Monday, November 30, 2015


If you've ever been to a movie at the Museum of Modern Art (or Cinema Village or Film Forum) you may have encountered a cinemaniac. Obsessed and cantankerous, they are masters of the shush.

I once witnessed them nearly lynch an elderly woman for the crime of loudly unwrapping a hard candy. If you go to a movie here, you have to submit to the madness. Enjoy it. This is where all the eccentrics who've been driven from the streets of Manhattan have washed up.

I don't go to the MoMA movies as often as I used to, but I hear those characters are still there. What makes them so dyspeptic?

I suspect they shush so violently because, like many anxious obsessive-compulsives, they likely suffer from misophonia, an extreme sensitivity to annoying sounds. Researchers have also found a relationship between misophonia and the schizotypal personality. Schizotypals are your garden variety eccentrics. And they're a vanishing breed in New York City.

These are people who don't function well in a hyper-regulated city custom-made for the wealthy and the mainstream. They require rent control and stabilization. They require the freedom to be unusual, even difficult. They need a city that tolerates odd behavior. Really, they are some of the last of the New York characters. So next time one of them scolds you at the movies, be grateful. You've been touched by an endangered species.

But be careful. They might get a little out of control. "If you don't get up and beat the person up or threaten them or something, then you're going to actually have the film be ruined," says one in the 2002 film Cinemania. Watch it here in its entirety (bonus--it's New York before Bloomberg's erasure, filled with some vanished places and sensibilities):

Roger Ebert wrote about these New Yorkers:

"These are not crazy people. Maladjusted and obsessed, yes, but who's to say what normal is? I think it makes more sense to see movies all day than to golf, play video games or gamble. Not everyone agrees. I know people like these, and I understand their desire to be absorbed in the darkness and fantasy... They really, really like movies. They cry during them. One stumbled out of 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' and walked for blocks in the rain, weeping. 'A commitment to cinema means one must have a technically deviant lifestyle.'"

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Brooklyn Flux

Gentrification is slow. Hyper-gentrification is fast. We're really not dealing with old-fashioned gentrification anymore, as much as people keep talking about it.

For a look at what happened--and keeps happening--to large swaths of Brooklyn in less than 10 years, check out Brooklyn Flux, a series of before-and-after photos by Kristy Chatelain.

all photos by Kristy Chatelain

Taken along the waterfront of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, from 2007 to present, the photos mostly show the kind of change that is sweeping the city--from industrial and scruffy to sleek and trendy.

Or vacant.

Signs of the former population, like a Puerto Rican flag in graffiti, are replaced by the symbols of the new population, i.e., old-timey typefaces, gold-leaf signage, wine bars.

And on it goes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rudy's Under Attack

The Clinton Chronicle reports that beloved Hell's Kitchen dive bar Rudy's Bar & Grill is under attack by Community Board 4 for serving alcohol in its backyard late into the night.

Saundra Halbertstam and Eliot Camerara report that members of Community Board 4 have "actively worked to shut down and destroy Rudy’s Bar and Grille, a Hell’s Kitchen landmark, in business since 1933."

The writers says these members have "prompted complaints against Rudy’s Bar" and "smeared Rudy’s by sending word through the community that they were operating without proper licenses." So far, Rudy's owners have spent $24,000 defending the bar.

It's a lengthy story--to read the whole piece, pick up a copy of the Clinton Chronicle or read the PDF here. Saundra gave me the upshot in an email: "By closing the backyard, they will force Rudy's to close, since the back represents over 30% of their revenue."

photo: retro roadmap

News of noise complaints against Rudy's goes back to this summer. As DNAInfo reported, Rudy’s management said "those complaining were suburban transplants who don't understand Hell's Kitchen."

“To have somebody come in from suburbia and say that we want to change this neighborhood because they paid an exorbitant amount for a co-op is not fair to the people in the community,” the bar's lawyer, Thomas Purcell, told DNA.

