Monday, October 22, 2018

Rally & Public Hearing for SBJSA

Today's the day. Right now, we've got one weapon to fight the vanishing of New York and it's the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA). If you've been following this blog, you know we've been fighting for this for years. Today, come to the rally and open public hearing at City Hall and let the City Council know: Enough is enough. Pass the SBJSA.

12:00 Rally & Press Conference
1:00 Public Hearing
New York City Hall


View the Facebook invites here and here.

The SBJSA could have saved: The Lenox Lounge, Florent, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, Big Nick's, Avignone pharmacy, St. Marks Bookshop, Colony Records, Bleecker Bob's, 8th Street Gray's Papaya, Bill's Gay 90s, The Stage Deli, Rocco's Ristorante, and so many more. But there's much left to save.

If you can't be there today, here's what you can do:

1. Write and/or call your local Councilmembers--your messages go into the record--and tell them to pass the SBJSA:
- Fill out this easy-to-use form to email the City Council
- Or find your individual Councilmembers here and contact them directly
- Councilmember Mark Gjonaj is Chair of the Council's Small Business Committee--write or call him, too. You can also contact the members of that committee: Diana Ayala, Stephen T. Levin, Bill Perkins, and Carlina Rivera.
- Find them on Twitter and tweet your request: Pass the #SBJSA

2. Write and/or call the Council Speaker Corey Johnson and tell him to pass the SBJSA:
- Fill out this simple form, already written for you
- Or you can call or write to him directly here
- Tweet him @CoreyinNYC

3. Spread the word:
- Share this blog post on your social media
- Inform your local businesspeople that this hearing is happening and encourage them to show up. Tell your bodega people, your barber, your therapist, your dentist, your bartender, the people who fix your shoes and do your laundry, the folks who serve your lunch and pour your coffee. Tell them all that there is a solution, there is a protection, and we all can make it happen.
- Print out and share this flyer, available in English and Spanish

- If you are not a New Yorker, you can still write and call the City Council and the Speaker. Tell them you don't want to bring your tourist dollars to a city that's full of nothing but chain stores and luxury glass towers. Tell them to pass the SBJSA.




About the SBJSA:
Legally vetted and deemed fully constitutional, the SBJSA gives existing commercial tenants a few basic rights, including: 1. the right to renew the lease, 2. a minimum 10-year extension, and 3. equal rights to negotiate a fair rent, with third-party arbitration if an agreement between tenant and landlord cannot be reached. In that case, the arbitrator may determine a reasonable increase, a decision based on multiple factors, including current fair market rates for similar properties.

-Read more about the SBJSA here and here and here.
-View the 10/22 meeting details and agenda here.

If you've been complaining about the vanishing of New York, now is your chance to change things for the better. At this point, you really have no excuse. If you do nothing, then quit complaining.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Coffee Shop to Chase Bank

A tipster friend tells us that the famous and just-shuttered Coffee Shop on Union Square is rumored to become yet another Chase Bank.



He attended the post-closing auction this week and chatted with insiders there. They told him: 1. The space is going to Chase, 2. The rent was hiked to $3 million annually, and 3. Chase might be keeping the antique neon sign and re-doing the letters so it spells out CHASE instead of COFFEE SHOP.

None of this is confirmed for sure, but if the sign switcheroo happens, it would be yet another example of New York City soul snatching, a.k.a. authentrification. (See also: Village Den, Rocco's, Bill's Gay 90s, and too many more to list.)



Ironically, the original coffee shop here before Coffee Shop was called Chase--possibly Jack Chase in the 1950s. The name is still in the floor of the doorway.

In the 1980s, it was Jason's Restaurant.


photo by Karen Gehres, via Flaming Pablum


Tax photograph

Now it's empty, the pots and pans auctioned off, the lamps and decorations removed.

It's time to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and protect places like Coffee Shop from becoming more banks (and Starbucks, and Targets, and pricey boutiques). Go to the public hearing on Monday, October 22. Speak your mind. If that's not possible, here are more easy, quick ways you can make a difference today. The future of this city depends on you.







Monday, October 15, 2018

The Trouble with "Shop Local"

As we near the October 22 public hearing for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, I want to think critically about the use of the phrase "Shop Local."

First, let me be clear, I am not critiquing the act of shopping locally, which is important and necessary. I am critiquing the use of the injunction "Shop Local" by city leaders, which I believe is sometimes weaponized against the real possibility of systemic change to help save small, local businesses in the city.

It is, quite simply, a way to deflect blame from the system and onto the individual, stopping progressive change in its tracks.



