Friday, October 29, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

A grisly corpse in the East Village...blood on the concrete at St. Mark's Church...a natural death or foul play by feline?

Go see Lost Bohemia, the story of Carnegie Hall's studio tenants and their failed fight to stay at home--next week at the New York Documentary Film Fest.

What to tip a cabbie when you puke in his car. [Gawker]

Into the former Old Homestead Inn space comes the Coal Yard--another good bar from the fine folks who brought back The International, dedicated to preserving local life. [EVG]

Hexing redevelopment at SPURA Site 4. [BB]

Meet the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club. [13]

How a NYC education can cost you over a million dollars--if you're one of those lunatic parents who believes the right pre-school is the golden road to Harvard. [HP]

The city's candy stores. [NYT]

Bedbugs at the UN--poor people setting fire to their mattresses. [NYP]

Hope for LSD

If you're shopping for last-minute Halloween stuff and missing Love Saves the Day since it departed the East Village back in January 2009, you have another chance to enjoy the ambiance of Pez dispensers, vintage collectibles, fright wigs, and rubber hands from the crypt. But you'll have to go out of town for it.

Love is still saving the day in New Hope, Pennsylvania--and they still don't like strollers, cell phones, cameras, or unattended children.

As far as I know, Madonna never shopped here, at least not on film as she did in New York, but the locals love it, especially at Halloween.

And it has its own building, so nobody's going to give it the boot or price it out of business. Original LSD owner Leslie Herson moved out to the country part time nearly 30 years ago. Said Leslie upon the near-closing of the New York store in 2005, "It’s a shame. New York is losing its individuality because little stores like mine can’t compete."

Now that individuality, lost to the city, is being scattered across the country. As New York City turns into Little Wisconsin, mini Nantucket, and the rest, small-town America is getting bits and pieces of the city. Fair exchange?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Fedora fans, shield your eyes. A tipster sends in this shot of the old place gutted to the studs, being prepared for her next incarnation:

Good news from commenter Jordon on the rising of Village Paper: "This is very exciting! I stopped by last night and Sonny confirmed for me that this location will indeed be permanent! At the end of the Halloween season, they will be stocking all the paper products and assorted knick knacks that they have been known for. Huzzah!"

Inside Otto's Shrunken Head after the fire. [EVG]

Was this week's shooting on Stanton Street a turf war? [BB]

Great film takes you inside the mysterious and amazing Uranian Phalanstery--go while you still can. [TG]

Balloon shapes for adults only. [SG]

Irony: Whole Foods is hosting an exhibit on the history of the Bowery--which it helped to push forever into the past. [LESHP]

Take a walk from Astoria to Grand Central. [FNY]

Bedbugs add to stress of moving. [WSJ]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The people who brought you the smell of urban renewal, continue the trend with the odor of "Nouveau Bowery." Smells like: "The sweet scent of skid row transitioning to ultra-modernity." That is really, truly the actual ad copy. [BB]

Tonight only: "Songs from Bedbugs!" a science fiction, thriller, comedy rock-musical, at the Beechman Theater. Sample lyrics: "We'll bite your neck and bite your fanny, hide in every nook and cranny." [WSJ] & [McS]

Check out New York City Grid, a photo log of the city block by block. [HuffPo]

Tonight at Niagara, the Club 57 Art Show. [Stupefaction]

DOT gives bicyclists a lesson in how to use bike lanes. [EVG]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Enjoy 1966's Unexpurgated New York, the guide to "How to identify a plain-clothes cop. Where to 'peep' and where to go if you want to be 'peeped' at. Which public phones are tapped. Where to buy an eye-patch after midnight." If memory serves, you can find it at the Jefferson Market Library. [VS]

A plain little building turns "Faux-Arts" with Ralph Lauren. [SC]

Happy 55th to the Village Voice. [RS]

NYPD steps up protection of EV awash in "wildings." [EVG]

"Clean" graffiti goes virtual with an app. [BB]

Rezoning Harlem screens tonight at Maysles Cinema. [RH]

David Freeland and others talk about leisure in NYC tonight. [CUNY]

Popular restaurateurs banding together to take down community board "kangaroo courts" standing in the way of their liquor licenses. [Eater]

Pizza Art

The former Ruben's Empanadas in the East Village (formerly Caprice Curls beauty salon), as we know, shuttered suddenly last month and will soon be taken over by its new neighbor South Brooklyn Pizza (formerly Cosmos Parcels, almost Rokara Cafe). and yesterday...

detail from a photo by Jim & Karla Murray

Until the pizza place expands, the walls have been painted white and covered with art. It's a temporary gallery curated, I presume, by the pizza guys.

