Saturday, April 30, 2011

35 Cooper Coming Down

Some sad, but unsurprising, breaking news this weekend. After a recent meeting with concerned neighbors, from which they emerged optimistic, the owner of 35 Cooper Square has communicated via his lawyer to council member Rosie Mendez about his final decision on the fate of the beloved building:

The key sentence in this excerpt is: "Unfortunately, it was concluded that it would not be feasible to develop the site with the building or any significant portion of it remaining." 35 Cooper Square is coming down. As Grieve noted yesterday, more scaffolding has arrived at the building.

The owner will be making a financial contribution to the Landmarks Conservancy to help document the histories of Federal buildings such as #35, for which "creation of an historic record is all that can be done."

The History of 35 Cooper Square
35 in Scaffolding
35's Personal Jane Jacobs

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rally for a Hospital

The former and still vacant Artepasta space on Greenwich Avenue has become the de facto action center for demanding a new hospital in the Village since St. Vincent's shuttered and was earmarked for condos.

Every window is filled from the inside with flyers and posters announcing the Rally tomorrow at 2:00 and asking, "Are you ready to trade your life for a condo?"

I don't know who is behind the ever-growing installation of flyers, but Artepasta was one of the 20 businesses that closed here since St. Vincent's shut down. Reported Crain's, "Many of the survivors are struggling, reporting revenue plunges of 30%, 40% and more."

What will this part of town look like when its businesses are spawned and supported by luxe condos instead of a neighborhood hospital?

We're going to see more major changes to the culture here. Come to the rally tomorrow at 2pm.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

In the Strand's window, excellent advice from John Waters:

Check out John Waters' curated collection at The Strand, a bunch of books that he says "will help you become a well-rounded, happy neurotic who can finally reject your own guilt and shame and embrace the outer limits of human behavior."

Pop-up bookshop sells one book: “This makes books feel like an art installation,” said the author. “We should care about them.” [CR]

Saying goodbye to Beat-era poet and filmmaker Ira Cohen, who just passed away. [WIC]

The horrifying future of Coney Island. [Curbed]

The swizzle stick madness continues. Chum's Mum adds a pic to the VNY flickr pool and Marty After Dark hunts one down at the Brandy Library.

Is your home included in the East Village preservation map? [EVG]

Take a Forgotten NY Tour this season. [FNY]

Obama in NYC: as he looked around the room, "crowded with sequined women in Christian Louboutin designer shoes," Obama said, "Everybody here almost by definition has lived out that American dream. The question is, will that same story be told by our children and grandchildren? Will it be told by the folks who do all the work here in New York City and across the country, washing dishes?" [via Gothamist]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Serendipitously, after posting We Love Your Dog! over at The Grumbler, I came upon Michael Sean Edwards' "No Dogs Allowed" flickr set--photos of dogs left outside a cafe on Tompkins Square Park. As it should be. And a great series.

photo: Michael Sean Edwards

Watching the East Village turn into Midtown. [EVG]

Today is the last day of business for Moe's in Clinton Hill, reports a reader who says the 10-year-old bar is not "Mars Bar, Sophie's, or anything of the like. But it is a special place to me, warm, welcoming, far and away the most racially mixed dive bar crowd I've ever seen. And a great establishment." Go today to say goodbye.

Remembering the Wigwam Bar and the Mohawk Indian community of Brooklyn. [CGP]

See the great downtown poets of the 1970s at Anthology tomorrow and Friday night, including Ted Berrigan, Tim Dlugos, Eileen Myles, Alice Notley, Peter Orlovsky, Ron Padgett, and lots more. [AFA]

This looks good: A book about why we get annoyed by annoying people. [NYT]

Brothel Soup

On the First Avenue L platform, Brooklyn-bound, a man is seated alone on the bench. He is as round as a little Buddha, with a cherubic face, white beard, and a Santa hat, even though it's nowhere near Christmas. He is singing a cappella, apparently making up the lyrics as he goes along.

"Spread your thighs, welcome to the Lower East Side, spread your thighs, drink healthy and delicious Brothel Soup. Every woman makes Brothel Soup between her thighs. Every woman on the grill, on the grill to give men a thrill."

Illustration by Victor Kerlow

His sweet, innocent-sounding voice contrasts with his spectacularly vulgar and shocking imagery. The song goes on and on. People on the platform look nervous. Then the Santa pauses for a word from his sponsor, "Brought to you by delicious, vegan Brothel Soup." The people on the platform begin to smile.

