Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year: 1984 - 1985!

I love this clip of CBS' 1984-1985 coverage of New Year's Eve in Times Square--hosted by Andy Williams (who just passed away in September) and Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the telephone operator. It's so unproduced, so unslick. They actually flub the countdown.

The masses in the streets are a ragtag bunch, none of them in today's uniform of corporate-sponsored hats and inflatable bats, all in their own hats (including one in a knitted beer-can hat, remember those?), with lots of noisemakers. And it looks dark down there on Broadway, not klieg-lit, more like some grim, brown, coffee-stained light.

The crowd's roar is loud in the broadcast booth, their noisemakers sending up an ear-splitting din that will eventually, in New Year's Eve broadcasts of the future, be blocked out by soundproofing.

2011's branded crowd on youtube

Tomlin calls the crowd a group of risk takers for being in Times Square on this night, and she laments the fact that so many people are not at home, using the telephone. (No cell phones.) "If somebody in this crowd is reaching out, it's probably for somebody's wallet."

As for the ball itself, it's not today's showpiece of 504 Waterford crystals. It's a wobbly red apple with a green stem, made of simple light bulbs.

See more years of New Year's Eve in Times Square here

2012 Vanishings

Every year, at the end of the year, we take a look back at what's been lost over the past 12 months. Some of the losses were big ones, some smaller. In chronological order (more or less), the ones covered here:

The Holiday Cocktail Lounge
After an illustrious history that included literary legends like Allen Ginsberg and W.H. Auden, after a few recent years of struggle, the great Holiday succumbed. It's been gutted and will be turned into a fish n' chips gastropub kind of thing. The Holiday had been here since 1965.

La-Rosa Cigars
This half-century old shop shuttered and left Manhattan for the Bronx, which is not exactly vanishing, but still--it was booted from a prime spot to the periphery.

Atlas Meats
In its never-ending vanishing act, the Meatpacking District demolished this Depression-era building. A glass tower is coming.

After 119 years in business, Manganaro's Grosseria closed their doors and sold their building. After a painful gutting, a restaurant called Tavola moved in. This one hurts like hell.

A Clean Well-Lighted Place
One of the last places on the Rodeo Drive section of Bleecker Street that was not a luxury shopping mall store, this little gallery quietly closed and its space became...a luxury shopping mall store. The gallery had been here since 1976.

World of Video
After 29 years in Greenwich Village, this popular and beloved video store lost its lease.

Chelsea Gallery Diner
The city is losing its diners. Another one fell when the Chelsea Gallery was forced to close after 30 years on 7th Avenue. A sad loss for many in the area.

Bill's Gay 90s
Another especially painful blow, the loss of Bill's Gay 90s was one that should never have been allowed. After 88 years in business, Bill's lost its lease, which was handed over to trendy restaurateur John DeLucie. The place was gutted and upscaled.

Atlas Barber School
With a hiked rent, thanks no doubt to the hideous tower going up at Astor Place, this long-lasting barber school shuttered. It had been in business in Manhattan, and mostly right here, since 1948.

Arleen Bowman Boutique
When A Clean, Well-Lighted Place closed on Bleecker, it left one old-school shop standing. But not for long. After 25 years here, Arleen Bowman was forced to close by rising rent.

Prime Burger
More agony with this one. The wondrous Prime Burger closed after 47 years in business--and its gorgeous decor went with it. The building was sold and the new owner would not give them a manageable deal. An awful loss.

Lascoff Pharmacy
Without much of a peep, the beautiful Lascoff closed on the Upper East Side. Established in 1899, its interior was stunningly cathedralesque. Now it's gutted and gone.

Colony Records
After 60 years of "serving Broadway," Colony Records was given an impossible offer, a quintupled rent of $5 million. It shuttered.

Movie Star News
Opened by the infamous Irving Klaw, sustained by images of the great Bettie Page, Movie Star News was part of Manhattan since 1939. But then the rent went up, and now its space will become a luxury bathroom fixture store.

Lafayette French Bakery
After more than 30 years in the Village, this little (sometimes controversial) bakery was evicted. A trendy restaurant has taken its place.

Mei Dick
Another barbershop fallen, Mei Dick vanished this year, disappointing many photographers who enjoyed its homophonic joke.

Partners & Crime
After 18 years on Greenwich Avenue, this bookshop closed down due to the city's growing lack of interest in books and its passion for pawing at greasy little screens.

University Diner
And another diner gone. I'll miss this one, too. It shuttered after 60 years in business.