I was struck this summer by the appearance of this deflection at a town hall meeting with Mayor de Blasio and City Council Member Helen Rosenthal on the Upper West Side.

When an audience member asked what can be done to stop New York's mom and pops from vanishing, the mayor said that, while he supports a vacancy tax to stop landlords from leaving storefronts empty, "We don't have...good tools to protect small business in a free-market system... But there's a citizen piece of this, too, and I don't mean to minimize the problem, but people need to go to those stores and patronize those stores."

To this, the audience member responded off mic, possibly saying, "They do," to which the mayor replied, "They do and they don't. My experience is...a lot of people who value those stores could also be part of the solution by going to them more often."

Helen Rosenthal concluded, "Mr. Mayor, I'm with you. We all need to step up and shop local. It's very frustrating."

Again, shopping local is necessary, we all can do it more, but it won't solve the main problem. And when we hear it in response to the question "what can be done?" we are often in the grip of neoliberal ideology. Sometimes, the people saying it don't even know they're part of that ideology. For decades, it has been the air we breathe. We have all become, to some extent, brainwashed by it.

Many of us say to each other, "If only we shopped there more often." On this blog, commenters inevitably accuse, "When was the last time you shopped there?" As if we are the main problem and not the landlords who quadruple the rent or refuse a new lease.



Neoliberalism, in short, is a free-market capitalist ideology and approach to governance that uses the policies of privatization, deregulation, and fiscal austerity, redistributing wealth and other resources from the lower, working, and middle classes to the wealthy.

It's not new and it's not liberal.

It began in the U.S. in the late 1970s, kicked off as a response to New York City's fiscal crisis, and went global under Ronald Reagan (trickle-down economics) and Margaret Thatcher. Whenever you hear "it's the free market," you're hearing the voice of neoliberalism. It is the reason for the 1% and why we have such massive income inequality.

It is also the way New York City has been governed since about 1979. It's why we have gentrification as public policy, with tax breaks and incentives going to big real-estate developers and corporations, private parks, etc., while our public resources suffer. In this system, celebrated by former Mayor Bloomberg, the city is run like a corporation and its citizens are consumers.

This brings us to the "neoliberal individual."



In the neoliberal worldview, there's a philosophical shift from state responsibility to individual responsibility. Now, there's nothing wrong with individuals being responsible for each other and their own actions. But when we're talking on the level of systems of power and governance, it's another thing altogether.

From the point of view of the neoliberal individual, if climate change is causing death and destruction, well, it's your fault for not recycling plastic bags, and don't blame the deregulation of polluting industries (read this). If you're a woman and you're sexually harassed in the workplace, it's your fault for not reporting it, and don't look to the system of patriarchy. And if small businesses are shuttering by the dozens, it's your fault, New Yorker, for not shopping local enough, and don't dare blame the big real estate machine that is supported by our neoliberal state and city government.

In short, the problem lies with you, the individual. If we hear this enough, we might become convinced that the problems of society are all our fault. If only we were better. If only we tried harder.

That idea is toxic enough, but it goes further.



If the problem lies with individuals then there's no point in trying to change the system. The system is blameless! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

This is a clever way to make us feel guilty and hopeless, and thus to render us passive. It makes us squander our power as citizens and give up on democracy. Don't fall for it.

In so many cases, small businesses are not closing because we didn't shop enough. In over a decade of writing this blog, I have walked the streets of this city talking with countless small business people. Over and over, they have told me that the number one force shutting them down is a landlord who demands a high rent increase or who refuses to renew a lease. Thriving, beloved, successful businesses that were staples of their communities for 20, 40, 80 years are pushed out by rents that double, triple, quadruple, and more.

No amount of "shop local" is going to fix that.

We need systemic change from the top. The first step? Pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. It's getting a public hearing on October 22. So act like a citizen. Show up and speak your mind. Click here for a list of easy, quick things you can do to tell the City Council you want this bill.




Sunday, October 14, 2018

McNally Jackson Bookstore

As we heard from Bowery Boogie earlier this week, the successful and beloved McNally Jackson bookstore on Prince Street in Soho is being forced to move. Why? The landlord wants “an enormous amount of rent,” Sarah McNally told AMNY.

McNally added that she has "a contract on one space and has also identified another as a backup. She’s not announcing the final destination yet but it will be in Manhattan close to the original store."

This is good news--but for how long?



For over a decade of talking to countless small businesspeople pushed out by landlords who hiked the rent or denied lease renewals, I have found that many fail to relocate. Of those that do, many end up closing soon after. What's missing? Long leases. It was once customary for a small business to get a ten-year lease. Today, you're lucky if you get two years. And then it can happen all over again.

