Tuesday, May 31, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Before Whole Foods--James and Karla Murray posted this shot of Bowery's backside from Chrystie. Can you guess the year? [J&KM]

Support the Lenny Waller Project and help save the history and culture of BDSM in NYC.

As the city giddily welcomes the next leg of the High Line, let's not forget the neighborhood that will vanish all around it. [NYT]

Marty and Shawn make it out to Coney before it's all vanished. [MAD]

The new Veselka on the Bowery is looking fancy. [EVG]

In Williamsburg: "The crush of outsiders in the neighborhood 'absolutely is Topic A'...They walk into me when they walk down the street texting. 'Don’t get me started on their giant $800 strollers running over my ankles... A lot of people from the old days carry guns. One of these days one of these suburban kids is going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person.'" [NYT]

Scenes of 1970s Harlem in Gil Scott-Heron's "The Bottle." [NYer]

June 3: The Brooklyn Film Festival kicks off. [BFF]

Starting June 7: See Alan Wolfson's miniature Canal St. and more at the Museum of Arts and Design. [MAD]

Zig Zag Redux

After 35 years in business, Zig Zag Records closed this past December. As Sheepshead Bites reported, "We believe it was the last vinyl merchant in all of Southern Brooklyn."

photo: Arthur Borko

Last week, Zig Zag came back to life--sort of. On his Facebook page, Howard Fein snapped some shots of the Men in Black 3 set in Downtown Brooklyn. Zig Zag was included--with a nearly identical replica of the original sign.

photo: Howard Fein

Like the Birdbath Vesuvio or the fake storefront signage at the Chelsea Hotel or the ironic mom-and-pop facade at Urban Outfitters, as so much of the city becomes a "theme park of the past," what we will have left to remind us of what New York once was will be movie sets and miniature models.

And all that is solid melts into air.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Scribbler Love

After a long hiatus, during which time he moved tentatively to the plywood around the Sam Chang hotel on 13th St. and 4th Ave., The Scribbler is back to writing his anti-government, anti-psychotherapy, pro-cigarette notes on the wall at 10th and 4th, thanks in large part to some colorful "Pollinate" posters that provided an open surface on which to write in the mess of advertisements this wall has become.

As usual, the Scribbler's rants have inspired response rants from passersby. Most of them are angry, correcting, and/or snarky.

But one person sent the Scribbler a bit of love, saying, "I for one totaly missed you rock on crazy guy."

I had missed him, too, and was glad to find that I was not alone in missing him, and that someone else had seen fit to say so with a Magic Marker, letting us know that this wall and its notes have become important, however ephemeral, however small.

Since taking these photos, the Scribbler has been covered up again.

10th Street Graffiti
10th Street Scribbler
Scribbler Strikes Again
And More Scribbler
10th Street Falling

Thursday, May 26, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Take the Battle of the Boroughs (poster) poll. [Gothamist]

Last night's funeral for 35 Cooper Square. [BB] & [EVG]

The swizzle stick hunt continues. [MAD]

Skinheads recruiting in Greenpoint? [NYS]

Billy Leroy says, "No wonder the Bowery has become the flip-flop and Baby-stroller Mecca of the World." [EVG]

Jerry's on the Facebook

Jerry Delakas, the newsstand guy of Astor Place, has launched a Facebook fan page. A sign on his stand asks you to "Please 'Like' Jerry's Newsstand on the facebook" and help him keep his business, which the city is trying to take away from him.

He's 62 years old and has been running this stand for 24 years. "I've spent more time on this corner than any corner on Earth," he told the Daily News, "It's like a second home."

"It would be a big loss," one of Jerry's customers told the Post. "Let’s help save it. It’s important to Jerry’s life... We have to keep these pieces of New York together."

The city already took his old stand away from him during the first blows of the Cemusa blitz. They put this glass and steel box here in October 2007. At the time, I said to him of the new box, "It looks just like that building," pointing to the nearby glass condo tower. He said, "It's supposed to."

Until then, Jerry's newsstand was a ramshackle beauty, a real antique. Just before it was carted away, I took this photo of it with a prophetic Time Out cover taped to the front asking, "Has Manhattan lost its soul?"

