Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rodeo Sign

After nearly 30 years in business, Rodeo Bar closed in 2014 due to rising rents and encroaching chain stores.

This summer, Kips Bay Corner reported that the Gem Saloon would be moving in, a bar and restaurant by the owner of Phebe's and Penny Farthing. They're doing a "complete makeover."

So, as of today, there's goes the old neon sign.

Heidi MacDonald, via her Instagram

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gleason's Gym

Gleason's Boxing Gym, in DUMBO before it was fashionably DUMBO, moved locations yesterday.

It hasn't gone far, just around the corner. But the gritty old joint is packed up and gone, and the new place is shiny and, well, new. As Alex Vadukul wrote in the Times last week, "the relocation leaves behind an era’s worth of sweat and grime that has accumulated in this temple to the sweet science."

Jared Goldstein

Jared "The NYC Tour Guide" Goldstein shared a few photos of Gleason's last day in the old spot, just as it was being dismantled.

Jared Goldstein

I can't say I've ever been a boxer, but I went now and then to Gleason's twenty years ago, just to be in its atmosphere. I remember walking there through a Brooklyn waterfront wasteland, smoking a cigarette while standing in some yellow weeds full of trash.

I was heavy into Joyce Carol Oates' "On Boxing," which I recommend, if you want to read something beautiful about the brutal sport. At the time, it was all poetry to me.

I'd go to places to watch bouts in dumpy joints where you sat in metal folding chairs, so close you could see the sweat spray off the boxers' bodies on impact.

At Gleason's, I'd just hang around to watch the fighters practice. I tied a few loose laces on their gloves. That's all. It was a moment, a long time ago, when I wanted to be close to something I couldn't quite name.

Jared Goldstein

That dumpy old DUMBO is gone. And so is that old Gleason's. The last time I went, in 2008, it all felt changed.


Born in the Bronx in 1937, moved to Brooklyn in 1984, Gleason's still survives. And that's more than you can say for many real New York places.


They posted shots of the new gym on their Twitter feed. Same color scheme, just shinier. It probably smells like fresh paint and off-gassing vinyl.

Let the sweat and grime begin.

Gleason's Twitter

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Lyric to Tivoli

Reader Pat lets us know:

"a new diner finally replaced the old Lyric," in Gramercy. "Don't know much else, I only used to get breakfast in the Lyric, so not sure how the prices compare. Anyway, it is a diner, the new Tivoli."

The Lyric vanished, then returned, then vanished again last spring. This summer, DNA reported that Gus Kassimis, owner of the Gemini Diner on East 35th, planned to open the Tivoli. He calls it a "traditional diner with newer flair." Score one for Greek diners. And just in time, too.

Yesterday, George Blecher at the Times published an evocative piece about the city's vanishing diner culture:

"Losing New York diner culture would probably be a watershed in the city’s history. How will New Yorkers get along without these antidotes to urban loneliness?"

“The coffee shop orients us here, in this city and not another,” Jeremiah Moss, of the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, said. “If we are regulars, we become known, connected, to a network of people who remain over the span of years, even decades. In the anonymous city, these ties can be lifesavers, especially for the elderly, the poor, the marginal, but also for all of us. Without them, the city becomes evermore fragmented, disorienting and unrecognizable.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bricken Arcade Elevators & Operators

Like many of the lobbies and entrances of our old buildings, the Garment District's Bricken Arcade Building is getting a glossy contemporary makeover. Reader Leah Mulartrick wrote in to let us know:

"I am sorry to report that the elevators were replaced in the Bricken Arcade building where Mood Fabrics is at 225 west 37th. The elevators were beautiful and old and had operators. Much to my dismay, I went to Mood Fabrics the other day and the elevators were replaced with generic silver boxes."

BEFORE. Source: 42 floors

What a difference it makes.

I have not been to the Bricken Arcade, haven't visited Mood Fabrics nor taken a ride in the elevators. But it's clear from the photos that something warm and humane has been taken away.