Another man sits down at the other end of the bench, a fellow with several missing teeth, dressed in a Chicago Bulls jacket. He asks the Santa, "What's that you're singing?"

"Brothel Soup," says the Santa.

"What's that all about?"

"Every woman makes Brothel Soup. And many of them are bisexual. Did you know that? 90% of women are bisexual. All lesbians are bisexual. That means they like men and women."

"Oh yeah?" says the Chicago fan, "What do they do with them?"

"They eat you," says Santa.

"Eat you? What do you mean?"

"They lick your rectum," says Santa, sweetly, in his weird child's voice.
"They lick your balls. They suck the sausage. I eat them, too."

"How many women you got?"

"Two at a time. They pay me!"

See more JVNY with artist Victor Kerlow:
Helluva Lot of Beer
Pig Sty
Nighthawks Op-Ed
Meatpacking Art

...and check out Victor's blog Chopped in Two

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

From this week's New Yorker magazine--bringing up artisanal babies, not so far-fetched:

Easter Sunday, art, and cake at Mars Bar. [NSC] & [MAD]

Has Gossip Girl just launched the ruination of Veselka? [EVG]

Painting of roll-down gates (weren't they banned by Bloomberg?) begins Festival of Ideas on the Bowery. [BB]

Newish Brooklyn Bridge Park condo gets its first retail--a high-end doggy spa and a wine store. What else? [NYO]

Behind the city's (and country's) blandification: "far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy." [VF]

Monday, April 25, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

How a shot of the Highline Revs/Cost mural ended up on the wall of the McDonald's in the Louvre Museum of Paris. [Streetsy]

photo: Jake Dobkin

Easter Parade pics--starring jellybean top hats and the Queen of Queens. [Gothamist]

The International Bar has a blog--who knew they went on fishing trips? [IB]

How to poison the view of the ugly condo that just blocked your view--with creepy baby heads, middle-finger candles, and your naked, "bulging oiled belly." [Restless]

New York City vocabulary lesson. [BB]

"We get it, Post--cyclists are ruining this city." [RS]

A big sign on the LES: Underage drinking will not be tolerated. The fratties quake in their Dockers. [EVG]

You can never revisit the color photos of Saul Leiter too often. [ENY]

A rock n' roll map of Manhattan. [FP]

Today's cupcake: "doesn't fit into a person's mouth because it is eating-disorder food. It is food for people whose ideas of pleasure and vice are so twisted up that they can't imagine a sweet treat of normal proportions." [Slate]

Spooky night shots of Rye Playland. [SNY]

Jim Mason

In recent years, a handful of under-appreciated Brooklyn writers have been rediscovered and republished. Jonathan Franzen championed Paula Fox's Desperate Characters, Jonathan Lethem revived L.J. Davis' A Meaningful Life, and now--on the hyperlocal scale--Peter Miller, owner of Freebird Books, has brought Red Hook writer Jim Mason's Positively No Dancing back to print.

All photos by Peter Miller

Jim had originally self-published his story collection and sold copies at the store on consignment. The copies went fast. When the supply ran out, Freebird took on the task of reprinting it. Says Peter, "Jim was too tied to the history of the store and the neighborhood to let it get away. He's the best representative of homegrown writing we have in the neighborhood--sorry, carpetbaggers like Martin Amis don't count."

Since writing the stories in Positively No Dancing, Jim has been priced out of Red Hook--pushed all the way to Ohio, where he's inadvertently taken Patti Smith's advice and found a new city. He came back to Freebird this month for a reading and book party. I interviewed him over email.

Q: In the preface to your book, you write about “the new bicycle path that now carries white people from better neighborhoods through our neighborhood on their bikes, looking for real estate deals to price me out of yet another home.” What would you say to the pro-bike path people who argue that the paths are all-good additions to the city and its ecology?

A: I'd say they're right. It was more just the result of it. The site of the bike path on Columbia Street used to be what, when I moved there, was called "The Puerto Rican Beach." There were a lot of old guys who used to sit all day along the fence before there was a bike path, with both American and Puerto Rican flags proudly tacked onto it, drinking beer, saying hello to passersby, bothering no one, but taking advantage of some sun before they had to go back to their little compartment apartments. They lived there long before I did. But when the bike path came in, it seems those people coming to either slum or speculate in Red Hook were bothered or scared by them, and they were booted.

I have one friend who continues to set up shop on the path (with plenty of room for bikes to go by, he's against the fence), and somebody keeps knocking down his cardboard home and "rescuing" his cats, and it pisses me off. Again, they were there first. And is it that hard just to steer around him a little bit?