A few years later, we know the answer to that question. So go ahead and like Jerry's Newsstand on the facebook already, call 311, write to whomever you have to write to, and keep Jerry where he belongs.

from Facebook

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

What's been missing from the Rodeo Drive of Bleecker St? Why, Jimmy Choo, of course. It would not be a Sex & the City girl's dream street without that. Coming soon:

"New York is kind of lame now." [Gothamist]

"I've always seen the MTA's Manhattan map as a limp dick." [RS]

Help Project Neon capture the city's greatest signage. [BB]

Look out Queens: there's a chef who "sports a beard and a tattoo, cooks with local ingredients and wears ironic 1970s T-shirts," and yet is not "found in the East Village or in the hip reaches of Brooklyn." [NYT] via [Eater]

Take the latest Flaming Pablum photo quiz. [FP]

More from the Chillmaster dance party--from Goggla. [TGL]

Bloomberg Admin's tearing down old mansions in Jackson Heights. [QC]

What remains of 35 Cooper Square and its long history? A pile of bricks. [EVG]

Mourn the loss today at 6pm:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Brooklyn tells Manhattan, "now we're fighting" in response to the most recent note. [BB] via [RS]

Bed Bug Man in a blood-filled costume--coming to the city! [Gothamist]

"Greenpoint residents who moved into a glitzy building across the street from a long established, 83 year-old poultry slaughterhouse are whining to the press." [Eater]

"Brooklyn is harsh, unforgiving country. Why did we ever leave New York?" Gary Shteyngart stars with Paul Giamatti in a book trailer. [NYM]

Rally to mourn the loss of 35 Cooper Square. [EVG]

Word on the street: Hotelier is buying the Max Fish building and possibly extending their lease. [BB]

Will Japanese lenticular sidewalks make people stay to the right, or just make them nauseated? [C77]

More on the Chillmaster's dance party--from Bob. [NMNL]

The book jackets from the walls of Elaine's. [NYM]

Sam Lipsyte gets a deal with HBO. So did Gary Shteyngart. The success of "Bored to Death" is sending HBO to New York literary authors' doorsteps. [HR]

Dear Brooklyn

In response to an Etsy print on which artisanal Brooklyn tells Manhattan "You're ugly, and I don't like you anymore," designer James Campbell Taylor responds with a note of his own:

James Taylor

On the Portlandification of the city, James told me he felt compelled to make the sign "after growing tired of such tiresome jabs towards Manhattan. What began as a form of reverse snobbery is in many cases revealing itself as sheer ignorance. Whatever you say about this island--and the well-documented changes it's going through--it remains undeniably one of the most wondrous places in the Western World."

The design is not available on Etsy, not signed and numbered, and not printed on "Fabriano Elle Erre Paper: a vibrant, mouldmade, 100% acid free, heavyweight paper." But if we all ask nicely, maybe he'll put it on a t-shirt.

Monday, May 23, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The CVS Procare pharmacy on 2nd Ave, between 8th and 9th, is closing. This was once Estroff Pharmacy and, while it became a CVS, it maintained its small-business personality. Looks like a good spot for another Subway or Starbucks:

The Rapture will be artisanalized: "The hipster prophet...would lead all unto the Ninth Avenue Food Festival, where they were serving artisanal soda and $5 roast pig sandwiches." [NYO]

Enjoy Joe Queenan's anti-cupcake rant--with a little anti-SATC rant thrown in. [WSJ] via Eater

Another Judaica store closes on Essex after 60 years. [TLD]

Christopher Street Dunkin Donuts rampage on video. [RS]

"Several things to note about the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side. Unlike its glamorous uptown peers, the factory-chic Chelsea Market and the glossy food palace that is Eataly, it is more Plain Jane than beauty." [NYT]

The Subway sandwich chain is coming to Avenue B. [EVG]

Rocco's Pasticceria lovers express their hate for the DOH. [FIR]

EV bloggers party with the Chillmaster. [MAD]

The Aztec Theater is hiding in Queens. [SNY]

Pumping Station Signage

Recently, we looked at the demise of the Gansevoort Pumping Station, later the home of Premier Veal, in the Meatpacking District. It's being demolished to make way for the new Whitney Museum. In the process, we noted that the signage for the pumping station had been removed. Some readers wondered if it had been scrapped or sold as salvage.