El Faro
It was 85 years old, surviving on the glammed-up edge of the Meatpacking District, and then it was gone. This one also really sucks. I keep hoping it will reopen.

9th Avenue Between 17th and 18th
All of the small, beloved businesses in the large, nearly block-long building were evicted this year.

Lucky Cheng's
After nearly two decades of drag, Lucky Cheng's left its dilapidated building in the East Village for Times Square. Again, not exactly a vanishing, but a vanishing--the old Lucky Cheng's and the strange history of its building has come to an end.

Village Chess Shop
They'd been on Thompson Street since 1972. Then they were evicted.

The Stage Deli
Without warning, this 75-year-old landmark closed, leaving many tourists and New Yorkers bereft. 

Lenox Lounge
Today will be its last. I went up for a final drink before the place is taken over and faux-stalgia'd by the Nobu team. The landlord had doubled the rent on this classic space, this gem of Harlem, open since 1942.

So many numbers, so many years. Some of these businesses had been in New York City for over 110 years, others a mere 20, but it adds up. In fact, if you add up all the years in business, just for these businesses listed here (there were plenty more), the total comes to approximately 1,255 years.

In 2012, we lost 1,255 years of history. That's more than a millennium--just gone.

Past year-end reviews:
2011: Businesses, Structures, Food, People

Thursday, December 20, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

The East Village's Whole Earth Bakery to close December 31 after 34 years in business. [EVG]

Coney Island's Surf Avenue to become a miserable, soulless chain-restaurant mecca--"the zoning was written to attract" Hooters, Outback Steakhouse, Applebee's... [ATZ]

Berliners use bricks and anger to fight back against gentrification--and get called fascists for it. [Guardian]

Who are the people who can't live without chain stores? Ben Katchor puts them in a comic strip. [BK]

Locals responding to Santacon in the East Village. [HNY]

Pop quiz: Identify this sad and faded bit of street art...

"Is Manhattan’s literary night life, along with its literary infrastructure (certain bars, hotels, restaurants and bookstores) fading away?" [NYT]

Enjoy the latest chapter in Karen Lillis' bookstore memoir. [KSPL]

Go see "My Brooklyn" in DUMBO. [MB]

Tribeca then and now, the 1980s and today. [TC]

Remembering the Penn Terminal Hotel. [NYN]
Riding the Nostalgia Train. [Gothamist]

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NYU: No Confidence

Last week, the faculty of NYU authorized a no-confidence vote, a move that could lead to President Sexton's termination. They write, "The NYU 2031 Sexton Plan, the administration’s ill advised multi-billion dollar plan to expand the university within Greenwich Village, was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back." And now, some key quotes from the must-read book While We Were Sleeping: NYU and the Destruction of New York.

"It's not just NYU. There are days when I feel like I'm stranded in some upscale mall in Pasadena. Don't even get me started on the insidious transformation of Bleecker Street!" --Jessica Hagedorn

"Those little garden plots on the corner of Bleecker and LaGuardia may not be on our way to anywhere. And yet we need them, we seek them out, to smell the wet earth, to remember the feel of soil drying on our hands, the smell of a fresh tomato, the wonder of a dogwood blooming. I'm sure NYU has computed the dimensions of this garden, but they are using the wrong units of measurements." --Peter Carey

"The tall buildings started to pop up all over the place. In the east village that used to groan when the fall came ('NYU' we'd hiss) and it meant that the east village was always our neighborhood but come fall all these kiddies would suddenly be streaming into the streets with their avidity and suburban fashion. But there were more of us than them so the problem was fortunately contained. They were actually still part of what there was. And there were many things here including students. Then by the 21st c. they were living in our buildings. Not like us, but like them. Their parents bought them apartments or else were paying the rent which was five times higher than ours. They were wandering (or running) through the halls of our building at night with their beers or also in their bathrobes between apartments with their cups of tea. They were incredibly loud. The way they were talking. Like no one was living here. Like they were living in a dorm. They were." --Eileen Myles

After NYU's expansion, "There will no NYU, no Village. Just another herd of de-zoned skyscrapers ready for another wrecking ball, another rage of 'development,' another detraction from New York City, that which makes it different from the featureless, dangerous inhuman depopulated streets of Downtowns USA across the country." --Kenneth Lonergan

"In the past, heartland whites with some kind of dream or desire left their towns for cities to become citified. They wanted to get away from religion, from their families, they wanted to come out, make art, have sex, have experiences. But this new crew was something we had never seen before. They were the first generation of suburban Americans. They came, not to be citified, but rather to change cities into places they could recognize and dominate." --Sarah Schulman

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Carmine's IHOP

As we heard this past summer, IHOP signed a 49-year lease for the corner of Carmine and Varick, paying $300,000 per year and setting off a panic about its potential impact on a street that has remained authentically New York. As the Observer put it in a headline, this move is "Effectively Stabbing Village in Heart."