But if you want to get in, you have to be hanging around in the "woo" hours of the night, between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.

Monday, October 25, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Patti Smith's Just Kids nominated for National Book Award. [NBA]

Is Queens the new Brooklyn? [AMNY]

Freddy's comes back from the dead. [HPS]

Go behind the counter with Di Fara's pizza man. [Grub]

A history of the hipster: "rather than an indie or bohemian subculture, it felt like an ethnicity—with its clannishness, its claiming of microneighborhoods from other, older migrants (Chinese, Puerto Ricans, Orthodox Jews), and its total uninterest in integrating into the local populations." [NYM]

"In the douchebag, the hipster had found its Other." [N+1]

An image of crumbling bungalow beauty from Staten Island:

H.L.I.T.'s flickr

When Ashley and friends tag walls. [EVG]

"Flamboyant spectacle" rolls down Broome St. [BB]

As the hyper-gentrification of Clinton spreads, Lucky closes. [TLD]

Of the mysterious woman behind "Dress Suits for Hire." [HNY]

"New York City, the international capital of bedbugs." [TIME] via [P&W]

"the New York bedbug menace has begun to affect the city's tourism industry, with fearful, parasite-phobic travelers canceling trips." [Gawker]

Ozersky visits Russ & Daughters. [OTV]

Pink Panthers

As a rash of anti-gay violence sends panic and rage through the city, is it time for The Pink Panther Patrol to take back the streets?

I got in touch with Chris Kreussling, one of the founders of the East Village unit of the Pink Panther Patrol. He recalled the city in the early 1990s as filled with LGBT activist groups, including Queer Nation and the Lesbian Avengers.

photo: Marc Geller

In 1990, anti-gay violence was skyrocketing in the city. In April of that year, says Wikipedia, "responding to the 120% increase in violence against queers, Queer Nation climbs to the roof of Badlands, a Greenwich Village bar, and hangs a 40-foot banner that reads: Dykes and Fags Bash Back!"

By August 1990, the Pink Panthers were patrolling the Village between midnight and 3 A.M. on Fridays and Saturdays. They wore black t-shirts printed with paws on pink triangles. The t-shirts said "BASH BACK!"

Pink Panther, 1991, New York Magazine

Why the upswing in anti-queer violence? It's the same as it is today. A spokesperson from the Anti-Violence Project told the New York Times in the summer of 1990, "gay-bashing is a fairly hip thing to do these days. It's a sporting event for a lot of young men." Said a police officer at the time, "You can attribute some of it to the fact that gays and lesbians are now out in the open."

Chris Kreussling agrees. He told me, “With visibility came a backlash from social conservatives, in particular hate speech. With hate speech came increased attacks, targeting neighborhoods, bars, and clubs that were the social centers. The West Village was not the only such neighborhood. At the time the East Village had at least a half-dozen gay bars and clubs.”

Weekly World News, 1990

Like the other Panthers, Chris did not carry a weapon. He says, “We conducted self-defense workshops at the Karate School for Women on Bleecker Street. But most of the training was about street-smarts, street-awareness, and having patrols work as a team on the street. We carried whistles, and encouraged others to do so. We decidedly did NOT work with the Guardian Angels. We considered most of them to be gay-bashers themselves.”

Chris used data from the Anti-Violence Project and, he says, “produced maps of reported incidents that helped both the West and East Village Panther patrols target the areas, down to individual blocks, with the greatest risk.”