Graham Newhall from the Whitney's press office wrote in with the good news that the museum donated the signage to the FDNY.

Damon Campagna, photo by Graham Newhall

Said Mr. Newhall, "The Whitney was eager to find a home for the pumping station sign because of its antique charm and its significance as a souvenir of the neighborhood’s past. Luckily, after a long search, the museum was able to arrange for the sign to be taken by the FDNY with the plan that it be displayed eventually at the FDNY’s own museum."

photo by Graham Newhall

The signs turned out to be too big and heavy for the museum to display, and they were transported instead to the FDNY training facility on Randall’s Island, otherwise known as "The Rock."

According to Damon Campagna, curator and director of the New York City Fire Museum, "The sign consists of five concrete tablets, each weighing at least 300 lbs. apiece." At The Rock, the tablets "will be restored and most likely integrated with an existing sculpture garden/picnic area where other FDNY artifacts and artwork are displayed."

The training facility is a secure area, so visits would be restricted.

photo by Graham Newhall

I asked Mr. Campagna about the historic value of the signs. He told me, "The High Pressure System is a prominent symbol of the FDNY’s continuous effort to push the frontier of firefighting technology. The system protected the citizens of this city from destruction and loss of life for over half a century. This particular station took a critical role in extinguishing both the infamous 1911 Triangle Waist Company Fire and the 1912 Equitable Fire as well as countless others."

"The High Pressure System was shut down in 1953 due to maintenance concerns about age and that pumping technology on fire engines had matured to the point to make the system obsolete. There is one last pump building standing on Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights which has been converted to residences. The rest have been razed. There was a separate HP station built expand the system to Coney Island about 30 years later. This still stands and is on the National Register of Historic Places due to its architecture style. Some of its ornamentation has been stripped and is (evidently) on display in the Brooklyn Museum."

photo by Graham Newhall

No other parts of the Gansevoort pumping station will be preserved--none of its original equipment remained after the FDNY moved out in the 1950s.

Said Mr. Newhall at the Whitney, "Renzo Piano was especially concerned with creating a building appropriate to its milieu and sensitive to its surroundings, but it was determined not to try to incorporate aspects of the old building in the design for the new one."

Veal & Pumping

Friday, May 20, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

For the foodie men of NYC: "who neurotically look at the origin of every ingredient, who regularly order things like pork belly and make fun of how I say 'radicchio' (you know who you are asshole), it’s fine to eat healthy and homegrown food but you can be quieter and nicer about it." [XOJ]

May 25: You are invited to 35 Cooper Square's funeral. [EVG]

On the ongoing inspections of Ray's Candy: "This inquisition could go on forever and Ray's Candy Store will never open." [NMNL]

Florent the movie reviewed: "a touching, elegiac tale of the rise (and some would say fall) of a colorful New York neighborhood under the relentless march of gentrification." [NYT]

Moby tells the Canucks: "New York is a victim of its own success. It's become so fancy and so affluent that the interesting people who made me want to stay in New York have all had to leave. So my neighbourhood, the Lower East Side--I don't really know anybody in my neighbourhood anymore." [TS]

A visit to the EV's Archangel Antiques. [NYT]

See what The Highliner has done in the old Empire Diner. [Grub]

Orchard St. gallery upsetting parents with windows full of porno paintings. [RS]

Stalled Orchard St. project will become yet another hotel, supposedly to "benefit neighborhood residents while adding value to the area overall." [Crain's]

P&G Closing

Reader L'Emmerdeur brings word that the new P&G Bar has been sold to a new owner, a person from Baltimore. The P&G's Facebook page confirms:

"P&Gs will be closing May 31st,reopening asap,Hopefully June 1st as a new business.Thanks everyone for the love,support and great music.and youre welcome for the booze ;)"

We grieved the vanishing of the old P&G in 2009 when it moved from its original 66-year-long location at the corner of 73rd and Amsterdam. An 80% rent increase from the landlord sent it packing, despite protests and petitions. We watched while it was gutted, hoped it could survive in its new location, and prayed the old neon sign would someday be restored and re-installed. At the time, the owner said of the business, "We hope that this ship can sail again."

