Monday, October 6, 2014

La Lunchonette


When Melva Max and her husband Jean-François Fraysse moved their restaurant La Lunchonette from the Lower East Side to the remote corner of 10th Avenue and 18th Street in far west Chelsea in 1988, it was a different world. The Meatpacking District was the domain of transgender sex workers, queer sex clubs, and meatpacking plants. The High Line was a derelict rail bed covered in weeds. Gun shots cracked through the night air. Now, 26 years later, this is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York City, filled with luxury chain stores and luxury high rises. The sweeping change happened recently, in the blink of an eye—and it is forcing La Lunchonette to shutter.

“The neighborhood is so gross now,” Melva says. “It’s all tourists coming for the High Line. People always say, ‘But wasn’t it great for you?’ The High Line has been the cause of my demise.”

Since the pricey park opened, Melva’s landlord’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing, and it’s always a real-estate developer on the other end. “My landlord’s not a bad guy, but how you can you say no to offers of $30 million?” He’s giving her until June 2015 and then she’s out of business.

[A shorter version of this essay appears in today's Metro NY]

When the High Line opened its first phase in 2009, critics raved as neighboring small business people looked on uncertainly, hoping the park would be a rising tide to lift all boats. That didn’t happen. By the time the High Line’s second phase opened in 2011, small businesses in its shadow were dropping like flies (mostly blue-collar businesses), making room for massive, high-rise development exclusively for the global super-rich.

What most New Yorkers do not know is that the luxury mega-development scheme was baked right in to the High Line preservation plan.

In the book High Line, the park’s co-founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond explain how, in order to preserve the train trestle, the air rights above it would be sold off to developers to build a new neighborhood filled with soaring towers. David recalls saying to Hammond at the time, “If the result of doing the High Line is that you end up with all these tall buildings that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, I don’t want to be a part of it.” Gradually, however, David came around--“my perspective changed,” he wrote. As Joseph Rose, chairman of the New York City Planning Commission, told them, “The High Line had been an impediment for so many years. You and your group changed it into a catalyst.”

Still, what the High Line had catalyzed was unfathomable at the time. Glistening towers rising 20, 30, 40 stories into the air, pressed tightly together, casting cold shadows and blotting out the sky, all along the length of the park? Condos with their own personal swimming pools? Russian oligarchs stashing investment money in glittering vertical ghost towns? Who could believe this claustrophobic dystopian vision would ever be permitted?

In 2011, in a love letter to the High Line, Philip Lopate wrote, “Much of the High Line's present magic stems from its passing though an historic industrial cityscape roughly the same age as the viaduct, supplemented by private tenement backyards and the poetic grunge of taxi garages. It would make a huge difference if High Line walkers were to feel trapped in a canyon of spanking new high-rise condos, providing antlike visual entertainment for one’s financial betters lolling on balconies.”

That vision has come true—and more so every day, now that the High Line’s final phase has opened, a ribbon wrapping a bow around what will be the Hudson Yards billionaire city within a city. The poetic grunge has gone with the exiled taxi garages. And the tenements, like the one containing La Lunchonette, have been pulverized to dust as new towers rise in every remaining open space.

“People aren’t going to like me for saying this,” Melva says, “but it feels like Disneyland around here now. Everyone’s fighting the crowd to get to the next ride. People on the High Line look like lemmings, like they’re walking on a treadmill. They’re not even looking at the plants. They should sell t-shirts up there that say, ‘I Did the High Line.’”

But shouldn’t tourists be good for the local economy? Melva explains that, even though there’s a High Line staircase right outside her building, most tourists don’t come down.

“They get off their big tour bus down at Gansevoort, walk to the end of the High Line, and then the bus picks them up again. Most of them never get off the High Line.”

Those who do venture down the stairs aren’t interested in eating a meal. They’re interested in Melva’s bathroom. “People come down to use my toilet. I get 20 – 30 people a day who just want to use my toilet.” She lets pregnant women, elderly people, and children use her bathroom; the rest she turns away. “They yell at me! Like it’s my job to provide them with a toilet.”