Q: Throughout your preface you paint a picture of the “new folks,” on their bicycles, eating organic, knitting. If you imagine yourself in their heads, as they look out onto Red Hook, what are they thinking?

A: They're thinking, "This is so lovely, the breathtaking city views, the waterfront. If only we could get rid of those dreadful chicken slaughterhouses and those awful cranes and shipping containers and that terrible bodega with the bulletproof glass. We could organize for the city to build a nice park. We can keep a couple cranes the way IKEA did, just for the nautical flavor. But it would be so much more pleasant here without all these trucks and the factories. The factories would make such wonderful townhouses, if we could only convert them."

Well, you know what? Fuck you. The slaughterhouses were here before you were. The factories were here before you, and they employ hundreds of neighborhood people. (All right, I'm not an activist, just a classist, so I don't know if those numbers are 100% correct.) The trucks were here before you. Why the fuck did you buy a condo next to a chicken slaughterhouse in the first place? When I moved to Williamsburg in '87, I didn't look around and try to see how I could change it. I was in Rome. I tried to figure out how the Romans do.

Q: In your story “Ashes,” you talk about the gentrification of dive bars and very neatly run down the way it happens, how a dive bar can become “corrupted by yuppies or artists.” Should artists stay the hell out of dive bars?

A: Absolutely not. I was an aspiring artist who went into dive bars. That was the aesthetic that drove me to NYC. I'd just say don't let the yuppies see you going in there, because then they'll think it's safe. That's the problem with NYC. Artists are like Vietnam point men. And I guess someone on your site will make the very valid point that artists are coming in and changing the neighborhoods just as much as yuppies. (By the way, "yuppies" seems so dated, but I don't know what we call them anymore). I think I had a character in the book make that statement, so he's allowed to be wrong-headed. I take no responsibility for what he said. I was just transcribing.

Q: Perhaps the most heartbreaking statement you make is: “There’s no place for me here anymore. But there’s also no other place for me but here. I don’t know what to do.” How did you cope with this impossible situation? What did you do?

A: I climbed into the front seat of the car I was living in for my last month there and drove away. Spent the last 8 months in my parents' basement in Elyria, Ohio. I am moving to the East Side of Cleveland, where I will be getting a 1-bedroom apartment right on Lake Erie, with a front porch that spans the entire length of the house and a back porch that looks onto Lake Erie, which can look like an ocean. $400 a month.

Q: People like to say that Brooklyn is the place where all the creative Manhattan people went when they were priced out of Manhattan, and that young artists can make it there. Yet the wave of gentrification keeps rolling out across the boroughs. Is Brooklyn an artist and writer’s paradise?

A: Sure. For connected and or published writers and artists. I think it's a paradise, but to me paradise doesn't involve having to pay $950 a month for a 8 x 12 bedroom apartment share with some 25-year-old kid above a metal shop on Van Brunt. Again, coming from the Midwest, as a kid drinking Genny Cream Ale in my buddy's rec room watching everyone playing ping pong or some shit, my dream was to leave and move to NYC, to Greenwich Village like Dylan or Kerouac and live in a cheap little apartment and be "an artist."

A buddy of mine told me recently that his friend's son just got accepted into a really good elementary school in the Village under the "Diversity" program. What was the diversity? His dad is an artist.

And the rest of the city is filling up with ping pong tables. I'm hoping paradise may be the East Side of Cleveland.

Click here to order a copy of the book at Freebird Books

Friday, April 22, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Amy Poehler will not take down those sexy red curtains on Ave. A--and promises "24/7 stripping." Woo! [Gothamist]

The Mars Bar-to-condo conversion is complete. Sort of. [EVG]

Insane, picky Midtowner posts a sign complaining about street cart bagels and iced coffee--looks like a good one for White Whine. [OMFS] ...and City Room follows up.

In Little Italy:

Check out Jerry Rio's "Celebrity Watch" of 1991--and dig the derelict Upper West Side. [COS]

102-year-old lady returns to Lower East Side faux speakeasy to revisit actual speakeasy where she celebrated in 1933. [NYP]

"International amusement giant Zamperla may be turning Coney Island into a generic shopping plaza you could find anywhere in Anytown, USA, but that's just fine by our old rich white male officials, who will no doubt feel more comfortable posing for photo ops at a shiny new sports bar..." [Gothamist]

But the city needs to fact-check their rollercoaster info. [ATZ]

A tour of Pete Hamill's Park Slope neighborhood. [HPS]

E. 7th Shift

This week, Grieve wrote about the changing face of 7th St., how it's gone, and keeps going, from a quiet block to the Food Capital of NYC. He worries that "this precious stretch of the neighborhood will simply become one big line of people waiting to eat."

