Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Is Authentically Harlem?

Last week, the Columbia Spectator published an op-ed entitled "Is Columbia really destroying Harlem’s authenticity?" Written by first-year student Cristian Zaharia, it supports the school's expansion into Harlem, which was made possible via eminent domain. Zaharia argues that Harlem's authentic culture is not African-American, but one of ever-changing cultures dating back to the Dutch, and that the expansion "will be the start of a new, fresh era for the neighborhood."

On his Facebook page, Harlem historian and activist Michael Henry Adams wrote a reasoned and impassioned response. It is reproduced here in full, with his permission:

Adams arrested while protesting the demolition of Harlem's Renaissance Ballroom and Casino, photo by Antwan Minter

Harlem has numerous lovely old buildings reflecting varied cultures, even former synagogues. But throughout history, nothing about Harlem has made it renown, world-wide, apart from black people. One may talk all one likes about other earlier Harlems populated by people who were not black. By contrast, these white Harlems were insignificant. African Americans alone--our culture, drive, and creativity--have accorded Harlem a status as fabled and fabulous as that held by Paris or Rome. Everything, anything else is superfluous, even meaningless, in terms of Harlem's well-deserved fame.

Entertaining any illusions about the possibility of preserving an authentic Harlem, absent African Americans, it's instructive to look downtown. What survives in Greenwich Village or Hell's Kitchen, to suggest an earlier historic black identity today? And so, yes, Columbia and by extension unknowing or unwitting students--through displacement and gentrification--are rapidly helping to destroy Harlem's irreplaceable heritage and rich legacy.

You are not alone. Many blacks, beguiled by white dollars, are just as eager to replace the houses, churches, schools, stores, theatres and other buildings where Langston Hughes, Georgette Harvey, A'Lelia Walker and other Harlem luminaries, lived, worked, played and prayed, with more luxury condominiums.

Indeed, whatever one has to suggest, even if it's making a black congregation's church into a private school for your kids, or a mansion just for you, they are cool with it. A fig leaf of 20% "affordable" housing, and an historic name, derived from some black hero, for the new condo building or the street or park nearby are nice, but hardly essential. Landmarking and preservation that enhance neighborhoods downtown are antithetical to them. "How much longer will blacks exert political sway over Harlem?" they reason, "while whites are buying, we had better sell up."

A few brave voices contest Columbia University’s contention that their Harlem expansion plans will be universally beneficial. "It's nothing but rubbish," says distinguished and scholarly architectural historian Robin Middleton, who formerly taught at Cambridge before joining the faculty at Columbia. "Columbia's plans are simply monstrous, like an Orwellian, Stalinist, or dystopian campus of factories. No one touting how much they cherish 'design excellence,' could possibly approve of what they are doing, unless of course if it were their job to do so. And, it is, isn't it?"

It was around the connected issues of Harlem being up-zoned, and observing Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden much more closely, that I began to see who she really is and how it shapes what's at stake. Did it help the homeless to provide for evermore $900,000 condos, in a community where the yearly wage for half the residents is less than $36,000? Is it beneficial to small local merchants, allowing for 25-story towers where 19th-century buildings with just 6 floors once prevailed? What's the point of confiscating thriving businesses that want to be a part of a new revitalized Harlem? Why were they "compensated" at a rate pegged to the value of property prior to the zoning change allowing greater density? Why clear 17 acres, solely for Columbia's use, and leave only 2 of dozens of historic structures? Ought not the sole Planning Commission vote against this ill-conceived venture, cast by Karen Philips, a black woman who lives in Harlem, to have influenced the chair, who said, "The community is not going to buy in, unless it reflects their culture?"

For a long while, it seemed as if the teeming numbers of poor people here would mean Harlem's and Manhattanville's salvation. Reliable voters, housing project residents seemed sure to elect legislators who would act in their interests. Given the great numbers of low-income people here and the enmity that many affluent have to living among such people, it seemed as if gentrification might just be held at bay.