Melva is a warm and generous person. She calls all her customers “Honey” and touches them gently on the shoulder as she quietly glides up to ask if they need anything else, more water, another glass of wine. She makes you feel welcome and well cared for. A reviewer at New York magazine once said that walking into La Lunchonette is “like having someone put two warm hands on your cheeks.” Those are Melva’s hands.

But she’s also angry. Her anger at the High Line, the tourists, and the hyper-gentrification that has decimated Chelsea is shared by many New Yorkers, people who are tired of their neighborhoods changing into pleasure-domes for the rich, amusement parks for tourists, Anywhere USA’s filled with suburban chain stores.

Still, Melva says, "I love the High Line," specifically the views, the sunsets, and the air, all things that are being destroyed by overdevelopment. Even the rich are starting to complain, she says, upset about tourist buses idling in front of their condos, belching black exhaust fumes into the air. Even the rich are talking of leaving.

“What people don’t understand,” Melva explains, “is that it could have been a nice park. The zoning could’ve stayed so it didn’t attract all this grotesque development. It could have been done in a more creative way. And I’d still have my business.”

She adds, “The High Line was a Trojan horse for the real-estate people. All that glitters is not gold.”

Back in 2005, with Dan Doctoroff and Amanda Burden leading the charge, and with support from the Friends of the High Line, the Bloomberg Administration rezoned several blocks of West Chelsea--all “with the High Line at its center,” recalled Hammond in High Line.

In the city’s zoning resolution, they wrote out the explicit purposes of creating this special district. Aside from encouraging development and promoting the “most desirable” use of land (already in use), one purpose was “to facilitate the restoration and reuse of the High Line” as a public space, through, in part, “High Line improvement bonuses and the transfer of development rights from the High Line Transfer Corridor.” Bonuses along the corridor meant that if a luxury developer provided improvements to the High Line itself, that developer would be given permission to build their condo towers even bigger. And they did.

Another purpose of the West Chelsea rezoning, according to the city’s resolution, was to “create and provide a transition to the Hudson Yards area to the north.” In essence, Special West Chelsea was zoned to provide a link between the glamorous Meatpacking District below and the glittering new neighborhood above, all with the High Line running through, like a conveyor belt ferrying tourists and money up and down. To the developers of Hudson Yards, Bloomberg gave millions of dollars in tax breaks, including approximately $510 million to the Related Companies.

On their marketing materials, Related calls Hudson Yards “The New Heart of New York.”

I ask Melva how she might respond to charges that her restaurant helped usher in gentrification back in 1988. She says, “I have to concede that the galleries came, in part, because we were here. But our prices have always been fair, and our clientele is not all rich people. It’s a middle-class place, but there’s no room left for the middle class here. It’s a matter of degrees.” We talk about gentrification versus hyper-gentrification, how today’s changes are being created by the city government in collusion with corporations.

The catastrophically rising cost of Chelsea has pushed many of La Lunchonette’s regulars out of the neighborhood. And for the newcomers who fetishize the flashy and new, La Lunchonette’s “low-key” and “divey charm,” as Zagat puts it, is not their cup of tea.

It’s really too bad because dining at La Lunchonette is an absolute pleasure—and a rare experience. The music is soft--Miles Davis, Edith Piaf--and the rooms are cozy. The food is good—I had the lamb sausages and carrot-pumpkin soup. And then there are Melva’s warm hands and her kind voice asking, “How’re you doin’ Honey?” as she refills your glass. In a city increasingly populated with iZombies, at La Lunchonette you feel like you’ve rejoined humanity, and it feels good.

Melva hopes that by letting her customers know about the closure well ahead of time, they’ll have the chance to come say goodbye and enjoy a last meal. She hopes more people will try La Lunchonette, so she can close next spring without too much debt. She doesn’t know what she’ll do next. With crippling taxes and a draconian Health Department levying Kafkaesque citations and fines, the city makes it very hard to run a small restaurant.

“This place has been my whole life,” Melva says. “I didn’t think it would end like this. This is not the New York that I love. All my customers say the same thing. And no one’s doing anything about it.”

