Monday, December 23, 2019

Chelsea Flea Market


The Chelsea Flea Market on 25th Street between 6th and Broadway has been in business since 1976. Now we hear it is coming to an end.

I went by one evening a few weeks ago and heard the rumor that the lease is up and the owners aren't renewing. Now a couple of tipsters confirm: Next weekend, December 28 and 29, will be the last for this popular and long-running flea.

Paul Jeromack writes, "There is a possibility it will get a reprieve," hoping someone might take it over from the current managers, Alan and Helene Boss -- a couple that the Post has said "rules city flea markets with an iron fist." However, he adds, "the church next door," which owns the parking lot "does not want to renew the lease."

That church is St. Sava Serbian Orthodox, burned down in a massive blaze in 2016. Around that time, there was also news of an 850-foot commercial tower going up on the flea's parking lot.

It doesn't look good.

Jeromack notes, "Some of my vendor friends told me if need be, they would migrate to the Columbus Avenue schoolyard market on 77th Street," but this may not be the solution for all the vendors.

"There are guys who are rag-pickers with piles of old clothes and pots and pans, who I am sure would not be approved for the uptown space. Where are they going to go?"

This is sad news for flea market fans. We already lost the great Antiques Garage in 2014 when their building was demolished for a luxury hotel tower. Not to mention the little Chelsea flea on 17th and 6th, shuttered in 2009.

Every day, in every way, we're living in a more and more overpriced, hollow, and disposable city.

photo via Joseph Burns Instagram

Monday, December 9, 2019

Colony to CVS

When the great Colony Music was forced to shutter in 2012 by a massive rent hike, after 60 years in Times Square, its space in the Brill Building was gutted and turned into a revolving door of random businesses.


There were Christmas and Halloween stores, a Build-A-Bear Workshop, and some other crap. That's what happens when the new landlord quintuples the rent to $5 million and there's no commercial rent control or any other policies protecting the small businesspeople of this city from unregulated greed.

Now, after 7 years of high-rent blight and unstable pop-up ventures, the space has been taken by the only kind of retailer that can afford such millions--a giant chain store.

Colony is now a CVS.


To add insult to injury, the owners of the landmarked Brill have decided to obscure this gorgeous, historic building with digital screens. (How was the Landmarks Preservation Commission okay with this mess?)

Seven years. What a long, sad trip it's been.

a more beautiful past

New Chase

When Coffee Shop on Union Square closed in 2018, we heard it would be turned into yet another Chase Bank branch.

That signage is now up:

We also heard the rumor that Chase might be keeping the antique neon sign and re-doing the letters so it spells out CHASE instead of COFFEE SHOP.

That signage is now gone. Whether or not it returns is anyone's guess.

Monday, November 4, 2019



Guest post by Larry Baumhor

The owner of the first punk rock boutique in New York, Mariann Marlowe is packing her bags and ending decades of selling and designing clothes in NY city. Her current store Enz’s boutique in the East Village is closing after 14 years. Mariann knows the history of punk and the changing scenes of New York and London.

photo: Larry Baumhor

Mariann Marlowe: “My original store, Ian’s, opened in 1972 at 49 Grove Street in Greenwich Village. My rent was $100.00. I brought back mostly Vivienne Westwood stuff and a few other things. My influence was Vivienne. She would make anything out of anything. The neckline could be two inches off the shoulder. That was my inspiration. Also, living on the streets of London. We were poor and we used to eat beans on toast for ten days in a row. I lived with all artists and we all shared a house in Earl’s Court. I would go to the Sex Pistols rehearsals on Lots Road before Sid was in the band.”

“I made a shirt for Johnny Thunders and it had the word rock on the shirt with chicken bones. My dog Ian didn’t know it was for Johnny Thunders and he ate the chicken bones off the shirt. CBGB was a big part of my life just like the way Rodeo Bar is now. I saw Iggy being carried out on a stretcher. The ambulance used to come and pick up Iggy. Andy Warhol came in with his wolf coat and a bag. He asked me if I wanted an Interview magazine and he gave me a signed copy.”

“Some of my patrons were Cherry Vanilla, the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Mike Quashie who just passed away and was good friends with Lou Reed, Robert Gordon, and Bruce Springsteen. I used to also have a store on the Upper East Side. It was like Liza Minnelli, Mick Jagger, Scavullo who was Sean Byrnes’ lover, Jerry Hall who still shops in this store.”