AFTER. Photo: Leah Mulartrick

And what happened to the elevator operators? A number of Mood's customers have posted photos of them online. One called the men "chivalrous."

Leah recalls, "I would exchange pleasantries and request my floor. Then they would pull the lever and off we would go. It was the same operators for years."

Source: NBC

Source: Rita's Sew Fun

Source: Blog for Better Sewing

Sadly, elevator operators, like general warmth and humanity, are vanishing fast all across the city.

Source: Lola-N, flickr

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Silk Clock Returns

A reader writes in to let us know that the Schwarzenbach Silk Clock has been returned to 470 Park Avenue South.

New location--unfortunately shared with a Capital One sign

In the spring of 2014 we heard the clock had been removed during an upscale renovation of the building, and that it might never be returned to the exterior where it has been enjoyed by the public since 1926.

When we checked in this past spring, the clock had still not returned. Alfred Schwarzenbach's granddaughter wrote in, expressing her dismay. Finally, we heard from TIAA-CREF, who runs the building, that the clock would be restored and returned.

Our tipster adds: "The new clock location is at the northeast corner of the building (or the southwest corner of Park and 32nd). I heard it took 8 hours to reinstall--and the clock mechanism isn't working yet."

So the question remains: Will the clock still function? Save America's Clocks called it "One of three mechanical clocks in Manhattan." Will it still be mechanical and run "the old-fashioned way with a weight-driven pendulum movement"?

Time will tell.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lenox Lounge to...Sephora?

This morning I shared the news that the Lenox Lounge might be demolished completely. Now Harlem Bespoke offers the architect's rendering of what's to come (thanks Andrew)--and it's horrifying:

Horrifying. Right down to the architect's choice to depict Harlemites as rich Anglo-Saxon conquerors with cell phones, shopping bags--and formal wear.

Lenox Lounge Demolition

Is it possible that the former Lenox Lounge will be completely demolished? *UPDATE: Yes--and here's what's coming.

New York Yimby notes: "An anonymous Midtown East-based LLC has filed applications for a four-story, 18,987-square-foot commercial building at 286 Lenox Avenue."

So, either two stories will be added to the existing building, or the whole thing will be torn down and replaced.

The Lenox Lounge closed on New Year's Eve 2013 after 73 years in Harlem. The landlord had doubled the rent from $10,000 to $20,000 and handed the lease to Richie Notar, the jet-setting entrepreneur behind the Nobu luxury restaurant chain. "I don’t want to change a thing about how it looks," Notar told the Daily News, adding that his renamed Notar Jazz Club would be "not too much different than what it is now."

But lounge owner Alvin Reed stripped the vintage facade before he left, rather than have its history co-opted. Someone spray-painted "1939 - 2012: 80 YEARS FOR THIS” across the plywood that covered the door.

The landlord sued Reed for stripping the place. Notar backed out of the deal, telling the Daily News, "the scope of the project (mostly the overall condition of the building) became bigger than anticipated."

The Lenox Lounge was left to rot.

"R.I.P. Lenox Lounge"

Meanwhile, across the street, a giant glass box has risen, infesting 125th Street with more chains, including one infamous for its power to give hyper-gentrification a shot in the arm: Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods Effect is powerful. The creators of real estate site Zillow revealed how Whole Foods moves in to neighborhoods where home values are rising more slowly than the rest of the city. “But as soon as the Whole Foods opened its doors,” they wrote, “these nearby homes’ values took off,” increasing at twice the speed of other properties. In the Post in 2016, one real estate broker reported that Harlem landlords were planning to raise rents as soon as the supermarket opened.

Already, the Lenox Lounge landlord has doubled the rent--again--to $40,000 per month. And now, it's possible that every last trace of the grand old Lenox will be vanished.

Across from Lenox Lounge

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Spinning Alamo

This morning, the Astor Place cube is finally spinning again.