Disney World on the Hudson
Brownfeld Auto
Meatpacking Before & After 
J. Crew for the High Line
Special West Chelsea


Ms. said...

Okay--I've enjoyed the High Line now and then, but I looked at the plants, and often went in off hours, but I know it's precisely what this post describes...a high line for the high life and a grave yard path through the woods of capital for the humans of New York. Buddhist practices help me bear and accept the demise of neighborhood, community and that's about all that does. It is so sad and isolating that most elders like me just stay home. I'm still mobile with no where to run, so I'm making do, throwing light and love around like a sacred fool, and comforting the weary where I find them. The big fish are so damn big and so insatiably hungry, there are fewer and fewer options for us minnows but to live in the slip-stream, document, sing it loud, and keep on keeping on....and so it goes.

JM said...

One of the reasons nobody does anything--which is not exactly true, but nothing of import--is that you need to feel that there may be a sympathetic ear in the ruling hierarchy, a person who may actually listen to what you're saying and see the merit of it, then act to curtail the gross excesses of the real estate developers. For 12 years, we had Bloomberg and his robots remaking the city in their own image, rich, ultra-rich, plastic, and vapid. They represented as close to a dictatorship as I've ever experienced in the city.

de Blasio may be an improvement of some degree, but doesn't seem to be a person with the will, power and ability to stand up to the governmental-developer complex that Bloomberg least not yet. One day nature will take its course and the cycle of things will reach the bad old days again, the stop on the other end of this pendulum, and some of the recent excess may be undone. Some of us will be gone long before that happens, hopefully dying in another place that is closer to our hearts than the city this has become.

Caleo said...

Melva sums it up nicely at the end, but I don't think any of us can do anything real to stop it. I don't want to sound defeatist, but this process of hyper gentrification has to play itself out. Little people holding marches and signing petitions won't stop this tsunami of development and displacement. This process is happening in every large city in North America, as well as larger cities in Europe and Asia.
The globalist super rich don't care about petitions, and the landlords and developers certainly don't care either. Tourists and students aren't here long enough to care.
It's really a perfect storm and it's unfolding faster than any of us can respond to. It's all happening, as with everything else in our culture, at warp speed. I mourn for this city, my only real home, every day. The continual loss is with me everyday, on some level. All of my close friends are native New Yorkers, and they just shake their heads in disbelief. Some are saving money to leave town for good.
The city that I moved here to be a part of is long gone. What, if anything, comes after this wave crests and crashes is impossible to know.
The choice is between staying put and being in a near constant state of grief, or moving. I never thought I would have to make such a choice, because I don't want to be any place else.

Scout said...

I enjoyed La Luncheonette back in the early and mid-90s, but I couldn't enjoy it until I had a rich boyfriend. Saying it was for the "middle-class" is a bit disingenuous - it was for what everyone else in America would call the UPPER middle class, and yes, LL was in the vanguard of gentrification, just as places like Bubby's were for Tribeca. So, although I'll have a bit of nostalgia for the place, I can't truly weep for someone who became the victim of their own actions.

As for the High Line - it's nothing but "pretty" (which I define as "beautiful minus substance or meaning." It's about as sophisticated as the Mall of America or a Cracker Barrel.

Where can one go in America now for a large and truly bohemian community? There's no such thing anywhere in New York City now. All we have here is cleanliness and the pursuit of wealth.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Excellent piece, Jeremiah. When people ask me why I have a problem with the High Line, I'll point them to this post.

Anonymous said...

John M- Perhaps if people WERE active things would change. By active I mean voting and paying attention. The turnout for elections in NYC and everywhere is atrocious. Do most people in NYC even know who their city council person is? Or what they are up to? My guess is no they don't. Far easier to complain here than spend some time and energy doing something that might actually work. A small group actually voted for and put DiBlasio in office. Commenters need to look in the mirror and ask what they have done. I know- everyone is too busy to actually do anything. Well- this is what you get. Acting as if Bloomberg waved a magic wand and got 12 years in office is ridiculous. People voted for him and the city council essentially gave him a third term and I don't recall any enormous protests or actions. The council voted his way and they were not punished by the voters. Its never too late to wake up and fight for the city YOU want NY to be.