In addition, the bookstore-killing Amazon has opened a brick-and-mortar location in Soho--right around the corner from McNally Jackson, at 72 Spring St., just one block away. That's probably not a coincidence. McNally Jackson is successful and big retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot are known to open close to successful smaller competitors to suck their customers away.

So while we're breathing a sigh of relief to hear that McNally's not going far right now, we still need to take action to protect it--and other small businesses--in the future. That's why we need to convince the City Council to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. It would guarantee a 10-year lease and a fair rent increase to McNally Jackson and countless others.

There's a public hearing on October 22. Go and speak your mind. If that's not possible, here are more easy, quick ways you can make a difference today. The future of this city depends on you.

P.S. The building that houses McNally Jackson used to have a grocery store, Little Italy’s only supermarket and a neighborhood staple for 25 years. It was forced to close in 2016 -- the Voice reported that rent was $90,000 and the landlord was likely looking for $150,000 to open “a more upscale operation.” That space is still sitting empty, another example of high-rent blight.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Pass the SBJSA

The Cafe Edison could have been saved. CBGBs could have been saved. Lincoln Plaza Cinemas could have been saved. Your favorite restaurant, bar, and bookshop is next--if you don't do something right now.

At long last, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act is getting a hearing. This is the moment we've all been waiting for. It's time to stop complaining and do something.


photo by EJ Berry


What you can do from now until the hearing on October 22:

1. Write and/or call your local Councilmembers--your messages go into the record--and tell them to pass the SBJSA:
- Fill out this easy-to-use form to email the City Council
- Or find your individual Councilmembers here and contact them directly
- Councilmember Mark Gjonaj is Chair of the Council's Small Business Committee--write or call him, too. You can also contact the members of that committee: Diana Ayala, Stephen T. Levin, Bill Perkins, and Carlina Rivera.
- Find them on Twitter and tweet your request: Pass the #SBJSA

2. Write and/or call the Council Speaker Corey Johnson and tell him to pass the SBJSA:
- Fill out this simple form, already written for you
- Or you can call or write to him directly here
- Tweet him @CoreyinNYC

3. Show up on October 22:
- At 12:00 noon, there's a rally on the steps of New York City Hall. Be there and make some noise.
- At 1:00, the public hearing begins.
- Be present! Exercise your right as a citizen of this democracy. Lots of big, powerful people will be there to argue against the SBJSA. Come raise your voice in support of this bill.

4. Spread the word:
- Share this blog post on your social media--and not just once, share it multiple times between now and 10/22
-  Bring your friends and family to the rally and hearing
- Inform your local businesspeople that this hearing is happening and encourage them to show up. Tell your bodega people, your barber, your therapist, your dentist, your bartender, the people who fix your shoes and do your laundry, the folks who serve your lunch and pour your coffee. Tell them all that there is a solution, there is a protection, and we all can make it happen. Offer to bring them to the hearing with you!
- Print out and share this flyer, available in English and Spanish

- If you are not a New Yorker, you can still write and call the City Council and the Speaker. Tell them you don't want to bring your tourist dollars to a city that's full of nothing but chain stores and luxury glass towers. Tell them to pass the SBJSA.




About the SBJSA:
Legally vetted and deemed fully constitutional, the SBJSA gives existing commercial tenants a few basic rights, including: 1. the right to renew the lease, 2. a minimum 10-year extension, and 3. equal rights to negotiate a fair rent, with third-party arbitration if an agreement between tenant and landlord cannot be reached. In that case, the arbitrator may determine a reasonable increase, a decision based on multiple factors, including current fair market rates for similar properties.

-Read more about the SBJSA here and here and here.
-View the 10/22 meeting details and agenda here.

If you've been complaining about the vanishing of New York, now is your chance to change things for the better. At this point, you really have no excuse. If you do nothing, then quit complaining.



Speaker Corey Johson Pledging Support for Small Businesses (WNYC Brian Lehrer) from Wheelhouse Communications on Vimeo.



New York From Behind

If you enjoy New York street photography and the unique character of this city, there's an Instagram page you should check out. New York from Behind is the creation of Bryn and Justin. I asked them a few questions about their project.

What is New York From Behind?

New York from Behind is a concept we created just by being citizens of this city. New Yorkers have a lot to offer visually and so often the most interesting thing is the person right in front of you. Usually the front of someone’s outfit is what’s most interesting. We notice every day that the reverse is not true. Since so much of fashion is forward focused, it sometimes proves hard for us to find interesting content. So the fun for us is to catch people who do something different and make their canvas their backs as well as their fronts.


all photos via New York from Behind

How'd you get started?