They expanded into live music and making burgers, going up against the nearby Shake Shack. Said the owner to NY Barfly, "I’m going on a moral crusade against Shake-Shack. Why do people wait an hour in line for a burger?"

But the new location just wasn't the same. The old sign never returned. And few can defeat the Goliath that is Shake Shack.

What's coming here now is anybody's guess. A wine bar/cafe opened at P&G's old location. According to Yelp, people buy overpriced lattes there and get kicked out for wearing sandals.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Mars Bar demolition now official--with the paperwork to prove it. [GVSHP]

Artisanal-mainstreaming--Vlasic puts out some Brooklynesque pickles. [Gothamist]

Brooklyn hates Manhattan. So says someone on Etsy. [RS]

Woody Allen on the loss of Elaine's: "The food was unremittingly terrible from start to finish. My theory was that that was one of the appeals of the place--that if the food was great, then everyone would be going up there for the food. But they weren’t." [ML]

Actor Chris Noth: "The loss of Elaine’s, he said, was like 'what’s happening to the rest of the city--it’s why the city is becoming block after block of Duane Reades and Bank of Americas.'" [NYT]

Ray's Candy still not getting approval from the DOH. [EVG]

Lafayette and Houston losing one-time Gaseteria for luxury loft development. [NYO]

On the death of the Plaza Hotel: "Because of hubris or ignorance—no one knows—the developers never seemed to understand New York's attachment to this frumpy grand dame." [NYO]

From the WNYC archives, a 1952 radio report on how the city convinced Brooklyn NIMBYs to accept the Owl's Head Pollution Control Plant. [WNYC]

Check out Stephanie Gray's poetic super8 city films at Millennium this Saturday--includes lots of secret side streets.

Ghost Sign Gone

Neon expert Thomas Rinaldi brings news that the Necchi Sewing Machine ghost sign has vanished from 25th Street and 7th Avenue.

photo: Walter Grutchfield's 14 to 42

It stood high above Chelsea since 1951, the words "world's finest" and the image of a sewing machine fading over the years. (See also Frank Jump's close-up shot.)

The excellent site 14 to 42 has a little bit of info about it and the Necchi company, with a link to this original layout of the sign by the Mack Sign Company:

What is on the wall now? Mr. Rinaldi snapped this shot of an ad for Amstel Light. Will it still be here, a faded and ghostly reminder of a lost city, 60 years from now?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Yunnie evidence mounting: "'There is reason to believe that New York City may have a higher level of people with narcissistic personality disorder than other cities,'" says Frank Yeomans, director of training at the Personality Disorders Institute of Weill Medical College." [RS]

Brand-new, Bloombergian fountain in Washington Square Park appears to be cracked and falling apart. [WSPB]

After Howl, James Franco to play another iconic gay New York poet--Hart Crane. Is Whitman next? [VF]

Can anything in the LES "ward off the evil spell of girls in stilettos crying on corners and the dudes with popped collars trying to coax them into cabs"? [NYP]

Skinhead on Christopher St:

A Honda commercial in a vanished city--with Lou Reed. [youtube]

Today, check out an exhibit of drawings of "All the Buildings in New York." [BB]

Friday, don't miss Lost Bohemia at IFC--see it with Bill Cunningham for a double dose of vanishing New York. [IFC]

Hip Brooklyn food vendors now taking over Rockaway. [Eater]

This weekend, stay indoors--the East Village will be crawling for a Cupcake Crawl. [CBS]

The Amato Opera House gets a fancy Corcoran "for sale" sign, now that it's back on the meat rack. [EVG]

"Bloomberg had folks questioning what planet he was on Monday when he declared 'there aren't very many panhandlers left' in city subways." [NYDN]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

EV Grieve speaks out against the eateries that "continue to turn the East Village into some kind of foodie tourist trap. Hyper-seasonal! Farm to table! Artisanal! ...They're greedy carpetbaggers here to cash in on the East Village gold rush." [FIR]

Elaine's to close next week. [Eater]

In Carroll Gardens, Joe's Superette shutters after more than 50 years--taking their fried prosciutto balls with them. [PMFA]

Friday at Cinema Village, Florent the movie is coming.