The blog stated, "under Rudy's liquor license, which dates back to 1992 when the current owner Jack Ertl, 88, bought the bar, the venue is allowed to use the backyard space until the wee hours with no restrictions, according to documents and bar management."

Monday, November 23, 2015

125th Street in Chains

The Pathmark supermarket on East Harlem's 125th Street closed this weekend amid controversy, more controversy, and the despair of 30,000 customers who have few places left to buy groceries.

After the Pathmark opened in 1999, a number of small grocers shut down, leaving residents dependent on the big supermarket.

The Times reported that the grocery store's intended role would be to increase development: "the Pathmark's popularity is having a big impact on the neighborhood. Not only has it altered the fortunes of the unsightly intersection where it is located, it is also helping to spur development across 125th Street."

At the time, Karen A. Phillips, chief executive of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, who put in the store, said the supermarket had "done what it was supposed to do -- inspire new commercial development" through the heart of Harlem.

Then, last year, Abyssinian sold the Pathmark site to mega-developer Extell for nearly $39 million. Extell, as you may know, is creating a giant luxury city at Hudson Yards, with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and other subsidies from Bloomberg.

Said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito of the Abyssinian and Extell deal for Pathmark, “I believe they threw this community under the bus.”

A look inside the supermarket on Saturday evening revealed shelves already stripped bare, the registers closed, and the employees--200 of whom will now be out of work--gathering to say goodbye.

Also around 1999, the Abyssinian Development Corporation, with mega-developer Forest City Ratner (known for getting eminent domain land and subsidies from Bloomberg to develop Atlantic Yards), developed the Harlem Center to the west, a suburban-style shopping center with an Old Navy store, among other chains.

As promised, more development has come to 125th Street, especially after the major boost of Bloomberg's massive "river-to-river" rezoning in 2008, a brainchild of Amanda Burden, then director of the Department of City Planning.

The eureka moment came after a Roberta Flack concert at the Apollo, when Burden discovered there was simply nowhere to eat in Harlem--nowhere, not even at Sylvia’s or Manna’s or any of the other soul-food restaurants nearby. She realized that the neighborhood would have to change. “There should be a million different eateries around there,” she told the Times, “and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to frame and control growth on 125th Street.”

Well, now Amanda Burden can eat at Red Lobster. There's one right next to the Apollo, just after the Banana Republic.

Since the rezoning, several mom-and-pops have been evicted and several chains have gone in.

How many?

I took a walk along 125th Street, from the Hudson River to the onramp of the Triborough Bridge. Along the way, I counted 77 national chains and 15 commercial banks -- even though Burden said that the rezoning would limit “bank exposure on the street level, positioning the banking floors on the second floor to encourage more vitality,” because "Banks can deaden an environment.”

The majority of those 92 chains and banks are located in the core of central 125th Street, which is maybe 7 blocks wide. That’s about 10 chains per block. And more keep coming. A new development under construction flies a banner that announces the future arrival of a Burlington Coat Factory.

As if the story can't get any worse for 125th Street, back on the easternmost end, just one block east of the Pathmark development, a group of businesses is under siege from the city government.
In 2009, the Bloomberg Administration blighted a whole block on 125th Street and 3rd Avenue, using eminent domain to claim it for a massive $700 million development project, the 1.7 million-square-foot East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center, aka "MEC."

This, in addition to the eminent domain deal gifted to Columbia University at the westernmost end of 125th, means the street has been bookended in Bloomberg's land grabs.

Today this eastern, edge-of-the-earth block contains a dry cleaners, a hair braiding salon, a gas station, a flat-fix shop, an auto-body shop, a Baptist church, and other businesses. The city has already seized property, including a building from Demolition Depot. The owners are still fighting in court. Reported the Real Deal: "the de Blasio administration has not announced plans for the site, and is instead moving forward with the land seizure without defining a clear purpose for it."

blighted block

Call me crazy, but I don't think it's any coincidence that this block sits right over the Third Avenue Bridge from the waterfront of the South Bronx, where another Bloomberg rezoning helped to usher in major development.