“Francesco Scavullo used to come into the store all the time. We have five Cosmo covers from that. But the thing I am most proud of is Willy DeVille. “I made his snakeskin jacket. You know the jacket he made famous?” “I made Pat Benatar’s zebra catsuit, but I’m more impressed with Willy’s snakeskin jacket.”

“There was no cooler place than New York in the ‘70s in those days. The days of Television and the Ramones, New York Dolls, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Richard Hell. Marc Jacobs would come in. Sylvain was my friend from the New York Dolls. People would come from all over the world to check out the store. Maybe groupies would come in the store. That was saved for CBGB and Max’s. In those days before AIDS, at the end of the shows, everybody would go home with somebody. That’s how it was. There was a clique. Everybody’s ego was out of control. People wouldn’t talk to you if you weren’t cool.”

photo via Enz's Facebook page

And now we must say goodbye to Mariann Marlowe, a living legend, who promises to still be around whether it’s New York or London. We thank you and pay homage to your legendary life.

Post Script: E.V. Grieve reports the shop has closed as of yesterday. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Paris Reprieve?

Deadline reports that the Paris Theater, shuttered by a non-renewal of its lease, will re-open -- at least temporarily.

It will "become a home for the Noah Baumbach-directed Netflix film Marriage Story when the picture plays theatrical engagements in a handful of theaters in Los Angeles and New York on November 6." So you have a chance to enjoy the last "prestige" single-screen theater in Manhattan one more time.

But will Netflix keep the Paris going after that? Netflix, according to Deadline, will not comment on that question, but signs point to a possibility.

The Paris, along with its sister cinema the Beekman 1, 2, 3, shuttered in August after announcing non-renewals of their leases. Both buildings share the landlord Sheldon Solow.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Thrift & New


The little, one-story antiques shop known mostly as Thrift and New, located on 9th Avenue and 43rd Street in Hell's Kitchen, has vanished.

thanks to Shade Rupe for the photo and the tip

It was one of those wonderful holdouts, a throwback, a leftover from the old New York, and every time I found it still open, it seemed like a miracle. Places like this just aren't allowed to exist here anymore.

I must have photographed it a hundred times, knowing each time might be my last.

It was a warm and lively place. There were always customers inside, sifting through the stuff, browsing, reading.

They sold jewelry, guitars, books, old photographs.

They had a room full of ceramics, mostly pink.

The sign says they'd been open since 1952. I don't know why they closed.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Hole That Was St. Denis

A dream-like dispatch from author Elizabeth Wurtzel (who lives above the hole in the ground that was the St. Denis building, whose illustrious history and miserable death you can read all about here):

I have no idea what is in the dirt next door, but my guess is Love Canal, sewage from the Mississippi, cigarette butts, marijuana ash, slave remains, rats, mice, Three Mile island, Mount Etna, Mount Saint Helen, Dust Bowl, Adam, Eve, serpent, Satan, Chernobyl, Berlin Wall, acid rain, asbestos, uranium, geraniums, 9/11, 7/11, Donner Party, bird beaks, pigeon claws, squirrel tails, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Mafia hits washed up from the East River, cocaine, syringes, works, broken bottles, Bataan Death March, Manila massacre, Boston Tea Party, frog legs, goldfish, rusty pipes, mutant ninja turtles, alligators from Florida, red algae, yellow fever, Agent Orange, bubonic plague, gold teeth, silver spoons, copper wires, iron ore, Crest with fluoride, whitening strips, stripper tips, dollar bills, twenties laced with cocaine, subway tokens, expired MetroCards with unused fare, tickets to see Star Wars in 1976, bicentennial souvenirs, gutta-percha, cat guts, doll parts, golf balls, tennis racket strings, cashmere socks, polyester, rayon, pylon, nylon, Mylar, warped vinyl, scratched CDs, crispy leaves, shredded lettuce, tarnished keys, queen bees, xerox paper, pepper spray, Prozac pills, poppers, pooper scoopers, hula hoops, leis, fecal matter, aborted fetuses, snot, rot, cots, bots, shot glass shards, broken windows, chimney smoke, dice, playing cards, poker chips, lollipop sticks, toothpicks, used tissues, toilet water, wolf fangs, sunburn peel, hangnails, cavities, skin, split ends, fur balls, chicken bones, dissected cadavers, Big Bang, Little Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty, Rip Van Winkle, bog wood, petrified forest, primordial ooze, love letters, promises kept and broken.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Gem Spa Cash Mob