We’re two good friends who first got started by taking pictures around the city and sharing them with our friends and each other. Eventually, we started the page as a place to more easily share photos of people who were doing fashionable, interesting, and funny things on their backs. People started following the page. As a born East Villager and a young curmudgeon, we have a sense of NYC history and it’s fun to find the colorful people of the past, who are increasingly hard to find in generic New York.



Do you go out hunting for behinds, or just snap them as they come?

Usually our daily commute offers enough content, especially if you hit 14th street, Soho, Union Square, Washington Square, the West/East Village, and Chelsea. There are always events around the city and holidays that we can count on for good “behinds.”





What trends have you noticed?

When we started in 2016, few people had messages on their backs and most of the ones who did seemed handmade. Now so many retailers are selling clothes with words written across the back and it’s spread from high fashion, where it started, to mass retail.

The other trend we’ve noticed is that patterns on clothing were always forward focused. You’d see the person approaching and while their front is highly embellished, the back is solid. Lately we’ve seen more of designs continuing on to the back as well.



A lot of the behinds seem to be messages. Thinking over all the behinds you've captured, what are people trying to say?

From “never settle for less than your best” to “live fast eat ass” a lot of them are messages to onlookers — words of advice, lessons learned the hard way, or generalized warnings of toughness. And those are just the ones with words that makes sense.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Taking of Bleecker: 1, 2, 3

The western end of Bleecker Street has gone through three major upheavals since the 2000s began.

1. Skyrocketing rents and non-renewal of leases on mom-and-pop shops created the luxury chain takeover, starting in 2001 with Marc Jacobs. Those blocks went from quaint and local to high-end suburban mall in just five years.

2. It took another five to die, as those big chains departed, emptying the storefronts and leaving the street in a state of high-rent blight.

3. Recently we heard that mega-developer Brookfield Properties would take over, spending approximately $31.5 million for several retail condos to convert them into a concept, a curated consumer experience, “with Brookfield orchestrating…rather than allowing each individual shop to pursue its own agenda,” reported New York magazine. “Let’s look at this as if it’s a mall,” said Brookfield’s head of retail leasing, “even though it’s not.”

Now we know what that looks like.



WWD reports on the program to curate the street. It's called "Love, Bleecker" and it has a creative director, fashion designer Prabal Gurung. There will be a leather "concept store" called Slightly Alabama, a florist/plant-based food shop, and a gallery space with prisms, among other "disruptive" and "innovative" and "creative" businesses.

Writes WWD, "Brookfield considers Bleecker to be a new kind of retail activation and platform for growing online digital native brands that may eventually populate its other properties." (And here I thought it was a neighborhood.) "We'll incubate them here and see them thrive and grow," says Sara Fay, VP of Marketing at Brookfield.

Brookfield, according to WWD, "plumbed Bleecker Street's history as a magnet for jazz and folk music and stomping ground for Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac."

Incubation, artwashing, and the co-opting of the neighborhood's counter-cultural history? Sounds like more invasion of the body snatchers.

The project kicked off yesterday. Do not miss the website.





Thursday, September 20, 2018

#SaveNYC Happy Hour

Sick of watching the small businesses in your neighborhood vanish? Here's your chance to do something about it. Come to the #SaveNYC Happy Hour:

- Wednesday, October 3, from 7:00 - 9:00PM
- Dream Baby Cocktail Bar, 162 - 164 Avenue B, NYC: Extended happy hour for #SaveNYC = $4 for beer and well drinks, $2 off everything else.
- View Facebook invite here

At long last, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act is getting a hearing. Come celebrate, meet and mingle, and strategize next steps for this important event and beyond.

Jeremiah Moss and others will be speaking on the importance of this historic bill. David Eisenbach, the anti-REBNY candidate for Public Advocate, will talk about his work and what we can do to get ready for the public hearing later in October.


Speaker Corey Johson Pledging Support for Small Businesses (WNYC Brian Lehrer) from Wheelhouse Communications on Vimeo.

Monday, September 17, 2018

St. Denis Coming Down

Earlier this year I wrote in detail about the death of the great St. Denis building on 11th and Broadway, a building that should have been landmarked but wasn't, a building full of vital history -- from Alexander Graham Bell to Ulysses S. Grant, Susan B. Anthony, and a whole lot of Socialists, radicals, artists, and psychotherapists.

The building was bought by Normandy Partners in 2016 and all of the tenants were removed--hundreds of small businesspeople, myself included, put out. Today, the empty building is being prepped for demolition.



Crain's reported last week that Columbia Property Trust is "paying more than $70 million...to purchase a roughly 50% stake" in the property with co-owner Normandy Real Estate Partners.

