Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Playland Letters

Coney Island's old Playland is losing its letters. One by one as the years go by.

Summer 2010

They're mid-century neon letters. One has to wonder if they're being taken by ordinary vandals or by Coney Island history buffs terrified that this, too, is about to vanish.

Summer 2011

In Forgotten New York, Kevin Walsh tells us that Playland began in 1930 as Silver's Penny Arcade. It was run as Playland from 1957 until it closed in 1981. Horace Bullard bought it and left it to rot. The ruin's guardian was a man named Andy Badalamenti. He recently passed away. A small tribute to him hangs on the fence outside Playland.

For a peek inside the ruins of Playland, see photos by Lindsay Wengler and Nathan Kensinger.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


My last drink at Ruby's on the boardwalk at Coney Island.

I don't have much to say about it.

It's been here, "a Brooklyn treasure," since 1934.

After this summer, it will crumble under a corporate tsunami, along with the rest of the boardwalk.

How can I ever go out there again?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Glimpse the Future Coney

Assuming Hurricane Irene didn't suck Zamperla out to sea, there's not much time left to say goodbye to Coney Island as we've long known it.

We all know the devastation that is coming after this summer. The company that Bloomberg has handed this city treasure over to has a vision to make the place "refined, cleaner...with sit-down restaurants and sports bars." And so everything on the boardwalk, except Nathan's and Lola Star, will be bulldozed. They want to turn it into a place where you can "sit in nice comfortable chairs and have a nice cappuccino or ice coffee."

Sitting down is key. So is niceness. "Nice" is an epidemic that's killing the city. What will "nice" look like at Coney? It's already arrived.

We've got a good idea of what's to come thanks to the new Luna Park's Cyclone Cafe. It looks like it was born from a plastics extruder, a cookie-cutter design with none of the joyful messiness of Coney's traditional snack bars with their hand-written signs and paintings of food--vivid corn dogs, clams, and funnel cakes.

What do they serve at the Cyclone Cafe? Salads. Farmer's Market salads. Who goes to Coney Island for a salad? I don't go out there for "healthy dining." I go free of such burdens. I go for fried and salty evils. For glorious amusement-park junk. And certainly not for an "Over the Top Salad Experience."

And guess what else you can get at the Cyclone Cafe. Starbucks coffee. That's right--the Cyclone Cafe "proudly" brews it, just for you. Isn't that nice?

The same people have also brought Coney's Cones to the boardwalk. As you can see, this means more salads, along with panini and gourmet coffee. "Gourmet"? Don't they know the new code word for nice is "artisanal"?

To make room for the Cyclone Cafe, that paragon of lifelessness, we lost two treasures--Gregory & Paul's snack bar and the Bonanza Shooting Gallery.

2008, silversalty's flickr

The Gregory & Paul's was sold and its contents auctioned off in 2009. It was a delightful cacophony of hand-painted signs and artifacts from its over 40 years in business.

Still remaining on the boardwalk, but not for long, is Paul's Daughter, formerly the other Gregory & Paul's. Zamperla is giving them the boot, too. They've been there since 1962. Said Paul's daughter to Amusing the Zillion, "I wanted so much to be a part of the New Coney Island but they didn’t even offer me a tiny little spot on the Boardwalk." Instead, the spot is going to a multinational corporation.

2006, ConeyHOP's flickr

I don't know how long the Bonanza Shooting Gallery was here, but I'd guess since the 1960s. I absolutely loved it. It was typically my first destination when arriving at Coney Island.

What happened to all the great stuff they had in the shooting gallery? The saloon piano player who tickled the ivories when you shot him the ass, the bear that stood up and roared, the chickens that clucked in their cage? We can hope it was recycled, sold off to another amusement park, and that someone, somewhere is still enjoying it--now that we can't anymore.

But, hey, at least we've got some nice salads.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gallo's Fedora

Still on exhibit at the Mob Scene Gallery in Little Italy, "Crazy" Joe Gallo's fedora, the one he was wearing on the night he was gunned down and died in the street outside Umberto's Clam House.

Before opening this storefront museum in Little Italy, proprietor Arthur Nash kept his gangland collection in his room, formerly Bob Dylan's room, at the Chelsea Hotel.