Going off the grid on the Gowanus. [BTN]

Behind the DOH closure at Ray's Candy. [NMNL]

Lexus taxi drivers sound "spoiled and superficial." [RS]

Author and JVNY commenter Mick Dementiuk is delighted to find his book 100 Whores in the St. Mark's Bookshop--and Melanie got a shot. [EVC]

Greenmarket 1977

Last week we discussed the "artisanalization" of the city in two posts, Ideas for a New City and Ideas for the Ideas Fest. One of the main points of discussion had to do with the meaning of "green" yesterday and today.

Rustin Wright, here and on his blog From Streetcars to Spaceships, reminded us that "green ideas" and local growing have long been part of New York City, and he listed many examples, including the Greenmarket's birth in the 1970s. Other commenters agreed, while noting that today's "green" and "local" is not the same as it was in the 1970s and '80s--nor in decades before, when even the poorest New Yorkers bought their groceries fresh from street carts.

Today, much of the artisanal movement is for the elite, for connoisseurs in the know.
It is prohibitively expensive in its prices, exclusive in its language. It is the opposite of democratic. And there's the rub.

MCNY Collection: Harlem pushcarts, 1940

Coincidentally, I later came upon excerpts from John McPhee's 1977 Greenmarket essay in the magazine Edible Manhattan. It's a gorgeous piece, a "been there" slice of old New York. The shoppers are not hipsters or yuppies. They are short, dark Europeans who love rye bread, speak with Germanic accents, and take great pleasure in molesting the vegetables. (No doubt there were also plenty of hippies shopping.) The ethos of the time was that healthy food was for all New Yorkers. It had the idealism of today, but without the exclusivity and snobbishness.

Read the whole thing, but here are some beauties, as the Greenmarket farmers tell McPhee about the people of New York in 1977:

“We have to leave them touch the tomatoes, but when they do my guts go up and down. They paw them until if you stuck a pin in them they’d explode.”

They handle the fruit as if they were getting out all their aggressions. They press on the melons until their thumbs push through. I don’t know why they have to handle the fruit like that. They’re brutal on the fruit.”

“They inspect each egg, wiggle it, make sure it’s not stuck in the carton. You’d think they were buying diamonds.”

They’re bag crazy. They need a bag for everything, sometimes two.”

“They’re nervous. So nervous.”

The Greenmarket, 1977; photo: GrowNYC

“Today I had my third request from someone who wanted to come stay on the farm, who was looking for peace and quiet for a couple of days. He said he had found Jesus. It was unreal.”

“I had two Jews in yarmulkes fighting over a head of lettuce. One called the other a kike.”

“I’ve had people buy peppers from me and take them to another truck to check on the weight.”

“Yeah, and meanwhile they put thirteen ears of corn in a bag, hand it to you, and say it’s a dozen. I let them go. I only go after them when they have sixteen.”

“They think we’re hicks. ‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘We’re hicks and you’re hookers. You’re muggers and you breathe dirty air.’”

“I hardly smoke in the city. Down home I can smoke a whole pack of cigarettes and still have energy all night. You couldn’t pay me to live here. I can’t breathe.”

Woman says, “What is this stuff on these peaches?”

“It’s called fuzz.”

“It was on your peaches last week, too.”

“We don’t take it off. When you buy peaches in the store, the fuzz has been rubbed off.”

“Well, I never.”

“You never saw peach fuzz before? You’re kidding.”

“I don’t like that fuzz. It makes me itchy. How much are the tomatoes?”

“Three pounds for a dollar.”

“Give me three pounds. Tomatoes don’t have fuzz.

Watch a fantastic movie of the local egg shop on E. 7th St.