The plan is to tear down the St. Denis and replace it with a glass box, "182,000 square feet of boutique office space for New York’s most progressive and creative companies," according to the press release -- which calls this neighborhood below Union Square: "Midtown South."

Of course, the St. Denis was already filled with hundreds of truly progressive and creative businesses, but we weren't the right sort of commodities.



Last week, the awning over the entrance was stripped away, along with a pair of antique lamps.

The asbestos abatement notices have been posted and the asbestos dumpster has arrived, a typical precursor to the wrecking machines.



Back to that press release:

"The new 12-story, loft-style building will comprise 182,000 square feet of boutique office space and will provide a dramatic complement to this quintessential New York neighborhood. With floor plates ranging from 3,600 to 22,000 square feet, 799 Broadway will feature floor-to-ceiling glass, private terraces, and 15 foot high ceilings. This combination of highly desirable location and state-of-the-art design will appeal to New York’s most progressive and creative companies.

'We are seeking selective development opportunities in our target markets to provide value and growth to our high-quality, well-leased portfolio,' said Nelson Mills, chief executive officer of Columbia."


architect's rendering

When the St. Denis is felled, 165 years of real and rebellious history will be destroyed for this cold and soulless sarcophagus.

The Village will be much poorer for it.


architect's rendering

Post Script:

The above rendering shows the dead lobby to come. Here's what one frequent visitor to the St. Denis had to say about its lobby, which was often full of antiques from the first-floor business:

“I loved that every time I visited there were new objects in the lobby. They often seemed to reflect whatever mood I was in. Or they’d reflect the weather. I’d come in on a stormy day and the lobby would be full of dark paintings or bleak statues. On sunny days, there would be golden chaise lounges and chandeliers. There was this one chandelier, massive and dripping in crystals. It was there on a day when I felt really good and it was like the sun was on the inside of the building. This dazzling object.”

Read more about the St. Denis here.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Artwashing 14th and 8th

About a decade ago, I had a dream that the southeast corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue was being torn down to make room for WalMart. That didn't happen. At the time, I checked with one of the business owners (there was a popular Korean deli, a bodega, and a liquor store). He told me that the owner of the buildings had turned down offers of up to $45 million for the whole lot.



But then, last year, it all went.

We learned that a 10-story office tower is coming, designed by architect Gene Kaufman and developed by the Chun Woo Realty Corporation.

Chun Woo Realty Corp, DNA reported last year, "has owned the two properties for around three decades...noting that redevelopment was something they’d 'been contemplating for over a decade.'"

“We’re not developers who moved in and are pushing small businesses out. We’re actually the longtime permanent owners of the building, and it was actually our business,” the developer said of the deli. He didn't mention the other two businesses or any residents upstairs, or the impact this high-end office tower will have on the neighborhood.



In the meantime, until demolition, they're doing a little artwashing with Bombay Sapphire.



I walked by yesterday to find "Art in Progress" signs on the deli. Bombay Sapphire says, "Stir Creativity."

Security guards policed the installation of several canvases.



The booze corporation has a message for us:

"Creativity has no boundaries. It can flourish in art galleries, and it can thrive on the streets outside them. With Art in Progress, Bombay Sapphire is transforming the city's construction sites into open air art galleries to inspire New Yorkers' own creativity."

This is artwashing.

Defined by Feargus O'Sullivan, artwashing is a "profit-driven regeneration maneuver" in which "the work and presence of artists and creative workers is used to add a cursory sheen to a place's transformation.... It often happens...when developers spot areas that have attracted residents from creative industries, then earmark them as ripe for investment and remarketing to a new kind of customer."



Artwashing attracts hyper-gentrification and it is also public relations. And murky advertising. If you're looking at this and thinking it's an unmitigated good, well, they've got you right where they want you.

This is not spontaneous creativity. It's not bohemian aliveness in the Village. It's the spoonful of sugar that helps the poison go down.

This is a corporate-development collaboration that artists have agreed to participate in, though it would be better if they did a little more critical thinking about that participation.

It reminds me of when luxury neighbor, One Jackson Square, went up next door in 2007. The developers wrapped that site in billboards that capitalized on the creativity and bohemian history of the Village. "To this day," said the ad materials, "the birthplace of bohemian culture is still home to an eclectic mix of artists, iconoclasts and cognoscenti."

On the billboard, it read, "The Spirit of Greenwich Village Is Alive and Well."

Today, One Jackson Square is home to a Starbucks and a TD Bank.









Monday, September 10, 2018

2nd Ave Deli Sign

Now and then, the lost artifacts of vanished New York will resurface.