Here, from Lugo's Flat Fix stand looking north, you can see clear to the so-called "Piano District," where luxury towers will soon be rising.

It would be naive to deny that it's all connected.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Help Jerry

A couple of years ago, I visited Jerry Ohlinger's amazing movie material store in the Garment District. In business since 1976, it was the last store in New York City dedicated to movie photos.

Struggling with the rent, Jerry closed his shop and moved most of his "one million and one hundred thousand" photos to a warehouse in New Jersey as he downsized to a much smaller shop on West 30th, with limited hours.

Now Jerry needs help. The items in the warehouse need to be moved again, and there's no money to do it. Visit his GoFundMe page and consider giving him a hand.

Read my whole story on Jerry's former shop at The New Yorker.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

One-Thing Wonders

The following is a guest post by Mitch Broder, author and blogger.

It’s unlikely that nineteenth-century New York had an oatmeal saloon, but it reportedly had several hundred oyster saloons. The city more or less launched its food scene with its oyster joints, which set the stage for the present-day oatmeal joint, not to mention the present-day stuffed-bagel-ball joint.

In this century, spots like those two have been proliferating, not surprisingly as store rents have been tripling and sextupling. Non-billionaires who have a dream of opening a traditional city restaurant often find themselves scaling the dream down to, say, a city schnitzel spot.

This economic reality is what inspired me to write a book called New York’s One-Food Wonders: A Guide to the Big Apple’s Unique Single-Food Spots. The book tells the stories of all our offbeat one-food places, along with the stories of all our offbeat one-thing places.

My previous book, Discovering Vintage New York, covers the city’s classic old spots, but I’ve always seen the singular places as classics of their own. Like so many of the vintage spots, they keep originality — and peculiarity — in a cityscape that’s quickly and sadly losing both.

They also keep independence here. Nearly all of these spots were founded by passionate people, not by dispassionate investment groups. They’re a last stand for creativity — and some of the young ones are getting old. Peanut Butter & Co., the all-peanut-butter joint, is in its eighteenth year.

The places in the book range from far older to far younger. But this blog is city headquarters for the far older. So here, exclusively for Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, is my list of the elder statesmen — Manhattan’s ten oldest one-food and one-thing wonders.

1946: Fountain Pen Hospital (10 Warren St.) Though now more store than hospital, it’s still run by its founding family. And it’s the last major place to get pens that don’t come twenty to a blister pack.

1936: Kossar’s Bialys (367 Grand St.) This is the last major place for people who still know what bialys are. It’s run by two guys who took it over two years ago. Call first, since they’ve been renovating.

1932: Papaya King (179 E. 86th St. and 3 St. Mark’s Place) Hot dogs and tropical fruit drinks count as one thing, because in New York City they’re married — and this is the stand that married them.

1929: Marchi’s Restaurant (251 E. 31st St.) For the Marchis, I stretched the book’s concept; their single thing is their single meal. Every night they serve only the same five-course dinner they’ve been serving since the end of World War II.

1927: Gem Spa (131 Second Ave.) This newsstand actually has lots of things, but it’s famous for just one thing: its egg cream. The recipe for it is as closely guarded as the one for Coke.

1917: The Drama Book Shop (250 W. 40th St.) If it’s stardom you’re bound for, here’s where you find your vehicle. The shop stocks about ten thousand plays, and in 2011 it won its own Tony.

1913: Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant (Grand Central Terminal) It’s a grand reminder of the city’s aforementioned oyster era. Also a grand reminder of what you can do with a ceiling.

1911: JJ Hat Center (310 Fifth Ave.) The last of the traditional men’s hat shops takes you back to a time when a gentleman was always topped off, and generally with something other than a baseball cap.

