Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jefferson Market to Luxury Sales

Awhile ago, there was some construction activity at the long-shuttered former site of Jefferson Market in the Village.

some months ago

Reader Lynne Lieberman checked in with the workers, who told her, "It will be a sales office and model apartment for the new St. Vincent's Hospital condominiums & that nothing else will go in there for at least 2 years." After that, it could become a Gap--though the worker who said that might've been yanking our chain.

Completed, the sales office has now opened for business.

There is no sign to mark its presence, just opaque white curtains covering the windows, the number 450 in elegant gold leaf on the doors, and a man in a suit and tie who opens the gates, one supposes, for those who look like they can afford a $29 million penthouse.

Very exclusive.

Jefferson Market, opened in 1929 and long beloved by Villagers, closed in 2008 for "restructuring." It reopened in 2009 as a Gristede's in mom-and-pop disguise. That closed in 2011 and Catsimatidis said he was considering reopening it again, this time as a full-on Gristede's, but that didn't happen. It was used briefly to house a temporary Halloween costume shop.

And now the shell of a once vital business is being used to sell uber-luxury homes built into the shell of a once vital hospital.

"Live exactly where you want," with "a staggering array of private amenities," say the big, splashy ads. (Check out the website if you want to have a conniption.) At the construction site this week, Yetta Kurland snapped this bit of graffiti--before it promptly disappeared:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Goodbye Famous Roio's

The up-and-down saga of the (formerly) Famous Ray's Pizza at 11th St. and 6th Avenue continues, as we hear from a commenter, and confirmed, that this pizza shop will be closing once again--tomorrow--and, most likely this time, for good.

Originally opened in 1973 by Mario and Lamberto DiRienzo, the pizzeria suddenly shuttered in October 2011.

It was later rescued and reopened by its original surviving owner in April 2012, but with its name changed from Famous Ray's to Famous Roio's to avoid lawsuits and tensions. Long-time fans flooded in with good wishes. Mario DiRienzo told me, "I feel like crying. So much appreciation from people." The beloved corner pizza joint seemed to have a new lease on life.

Then Mr. DiRienzo passed away in September 2012, just five months after reviving his shop. Roio's continued on without him over the past year.

Mario in 2012

Mr. DiRienzo had purchased the building in 1974, according to an archived New Yorker article. Recently, a FOR SALE sign was posted on the building. Massey Knakal has the listing (PDF) with an $8 million asking price. They write, "The entire ground floors can be delivered vacant, making the property ideal for a user or investor."

They note two businesses on the ground floor, the one on 6th Avenue (Roio's) and another on 11th Street that they say is currently on a month-to-month lease and also can be "delivered vacant."

That business is the Little Tony & Igor Be Good barber shop.

Christopher Lange's flickr

Originally opened on 6th Avenue some 40 years ago, the barber shop was bumped around the corner to this spot when the DiRienzo brothers expanded Famous Ray's in 1978. Owned by "Little" Tony Badalamenti, the shop continued after Tony's death in 2005, with Igor added.

Peter von Ziegesar recalled in The Villager that, after 9/11, Tony "kept the shop open all night to give haircuts to the firemen and the doctors over at St. Vincent’s," for no charge. In those weeks, the walls of this building were covered in missing posters.

I checked in with the barber and he told me that the building has indeed been sold, Roio's is out, but Little Tony & Igor will be staying put.

Famous Ray's: 1978

So, again, it's time to go for your last slice. By tomorrow night, The Famous Roio's, nee Ray's, will be gone after 40 years in business (minus a few months). And then who knows? Another bank? Maybe a 7-Eleven? Somehow, I doubt they'll keep the DiRienzo brothers' 1976 mosaic of Montecatini on the wall.

Famous Roio's reopens
Ray's Revived?
Famous Ray's Vanishes
Ray's After 9/11

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ray's Beauty Vanishes


Just a month ago I did a post on Ray Beauty Supply, calling it "one of the last old-school businesses left on 8th Avenue off Times Square." Now a commenter writes in, "went to ray's over the weekend and it's closed for good. no one knows if they are going to reopen somewhere else. It closed like 3 weeks ago."

None of their phone numbers are picking up. I went by to find the gates down and a pink sign in the window saying: "Soon to be going under renovations." But there's also a marshal's notice dated 10/22 posted on the door, stating that the landlord has taken possession of the premises.

I asked the owner of the Army/Navy store next door if he knew the story. He just said, "They're gone."

Ray's had been in business for over 50 years. Their claim to fame was being "New York's Oldest Beauty Supply."

Ray Beauty Supply

Thursday, November 21, 2013

News from Home

In 1977, Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman made "News from Home." Shot around the city, the film consists of long, drawn-out everyday scenes of urban life.

Here's a fragment of a ride on the subway. Initially, the riders are wary of the camera, staring it down. But then they adjust to its presence, as New Yorkers do to strange situations, and ride along ignoring it.

News From Home, 1977 - Chantal Akerman (Fragmento) from Ronaldo Entler on Vimeo.

The entire film is much longer and includes many street scenes. Someday I'd like to see the whole thing--unfortunately, I just missed it at MOMA. Here's the museum's description:

"Described by Melissa Anderson as 'one of the most unheralded portraits of the city,' News from Home is as much a symphony of urban geometric abstraction as it is a poetic diaspora tale. Inspired by the letters she received from her mother while living in New York, Akerman returned to the city after an absence and filmed its streets with her Pentax camera. 'Although Akerman’s New York is largely a city of non-sites—empty Tribeca alleys, dingy Midtown parking lots, an abandoned gas station tucked into the crook of another building’s wall—the symmetry of her composition gives it the classic aura of ancient Rome' (J. Hoberman). From the eternal city Akerman reads her mother’s letters, conjuring a sense of distant voices and still lives."

Thanks to commenter alberchico, here's the full movie:

News From Home (1977) from Dave Chino on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SIGN the Pe-ti-SHUN!

Now and then, I think about a certain character from the old East Village. With her folding table and anti-pornography signs, she was vibrant and angry, intimidating and exciting. Her voice and the cadence she used to call out her mantra, "Sign the petition," has stayed in people's psyches over the years. Now and then, some of us find ourselves still saying it, in our heads, or out loud to friends, spontaneously, as if we are conjuring old ghosts: "SIGN the pe-ti-SHUN!"

Who was that woman? Awhile ago, I asked the Hive Mind on Facebook and the Hive Mind answered.

Valerie Harper in Times Square

Her name was Page and she was the founder of Feminists Fighting Pornography. People's memories of her go back to the early 1990s, possibly the 1980s.

A regular at Astor Place, she was known for her graphic posters, including the infamous Hustler meat grinder cover, and her scare tactics. Laura recalled, "One of my friends once asked her where the money went and she snapped and said. 'Go away, you doe-eyed bimbo, go home and get your beating......Sign the PETition!'"

Danielle remembered: "Once I heard her SCREAM at a male passerby, 'Go home and beat your damned wife!'"

Jessica worked for her, briefly. She recalls: "she had an ad in the Voice. she said she was going to pay $8 an hour. she had to train me to yell right. i couldn't do it. i wasn't loud enough or mean enough."

Eventually, Page turned her efforts to the animal world. "I’m through with women," she told The Observer in 1998. "I’m through with those ding-dongs! They dress like whores because they are whores!"

She was still around in 2004 when Wilson wrote an article about her in The Villager saying, "You think you’re just going to sign something in support of animal rights, but then she tells you that the 'sign-up' fee to join her organization is $7 (which is enough to cover a pack of cigarettes, which she then promptly purchases at St. Mark’s and Third once she’s suckered her first victim of the day)."

Page and her anti-porn table at Broadway and 8th Street in 1989
©richardgreene 2015

Sometime in the mid-2000s, Page vanished from New York. Signs point to San Francisco where I hope she is still standing on a corner somewhere, calling "SIGN the pe-ti-SHUN" for women or for kittens, for something, for anything. She made the neighborhood more interesting and we're missing that--now more than ever.

Somehow, I don't think the new shiny Astor Place would permit her.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

5 Pointz White-Washed

The fight to save 5Pointz might very well be over. In the dark of night, with police protection, the building owners have white-washed the public work of art.

This morning @5Pointz tweeted the news and Jeff Carroll posted the following photos of the destruction on Instagram:

After the City Council approved the demolition of 5Pointz to make room for luxury development, the founders of the 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center filed a lawsuit to block the demolition.

With their lawsuit defeated, the 5Pointz defenders held a major rally this weekend and announced their plan to seek landmark status for the building. As we've seen many times before, when preservationists seek landmarking, building owners act fast--destroying the structure trying to be saved.

This morning, commuters on the 7 train are getting a shock, many of them taking to Twitter to say #RIP5Pointz.

These are photos from my recent trip to 5Pointz.

And yet another part of untamed New York is destroyed for more towering glass boxes, more hollow architecture for a city that has lost its soul. Again, too often, I think of Ada Huxtable's words:

“Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves… We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture.”

Update: As the morning goes on, more gut-wrenching photos are emerging online:

Stephen Nessen's twitter

Katz's Deli Kicks

Our old-school survivors do what they must to stay alive in the new New York. To that end, there is now a custom Nike sneaker designed around a Katz's Delicatessen theme.

The one-of-a-kind sneakers have been laser etched by an outfit called Absolelute, and feature images of Katz's, along with a fork and spoon motif. The famous Katz's ticket is reproduced inside. (See more at Nicekicks.)

They can't be purchased, however. You have to enter to win them by going to The Space, a new pop-up gallery next to Katz's, and taking a photo of them, which you then post at the places where such photos are posted (Twitter or Instagram), and include one of two notations, either @thespaceatkatzs or #katzs125.

I seriously doubt I could pull off this look, but I am tempted to enter. In addition, the sneakers come in a special wooden box filled with sawdust and salami.

Katz's Delicatessen's Absolelute Experience from absolelute on Vimeo.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Crisco Disco to Monarch

Monarch, a new upscale restaurant, has moved into a long-empty warehouse at 408 West 15th, next to the soon-vanishing Prince Lumber.

408 W. 15th (a few years ago)

The owners told The Observer that the warehouse was "unoccupied for 30 years and home to old abandoned cars." The new space, they said, is meant to be “old warehouse meets a 1920s club room... sophisticated and comfortable yet [with] the intrinsic architectural quality of the neighborhood and New York as a whole." (Did it open yet? Zagat has a preview.)

What they don't mention is that Monarch is in the space once occupied by the famous gay club Crisco Disco.

408 W. 15th: Crisco Disco

In his book Turn the Beat Around, Peter Shapiro recalls the club's giant Crisco can DJ booth, the sleaze, the "wanton open sex," and the drugs. Everyone, said music producer Ian Levine, was "drugged out of their mind, completely drug fucked. No one ever got to go home with anyone because they were just out of it."

The website Disco-Disco has a few fascinating tidbits about the place. The owner, Hank, "used to invite attractive people into his VIP room where a huge pile of blow the size of a card table would be waiting." In Blondie's song "Rapture," the line "Flash is fast, Flash is cool" refers to a "well known coke and heroin dealer who hung out in the club." And Crisco Disco also had a bartender "who would only drink the urine of his lover and kept a glass of it on the bar."

Don't miss Disco Music's amazing page of 1980s photos from Crisco Disco, featuring the Crisco can DJ booth ("it's digestible"), and many fabulous-looking people--in tangerine furs and shiny gold pants, with names like Lonny, Tony, Mindy, and Hank.

We can add this one to the list of what's become of this area's raunchy queer havens.

See Also:
Men in Leather

Financial Times

I got the chance recently to talk to the UK's Financial Times about my search for Hopper's "Nighthawks" diner, and about Bloomberg's New York, and all that stuff I'm always talking about. Journalist John O'Connor did the interview and artfully arranged my answers for their weekend magazine's "First Person" column.

Steve Schofield also took a very fine "cloak and dagger" photo, kind of noirish, by the Whitney's Nighthawks installation at the Flatiron Building.

Visit the Financial Times to read the whole article here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Advice for Mayor Bill

Michael Kaminer at the New York Observer asked "some of the city’s biggest influencers, agitators, opinion leaders and larger-than-life characters" what advice they have for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio.

They also asked me (and the Naked Cowboy). Here's some of what I said:

read the rest here

Some favorites: Alec Baldwin wants to see a dedicated space for public protest. Lady Bunny says, "Don't price out the creative people who make this city sparkle." Jay McInerney calls for secession from the United States of America. Frank Rich wants to see Times Square stop being a "quasi-food court for idling suburban tourists." And there's lots more.

What's your advice to Bill? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In No Great Hurry

I'm looking forward to seeing "In No Great Hurry," a film about the amazing New York street photographer Saul Leiter. It's playing as part of the Doc NYC festival on November 16.

Leiter's color work in the 1950s brought the lost city vividly to life. In the the film, director Tomas Leach spends time with Leiter at home and walking around the Lower East Side, talking about life and art. The trailer says it all--along with Leiter's work and a few questions for the director.

What drew you to Mr. Leiter at the start of this project?

I had a copy of Saul's book Early Color and I thought the work was just incredible. So fresh, so sensitive and so beautiful. The short article about Saul in the front of the book just made me even more curious.

What are some of the 13 lessons you learned while working with Mr. Leiter?

Well, the film has 13 lessons in it, but Saul taught me much more than that. Fundamentally, he made me think about what is important in life. Besides learning so much from Saul, he also made me laugh a lot. Which is pretty good.

What is Leiter taking photos of these days--and where (and when) can we see that work?

Saul is always wandering around with his camera. He never strays far from where he lives though. Some of the new work has been shown at retrospectives and shows that Saul has had over the past year or so.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mayfair Revealed

As reported back in March, the former Loews Mayfair building in Times Square is coming down, to be replaced by an $800 million hotel wrapped in a giant television screen. Vanishing with the building will be its many architectural artifacts, visible inside the souvenir shop that recently closed at the site.

All photos: Aylon Samson

Now, photographer Aylon Samson lets us know that the big billboards that have covered the face of the building for probably the past 20 years have been removed--revealing the lovely architectural details of Mayfair's facade.

Long hidden, out come the faces of lions and ladies that have framed dusty windows in darkness for decades. These details date back to 1909, when the building was constructed and originally housed the Columbia burlesque and vaudeville theater.

In the late 1920s, the theater was sold and redesigned by architect Thomas W. Lamb, king of the movie palace. This must have been when the facade above the marquee was also made over -- to include tall bamboo-like shoots forming green and orange glazed terracotta pilasters. In between them climbs a wild filigree of scallops and fruited bounties.

Here and there, in a repeating pattern, a man's face and partial torso appears. Looking down, with a prominent aquiline nose, he looks like he's meant to be a Native American. He's shirtless, with a band of leather tied around his muscular bicep, and he's holding what appears to be a bowl. Perhaps some sort of offering to the gods of Hollywood?

enlarged detail

Soon, all these wonderful faces and features will be destroyed. All that history and symbolism. Turned to ruin and dust. And for what? More of the same soulless shimmer we've come to expect in the new New York. Nothing that will last. Nothing that will stir the spirit. Just pixels on top of pixels on top of pixels.

Loews Mayfair Building
See the building's artifacts
Between 47th and 48th

Monday, November 11, 2013

Signs of Hasidic Williamsburg

Retail signage in Hasidic neighborhoods tends to be of a certain vintage, unchanged for decades. (See Crown Heights Signage.) Walking through these neighborhoods can feel, in more ways than one, like walking back in time. In Hasidic Williamsburg, Brooklyn, walking from Roebling and down the main thoroughfare of Lee Avenue, you'll pass many preserved signs.

There's Gottlieb's delicatessen, apparently a favorite of hipsters. Noted Christopher Glazek in N+1: "In a Wall Street Journal article examining hipster/Hasid commercial exchange, a 25-year-old motorcycle-racing trust funder explained that Gottlieb’s has 'everything — good food, good prices, irony.'"


The hand-painted signs of clothing shops like Sylvia Strasser's and Circle Children's Wear & Dry Goods bring to mind the vanishing Lower East Side, like Orchard Street, rapidly being wiped out by pricey cafes and galleries. Here they remain untouched.

The Times once published a story about the man who sells hats to Jewish hat shops:

"For Wolf Greenbaum of Feltly Hats in Williamsburg, Mr. Lacorazza pulled out a homburg, which is favored by many Hasidim — 'pious ones,' in Hebrew. At first glance it looked like every other homburg, black and round. But Mr. Lacorazza had a surprise. 'You see this finish?' he asked, running his hands over the fuzzy rabbit fur. It was, he announced, his new, more textured finish — 'peach.'”

Feltly Hats is above a fish market. 

And then there's this guy, the old Bilt-Rite man, a rare sight in the city these days as cobbler shops are shuttered left and right to make room for vegan ice-cream shops and cupcake bakeries. But Lee Avenue feels removed from all that, like a virgin neighborhood. Walking there gives you the feeling that you've taken trip, into another city, far away from the new New York.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tom's Restaurant

As the great old coffee shops of New York are vanishing fast, Tom's Restaurant of the Upper West Side--beloved by many, famous and not, embedded in the cultural consciousness by Suzanne Vega and Seinfeld--is getting its own documentary. I asked filmmaker Gian Franco Morini a few questions about his project.

Why Tom's?

What attracted me about Tom's is the fact that is one of the few original diners that survived in this ever changing city. This establishment has become a true landmark and a stable element of the neighborhood. It gives a true service to all of the clients, and serves its costumers through thick and thin. It's the result of the "American dream" of the Zoulis family, that dedicated itself to this business through different generations. This American-Greek family is the real miracle behind Tom's.

Why do you think so many people chose to immortalize Tom's in song, TV, film?

I believe that what makes Tom's special is the fact that its clients are people from all walks of life, from Columbia professors and students, to artists and musicians and comedians. For sure its position next to the University helped a lot in making it such a special place. It's the perfect spot for an artist to just sit and observe the people and the world passing by.

New York's coffee shop/diners are vanishing fast. What do we lose when we lose places like Tom's?

Diners like Tom's are way more than simple places to eat. They are "home outside of home." The waiters know their clients by name (often they even gave them a nickname). You are not a number, you are a person. Disabled and elderly people find in Tom's a source of good affordable food, a smile, and a known face. In this world of solitude and uncertainty they are something you can count on, every day. And this is not a minor thing. I believe they have a real social function and they keep the neighborhood together. For example: Even if the don't normally deliver, they made it a point to serve certain special clients when they get too old or sick to come in, or their children move away. Try to explain something like that to a big chain. In short, they are human. In the best possible sense of the word.

[And here's what happens when someone in need walks out without paying their bill.]

Click here to watch Suzanne Vega drink coffee in Tom's and talk about her song and it's story of urban alienation.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Welcome to the EV -- and F.U.

Mosaic Man Jim Power was hard at work yesterday, adding a new piece to the sidewalk at St. Mark's Place and Avenue A. It says "Welcome to the East Village" with a big F.U. middle finger, a mixed message--perhaps to the neighborhood's newcomers and tourists? (Not sure how Crif Dogs is involved.)

It's reminiscent of the classic "Welcome to New York, Now Go Home" t-shirt, which is impossible to find these days.

Be sure to give your support to the Mosaic Trail. You can donate via Paypal and other avenues. Says Jim's sign by the big middle finger, "Without your donations this project will not survive winter."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Clover Barber

*UPDATE: Earlier, based on a tipster's report and photos, I misreported that the building that housed the Clover Barber Shop was for sale, and that the Clover sign had come down. The tipster mistook one building for another, and I neglected to double-check the address. Mea culpa. The Clover sign still stands. Post revised.

It's been years since I last got my hair cut by Mr. Riccardelli at the Clover Barber Shop in Park Slope. (I wrote about it here in 2007.)

photo from my flickr, 2007

In 2008, the metal gates of the Clover shuttered and never rose again.

The antique sign has remained, however, with its letter A's made of opened scissors. Every time I had the chance to walk by, I hoped the place would be open, and that the barber or a young apprentice would be inside, snipping away in the gorgeous, unchanged shop. But that never happened.

photo from my flickr, 2007

Mr. Riccardelli was already 84 years old when he cut my hair half a dozen years ago. I figured maybe his hands weren't "good" anymore, that he'd retired and moved to Florida like his daughter wanted, or that he'd passed away. Then, earlier this year, a brief obituary appeared online. He got close but didn't make it to 99, like his grandfather, who survived so long by never once seeing a doctor, and by drinking a glass of Brioschi and lemon every morning with his pipe. Or so Mr. Riccardelli said.

photo by axlotl

With Mr. Riccardelli gone, it's unlikely that the Clover will ever open again as a barber shop.

We might see another trendy restaurant move in to this space. Maybe they'll call it Clover--perfect for a locavore, "farm to table" joint--or Barber Shop, claiming homage as they capitalize on the past. 

Meanwhile, rest in peace Mr. Riccardelli. Your hands were good.

photo by Dave Sanders

More barber shops on JVNY:
Clover Barber Shop
Atlas Barber School
Park Slope Barber
New Barber Shop
Astor Hair
Aminova's Barber Shop