Now the marketplace seems poised to pressure the elimination of such oasis of affordable civility. More and more affordable housing and other matters affecting the poor are deemed issues only possible to address by warmly embracing the concerns and requirements of the rich. In a city of more than eight million, an utterly unwinnable solution to the massive problem of housing that's unaffordable to most is underway.

Seemingly commendable, government in partnership with developers, is making inclusion of "affordable" housing a condition for building. Ironically though, on average, 80% of all new housing is targeted for those who already have the greatest amount of choice, people who make up fewer than 20% of the population. Conversely, the "affordable" component, typically 20% of units in a new structure, will never meet an ever-growing demand among the city's working poor.

What will remain when it's all finished? No one can say for certain. Some romantically hope for the best. That, miraculously, the African American Cultural Capital at Harlem will somehow survive. Very likely, however, what's in store for Harlem instead is yet another Manhattan community like every other: one boasting the same stores, restaurants, banks, condos, and rich people. As one writer observed, "the same three stores, for the same two people."

Michael Henry Adams is an accomplished writer, lecturer, historian, tour guide, and activist. Born in Akron, Ohio, he lives in Harlem. Michael trained at Columbia University's graduate historic preservation program. His books include "Harlem, Lost and Found: An Architectural and Social History, 1765-1915," and "Style and Grace: African Americans at Home." Currently, he's at work on the forthcoming "Homo Harlem: A Chronicle of Lesbian and Gay Life in the African American Cultural Capital, 1915-1995." He is a passionate supporter of historic preservation, for the Casino Renaissance the fire watch tower restoration and Villa Lewaro, Madam Walker's house at Irvington. Dismayed by Harlem's piecemeal destruction, he is seeking to establish a preservation advocacy organization to Save Harlem Heritage. For additional info, call 212-862-2556.

You can also follow him on Twitter: @harlemhellion

Capturing Manhattanville
Rebranding Harlem
The eviction of 125th
On revanchist hyper-gentrification
Columbia wins right to seize private property in Harlem

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fantasy World & Shack

Fantasy World has vacated its wedge-shaped building at 7th Avenue and West 11th Street. The shop is empty. Signs in the window say they've moved to 333 6th Avenue at West 4th.


In 2013, The Real Deal reported that Fantasy World would not last much longer here. Developer Ike Chehebar "made an application to Landmarks Preservation Commission to add several floors to the one-story building."

“They didn’t really want us here,” Fantasy World salesclerk Aileen Baez told TRD. “It took a lot to get this open because people don’t want a sex shop in their neighborhood. But we’ve never had any problems.”

Chehebar said, “We hope to reposition that asset with a high-end, value-add tenant — something along the lines of Nespresso."

before the closure

I don't know how long Fantasy World was here. In my search for Edward Hopper's Nighthawks diner, I considered their building as a possibility, but it didn't pan out. I did, however, find this 1980s tax photo of the building back when it was a Discount Center. In the 1930s and 40s, it was a liquor store.

From what I can tell, it's never been anything high-end or value-add.

Here's another shot, from a snowy day in the 80s:

photo: Nathan Tweti

For many decades, behind the Fantasy World building there was a little wedge-shaped shack. (I also considered it for Nighthawks.)

The structure was a crooked, ramshackle thing, an odd space that had long ago been the Graziano Market, and more recently the Yavroom jewelry shop.


Well, it has just been utterly fancified--because no little scrap of the city can escape such a fate. Looks like it was completely torn down and replaced with a glassy, glossy version of its old self.

It's 235 square feet and it's going for $5,000 per month. Maybe someone will put in a "specialty" coffee bar and pretend it was once the Nighthawks diner.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winnie's Bar


More bad news for the life of New York's classic dive bars. After 28 years on Bayard Street in Chinatown, Winnie's is closing.