Flatbush Gardener's flickr

Patrolling the streets of the East Village in 1990 wasn’t easy. Says Chris, “On patrol, reaction to our presence was about what you would expect. We were heckled and jeered, and better that we were rather than someone else." But the Panthers were also heroes to many New Yorkers. "We were thanked and cheered. The most gratifying part was the support we got from our neighbors and community. When we marched in the 1990 Pride Parade, the response was deafening.”

The Pink Panther Patrol didn't last long. In 1991, Metro Goldwyn Mayer sued the group for using a trademarked name they said was "created and promoted in the spirit of lighthearted, noncontroversial family fun and entertainment." MGM won. The Pink Panthers show no sign of coming back.

Friday, October 22, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Happy in NYC? "White Manhattanites who make more than $75,000 are the most satisfied." [NYDN]

New York portrayed as evil by politicians' ads: "In one spot, the Statue of Liberty is enveloped by threatening shadows. In others, photos of a Wall Street street sign segue into scenes of corporate types swilling cocktails or puffing cigars, and smug-looking bankers roaming the streets of Manhattan." [NYT]

Mugging-stabbing for iPod on 9th and Ave A. [EVG]

Do not leave your belongings unattended at Whole Foods. [BB]

The complete Metropolis at the Ziegfeld. [NYT]

Budding New York fashionistas: See the tiny monsters our culture turns children into these days. [Gothamist]

Bob Guccione's New York. [CR]

Writers engage in a dive bar brawl. [Grub]

Village Paper Rises

It's almost Halloween--to celebrate, the Village Paper party store rises from the dead, from the ashes of the fire that consumed it back in February.

Thanks to reader Grand St.'s tip, I checked out the boarded up store on 10th and Greenwich and found a sign stating "The Halloween Party Store" has moved to 8th Street between 5th Avenue and University Place. Indeed, in the former Metro Drugs location, owner Mr. Wong brings a new Halloween shop packed with masks, wigs, rubber body parts, plastic fangs, the works.

Even their signature autopsy corpse made the move! Known to stand in the window every October, the corpse comes complete with its usual twisting serpents and autumn-leaf loincloth--but where's the Zagat Guide that always spilled from its guts?

I don't know if this is a permanent location or a temporary shop for the season, but if you were a fan of Village Paper, go in, say hello, and buy something for tricks and treats.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

14 & B

In my travels through the New York Public Library's digital archives, I came upon this shot of 14th Street and Avenue B, the southeast corner:

And here it is today, courtesy of Google streetview, with much less sky and more crowded street. That's the Copper Building rising to the right, claiming this block for the up-and-coming. It's rare that one-story structures survive in this town. How much longer does such a prime corner have?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

King Kong & Cupcakes

In this week's New Yorker magazine, funny guy Joe Dator has a cartoon about New York, King Kong, and cupcake shops. He sent it to me, I loved it, and asked him some questions about it. (Also, as a frequent rejectee of the esteemed magazine, I am inwardly thrilled to have helped inspire a New Yorker cartoon.)

click here to buy it at the New Yorker cartoon bank

What inspired you to do this cartoon?

Well, aside from being desperate for ideas that day, I can thank JVNY for getting me thinking about the rapid outbreak of cupcake shops in this city. I'd been reading your posts about the cupcake blitzkreig for some time and it seemed like a good starting point for a cartoon. I'm also a huge fan of the original 1933 King Kong, and somehow the two things collided in my head and it made sense. That last bit is the hard part.

I'm always looking for ideas that are New York specific. I live here, and as a native son I feel it's my province to do cartoons that are really about the city. If you look at my track record only a handful have gotten in to the New Yorker, but I'm the most proud of those.

What do you have against cupcakes--aren't they just little dollops of joy and love?

Cupcakes are just a symbol for the shiny Bloomberg-ized, Carrie Bradshaw-defined boutique city New York is turning into. I grew up during the 1970s, when the old New York--"King Kong's New York" if you like--was still very much in evidence, and would be well into the 90s. Like you, I've watched, often in horror, and particularly over the last decade, as the city has been transformed into something nearly unrecognizable and sadly lacking in character.