Now that heart-stabbing IHOP shows itself with blue awnings, signage, and the warning "Coming Soon."

Photo thanks to Richie Cohen

What does this mean for the neighboring mom-and-pops? Carmine Street is a place of survivors--though much has been lost--but for how long? Already, Unoppressive, Non-Imperialist Bargain Books is struggling. All of them are in the crosshairs of Big Development.

The real estate agent who brokered IHOP's deal told the Wall Street Journal that Carmine, "was a dumpy street. Now it's top-notch." IHOP is "a big brand, and it'll help me convince other big brands to follow. People don't even know where Carmine Street is--yet. We'll fix that."

These suburban chains don't come here by accident. They are lured here as part of Big Development's overarching plan for the city, and Bloomberg opens the door wide. The Center for an Urban Future just released their exhaustive report "State of the Chains 2012," finding that "the number of chain stores in New York City increased for the fifth straight year." And that runaway train shows no sign of stopping in 2013--an Applebee's is coming to Coney Island's Surf Avenue.

Carmine Survivors
Lost on Carmine
Chain Stores in the City

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meatpacking 1985

A couple of months ago we got to see some wonderful photos of the Meatpacking District in the 1980s, thanks to Yvonne B. Now, photographer and author Brian Rose sends in a link to his amazing collection of photos featuring the Meatpacking District in 1985.

The desolate industrial neighborhood of the past stands in stark contrast to today's center of consumerism and luxury. In most of the photos there are no people, just shuttered meatpacking warehouses. The streets are quiet. No girls in Manolos. No cupcake eaters. No High Line tourists.

Today, in the view seen above, condos rise and rise.

Brian's photos are all in daylight, so you won't see any transgender prostitutes or leather men on the prowl. But there is evidence of their presence, like the hot-sheets Liberty Hotel, which still stands, and a rare shot of the entrance to the Mineshaft, the gay leather club featured in the Pacino movie Cruising. (Check out "Back in the Gays" for an insider's memory of the Mineshaft.)

There's also this lovely shot, which I include here because the corner also turned up in Yvonne B's collection--17th Street and 10th Avenue. Something attracted both photographers to the spot. Maybe it was that rusted-out LIQUORS sign, or the colorful mural, or the ghost sign for KIPS BAY BEER. All of it has vanished.

Visit Brian Rose's blog for much more of the Meatpacking District in the winter of 1985. And while you're at it, buy a copy of Brian's must-have book Time & Space on the Lower East Side.

Friday, December 14, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

NYU professors mutiny against president Sexton and his plan to bulldoze the Village. Support them at NYUFASP and "stand up for NYC." [NYP]

An oral history of the Beatrice Inn that might make you ill. [NYM]

A treasure trove of photos featuring lost neon signs of NYC. [NYN]

A very detailed hand-drawn map of NYC. [JS]

Ada Louise Huxtable on the destruction of the NYPL's incredible stacks: "This is a plan devised out of a profound ignorance of or willful disregard for not only the library's original concept and design, but also the folly of altering its meaning and mission and compromising its historical and architectural integrity. You don't 'update' a masterpiece. 'Modernization' may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language." [WSJ]

Read more about the stacks here. [NYPL]

Visiting Manhattan's print dealers. [NYT]

"Men’s tights, for so long the preserve of ballet dancers and runway models, are taking Manhattan by storm." [BI]

Our old pal Marty Wombacher has gone back to Peoria--and he's got a new blog. Check it out. [WBIP]

Drunk morons in Santa suits are coming to your neighborhood tomorrow--here's a map of where to avoid. [EVG]

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Autumn in New York has all but vanished, thanks to global warming, and now winter is beginning to fade. Last year, flowers bloomed as early as February. This year, it's looking worse.

(UPDATE: Confirmation from the Wall St. Journal, 12/19/12, that 2012 may be the warmest winter on record.)

In the Village, the consistent warm weather has forced flowers to bloom. Pink blossoms have opened on the same branches where yellowed leaves still hang. Life and death coexist. Seasons collide.