Monday, May 16, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Ray's Candy just shuttered by DOH. [EVG]

Looking at the vanished Second Ave. mansions of yesteryear--and what has replaced them in the EV today. [GVSHP]

Cruising lower Second Ave. with Forgotten NY. [FNY]

Hotel Chelsea buyer revealed--and it's not going condo. [Curbed]

Has Union Square become a lawless "methadone alley"? [RS]

Chilling with the Chillmaster of E. 3rd St. [MAD] & [OMFS]

"Murray Handwerker, who transformed his father’s Brooklyn hot dog business, Nathan’s Famous, into a celebrated national fast-food chain, died Saturday at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 89." [NYT]

Another meatpacker leaves the Meatpacking District--after more than half a century. [WSJ]

No spitting! [ENY]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Make the Millionaires Pay--today on Wall Street: "at 4PM thousands of working people, students, seniors, people on public assistance, and community activists, will take Wall Street to school and create a giant classroom without walls." [AL]

City wants to install a special "limousine lane" to ferry the wealthy from home to work. Not kidding. [DNA]

Are we going to lose the lovely Cup & Saucer diner? [EVG]

The Times tries to glamorize 9th Ave between 14th and 23rd--completely omitting the endangered culture that has long been thriving (and recently struggling) there. [NYT]

Visiting the great Justin Vivian Bond, above Mars Bar: V "is going to have to leave this apartment next month. The ramshackle building is surrounded by the dormlike Avalon Bay apartment complex, and will soon be demolished to make way for more of the same. Bond still isn’t sure where he’s [sic] going." [NYM]

More ideas for the new city as BMW and the Guggenheim take over a rat-infested EV lot. One of their first ideas--chop down that tree! [EVG]

A history of the endangered Essex Street Market. [Forward]

In Bushwick, a mystery person leaves an artifact of the old on the doorstep of the new. [NYS]

Embassy 1

Another reason to visit the Times Square Visitor Center, other than to see the Peep-O-Rama sign and the sad display of neutered sex booths, is to enjoy the interior of the Embassy Theater in which it is housed.

NY State Museum

Opened in 1925 and closed in 1997, the Embassy is a landmark designed by Thomas Lamb, who also designed the nearby Mayfair. It began life as a newsreel theater in 1929, running a continuous 25-cent show, but was originally planned as a small "theaterette," a salon-like destination for the city's elite.


Says the website for the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (the Embassy had an organ): "the ornate French-inspired interior featured elaborate plasterwork and murals by Arthur Crisp. Furthering its salon-like appeal, the Embassy was the first movie house on Broadway to employ a woman manager, the heiress Gloria Gould, and it had the distinction of being operated almost exclusively by women."

I believe women are more reliable, and I shall employ only women in the Embassy Theater,” said Gloria Gould. According to this account, "The ushers were planned to be young ladies in ballet costumes." But then Gloria bailed on the project in 1925, hopping on a steamer bound for France. Said the heiress, “I could not afford to live in New York any more even if I wanted to.”

MGM was paying her $250 a week to manage the Embassy.

The main floor of the Visitor Center is actually the auditorium, with all the seats removed. It's surrounded by Arthur Crisp's painted murals. His work adorns theaters, hotels, and other sites across the city, the country, and Canada.

Where movie posters used to line the entryway, now are video clips from Times Square's history. (Tourists, sensing a romantic setting, make out under the chandeliers.)

There's a bunch of other stuff inside--a New Year's Eve ball, a confetti "wishing wall"--along with this little treasure, an old Mutoscope with a one-cent movie called Jungle Queen.

A few tidbits about Mutoscope: "The company was founded in 1895 to make peep shows of girls going to bed, the cook kissing the policeman and little Johnny getting a spanking. One of the firm's early artists was Mary Pickford, hired to pose at $5 per day when the weather was good."

Mary Pickford, to my knowledge, does not play the Jungle Queen. You can't view Jungle Queen, either, but if you could, you might see something like this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Documentary on the battle for Coney Island airs on PBS this weekend. [Gothamist]

Check out Above Brooklyn, a movie about rooftop pigeons. [LM]

The Empire Diner's replacement is open for business. [Eater]

Jerking off with Jewels on Avenue A. [NMNL]

City tells bicyclists, "Don't be a jerk." [DOT]

Henry Miller on "that old shit hole" New York. [BB]

Portland chef now cooking pig heads in the EV. [EVG]

Safe to Peep

Last fall, we got an inside look at the refurbishing of the old Peep-O-Rama neon sign, and its installation in the renovated Times Square Visitor Center. Recently, I got a chance to go by and visit it.