I recalled one of my favorite bookshops, Tompkins Square Books and Records, which used to be at 111 E. 7th and closed sometime around the turn of the millennium. It was run by a man named Gani Remorca, who could find you any book you asked for within a week or two of asking. You could sit in a tattered easy chair and read, listening to the opera music that Gani played from an old turntable, while an orange cat rubbed your pant legs. Is there another Heaven?

Visit 90s Woman blog for a video of See, Hear

While Googling for the shop, I came upon the New York Times' 1995 guide to shopping in the East Village, an interesting time capsule. The writer of the article is thrilled by the sudden appearances of a bunch of boutiques between 9th and 7th Streets. He calls it "shopping nirvana." Most of what he mentions are those boutiques, but a few choice listings, all of them now lost:

"SEE HEAR (59 East Seventh) is an underground repository for collectors of trash culture, full of the latest in adult comics and rock-and-roll fanzines as well as books covering every aspect of both fields. Gift items like Heroes of the Blues trading cards, with portraits by R. Crumb, coexist with issues of the old folk periodical Sing Out and Psychotronic magazine, which focuses on horror and exploitation movies. If you are looking for a coffee-table book on tattoos, this is the place.

TOMPKINS SQUARE BOOKS AND RECORDS (111 East Seventh) is a more contemplative sort of place, with used books and records stacked everywhere. The opera on the stereo is a definite switch for this rock-and-roll neighborhood but fits the dusty, Strand Books-in-miniature feel of the place. It seems especially good for literature, books on architecture and hard-to-find records, including 78's.

STOOZ RECORDS (122 East Seventh) is a cramped little record store where the clerks are disarmingly honest. "What do you think of the new Oasis album?" a customer asked. "I didn't like it," a clerk responded. "Fine way to make a sale," another clerk said. If you can clear the cat off the compact disks and records, you'll find a good selection of 60's rock."

photo: Alex in NYC

Thursday, April 21, 2011

791 Broadway

We visited the final home of poet Frank O'Hara back in 2009, just before it was completely demolished. It was a building once full of artists, where the ground-floor business sold orthopedic devices for amputees.



It is now debuting for "first move-ins" and computer-printed signs on the ground-floor windows ask you to please check out their website. Rents for apartments in the new building start at $3,750. A two-bedroom has gone for $5,000. (O'Hara paid $150 for a floor-through loft.)

Its developer's blog hypes the "modern kitchens with Carrera marble countertops and state-of-the-art appliances, Italian porcelain bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and hardwood floors" and suggests the ground-floor space be used "for a boutique or coffee shop."

In case possible ground-floor renters get confused, here's a visual from the window:

A skinny lady drinks a latte. A couple of go-getters in tight sweaters show their teeth while carrying loads of shopping bags. Get it? Coffee shop or boutique. Boutique or coffee shop.

This type of marketing never says, "Ideal for a bookstore or clock repair shop." They never show pictures of people browsing records or bringing their shoes in to be resoled. And they certainly never say, "Terrific space for orthopedic appliances!" with a photo of a smiling guy and his prosthetic leg.

O'Hara moved to this address in 1963. That same year, this memorable quote appeared in the New York Times in farewell to Penn Station--I often think of it on these occasions: "Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

After putting in a bank, undulating super-condo One Jackson Square now brings a Starbucks to 14th and 8th--that's keeping the Village spirit alive, as they once claimed:

The public park High Line is getting privater and pricier: "developers love the High Line." [WSP]

Marty goes off in search of swizzle sticks. Where will they be found? [MAD]

Jessica Hagedorn's new novel, Toxicology, opens with a scene near the Hell's Angels club in the EV. It's a story about real artists--looks good. [JH]

More fun with breastmilk cheese. [Gothamist]

Books to Wax

In December 2009, we first heard the terrible news about the closure of Skyline Books on 18th Street. It was a hard one to take. The space has been empty since it shuttered in January 2010, but it recently reopened with a new tenant.

UniKwax, a body waxing chain from Florida, is now bringing hairlessness where once were books of art and poetry.

Books--out! Celebrity eyebrows--in!

Yes, UniKwax can give you the brows of celebs like "Eva Longoria Parker, Vanessa Williams, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Tyra Banks and Christie Turlington."

