Thursday, March 26, 2020

Three Lives Goes Online

Good news! You can still buy books from Three Lives & Co. and support them through the coronavirus shutdown of New York.

They write:

We do have some exciting news for all of you who have expressed dismay at our temporary closing. The coronavirus has managed something that big-box bookstores, online booksellers, superstorms, and building maintenance have failed to accomplish: driving us to the Internet! We have belatedly joined the twenty-first century and are introducing an online ordering system, which we hope will fill the gap between now and our reopening. Here is how it works:

You can fill out an order form here. We will check on the availability of the books you want and get in touch with you directly to take your payment information. (We can only accept credit card payments at this time.) We are ordering from one of our regular distributors for direct delivery to our customers, which means we will be charging a UPS Ground fee of $7.95 for up to four books and $10.95 for five books or more.

You also can use the form to request gift certificates, which we will send to you via U.S. mail. And you are always welcome to order by emailing us at if you would prefer not to use the form. We recognize that buying books remotely is not the same as browsing our physical space – we are itching to return too! – but we hope this stopgap measure will keep you in literature for the time being.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Robert Herman

The man who jumped to his death from the 16th floor of his Tribeca apartment building on Friday night has been identified as photographer Robert Herman. He left a note that read, "How do you enjoy life?"

Since the 1970s, Robert was one of New York's consummate street photographers, capturing the day-to-day life of the sidewalks with his camera and, most recently, with his iPhone. I met him once or twice, we had a similar love for the city, and he was always lovely and kind. He will be missed, along with all the photographs he will never get to take.

What follows is an interview I did with him here in 2013, on the publication of his beautiful book The New Yorkers, a vivid collection of his work from 1978 - 2005.

all photos by Robert Herman

How would you say the city of today compares visually to the city you captured in your book?

The city I photographed in the early 80’s is almost gone. Back then, it was a city of small businesses and storefronts. Where I lived in Little Italy, the shop owners would invariably recognize you when you walked in. Soho today is mostly a mall made up of corporate stores. I miss the graffiti that made for compelling commentary when juxtaposed in a photograph. The city is safer today, and I like that, but it feels less quirky and less alive.

I like the signage of the small, old shops, the clutter, which is lacking in the chains' facades. What do you think is the visual difference between small, independent stores and big, corporate stores? And what is the feeling those visuals give you?

The difference between the corporate stores and the independents is that the look of the signage and displays are determined at a corporate level and done for multiple stores at the same time. The local store owner is creating the look for their storefront locally, and in reaction to the environment and neighborhood. All of this is obvious, but it is the independents that create the feeling of specificity of place: "only in New York."

When I hear "only in New York," I also think of the people--people looking interesting, doing interesting things that can't be seen elsewhere. Are the people of New York as inspiring as they used to be to your photographer's eye?

The big difference today is that so many people are looking at their phones on the street, which doesn’t make for a compelling photo. Also, everyone is much more aware of the power of imagery because of social media. It’s harder to make a candid picture these days. The iPhone is a good camera for that, because it doesn’t attract attention like a big DSLR. It doesn’t scream "camera!" I’m very excited about a new body of work I’ve been making with the iPhone over the past three years in New York and around the world.

Can you tell us about that work?

The iPhone photos began when I learned about the Hipstamatic app. I liked shooting in a square format and this was an opportunity to do that without using a medium format camera, as I had in the past.

I started using the iPhone/Hipstamatic when I was in Johannesburg about three years ago. I wasn't comfortable using a big DSLR when shooting on the streets. So, to ease myself into it, I made pictures with the iPhone and was pleased with the images I was getting. After that trip, I began shooting this way because sometimes changing the equipment sparks a new way of shooting. Presently, I'm having a book of these photos designed. It will be the follow up to The New Yorkers. A street photography book for the 21st century.

Street photography presents the same challenges regardless of the technology used to make a picture. Be it a Leica M or an iPhone or a Kodak Instamatic. That is, being observant and making strong pictures.

There's a Starbucks in one of them! What are your thoughts about having contemporary chains in your photos? Are they interesting in themselves as symbols of today's city?