In a street garden on the other side of town, green shoots emerge from a pile of autumn gingko leaves. The flat spears look a lot like iris. It's barely the middle of December.

And a few more shots from today:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Laundromat and Marc

For years, every time I passed a certain laundromat on West 4th and Bank Street, I'd take its picture. Especially at night.

There's something sad and a little bit romantic about a laundromat at night.

But I also took the laundromat's photo because I worried about it vanishing. It has that look--old and shabby, and therefore real, a Velveteen Rabbit of a place.

The woman who works there could often be seen at a makeshift desk by the laundromat's rightmost window, working behind the shop's odd, geometric metal grill. She would regularly hang the grill with orange peels. Over time, the peels dried and created a sort of abstract art. I loved seeing the woman and I loved seeing the orange peels. (At this time of year, she also hung candy canes.)

I worried about the laundromat because it was old, but also because it was being encroached upon. A Marc Jacobs store opened across the street and another came right next door.

The juxtaposition of the two windows at night always captured my attention--the Asian woman silently working, head bowed behind her orange peels, and on the other side of the wall, a room full of young, excited people delirious for retail. I knew it couldn't last.

The laundromat has not vanished. But it has gotten smaller. You might not notice. It's not the sort of thing you notice unless you've been paying close (perhaps obsessively close) attention. And you might not think it's worth bothering about--the laundromat is still in business, so what does it matter if it's a few feet smaller?

But the window with the orange peels is gone. And that made all the difference.

The ever-expanding Marc Jacobs empire has expanded a bit more, broken through the laundromat's wall, and taken over the woman's former spot. "Little Marc Jacobs" got much bigger and the laundromat got much smaller--in size, yes, but mostly in feeling. With her window gone, you won't see the woman anymore, sitting at her counter at night, taking a little space for herself at the end of a long day of hard work. All you'll see now in that space is more expensive stuff to buy your kids for Christmas.


Lost Laundromats:
Lee's Laundry
Harry Chong's
Chin's Laundry

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Movie Star News Now

It didn't take long for the landlord to find a new, higher-priced tenant for the space previously occupied by Movie Star News on West 18th.

We learned in July that the venerable shop would be closing after 73 years of history in the city. By the end of that month the owner had packed up and sold Irving Klaw's entire Bettie Page collection to a Las Vegas collectibles company.

The space, once loaded with bins full of colorful movie posters and towering shelves overflowing with Hollywood glossies, has been gutted and turned into a pure, white hollow. A paper taped inside the window says Lefroy Brooks is coming.

Lefroy Brooks sells luxury bathroom fixtures. They have one elegant collection of faucets, towel bars, soap dishes, and toilet paper holders called "Kafka."

Is this all a bit Kafkaesque?

Franz Kafka's biographer, Frederick R. Karl, defined the term "Kafkaesque" to the Times: "What's Kafkaesque is when you enter a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behavior, begins to fall to pieces, when you find yourself against a force that does not lend itself to the way you perceive the world. You don't give up, you don't lie down and die. What you do is struggle against this with all of your equipment, with whatever you have. But of course you don't stand a chance. That's Kafkaesque."

Read more about Movie Star News:
The long history
The closure
The move to Vegas

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bleecker Bob's: Closing

After nearly a year of discussion and speculation, Bleecker Bob's has made it official. On their Facebook page this weekend they announced:

"well, it's SAD NEWS people. don't really know how to say this so here goes.....after 40+ years in existence, BLEECKER BOB'S will be closing!!!! looks like another month or 2 maybe. we'll definitely be open thru to the New Year, maybe even a couple of months into 2013. as of right now though we're still buying, selling and trading music PLUS we have new tshirts in stock so you can remember us and tell your kids or grandkids about the legendary Bleecker Bob's!!"

Back in January, I passed along the news from Ken Mac at Greenwich Village Daily Photo who first shared the shocker that Bleecker Bob's was being taken over by Starbucks. That rumor was shot down, but later that month, the store confirmed to Ken that they were looking to move to the East Village. However, said the owner, "we are definitely NOT planning to close."

Throughout the year, bloggers and other journalists said their goodbyes, and told the story of Bleecker Bob's troubles and their hopes to find a space in the East Village.

Capital New York produced a heartbreaking documentary about the shop in July and wrote, "Bleecker Bob’s will stay open until the landlord has found a new tenant. When it goes, it will take with it a huge part of the history of the Village. And it looks unlikely to find a new place to open up."

In September, the record shop was still looking for a spot in the East Village. But the East Village isn't cheap and, as we all know too well, many mom-and-pops have been priced out.