Reader Jack wrote in, "Two bartenders at Winnie’s Bar and Grill in Chinatown have told me that they are closing sometime in March as the landlord is renting the space to someone else (they have gone for 3 years without a lease)."

I called to confirm. The bartender I spoke with told me they'll be closing at the end of March. She was unable to give any details about the reason for the closure. *UPDATE: The owner writes on imgur, "Winnie's Bar will be closing due to the inability to attain a lease from the landlord."

Site of several Chinese gangster showdowns in the late 1980s and early 90s, Winnie's was a favorite spot of the notorious Ghost Shadows. It later became known as a place for karaoke and was voted Best Karaoke Bar in New York by the Village Voice. Here's how they described the scene:

"Dingy, dimly lit, and not too crowded, Winnie's in Chinatown is the antithesis of the slick, sanitized karaoke bars you're likely to encounter uptown. As you enter, you'll notice it's a bit segregated: On the left, old Chinese dudes play dice games at the bar; on the right, spacious red booths are packed with skinny-jeans-wearing hipsters and local office workers cheering on their friends at the mic."

The space itself has been a bar for a long time. Said the bartender of Winnie's 28 years, "It was a bar before that, and a bar before that, and a bar before that." That history shows in the well-worn interior, which is 100% classic dive.

Winnie's block of Bayard makes an appearance in the 1949 movie Adam's Rib. That awning for Carmine's Restaurant looks like it might be the same spot.

Jimmy Breslin wrote of a Carmine's on Bayard Street: "Carmine's is always the same... Carmine's is the bar on Bayard Street, behind the Criminal Court Building in Manhattan, where the cops and court attendants go... Carmine's smells as if it has river water in the basement. A couple of drinks and you don't notice the smell anymore."

Could be the place.

104 Bayard also turns up in a murky tax photo from the early 1980s, but it's too blurry to determine the bar's name.

In any case, what are the chances that Winnie's space will remain a dive bar once Winnie's is gone?

Before it turns into yet another bubble tea emporium, visit one last time to enjoy this classic spot -- knock back a pitcher of Winnie's infamous Hawaiian Punch (a powerful mixture of, among other things, rum, vodka, amaretto, creme de bananes, and grenadine), and belt out a bad rendition of "Don't Stop Believin" or "Eye of the Tiger" (two of the biggest crowd pleasers, according to general manager Teddy Mui).

Better yet, for this occasion, "Another One Bites the Dust."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bonnie Slotnick II

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks has a new space. Opening this Wednesday, Bonnie gave me the first sneak peek inside her shop at 28 East 2nd Street.

As you first learned here, Bonnie was forced out of her long-time Greenwich Village location by a landlord who wanted more rent, or a different kind of tenant, or whatever landlords want when they decide to kick out an enduring and beloved small business.

When word spread, she found a pair of angels in siblings Margo and Garth Johnston, who wanted a bookshop in the basement of their East Second Street townhouse. They heard about Bonnie’s plight and reached out with a sweetheart deal.

Bonnie has spent the winter unpacking, painting shelves glossy white, and organizing what has turned out to be a dream bookshop, much larger than the last, complete with a working fireplace ("I'll probably never light it--fire and smoke don't go well with books") and a backyard perfect for book parties.

She is thrilled to have her books out of storage and back on the shelves. “They’re ready to meet their public once again,” Bonnie says, straightening a few spines. “They didn’t like being packed in boxes. They like being in the light.”

The books are displayed together with items from Bonnie's vast collection of vintage kitchenware. She has just come into possession of a 1950s-era mixer, heavy as a cinderblock, exchanged for a vintage typewriter. 

Contrary to what you might expect, Bonnie is not a foodie. She prefers comfort food and does not go in for culinary fetishism. She likes cookbooks as books. They are, quite possibly, her greatest nourishment.

“I like to say that if you’re eating a peanut butter sandwich while reading something by M.F.K. Fisher,” she says, “you’re feasting.”

