Thursday, September 30, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Cemusa steps it up. A tipster sent in the following photo and writes: This "shiny new stand with five plasma TVs...replaced a shiny new stand without the monitors that was put there a couple of months ago. Talk about out with the old, in with the new. As I was walking away, someone asked me 'So what do you think?' Turns out it was a rep from CEMUSA. He said they installed eight of these in the Times Square area in the past couple of days." So...what do you think? Do we need shiny boxes wrapped in multiple TVs?

See the Yarn Car. [BB]

Are Coney's vintage signs being saved by Sitt or just trashed? [ATZ]

Bloomberg talks bedbugs on Letterman. [NYT]

Sign up for Open House NY today.

Coney Burnout

Regularly, our friend Tricia Vita over at the Coney Island blog Amusing the Zillion will send me a link about something terrible that's happening out there. Either the Henderson Building is being prepped for demolition, or the Faber's Fascination sign is being destroyed, or the Surf Hotel is being ground into dust.

And every time Tricia sends me these emails, I write back something like, "Oh, God, I can't look," or "It's unbearable," or "This is too much." All of which, I realize, is a form of denial.

Professional caregivers often talk about "empathy burnout," or just plain burnout. When you are someone who cares and you burn out, basically, you reach a point of "emotional exhaustion and reduced sense of personal accomplishment." You feel like everything you do is futile in the face of an unalterable horror--like death or serious illness--so you stop feeling. Powerless to change anything, you disengage.

This is how I feel towards Coney Island. When I think of the apocalypse that is going on there right now, I disengage. I turn away. I don't want to write about it, either. Truth is, right now I never want to visit Coney Island again. I don't want to witness the grisly remains of its rape, murder, and dismemberment.

And isn't that what the city's urban planners and the private developers have been hoping for, even orchestrating? That those of us who care about Coney--who take action either in writing or staging demonstrations or lobbying the city--will just give up?

Thankfully, some people haven't given up.

Shore Hotel, 1936. Today: Being demolished by Thor.

Let's take a moment to appreciate what Tricia is doing--facing down the daily despair to keep reporting on what is happening to Coney Island right now. She has not turned away, though it's painful to look. And let's also applaud the ongoing efforts of Save Coney Island--tonight, they're hosting a panel discussion on What's Next for Coney.

Attend the discussion if you are brave enough to face reality--by next summer, Coney Island as we know and love it will be gone forever. In its place, you will find a pile of strip-mall junk, a meaningless and hollow shell stuffed with empty calories, empty memory, empty life. It will be a corpse dressed up to look like something alive. We will not be fooled.

Thor's "soulless vision" for Coney Island

Two quotes come to mind from the destruction of Penn Station:

"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters." --Jackie Onassis

"Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves... And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed." --NY Times

Henderson Building in 1924. Today: Being demolished by Thor.

Shore Hotel
Henderson's Dance Hall
In the Popper
The Destruction of Coney

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Peyote Man! This guy really wants you to enjoy Peyote. He has set up a living room (complete with sleepy sofa pal) on 14th St. and calls out "Peyote! Hey, Peyote!" while he hands out literature about the "Peyote Way Church." Far out!

"What sort of retail now occupies the former home of urban planning pioneer Jane Jacobs? So glad you asked! It's a Glassybaby, a store that sells nothing but $45 cups." [UNY] [Racked]

The bike-lane debate continues to rage. [EVG]

Tonight, see the East River String Band live. [SG]

I just like this quote: "People gave Oprah a hard time for her sometimes schmaltzy and mostly commercial Book Club picks. But she sounds like a modern day Gertrude Stein in the context of Bookmarc." [GOG]

Enjoying pearls and turtles in a Garment District window. [Restless]

An e-nnoyance rant from Bob Morris. [NYO]

Candy at the Strand sells faster than register-side books. [Racked]

Hope and dread for the future of books--and just plain dread for the future of stupidity: "39 percent of children ages 9 to 17 said the information they found online was 'always correct.'" [NYT]

The Future Is Marc

I have seen the future of the bookstore, and it has been designed by Marc Jacobs.

photo from Racked

Since I first broke the news last year of the takeover of the Biography Bookshop space by Jacobs, I have been waiting to see what would become of it. Recently, I ventured inside.