1910: Jean’s Silversmiths (16 W. 45th St.) It began as a curiosity shop, and a century later it still looks like one. (It was named for Jean Valjean, the celebrated silver collector.)

1910: Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery (137 E. Houston St.) Even Yonah succumbed to economic reality, says the shop’s owner, Ellen Anistratov: “He wanted to teach people spirituality,” she says, “but there was no money in it.”

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Party's Over

Lately, there's been a reappearance of the infamous East Village graffiti symbol "The Party's Over," the upside-down martini glass created by Peter Missing to protest gentrification and development in the neighborhood.

You'll see them around if you look. There's one now on the plywood that wraps the construction of Ben "The Sledgehammer" Shaoul's 100 Avenue A, where the ground-floor retail space was just listed at $24.5 million.

In silver marker someone has written EAT THE RICH and MUG A YUPPIE.

"The martini glass became a symbol of causing trouble," radical comic book artist Seth Tobocman told the Times in 2002. "To a lot of people it said, 'Start something."

Is someone trying to start something today, in this new age of hyper-gentrification? Peter Missing replies on Facebook: "this is not my writing ,,,,nor would i ever write mug a yuppie ,,,,,,the sad side of people coopting my logo."

For history on this, check out "Cult of Rage," a 1988 news report on the "shadowy group" Missing Foundation and the early days of gentrification in the East Village. Witches! Yuppies! Mysterious satanic rituals! And for more on The Missing Foundation, visit Flaming Pablum.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Lost Arcade

The Lost Arcade, a new documentary film by Kurt Vincent and Irene Chin, tells the story of the legendary Chinatown Fair.

On Mott Street since 1944, the arcade owners lost their lease in 2011 and made plans to move to Brooklyn.

New York Daily Photo

"Its very existence was an anachronism," said The Verge; "the lone hold-out of a culture that had been long since overshadowed by the meteoric rise of home consoles." The arcade managed to re-open in the same spot, but it wasn't the same. Co-owner Lonnie Sobel called it "a cross between Dave & Busters and Chuck E. Cheese."

"But as the neighborhood gentrified," the filmmakers write, "this haven for a diverse, unlikely community faced its strongest challenge, inspiring its biggest devotees to next-level greatness."

See The Lost Arcade at its world premier November 14 and 18 at IFC Center as part of DOC NYC. Click here for tickets.

Exclusively for Vanishing New York, the filmmakers have put together a clip featuring the history of Chinatown Fair--and the story of its famous dancing and tic tac toe-playing chickens:

The Lost Arcade (Exclusive Clip) from ArcadeMovie on Vimeo.

For more on the arcade's history and those chickens, check out:
DeNiro, Streep, Chicken
Chinatown Fair

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Astoria Rexall

Norwood Rexall Drugs in Astoria has been in its spot for 60 years, but it was recently forced to move by a rent hike, according to a note in the window.

Reader Scott Levine sends in a photo of the letter to customers from owner Syed Naqvi, who's been running the shop since 1977. He explains that the building was purchased by TK Management. And then, "All of a sudden, the new owner wants to double the rent, plus add the real estate taxes, without giving us reasonable notice."

photo by Scott Levine

The storefront is an antique, with curved, deeply set window displays and a vintage Rexall sign on the glass.

2014 -- photo by Nancy A. Ruhling

Mr. Naqvi was featured in a HuffPo piece last year. He told Nancy Ruhling about his move from Pakistan, and how he worked hard to take over the drugstore and keep it going over the years.