That is one haunted hat.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Jason Shelowitz (aka Jay Shells) offers a sneak peek of his latest urban etiquette street-art project--heads up texting zombies!

In Bed-Stuy: "This is not the kind of neighborhood people like us move into." [NYT]

Mmmm...the urban jungles of the Flower District. [SNY]

8/26: Take a walking tour with Greenlight Books and Literary Brooklyn author Evan Hughes. [FB]

Bottled Brooklyn sells "vegan-friendly" test-tubes full of Brooklyn dirt--for $24. [BB]

More on how the deal was done to sell the Chelsea. [CN]

Why 316 E. 3rd must be saved. [EVG] & [OTG]

Remembering The Dom. [ENY]

Greenwich Village poet Samuel Menashe has died [NYT]. He was someone I once knew in another life, long ago. This is the poem of his I remember best:

Here and there
White hairs appear
On my chest—
Age seasons me
Gives me zest—
I am a sage
In the making
Sprinkled, shaking

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Oh, the ups and downs of the Chelsea Antiques Garage. Pat writes in to say, "I just emailed a vendor I keep in touch with and she told me the Garage was originally going to close August 28th but they're on a month to month lease again. For now!"

Along with Steve Cuozzo, we're worried about El Quijote, too. [NYP]

Can't get enough of the egg cream? Check out this ultimate guide--it also gives you good ideas for where to find a diner. [JCT]

Marty buys a pile of books at St. Mark's Bookshop. [MAD]

8/30: Meet the last of the live nude girls with Arthur Nersesian at St. Mark's Bookshop:

Video of yarn-bomber Olek. [BB]

Jazz musician Giuseppe Logan is alive and well and back in Tompkins Square Park. [EVG]

Is a good restaurant review "the final nail in Bushwick's coolness coffin"? [Gothamist]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Check out the film "Last Summer at Coney Island" free until 9/1. [BSr]

John Penley announces a protest at the office of Ira Meister, seller of the Bialystoker Nursing Home: 9/1 at 3:30 at 127 E. 59th. [FB]

Central Park Boathouse employees reveal the eater "has been serving filtered tap water disguised as bottled H2O for a whopping $8 for years." [NYDN]

A collection of ugly NYC buildings. [Restless]

The demolition of an East Village "dream home." [EVG]

Reasons to save another EV dream home from demolition. [OTG]

Olive and the Bitter Herbs: A play about a woman "washed up in a rent-controlled apartment in Kips Bay" whose neighbors are driving her "crazy with the scent of artisanal cheeses." Sounds good to me. [CNY]

Monday, August 22, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Sunday 8/28: Join David Freeland and Poor Baby Bree for a free historical musical tour of the LES. [PBB]

Cooling off with the Lemon Ice King of Corona. [LC]

"It is an indelible, if sorta pervy, memory: going over to the Bowery loft a couple of doors down from William ­Burroughs’s place to talk to Blondie guitarist Chris Stein about Japanese monster movies and seeing Debbie Harry’s underwear spread out across the uneven wooden floor, half a dozen pairs of panties and maybe a bra or two." [NYM]

Welcome to the mysterious Box House Hotel, just "a used-condom’s toss from the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Facility." [NYS]

San Gennaro Feast to get gourmet offerings. [Eater]

Catching up with Literary Brooklyn. [P&W]

This year, over 40% of thefts in NYC involve cell phones. [RS]

A visit to Chinatown's Wo Hop. [MAD]

Patti's Allerton

I wrote about the Allerton Hotel when it vanished in 2007 to become part of the Gem Hotel chain, but it is only now, after finally getting immersed in Patti Smith's excellent memoir Just Kids, that I get a full picture of what the Allerton was really like in its rock-bottom days.

verplanck's flickr

Smith recalls taking Robert Mapplethorpe to stay there, sick and broke, with nowhere else to go. She remembers their room: "The place reeked of piss and exterminator fluid, the wallpaper peeling like dead skin in summer." And the "lumpy pillow was crawling with lice."

"There was nothing romantic about this place, seeing half-naked guys trying to find a vein in limbs infested with sores. Everybody's door was open because it was so hot, and I had to avert my eyes as I shuttled to and from the bathroom." She says, "Never had I seen so much collective misery and lost hopes, forlorn souls who had fouled their lives."


