outfits from Varvatos. Do they know the history of this address?

image source

Here's a flashback from the book Basquiat: "Friday, August 12, 1988. On the sidewalk outside 57 Great Jones Street, the usual sad lineup of crack addicts slept in the burning sun. Inside the two-story brick building, Jean-Michel Basquiat was asleep in his huge bed, bathed in blue television light. The air conditioner was broken and the room felt like a microwave oven. The bathroom door was ajar, revealing a glimpse of a black and tan Jacuzzi tub. On the ledge of the tub was a small pile of bloody syringes." Basquiat died here.

my flickr

Hanging in the window of the meat shop is a blown-glass sculpture replicating sausages. Through the sausages, you can look out at one of the last rough-and-tumble corners still standing on the Bowery, though it won't be standing for long.

As Grieve has reported, Downtown Auto and Tire will be demolished to make space for a nightclub from Italy via Miami. The club is described as posh, luxurious, and chic, with a decor "outfitted in all things black, from the stylish black leather couches with silver buttons, to the black-tinted mirrors throughout, to the fleur-de-lis textured black-on-black wallpaper."

And the Bowery Tsunami keeps on rolling.

my flickr

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fedora's Last Day: 7/25

Last week, I wrote a post about the precarious state of Fedora. Today, we heard from a commenter here, and from Grub Street, that the address is up for a new liquor license tonight. Now, in a comment here, 365 Bars blogger Marty Wombacher writes:

"It's true, Fedora's is closing, she told me Sunday night. She has health issues and can't keep it going. The last night is July 25th, go and enjoy it while you can."

photos of Fedora on my flickr

*Everyday Chatter

A commenter writes about Fedora: "Passed by this morning and there was a CB2 Notice of Public Hearing taped to the front door, regarding 'Little Wisco, LLC''s application for a liquor license. FWIW, the hearing's tonight at NYU's Silver Bldg." Indeed, this address is up for a new liquor license. This is very bad. See Grub Street for the heart-sickening news.

Take a walk through the artificial landscape of NYC with a photo-cartoon of Douglas Rushkoff by Seth Kushner. [Activate]

"let us older New Yorkers fondly remember a time when St. Mark's Place wasn't a benign tourist stop." [CR]

Faux-Irish Lilly Coogan's will be taken over by the International Bar's owners. Will they bring it back to the days of the Homestead, aka Bucket O'Blood? [EVG]

Remembering the blackout of '77. [CR]

10th St. Scribbler

Following up on the evolving graffiti wall of 10th Street, which is allowed to unfold more organically than another "graffiti" wall I can think of, the Paranoid Scribbler, as I have come to fondly think of him (or her, though I rather doubt it), has responded to Bloomberg's war on cigarette smoking.

The Scribbler tells us to boycott every place you cannot smoke, including movie theaters, where smoking has been illegal since the 1960s.

A small question mark after "politbureu" indicates some concern about his spelling, especially after other graffitists have corrected him. Spelling is not the Scribbler's strong suit. He tells us we should also boycott Medea, that vengeful Greek who killed her own children.

And now the Scribbler has competition. A conspiracy theorist with access to a computer and printer has one-upped the magic-marker makings of the Scribbler with illustrated flyers about the BP oil spill and the war on drugs--both of which, the flyer-maker claims, are canards.

The Scribbler agrees on the oil spill point, but has yet to weigh in about the war on drugs.

Monday, July 12, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Finding "Walk Away Renee" in Sheepshead Bay. [IL]

The owner of the Houston Wall doesn't want you trespassing on private property. [EVG]

The truth about the Skystreak elevators. [QC]

Check out the Poets House showcase. [NYT]

On the LES, Lush Life comes alive. [NYT]

Vanishing domino players of Bushwick. [TDG]

Celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first Negro League game at Yankee Stadium. [MCNY]

What should the Whitney do with the Whitney? [NYO]

"my 4-year-old daughter a few weeks ago stomped her feet, turned red and demanded to know why we did not own a summer house." [NYT]

Video of the Meatpacking stabber. [Gothamist]

Coney's Boardwalk

As reported back in April by Brooklyn Paper, the Coney Island boardwalk, as we have known it, is now vanishing, bit by bit.

According to a sign on the Brighton Beach end, "The existing hardwood timbers and decking will be replaced with custom-made concrete planks so that the new boardwalk is more resilient and environmentally friendly, with a lower carbon footprint and lower maintenance costs."

They make it sound so virtuous, don't they?

As you can see, the work has already begun. Parts of the boardwalk have been split lengthwise, with the beach side of the split done in concrete.

And those custom concrete planks? They are not attractive. They're stamped with textures, a mix of pebbly and faux-wood grainy.

Of course, faux-wood grainy is not the same as actual wood. Which is what boardwalks are traditionally made of. Hence the name: boardwalk.

Thankfully, "The traditional wood planks will be a key component on the Boardwalk near the amusement area, from West 10th Street to Stillwell Avenue." But for how long can we trust they will stay?

Brooklyn Paper also reported that some of Brighton Beach's old boards have gone to a Red Hook design studio where they've been "turned into furniture pieces that sell for $2,400 to $7,200."