"The price wasn't high because the owner was retiring," he said of the time, "and the shelves were bare because he had not kept up with the inventory in anticipation of leaving. I paid him $20,000 plus some notes, and it was mine. I had to borrow $5,000 from a friend."

today -- photo by Scott Levine

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Goldsmith's Capital

This month, Verso Books publishes Kenneth Goldsmith's Capital, "a kaleidoscopic assemblage and poetic history of New York." Inspired by Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project, Goldsmith has spent the past decade researching and assembling a super-abundance of quotes on New York City, and then organizing them into categories like Celebrity, Danger, Graffiti, and Sex. The result is far from a simple quote book, however. Reading Capital feels like walking the city, through time and space, jumping neighborhoods, going in and out of buildings, slipping through wormholes. It's a kind of exuberant eavesdropping on the muttering, shouting narrative of the twentieth-century city.

I asked Goldsmith a few questions. He answered.

Q: I've been enjoying Capital, but is it meant to be enjoyed? You've called yourself "the most boring writer that has ever lived." Capital is not boring. Does this book feel like a departure from previous work?

A: I actually stopped being a boring writer almost a decade ago when I got bored of being boring. I’m known for a book called Day, which was a transcription of The New York Times of September 1, 2000 into a 900-page book. That was boring. When the book was reviewed, most people mistakenly thought I had transcribed September 11, 2001. I thought that was a great idea and went ahead and transcribed the 9-11 New York Times—the one that everyone carried to work that day, not the 9-12 newspaper, when you saw the planes crashing into the towers. And as I was doing the transcription, I found my keyboard soaked in tears. I mean, I wasn’t doing anything different than straight transcription, but the content was so emotional, that I produced an emotional text. After that I stopped being boring and wanted to find hotter and more emotional texts, which led to Seven American Deaths & Disasters, which are transcriptions of media broadcasts of national tragedies.

So, for Capital, I changed the lens again from tragedy and emotion to beauty and romanticism and have produced a beautiful and romantic text about New York City in the 20th Century. But the process is identical: this book is nearly 1000 pages long but I haven’t written a word of it.

Q: In a related question, you've also said, “My books are better thought about than read. They’re insanely dull and unreadable.” Capital is readable, but maybe not in the traditional sense of moving from point A to point B. How do you imagine Capital being read?

A: I think its unreadability is like the unreadability of the city itself: it’s too damn big to read New York City; perhaps the only way we can interact with New York is to browse it.

Q: How do you personally "browse" New York City? In the physical -- and maybe in the psychic -- sense. This book has a flaneur feeling about it, the walker in the city, capturing moments, observations, as he or she goes. That things that happens as one walks, fragments making up a whole. I think also of Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie." Do you identify as a flaneur, of the body and/or mind?

A: Walking the city invokes a text, one that is instantaneously written while, at the same time, one that is instantaneously read. The urbanist philosopher Michel de Certeau says, "They walk—an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are walkers, Wandersmänner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban 'text' they write without being able to read it." Walking, then, is an act of reading the city with our feet.

The city itself is an epic novel: each building a word, each street a sentence, each block a paragraph. De Certeau's claim for unreadability is hinged upon three facts: the blur of motion, the speed at which the tale is unwinding, and the sheer of immensity of the text. When we speak of hypertexts, we usually mean those which exist online, but we might think of the city as the ur-hypertext, a dynamic, analog, predigital model of complex intertextuality.

Q: What does it feel like for you to walk the streets of the city today? In my experience, the feeling of it has changed dramatically in the past decade or so.

A: We are going to disagree here but I love the city today as much as I’ve ever loved it. Every moment in New York is the best moment. Yes, the city has changed dramatically, but that doesn’t mean that it’s less, it just means that it’s different. We can’t look to what New York was — that’s gone — but what it is now, which is still radically inspiring, energetic, and quite frankly, utopian.

I travel around the world constantly, and the whole world has gone the way of New York, so if New York was always more interesting than anywhere else, it still is today. While the city may not resonate the same way with me as it did 40 years ago — yes, I was here 40 years ago — I still find it intriguing, mysterious, and sexy in ways that I find few other places on earth. I adore this city, still, in the twenty-first century.