She made friends with a morphine addict, formerly a ballet dancer, who drifted "through the hall like Isadora Duncan with chiffon streaming as he sang an atonal version of 'Wild Is the Wind.'"

Smith calls this character "the morphine angel" because he urged her to get herself and Mapplethorpe out of the purgatory of the Allerton and back to life. They escaped down the fire escape, hopped in a cab, and found a room at the Chelsea Hotel, where everything happened next.

circa 1950s

Post Script: The poet James Schuyler stayed at the Allerton in 1978, before he also escaped to the Chelsea Hotel, like Smith and Mapplethorpe before him.

Poet Charles North recalled visiting him there. In an interview, North called the Allerton "one of the most depressing places I have ever been in in my life... It was pretty horrifying, the fleabag of fleabags. [Schuyler's] room consisted of a bed, on which, at least the few times I saw him there, he lay surrounded by a sea of dirty laundry that reached just about to the height of the bed. And of course the smell was pretty bad. Moving to the Chelsea, with the help of his generous friends, I'm sure changed his life."

You can buy Just Kids at St. Mark's Bookshop--they've got plenty--and the works of James Schuyler, too.

Friday, August 19, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

I've been nominated for CBS New York's "Most Valuable Blogger" award. Vote for me here.

"I remember The Chelsea Hotel. Sometimes writing things down can make everything a little more bearable." [WIC]

Ozzie's 7th Avenue location in Park Slope to close--the rent is too damn high. [BSr]

Are we about to lose the forlorn little buildings on 3rd between 11th and 12th? (They were once the tallest on their block.) [EVG]

Where are we? Two banks, two cell phones, a tub of fro-yo:

In Bed-Stuy: Stop the eviction of Mary Lee Ward. [O4O] ...At today's rally.

The neon cows of Corona. [LC]

Do you have sidewalk rage? Maybe it's because the sidewalks are more crowded now than in past years. Maybe it's because people don't know how to walk. Robert Selsam proposes a Pedestrian Code of Conduct. $50 fine for not staying to the right! [NYDN]

Thursday, August 18, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Bloomberg has become unpopular at last--and this great bunch of comments shows how the tide has turned. [NYT]

August 22: Stand Up, Speak Out against anti-LGBT violence in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. [NYS]

Bostonian Bowery Beef moving off the Bowery--they were robbed by junkies 4 times in one week--and we might get a new bookstore out of the deal. [EVG]

Washington Square Park's new fountain design may be killing the trees. [WSP]

Advertising on the High Line gets classy:

The end is near for what was one of the largest meatpacking plants in town--a demolition permit has been filed. [OTG]

Park Slope's Henington Press shop, long empty, has a new tenant and it's not a wine shop--it's a framer. [OMFS]

Will renovation ruin the Fortune House sign in Brooklyn Heights? [LC]

Frances Bean has a tattoo of Quentin Crisp on her back--mom Courtney Love says, "I was incredibly impressed. I was like ‘Awww, that’s my daughter!’" [NYO]

Another Andrews Gone

Last August I visited the last of the remaining Andrews Coffee Shops in the city. There were two at the time. And now--there is one.

This week, in an Eater post about a new "dark dining concept from Paris" and its "fall arrival at a former Andrew's Coffee Shop," I recognized the blue sign above the papered windows as the lovely little Andrews on 38th. Apparently, it has closed, I guess sometime this past year.

August 2010

It's regrettable. It was a good, out-of-the-way place, cheap and neighborly. As I described it last summer: "It had a slightly desultory air about it. No one was pumping happiness into the place. There were no flatscreen TVs screaming and no bouncy music. The song on the radio when I walked in was singing from 1990, 'If you don't love me, why don't you let me go?' Here, they let you eat in peace."

So much for all that.

At the time, I wrote, "If I had to bet which Andrews will be next to vanish, I'd say it's 38th Street, for all of the above reasons. It's not loud enough, not obnoxious enough to survive."

Sorry to win that bet, but those are the hallmarks of doom--agreeable and quiet? Doomed.

