Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Greek Corner

There have been some rumors going around that the Greek Corner Coffee Shop -- which I first wrote about here -- is on its way out.

So I went in and asked around.

The place is located on 7th Avenue and 28th Street. It's been there since 1980. It's one of those New York places--cheap, simple, local--that's vanishing without relent.

When I went in for lunch, a bunch of tourists standing around outside harangued me. They were trying to decide whether to eat there or at one of the many national chains nearby.

"Do you like it?" they asked. Yes. "Is it clean? Is it clean?" They kept repeating this stupid question. "Is it clean?" I did not respond. They went away.

I ordered a BLT and talked to the people in the coffee shop. Here's what I learned: The building has been sold. The building might be sold. There are holdouts who won't budge. The building won't be sold. Everything will be okay. Who knows?

This whole neighborhood, just south of Penn Station, is going through a major upheaval. Old buildings are coming down and new ones are going up at a frenetic pace. Most of the new buildings are tourist hotels.

Specialty coffee bars are moving in between the odd little wholesale shops and the silk flower shops and the places that embroider ball caps and roll cigars and unpack ginseng from cardboard barrels.

We don't need more hotels. The city has become glutted with them. In 2011, Mayor Bloomberg announced that New York would soon reach a record number of hotel rooms--90,000--a 24 percent increase since he began his tourist-driving initiative in 2006. Leisure and Hospitality became the fastest growing industry, increasing at a rate of 27.4 percent, far outpacing health, information, and the financial services. We have rapidly become a city of servants, towel replenishers, and toilet paper folders.

But, above the Greek Corner Coffee Shop, we still have some industry.

I love the second-story windows of this building. I love walking by at night and seeing the inside lit up. The silhouettes of radiators and dressmaker's dummies. A woman bends over a table, cutting or ironing fabric. This is the home of Timberlake Studios, since 1986. They make costumes for theatre, dance, and opera.

In the 1970s, the studio's founder, Betty Williams, set out to save commercial garment patterns. From the website: "Encouraged by the Smithsonian, she started a drive to save patterns. It developed into a nationwide network of women (once called 'Betty's Brigade') that searched for patterns in attics, church bazaars, and estate sales. This led to a collection of patterns called The Commercial Pattern Archive, together with tailoring magazines and sewing instruction material dating to the 19th Century. It is a major resource for theatre and fashion designers and a permanent record of one phase of women's lives for sociologists and historians."

I don't know what's going to happen to this building. It holds pieces of the real New York, the city that is being wiped out and homogenized. So let's all keep an eye on it.


Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com said...

How ironic would it be if they built all these hotels, then they were never filled because travelers realized "why bother visiting NYC when I can go to the same places at the mall at home?"

Ken Mac said...

shit, I eat here every Saturday. damnnit. like Heston in Apes " damn you all to hell!"

Ken Mac said...

I've eaten here for years, and had a great Greek salad here this past Saturday. but I never knew the history of the second floor. THAT's my New York. Thanks Jeremiah.