The shell of Biography remains intact, familiar, but startlingly changed. Most of the old shelves have been left in place, but they now give room to both books and designer accessories--$88 leather bags, branded totes, keychains, and blank notebooks with covers that mock and riff on classic titles from literature. "Moby's Dick (LOL)" is one title. "As I Lay Tanning" is another.

photo from Racked

Most of the books are big, coffee-table extravaganzas of photography, art, and fashion. It's a carefully curated selection, with many collections dear to New York City--books of photos by Allen Ginsberg snuggle up next to Andy Warhol doorstops. There's a section on music that focuses much of its energies on the city's punk scene. And there's plenty of sex. One book offers a woman's photographic ode to her husband's penis.

If you are looking for visual stimulation, Bookmarc is a good resource, a veritable glittering candy store. But aside from a handful of biographies, you won't find many books made mainly of words.

from the author's website

Those that are made of words are arranged not according to author, but by the color of their spines. For example, The Letters of Sylvia Beach, which have no relation whatsoever to House of Versace, are nonetheless situated so that the "patron saint of independent booksellers" lies weirdly co-mingled with the creator of celebrity culture. Why are they so paired? It makes no sense, unless you consider that olive green and black are the hot colors of the fall season. Don't they look great together?

In all, I found two novels. There may be more hidden in between the tote bags and colored pencils, but I only found two, both by Francine Prose.

Prose and Jacobs' business partner, Robert Duffy, are buddies, so she gets a whole shelf dedicated to her work. It's the Francine Prose shelf, where her fiction and nonfiction are intermixed, shuffled together confusingly for maximum visual punch.

The customers are all oddly similar--in their vests over t-shirts, their Sinatra hats and leather wristbands, their thumbs flying over iPhone faces and iPod click wheels. And this was the biggest change from the old bookstore.

Unlike Biography's more peaceful customers, Bookmarc's are jittery and distracted. Most are too busy texting LOLs to read the bit of text in the books they stand leafing through. It's hard to read anyway with loud dance music playing overhead. Within 10 seconds of walking inside, I was pushed and shoved. The customers created a buzzy and brittle energy that you generally don't find in bookstores, but that you can expect to find in bookstores of the future.

photo from Racked

The greatest gift to be found in Bookmarc is the unparalleled view it gives us of the future of bookstores.

With books disappearing into digital pixels, in the future, it is likely that only sumptuous books loaded with visuals will be printed on paper. In the specialty shops where they'll be sold, you'll find fashion accessories mixed in, like cheese poured over broccoli, to make the medicine of even these digestible books go down more easily.

The ambiance will be frenetic. Books will be attractively arranged without thought to their topic or genre. In the loudspeakers, you will hear a pounding beat. It will be there to keep you from thinking too deeply as you browse and consider what to consume. As a person of the future, this won't trouble you.

In the end you will opt to purchase a gold leather headband stamped with a brand name. You will step out of the shop, place it on your head, and feel as if something important has just happened to you. Ten minutes later, you will wonder what that hollow feeling is deep inside. You won't be able to place it. Having never read a book in your life, you won't even know what you are missing.

Further reading:
More Jane, Less Marc

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Not to be outdone by Sukkah City, a 16-year-old from Crown Heights has created the Pedi Sukkah--seen here in Chelsea:

I wrote here about Coney's World in Wax awhile ago--now Tricia Vita shares a rare cinematic glimpse inside with an unfinished film by Charles Ludlam. [ATZ]

The East Village is one of the country's most expensive neighborhoods. [Curbed]

Meet a top New York NIMBY. [Eater]

Chris Flash on limiting concerts in Tompkins Square Park: "we will not allow the use of our Park to be restricted by a self-appointed sound-nazi." [EVG]

In praise of wheelie stoplights. [FNY]

Vanishing City filmmakers in the news. [NYDN]

Reviewing James Franco's Ginsberg in Howl. [P&W]

Shooting fashion on Crusty Row. [EVC]

The Second Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, at 6th and 11th, always seems a bit lonely. But someone has left stones for the dead--letting them know they are not completely forgotten:

Limelight Angels

In the early 1990s, Andre "Angel" Melendez was a fixture at the Limelight nightclub. He was known for wearing his trademark white angel wings. In 1996, he was infamously murdered by club kid Michael Alig.

Angel Melendez

It was a particularly gruesome murder--he was hit in the head with a hammer, injected with Drano, and put on ice until his body began to decompose, then Alig chopped him to pieces and tossed him into the Hudson River.

Today, the Limelight is now the Limelight Marketplace, a high-end shopping mall.