Life goes on, change is inevitable. I like Starbucks' blonde. What can I say.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Bookstores Are Essential

To slow the spread of coronavirus, New York is now on PAUSE, which includes the closure of all non-essential businesses. Essentials include grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and restaurants and bars that serve delivery and take-out only. Bookstores, however, are not, even though they also have the capacity to serve delivery and curbside pickup with social distancing.

Rebecca Fitting, co-owner of Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore, is leading the charge to get bookstores re-classified as essential and keep them open during PAUSE. She has sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, signed by several local bookstore owners, making the case for their necessity.

At Greenlight, orders packaged for pick-up at the door

"We are urgently asking that you recategorize bookstores across New York State as an essential service," the letter states. "In New York, both schools and libraries are closed and Amazon has announced they are de-prioritizing books and are no longer actively shipping them to consumers. This is alarming because at the moment, bookstores now serve as one of the last sources for New York’s students and families to access education materials. In addition, we also provide both children and adults with home education and entertainment materials which are a necessity during these long periods of social distancing and isolation."

As she notes, "New York bookstores already have safe distance protocols in place, many of which are offering curbside pickup or delivery, where there is no physical interaction with customers. Our products are sanitized and require no physical interaction when exchanged between employee and customer. In addition, having bookstores deemed essential services would allow us the ability to continue to receive and send shipments of books to our customers."

Finally, "Bookstores in New York are often family-owned businesses with close-knit teams. In all these cases, we would have a skeleton crew and practice the utmost due diligence of social distancing, hand washing, and sanitizing processes. This would allow us to continue to employ our staff and ensure the survival of our businesses too."

curbside pick-up at Three Lives & Co.

Yesterday I picked up books curbside at Three Lives & Co. in Greenwich Village. When I arrived, the doors were open and a table blocked the way, covered in packages of pre-ordered books for pickup. It was quick, easy, and everyone kept their distance. Today is their last day open and they are slammed with business--everyone is scrambling to get new books before shutting in.

*Update* The time for making bookstores essential has passed, but some store owners say that, after a period of PAUSE, it might be possible to return to a delivery-only system. Stay posted.

- Please continue to support your local bookstore through this time by purchasing gift cards for future use

- You can support the laid-off workers of McNally Jackson here

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Quarantine Cash Mob--5 Boroughs

For this weekend's #SaveNYC Quarantine Cash Mob, please support these small businesses from the safety and comfort of your home by ordering take-out or delivery.

In Manhattan:
Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery
Get some delicious take-out from this "unassuming East Village bodega that also serves what is widely considered to be some of the city’s best home-style Pueblan cooking" (NY Times).
215 Avenue A

In Brooklyn:
Grand Canyon
Offering take-out and delivery
Grand Canyon reopened in 2018 by one of its longtime waiters. They have all the great diner food you'd expect along with an excellent selection of Mexican food.
143 Montague St.

White Tiger
Take out and delivery

Take out and delivery

Gonzalo “Victor” Carreto, one of the owners of Grand Canyon

In Queens:
Neir's Tavern
Neir's is 190 years old, recently saved from a rent hike. They're offering take-out and curbside options.

In the Bronx:
Take-out and delivery

On Staten Island:
O'Henry's Publick House
10 Minthorne Street
(718) 442-6200

O'Henry's owners Bobby Digi and Lisa McFarland

More Quarantined Cash Mobs:
- Three Lives & Co. bookshop
- Gem Spa

- Here's a list of more businesses to support and more ways you can help New York's mom-and-pops, and their employees, stay afloat while we all stay home.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Cash Mob: Three Lives & Co.

Today's #SaveNYC Quarantined Cash Mob is at the Three Lives & Company book shop in Greenwich Village.

Founded in 1978, Three Lives is a beloved part of Greenwich Village. Run by Toby Cox, the shop's entire staff is always available with an excellent book recommendation and conversation.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Three Lives is offering free hand-delivery of books within the West Village, as well as shipping via UPS to anywhere in the country. You can also take a quick stroll by for curbside pickup.

Get a new book for your weekend indoors. Call Three Lives at 212-741-2069 or send an email ( to order your next read--and help keep "the perfect New York bookstore" alive.

Troy and Toby, photo via Women's Room

More Quarantined Cash Mobs:
- Gem Spa

- Here's a list of more businesses to support and more ways you can help New York's mom-and-pops, and their employees, stay afloat while we all stay home.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Quarantined Cash Mob

As New York's mom and pops have been forced to close for public safety, #SaveNYC is launching a "Quarantined Cash Mob." Each day (we hope) we will highlight a different small business in the city that you can support easily from home.