I heard from a painter who recently moved his studio into a former woodshop's space in the East Village. In the backyard, under piles of junk, he unearthed the double-sided neon sign of the old Second Avenue Deli.



Opened in 1954, the deli (and the sign) stood on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and East 10th Street until 2006, when it closed due to a rent dispute with the building's new owner.

Reported the Times, "Jack Lebewohl said he faced an increase in monthly rent to $33,000 from $24,000. The space also needed substantial renovations he was unwilling to invest in without a reasonable long-term lease. His landlord told The Times that Lebewohl owed $107,000 and that eviction proceedings had started. They settled for $75,000."

Comic Jackie Mason told the paper, "It's almost like wiping out Carnegie Hall. A sandwich to a Jew is just as important as a country to a Gentile."


photo by James & Karla Murray

A Chase bank moved into the space, installed just two blocks away from the next nearest Chase bank, and a block or two from several more banks.

As I wrote in my book, Vanishing New York, "Today, the Second Avenue Deli’s Yiddish Walk of Fame remains, out of context and rapidly fading. Carved in stone on the sidewalk are names from the days when this strip was the Jewish Broadway—Fyvush Finkel, Ida Kaminska, Lillian Lux, Ludwig Satz. The names are worn down, ignored and flattened by the crowds walking past, grabbing cash from the ATM before making a beeline for the next pitcher of beer and bucket of Buffalo hot wings...at one of the many laddish sports bars that have sprouted along the avenue."

A new Second Avenue Deli opened in Murray Hill, and then the Upper East Side, but the old signage did not go with them.

I came upon one, some years back, at the City Reliquary museum in Brooklyn.


at the City Reliquary

And now the other has been found and rescued. The painter who discovered it reached out to the Lebewohl family and they picked it up.

The painter says that Josh Lebewohl, grandson of deli founder Abe, was glad to get the sign back. "I think he's going to try and place it with the Jewish Museum," the painter told me, "or maybe the New York Historical Society or Museum of the City of New York."







Monday, August 27, 2018

Silver Spurs to Morgenstern's

The Silver Spurs coffee shop had been around since 1979. The last survivor shuttered on LaGuardia this past March. At the time, Kiki the manager told me their replacement would be an ice-cream place. “Expensive," she said.

Recently, Morgenstern's ice-cream shop papered the windows, announcing their arrival in the spot.



Important to note--they also announce they are "credit card only." No cash allowed. When you're forced to put a $4.50 ice-cream cone on credit, you know the dystopian future has already arrived.

They're not alone. Van Leeuwen ice cream is also no cash accepted. SweetGreen is another one (and they took the space of a great coffee shop on University Place). It's a growing, disturbing trend.



Cashless retail is discriminatory and exclusive. The Guardian recently reported that local government in Washington, DC, is trying to put a stop to it with The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018.

They wrote: "A report last year by the Washington City Paper found that 27% of people in the US would have trouble using only a credit card to purchase products, and that the percentage in Washington DC is even higher. 'I’m concerned with more and more restaurants, businesses and shops going cashless because you’re systematically excluding a group of people who are already disadvantaged and disenfranchised,' Linnea Lassiter, an analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, told the paper. 'And now they can’t have access to this restaurant?'"

One good thing about all those vanishing coffee shops like Silver Spurs? They took our cash.





Den Re-Done

The Village Den was a comfortable, accessible diner in Greenwich Village for 36 years. It shuttered this past May.

A sign went up in the window soon after, announcing that something new was coming: "Better Den You Remember." But the Den I remember was quite wonderful, so probably not.



Now the Times reports that the Den is being re-done by Queer Eye's food and wine expert Antoni Porowski.

The "theme" of the new place will be comfort food, except it won't be the actual comfort food previously served at the theme-free original Den.

It also might not feel as accessible to everyone as the old place. The Times reported: Porowski's "target audience is people like him: the '30s health and fitness' crowd, he said, noting that the restaurant is near an Equinox gym."



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Star Struck Vintage

VANISHING

Whenever I walk past it on Greenwich Avenue, I remember buying my first suit there in 1994, and I wonder how it can possibly still exist. The store, not the suit, which is long gone.


photo via International Traveller

On their Facebook page, Star Struck has announced:

"We would like to take a moment to let you know that after 38 years Star Struck Vintage in NYC will be closing. We will be forever grateful to all of our customers, for you have shown us the true meaning of loyalty. Many of you have become part of our family over the years; and although we will miss you all very much, we are looking forward to retirement. The store will be closing August 31st."


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Appropriating the Neighborhood

Today I published over at the Village Voice, writing about Target, neighborhood appropriation, and hyper-gentrification.