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks vanishing
Bonnie Slotnick Redux

Thursday, February 19, 2015

La Parisienne


Manhattan has lost another classic coffee shop. Reader Scott Levine sends in the following shot of a shuttered La Parisienne, on 7th Avenue by 58th.

photo by Scott Levine

The hastily written sign in the window says only: "We're moving on! Thanks for letting us serve you for over 50 years."

In business since 1950, La Parisienne was a favorite spot to grab a meal after a show at Carnegie Hall or a walk through Central Park, a place for the standard old-school diner fare of burgers, eggs, pancakes, et al. (It was not a favorite, however, of Mexican wrestlers.) It boasted a beautiful vintage neon sign, in blue and red, along with the ever-vanishing STEAKS CHOPS SEAFOOD.

Now the neon sign is off and calls to the diner go unanswered. Bon voyage La Parisienne.

Better days, via Google Maps

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Prime Burger Blight

Back in 2012, the great and wonderful Prime Burger was forced to close after 47 years in business  (74 if you count its days as Hamburg Heaven). At the time, co-owner Michael DiMiceli explained to Eater, "The building's been sold. We had an agreement with the new owners to stay here longer, but those agreements fell through. They decided that they don't want us here as tenants anymore."

Over two years later, the space at 5 E. 51st Street is still empty.

We see this all the time. A landlord pushes out a long-time tenant, and then leaves the space empty, creating blight while they wait for the right luxury chain to pay the exorbitant rent.

In this case, that monthly rent is $52,083...and thirty-three cents.

Against my better judgment, I peeked inside. All that gorgeous 1960s-era decor, the wood-panelled walls, the booths with the swinging tables, the conical chandeliers, that delightful time capsule--completely gutted. For nearly three years it's just sitting there, busted and rotten, not making burgers, not making egg creams, not making New Yorkers happy.

And how does the new owner imagine the future for this space? Same way they all do, a bland vision of nothingness, zombie consumers walking past, arms loaded with oversized handbags and shopping bags. Another pathetic rendering of what New York has become.

In London, as an incentive to keep shops in use, tax relief was taken away from businesses that keep properties empty for longer than 6 months. What are we doing here?

Prime Burger
Prime Burger to Reopen?
PB Egg Cream

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Broome Street Bar--Not Vanishing


In more good news today for old New York, Kenn's Broome Street Bar will not be closing anytime soon. A tipster wrote in, "They just signed a new five-year lease."

A call to the bar confirmed: They're staying put.

A year ago, I broke the news that the 43-year-old bar would be closing, following the death of Kenn Reisdorff. The building soon went on the market.

But reports in the Post that the building had sold (for $12 million) were "erroneous," the bartender told me. For reasons unknown, the building has not been sold. And we can still go on enjoying the Broome Street Bar for another several years.

With this, after the good news about Smith's Bar and Jim's Shoe Repair, we're feeling somewhat optimistic. For now.

Jim's Shoe Repair--Victory


A year ago, I broke the news that Jim's Shoe Repair was being kicked out of its space on E. 59th Street, where it's been since 1932. Landlord S.L. Green gave the space to Walgreens so they could expand their giant Duane Reade.

News spread, we started a petition and wrote letters, and Jim's got help from the powerful law firm Bickel and Brewer, whose Storefront affiliate gives help to community individuals and businesses in need. Now there's good news.

Third-generation Joe Rocco told me, "Duane Reade has agreed to give us the lease back," and it's good for several more years.

A year ago, Joe and his family thought it was over. They were looking for a new space. But today, "We're all excited. The combination of our loyal customers all staying behind us, and the help from Bickel and Brewer made it happen."

"Hopefully, it starts something," says Joe. "Hopefully, people in this city will see that these old places are valuable and worth saving."

There will be a celebration in the shoe repair shop today at 2:00. (The local news has video.)

From the full press release:

For one of New York City’s most cherished businesses and thousands of its customers, there is much to celebrate in the New Year.