I certainly have nothing against the cupcakes themselves. Shortly after I handed this cartoon in, I tried a Magnolia cupcake for the first time. It was good. I suppose I could have written "Twas Marc Jacobs killed the beast," but cupcakes was funnier, and it won't get me sued.

New Yorker cartoons have a reputation for being "hard to get." In yours, how exactly did cupcake places kill King Kong? Did he die from eating too many cupcakes or did the presence of so many cupcake shops in the city take away his will to live? Was this a suicide?

I don't get the "I don't get it" thing. It seems to hearken back to an older image of what a New Yorker cartoon is--like some kind of esoteric doodle--but the cartoonists there now are doing, in my opinion, some brilliant and edgy stuff. When I see my contemporaries' work in the magazine these days I see some very sharp, very funny satire. There's nothing not to get. I guess I blame that "Seinfeld" episode, which people are always quoting to me, and I always take great pleasure in telling them that a New Yorker cartoonist wrote it. (Yes, it's true--Bruce Eric Kaplan.)

But to answer your question about how New York being overrun with cupcake shops, and the (designer) baggage that goes with them, can kill a 25-foot-tall ape, it is in much the same way that "beauty" did him in before--by breaking his heart.

Is that too corny? OK, then he slipped on a goddamn cupcake.

Further cupcake-related reading:
How the Cupcake Crumbled
Make Way for Sprinkles
Magnolia Crumbs

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The Chelsea Hotel is for sale--and doomed for "boutique" death. [Curbed]

Samsung targets EV on football Sundays--because the neighborhood is now full of football fans. [BB]

As people leave the city, "NYC has no time for whiny sob stories." [FP]

Get ready for a future city full of robots more glued to screens than ever before. [Gothamist]

Noisy restaurants make your food taste worse. [Grub]

The vintage signage of Greenport, LI. [LC]

Monday, October 18, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Yankees super fan Freddy Sez has passed away. [Gothamist]

Change in Brooklyn on Brian Lehrer. [BHS]

The amazing story of Fulton Fish Market Annie. [NYT]

A day of pickles on the LES. [BB]

Brooklynites are weather whiners, says Kansan. [PMFA]

On the LES, life imitates American Apparel:

my flickr

Walking Queens' Main Street. [FNY]

Is the Times' Book Review "contributing to the unfortunate tradition of sexualizing female writers or at least obscuring their work with image"? [RS]

More bicycle backlash. [NYO]

At this weekend's memorial for Michael Shenker. [EVG]

New Yorkers on the street say what they think about $500 socks full of holes. [Racked]

Friday, October 15, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Bike lane protest tonight. [EVG]

Pee-Wee Herman visits Katz's Deli--likes the Cat Sitter's glasses. [CSIC]

Rare: Big green mohawk spotted on Avenue A. [EVC]

Perusing rare books about New York. [NYT]

VNY Flickr Pool: Galvarez51

Coney's Eldorado bumper car owner dies. [ATZ]

Two Toms, Gowanus treasure reviewed. [Eater]

Bloomberg wants Wal-Marts for the city. [Gothamist]

A subterranean pool hall shutters. [HPS]

Downtown B&W

The good folks at Anthology Film Archives just turned us on to a silent black-and-white, 16mm chunk of footage of "New York City--Downtown." It has been identified as the work of Lowell Bodger.

We see an empty urban landscape with only a few people walking. Few cars pass. The streets are cobblestoned--even Broadway at Astor, a desolate row of Automat, parking garage, upholstering and stationery shops. (Those buildings are gone and it's now Game Stop, AT&T, The Body Shop, Benetton.) There's Grace Church in the background as we look uptown.

film still

Nothing is hustling.

Take a right on Astor. Following a white-finned car going east, past Cooper Union, you catch a ghostly glimpse of the neon sign for the St. Mark's Baths up ahead.

But first let's stop for a slow pan of Astor Place and its Luncheonette. The square is quiet, empty. People walk very, very slowly. There are no skateboarders. There is no Cube. It looks like a forgotten part of town.

film still

The luncheonette is in a building that will be torn down to become a parking lot, which will be filled in with Gwathmey's big, undulating Green Monster.

film still

I've been curious about that lost building since I first saw it in Rudy Burckhardt's 1947 photo "Coca-Cola Goddess." By the time this undated film footage was taken, the goddess was gone. I've wondered if it might have been a newspaper office--other photos I've seen have trucks parked outside what looks like a loading dock, with those braced iron overhangs, but I've never figured it out.