Excerpt:

What the colonizers desire and replicate is gritty New York without the grit. Punk and jazz and poetry without the enlivening shock of unpredictability. It’s a neat trick that works in part because we are starving for reality and a connection to history. Homesick for our lost city, we can be easily seduced by imitations of life.

At Target’s grand-opening event, it wasn’t the pseudo-CBGB that really got to me. I keep thinking about that fake stoop. The stoop, so utterly urban, normally brings the inside out; facing the street, it engages residents with the sidewalk ballet. But in today’s homogenized city, the new developments turn away from the street, like suburban developments often do, shielding their residents inside controlled private spaces that reject the communality and chaos of city life. Target’s fake stoop haunts me as a ghost of the unreal, an empty representation recalling a reality that is slipping away. As urbanist M. Christine Boyer has written, in her essay “Cities for Sale,” “these tableaux are the true nonplaces, hollowed out urban remnants, without connection to the rest of the city or the past, waiting to be filled with contemporary fantasies, colonized by wishful projections, and turned into spectacles of consumption.”

A haunted feeling is part of the package in today’s commodified cities. Hyper-gentrification is a horror movie mash-up. An invasion of the body snatchers, it zombifies what went before. It kills and then reanimates its victims, sanitized and tamed, to sell itself and expand into further territory, all while working to convince us that it has the best intentions and means no harm. It just wants to be part of the community. Part of the family. One of us, one of us. Like a vampire at the door it asks, with a seductive smile: Won’t we please let it in?

Read the whole article at the Voice

Monday, July 23, 2018

Paperbacks

The paperback edition of Vanishing New York is in bookshops this week--starting tomorrow. Get 'em while they're hot!



There will be plenty on hand at the paperback launch event this Friday night, July 27 at 7:30 p.m., at Books Are Magic. That's at 225 Smith Street in Brooklyn. I'll be signing books and talking about Vanishing New York with Jason Diamond, author, journalist, and founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

You can read more about it at the Facebook invite and the bookstore's Events page.



Here's what people have to say about the book:

“Essential reading for fans of Jane Jacobs, Joseph Mitchell, Patti Smith, Luc Sante, and cheap pierogi.”
--Vanity Fair

“A full-throated lament for the city’s bygone charms.”
--Wall Street Journal

“A wrenching, exhaustive chronicle of the ‘hypergentrification of New York’ [. . .] Every page is charged with Moss’s deep love of New York. It is both a vital and unequivocally depressing read.”
--Molly Fitzpatrick, The Village Voice

“Moss won me over almost immediately and has written a cri de cœur that is essential reading for anyone who loves this city.”
--Michael J. Agovino, The Village Voice

“The pleasure […] of reading Moss is his purity.”
–The New York Times Book Review

"Moss, a cantankerous defender of the city he loves, chronicles its disconcerting metamorphosis from cosmopolitan melting pot to bland corporate lounge with passion and vigor; New York is lucky to have him on its side." --NewYorker.com

“a remarkable atlas charting where New York has gone, and why.”
--The New Republic

“a compelling and often necessary read.”
--The Daily Beast

“An impassioned work of advocacy on behalf of a city that’s slipping away.”
--Guernica

“There is much embitterment, snark, and rhapsodizing about egg creams to satisfy the downright romantic here […] his humanist odes to bygone businesses can move a reader to tears […] But the book is much more than a nostalgia trip.”
--Citylab

“Moss’ book is very much in the tradition of Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities, with a more acerbic outrage suited to our nasty, barbaric times. […] His glimpses of New York can be engagingly personal and eloquent.”
--Los Angeles Review of Books

“Passionate, sprawling.”
--Slate

“A vigorous, righteously indignant book that would do Jane Jacobs proud.”
--Kirkus

“A very good, angrily passionate, and ultimately saddening book [. . . ] brilliantly written and well-informed.”
--Booklist

“A passionate case against the luxury vision of New York that characterized the Bloomberg years […] likely to stir a lot of emotions.”
--Publishers Weekly

“I haven’t read a more impassioned book in over a decade. Jeremiah Moss writes like a man who has lost the love of his life to a junk bond trader. Vanishing New York is angry, incredulous, but also full of insight into a city of legend, where every legend happened to be true.”
--Gary Shteyngart

“Jeremiah Moss came to the party that is New York City just in time to see it turn into a wake. The New York of poets and weirdos and cranks and outsiders and keepers of various flames--and of ordinary hard-working sorts with no aspirations to stardom or wealth--has pretty much receded into memory now, and Jeremiah has become that memory. His book is lucid, eloquent, phenomenally detailed, and terribly sad. Future generations, assuming there are any, will read it in wonder and disbelief.”
--Luc Sante