Jim’s Shoe Repair announced today that it has signed a new lease agreement and will remain in business at its current location at 50 E. 59th Street. The family-owned cobbling business has been at its current location since 1940, but was only weeks away from losing its space and having to vacate the premises.

An in-store celebration is planned for 2 p.m. today.

“Words cannot describe what it means for a small business like ours to defy the odds – and be able to stay in the location we’ve called home for over 70 years,” said Joseph Rocco, Jr. “We are grateful to our attorneys, Duane Reade, Borough President Gale Brewer, SL Green, and the thousands of people who voiced their support of our business. All worked together to make this miracle possible.”

Jim’s fight for survival has become one of the most closely-followed cases of its kind – emblematic of the struggle faced by small businesses swept away in the “corporatization” of New York City. It has been widely reported that Jim’s was losing its 1,000 square-foot shop to accommodate the expansion of Duane Reade, located next door.

The Bickel & Brewer Storefront, the community-service affiliate of Bickel & Brewer law firm, represented Jim’s in the courtroom, pro bono, and engineered a grassroots petition drive to help save the business. The Storefront sought a landmark designation for Jim’s, and filed a petition in Manhattan Supreme Court on behalf of the business against the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Storefront also defended Jim’s in eviction proceedings. Jim’s and its landlord, SL Green Realty Corp., have settled all claims as a condition of the new lease agreement. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Jim’s is a business that embodies the American Dream,” says William A. Brewer III, partner at the Storefront and long-time Jim’s customer. “The victory today is for all those who value family-owned businesses in this country. They represent a time when the fabric of our communities were tied to family values.”

“This is a storybook ending for our customers and a business that runs in our blood,” says [Rocco's great-grandson] Andrew. “It feels like we are part of something larger here, giving hope to small businesses in this community and throughout all of New York City. We have achieved the impossible.”

Jim's Shoe Repair
Save Jim's

Join the Save New York Facebook page

Monday, February 16, 2015

Caffe Dante


A year ago, I shared the unsettling news that Caffe Dante would be closing--and then reopening--after 99 years on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. They did just that, reopening in May with a renovated look. It wasn't the same, but it was still Dante, still run by the Flotta family, Mario Jr. and Mario Sr., who took the place over in 1971.

Now, in the year of its 100th birthday, we hear Caffe Dante will really be closing.

UPDATE: The owner of Caffe Dante says the rumor is a false alarm and "We're going to be here for a while yet." Let's hope that's true.

UPDATE TO THE LAST UPDATE: The rumor was true. They sold and closed.

A reader wrote in that "Caffe Dante is no longer." The owners tried to make it work, to refashion the business and keep up with a doubled rent from their landlord, but in the end they sold the business--likely to a group of Australians.

The new owners reportedly plan to keep the Dante name, "not out of respect to this great business, but so they can keep the existing licenses."

The tipster says the cafe will be closing in 10 days.

I called Caffe Dante and, while I was unable to reach either of the Marios, I talked to a couple of employees. They, too, have heard that closure is coming soon, maybe in two weeks. And while there seems to be some uncertainty about the details, it does sound like this is the end.

So, before Dante is serving Vegemite sandwiches, get your last cappuccinos soon, and say goodbye to an authentic piece of Greenwich Village that's been going strong since 1915.

Dante to Close
Dante Returns

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Unicorn


It's another loss for gay 8th Avenue. After 21 years in Chelsea, The Unicorn, a gay XXX video and toy shop, is closing this Sunday night at 2:00AM.

Thanks to reader Albert for pointing us to the news, posted to the shop's Google reviews page. The manager writes that the closure is "due to a huge rent increase." The building was sold and the new owners have other plans for the space.

The Unicorn is like a secret spot, around the corner off 8th Avenue on West 22nd Street. It has no neon signs and no rainbow flags, just a purple door topped by a small, faded awning. Walking in, you feel rather furtive, like you've slipped away from the everyday world.

