Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Roxy Luncheonette


In 2012, I checked in with the Roxy Luncheonette, a little swivel stool and counter place down on John Street that had survived since 1944.

Now, in its 70th year, the Roxy has shuttered.

Roxy egg cream, 2009

Reader Frank writes in with the sad news and recent photos:

"At some point in the last 18 months or so, the owner sold it to new operators. They modified the name, calling it Roxy's East West Diner. It was basically the same--still a diner--but not quite as good."

"Worse," Frank adds, "the ongoing, hellish construction on John Street kept the Roxy (and its neighbors) hidden under a sidewalk bridge. Tragically and ironically, workers carted off the sidewalk bridge last week--just in time for the Roxy to close."

Roxy today

In 2012, a reporter asked the Roxy's long-time owner how long he thought he'd be able to stay open with all the construction outside. "Couple more months," said the owner. "Maybe a few more months."

The little Roxy lasted two more years, and yet succumbed--another victim of hyper-gentrification. The construction that killed it is due to: A new Pace University dorm with a TD Bank and an Urban Outfitters, a new hotel, and the Fulton Center, "with an increased focus on retail."

An auction was held at the luncheonette yesterday.

An egg cream at the Roxy
Roxy suffers under John Street construction

Monday, July 21, 2014

St. Mark's Bookshop: Open

This weekend, the new St. Mark's Bookshop opened for business on East 3rd Street between 1st and A. They opened for a few hours on Saturday, then went full-time yesterday, noon - 10pm. Traffic flowed steadily in and out of the shop, and people were buying books.

The new space is smaller than the one on Astor Place, yet roomier, with white undulating shelves that curve around the perimeter in "a continuous series of horizontal bands which allow the eye to glide around the space without visual friction." Book subjects are carved into the wood.

In the center of the shop is an assortment of stacked roll-away tables. The design is meant to better accommodate readings and other events. The rear part of the shop bends to the right into an alcove-like space.

You can take a look at the design here.

I will miss the old space, its many sections and its spaciousness, along with the vestibule filled with fascinating local announcements. I'll miss the big, enticing windows off Astor Place. But I look forward to St. Mark's new lease on life and their plans to hold more events.

It took a lot of work, from a lot of people, to get here.

Back in 2011, struggling to pay high rent, the bookstore's owners asked landlord Cooper Union for a break. Cooper Union was not "particularly sympathetic."

Over 44,000 people signed a petition urging Cooper to help keep the bookstore in place, much like other universities have done. No dice. Michael Moore visited the bookstore and gave a rallying cry, saying, "It's not asking for a free lunch. Oh, God forbid! It's just asking for some decency."

I organized a Buy a Book Weekend, then another, and many of you went and bought books.

In November, Cooper Union agreed to a deal, but it wasn't enough for the bookstore to survive on. By April 2012, St. Mark's was back on the ropes. I organized a cash mob, and again many of you showed up to buy books. The bookstore ran a crowd-funding campaign, raising a pile of money for their move.

In March of this year we learned they'd be relocating to E. 3rd Street. And now they're there. Finally, we can relax--St. Mark's is settled in. Through hard work, patience, protest, and a lot of complaining, we got our bookstore back. St. Mark's still remains one of the longest surviving bookstores in the city.

Now--dump that miserable Kindle, cancel your Amazon account, and go buy some real books!

St. Mark's earlier plea for help, 1980s

Inside the old St. Mark's, 1984: New York Magazine

Friday, July 18, 2014

Clover Barber Shop Sale

For many years, Park Slope's Clover Barber Shop was a lovely spot for a haircut. It shuttered in 2008 and its proprietor, Mr. Riccardelli, passed away last year. Earlier this year the shop got a new tenant--a wine store from down the block. I worried about the fate of the sign, but was unaware that the shop had remained untouched and intact behind its shutters.

Now we hear from a reader that the contents of the shop are currently on sale.

The letters have been removed from the sign and gathered in an old trunk. They're selling for $25 apiece.

There are chairs, mirrors, tables, dishes, vases, lamps--the contents not only of the barber shop, but of the entire "1930's tenement," as the sign says.

And this might be the best treasure of the bunch--a barber chair for children's haircuts, in the shape of a mid-century automobile. Gorgeous.

I hope the barber's things will find good homes. The sale is at 387 7th Avenue and runs through the weekend, until 4:00 each day.

Clover to Wines
The Clover Barber
A Haircut from Mr. Riccardelli

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Shakespeare & Hipsters & Tourists

Shakespeare and Co. is still open at 716 Broadway, unsure of when the closure will come. Visit them before they're gone--they've got a packed New York table just waiting for you.

Meanwhile, the space next door is for rent. The advertising makes it clear: Who is New York for? American and foreign tourists.

Who are the "new village people"? Hipsters and business!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Help Punjabi Deli

The Punjabi Deli has been tucked in a corner on 1st Street near 1st Avenue since 1994. Open 24 hours a day, they serve mostly cab drivers, but many locals have also discovered the deli's delicious and inexpensive vegetarian dishes of Indian cuisine.

Punjabi offers cabbies a place to rest and refuel, and to socialize and create connections. Sometimes, one of the workers will break into spontaneous song.

But business has been declining for Punjabi. Owner Singh told the Lo-Down last year that he "lost half his business over the past few years with less parking available in the area and construction on Houston Street making it harder for taxis to stop at his deli."

It used to be you'd see a yellow stripe of taxis lined up in front of Punjabi. Now you see construction materials.  

Punjabi is petitioning the city to bring a taxi relief stand to the front of the deli, a place where taxis can park for an hour so drivers can get a meal, use the rest room, and relax before getting back behind the wheel.  

You can sign the petition at the deli or go online here to sign.

The petition reads, in part:

"Since last 21 years all taxi drivers go to this particular area to have break from their hard work for a cup of tea or breakfast, lunch or dinner. They use Punjabi Dhaba, located on 1st street and Avenue A, facility as quick washroom and relief...  Though the City and state government collect taxes for each trip from commuters in the form of surcharge through hard working of drivers, they do not create or give much facility and respect to taxi drivers... The Punjabi Dhaba is loosing its business and local area customers also and running their operations is getting very difficult for them."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

John's Pizzeria, UES


Reader Murray writes in: "much to my dismay the Upper East Side John's Pizza on 64th Street (between First & York) closed. I went there tonight for some pizza and there was a 'closed' sign on the door and a for sale sign on the window and the place looked abandoned."

It looks like this John's vanished without warning sometime in June.

They opened here in 1985 (the Times did a big profile in 1993 of owner Pete Castellotti and the opening of his west side location). John's of Times Square is still owned by Castellotti family members, though their website has a prominent disclaimer that says "John's of Times Square is not affiliated with or associated with John's of Bleecker Street," no doubt due to the family feud of a couple years ago. Maybe John's of the Upper East fell to the feud?

Back in January we heard the rumor that the original and much beloved John's of Bleecker Street would shutter. They said "no way," but with this mysterious closure you have to wonder.

Universal Gear


Another gay shop is vanishing from Chelsea's 8th Avenue. Universal Gear, opened here in 2001, is closing.

Richie writes in: "We walked by last night and saw the going out of business sign. Walked in and asked the employee who said the landlord raised the rent and so they lost their lease."

They will gone by the end of July and are having a "massive liquidation sale" until then. They have another store in Hell's Kitchen, where gay Chelsea has migrated after being evicted from 8th Avenue. A relative newcomer, Universal Gear joins Camouflage, Rainbows & Triangles, The Rawhide, and many others in exile from the former gayborhood.

Here's how it's happening.