Meanwhile, 10 blocks north, Skyline's new incarnation ekes out an existence in the front of a flower merchant's workshop. But for how long? How much longer will any of what matters still be permitted to endure in this town without pity?

Skyline, 2008

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

A Brooklyn politician wants to put through a bill to "punish real estate brokers who promoted property with an unofficial, made-up name." No more SoBro, SoHa, etc.! [CR]

April 25 at Film Forum: See the Vanishing City & Twilight Becomes Night--two for the price of one! [GVSHP]

Dirty Laundry Readings--hear stories read in a laundromat on Avenue B. [NYDN]

NYPD cracking down on nightlife on the LES--at last. [Eater]

The roof at 35 Cooper Square looks like shit. [EVG]

Coney Island murals try covering up devastation with whimsy. [ATZ]

Visiting the Village Papaya Dog. [MAD]

Carroll Gardens: "A Mafia foundation with a Yuppie overlay." [LC]

Swizzle at Sardi's

A commenter here mentioned swizzle sticks, saying, "remember when bars put PLASTIC stirrers in drinks, not those tiny straws? They were very different, various colors, many had name of the bar. They're like jewels. Wish you'd write about them sometime."

This isn't a whole post about swizzle sticks, but I did come upon one--at Sardi's "Little Bar" in Times Square.

It's not the most exciting swizzle stick in the world. It's black, with a ball on top, and doesn't bear the name of the bar on its shaft. But it's a nice touch in a great place.

Sitting in the Little Bar on an afternoon, before the theater crowd rushes in, actual theater people come to drink. (The "theater crowd" comes to see a show, while "theater people" create the shows.) Four other drinkers share the bar with me on this day: a gray-haired producer, a gray-haired actor, a gray-haired writer of musicals, and a singer who looks old enough to dye her hair.

This is not the Dave & Buster's gang. It's an old-timers' place. Joyce Randolph, the last living Honeymooner, has made it her regular place. And the bartender, Jose, has been handing out the swizzle sticks for 20 years.

The theater people drink while memorizing lines in bound scripts. They take typewritten scripts out of manila envelopes to show each other how the writing is coming along. They talk about languishing in industrials, doing dance arrangements in small productions, and recall trying to break into acting back in the day, when rent on a Central Park West apartment cost $80 a month.

And they give each other advice. As one says, "I was put here on Earth to run the world, and I do it one person at a time, but nobody listens to me."

Sardi's Little Bar is one of the last places in Times Square where you can drink and be in the real New York at the same time. McHale's was one of those places. There's still Jimmy's Corner. But the Little Bar is extra special--it's deep New York, old history, an oasis from the multiplying chaos of the city. There's "out there," and then there's "in here."

"How was St. Patrick's Day in here," the gray-haired actor asks the bartender (this was weeks ago now). "Was it crazy?"

"Oh no," says the bartender, "Thank God we don't get that crowd. Thank God."

"It was crazy out there," says the actor. "I nearly killed three people on the street."

"Thank God we don't get that crowd in here."

Monday, April 18, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Gatsby house demolished. [Curbed]

Is this Mars Bar's death rattle before demolition? [EVG]

Meet the real Winnie the Pooh at the NYPL. [SNY]

In Williamsburg: "Bars beget more bars. When an area becomes a scene, the laws of supply and demand that would seemingly regulate the number of suppliers goes out the window. Diversification of neighborhood retail becomes threatened because successful bars can afford higher rents." [CNY]

A lovely shot of the Queen of Queens. [NYS]

What's left of old Sans Souci? [GLF]

Not-evil pink stuff. [TGL]

Meet Manhattan, an interview with the cocktail. [GAF]

Friday, April 15, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Something called IOBY wants to turn the 13th St. Mystery Lot into "your favorite park."

Digging into DeFonte's Sandwich Shop. [Eater]

The Village Voice building is burning--back in 1905. [RS]

If the Electric Circus opened today--would you complain? [EVG]

A stack of colorful pics of the city circa 1962. [FP]

Beatnik riot commemoration canceled in Washington Sq. Park. [WSP]

Last chance to see the Emperor of Rome and Jesus Christ in "an X-rated wrestling match for the hearts and hard-ons of ancient Rome." [PP]

EV Creepers

In the vein of "everything East Village gritty gets recycled by the luxury industrial complex and slapped with a swollen price tag," I've been thinking for weeks now about the new "It" shoe, the Prada creeper.