The sign hangs over what the Visitor Center's website calls "A Fantasy and Desire exhibit featuring...three show booths, which now showcase videos on the history of Times Square." The show booths are covered in a familiar red Formica and sport a pair of slots for quarters that don't actually take quarters. (The usual smell of citrus disinfectant is also missing.) You stand inside and look at images of sexy, squalid old Times Square, and there is absolutely nothing sexy or squalid about it.

Tourist children venture inside, looking up at the images of prostitutes and XXX marquees, not knowing what they're seeing. Still, the sight of children in those red Formica peep booths creates a cognitive dissonance. "Mommy, come look," they shout. It's all wrong. Oddly debased by the kiddies, the peep booths seem sheepish and apologetic, wishing they could creep back into the shadows and perform their intended function.

At the gift shop, you can buy magnets that mimic signage from the old peeps--"Only One Person in a Booth" and "Live Girls On Stage." There's something humiliating about them being displayed on a carousel next to Lady Liberty and other such innocent magnets. I mean that the peep magnets themselves seem humiliated, as if they might be cringing and wondering, "What are we doing here?"

The whole thing made me think of tigers in a carnival cage, things once wild and dangerous that have been beaten into submission and put on display for the entertainment of families with children.

Back in December, when the Visitor Center opened, the Times asked about its preservation of porn: "'We’re at a point where Times Square is thriving and it’s safe to look at this from a historic perspective and have a sense of humor,' said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance."

It's safe now. You can look.

Monday, May 9, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The Coney Island Gift Shop now offers pieces of the destroyed boardwalk in a bottle. Visualingual calls it "a useless fetish object that capitalizes on the nostalgia surrounding Coney Island." [VL]

Life inside a Greenpoint trailer. [NYS]

On the Bowery, Koolhaas argues against preservation: "If you preserve something, it becomes conserved and then something artificial." [WOBA]

Tattooing on the Bowery. [BB]

Sign the petition to support Max Fish. [TLD]

Answers to the Flaming Pablum before and after NYC photos quiz. [FP]

Boating the lake in Prospect Park. [CR]

Read artist Donald Judd's 1989 essay about his cast-iron building on Spring Street. [DO]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Painted Food

I like old-school painted food, especially groceries, on the sides of buildings. It's a vanishing art--like the painted food of Market Purveyor on 1st Street, now a condo/rental.

The Gristede's supermarket near NYU, at 3rd and Mercer, once sported an entire wall's worth of food murals for a long time.

The same murals today:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

May 20: Lost Bohemia opens for theatrical release at the IFC Center--don't miss this one, and read an interview with the director here.

Friday night: Check out the 25-year reunion of Matthew Courtney's Wide Open Cabaret at ABC No Rio.

Grand and Ludlow to get an "Anti-Whaling Wall" by veteran NYC muralist Knox Martin, depicting "an underwater whale massacre in a vivid palette of red and blue." [LM] & [BB]

Festival of Ideas--the upscaling, greening, and artisanaling of street fairs? One description: "a weekend street festival that eschews traditional fair funnel cake and face painting for fresh-brewed kombucha and a philosophy of sustainability." [WNYC]

Hey, anything with the word "pork" in it sells in the East Village, right? [EVG]

Meet the Birdman of Inwood. [CR]

Atlantic Book Shop

*Update: Gothamist followed up on this story and got word to Marty Markowitz who said, "It’s unfortunate any time Brooklyn—the literary epicenter of New York City and home to the renowned Brooklyn Book Festival—loses one of its indie book stores or any of its ‘mom and pop’ businesses." They are open to discussing the possibility of assisting Atlantic Books.


In yet another blow for the city's used bookshop business and bibliophiles, Carol Gardens reports on her Facebook page: "Atlantic Books...is going out of business! 30 percent off everything. They will be there until the end of the month."

The Atlantic Book Shop is the second incarnation of 12th Street Books, which you may recall left Manhattan in the summer of 2008 when its lease was not renewed so that neighbor Strip House, a steakhouse chain restaurant, could expand.