Said Guest of a Guest at the grand opening this spring, "The ghost of Limelight past rolled in its the 6th Avenue church-cum-debauched megaclub reopened as a mini-mall."

Real New York Housewives, Limelight mall

Angel Melendez might have been rolling, too, had he seen what was at the Limelight this weekend.

The shopping mall has placed two greeters at the door--pretty people dressed in all-white with feathery angel wings.

Was this a grim homage?

Angels outside Limelight mall today

Inevitably, I thought of Melendez and his famous wings. You don't have to be a former Limelight regular to make that connection. Even if you don't remember the splashy headlines of 1996, and you didn't see the missing flyers posted all over the Village, you only had to see the 2003 movie Party Monster, starring Macaulay Culkin.

From Party Monster

So the question is: Did the marketing people who made this decision intend to reference the victim of a brutal murder and dismemberment? Or did they stumble upon the angel wings unaware of their significance to the Limelight?

I'm not sure which would be worse. Maybe, in the light of this new day, New York history is that easy to forget.

Monday, September 27, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Bedbugs strike Macy's and Bloomingdale's. [Racked]

NYU's "LEV" gets slammed by angry commenters. [Curbed]

Streetside graffitists speculate on the fate of Sammy. [EVG]

As Coney's Henderson Building prepares for demo, a cat lurks nearby. Is this Hijinx, boss of the Coney cat gang? [ATZ]

A few years in the life, and death, of a Coney Island sign. [PS]

Touring Brownsville with David Freeland. [GLF]

On Staten Island, "the city, in its infinite wisdom, is paving paradise. And putting up a latrine." [NYP]

Rum House


The Rum House in the Edison Hotel closed last night--not on September 30, as previously believed--after losing their lease earlier this summer. The place had been on 47th Street off Times Square for 37 years and the original owner's grandson was still working the bar.

Recently named one of the Best Bars in America by Esquire, the most enticing description of it comes from New York magazine: "a veneer of sleaze sets it a world apart from your classic martini-doling hotel's one of the few remaining destinations near Times Square where a middle-aged lush from Dubuque can go to drown his sorrows in cheap liquor and plastic bowls of pretzels."

I'd never been to the Rum House before, so I hustled up there to see it before it vanished. Indeed, it did appear to be full of the sort of person you might call "a middle-aged lush from Dubuque." Quiet at first, the place soon filled with rowdy tourists who like to drink. Not fancy tourists, either. More the type with not a lot of money to spend, hellbent on having a big time in the Big Apple as best they could.

The Yankees-Red Sox game was on the television and folks were rooting for New York. Budweiser beer bottles piled up in crowded huddles on the tables. The jukebox blasted Van Morrison--singer Karen Brown had abandoned her piano already, back in May, and without a singalong, the place lacked the something-special vibe its regulars once raved about.

Dark and dingy, the room was brown all over, in that way that bars used to be brown, as if the air itself had turned the color of tea. Whatever comes next to this space probably won't be so brown.

As the third-generation bartender told Fork in the Road, "There are rumors that they're going to gut the place and make it shiny, and update it and brighten it up."

And so it goes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

We got a note from the Anonymous who scribbled "No McNally" on the walls of Village Paper: "I'm just a local person who is sick to death of how this neighborhood has been f'd up. When I have a dog to walk, I also throw bags of poop into the doorways of Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren stores. Haven't had the opportunity lately."

photo from Eater

More good stuff for fans of Max's Kansas City. [Stupefaction]

Is Pearl Paint about to vanish? [CR]

Grieve's readers offer some creative names for the new, rebranded Aces & 8s. [EVG]

Now you can buy an entire block of Canal Street, knock it down, and put up something glassy and depressing. [BB]

Remember when everybody hated the Twin Towers? [FP]

Talking with a Moscot--Franco wears their glasses in Howl. [TLD]

Great Sphinx

For over 20 years, Muhamed Hussein's Great Sphinx halal food cart has been parked on 9th Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets. It was there before the Chelsea Market opened across the street, before Starbucks came to the corner, before the Meatpacking District was "MePa."

But now he's being told to get out.

Mr. Hussein appeared on NY1 recently to tell his story. It was his second appearance on the news channel--his first time was in 2008 when the Chelsea Improvement Company (CIC) told him to move so they could plant trees and bike racks on the sidewalk.

He told me, "It's a group of millionaires against just me," explaining how he is being pressured again to move by the CIC and the owner of the Taconic building in front of which his cart stands.