Now, with their most recent Facebook announcement, it looks like Bleecker Bob's is done. Presumably, the landlord has found a new tenant. We won't be surprised if it does turn out to be a Starbucks. Or maybe a frozen yogurt shop. Or something equally useless and infuriating.

Admittedly, I've never been much of a music enthusiast. My passion goes to books. But I remember being brought to New York by a native, my first time as a young adult, and how she led me emphatically to Bleecker Bob's, saying the name as if it were a holy thing, the land of milk and honey. My friend knew the guys who worked there, moved through the place like she owned it, all confidence in her black leather jacket. As I shyly sifted through the records in their bins, I knew I was in an important place. But it was the presence of Bob's antique clocks that dazzled me and stayed fixed in my memory of that day.

Now I keep thinking about those clocks in Bleecker Bob's. With their neon rims and mid-century numerals, those dusty, busted, stopped clocks have watched over the place, watching the people come and go, watching them age and disappear.

Time stopped when you entered Bleecker Bob's. For a little while, anyway.


Friday, December 7, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Last night I dreamed about a second, overlooked newsstand perched above Gem Spa... (send in your dreams...). [DVNY]

An amazing photographic journey of the NYC subways in 1973--courtesy of the EPA. [Narratively]

Enjoy the wonderful neon of New York City. [Stupefaction]

Sal Mineo shops for smut in an adult bookstore of 1965 Times Square. [VS]

"The Shore Theater’s iconic sign will not be coming back to the landmarked Coney Island building, according to the property holder, who says that the Hurricane Sandy-mangled marquee is unfixable and will have to be replaced." [BD]

Inside the East Village Eye. [EVG]

Watch the Deli Man--as the delis of NYC keep vanishing. [vimeo]

Looking back at Manhattan's lost diners. [NY90s]

Take a walk through a (mostly vanished) Hell's Kitchen. [J&KM]

There's now a Brooklyn neighborhood being called "Rambo." [Curbed]

Where do all the new New Yorkers go? To the most expensive neighborhoods. [WNYC]

Press play on this bedbug map of NYC and watch the epidemic explode. [bdbgs]

When a cupcake shop scene is deleted from Girls, is that a good sign that cupcakes are losing their luster? [Eater]

"How could she be so into frozen yogurt? I wondered. How could anyone? This was a dessert, after all, that oozed out of self-serve machines. It was served in a tub. Like margarine. It was nicknamed fro-yo." [NYO]

Click the following link only if you would like to see a man in crotchless pantyhose flash his penis on the L train. [Gothamist]

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Support Queer Books

Support New York City's independent queer bookstore. Oh, wait, New York doesn't have a queer bookstore--Oscar Wilde, A Different Light, they all shuttered and became boutiques or condos while we were busy shopping on Amazon.

But now there's BGSQD, The Bureau of General Services Queer Division (a mouthful of a name), also known as The Bureau. I interviewed the co-founder here and he talked about how important it is for an LGBTQ bookshop to exist in Manhattan, the borough that is becoming blander by the minute.

Now is your chance to support The Bureau's endeavor. They've got a pop-up bookshop open now at 27 Orchard Street and a Lucky Ant drive running for the next two weeks. They're hoping to raise $15,000.

Please visit their Lucky Ant page and send them some money (there are prizes). Consider it making amends for every book you bought on Amazon. Thank you.

Village Voice Web Award

Thank you to everyone who voted, to the judges, and to the Village Voice for voting me "Blogger We Love" in last night's Web Awards! And congratulations to all the winners. Check out the list right here.

Winners received a giant foam hand, perhaps to symbolize the copious and warm embrace of your cyber love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Candy Factory


The parking lot and two small brick buildings at the corner of Wooster and Grand are about to vanish.

They have been, for some time, a beloved and well-used graffiti spot. In recent years, the lot's walls have hosted a Banksy rat, a Fairey paste-up, and French street artist JR's paste-up of a giant photo of a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. But it's around the corner where the real fun happened.

Those walls belong to what's known locally as the Candy Factory, a spot that the New York Times published a visual guide to in 2005. It has changed many times since then--images constantly coming and going--but here comes the biggest change of all. The Candy Factory and the parking lot are wrapped in plywood and readied for condo-fication. The parking lot is being hammered and drilled.

I miss the colorful collection of street art hidden here at the back end of what was once a Tootsie Roll factory at 325-329 West Broadway.

my flickr, 2010

The future of these buildings is unclear. The project is now on (at least) its third architect, as DDG Partners recently wrapped the plywood in vinyl printed to look like a chocolate candy bar in silver foil. 

