Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Stage Gutted

Last week I posted about the East Village's guerrilla response to Icon Realty's habit of pushing out our beloved small businesses. Locals have vandalized Icon's signs around the neighborhood with graffiti and stickers telling the real estate developer where to get off.

Most recently, someone spray-painted the sidewalk outside the evicted and empty Stage Restaurant, telling the East Village to boycott the incoming business--which, at this writing, will be another outpost of Kati Roll.

Immediately, the day after I published the post, a team of workers were on the scene. They furiously power-washed the sidewalk in front of the Stage and completely gutted the interior, ripping out the counter, the swivel stools, everything.

Now the spot has been wrapped in plywood, the sign ripped down and vanished.

The Stage was here since 1980. It was locally owned and operated, and it was always busy. Every day, the counter was full of working-class joes, cops and construction workers and garbage collectors, along with college kids, old people, and oddballs, writers and artists, sometimes Helen Mirren, and everyone in between.

After the Second Avenue gas explosion, Icon evicted the Stage, claiming they were illegally siphoning gas. Owner Roman Diakun denied it and resolved the case, but the legal fees and the loss of money over months of sitting closed was too much for the little restaurant and they were forced to shutter.

Angry New Yorkers responded immediately, decorating the empty storefront with notices that read "Closed by Order of a Money Grubbing Landlord and Real Estate Scam" and GILF's "Gentrification in Progress" tape.

A #SaveNYC sign also hung in the window.

Real estate developers often cover up a site of dissent, burying the body to make us stop our angry grieving. To make us forget.

In today's city, where the power brokers want us to forget, to remember is an act of rebellion. They need to wipe from our memory The Stage and Cafe Edison, CBGB's and Roseland, our bookstores and record shops, our greasy spoons and scruffy meeting places.

Henry Giroux calls this “the violence of organized forgetting,” a concept borrowed from Milan Kundera, who wrote, “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have someone write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history.” Is it possible to cross such a “desert of organized forgetting”? Yes, it is possible. But it requires a radical remembering.

“We have forgotten what a city was,” Luc Sante has written. We all must dare to remember.


JM said...

Why isn't someone from Icon in jail yet? How do they get away with a false accusation that results in the shuttering of a business? How isn't that illegal in some way?

Mitch said...

Isn't it a fools errand to powerwash the graffiti off?

Scout said...

Speaking of remembering... 128 Second Avenue was, for decades beginning in 1874, the home of United Hebrew charities (renamed the Jewish Social Service Association in 1926); before they were there, it was the home of the Woman's Medical College of the New York Infirmary, which served the poor and provided employment to women physicians and a training facility for female medical and nursing students. It was founded by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.

In the late 19th century, it was also the home of the famous Murray H. Hall, a Tammany politician who was discovered, after his death in 1901, to have been born a woman, and posed as a man for his entire adult life.

With a bit of research, we could probably find lots of other fascinating stories about prior tenants at The Stage restaurant's address. Perhaps we could call for the return of the Woman's Medical College?

marlow said...

Wow! So surprising to hear this; thank you for providing this rich archival history. Sort of like Rome, Paris, London, etc., where anywhere you dig there, you'll rediscover a bit of lost history; only here, the excavation of interesting places & persons is still above ground, but without archival data, it's forgotten. There should be a commemorative historical plaque attached to this building, & others like it, listing these fascinating facts.