It was a favorite stop of mine, and I was upset to see it go, but it happily reopened as Atlantic Book Shop in the fall of that year in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Atlantic Bookshop

Three years later and there has been no expansion into the former 12th Street Books--the shop's old space between University and Fifth Avenue remains dark and empty. It's a black hole, a blight, a waste.

Atlantic Books has no plans to try for shop #3.

12th Street Books today

See Also:
12th Street Books
Books to Wax

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The Hilfigers have landed with a Hamptons pop-up house in the Meatpacking District to push their preppy line:

Comes complete with broad-shouldered bodyguard, pink pants, and silver tea set:

Anti-Walmarters on LES warn of chain-store virus! [DNA]

Save the Essex St. Market says the cheesemongers. [SA]

Handy starter kit for trendy Brooklyny restaurant. [Eater]

Mike Tyson and his Brooklyn pigeons. [CR]

Name the people and places in these old NYC photos. [FP]

More on the Starbuck thievery phenomenon. [Restless]

The East Village may have Lambos and Batmobiles, but Greenpoint has this automobilic monstrosity--complete with snake eye. [NYS]

Finally, the venerated egg cream endures yet another indignity--it's "a riff...made with malted milk syrup and vanilla beans, Battenkill Creamery milk and seltzer from one of the last suppliers in the city that refills old-school bottles. In a four-star flourish, a splash of olive oil is added with a silver oil can from Tiffany & Company." [Eater]

Remembering Kiev

Thinking recently about the old Kiev, formerly at 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, I got a lovely circa 1980 shot from photographer Michael Sean Edwards.

I took a shot on the same corner for comparison. At first glance, not too much has changed. The alterations seem subtle enough--the street signs have gone from yellow to green, the WALK/DON'T WALK is now an illiterate hand and man, Moishe's Bake Shop has a new sign that is today far from new.

photo: Michael Sean Edwards, c. 1980

But other shifts are considerable. A giant glass condo tower rises in the west. And, of course, Kiev is gone a decade now.


The Kiev opened in 1978 and was a favorite of Allen Ginsberg, who dined there regularly. In 1982 he put it in a collaborative poem with Ted Berrigan:

"I stood outside the Kiev tonight, nose pressed
to the plate glass, feet freezing
in city mush, and watched two aging lovers
inhale their steaming bowls of mushroom barley soup."

Then again in his own poem in 1986:

"I'm a fairy with purple wings and white halo
translucent as an onion ring in
the transsexual fluorescent light of Kiev
Restaurant after a hard day's work."

Ginsberg photographed many people in Kiev, including Philip Glass, Robert Frank, and Peter Orlovsky. He was also photographed in Kiev--here with East Villager Quentin Crisp in 1995:

photo source

A June 1986 New York magazine article recalls the days when, on a Sunday morning, you could not get into the Kiev because the tables were jammed with customers. This was during a boom in Polish and Ukrainian coffee shops in the East Village, what they called a "Blintz-Krieg." Today, it's hard to imagine cheap Slavic food being a culinary goldmine here. "Though the East Village seems in danger of becoming one huge art bar," says the article, "ethnic coffee shops prove that people there do not live on attitude alone."

At that time, three Polish coffee shops had opened in the last six months, bringing the neighborhood's total to over a dozen Eastern European diners. The magazine lists old-timers Leshko's and Odessa (a crowded "money machine"), then Polonia, Christine's, Lilian's, and K.K.'s, plus Bruno's, Teresa's, and Jolanta.

"They see us getting rich," said the co-owner of Christine's about his competition. Bruno of Bruno's agreed, "There's a lot of money in Polish food."

Today, how many are left?

The Kiev closed in 2000 when the owner "got bored with it," according to an article in the New York Times. He offered it to Tom Birchard of Veselka, who turned it down. "Things changed," said Birchard. "I don't want to use the word yuppie.''

After that, I don't know exactly what happened, but the Kiev became a mysterious Ukrainian-Asian fusion joint, likely under new ownership, followed by some failed permutations called Go! Go! Curry! and The American Grill.

The old sign finally came down in 2008. Now it's not Kiev at all, but a Korean BBQ that no one (as far as I know) is bothering to write any poetry about.

See also:
New Polonia