Prada Creeper

It sells for $795 and there's a waiting list to get it. The Post calls it clownish and ugly, and says that a lot of "fashion-forward" New Yorkers are clamoring for it.

If it looks familiar, it's because this type of shoe was all over the East Village throughout the 1990s, before the neighborhood became Prada-fabulous. For years, it seemed like every little cobbler shop's window was packed with such Frankenshoes, every sole slapped with platform upon platform, some reaching insane, ankle-breaking heights of towering improbability.

Now, many of those cobbler shops have been forced out of business and replaced with things like vegan ice-cream shops and boutiques. But if you still have a hankering for jumbo platforms, you can get them custom-made at East Village Shoe Repair on St. Mark's Place.

The shop is a grungy little nest packed with sneakers and shoes in various forms of hybridization--Nikes sprouting Lucite stiletto heels, checkerboard Vans decked in leopard print, Chuck Taylors elongated into giraffe-like knee-highs. It's like walking into the lab of mad scientist. They love this place in Japan.

The guys here will add however many soles you want to whatever footwear you want--and it won't cost you $795. Well, technically, at about $20 per sole, you could spend $795, but then you'd be towering on about 40 layers--more than enough to crush the Prada creepers with your monster shoes.

this photo clipped from Another Mag

Thursday, April 14, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Check out Caligula Maximus, where "The debaucherous Emperor of Rome takes on a beautific Jesus Christ in an X-rated wrestling match for the hearts and hard-ons of ancient Rome." [PP]

Filmmaker Bette Gordon on Times Square: "it is neon, but it’s this commercialized Toys R Us neon, which I think is sad. I miss the grit. I miss the reality. I miss the back alley feel of the old Times Square. It’s always been touristy during the day, but at night it had this secret glow, this secret glimmer, and you could feel like you were participating in a more secret world." [LM]

See the films of Bette Gordon at Anthology.

April 26: Buy Two Boots pizza and help save East Village poetry institution A Gathering of the Tribes from landlord greed. All pizza proceeds to Tribes. Then party with open mic at 6pm. [FB]

A sort of ironic nostalgia?

More gloss for the Bowery gold rush. [EVG]

See "On the Bowery" tonight. [BB]

A new blog captures Staten Island in photos. [CSI]

Sad to hear about the death of L.J. Davis, author of A Meaningful Life, the tale of a brownstone Brooklyn gentrifier in the 1960s. [Forbes] & [NYT]

Veal & Pumping

After being closed for the past several years, the former home of Premier Veal, also known as the Gansevoort Pumping Station, is being demolished to make room for the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District. What's been lost is not just another meat warehouse.

my flickr: November 2010

my flickr: today

The building was originally intended to be a market house built circa 1906-1908. It was soon converted into a high-pressure fire service pumping station by the city. This Gansevoort station was used to fight the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

from Industrial Progress, 1909

interior, The Edison Monthly, 1913

According to the 1914 World Almanac and Book of Facts, the pumping station was outfitted with "six electrically driven centrifugal pumps that are connected to the Croton Supply" and could "deliver 3,000 gallons a minute against a head of 300 pounds at the station."

At the time, firefighters believed that these high-pressure stations would "doom" fire engines.

my flickr: 2007

Oddly, as you can see in these before-and-after photos, the demolition crew has torn off the signs for the pumping station. Maybe they're being saved for posterity?

my flickr: today

Founded in 1972, Premier Veal moved into the building in 1984. In 2004, the city forced them out by requiring $1 million of extensive renovations without letting them buy the building. The city also increased the rent from $12,000 to $20,000.

Clearly, Premier Veal was no longer wanted in the new MePa. The Bloombergian developers had other plans.

my flickr: 2007

Reported the Villager at the time of Premier Veal's eviction: "The distinctive cow murals on the Premier building are by Chico, the Lower East Side graffiti artist. [Premier's president] Hirschorn, also an art collector, commissioned him to paint the building in 1996... some animal activists had shot paintballs at the murals."

But paintballs didn't doom these Chico cows to the dust heap of MePa--the rising of "progess" did. The High Line must be fed.

my flickr: 2007--with Standard Hotel rising

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NYC '75 by DeWolf

Nick DeWolf worked in semiconductors, doing things I will never comprehend. He also designed fountains. But I found him through his 1975 photographs of New York City, lovingly and painstakingly collected on Flickr by his archivist Steve Lundeen. Thanks to Steve and Nick's wife Maggie for granting me permission to reprint a few of the photos here.