In the back is a dimly lit lounge, outfitted with couches and video booths where men linger in the shadows. It costs $12 to go in through the turnstile and there is decidedly no readmission.

The shop itself is clean and well-lit, run by a couple of friendly guys who might engage you in a chat about the changes that have come to Chelsea, how all the gay businesses are being pushed out, forced away from 8th Avenue.

In recent years, as Chelsea has hyper-gentrified, the city tried to close The Unicorn, along with the other gay adult shops nearby. They failed, but there's nothing you can do when your building's been sold to a new owner who wants you out.

The shop will be moving their merchandise uptown, to their other store, Les Hommes at 217 West 80th Street. Les Hommes has been in business since at least 1985, when it weathered the AIDS crisis and the city crackdown on gay sex shops.

Through this weekend, the Unicorn is having a Valentine's Day/closing sale. Everything--except the poppers and pills--are 50% off.

"Fleshlights and Fleshjacks half off? You can't find that price anywhere."

More lost gay 8th Avenue:
Rainbows & Triangles

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lost Wild High Line

About a decade ago, Damon Hoydysh, founder of Highline Studios, climbed up onto the old, pre-gentrified High Line and shot a whole bunch of film--of the weedy wilderness and graffiti tunnels before they were turned into artisanal food courts and tourist outlooks.

He shares it here for a first exclusive look (be sure to watch on full screen):

I asked Damon a few questions:

Q: How did you get up to the High Line to take this footage?

A: I hopped the fence at the LIRR railroad yard at the north end of the High Line. Once you cleared the fence, it was just steps to the beginnings of the High Line. It was really hot that day, and when I got to the end, I had to get down through a functioning meat processing facility on 14th street. It was just one of those moments, older guys in white butcher’s coats looking at me funny as I briskly exited via their huge, full-floor meat locker with my camera over my shoulder.

Q: What attracted you to the old High Line?

A: I was always obsessed with it. I just loved the actual structure, the rusted steel--like the biggest Richard Serra piece you've ever seen. When I first started my company, we were located on 23rd Street right above it, and that’s where the name Highline Studios came from. I've always been drawn to anything transportation-related, and even though the railway was abandoned, it felt like a lifeline that ran right through the heart of the neighborhood.

I loved it over there because the streets were empty and still felt industrial--beautiful old factories with smoke-stacks, rail yards, empty warehouses--just awesome, raw NYC. No condos. It was one of the the last vestiges of the old, gritty NYC that I had known as a kid. When I first got up on the High Line, I realized that it encapsulated all that I loved about the area, perfectly preserved, with gorgeous graffiti galleries everywhere. It was also striking how the vegetation had just naturally taken over and blended so perfectly with all the man-made, discarded elements, it was beautiful.

Q: Do you ever go up to the new High Line? How do you think it compares to the old?

A: I think they did a beautiful job for a modern park, but at the same time it's too sterile and user-friendly. We need to help preserve the street art so that it's not lost for future generations. It’s obviously a difficult balance, but I think the real history and heritage of the area has been lost, and it is pretty over-run with the crowds. It's truly the age-old debate, analog vs. digital. Analog for me any day.

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Carmine & Bleecker

When I heard about the eviction of Avignone Chemist--on Bleecker since 1929 and in business even longer--I went by to talk to the owner.

He told me that Force Capital Management, a hedge fund that manages $1.2 billion, not only bought his little building, they also bought the big building on the corner. Now they have the block.

Using the LLC 228 Bleecker Street Realty, Force Capital Management paid $18,700,000 for the corner building in 2012. Why? Don't tell me this old beauty can be torn down and replaced with a glass box.

And what about Trattoria Spaghetto on the ground floor? I asked--they told me they've got 15 more years on their lease.