Q: We don't completely disagree. I wouldn't be fighting for New York if I didn't still love it. Though I sometimes hate to love it. Would you call Capital your love letter to New York? Apologies for the cliche, but the book does feel affectionate.

A: Yes, this book is a completely romantic love letter to the city. I was able to pen the ultimate love letter to this city without having written a word of it, which is pretty much what Walter Benjamin did to Paris with the Arcades Project, the inspiration for this project.

Q: Finally, the obvious question: What about the Arcades Project inspired you to do a New York version?

A: When Benjamin’s book was published in English in 1999, I found it to be the most profoundly emotional book I’ve ever read written about a city. It was a book that told what the city felt like, sounded like, and smelled like, instead of narrating official histories—god knows there are enough of those books about Paris. I wanted to write the same book for New York, a city I’ve lived in for my entire adult life. I’ve also seen the city drastically change, so I wanted to remember, for instance, the smell of Orange Julius. My book is 1000 pages of citation; I didn’t write a word of it, but it turns out to be the most autobiographical book I could write. This city has made me what I am today. It is, indeed, a love song to New York.

Q: Anything else I didn't ask that you'd like to answer?

A: Yes one more thing. I wrote much of this book in the New York City collection of the Jefferson Market Library, a place that I found about through your blog. I would spend the entire day, say, researching the blocks around the Library—Patchin Place, Eighth Street, Christopher Street, etc.— in the twentieth century. But when I would leave the library, I would enter a city that bore little resemblance to where I was reading about. I really might as well have been researching the book in, say, Switzerland, instead of in Greenwich Village.

Monday, November 9, 2015

West Street Vintage

After the heartbreaking loss of the Market Diner, we're about to lose yet another vintage diner for yet another massive luxury development.

Over on the West Side Highway, between Clarkson and Leroy Streets, there is--and was--a block of low-rise buildings, a wonderfully crummy vestige of pre-glitz New York City. There was a car wash, a company that specialized in structural steel fasteners, an autobody shop, and a former old-school adult entertainment joint.

In between stands a chrome and lime-green Kullman diner that dates back to the 1940s or '50s. It was the Terminal Diner, the Lunchbox Diner, and a few other places before it shuttered in 2006.

This past weekend, a green wall of plywood was erected around the block-long site, readying it all for demolition and the construction of 357 West Street, an undulating luxury condo tower from Ian Schrager.

While the coming of the condo development has made news, no one seems to have mentioned the little Kullman diner--and its apparently impending demise.

Behind the new plywood is a wall of older plywood that concealed the diner a year or so ago. Maybe people just forgot it was there. But it remains.


I took some photos of it in 2013. It was forlorn, covered in graffiti, its interior ruined, but still lovely in its unique green, black, and chrome stripes.

Someone had created a guerrilla art installation, propping wig heads on metal rods and sticking them through the diner's side windows.


At that time, the corner spot was still Westworld and West Side. I visited one night to find a oasis of sleaze. Inside a tiny theater, rows of folding chairs faced a small stage. Male dancers stripped and gyrated, their skin smelling of baby powder, shimmering with oil and glitter.


Westworld had started out as Westway, opened in 1978. An advertisement in the Village Voice read: "Come cruise along the West Side Highway... among the trucks and gay bars..."

By 1980 it was Westworld--and the ads shouted, "FANTASTY ROOM! PEEP ROOM! HOLES!"

It became a reincarnated Westway in 2011, this time as a nightclub featuring the Westgay party. It closed this summer when Schrager took over the property.

The car wash has already been totally demolished. The autobody shop has moved to Brooklyn.


There's also an old brick building with a ghost sign across the front of it, up near the cornice. The only word clearly legible is "Engineers."


But a quick search turned up a 1912 advertisement in International Marine Engineering for Katzenstein's Metallic Packings. "General Machinists' and Engineers' Supplies," is what the ghost sign says, from back in the day when the waterfront was a working waterfront, for shipbuilders and seamen.