Saturday's cash mob for Gem Spa was a great success. I can't tell you how many gallons of U-Bet were used, but the egg cream soda fountain never stopped flowing for three hours, as fans of Gem lined up out the door of the store to get a taste of what the place does best--and to keep them alive.

photo: NationofNY

The event turned into a "happening," as attendee Lolita Wolf put it in a conversation on the sidewalk, a scene of locals and former locals hanging out and socializing, while characters showed up to perform for the documentary and news cameras, or to just look interesting.

One young man, barefoot and with a head of blue hair that looked like cake frosting spooned onto his head, shook a bottle of BBQ sauce and ranted, then settled down to play with Candy the Gem Spa cat. Devlin, a jewelry designer who you might see walking the East Village dressed in leopard print and strumming a guitar, sang an impromptu song about not wanting a bank to move in here. And Mosaic Man Jim Powers showed up at the end to deliver a fire and brimstone sermon in front of the Schitibank banner.

Mostly, it was people just hanging out together.

Beloved, long-time East Village performance artist Penny Arcade came by and recalled swinging on the parking meters out front of Gem in 1969 with David Johansen of the New York Dolls. Novelist Arthur Nersesian stopped to say hello. I saw blogger and author Ed Hamilton and his wife Debbie Martin from the Chelsea Hotel. Artist Nayland Blake was there, too, enjoying an egg cream and conversation.

There were so many people, and so much good will, most of it is a blur, but I am grateful to all who took the time to be there for Gem, and to the folks from #SaveNYC who showed up to help with the event.

Owner Parul Patel was very happy and grateful, too. Contrary to some reports, she is nowhere near the verge of giving up. She is fighting to stay put--and this community of New Yorkers is fighting with her.

I want to make it clear that this event also goes beyond trying to save one business, which we know is next to impossible in the current political and economic climate that favors big business, landlords, and developers. The Gem Spa cash mob is also a way to say no to all banks and corporate chains, to say no more, to say we are here, we're not leaving, and we reject the systematic vanishing of our city. As a people, we will not go down without a fight. The Gem Spa cash mob is an act of love and resistance. And we need more of that. Every day.

The Schitibank installation will be up at least until the end of September. Please go by, get an egg cream, order a t-shirt (they're now "The Hottest Look in Streetwear"), and Instagram that installation. Help spread the word about Gem.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Gem Spa to Schitibank

Last night at midnight, all ready for Saturday's cash mob, Gem Spa was transformed -- into a vivid dystopian vision of the new St. Mark's Place. It is now Schitibank, a play on the rumor that Citibank wants to move into the corner space that has been Gem since 1957.

As Gem began struggling earlier this summer, it looked shuttered and bare, especially with the newspapers and Zoltar removed from the front, the signs taken down. People thought it was closed--or closing.

So I reached out to Tommy Noonan and Doug Cameron of the design firm DCX Accelerator. A few years ago, they staged what they called an “Artisanal Landlord Price-Hike Sale" for Jesse's Deli in Brooklyn. It brought awareness and customers to Jesse's and I hoped they could do the same for Gem.

Tommy and Doug said yes right away--DCX puts 20% of their profits toward "cultural activism" like this--and, with approval from Gem's Parul Patel, they created a (pro bono) full art installation, complete with a blue awning and creative riffs on the corporate co-optation of the East Village soul.

The result is an eye-catching satire of "authentrification," which can sometimes, in reality, be more outrageous than fiction.

The Schitibank project features bohemian East Villagers -- Jean-Michel Basquiat and Patti Smith (on Schitibikes), Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, Ted Berrigan, the New York Dolls, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Gem Spa's own Candy the Cat (smoking weed).

When I should have been in bed with the flu, I spent the night watching the team install and asked some questions:

Q: You and your team said yes right away when I asked for help with Gem Spa. What made you excited to do this artist/activist makeover?

A: We see too many large banks and large chain stores move into these small neighborhoods putting mom and pop shops out of business. We wanted to see if our art could prevent that. Gem Spa is a fixture of the community and we wanted to help. DCX puts around 20% of our profits into ideating and printing our activist art or installations. This one lined up with us nicely because Parul wanted to do something provocative. We worked with her on all of the ideas, we bounced ideas back and forth. There was a lot of laughing, an instant connection between her and DCX. It made us want to push the idea even further. We love working with clients like that.

Q: What inspired you to do a Schitibank makeover and what is it saying about St. Mark's and the city?

A: The inspiration came from Parul, the owner of Gem Spa. When I heard from her that the landlord is courting a Citi Bank to try to get them to take over the space, DCX wanted to create an art installation that made the neighbors aware of what was happening. We like to channel the voice of a real subculture, in this case a "snarky NYC smoke shop owner," who is up against corporations with a lot of money. There’s something large corporations can’t do, and that’s have an authentic, combative voice, but we can do that.

The whole store will look as if a schiti bank has come to the East Village and tried to co-opt the space in a cool way, kind of like many other corporations, Chase cafés, TD Bank that knocked down Mars Bar, Target Greenwich Village, and how John Varvatos took over CBGB’s and kept the vibe. Many banks have created café-style atmospheres with rough-hewn wood tables and chairs and with some old photographs from the neighborhood that make them look like they are part of the history. They want to fit in, but mostly for profits, not to help the neighborhood. They treat their stores and storefronts like a billboard. It’s a space to do banking but it's also basic repetitive awareness advertising. Perhaps they think it gets them credibility; the fact that they are in an interesting neighborhood.

Q: What do you hope the makeover will do for Gem Spa?

A: We hope the schiti takeover will help the sales at Gem Spa. We ask people come in and read the signs and see how a famous "oasis" of the East Village may end up as "just another schiti bank." We hope that it gets people to buy all the great things Gem Spa has to offer, the New York Egg Creams (which they’re famous for), the wigs, the hats, the other cool things behind the counter to help with your nicotine or CBD fix. Besides that, we hope that schiti bank sheds some light on the corporate kindling that ignites gentrification in New York City neighborhoods.

Don't miss this one--while it lasts. You're gonna schit when you see it.

Come out this Saturday starting at 12:00 noon for the Gem Spa Cash Mob. Buy some egg creams. Take some selfies. Spread the word. Let the banks and the chains and the landlord know: We want Gem to stay put.

View the Facebook invite here.

And, later, in the light of day:

Update -- Citibank responds:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 11: From "Vanishing New York"

Until September 11, 2001, New York was not quite America. From its Dutch beginnings, the city existed as a space apart. Exceptionally able to tolerate, and celebrate, a multiplicity of cultures and ways of living, it had been both the gateway to America for foreign immigrants and the escape from America for those who never fell in line with the American way of normal. New York was a liminal space between inside and outside, a threshold neither here nor there but ultimately itself. It was a city that permitted transgression, the crossing of old boundaries, whether that meant a Jewish immigrant from Russia casting off her wig, or a young man from Nebraska putting his on (with false eyelashes to match).

In The Island at the Center of the World, Russell Shorto writes, “It was no coincidence that on September 11, 2001, those who wished to make a symbolic attack on the center of American power chose the World Trade Center as their target. If what made America great was its ingenious openness to different cultures, then the small triangle of land at the southern tip of Manhattan Island is the New World birthplace of that idea, the spot where it first took shape.” Its multicultural receptivity arguably made New York the most truly American city, but not the Heartland version. It was something else. As Djuna Barnes said in 1916, it was “the only city where you can hardly find a typical American.”

When Al Smith, the Italian-Irish New York governor from the Lower East Side, campaigned for U.S. president in 1928, the Heartland rose against him as a Catholic, the son of immigrants, and a New Yorker. The Ku Klux Klan burned crosses on the tracks when his train came to their towns, and they warned constituents to be ready for Smith’s arrival, crying “America is for Americans!” In publications, they howled about the Roman Catholic “alien hordes” that had “invaded America,” determined to destroy democracy. “Already they have captured many large cities.” And no city had been more corrupted by alien hordes than New York. From his radio pulpit, Reverend John Roach Straton denounced Smith, accusing him of everything the Protestant American Heartland believed was wrong with New York: “card-playing, cocktail drinking, poodle dogs, divorce, novels, stuffy rooms, dancing, evolution, Clarence Darrow, overeating, nude art, prize-fighting, actors, greyhound racing, modernism.”

This view of the modern city was not fringe, but the extreme expression of a common American sentiment, one that would endure for decades. In 1977’s Annie Hall, Woody Allen might have had Straton’s speech in mind when he joked, “The rest of the country looks upon New York like we're left-wing Communist, Jewish, homosexual, pornographers.” In New York Calling, urbanist Marshall Berman recalled the anti-New York venom that streamed from 1970s America, when politicians asked their constituents, “Should New York live or die?” And their constituents chanted, “Die! Die! Die!” The city had reached its modern-day pinnacle of exceptionalism—and delinquency. For much of the nation, and for the conservative leaders in Washington, New York was a perversion, a dirty town full of dirty people, and now it would be punished and reprogrammed.

When President Gerald Ford essentially told the city to “drop dead,” denying a federal bailout to prevent bankruptcy, a presidential spokesman likened the city to “a wayward daughter hooked on heroin.” Like a rebellious teenager kicked out of the house, the city dis-identified further from the mother country, elevating itself in the process. If America was rejecting New York, then New York would reject America. Saul Steinberg’s 1976 New Yorker cover, "View of the World from 9th Avenue,” famously expressed the city’s sense of superiority with a map in which Manhattan is detailed, central, important, while the rest of the country, crammed between the Hudson River and Pacific Ocean, is just an insignificant sketch. In “My Lost City,” Luc Sante recalls, “in the 1970s, New York was not a part of the United States at all. It was an offshore interzone with no shopping malls, few major chains, very few born-again Christians who had not been sent there on a mission, no golf courses, no subdivisions. Downtown, we were proud of this, naturally.”

That vaunting pride did not endear New York to middle America. Talking to Ric Burns for his New York documentary, architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable explained: "The combination of power and money and creative vitality has created a city that we New Yorkers are very chauvinistic about and rather disliked for all over the world; we're considered just not in touch with the rest of the world. Well, maybe we're not, and maybe that's a good thing, maybe the fact that we are doing all this creative work is something that is so unique, and so special, that it does make New York a city unlike any other."

As late as the 1990s, after more than a decade of City Hall working to make New York more likeable to the average American, the heart of the Heartland still wasn’t having it. New York magazine published a 1995 cover story that explained “Why America Hates New York.” In short, we were liberal, multicultural, and bereft of right-wing Christian family values. “New York is more than ever considered Sodom on the Hudson,” wrote the magazine. “More chillingly, [right-wing America’s] hatred for us is commingling with the conviction that New York is anachronistic, vestigial, and on its way to being expunged.” The Protestant American right, after disparaging the liberal city for a century, now saw a future in which New York would be overtaken by their values. “New York is a dinosaur,” Georgia politician Gordon Wysong told New York. “We’re the power now. These suburbs, built on white flight, are only going to become more conservative and more powerful. New York has been deposed.” Revenge was in the air.

The conservatives of America could see the changes coming, and they were gleeful. In the spring 1995 issue of City Journal, a publication of the neoliberal, neoconservative Manhattan Institute, David Brooks published a critique on “out-of-step New York,” scolding snobbish city folk for looking down on Middle America. “Over the longer term,” he wrote, “New Yorkers might—dare I say it?—change. New York liberalism will gradually dissolve; cultural attitudes will drift toward the mainstream.”

Looking back from a post-9/11 and post-Bloomberg position, these words offer an eerily prophetic message. But how could we ever have imagined the expunging of New York? Drift toward the mainstream? The city’s utter queerness—if we take “queer” to mean everything eccentric, suspicious, and strange—acted as a repellent that kept out the dull and unimaginative. Being hated by America was good for the city. And, ultimately, good for America. Every family needs a black sheep to keep it interesting.

And then.

On the morning after 9/11, in a cloud of dust and despair, the fractured, frightened city awoke to find itself cradled in the arms of the nation. In their murderous act of terrorism, the attackers managed to strip away New York’s grandiose exceptionalism and, humbling the city, made it accessible. Beneath the collective grief, America was enervated by the trauma, moved to a state of heightened arousal that pulled it magnetically toward Ground Zero, a smoldering hole that quickly became a tourist attraction, complete with grisly souvenirs. The attack was a colossal taking down a peg for wayward, arrogant New York. In the dark privacy of the human heart, who doesn’t feel a bit of Schadenfreude when a swaggering giant falls? Milton Glaser, creator of the “I Heart NY” logo, put it less cynically when he said of the post-9/11 city, “A powerful giant is one thing. A vulnerable giant is much more loveable.”

Into wounded, loveable, suddenly huggable New York rushed the Heartland with its homemade chicken soup for the soul. After that day, we heard the phrase “We are all New Yorkers” echoed across the country--and the globe. The statement appeared in the UK’s Guardian, France’s Le Monde, and in the program for a Carnegie Hall concert of the Berlin Philharmonic, echoing JFK’s famous “We are all Berliners” speech: ''At this terrible moment, we are the ones who say with you, 'We are all New Yorkers.’” America was attacked, but it was the city that fell to its knees. Capturing the touristic national sympathy, a cartoon in the regional newspaper Florida Today painted a suburban scene: Houses displaying American flags, one man watering his lawn in an “I Heart NY” t-shirt and Yankees cap, another pushing a lawnmower in a “Times Square” t-shirt, and a woman walking her dog with “NYC” spelled across her chest. For good measure, the dog wears one of those foam-rubber Lady Liberty crowns that tourists love. They’re waving to each other, as folks in Florida do, above the caption, “In light of recent events, we’re all New Yorkers.” It’s a supportive message that yet contains an ominous proprietary undertone. The city is ours. Here we come.

In 2004 the Republican National Convention came barging into liberal New York for the first time in history. Deep in enemy territory, with angry protestors howling at the gates, Bush supporters banged the drums of 9/11, waving the tragedy like a flag. Governor George Pataki told the delegates, “On that terrible day, a nation became a neighborhood. All Americans became New Yorkers.”

The Big Apple, the Rotten Apple, was done for. The vulnerable, diminished city became as acceptably American as apple pie. Soon after 9/11, the New York Observer announced, “The Heartland Loves New York,” claiming it had become “the most American of all cities.” A year later, The Economist called New York a “sweeter Apple” and “a nicer place” since the attacks. Sweet and nice? Those two words had never, I would wager, in the city’s long and turbulent history been seriously used to describe the unwieldy, throbbing thing that was New York. Something was changing in the civic atmosphere. While terrorism alone didn’t turn the tide of America’s sentiment toward New York, it surely accelerated a process already in place. In The City’s End, a history of America’s murderous fantasies towards New York, Max Page observed, “City leaders had made much of Manhattan safe and clean for tourists. A nation far more willing to be sympathetic to New York was fully on the city’s side after 9/11. Pity after the disaster bloomed into a surge of love for New York.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Papaya Dog to Hair Masks

Twitter tipster Sara Harvey, a Brooklyn resident, let me know that something horrifying happened to Papaya Dog on 6th Avenue in the Village.

Gisou, Instagram

It was turned into a pop-up for hair care products. Expensive hair care products.

Dogs and fries were rapidly replaced by honey-infused hair masks and texturizing wave sprays.

Yelp has it marked down as "closed."

cititourofficial, Instagram

But fear not. The pop-up was only temporary. I gave them a call tonight. They answered "Papaya Dog" and told me "We're back again."

Let this be a warning to us all.

This Papaya Dog has been under threat of closure, so it may be a matter of time before something like this becomes a permanent installation. Read more here about the last remaining dog-and-papaya shops in town (minus some since then) and why they remain as important as ever to many New Yorkers.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Gem Spa Makeover and Cash Mob

This Saturday, September 14, at 12:00 noon, come spend some money at Gem Spa--and Instagram the shit out of it.

At #SaveNYC, we are hosting a Cash Mob to help support this beloved and historic East Village business. Get some stuff--egg creams, pretzels, t-shirts, toothpaste!--and take your photo with a surprise work of guerrilla street art, as an acclaimed group of cultural activists and designers radically transform Gem into a dystopian vision for the new St. Mark’s Place.

The event will take place from noon to about 2:00, rain or shine, but you can visit and spend your money any time. Gem Spa is located on St. Mark's Place at the corner of Second Avenue in the East Village. (View the Facebook invite here.)

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.