No lights. No motors. No bells and whistles. Just, at this moment, a lady in a red beret--pushing with all her might.

Three Lives & Co. Gets Another Life

Some good fucking news for a change! I got this email last night from Toby Cox, owner of Three Lives & Co. bookshop. Their building sold to a luxury developer last month and many of us were in a state of panic about their fate.

Dear Three Lives & Company Customers,

We have wonderful news to share with you – we are here to stay!

As most of you know our building recently sold and after a tenuous month-to-month situation since January we have now completed negotiations on a new lease with the new owners. I have put signature to paper. We are delighted with the cooperation we have had with the new owners, grateful for the opportunity to work out a new lease to remain in our home of thirty-three years, and we thank them for their commitment to keep Three Lives & Company in the West Village.

I would also like to thank our customers for the incredible support and amazing outpouring of appreciation we have received these recent months. Through all this uncertainty, hearing your great many well-wishes and knowing that we have so many people supporting the survival of the bookshop has made the process much easier. Your passion for Three Lives & Company is why we do what we do.

As I mentioned in our letter from June, the bookshop is doing well, on solid ground despite some tough challenges over the years, from online shopping and the proliferation of e-books to the recession of 2008. Despite these difficulties we have strived to stay true to the principles our founders stated years and years ago: maintaining a bookshop dedicated to bringing the best books to the attention of our customers, offering an interesting and eclectic selection, and artistically arranging it all in the incredible space created by Jill, Jenny and Helene when they moved to the corner of West Tenth and Waverly in 1983.

I am also deeply grateful for and incredibly proud of a staff that so ably attends to the needs of our customers and delights in sharing their passion for reading and recommending favorite books. Together we have over 85 years of bookselling experience and many more years of avid reading to share with our customers.

We look forward to serving as your bookseller for the years ahead. While we are a business that depends on the support of its customers for its success, we truly think of our shop simply as a member of the community, a thread in the warp and woof of our West Village neighborhood and of greater New York. Three Lives, as always, remains a space for conversations around the book, for enthusing over the joys of reading, and for the spontaneous and unscripted interaction among fellow customers that take place every day.

It has been a long road for us all, my staff, our customers, the community, but we can now celebrate Three Lives & Company remaining in place. Please stop by and join in on our revelry. And, as always, let’s talk books; this fall is a glorious feast of wonderful new titles.

Toby Cox

Monday, November 14, 2016

El Paraiso


The last Chino-Latino restaurant in Chelsea has been seized and shuttered.

El Paraiso opened on West 14th Street in 2012, replacing El Nueva Rampa, which closed in 2011.

These establishments began opening in the 1960s, when many of Cuba's Chinese population fled from Castro. Diners' favorites included La Chinita Linda and Sam's Chinita. Both are gone. And then there was La Taza de Oro, which closed in 2015 after 68 years in business.

In the window of El Paraiso is a "Marshal's Legal Possession" notice dated from September. So I guess it's been empty since then. Unless someone does with El Paraiso what it did with El Nueva Rampa, that--I'm pretty sure--is the end of the Chino-Latino tradition in Chelsea.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Refinery

Last week, Curbed shared photos from the marketing materials for the new luxury development of the former Domino Sugar refinery. The place is now being called "The Refinery." Because, yes, that's what the building was, but also--obviously--because that's what the developers (and City Hall) want the luxury development to do.

It will help to refine the neighborhood.

What do refineries do? They cleanse. They purify. Sugar refineries, in particular, take darker materials and turn them white. That is also being done--has been done--to Williamsburg and to much of Brooklyn and the city.

New York is becoming exponentially whiter every day, thanks to hyper-gentrification. The process acts as one big refinery, a factory for smoothing and bleaching.

Mayor de Blasio appears to be all for this. Or else he's been brainwashed by the neoliberal free-marketeer myth that luxury development is inevitable. (It is not.) He recently told Crain's NYC Summit conference that the "only way" to create an inclusive city "is through development."