"Another cart is on this same block," he said, pointing to the coffee and donut cart some yards away. "But they don't try to move him. Why me? I got in the Vendy awards, too. People like this cart. If I move, even one block, I could lose business."

A petition is posted on the front of the cart, filled with names of his faithful customers. If you don't want to see Mr. Hussein go, take a walk by and sign it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The dialogue on the Scribbler wall is what we had before we had online comment threads, just plain old ink. Now the wall is going "post-digital," with the addition of something called the Street Tweet:

A conference was held this week to look at how “the city is facing new threats to its longtime dominance in the creative fields" as artists are pushed out. What did they discover? [CNY]

Take a field trip to "one of New York City’s best-kept secrets,"Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Materials Store. [TC]

Television ads are being installed on subway cars. Another assault for the senses. [RS]

"It's not every night you see Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker hanging out in the back room of a dimly lit bar on lower Avenue C." [Grub]

Aces & 8s tries rebranding strategy to quell E. Villagers' ire. [EVG]

The Bowery's Billy Leroy cleared of charges for selling subway signage. [WSJ]

Fashionista shoppers. Waiting in line. In their underpants. [Racked]

And in case you didn't notice: Stupid Is Spreading. Here is what The Idiocracy looks like:

People Are Weird

Unison Fetish has returned to Bleecker Street on weekends this month to perform their satirical cupcake song and dance routine. They march through the crowds of shoppers and tourists, a line of women--and one man--all attired in pink satin dresses and heels, holding cupcakes in their fists.

Consumers stop and take photos. They smile. They seem oblivious to the fact that they are being mocked. True, the mockery is soft, subtle, and could be taken for genuine enthusiasm. The lyrics are sung to God Bless America:

"God bless Magnolia
Cupcakes we love
Stand in line here
For a time here
Buy a treat Carrie Bradshaw would love.
Bless Ralph Lauren
And Marc Jacobs
All the global luxury brands!
God bless Magnolia
Temptations so sweet...
God bless Magnolia
And the New Bleecker Street!"

Subtlety is lost on New Bleecker's crowd, which may not always contain the most evolved thinkers.

A little boy asks his mother, "Why is there a man in a dress?"

The mother answers, "Because people are weird."

Where are we? Little Wisconsin?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Former owner of the Beatrice Inn wants you to know that his new venture is authentic punk and "definitely not letting a bunch of banker douchebags in the fucking door." During Fashion Week: "André Balazs and Selma Blair slow-danced by a wall of drawings and photographs of male genitalia." [NYO]

Susan Seidelman speaks on the 25th anniversary of Desperately Seeking Susan, back when "Second Avenue was pretty funky" and still had Love Saves the Day. Screening tomorrow. [NYT]

Adorable bedbug swag! [NYT]

A moment of NYC bike zealot triumph. [Restless]

After 22 years on 3rd Avenue in the East Village, Ben & Jerry's is closing, "Due to Economic Times." I have mild, mixed feelings. I am not 100% anti-chainstore, and this one was so depressing and weird, so vintage 1980s, it had a certain odd appeal. I guess we'll soon be welcoming yet another bubble-tea lounge to this strip.

Now you can get your very own "I Survived the Great Brooklyn Tornado 2010" t-shirt! [HPS]

The sins of Sin Sin. [EVG]

A Chock review: "sometimes, even in Manhattan, a place can still come along for us. Not the tourists, not the hipsters, not the SATC girls, just us. And that's more than enough for me." [WL]

A walk through Gowanus. [FNY]

More places for people to park their asses. [AFB]

Check out the Cambridge Companion to NYC Lit--and who knew Gossip Girl was in the Whartonian tradition? [P&W] ... buy it at St. Mark's Bookshop.

Looking at the wonderful film "On the Bowery." [WOBA]

This weekend: Coney Island Film Fest. [FIB]

And More Scribbler

Messages from the Scribbler of East 10th Street were covered up when his wall of choice was whitewashed a few weeks ago. Undeterred, enjoying a fresh expanse of empty page, he struck again, printing out his political messages in old-school analog style.

He tells us that "America is being run by dead white men," including Marx and Stalin, and some white men still alive but "maybe" dead, including Bloomberg and "Meathead"--is that a reference to Michael Stivic?

He attacks his usual targets: psychotherapy, the Jews, Communism, anti-smokers, politicians...then gets splashed by someone quoting George Orwell's Big Brother in red paint: WAR IS PEACE.

The Scribbler is having none of that. "Orwell was a Red," he responds. "And so is Bloomberg."