By the way, Trattoria Spaghetto is a good place for lunch in the off hours, on a weekday. It's quiet. There's an old woman who sits by the door in a turban. She knows everyone and everyone knows her. She laughs and talks about the weather. Over the speakers, the music is Queen, nothing but Queen.

Trattoria Spaghetto opened sometime in the early 1990s or late 1980s. I'm not sure. Before that, it was the Bleecker Luncheonette, a beloved Italian soup counter that made a famous green minestrone. Some still don't forgive the Trattoria for "killing its old world charm."

So it goes.

via VintageOCD

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hudson Yards Effect

Like the High Line Effect that flattened west Chelsea, and the Marc Jacobs Effect that transformed western Bleecker Street, we're now seeing the Hudson Yards Effect decimate 10th Avenue in the 30s.

All along the Hudson Yards, buildings are coming down, or getting grabbed up by developers who aim to upscale. Into empty lots and parking lots are going new condos and hotels. Even the Brutalist 450 West 33rd is getting a facelift. In a city where everything must glitter, silvery cool, this brown beast just won't do.

It will be clad in pleated glass and incorporated into Brookfield's "Manhattan West" development, that massive hall of mirrors.

A couple blocks up, two little tenement buildings remain--440 and 442 Tenth Avenue. The buildings were bought by the Silverstone Property Group in 2012. Tenants reached out to Curbed to complain about the subsequent conditions--no gas, no hot water, holes in the ceilings.

Are there any rent-regulated tenants left? Apartments in the two buildings are now renovated and renting ($2500 for a studio) to anyone who won't mind the noise of construction on both sides.

On the north end of the block is rising a $20 million 17-story hotel--owned by a company calling itself Tenth Avenue YYY, LLC.

On the south side, a towering Marriott Hotel is coming. This one's costing $180 million and will have 385 rooms.

It's big and it's bland, just like they like it.

Across the avenue, another pair of tenements stand, surviving for now. But they look vulnerable out there. One houses a Penske truck rental place, the other is home to Taxi Parts, Inc.

This stretch of 10th Avenue, from the 20s through the 30s, used to belong to taxi drivers. It gave them gas stations, flat-fix shops, mechanics, medallion brokers, cheap food, and places like this shop, where you can find everything from tail lights to mud flaps.

Over the past decade, we've watched it all vanish. First by High Line development, and now by the Hudson Yards. Of course, we know the two are connected, one Bloombergian scheme rolled into the other. The whole west side, from below Gansevoort and into the 40s, is being paved in glass.

Soon, it will gobble up the carriage horsemen of the west 30s. (Read here for an in-depth look at what remains of that world.) Along with what remains of the old city a few blocks south, a parcel that Bloomberg's planning department targeted.

Take a walk up 10th and witness a neighborhood vanishing before your eyes.

Monday, February 9, 2015


I don't like sports bars. I don't like nouveau Irish bars. So I'm not sure what made me stick my head into Foley's on West 33rd, but I'm glad I did.

Foley's is famous for its dizzying museum of baseball memorabilia (including more than 3,000 autographed balls). It's only been there about a decade, but the bar itself is a well-preserved antique.

The decorative tile floor alone is worth the trip. There's also a scenic stained-glass wall in the back (Tiffany, or so I was told), and a set of imposing men's room urinals that date to the late 1800s (I was told).

The staff is friendly and, if you're lucky, you'll find yourself in conversation with John Clancy, father of the owner, Shaun Clancy, and author of a memoir entitled "Never Say I Can't." It's easy to fall into chatting with Clancy. Just walk around admiring the place and he'll tell you all about it.

"See that clock up there? It comes from..."

"Papa John," as he is affectionately known, will also tell you about the days when he worked at Toots Shor's, serving Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason. And he'll point you to the pistol framed by the door, a gift to him from the mobster Frank Costello.

I wouldn't go to Foley's at night, or during a big game, but on a quiet Saturday afternoon, it's a perfect spot for an old New York feeling.