August 2010

As for what's to come, writes Eater: "they will serve a $65 prix fixe" and "have diners enter the room via a conga line... Also there are panic buttons."

I feel panicky just thinking about it.

Read more about Andrews:
Andrews Remainders
Andrews Coffee Shop

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

A look inside Goorin Hat Brothers of Bleecker, formerly the Etc. Grocery (and porn magazine) shop:

Enjoy the vintage East Village photos of Michael Sean Edwards. [EVG]

Chinatown is falling: "Sitting in a tiny kitchen, with a view across Delancey to one of those silver, faux-industrial-style million-dollar condos with rooftop birch trees, Mrs. Zheng, 58, smiles and waves her hand as if to bat away flies. 'It is battles all the time here; lots of people are leaving,'" she says while her landlord schemes up new ways to get her out. [NYT]

Greenwich Village fashions of the 60s--suburban! comfortable! corduroy! [LS]

8/23: Rally to save the Bialystoker Nursing Home. [BB]

The nightmare that is Bryant Park movies. [NYT]

Battle for Astor Place

Now that 51 Astor is getting prepped for demolition, with its tall trees chopped down, so a new glass tower can rise on its site, let's take a look at its role in the battle for Astor Place--and Cooper Union's role in it all.

The City's Department of Transportation and Cooper Union are unfolding their plan to turn Astor Place into what they call a public park, but what is clearly an amenity for more condo and office towers, setting the stage for further upscaling of the East Village and Bowery. In the plan, there will no more street called Astor Place.

Preservationists, like GVSHP, oppose the plan because Astor Place, the street, is very old, dating back to a Native American trail from the 1600s. That's a good reason. Another good reason is that the city should not be taking away our streets to give green plazas to private developments and calling them public parks.

This isn't the first time powerful forces have tried to erase Astor Place as it stands. Cooper Union pushed the effort back in 2001, and early reports connected the restructuring of Astor with the development of what became Gwathmey's undulating condo tower there. Somehow, in more recent reports of the grand plan, what began as a private interest has been repositioned as a purely public work.

Let's go back a decade ago. The New York Times reported on the neighborhood response when Cooper Union "put forth an ambitious and controversial plan...that would radically alter a main gateway to the neighborhood. The plan includes eliminating some streets, enlarging a public park and rezoning the area to permit two new structures." Said a neighborhood activist at the time, "Cooper Union is engaging in a real estate shell game in which the East Village will be the loser.''

J.A. Lobbia at The Village Voice wrote in 2001, "What Cooper Union wants is a major redevelopment that will replace low buildings with taller ones, expand a park, encroach on two city streets, alter traffic, and, along the way, disturb a literal rat's nest."

A major piece of Cooper Union's upscaling plan included leasing their Astor Place parking lot to hotelier Ian Schrager. Wrote Lobbia in that 2001 Voice article: "the city is considering revamping Astor Place, possibly removing traffic lanes to form a plaza joining the hotel to the Cube sculpture."

Jim Knipfel reported in the NY Press in 2001, "Some reports also claim that the hotel will simply envelop and 'de-map' Astor Place itself, though Cooper Union officials deny this." The opposition, he wrote, worried that "it’s one more step toward strangling the very nature of the East Village."

In 2002, the city approved Cooper Union's new building plans, including the hotel. At the time, the school's president promised "a set of design constraints to fit the neighborhood."

The hotel eventually evolved into the Gwathmey condo tower. In 2005 Paul Goldberger in The New Yorker called it the "Green Monster," saying, "it doesn’t belong in the neighborhood." It was the first of the big shiny beasts to take the East Village, arguably paving the way for more out-of-scale buildings like the Cooper Square Hotel.

From Cooper Union, we not only got the Green Monster, but also the outsized hive building, and soon Astor Place will have that new office tower--several stories of gleaming glass box made to house "high-tech companies, investment banks, insurance and advertising firms."

Cooper Union is no stranger to de-mapping, either. In the set of plans to build up Astor Place, the school asked the city to de-map Taras Shevchenko Place, which now runs behind their silver hive building. Local Ukrainians fought back against that plan, but what do we make of the second-naming of Shevchenko Place with Hall Place? Known as Hall since the early 1800s, it was renamed Shevchenko in 1978, but the Hall sign suddenly appeared in the fall of 2010. Is Shevchenko on the way out?