I was most taken by the shots in Times Square. Here's one of an "On Stage Live Continuous" Magic Theatre:

photo: Nick DeWolf, 1975, flickr

There are several photos of a depressive bunch of anti-pornography demonstrators and their colorful signs:

photo: Nick DeWolf, 1975, flickr

And more of a free-wheeling film crew that seems to be floating in the air of 1970s Times Square:

photo: Nick DeWolf, 1975, flickr

There are many, many photos here to look through. Most are not of New York City, but plenty are. Take some time to browse and, when you do, be sure not to miss: the shots inside the subway, the lights of Times Square at night, a bunch of groovy people waiting to cross the street, and an amazing lady in pink.

(Special Note: For lovers of mid-century computational technology and office life, you must check out the 1950's "Transitron" sets, with enough photos of early computers and guys in thick glasses to choke a horse.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Life in the Triangle

There are buildings and apartments that I fantasize about whenever I walk past. One of them is the Triangle Building, that hulking wedge of brick between Hudson and 9th Avenue in the Meatpacking District. I've often wondered who lives there and how. So when I wandered in off the street one day and was welcomed by long-time resident Ivy Brown, it was something of a dream come true.

Ivy Brown in her gallery, with work by Tim Groen

Ivy runs the Ivy Brown Gallery, located at the entrance to her long, triangular apartment where she has lived since 1985. She moved into the neighborhood when it was still dark and the air reeked of animal blood. Today, hers is one of only a dozen residential spaces remaining in what is now a transient commercial district.

"I saw an ad in the Village Voice," she told me. "It said 'triangular loft, 1800 square feet, 18 windows, with a wood-burning fireplace.'" The apartment sounded amazing, but she hesitated to move in. "The neighborhood was really gritty. There were no lights. It was just transvestite prostitutes and meatpackers. There was blood and fat all over the streets, and big buckets of what they called inedibles. It smelled to high heaven and every time I looked out a window I managed to catch a glimpse of the Bone Truck." The Bone Truck hauled away the inedibles. It had no top and chunks of fat would fly off it when it went by. Within two years of living there, Ivy became a vegetarian.

Ivy Brown Gallery, with work by Tim Groen

The promise of 18 windows is hard to turn down (years later, after expanding, she's got a total of 25) and life in the Meatpacking District would soon prove to be a wonderful adventure. A great bunch of guys lived upstairs. They worked for Spin magazine or made jewelry. One had a prison cell for a closet. It was leftover equipment from when the apartment had been Lenny's Attic, "a kind of S&M golden shower sort of environment," Ivy explained.

The prison-cell closet had a drain at the bottom.

Ivy's bathroom door

Was that Lenny Waller who ran the Attic? Maybe. Ivy remembers Lenny well from when he ran the basement clubs--Hellfire, Manhole, The Vault--where Ivy's fusebox was located. During a sudden blackout, she hurried downstairs in bathrobe and slippers, and Lenny led her through the club to the fusebox.

"There was a 300-pound woman chained to the ceiling and a guy with a cat o'nine tails whipping her," Ivy recalled, crossing her eyes. "Anyway, turns out, our fusebox had exploded. We had to call the Con-Ed emergency guy. So I'm standing there, trying to make polite conversation with Lenny while all these people are beating each other. My slippers are sticking to the floor. I mean it's like Elmer's glue everywhere. They've got a chain-link spider web along the wall. So I say, 'That's a really nice piece.' And Lenny says, 'Yeah, it's great, it holds two people!' The Con-Ed guy wasn't even fazed. I guess he'd seen everything."

When Ivy's last male roommate moved out and only women were living in the apartment, they enlisted Hellfire's doorman as protection. Charlie was a big leather guy with a German Shepherd and a heart of gold. He invited them to the Slave Auction where they met "a gentleman called Pony Boy, in his late 60s, sitting at the bar drinking orange juice, butt naked and wearing a saddle," along with more of the downstairs regulars.

The bedroom

Ivy was also protected by the transgender sex workers on the block. On the first floor of the Triangle Building, she explained, was a transgender crisis center called Project First Step and across the street was Lee's Mardi Gras, the biggest boutique for crossdressers in town. At 14th was Dizzy Izzy's bagel place, where all the girls hung out. This was their stroll and on weekend summer nights they flourished. "I'd look out my window and see maybe 40 trannies," said Ivy, "almost naked, wearing trenchcoats they'd pull open when the cars came by. And those girls were gorgeous."