Rudy Burckhardt, 1947

If you recognize this building, please let us know. And enjoy the film on youtube and see more clips in the AFA Collections.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

McNally gives up his fight to put a Pulino's in the former Village Paper spot. Would it be too crazy to pray for a bookstore? [Grub]

Remembering Variety Photoplays: "you could get a handjob/blowjob, with no need of knowing who was giving it to you." [LL]

From 1986, THEM returns to PS122--Dennis Cooper reads to "cacophonous electric guitar live; frequently violent and exhausting dance sequences" culminating "in a horrific duet between Houston-Jones and an animal carcass on a dusty mattress."

Bad old days are back? The Guardian Angels are papering the city with recruitment flyers:

A newbie says Goodbye New York after two years. City Room commenters are unsympathetic. [CR]

And another one bites the dust--bidding bye-bye to Brooklyn. [LM]

East Village Colossus. [EVG]

In the market for a coffin? [NYS]

ArchiTakes finds more to hate about historic rowhouse renovation that puts celebrities first. [AT]

Jimmy's Corner

One of the last vestiges of the real, old New York remaining in Times Square is Jimmy's Corner. Don't worry, it's not vanishing, as far as I know.

A snug dive on 44th, dedicated to the sweet science of boxing, it's "exactly the kind of place where a stranger might walk up to you and ask you to step outside--the kind of place where almost anything could happen," writes Brendan Patrick Hughes in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.

When you step inside, the misery of tourist-clogged New Times Square, with its bland gruel of flashing TV screens and family-friendly fare, all falls away. It just disappears. The door closes behind you and everything else ceases to exist. You are suddenly in New York again.

The regulars are talking and it's a pleasure just to sit and listen:

"When my wife had another girl, I resented it at first. I wanted a boy! Then I saw she had 10 fingers and 10 toes, and I just thanked God for another healthy baby. Did you know, my aunt told me this, back in the day, people were so ignorant, when she had her fifth girl, her husband beat her up. Because he wanted a boy and she didn't deliver! People were ignorant back then."

"You know what they say? They say it takes a real man to make a girl than it does to make a boy."

"Is that right?"

Jimmy's wife, Swannie, is the only woman at the bar. She's fixing the drinks. A photo of her hangs on the wall, in an article naming the bar an essential part of New York. Today she's talking about the city's habit of tearing up the streets.

"They're always fixing the streets," she says, "but the streets don't get any better."

The regulars agree. They talk about pensions, they talk about retirement. One man says he's tired of breaking rocks. He's too old for breaking rocks. And, by the way, did you hear, now the city's eliminating entire bus routes.

"I hear they're eliminating a lot of things," says Swannie.

And isn't that the truth? Times Square betrayed McHale's and dumped the Rum House--it's only a matter of time before Jimmy's is threatened with a knock-out, too. When that day comes, let's hope they put up a mean fight.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

A look at good, old 4th and 10th. [FNY]

Hail floods the toilets of Brooklyn. [Gothamist]

No Lady Gaga at the Parkside--she does have a tendency to stick in the brain. [BB]

Remembering the Cedar Tavern. [FP]

The New York Burger Co. is bringing their "flagship" to 10th Avenue and 23rd. Someone doesn't like the lettuce:

Intellectualizing hipsterism. [RS]

Investigating the mystery of the EV's cemetery explosives. [NYT]

Nick Denton's Gawker empire. [NYer]

Keeping tabs on the M15 bus. [EVG]

Glimpsing seamstresses in second-story windows. [SS]

A lonely tenement survivor in a high-rising sea. [NYT]

Video: Nightmare in the City That Never Sleeps. [COS]

Bowery Style

After 150 years of unremitting squalor with bursts of wild creativity, and about 5 minutes of unrestrained excess and glamor, the Bowery "style" is now priced to sell and spreading out across the country. Here's how it happened.