As for all that innocent, unassailable greenery, earlier this year, the City released a handbook for "High-Performance" landscaping of the city. Katharine Jose at Capital NY called it "a window into the brain-center of Bloomberg's New York." She wonders if Bloomberg is "running the city, or using the law to influence the private decisions of New Yorkers, especially its wealthiest class, to execute the Bloomberg program?"

The redesign of Astor Place looks a lot like part of the Bloomberg program to remake the East Village into a haven for the upper classes and safety-seeking suburbanites. When considering what's about to happen to Astor Place, we must look beyond the pretty green trees to the motivations behind the plan. Why is it really being done and for whom? Who will benefit the most from it? What will the East Village lose in the long run?

East Villagers fought the plan in 2001, saying they "might as well live in Midtown if Cooper Union has its way." They fought it in 2002, worried that "the large-scale development would turn their eclectic, artistic neighborhood into a sterile business campus."

In the bike lane-loving, eco-friendly, ultra-green New York of 2011, where has that fighting spirit gone? It's as if the sight of lush greenery has wiped out our ability to think critically about this. As in the architect's renderings, we will be nothing but ghosts, haunting the granite slabs of a suburban-style office park.

I'll end with some words by William H. Whyte, Jr., from his 1958 book The Exploding Metropolis:

"Everybody, it would seem, is for the rebuilding of our cities... But this is not the same as liking cities...most of the rebuilding under way and in prospect is being designed by people who don’t like cities."

"what is the image of the city of the future? In the plans for the huge redevelopment projects to come, we are being shown a new image of the city—and it is sterile and lifeless. Gone are the dirt and the noise—and the variety and the excitement and the spirit. That it is an ideal makes it all the worse; these bleak new utopias are not bleak because they have to be; they are the concrete manifestation—and how literally—of a deep, and at times arrogant, misunderstanding of the function of the city."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Is the media brainwashing us? Programming the Nation comes to the Quad Friday.

The city's oldest bagel shop felled in part because "Now, people make coffee at home and have a Pop Tart." [CR]

"In New York, they saved" on everything, until they didn't. [Nonetheless]

Jerry's Astor Place newsstand gets a reprieve--for now. The city still wants him gone in November. [EVG]

Hello, elusive white rat of Tompkins Square Park. [NMNL]

Remembering Merlin.

Film Center Cafe


Todd in Hell's Kitchen tipped us to Michael Musto's report that the Film Center Cafe has closed--it's been here since 1933. Musto writes, "it's kaput... The sign outside thanks patrons for their years of support and urges them to go to the other eateries in the chain."

trishylicious' flickr

The cafe's Facebook page, as of August 7, says they're closed for renovations and will reopen in the fall.

I could not get a confirmation from the cafe owners and their telephone didn't answer--no "disconnected" message, no voice mail, it just rings and rings. The website remains up. But a call to their sister restaurant, Cara Mia, confirmed: "They're closed for good." So what happened between renovation plans on August 7 and closing for good? 78 years is a long time to survive and then just suddenly vanish.

Now this has me worried about the whole block.

Ninth Avenue between 44th and 45th has long been a haven of old New York in the shitstorm of the new. This block is also home to the Poseidon Bakery (since 1923), Rudy's Bar & Grill (since 1933), and Piccinini Brothers meats (since 1922). Combined with the Film Center Cafe's 78 years, that makes at least 333 years of small business history all together on one block.

Too often, when one falls, more follow, like teenagers during a suburban suicide cluster. Is it time for a death watch?

Monday, August 15, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Patti Smith is getting Just Kids ready for the big screen. [NYM]

LES exploded with new restaurants in past decade. [Gothamist]

EV Crazy Landlord building to get sex toy shop? [VV]

Karl Fischer gets busy building in the East Village. [EVG]

Behind the recent closure of the new P&G bar and grill. [DNA]

Antiques Garage


After a stay of execution, we now hear that the Antiques Garage in Chelsea will be closing at the end of August.