Make a donation or buy a gift card. Order take-out or delivery from restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops. Take action and spread the word -- before we all emerge to find New York has vanished completely.

Thank you Tommy Noonan of dcx for the design

For the kick-off today we're starting with Gem Spa.

Gem Spa has been on St. Mark's Place in the East Village since 1957, a favorite spot for rock stars, artists, poets, and everyday New Yorkers. Currently owned and operated by Parul Patel, Gem is best known for its delicious and celebrated egg creams. They have recently designed their own line of popular merchandise, including t-shirts, hats, and special edition artworks.

Visit their online store to shop for merchandise.

Make a donation on their GoFundMe page to help them stay in business during the coronavirus crisis.

In addition, Gem just announced they have started delivering. On their Instagram, they write:

"Call 917-509-0964 to place your order & pay by scanning the barcode on Venmo (click for code) or on spa. Get PortoRico coffee, flavored teas, snacks, drinks, cigarettes, Ecigarettes, cigars, Gem Spa merchandise delivered straight to your door. In the interest of safety, deliveries can be left outside your door or with the doorman."

Parul Patel, photo by Calla Kessler/The New York Times

- Here's a list of more businesses to support and more ways you can help New York's mom-and-pops, and their employees, stay afloat while we all stay home.

Support Mom & Pop in the Time of Corona

The coronavirus shutdown has shuttered the restaurants, shops, and bars of New York City. Our independent mom and pops are struggling to survive--and they absolutely may not be here when the crisis is over. Imagine coming out of quarantine to find a totally vanished New York, all your favorite bookshops and restaurants, bars and cafes gone forever. This is your chance to take action and help save our vital and beloved spaces.

This list is a place to start--and crowd source. Add your favorites in the comments--but be sure to include contact information and links that include info about ways to easily make donations or place orders from home. I will update this list as much as possible. As always, patronize your neighborhood places--order take-out or pick up, buy gift certificates, and make donations--you could choose one per day and keep them in rotation as part of your daily routine.

Until our elected officials figure out it's time to pass legislation to protect small businesses, let's get together and #SaveNYC--we are all in this together. 


Gem Spa
Support this famous corner store in the East Village
Visit: GoFundMe
Buy merchandise: Gem Spa

B&H Dairy
Donate to help pay employees, rent, and utilities
Visit: GoFundMe

Three Lives & Co. Books

Free hand-delivery of books within the West Village, shipping via UPS to anywhere in the country. Call 212.741.2069 or send an email ( to order books remotely.

Marie's Crisis Piano Bar
Virtually open via Facebook with live music and sing-alongs
Visit: Facebook -- tip your piano players!

Support this gorgeous Village pizza place, bar, and music venue (since 1957) by ordering delivery, pick-up, and cocktails to go. You can also buy gift cards.
Visit: 106 West Houston St. at Thompson, and call 212-677-3820

photo: Mary Clarke

Bureau of General Services Queer Division
Make a tax-deductible donation to this LGBTQ bookstore in the Village. You can also order books and have them shipped to you. Send an email to CONTACT@BGSQD.COM with the details of your order. They can take Venmo, Paypal, or a credit card over the phone.
Visit: Website

McNally Jackson Bookstore
You can buy gift cards and order delivery
Visit: Website
And support the laid-off workers of McNally Jackson here

Make a donation to this collectively run bookstore and activist event space on the Lower East Side
Visit: Website
You can also buy gift certificates for later purchases

Film Forum
Donate or become a member
Visit: Website

Cinema Village
Buy gift cards to this classic independent movie theater, become a member, make a donation
Visit: Website

Village East Cinema
Gift cards via City Cinemas
Visit: Website

Economy Candy
Order candy online
Visit: website

Staff Fundraisers for closed bars:

Find your favorite place and tip your bartenders each time you drink at home!