“Meticulously researched, thoroughly reported, at once a call to arms and a soul cry, Vanishing New York is a love letter to originality and the human spirit. Grab a knish and settle in.”
--Charles Bock, New York Times bestselling author of Alice and Oliver

“I can’t stand going on vanishingnewyork.com and seeing what’s next to go.”
--Andy Cohen, TV personality/ Executive VP at Bravo

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Targeting the East Village

Jane Jacobs is rolling in her grave today. The Target chain has opened a store on 14th Street and Avenue A, and for their grand celebration they have committed what might be the most deplorable commodification of local neighborhood culture I’ve ever witnessed.



Along the first floor of Extell’s luxury monster, known as EVGB for the Trumpian claim of “East Village’s Greatest Building,” Target has constructed a simulacrum of the hyper-local New York street--the sort of street that is being wiped out by corporations and developers--and it comes complete with all the signifiers.

The façade is draped in vinyl sheets printed with images of tenements, the same sort of buildings that get demolished to make room for such developments. Here they sit, hollow movie-set shells, below the shiny windows of the high-end rentals. They are the dead risen from the grave, zombies enlisted to work for the corporation.



A red newspaper kiosk announces the opening of the store with a fake newspaper (decorated with a bull’s-eyed water tower, as if hunters have it in their sights), and it brings to mind the lost kiosks of the vanished Village Voice.

There’s even a fake fire hydrant and red-painted park benches.

In front of an Alphabet City bull’s-eye mural, you can pose for pictures with props—a guitar, a record album, a slice of pizza printed on foamcore--the stuff of the once iconoclastic East Village.



Who are the people in your neighborhood?

There’s a storefront gypsy telling fortunes with Target-branded Tarot cards.

And on a pseudo stoop is a hip-hop dancer, his leg encircled with a Target-branded bandanna. At his feet are red buckets, marked with the Target logo, maybe for someone to later play with drumsticks in the style popularized by bucket drummer Larry Wright.



But worst of all, there’s a simulated CBGB, the celebrated punk club shuttered by a rent hike in 2006, replaced by the luxury John Varvatos store, and replicated in the Newark Airport as a theme restaurant for tourists.

This one boasts the famous awning, but it's printed with TRGT -- in the club’s iconic typeface, the western-style lettering created by owner Hilly Kristal’s ex-wife. (Restaurateur Daniel Boulud tried this in 2007 with DBGB on the Bowery, and the CBGB estate’s lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter.)

Inside, TRGT is printed on t-shirts, but you can't buy those. You can only get free "bands."



However, it's not rock music bands they’re giving out, it’s hair bands, Band-Aids, and resistance bands.

I asked, “What kind of resistance?” thinking of the political climate at the moment, and the woman answered, “They’re resistance bands for doing exercise.”



This Potemkin Village from Hell is guarded by three private security guards, all dressed in black suits with Secret Service-style earpieces, and one officer from the NYPD. All the workers are relentlessly sunny, like actors at Disneyland.

And people are streaming in for the free stuff—who doesn’t want free stuff?—happy to adorn themselves with the red sunglasses and branded bandannas as they rush into the store, where the commodification continues.

An East Village-themed mural provides a backdrop for the cash registers, decorated with street signs and hot dogs, more tenements, "NYC Nuyoricans," Theatre 80 St. Marks, and a book with the words “Poets Café.”

To see the artifacts of my own life, my cultural and spiritual awakening, my home, displayed above the cash registers in a Target store is to be cast into a state of confusion and dystopic dysphoria. What am I seeing? Who are these people? What happened to the world?





Meanwhile, down the block, EVGB has spray-painted the sidewalk with ads promoting their amenities and their worldview with the slogans:

GREATEST BUILDING
GROUP BONDING
GORGEOUS BATHROOMS

GET BUFF
GET BUSY
GO BIG



They’ve constructed a bright arc of balloons and they're giving out free cotton candy with "snappy toppings" like Pop Rocks, Sparkle, and Mango Pixie Dust.

Many of the people in line can't afford the apartments here, which start at $3,695 per month for a studio. They are neighborhood residents who've lost a number of affordable local businesses to this development, places like the Stuyvesant Grocery, a laundromat, a hair salon, the Rainbow discount store, Bargain Express, and the Blarney Cove.

But today there is a bright and shiny simulation of the real and the local. There is cotton candy and free trinkets. Bread and circuses that appease--and even win over. And everyone is having a terrific time.

As Margaret Thatcher said, "Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul."