Thursday, August 29, 2019

Paris and Beekman


The Paris Theater, along with the Beekman 1 & 2, has shuttered after a combined 111 years of life.

In June we heard the Paris might be closing. Then in July, I was told by employees and management that it was definitely not closing and the news was just rumor. I was not convinced and wrote, "As with all rumors and denials, take it as a warning. Go, enjoy the Paris, enjoy the movie. Because you really never know when it will be your last time."

Yesterday, tipster Dan Braun alerted me via Twitter that both theaters have gone missing from the City Cinemas website. The Paris Theater page goes to Page Not Found. Their telephone message about showtimes extends only until August 15. No one's answering the phone at the Beekman either.

After some further digging, Joe Wagner on Instagram has posted the goodbye note from the Paris:

Dan Braun says, "Both buildings which house the Paris and the Beekman 1 & 2 share the same landlord, Sheldon Solow. He might have decided he simply no longer wanted movie theatres as tenants. City Cinemas’s lease on the Paris is scheduled to end this month."

From a look at the comments at Cinema Treasures, it sounds like City Cinemas had 10-year leases for both sites--and those were not renewed. As I've noted on this blog many times, there are no protections for thriving businesses that want to stay put. No Small Business Jobs Survival Act. No commercial rent control. Nothing.

Meanwhile, Mr. Solow is doing alright. Forbes has him worth $5.2 billion. This is not the first time the Paris has shuttered due to a lease. Back in 1990, the theater closed. The Paris' managing director at the time told the Times, "It's obvious that we weren't wanted. We had a 20-year lease that expired on Aug. 31, and we offered Solow market rent--much more than we had been paying. But our offer was turned down flatly, and they gave us no explanation." In the end, the Paris changed management and went on showing art films for the next three decades.

Is there hope for another comeback? So far, Solow has not commented on the closure.

Opening in 1948, via Cinema Treasures

The Paris opened in 1948, "with Marlene Dietrich cutting the ribbon in the presence of the Ambassador to France," according to Cinema Treasures. It was the last of the great single-screen cinemas in Manhattan, it was loved by many, and it will be greatly missed.

As Joe Queenan wrote on the occasion of the Paris' 60th anniversary for the Times in 2008:

"The Paris is the kind of establishment where, when you show up, not one but two pipe smokers are congregating outside. They are throwbacks to an era when emaciated young men raved about Samuel Beckett, questioned the political ramifications of existentialism and lined up to see Brigitte Bardot in '... And God Created Woman' while meticulously cleaning their meerschaums. Some people may think this sort of thing is a bit passé and corny. The folks at the Paris do not agree. Neither do I."

Little Edie and the Maysles, via Cinema Treasures

As for the Beekman, the original opened in 1952 and closed in 2005. It was demolished, writes Cinema Treasures, and the "Beekman name was moved to Clearview’s New York One & Two across the street," which was originally the Loews One & Two, opened in 1979.

It was perhaps not as beloved, nor as special, as the Paris, but it is a loss.

Here's the Beekman's goodbye--same text as the Paris:

photo by Michael Lorin Hirsch

And so two more independent art-house cinemas have been ripped from our lives. And more culture gets flushed down the drain of this new New York City. But, hey, we'll always have Starbucks.

See Also:
Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Two Toms

The Gowanus building that houses the excellent Two Toms Restaurant is up for sale.

A tipster on Twitter alerted me to the Trulia listing. It offers the building for $3 million and exclaims, "LOCATION EQUALS OPPORTUNITY! Searching for the perfect investment property found in one of the hottest neighborhoods in Brooklyn?"

Also, as ominously noted, "Currently the space is occupied by Two Toms Restaurant, but this space may also be delivered vacant, if necessary."

Two Toms has been in business since 1948 when it was opened by Tom Giordano and another Tom. It's been family-run since and is one of the last authentic red-sauce joints in a city where red-sauce joints are vanishing.

Enjoy the wood paneling and definitely get the pork chop. Before some asshole comes along and fucks it up.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Bill's Flower Market


Bill's Flower Market opened in 1936. They are closing this month.

The sign in the window says the owners are retiring. It is another loss for the rapidly vanishing Flower District, which has been taken over and demolished by tourist hotels.