Tipster Mitch points us to the blog Stuff Nobody Cares About, who says, "The dealers who exhibit have been told that Extell will soon begin demolition and this month is to be their last."

In 2007, we visited the Antiques Garage and heard that 2008 would be its final year after the building was sold to developer Extell. The year 2008 came, the economy collapsed, the developer wasn't developing, and the Antiques Garage got a new lease. At the time, a vendor told me, "It's a month-to-month lease, but I expect we'll be here another year or two. The developer can't get a hotel license. There are too many hotels around here as it is."

There are still too many hotels around there, but no matter. Extell is coming. With something big.

As the Observer recently reported, Extell president "Gary Barnett continues to bulldoze his way across the city," unveiling plans for massive new towers and demolishing a chunk of 57th Street that preservationists failed to landmark. That site, "like so many others at the moment," writes the Observer, "had lain fallow through the downturn but has now reawakened."

And soon another glassy giant will arise on 25th Street where now there is something enchanting and rare.

Friday, August 12, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The Occupation of Wall Street begins Sept 17--meet tomorrow in Tompkins Square Park to help plan the protest. [OWS]

Hotel Chelsea lobby desecrated, stripped of its art by new owners. [LWL]

Soho "under siege" by the "cancer" of mallification. [Villager]

Controversial hotelier eyes the (apparently humanless) Rockaways for more hipification: "It's the Lower East Side on the beach. It's like, 'Why are people not living out here?'" [NYM]

The vintage, sleazy Times Square art of Jane Dickson. [VS]

Developers push 5th Avenue luxury north, north, north. [NYM]

The "Crazy Landlord" might be getting his wish. [EVG]

My Brooklyn

In the works is a new documentary called My Brooklyn, written and directed by Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean. It tells the story of gentrification in Brooklyn as it follows filmmaker Kelly Anderson's journey from 1988, when she first moved to the borough, to today, when luxury housing and chain stores have taken over, killing the soul of BK.

Check out the film's trailer and support the film by kicking over some cash on Kickstarter. In the meantime, I asked Kelly some questions about the film and she answered...

Q: Your title is, in a quiet way, a provocative one. To say "my" Brooklyn implies ownership, just as many New Yorkers have a proprietary sense about the city, and the neighborhoods, in which they live. Today more than ever that sense bumps up against gentrification in the fiercest way. How have the past 10 years of major changes impacted your sense of "your" Brooklyn?

A: The easiest answer to your question is that the film is told through my eyes, and follows my particular journey to understand the dramatic changes I see happening to my neighborhoods and to New York City in general. But I think your question is actually more complex than that. It raises important questions that the film is trying to get at, like: Who owns a neighborhood? Does being there longer give someone more of a claim to it? Who gets to decide what's valuable and what retail and services a neighborhood should have?

A concrete example: to many newer arrivals (especially white ones, but not exclusively), Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn is a "crappy space with B-grade stores that I wouldn't want to visit at night." To Brooklyn's longer-term residents who frequent the mall (mostly African American and Caribbean immigrants), the space is "home base," "exciting," a place to run into people you know and find products you can't find in other places, at affordable prices. My Brooklyn asks, “Whose values get reflected in city policy?” and “Why?”

Kelly and crew

So the title is kind of tongue-in-cheek, meant to raise exactly the question you are asking.

During the production of this film, we have repeatedly asked people of all economic backgrounds and races, "What's your Brooklyn?" Almost everybody mentions diversity as one of the things they love most about Brooklyn. The irony is that the city, and real estate developers, use the idea of Brooklyn as "happening," "interesting," and "artistic," yet at the same time they are using massive rezonings and developer subsidies to incentivize the construction of giant market-rate luxury housing towers that nobody but the wealthy can afford.

Q: Your subtitle is about battling for the city's soul. How would you describe that soul?

A: It's subjective, obviously. For me, being able to walk down a street and having the possibility of being surprised by what I encounter is really important. A place where I can only shop at the same 20 stores that are in every suburban mall is a place I can't imagine living. "Soul" resides in neighborhoods where people hang out, and talk with each other, and know each other, and look after one another's children--not a place where people are forced to move every few years because housing gets too expensive.