He goes over the sections of his script that have been covered in red paint, darkening the letters in Magic Marker, crossing out responses from other scribblers, responding to their retorts. The "thread," as it were is not linear, like a blog comment thread, but swirls around. Your eye moves up and down, right and left, trying to follow the inked conversation.

Finally, he lights out for unscribbled territory around the corner of the plywood, to the avenue side where he rarely ventures. In that still-white expanse, he adds a bit of curious history: Hitler was the first PETA.

10th Street Graffiti
10th Street Scribbler
Scribbler Strikes Again

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Obit: "Jill Johnston, a longtime cultural critic for The Village Voice whose daring, experimental prose style mirrored the avant-garde art she covered and whose book “Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution”spearheaded the lesbian separatist movement of the early 1970s." [NYT]

You've got two chances to see The Vanishing City this week--at the Harlem Film Festival 9/23 and then at Willifest 9/25. More info about the film here.

Japan bans Paris Hilton. (Sort of.) What if New York banned Paris wannabes? [yahoo]

Bedbugs make the cover of The New Yorker--in art by Barry Blitt:

Filming now at Soy Cafe: a new "reality" TV show about dating from this lady. Overheard quote: "Okay, so I am going to do my very best to find you the perfect New York City romance, a guy who can sky-dive with you one day and make you breakfast in bed the next!"

For the first time, "a corporation has received permission to link its brand" to the I Heart NY symbol. [NYT]

Vomiting out the window at Motorino. [EVG]

People are shopping in their underpants. is that so they don't pick up bedbugs? [Racked]

10th and Greenwich

The city changes, and has often changed in mainly stable ways. Sometimes, a single address tells the story. When we look at the northeast corner of 10th Street and Greenwich Avenue, we can see over a century of simple shifts, ending with an explosion, not just of fire.

NYPL, 1933, the Cushman Bakery

A Cushman Bakery stood here once. It was the original bakery in a local chain started in 1854 by Mr. Horatio Benzil Cushman. He died in 1918, but this shop stayed awhile longer.

So was said, "there is not a customer who can move to any part of New York proper and not see a Cushman bakery wagon pass his door." About those wagons, a commenter at Serious Eats recalls "putting a card in the window on days when we could actually afford to buy dessert from Cushman's Bakery--which went door-to-door."

NYPL, 1941, Antiques Shop

By 1941, the bakery was gone and an antiques shop had taken its place.

In the background, on 6th Avenue, we can see a brick wall had been painted with a sign for real estate broker Emil Talamini. The paint is new. The broker's telephone number is Algonguin 4-1817.

Robert Otter, 1964, Sutter's Bakery

Then the three-story building came down. A tower did not take its place, but rather a little one-story brick box. In 1948, it became the home of another neighborhood bakery--Sutter's--which had moved here from Bleecker. That beloved place shuttered in 1976 when the rent took a major jump. (Read more here.)

The paint on the Emil Talamini's 6th Avenue sign began to fade. The broker himself passed away in 1970.

I don't know what stood here in the 1980s. Sometime around 1990, the Village Paper stationery store moved in to the spot. It also became a beloved small business. Then, in February 2010, the store exploded into a two-alarm fire. The owner, Sun Wong, could not rebuild and the place has sat vacant since.

Google streetview

Immediately, bar and restaurant owners began fighting over the corpse. For awhile, the top contender was Bobo, an upscale restaurant that hosts parties with glittery masks and inspires Yelpers to say: "Prices are a little high, if i made as much money as my friends with financial and consulting salaries I feel like this would be a normal brunch place and a great bar to hang out at later in the night."

But Bobo has dropped out of the race and Keith McNally now holds the lease. He recently presented his plans to turn this spot into a Pulino's Cafe--but a group of locals opposed him with concerns about crowding, noise from open windows, and too many liquor licenses.

The New York Times called the Bowery Pulino's "insanely crowded" and talked a bit about how McNally's many restaurants "have introduced or enhanced neighborhoods all over downtown: Pravda and Balthazar in SoHo, Pastis in the then-quiet meatpacking district, Schiller’s on the Lower East Side, Morandi and Minetta Tavern in the West Village."