So much history in this little block, and all remnants of it will be wiped away in one fell swoop. Still, it's the loss of the little Kullman diner that we'll sorely regret. Can't anyone save it before it's too late? Ian Schrager? Be the good guy who moves this diner someplace safe. What a beauty it was--and could be again.

via NYC architecture

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Art Cove


Art Cove has been selling art and craft supplies in Ridgewood, Queens, for 44 years. But no more.

On their Facebook page they've announced:

"Ridgewood, New York, has become too fancy for Artcove. After 44 years we will be closing at the end of this year."

Ridgewood Social writes: "Art Cove is a craft supply store lost in time. With its original awning still in place, they have become a staple of Ridgewood’s past. As major craft chains move towards only scrap-booking, Art Cove maintains its roots as a place to buy supplies for all sorts of crafts."

But as we keep hearing, Ridgewood is the new Williamsburg. Or the new Bushwick, which was once the new Williamsburg. Anyway, it's the "next big neighborhood." It's even got a Twitter page called Gentrify Ridgewood! So much for those cheaper rents.

Think you're safe in your outer borough hideaway? Think again. No neighborhood is safe from the juggernaut of hyper-gentrification.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015



Artie's hardware store on West 14th Street has been forced to close. A merger of Aaron Hotz Locksmith and Hardware Mart, in one form or another, Artie's was in business for over 85 years.

Reader Tom Bernardin writes in to report: "I was told the rent was going up to $30,000."

Artie's was in a Pratt building. Now Pratt's got the windows papered with a giant advertisement for a fashion show.

Pratt recently made news for evicting staff and faculty members from the art school's Brooklyn campus, including 79-year-old head engineer Conrad Milster, the man in charge of the once-beloved, now vanished New Year's Eve steam whistle.

So there you go.

photo: thomasokeefe's instagram

Monday, November 2, 2015

Last Meal at Market Diner


This weekend I had a last meal at the Market Diner, shuttered now and waiting for the Moinian Group's wrecking machines to flatten it, so yet another soul-murdering, high-rise luxury condo can rise.

Aren't there enough of those already? The place is surrounded by luxury towers. In fact, Moinian has another pair right across the avenue.

From the windows of the Market Diner you can watch "The Sky" rise, wrapped in the slogan: "Live the Sky Life." With 1,175 rental units, The Sky is currently the city's biggest residential tower, literally blotting out the actual sky. And right next to that is Moinian's massive Atelier condo tower. The 13-story tower to rise on Market Diner's grave will make it a trio.

These buildings are here because the city rezoned the far west side as part of the Special Hudson Yards District and the Special Clinton District. They're here because the city government wants them here.

Meanwhile, inside the diner, crowds of people jammed themselves into the vestibule, waiting 20 and 30 minutes for a table. Some had come to say goodbye on this last weekend, but most just loved eating here.

After this irreplaceable piece of the authentic New York is destroyed forever, we'll hear politicians and other development apologists trot out the hideous bullshit lines that "tastes change" and "some small businesses just aren't viable." But we'll know the truth. 

The Market Diner was always packed with customers. They closed because the Moinian Group bought them and shuttered them. They closed because City Hall allowed it. Because our government offers no protections for small businesses. They closed because New York is in the midst of a small business apocalypse--and a cultural genocide.

As Robert Sietsema wrote for Eater this weekend: "even with a liberal mayor, nothing is done to stop this sort of cultural and culinary depredation. Isn’t the mix of businesses in a neighborhood important? Do real estate developers have an absolute right to do anything with their properties, no matter how foul?"

Yes, apparently, they do.

The Market Diner was in business since 1962. Frank Sinatra ate there. It was gorgeous. It was unique. I've said it a million times already. For fuck's sake, #SaveNYC. Whatever's left of it.

Last Days of Market Diner
Market Diner Vanishing
Market Diner Renovation