Soul is also about artistic expression--and we all know artists can't afford the Brooklyn neighborhoods that welcomed them two decades ago. And in our film particularly, "soul" refers to black culture like the early hip-hop that developed at Fulton Mall's Albee Square Mall, the kinds of spaces that are vanishing in New York City today. Things can't always stay the same, but our planning priorities should include open and affordable spaces where cultural experiments can be nurtured and find audiences.

barber shop

Q: You refer to yourself in the film's description as a gentrifier who moved to Brooklyn in 1988. How do you see yourself as similar to or different from the gentrifiers of today's Brooklyn?

A: I moved to Park Slope in 1988 looking for an activist, engaged, diverse, artistic environment that would be tolerant of difference (I was in a lesbian relationship at the time and wanted to be in a place where we would feel comfortable). As I have moved from neighborhood to neighborhood in Brooklyn (usually in search of more affordable housing), I have always been in that first (or second) wave of gentrifiers. Right now I'm in Sunset Park, and wondering how long it will take for my neighborhood to start to transform as other people like me are pushed out of the more central Brooklyn neighborhoods.

I don’t think I’m fundamentally any different than anybody else, except maybe I’ve become a little more obsessed with understanding the underlying dynamics of the change that’s happened. I would hope that everybody would be interested in understanding what we could do to make the planning process more democratic and more responsive to the needs of everybody, not just newcomers or folks who can afford to get their voices heard. I think we all need to get beyond feeling guilty or like “nothing can be done” and starting being aware of land use policy and getting involved to create a more just city.

Fulton Mall business owner

Thursday, August 11, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The P&G has closed earlier than expected. Writes a tipster: "last night the P&G closed its doors forever. They had planned to have a big blowout farewell weekend. Unfortunately, that was not to be, and Holiday informed all of us that last night ended up being its swan song."

I love these anti-texting t-shirts. [LUST] via [Racked]

Cat fashion show
at the Algonquin! [Gothamist]

Olek hits Chelsea with her crochet street art. [BB]

Where to find the cheapest beer in the EV. [EVG]

This Saturday, check out Stephanie Gray's poetry and super-8 films of vanished NYC, including lost bakeries like Zito's, Jon Vie, and Gertel's. [AP]

Olympia Garage


I've been watching the Meatpacking District's Olympia parking garage for a long time now. With Pastis on one side and luxury renovations all around, this scruffy survivor has worn the heavy look of doom. Still, it seemed to be doing well. Shopaholics need a place to park their Escalades, after all.


This week, however, scaffolding has gone up over the Olympia and its doors are shut. I called the number and got a "disconnected" message.


The blog Paper and String confirms that after 35 years of business here the Olympia Garage has closed. They write, "Our sources say the rent has increased fivefold and Olympia Garage will not be seeking another location. We were told the Olympia was already becoming dissatisfied with the big changes that came (and are coming) to the Meatpacking District."

Through the window, a few abandoned car keys still hang on the board. The calendar pages are turned to July. The telephones have been ripped out.


I always liked the garage and took several photos of it over the recent years. Seeing this scrappy behemoth in the midst of all that glitter made me happy. I liked the signage. I liked seeing the working men out front, relaxing in their chairs, while the girls went by in high heels paying no attention. I liked that it was sticking it out next to Pastis, as if thumbing its nose at the mind-numbing changes. I liked that it was surviving.


There has been a garage in this spot since at least 1921, according to the Certificate of Occupancy. And before that, before cars, it stabled horses. "It operated as the Radio Garage and Avenue Garage until the 1940s, then as the Gansevoort Garage (Leo and Frank Calarco) and Olympia Garage," says the Landmark Designation Report.

In this NYPL photo from 1940, you can see the Avenue Garage in its spot. It really never changed much.


This is how things have changed in the city. One man's horse stable becomes another man's garage and then another man's garage. Decades go by. Here that rate of change continued for over 90 years. But in the 2000s, every long-time business must be wiped out, almost instantaneously, to complete the unbroken monoculture of the nouveau luxury neighborhoods booming all around them.