Ivy gave them clothing and makeup, and always made sure she had a mirror on the bicycle she kept outside so the girls had someplace to check their lipstick. Her favorite was called Taxi. "Whenever she crossed the street, all the others would scream, 'Taxi! Taxi!' And cabs would stop. They got a kick out of that."

There was little danger in the neighborhood back then. "There was no one to rob," said Ivy. "You wouldn't rob a tranny, you'd get your head bashed in. Today there's much worse crime here." But the sex workers' customers could be threatening.

"Walking west, once you left 8th Avenue, the world ended. The girls always saw me to my door and made sure I got home safe. If a guy bugged me, two girls would flank me and scare him away." One night, in an ice storm, Ivy fell on the sidewalk. She was dazed. "Then, all of a sudden, I was like a kitten being picked up by the scruff of the neck. Two big girls lifted me up and carried me home. They never asked me for anything. Never crossed a line. They had my back."

Photos by Mr. Means in the bathroom

Another person Ivy met on the street was Dorothy. An immigrant from the Bahamas, she was called "Grandma" by the guys who ran the downstairs gay bar J's Hangout, where Dorothy collected cans. Eventually, she became Ivy's adopted grandmother. For 20 years they had brunch together every Sunday and went to the LGBT Metropolitan Community Church where Dorothy ran the food pantry. Five years after Dorothy's passing, Ivy still serves food at the church on holidays and hopes that her adopted grandmother is proud of her.

"This building introduced me to a whole other level of my life," she said, thinking of the many people who enriched her over the years in this place.

Hallway full of windows and plants

Hollywood has often been attracted to the building. Ivy recalls washing Michael Douglas' bloody shirt during the filming of Fatal Attraction here, and she tells of the time she had a house guest during the shooting of Ed Harris' suicide scene in The Hours. "My old college professor was sitting in the living room and he was pretty drunk. He saw the body go by and freaked out. He called me in a panic, 'Someone jumped out the upstairs window! And now others are following!' They had multiple dummies of Ed Harris they kept throwing out the window. He couldn't figure out what was going on."

No stranger to death, the apartment is haunted, she told me, maybe from its days as a Civil War hospital. Ghosts linger. Now and then, Ivy still finds one of the thousands of straight pins that once littered the floorboards, leftovers from some manufacturing--there was a lot of that here, from the original resident Herring Safe & Lock Co., to the Follett Time Recording Co., the Hanson Granule Co. (makers of bromide-seltzer), and the Elite Metal Co., makers of "Fancy Metal Goods" in the 1920s (see pic).

People ask Ivy if she hates what has happened to the neighborhood, with so many people she loved swept away and no place for them to exist again among the high-luxury hotels and boutiques.

She responds, "I choose not to live with hate, but I do miss it. I miss my neighbors, the people who've been thrown out. I miss the neighborhood. On Sundays in summer, we'd barbecue on the sidewalk and open the fire hydrants. It was old-fashioned. I used to walk to Western Beef, where the Apple store is now, in my pajamas and a pair of boots to get a quart of milk. Now if I go out without my hair combed, everyone's looking me up and down."

She was unhappy here for awhile, but it got better when she got her dog, Buster. He likes going into the clothing boutiques because they have biscuits, and he introduced Ivy to the people there. "Having the dog re-humanized the neighborhood for me. Before that, it was just Us and Them. It was terrible."

And she loves running the gallery she opened in 2001, where she has tea parties and brings people together. Her artists include Kenjiro Kitade who makes a skull planter in which you can grow a Hibaku Tree from Hiroshima, and Tim Groen who pairs paint-by-numbers with vintage ads and cut-out captions. Ivy's next show will feature the heartbeat drawings of Sasaki.

Most of all, Ivy loves life in the Triangle Building, even with the ocean of drunken noise outside, a cacophony that would have drowned out the streetwalkers. ("I never shouted WOO! when I was in my twenties," she said.) The apartment is outfitted with brick walls and plank wood floors. Pipes run along the pressed-tin ceiling. Books and plants overflow everywhere. It has an energy that pulls you through its length, drawing you to its very tip where it seems to thrust uptown, like the prow of a ship.

"Living in an isosceles triangle is supposed to be bad Feng Shui," says Ivy, "so I do things to counteract that. It's like living in a live body. Things happen here. It makes noises, it leaks, it floods. Sometimes it feels like it cries. It burps. It's got indigestion. Sometimes the electricity undulates. It's not just a normal apartment building, and everyone feels that when they walk in. I respect it. I sage it regularly. It deserves that. It's been so good to me."