JAZ said...

“The High Line had been an impediment for so many years. ”

The above quoted comment is an absolute lie.

And it is the faux 'foundation' upon which the past 15 years of this issue has been built.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a beautiful piece that almost made me cry. La Lunchonette used to be the go-to romantic dinner place for my husband and I, back in the day when we had an illegal loft and a roof garden next to the beautiful abandoned prairie in the sky that was the Highline then. Our son, now 18, was born in an old factory space on 24th Street that we rented, now a gallery, of course, and my memories of the neighborhood are so happy... Almost no one lived west of 10th Ave, and La Lunchonette was one of the few restaurants in the neighborhood, and far and away the most wonderful, and we loved the atmosphere and food, like Paris, I imagined, but homier. Thank you, La Lunchonette, for all the wonderful evenings and hanging in there so long. We had to leave Chelsea back in 2006, as the rent was skyrocketing, and it's hard to find a livable neighborhood in New York now. We have got to figure out a way that New York can grow and also remain a place where people can live, and have families, and go out for a romantic dinner every once in a while at a place like La Lunchonette!

Caleo said...

Respectfully disagree Anon.1:39- People have been increasingly disengaging from both national and local elections for decades. If this was a small town with less than 50,000 people, you know your vote would count. A metropolis the size of NYC is more like living in a city/state than a traditionally defined city.
NYC is a global capitol of Finance and Media, home to the U.N., and home to many of the wealthiest people on Earth. I find it almost quaint that you think you can vote your way out of hypergentrification. The process transforming this city is the endgame of the global financial and managerial elite. Bloomberg happened to be one of them and thus helped grease the skids for this transition, but globalists don't need a Bloomberg in office to achieve their aims.
Again, I don't want to sound defeatist, and people should certainly remain active in local issues and do everything in their power to influence their environment, but the larger issue of globalization and hypergentrification has been in the planning for decades and is unfolding as planned at a dizzying pace. This is beyond the city council or even the mayoralty.

Anonymous said...

Lets also not forget that, within the realm of (for lack of a better term) NYC Urban Dislocations, what is happening at the High Line is relatively limited and incremental (as distasteful as it may be).

There are many 'hoods in Manhattan that were created over "the dust of tenements" via a bulldozer tearing downs hundreds of contiguous acres within a period of months - sorry to reinforce the defeatist sense, but compared to those other disruptions, this one is small potatoes, and that much more difficult (nee pointless) to fight...

Anonymous said...

A beautiful piece about the loss of community and an incredible expose about the Bloomberg real estate dealing and manipulation etc.

I am a native New Yorker and know a fair number of people who are pretty politically concerned. But I think Bloomberg was able to hide the extent and implications of his land-use changes/legal changes/rezoning/developer tax breaks etc (and his plan to transform NYC demographically) for a long time. And then it was too late.
The combination of weakening journalism (Voice, Times etc) and media fear of him (money + power) contributed. It has been said that the NY Times especially feared him because Rupert Murdoch (who has transformed America in the most toxic way with Fox News plus NY Post and then acquiring Wall Street Journal) was seeking to buy the NY Times.
The Times did very little coverage of land-use issues during Bloomberg's tenure. People did not realize.
Also, sadly, no prominent New Yorker like Jackie Kennedy to stand up.

BrokenHeartedChelseaResident said...

I only ate at LL once, 1988, because we've rarely had the means to frequent local dining establishments. (Middle class poor person!) I remember meeting Melva Max while walking down 9th Avenue one morning. We turned and looked at each other in horror as we passed some mothers from the Fulton Houses walking their kids to PS11. They were so vulgar and nasty to their kids, and she remarked to me, engaging me in conversation for a few blocks. This was at least 15 years ago, and I haven't forgotten her concern for the kids as we walked together.

I was hoping to have lunch at LL last week, and then again today, both days finding it closed, because I do want to patronize this place once more before we lose another valuable restaurant to the scourge that is the High Line.