For over a century, the corner of 10th and Greenwich has been a quiet spot. Locals bought their bread here. They browsed for antiques. Saved their pennies for a cookie. They shopped for greeting cards and Halloween masks. How might Pulino's Cafe enhance it now? Some neighbors are saying "No McNally" in graffiti on the site.

my flickr

Meanwhile, in the background, that crusty overseer of change for 70 years, Mr. Talamini's advertisement continues to vanish into a ghost sign. I keep waiting for it to be painted over with a billboard for Coach or Juicy Couture. Because that's the way it goes. Today, when the city changes, it makes big, luxurious leaps, not small, restrained ones.

Monday, September 20, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Historic, literary Algonquin Hotel to become a Marriott. And the suburbanization of NY continues. [GOG]

Check out Grade A Fancy, a blogospheric digital magazine, and their graphic review of the last vestiges of the Theater District "before it went all corporate." [GAF]

Read WestView online--and enjoy their regular feature "West Village Originals."

The Varvatos effect? Joey Ramone becomes a high-end cocktail at Peels. [EVG]

City map shows where the white people are. [Gothamist]

Welcome to Sukkah City--because everything has to be art and design. [BB]

Seeing inaccessible New York by rowboat. [NYT]

"Room service on demand from a celebrity chef. A maid to make the bed with fresh linens every day and leave a chocolate on your pillow at night. An 11,000-square-foot spa an elevator ride away. All yours with the purchase of a luxury condo." [NYT]

Shopping unsafe! The bedbugs have taken over Niketown--and Racked asks, "is there any area in Manhattan that's safe to shop bug-free?" [Racked]


A vanished piece of the old Deuce has come back to 42nd Street.

In 2001, The New York Times wrote: "Perhaps Peep-O-Rama, at 121 West 42nd Street near Avenue of the Americas, never meant to make history." But it did, simply because it had become the last sex shop to survive on 42nd Street. Sadly, it only held that title for a year.

After standing since 1950, it was closed July 31, 2002. Said the Times, "The formal closing yesterday of the last peep palace on 42nd Street, Peep-O-Rama, was a coda in the rebirth of Times Square as a kinder, gentler place. The sex shops and naughty tape stores have been wiped clean from the famed street."

In Peep-O-Rama's place now stands the Bank of America tower.

from Heatherpixie's flickr

In the 2001 Times article, the writer wondered, "could a case ever be made for preserving Peep-O-Rama or its facade for Times Square posterity? Discussion is scarce. The Landmarks Preservation Commission and the New-York Historical Society would not comment; neither would the Mayor's Office of Midtown Management."

Now, nearly a decade later, that's exactly what's happened. The sign has been restored and returned.

getting prepped

The Times Square Alliance hired Let There Be Neon to restore the sign for hanging in their Visitor's Center. Since 2002, it had been lying under a tarp in a lot on 57th and 12th, in the possession of the Durst Organization, builders of the Bank of America tower. (The 25-cent piece didn't survive.) I talked with Jeff Friedman of Let There Be Neon and asked him a few questions about the sign and neon work. He was kind enough to answer and send along these "illuminating" photos of his team's skillful restoration.

Cutting tube for PEEP's neon "E"

Q: What is involved in the process of restoring the sign?

A: We removed all the old angle irons, old wiring, old transformers. Considering this was no longer and outdoor piece, we prepped it for hanging in an interior space, which is a bit different than hanging off a building. As an example, we removed the back cover because it was all bent up and the piece will hang in front of a wall and our goal was to remove as much unneeded weight as possible.

Splicing an "E"

Q: What other iconic neon signs have you restored over the years?

A: Gringers on 1st Ave., Old Town Bar on 18th St., Russ and Daughters on Houston.

Q: As you travel through the city, which neon signs would you love to get your hands on?

A: I love the old rooftop Eagle Clothes sign in Brooklyn. What I really love the most about it is that it is hidden and can only be seen from certain blocks.

A pair of E's being pumped full of light

Q: What do you think is the fate of neon in an LED world? What do we lose when we lose neon signs?

A: LEDs have no soul. They come out of a box and require very little training. There is nothing wrong with LEDs, but the lack of soul, in my opinion, is due to the fact that the neon has been formed by human hands and the softness of its feel is visually obvious.

installation in the Visitor Center

Jeff informs me that the sign has now been installed at the Visitor's Center on 42nd for all to enjoy.

Now and in the future, the guts of New York City will only exist as museum pieces, as exhibited souvenirs. At least we will have that--as long as people care enough to preserve them. Right now, the only "PEEP" you'll see on 42nd is right here, complete with its originally missing hyphen.

let there be light

Further reading:
Show World
Adult Bookstores
Parisian Danceland

Secret Peeps