The only rendering that DDG offers is one of the Candy Factory wrapped in scaffolding, which it currently is not.

In the previous architectural plans, these brick buildings would remain standing, "restored to their circa 1940 condition based on the city records and historic research by the architects and their consultants."

Beyhan Karahan Architects

Wrapping around them would be a nine-story, 45,000-square-foot, residential condo. It would be topped, said the developer's website, with "a two-story duplex penthouse set back from the perimeter walls, allowing a stone terrace to fully wrap the glazed, pavilion-like structure and its private swimming pool."


Will the Candy Factory still remain, in face-lifted brick, wedged between this new condo tower and the luxe SoHo Mews ("Life Cultivated")?

See all my Candy Factory photos here

Here's the spot in the 1980s, from the Municipal Archives, before the Soho Mews moved in, before scenes like this went on across the street--was it still churning out Tootsie Rolls then? And will the new building be cutely named "The Candy Factory Condos"?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lenox Lounge


This past spring, the Daily News reported that Harlem's legendary Lenox Lounge was losing its lease. Now we hear from Black Enterprise that the club will be closing its doors December 31. The rent has increased from $10,000 per month to $20,000.

Owner Alvin Reed, Daily News

Writes Black Enterprise, "Richard Notar, Managing Partner in Nobu Restaurants, will be taking over the space the bar currently sits at and plans to open a new spot named 'Notar Jazz Club.' Notar has already applied with the local community board for a liquor license." (Notar Jazz Club, LLC, was formed back in August, under Notar's company Raptor Capital Management. Raptor.)

Gawker describes Notar as "a 16-year-old from Jamaica, Queens when he landed a job as a busboy at Studio 54. He spent the next few years partying with the best of them, gobbling down Quaaludes by the fistful, he says, and getting high with the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat." He is now a luxury restaurant chain mogul. Nobu is a favorite with the Sex and the City set.

Notar and DeNiro

Notar is also a business partner of Robert DeNiro. A tipster tells us that DeNiro has "stepped in to save" the Lenox Lounge: "A very prominent jazz musician friend just played there Sunday night and told me straight from the owner's mouth." Which might mean that the name and the neon sign will stay--something the current owner would not allow without a renegotiation. Reported Black Enterprise, "When Reed leaves he’ll be taking the iconic Lenox Lounge neon sign with him... He trademarked the club’s name and even though he’s giving up the space, he’s not giving up the name."

So it's unclear if, after December 31, the Lenox Lounge will still be the Lenox Lounge in name, and what's in store after the Nobu team takes over. We can say that the Lenox Lounge won't be owned by an African-American and it won't be owned by a long-time Harlem resident. History comes back around? When it officially opened in 1942, under owner Dominick Greco, the Lenox Lounge was built expressly for white customers heading uptown to see black performers.

So can we really say it's being saved? Or is this yet another example of "fauxstalgia," where trendy restaurateurs cash in on New York's history? (See: Fedora, Minetta Tavern, Bill's Gay 90s, Rocco's, Waverly Inn, Lion, and Monkey Bar...) Some would say it's all the same, that newcomers are saving these historic places. But many places wouldn't need saving if their landlords didn't have bigger offers. It's all part of the hypergentrification machine. And we have to wonder who will be sitting at the bar, nursing their beers, this time next year.

Harlem has been changing dramatically, and the loss of the Lenox Lounge as it's been is part of that change. Said a real estate agent to DNA one year ago when news of the club's rent hike first hit and restaurateurs were battling for its lease, "They already have a built-in brand, a history before opening the door. These famous places change hands and they have instant popularity. People are always looking for the hot place...Finally the hype has met up with Harlem."

That hype is also bringing a Whole Foods to 125th.

Monday, December 3, 2012

St. Vincent's Demolition

It's been awhile since I've taken a walk past the former St. Vincent's Hospital, and it was a shock to see just how far along the demolition has come.

The main buildings are wrapped in scaffolding and shrouded. Entire floors of brick have been stripped, rooms empty and exposed to the streets.

The western wall of the stately old building on W. 11th has been almost completely sheared off. Is the building being demolished, or readied for attachment to the new condo tower to come?

People suffered and died here. Many had their lives saved here. They left their notes and names on plywood after St. Vincent's closed, begging for a new hospital to open here, or anywhere in Greenwich Village. But the luxury machine has to eat. And eat, and eat...