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


Unknown said...

Going down?

Mitch said...

What's odd about those pictures is that the elevator interiors (apart from the sliding metal internal door) don't really look all that old. They don't seem of the vintage that would have required a manual elevator operator. What must have happened is that at some point in the last few decades the building renovated the elevators but decided not to fully automate them. I wonder why...

Tal Hartsfeld said...

I haven't seen elevator operators for YEARS myself.
I take it the lingering presence of manned elevators was an arbitrary "trademark" feature of this particular building.
Elevator operators in general have pretty much disappeared eons ago.

Brian said...

Keeping the manual elevators seems to be an unsustainable uneconomic anachronism.

Scout said...

Elevator operators? What about taxi dancers? Stenographers? Bowling alley pinsetters? Milkmen? And please don't forget the plight of the lamplighters.

Jonas E. Synthe said...

Scout, I get your point--being overly nostalgic leads one to overlook New York's ever-changing nature, which helps form the core of The City's character as much as its skyline or anything else; still, what's with all the contrarian comments frequently posted on here?

Whenever I seem to come across one of your responses, I'm surprised at the hostile tone.

Scout said...

Jonas E. Synthe wrote "Whenever I seem to come across one of your responses, I'm surprised at the hostile tone."

I can only say that we often see what we look for; ascribing tone to writing is a tricky business. My intention is merely to provide a wider perspective to what often seems to me to be a very narrow (limited?) point of view. Perhaps the aridity of the sense of humor used is not perceptible to all.

I enjoy Jeremiah's blog very much for what it is; sadly, though, it often seems to me to devolve into a mere litany of facile "Get Off My Lawn" complaining about any and all NYC change since the 90s. I would hope that a bit of gadflying might inspire him and others to explore more deeply the causes of and potential solutions to that which they deplore.

Jonas E. Synthe said...

I'm certainly for inspiring action, and totally understand the impulse to provide a different point of view.

However, mourning the extinct and endangered aspects of The City is as central to the focus of this blog as NYC itself, hence the "Vanishing" in the title. Lamenting the nostalgic sentiment as 'narrow' is as constructive a critique as decrying the blog for not posting about Toronto.

My apologies if I sound overly critical and I'm not trying to be a dick, it's just that I'm sure most readers that frequent the site do so in search of a bit of nostalgia.

Scout said...

I'm sure you're right when you say "most readers that frequent the site do so in search of a bit of nostalgia." Do you mean, though, that disagreement/opposing points of view should not be allowed? I certainly hope you're not one of those defensive folks who say "I don't object to what you say, I object to your tone." Because we all really know that's code for "I can't stand to be disagreed with."

All that aside, here are a few examples of how I see the blog as sometimes going overboard in a negative, reductive, and uninformed way;
1) Decrying the closing of a bookstore because the owners want to retire, and saying "New York, you're breaking my heart," as if the city has somehow evilly forced the closure.
2) Bemoaning the closure of Kim's Video on St. Mark's with no mention that a) it's just a chain store (albeit relatively small), or b) it took the place of St. Mark's Baths, an institution of great cultural significance to NYC's gay culture, closed in 1985 by Koch. of course, Jeremiah came to NYC in the mid-90s, and like almost everyone, THAT (when he arrived here) was when New York was at its best, and everything since has been decay. People who arrived in the 50s, 60s, 70s, etc., all say the same thing. Edith Wharton was saying it in the early 20th century.

I know all disagreement, in these Millennial days, is seen as a personal affront of the highest order; but I came of age in a day when debate was respected. I do not disagree merely to be disagreeable. Instead, I see it as offering additional facets to the diamond, facets that have been heretofore overlooked. Instead of reacting defensively, respond in kind; if you have information to the contrary, share it. I'll read and consider. But feelings hurt by disagreement are a hindrance to civil discussion.

Jonas E. Synthe said...

I have no objection to opposing viewpoints nor disagree with any of the positions you put forth (and certainly do not suffer any feelings hurt), but I do think you may have missed my point: on a blog dedicated to the documentation and discussion of 'Vanishing New York,' it is somewhat futile to respond critically by drawing attention to the fact that things change with time.

I don't much see the merit in going to a blog dedicated to classic rock to comment that the genre has experienced many evolutions over the years, so quit looking back to an earlier era to celebrate.

The "facets" you feel obligated to note may not always be explicitly mentioned, but that's because they're largely irrelevant rather than "overlooked."

One can still be sad about a bookstore's closing in spite of the reason being retirement rather than rent hike; Kim's may have been a part of a chain and inhabitated the former space of the baths, but it also became part of the fabric of the neighborhood identity and it's fine if one liked the East Village with Kim's rather than without. Et cetera...

Scout said...

I think we've reached an endpoint; clearly what you see as "irrelevant," I see as an intrinsically important part of the big picture. And I think it's highly likely that these two opposing viewpoints will never come together.

But then, I've never been one for a homogeneous conversation, where only agreement and arbitrarily determined "relevant" comments are approved. That is the way that the standard millennial blog is run, it seems, with any kind of dissent dismissed as "trolling." It's certainly an attitude that helps people avoid thinking about anything they don't want to think about, which (we hear) is the ultimate millennial goal.