Reader Marjorie Ingall let me know about the closing. She writes, "Jim, Bill’s brother and co-owner, said he’s ready to retire and spend time with his grandkids in Nassau and Suffolk county, but high rent is a factor too. I bought a turkey made with real feathers that I will turn into a holiday centerpiece, two rolls of beautiful floral ribbon, and a tiny nest with two eggs and a sparrow. We both reminisced about when the Flower District went from 26th to 29th, Broadway to 7th Avenue. He said, 'It’s all fancy hotels now.'"

When I went by, Bill's was closed for the day, shutting down now at 3:00 in the afternoon, so I could not go in to see the artificial birds they are famous for. They used to have a sign that said something like "World's largest collection of artificial birds" and it was pleasant to go in and have a look at them.

Through the window I could see that most of the shop has been dismantled and emptied out. They're having a big sale on lucky bamboo and, while they still have a few birds for sale, the big displays are gone.

Here's what they looked like a few years ago:

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Seido Karate


Guest Post written by William Hennelly, an editor/writer and Seido Karate black belt

Down the block from the Flatiron Building in Manhattan sits another local landmark — the headquarters of the World Seido Karate Organization. Since 1976, the school founded by Kaicho (“Grandmaster”) Tadashi Nakamura has trained thousands of martial arts practitioners at 61 West 23rd Street, where it also has operated the Seido Juku Benefit Foundation, a charitable nonprofit.

Nakamura, 77, is a revered karateka worldwide, particularly in his native Japan, a status he earned in 1962 by knocking out a muay thai fighter in Bangkok in a much publicized international clash of fighting styles. But now Kaicho and his son, Nidaime (“Successor”) Akira Nakamura, 44, who is Seido’s chief instructor, are faced with a daunting opponent outside the arena — the New York City real estate market.

The owners of the 1886 Italian Renaissance-style building that houses the headquarters — or “Honbu” in Japanese — are repurposing the building, and all existing tenants must vacate by year-end. The family that owns the luxury men’s fashion company Ermenegildo Zegna, based in Milan, Italy, along with Taconic Investment Partners LLC, a Manhattan-based real estate developer, bought the building in June 2016 for $65 million, according to The Real Deal. The previous owners were the Drachman family of Long Island and their relatives, who had the seven-story building for more than 50 years.

The search for a new Honbu has been underway for some time, and Nidaime is currently looking at three rental properties near the current 23rd Street location. Seido recently launched a campaign to raise $250,000 toward escrow, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, a new dojo floor, office and locker rooms with ADA-compliant bathrooms. Live and online auctions also are planned.

In his office at Honbu, Kaicho recently recounted how he would traverse the neighborhood in the 1970s, scouting locations, when he came across the building that would become Honbu. “In the daytime, not many people walking around, then very, very quiet at night,” he recalled of a neighborhood that was not as prosperous and desirable as it is now. It’s that desirability that has made the neighborhood a costly place to operate what is essentially a family business.

The New York dojo is something of a karate museum. Its gleaming wooden floor has been polished by decades of vigorous martial arts activity seven days a week. “We have a veterans program, we run a disabled program, a program for blind students with Seido Juku Benefit support,” Kaicho said. “Not many organizations do that. We are all proud of that. I hope people keep this kind of spirit... Lots of wonderful, different kinds of memories, which is our treasure. It’s almost a miracle, same location for 43 years.”

The dojo’s walls are festooned with various proclamations by US presidents and New York City mayors. Over the years, Seido students from across the globe have come to visit and train at Honbu, as have some celebrities. Dolph Lundgren, who played the Russian heavyweight boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, stopped by once in the hopes of meeting Kaicho. In 2018, two of the stars of the 1984 movie The Karate Kid — Ralph Macchio, who portrayed Daniel LaRusso, and William Zabka, who was Daniel’s rival Johnny Lawrence — traveled to New York for an interview with AdWeek magazine to discuss Cobra Kai, the YouTube Red sequel to their movie franchise.

Seido also has stood witness to other events in history. In 2001, the Seido community was stunned by the loss of Sensei Pat Brown, a New York City fire captain who gave his life in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. In 2012, undaunted Seido karatekas practiced with no heat and electricity in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. And while Seido is proud of its illustrious past, it is up for a new challenge.

“The members of the organization must now take the time to reflect on the rich history of the space and appreciate the time left to train and grow there, but also look now to the future, to bring the same energy and dedication to bear in finding, securing and building a new home for the World Seido Honbu,” Nidaime wrote in a letter to members in June.