My home is now worth five or six times what I paid for it, but we can't even afford to go out for a meal any more, it's become so pricey and Disney-fied. Most of the people I know in Chelsea feel the same way about how our neighborhood has changed dramatically and at breakneck speed in such a short time. I have become a involved with my Block Association so I can have some input, and hopefully impact, as we struggle to keep Chelsea from becoming unrecognizable and just another tourist attraction. It's where real people LIVE, and where we need no more banks, nail salons, etc., but we need to keep little nice restaurants and mom-and-pop establishments in business.

chris flash said...

Another fine piece, beautifully written, Jeremiah....

Anonymous said...

It amazes me how those who decry those who deny evolution are the greatest opposers of evolution in their own neighborhood!
Where exactly are those 30 and 40 story buildings along the Highline? There are only one or two at 30th Street. Where do you house al the people moving to the City? In illegal lofts?
I guess some would prefer a dirty city, with high crime and no place to house the people….who probably would't want to move here anyway.

Anonymous said...

While I never frequented the establishment, I always recalled a map of Africa and a cardboard monster posted in the front window. I remember seeing this image while driving with my family to my grandparents old apartment in Hell's Kitchen in the 1980s, early 90s. This whole neighborhood and NYC itself have both reached a boiling point and I fear that the outer boroughs are the only saving grace. Where will NYC's population go as hyper-gentrification creeps along further into the boroughs? While we're on the subject of the Highline, does anyone remember the original Pottery Barn back in the 1980s/1990s in this neighborhood? It was massive with several floors and truly had unique items which were quite affordable, a far cry from the generic mall store of today!

Jeremiah Moss said...

Thanks all for the kind words and for reading the piece. La Lunchonette will hopefully remain open until the spring, although it could close sooner. So go before it's gone. Meet Melva, she's amazing. And it's not expensive--you can have a $20 dinner if you don't drink or order appetizers.

Anonymous said...

Great piece, Jeremiah!

I totally agree with Anon on 10/6 at 1:39pm - if you want change, VOTE! Get off your ass & vote in all elections, including the primaries.

Primaries matter a lot b/c typically that's where people who want "power" START their journey in politics.

As a dear friend often says, if you hate the ballot choices for high office in November, you should have paid attention to the primaries in prior years (and voted in those primaries!).

READ about who these candidates are, and what they claim to want. Find out who's backing them financially - to whom are they beholden?

And find out if the candidate even understands the position they're running for! In 2012, someone who was running for a major political office in NYC trumpeted a platform item that THE POSITION IN QUESTION HAD NO AUTHORITY OVER! I did not vote for that person, as the candidate either didn't understand the limitations of the position OR the candidate was deliberately mis-leading voters into thinking the position had more influence than it actually does.

We can get better people in public office if we would just pay attention to who's trying to get their foot in the door, election-wise, at the primary elections level.

When people "opt out" of the process at the level of the primary elections (by failing to become informed and failing to vote, or by voting carelessly), THAT is how we end up with the crappy choices we see on the ballots for the "important" elections.

Caleo said...

Anon.11:19- When developers and landlords and billionaire investors come up for a vote, I'll certainly vote.
Until then, a revolving cast of mayors and councilpersons will have little effect on the globalization of this city, much the way career politicians in Washington have basically no real say in the workings of the Deep State, and the untold billions of dollars that get shoveled into the gaping maw of that beast.
People seem to think that if Bloomberg had not been in office this city would have remained unchanged. As Jeremiah has pointed out in earlier posts, many of the developmental projects have been in the planning stages for decades.
Other cities all over North America, Canada included, are going through the exact same transformations, albeit at a somewhat slower pace.
New York is a jewel in the crown of the global elite, and everything is going as planned, regardless of who gets elected.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see La Lunchonette close it's doors, due to no fault of their own.
NY is now for the unimaginative tourists. Bloomberg, who rarely stayed here while Mayor, is 100% at fault. He had envisioned NY for the wealthy on the Eastside, and the rest of us can become an amusement park for tourists.The High Line is/was a wonderful Oasis and appreciation for saving a relic.But they too,sold out to the Developers, wanting to build highrises and hotels. It will come back to bite them in the ass, as what's the point of the High Line, where visitors can look at the NY landscape, but now will only have a view of ugly High Rises practically attached to it.
To the Blogger who claimed she would need a rich boyfriend to be able to eat at La Lunchonette, that statement says a lot about you.One, you can't buy yourself a meal and rely on a man to feed you and two, you're probably from the Midwest,you think when you come to NYC, you should be able to pay the same price for food that you get at your local, run of the mill, restaurant. Maybe Applebee's would better suit you.
L.B. McGill

Anonymous said...

I am not old enough to have lived in New York before all of this started.. so for many I am probably part of the problem, but i moved to west chelsea when I could afford NYC and loved the location. It was a respite from much of the madness found elsewhere.

Started in the area well before the highline and moved out 3 years ago.
Did we have to walk a bit for anything (even a bodega)? Sure, but that's what I loved. It was quiet, and it was great. Full of character and still a bit of grit. Close enough but its own. The warp speed at which it changed is crazy... How could anyone, rich or otherwise not see that as an issue?

When someone in their 30s finds the city unrecognizable is that a good thing?

Anyway..sad to see this news and as always, a great piece. My wife an I only ate at LL once while living nearby but walked by it thousands of times during our time here. It was a good meal. Think we will revisit.

Anonymous said...

that place had roaches and I've never had such rude service. I know why I haven't been back, I don't think you can entirely blame the preservation of the highline

JMac said...

La Lunchonette is a victim of it's own intentions. I remember when it opened in this area in 1988. It's target audience was not the blue collar workers of the Meat Packing district or the beautiful collection of alternate lifestyles. Their intent was to bring in customers who were not regulars of the area. Well they succeeded.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my. I am so sad to see La Luncheonette go. I never thought that the High Line would lead to such over development and so change the character of West Chelsea. And so fast! How naive of me. I've lived here for 15 years and I feel like I have whiplash. I like the High Line, but it's been ruined by overcrowding. My only consolation is that it may have been worse if they'd torn it down. Thanks so much for this piece.

Anonymous said...

I ate twice at La Lunchonette in the 90s and, both times, the food was mediocre at best, if not, really not very good. I never went back after that. This was probably before most of you on this blog even lived in the city. Everyone here talking about losing a building and not talking about how mediocre was the restaurant. Melva seems to sound very sad while walking away with $30million.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Melva doesn't own the building. She's not walking away with anything. And you miss the point.

Former East Villager said...

To L.B. McGill:

I am not the lady who only was able to enjoy La Luncheonette in the company of her moneyed boyfriend, but I can echo her sentiments.

I moved to NYC in the late 80s from NW DC. I was born a DC girl. The neighborhood in which I lived and worked was undergoing revitalization. Many old businesses I loved and patronized were abruptly shut down to make way for the new vision of that neighborhood. I moved to East 3rd Street which had a similar feel to my old home, and hometown haunts, but without the racism and nightly gunfire.

I was able to feed myself, thank you kindly; my comfort and standby restaurant was Kiev. Basil plants from Plantworks gave me all the pesto I needed -- I was giddy with happiness; I had no sunlight exposure in DC and could never grow anything. I shopped at East Village Cheese, Prana and the 4th St. Coop and loved concocting new recipes and hosting very small dinner parties in my tiny rented room.

And on that subject, paying my rent and making sure I had enough subway tokens to get to work was my priority. I was happy to be able to buy groceries and eat at places like Kiev. I sang with the Amato Opera and once in a while, after a show, one of the singers who had a high-paying day job would treat the cast to a meal at, say, NoHo Star or Frutti di Mare.

In other words, I was quite happy with the meals I was able to make or afford, and appreciated being taken out for a treat meal once in a while.

What I spent for a meal at Kiev was comparable to a meal at DC Space. I could also eat cheaply via takeout at the fried fish joint in my old NW building on 7th and Q, which served me via bulletproof glass. In other words, the East Village, in terms of food and food costs, suited me just fine.

Because about 80% of my salary went to my landlord, I was frugal about my other expenses and content with what I had.

Because my priority was to live in a city and a neighborhood that resonated in my heart and made me happy, a place I was proud to call home.