In November 2007, Hamptons boutique Blue & Cream moved to the Bowery and soon debuted the Bowery Hoodie for $140:

In April 2008, John Varvatos moved into the former CBGB. He sells the Bowery Boot for $698, Bowery Sunglasses for $375, and Bowery Fit jeans for $198.

In February 2010, J. Crew unveiled the Bowery Pant for a relative pittance at $98:

photo: EV Grieve

In July 2010, Rag & Bone moved to Houston--it's not even on Bowery, just slightly off--but they still manage to sell the Bowery cargo pant for $240:

So far, Bowery-branded clothing has been putting up the big numbers, hauling in some major cash. But now, in a grand example of trickle-down fashion trends, Old Navy (also not on Bowery) has started selling the Bowery Bombers sweatshirt for $19.50:

What are the Bowery Bombers? Were they really established in 1948? And what is the meaning of the number 32? The answers are: Nonexistent, No, and Nothing. But I sort of like the Old Navy shirt, as it baldly and unpretentiously reveals the meaninglessness of all the luxury-level Bowery-branded clothing items that preceded it.

In only 4 years, the fashion industry has managed to do its part in changing the meaning of the Bowery, a meaning that held strong in the country's consciousness for a century and a half. Now, in shopping malls, outlet complexes, and "retail-tainment" centers all across the country, from Orlando, Florida, to Wenatchee, Washington, "The Bowery" will mean something very different to countless bargain shoppers and back-to-schoolers.

What will it mean? Only time will tell. But when the tour buses begin disgorging folks in search of $5 "My Mom Visited The Bowery and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" t-shirts, well, you'll know how it all came to be.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday Mornings

In 1995 the Whitney Museum held a retrospective on the work of Edward Hopper. I must have attended the exhibit a dozen times. One of my favorite paintings of Hopper's, Early Sunday Morning, can still be seen at the Whitney, and it was there then, too.

I remember standing at this painting with a docent who described the shadowy block in the upper-right corner, how it symbolized a high-rise encroaching on these little brick buildings. It meant a dark future was coming and the world of these sun-drenched bricks would vanish.

Sometimes, I find myself unconsciously repeating Hopper's composition in snapshots--the pairing of low-rise brick buildings, sunny and warm, blushing in the light, with a cold monolith encroaching, upper right. This isn't hard to do. The image is everywhere.

my flickr

Have you seen it? If you have, add it to the Vanishing New York Flickr Pool. Tag it "Early Sunday Morning."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The chef at the New Fedora comes from Montreal. [DJ] via [Grub]

"Most New Yorkers, myself included, love pretending we live in a very big small town...We love our delusion of quaintness." [NYT]

Orange rinds in the window of a Chinese laundry in the Village:

Remembering EV community activist Michael Shenker. [EVG]

16 iconic NYC dishes from Lost City Brooks. [Eater]

Pee-Wee Herman takes Manhattan. [Gothamist]

NYC personal income drops first time in 40 years. [CR]

The perils of SUV umbrellas. [Restless]

Jones Street

Is Jones Street the perfect, "undiscovered" New York street? A kind of un-Bergen, it is mostly residential, a surprisingly quiet oasis between the cacophony of tourists and conspicuous consumers that flood Bleecker and West 4th, the two streets that bookend little Jones.

Only a block long, it nonetheless manages to sustain not one, but two record shops--Record Runner and Strider Records--both since 1979 and not vanishing yet.

Caffe Vivaldi is here, a nicely rundown-looking, old-school restaurant serving mostly Italian food and jazz, dating back to the 1980s and boasting patrons like Woody Allen, Al Pacino, and Joseph Brodsky.

And finally there's the Florence Prime Meat Market, a beautiful old butcher shop with sawdust on the floor and a cat licking its paws beneath the cutting table. What could be more perfect that that?