He could not be more wrong. Development excludes. Development whitens. Development segregates.

The designers who created The Refinery's renderings know this. Look at the people in the images. What do you see?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

San Loco Struggles

Jill Hing's brothers opened the San Loco taco joint in the East Village in 1986. A year later, Jill followed her brothers, moving to New York City from rural Nebraska. She soon joined the business. San Loco has been a Lower East Side staple ever since. On a personal note, I've been living off their tacos for half my life.

Recently, Jill got in touch to talk about the struggles of running a small business in the city today. "We have been feeling unbelievable pressure caused by the increased cost of doing business for quite a few years now," she wrote. "At this point, we are not sure how much longer we can hang on."

I asked Jill a few questions about San Loco's struggles in a rigged system where small businesses get the shaft--while big national chains get preferential rents from landlords, higher property values from banks, and corporate welfare from City Hall.

Q: What's been the biggest struggle to San Loco's survival these days?

A: There are many factors that contribute to our struggle to survive--and the noose definitely keeps tightening. Our customer base has been mostly squeezed out of this neighborhood as a consequence of hyper-gentrification. Rent is a constant source of stress. In our case, as with many long-standing businesses, we are at the mercy of the landlord and live in fear of our next rent renewal.

They can raise your rent exponentially to just force you out, or they can charge you above market because they know moving is not a viable option. For example, one of our location's lease is up in the spring, we have been tenants there for 20 years, but still they are asking about 15-20% above the comps around us because they know moving is expensive, disruptive, and can cost us our liquor license (although San Loco obtained the liquor license it stays with the address). And regardless of our good standing with the community board, we could be denied a new license, or most likely, be given one with limitations. There are moratoriums on most blocks now because of the over saturation of restaurants/bars in the neighborhood.

It makes me furious that landlords are able to manipulate the market and falsely inflate property values this way. Once we even had a landlord ask for a percentage of our revenue as part of our lease.

The other contributing factor is that the increased cost of doing business has gone through the roof. Some costs: Seamless has cornered the market with on-line ordering and they keep raising their percentage, they take 17-20% now, which is higher than our profit margin. Our blue collar lunch crowd dwindled when the cost of parking more than tripled. Our purveyor costs went up when parking tickets more than doubled. Yelp touts themselves as unbiased, but they aggressively try to force you to “advertise” with them, which includes manipulating reviews (good ones come to the top, bad ones go to the bottom).

Q: How has that changed in recent years?

A: While many of our old-school customers have moved out, the ones that remain are loyal to the death. We love them and are so grateful for their loyalty, but we also want to appeal to the new influx of people in the neighborhood. Because we are inexpensive, we have always been reliant on volume.

I’ve noticed that going out to dinner doesn’t really happen organically anymore, nobody just walks into a place to check it out and try it for themselves, they have to google it first to be told what to expect and if they’re going to like it. The nightlife has definitely changed as well. Our neighborhood has more professionals and students now. People aren’t out roaming the streets and leaving shows at 3 a.m. anymore.

Q: Did it used to be easier to run a small business in the city--and why?

A: Much easier. The regulations and restrictions end up costing so much money that it's almost cost prohibitive to open a business for people like us. Little hole in the wall places could open and survive in years past because the cost of doing business wasn’t so crushing, and getting started wasn’t so daunting. You could just work hard and go for it.

Q: How do you think the increase in chain stores has affected your business?

A: People seem to want to know what to expect, they aren’t looking for a surprise or an adventure, and they don’t want to be part of your weird world, they are looking for sameness. New York has lost so much of its character, it seems that we have sold our soul to the highest bidder (I think largely due to Bloomberg), and it makes me sad to say, but I think NYC has lost the plot.

Go eat some San Loco tacos--and save our small businesses by supporting the mission of #SaveNYC. Take one small action today. We made it easy for you. Just click here.