That said, I will visit La Luncheonette on my next visit. Thank you, Jeremiah, for the piece.

Unknown said...

NYC is run by (and for) the real estate industry.
Gentrification is a fact of life here.
La Luncheonette is and was a part of this process too.
For instance, are there any real artists left who can afford to live in SOHO, or eat in restaurants with tablecloths?
What we're witnessing today is the revving up of this process to mach force speeds due to the vast economic imbalance in our society.
As the upper crust approaches the speed of light, the rest of society approaches the speed of shade.
And you don't have to live in the shadow of the High Line to see the skyscraping consequences.
Who else but the upper 1% and the upper 1% of that 1% could afford to build anything in NYC today?
Air rights - even our air is for sale - to the highest bidder!
Bloomberg merely did his best to enable this process, and it's plain to see that he succeeded.
Heaping blame on DeBlasio for not fixing this situation (in less than a year no less!) is like blaming Obama for the devastated economy he inherited.
The only sensible thing to do now is to lobby and vote for a re-structuring of our lopsided tax system - and by all means to take the money out of the electoral process.
Unregulated capitalism is tyranny!

galfromdownunder said...

I popped in there last night after reading this. I had leftovers in the fridge but this great neighborly place soon won't be. The butter La Lunchonette serve is divine (from upstate) and will force you to postpone your no-cholesterol diet til they leave. Let's go in there and at least have the French Onion soup a once or twice a week in support of Melva and her hubby. (Slicing onions sux majorly anyway). I also like the leek and lentil salad. And the Tart Tartin. They will remain forever immortalized on my special Chelsea cheatsheet:
Thank you Jeremiah!

Anonymous said...

I never much liked the High Line or saw it as oh so special. It quickly, and strategically, took off a a tourist venue. Then deveopment went on and on.

Last week I visited the exhibit on Hudson Yards, now on display at Tmie Warner Center. Revealing. Highlighting models of stores, shopping venues, etc. And many simulations of the area, interestingly, comprised of young white citizens. In all the publicity photos, there was one "darker" face. That's it. They asked for comments onlne at their kiosk, and I worte "Where is your diversity?" but have never received a reply to this email.

I'm not looking forward to the Future of Gotham.

Unknown said...

I know that people talk about the fact that New York is safer, more upscale and "clean." I miss old New York--the one with some edge and personality. What happened in the meat district is happening everywhere. Money is the god.

Another casualty is what was the best Mexican restaurant in New York, El Paso on Houston Street near Sullivan. I feel so bad that it is shuttered, because as someone who grew up in California--it was the one place that I could find authentic Mexican cuisine at a reasonable price.

I'd love to see an article about this wonderful place and know all that led to its demise.
--Brent Buell

Anonymous said...

The game is up. You want old New York move to new Detroit. Progress is a bitch. New York has to keep changing even in ways individuals don't necessarily like in order to survive.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you move to "New Detroit" because you are obviously NOT a native New Yorker!!! Hope that La Luncheonette will still be open in sister and I will be there to see Melva and have a lovely lunch!

Anonymous said...

I'm getting so tired by the constant whining in this town. Seriously, if you want to be in the Vanguard and if you are sick of people with money head to Detroit. That's a city that needs you and you will never have to deal with a 'Russian Oligarch' again. Like they ever came into your restaurant to begin with.

The city - with less than 2% of any housing available because so many people want to live here and are willing to put their money down on it - doesn't need you.

Sounds harsh? Well this is effin New York City and we like it that way

Anonymous said...

I've not been to La Lunchonette but I finally went to the High Line again after having not visited in about a year. The rate at which the new buildings have gone up is incredible. I was super sad after the walk that the sight lines and views that I liked were gone. The comment from Lopate that you quoted was spot on. It's happened, the claustrophia is already there.

The comments that are all, 'this is new york and it's gonna change suck it up', i don't get it. Change may be inevitable but that doesn't mean we have to roll over and let one industry dictate what it will be. Whether you've been here all your life or just a few years, there are places that you treasure and soon enough, they will be lost for no other reason than some national entity can and will pay a ludicrous amount for some real estate.

Le Gallinacé said...