Plus, as blogger Teri Tynes pointed out, the street also features on the cover of Bob Dylan's Freewheelin' of 1963.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

New York foodies' pork fetish goes too far: "you will be bodily immersed in gallons of porcine fat." [Eater]

Birdbath, the expanding bakery chain, is coming to the East Village's NYU dorm on 3rd and 9th--down the strip mall from where Ben & Jerry's just closed:

Countdown to another Citibank branch. [EVG]

Looking at Drooker's Ginsberg. [P&W]

A shot of St. Mark's in 1967. [FP]

Cyclone roller coaster for rent. [Curbed]

Bay Ridge reminiscences. [FNY]

Avenue A Lounge. [NSC]

The story behind Park Slope's drippy building. [HPS]

Bobos on Bergen

In Brooklyn there's a block of Bergen Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, that wasn't there a year or so ago. The block itself was there, the street, the sidewalk. People lived on it. But today, almost overnight, it has become a tightly constructed microcosm of hyper-gentrification. Urban scholars should study this block. It's a New Urbanist dream come true.

It went up as quickly and completely as a Hollywood set and exemplifies everything that "White People Like." Which, as we know, is less about whiteness and more about "Bobos in Paradise." In fact, the entire 21st-century, urban, upwardly mobile, heterosexual reproductive cycle can be completed utilizing only the new businesses on this block.

Imagine a couple, let's call them Ben and Lauren. They are 35 years old, both of them "creatives" at a multimedia design "lab." They go on their first date at Melt, which they love for its "pure, honest and sustainable" food choices and "live off the land philosophy." They marry. For the wedding, Ben buys a pair of John Varvatos Converse at the men's boutique Private Stock, because he doesn't want to look like a total douche in his tux.

They try to get pregnant. Sex becomes tense. So they head back to Bergen to do some shopping at Toys in Babeland. They pick up a vibrator for Lauren and a buttplug for Ben. It works. In a few months, Lauren is shopping at Bump, right next to Babeland, for maternity fashion. While she's browsing stretch-waisted skinny jeans and calendula nursing balm, Ben heads next door to Bergen Street Comics, that "sleek clubhouse for the sophisticated fanboy."

Little does he know, while he's reading the latest Dan Clowes book, Lauren's in Eponymy charging a Gucci handbag to the house account. They'll argue about it later, down the block, while sipping fair-trade coffees and dipping kale chips into a bowl of "live" hummus at Sun in Bloom cafe.

In time, baby Cullen will be born. Ben will rent a rugged jogging stroller at Brooklyn Ride, and while he's pushing Cullen through the bike lanes of the Brooklyn he will inherit, Lauren will stay on Bergen, taking her Pilates Garage class at Lululemon, trying to tooth-and-nail it back to her pre-baby body. Lauren considers herself a devout "Luluhead." After their morning exercise, the whole family will reunite at "artisan chic" Bark for hot dogs smothered in baked heirloom beans and oak barrel aged sauerkraut.

"Did you hear," says Ben, between gulps of his retro-hip Foxon Park diet white birch soda, "That crummy bookstore down the block is going to be a store for tweens."

"That's great," says Lauren, patting her flat tummy, "It'll really come in handy when little Sophie gets big."

"Little Sophie?" says Ben, "Really? Another baby? I guess it's back to Bump!"

I stepped off the Bergen Block (after my own browsing through comic books and personal lubricants) and wondered how something so unreal-looking could pop up in such a short amount of time. It couldn't have been an organic process, I thought. All the signs are exactly the same. What condo developer engineered this so he could stuff his brochures with pretty pictures of nearby amenities? It's like Disney's master-planned Celebration, I muttered, passing by sheets of blue plywood and the skeletons of up and coming condos.

The Brooklyn Paper
reported that the engineering was done, indeed, by the Pintchik brothers of Flatbush fame. They carefully transformed the block, says the paper, "into a little slice of some small town Main Street in just two years."

I can't say what the ultimate goal is, but we all know that the Bergen Block will act as a fertile harborage for more of the same, that its commerce will attract, breed, hatch, and spread as efficiently as, well, bedbugs. It's biological class warfare--like introducing lady bugs into the garden to rid your prize roses of aphids.

Nantucket shops

Said one of the business owners on the block, "Coming here is like stepping off of Flatbush Avenue into Nantucket."

I guess if Greenwich Village has Little Wisco, Park Slope can have "Little Tucket."