Julius' Bar

Visit: Gofundme

Dream Baby
Visit: GoFundMe

Otto's Shrunken Head
Visit: GoFundMe


The Double Windsor
Help support their employees
Visit: GoFundMe

The Gate
Help support their employees
Visit: GoFundMe


Neir's Tavern
New York's oldest bar now offers take-out and curbside options
Visit: Menu


Staten Island

More Things You Can Do:

- Tip your delivery people very well--they are risking their health to keep working for you

- Virtually tip your favorite bartenders (here's a list)

- Buy movie theater passes that you will use in the After Time

- Avoid Amazon and order delivery from local shops

- Avoid the chain grocers and shop from your local mom and pop -- they have all the toilet paper

- Now is the time to demand action from your local elected officials. Write to your city council member and tell them to pass legislation immediately to protect mom and pop. There's the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (click here and here for more information and ways to take action from home) and the Commercial Rent Stabilization bill (click here to take action from home) to choose from.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Three Lives Now Delivers

During this coronavirus crisis, it is vitally important that we all support our local mom-and-pop businesses. Three Lives & Co. bookstore is a great source for buying books--which you'll want during quarantine--and they're making it easy to shop by offering free delivery in the Village.

They write:

Over the past week, we have received numerous queries about our plans for the shop in the context of COVID-19. Our main concern is, of course, the wellbeing of our staff and customers, and our first priority is ensuring that the shop is a clean and safe place for all. Though we will take cues from health and science experts as the situation changes, we are currently maintaining our regular hours (10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and 12 noon-7 p.m. on Sunday).

We acknowledge that some of you may be suspending your regular routines and venturing out less often. With that in mind, we are now offering free hand-delivery of books within the West Village—and we can, as always, ship via UPS to anywhere else in the country. Please call (212.741.2069) or send us an email ( if you’d like to order books remotely. It is an uncertain time to be living in New York, but that does not mean we need to forgo great books.

If you can stop by in the coming weeks, we would love to see you. If you cannot, we still want to know how you are doing, what you are reading, and which books you are looking forward to picking up—there are so many to be excited about, including recent titles from Hilary Mantel, James McBride, Maira Kalman, Colum McCann, Lily King, and Melissa Clark. Our shelves are full, so let’s talk books.

Three Lives & Company
154 W 10 Street
NY NY 10014

Egg Cream Day at Gem Spa

Sunday is National Egg Cream Day. Up for venturing out? Visit Gem Spa--get an egg cream and (while supplies last) an egg cream mask, which won't protect you from the coronavirus, but will enable you to drink a delicious egg cream.

Want to support this legendary East Village institution remotely? Donate to their Go Fund Me, just launched today, and help them stay in business.

Gem Spa writes: "We will be giving Gem Spa merchandise to donors in return for their generosity. We understand that with the coronavirus scare many people are choosing to stay at home but would still like to support. As such, feel free to go on our website if you choose to buy merchandise... Thank you so much for all your love and support."

The fight to save this Gem continues!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Fine & Schapiro


After news about the Upper West Side's Fine & Schapiro closing for renovations, word has come out that it will not be reopening.

photo: Manhattan Sideways

On Facebook, Manhattans Sideways reports, "Fine & Schapiro, an institution on West 72nd Street since 1927 has closed. They have very sadly lost their lease as confirmed by the staff members who have worked here for decades." Another tipster writes, "The landlord jacked the rent."

*Update: West Side Rag reports, “They had two years left on their lease. Business was slow. Because of their age and bad health, they decided to close. That’s the story,” said Joe Kizner, manager of the building. The paper was unable to get in touch with the owners of the business.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Bowery Kitchen Supplies


Bowery Kitchen Supplies has been doing business in Chelsea Market since 1996. Now they're closing.

"We have no choice but to close our doors," they write in their posted notice, listing the reasons: "The soaring rents and extra charges by corporate landlords, the rapid and dramatic changes in the retail landscape especially for 'brick and mortar' businesses and finally an aggressive NY state and city tax bureau."

Last week, they wrote on their Facebook page, "As a small business in NYC we struggle thru many crises, we ourselves thru 9/11, hurricanes, outages and on. Never any help from the government, just higher taxes. And now high rents and next day delivery are taking their toll on the few that survived."

Bowery Kitchen Supplies originally opened on the Bowery in 1975, founded by the Nourieli family.

Google purchased their home, Chelsea Market, for $2.4 billion in 2018, in what's been called "the second-largest full single-asset sale ever" in the city.