So what's coming next? Paper and String says it'll be a Moroccan restaurant.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Artisanalization, germophobia, and class shifts are killing the hot dog: "'a staple of New’s the way New York is.' But the way New York is has been changing." [NYT]

Check out this film footage of the Lower East Side in 1967--before it contracted "corporate herpes." [DM]

How did I miss the transgender Jesus in Tompkins Square Park? [EVC]

East Village woman is swimming to Coney Island to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of a similar swim. [EVG]

Mary Cantwell at the Chelsea Hotel in 1978. [ENY]

What is a "real looking Brooklyn working class type"? Ask CBS. [LM]

Goggla posts her "Confronting Comfort" protest coverage. [TGL]

Celebrate Historic Coney Island Sunday 8/28 from 1pm-5pm at the First Annual HISTORY DAY at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park & The Coney Island History Project.

Bleecker's Luxe Blitz

It's time to worry about the mom-and-pop businesses on Bleecker Street between 10th and Christopher as the Rodeo Drive machine steamrolls south with aims to conquer the block.

A recap of recent events nearby:

After losing two long-standing antique shops last year, Treasures & Trifles and Leo Design, both of those spaces have since been filled with luxury chain stores. Toons Thai restaurant and the Miracle Grill, both long empty, are about to get European luxury chains. The park has been closed for a high-end renovation.

Today, from 10th Street all the way northwest, the only businesses left on Bleecker that aren't high-end mall stores or intimately connected to Sex & the City are the art gallery A Clean Well-Lighted Place (since 1976) and the 22-year-old Arleen Bowman boutique. That's it.

Everything else has been replaced or still lies vacant, mostly in just the past 5 years. "Everything" means approximately 43 other businesses. Plus, a residence that was not a business is opening as a Jimmy Choo boutique, adding luxury retail where there was no retail.

Now the rampant mallification is barreling across 10th Street.


On the eastern side of that block there has been the closure of a little news shop known as Etc. Grocery Store. I took some pictures of it last year, figuring it would vanish at any moment. It was obviously too shabby to survive. Today the shutters are down and the inside is being outfitted with a chocolate brown pressed-tin ceiling and exposed brick walls. Artisanal ice-cream shop?


I liked Etc. Grocery's scruffy look, how the awning, with the postcard and sunglass racks, seemed to just flop out onto the sidewalk, an uninvited guest at a Hamptons garden party sticking its finger in the aspic and belching.

It always had a window full of porn. Now the only porn you can buy on this end of Bleecker is at the Marc Jacobs bookstore that replaced Biography Bookshop last year. And that's high-end porn.


Welcome to the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai in Greenwich Village.

Two doors down from the Etc. Grocery Store, French boutique chain Comptoir de Cotonnieres has opened in the space long left vacant by Village Cottage Restaurant--once the location of Abbie Hoffman's Liberty House, a crafts cooperative.

Next to that, another long-empty space is being gutted, too--it's covered by soft pink-painted plywood. No doubt for another Marc Jacobs or Coach or Ralph Lauren, etc. That will essentially luxurify the entire eastern side of this block.



With this flurry of activity, the western side of Bleecker between 10th and Christopher is looking very vulnerable. This week, upscale fragrance shop Jo Malone just announced its move to the former Bread and Pastry Cafe location here.

So what's left on this block to worry about? First, there's The Village Apothecary, a "community pharmacy" that specializes in HIV care and has been in business since 1982.

Then there's the Manatus diner, a spot often filled with gay men of a certain age. It's affordable and comfortable to eat here (you can't go to Fedora anymore), two things we're losing rapidly all over town.

There's also a dry cleaners (useful) and Your Neighborhood Office, run by a great lady who provides the most excellent notary services (also useful).

How long can they last? The luxury retail culture is closing in on both sides, coming from Christopher St. where the likes of Freeman's Sporting Club and Rag & Bone compete for those consumers looking to spend a couple hundred bucks on a pair of artisanal khakis. ("Conscientious clothing" is the new thing--get ready for very expensive artisanal underwear.)

Meanwhile, the leather shops, gay bars, and porno stores look on, trembling, waiting for their time to die as the armies of the New World Order come marching in their Louboutins. They will not rest until every last vestige of the old Village has been destroyed.

See Also:
People Are Weird
More Jane Jacobs, Less Marc Jacobs
Cupcake Trash
How the Cupcake Crumbled