Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dance Manhattan


After 22 years in Chelsea, Dance Manhattan is no more as of this Saturday. Their landlord decided not to renew their lease.

Once again, the closure is not due to a lack of customers. The dance studio was thriving. Their popular salsa night with Jimmy Anton recently attracted 450 dancers. But the landlord doubled the rent and is seeking another kind of business.

Co-owner Elena Iannucci told me, "New York is not kind to dance studios any longer. It's the real estate market. They want a tech company here."

Back in the spring, Elena told DNA, "you have the Googles and the Yelps and the Yahoos…who are looking for space and they become the people that buildings like this one want to rent to and not necessarily to those of us in the arts who are providing dance to the public.”

She tried to find a new space, looking everywhere in town, but there was nothing affordable to be found, so she is forced to close. Many of the instructors will be moving over to the You Should Be Dancing studio. Some are flying solo, hoping their students will follow.

Tomorrow night is Dance Manhattan's final Open House Guest Night, a free social dance party from 9:00 p.m. until midnight. The dance showcase starts at 10pm--and there are free snacks. For $5 you get a dance lesson at 8:00.

On Saturday, it's the drop-in tango workshop. And adios.

727 Hardware

For 80 years, 727 Hardware has been serving the neighborhood around its location on 6th Avenue and 24th Street. They even survived the arrival of Home Depot just a block away. But recently, their landlord told them to go. The Heart Vein medical office upstairs, with the blinding, flashing LED billboard, is expanding.

So the hardware store is going.

Luckily, they found a new spot at 328 8th Avenue, between 26th and 27th. They've already got the shop mostly packed up.

I like an old hardware store. This one's not my local, but I've picked up a few items here in the past.

As an old shop, it has some nice features, like the vintage lettering on the windows--and inside, too.

When I visited, a very accommodating young man gave me a tour of the place. He showed me an ornate staircase leading down to the basement, and a weird bathroom window that, he said, led to a secret passageway between the buildings.

The hardware store's building is neighbor to a building that had once been Koster and Bial's "The Corner," a saloon connected to the famous music halls of the day. Eagle-eyed urbanists are often drawn to that cornice up above.

In the 1939 shot below, from the NYPL's archives, you can see a sliver of the original hardware store on the far right. Next to a Playland arcade, it was then called "Sol's" hardware store. You could get two keys made for 15 cents.


In the following 1936 photo, also from the NYPL archives, the shop is some kind of "bargain bazaar," and not a hardware store. So maybe it didn't quite make it to 80 years.

I share this photo for the great shot of Playland--and the description of the arcade on the back of the image, which reads: "It is provided with a rifle range, many slot-machine games, and cheap recorded music, as a diversion for people with not too fine an appreciation for good entertainment."


Well, I suppose the same could still be said today of that spot, occupied as it is with a XXX shop selling DVDs and rubber goods. And thank goodness for that. Sadly, we lost Billy's Topless from the Koster & Bial spot in 2001.

And now this old hardware store is going, almost 80 years, gutted for vein treatments. I'll miss seeing it there. I liked walking by and thinking, "Now there's a survivor."

Please find them at their new space on 8th Avenue, between 26th and 27th, after December 1.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Johnson for Cafe Edison

First, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote a letter supporting a new lease for Cafe Edison. Then New York State Senator Brad Hoylman stepped up with his own letter. Now Manhattan District 3 Council Member Corey Johnson offers the following:

He writes: "The Cafe Edison is more than just a restaurant; it is part of the fabric of New York of the last remaining bastions where people from all walks of life can meet and enjoy an affordable meal in Times Square."

He cites recent losses to Times Square--including Colony Records and McHale's--and says, "We cannot afford to lose the Cafe Edison now." He asks Edison Hotel owner Gerald Barad to grant the restaurant a lease.

Thank you to Mr. Johnson for this beautiful letter.

Don't forget, if you've missed our last three Lunch Mobs, or just want more, this Thursday (tomorrow) night we're having a Dinner Mob to Save Cafe Edison with a great klezmer band. Don't miss it. (Click here for details.)

Honest Boy Fruit Stand


"The dirty, polluted, overpriced, but iconic fruit stand at the corner of Broadway and Houston is no more," writes in Joe. "For some reason, I already miss it terribly."

Maybe they're on a long vacation, but they've been shuttered for at least 10 days and the stand has become littered with empty coffee cups and other detritus, so it certainly appears to be gone for good.


When the Wall Street Journal announced in 2013 that the fruit stand's parcel had been sold by the MTA to a real-estate developer for $26 million, they called it an "unglamorous pocket on the northern lip of luxurious Soho."

Maybe that's why Joe, and many others, miss it--it was a scrappy holdout from another time, a reminder of the neighborhood that's been wiped out.

April 2014

Its name was the Honest Boy fruit stand, and it was opened by Louis Arenas in 1980--the letters that spelled out "The Honest Boy" had that New Wavy '80s look, but the cast-iron stand dates back to the 1950s.

At least three times the stand came close to shutting down. In 2000, the MTA wanted to kick them out so they could convert the space into a lot for vehicle maintenance. People fought back. The Times reported, "In 1984, when the Metropolitan Transit Authority refused to renew the lease after it purchased the plot, community groups saved the business. When an electrical substation was proposed in 1992, hundreds of protesters derailed the project."

At that time, New York magazine reported that the stand had "become a Community Board 2 cause celebre, replete with petitions, street protest, a mean letter-writing campaign, and, of course, agitprop posters and murals."

New York magazine, 1992

This time around, no one came out to fight for Honest Boy. Or, if they did, they didn't make much noise.

Maybe it was Mr. Arenas that everyone loved so much. Around 2004, he became ill, reported The Sun, and transferred the lease of the stand to Pan Gi Lee.

April 2014

In 2006, the MTA and Mr. Lee proposed to transform the corner with a "two-story glass, steel, and aluminum building," incorporating the fruit stand into something larger and more permanent. But Community Board 2 fought against it.

According to The Sun: "The director of the SoHo Alliance, Sean Sweeney, called the proposed design 'absurd,' and said he is worried the stand would evolve into something more. 'It will be a coffee scene. All the cool people are going to go in there and it will lose its charm,' Mr. Sweeney said."

April 2014

What's coming next will be big and glassy--of course. Charmless and created for all the cool people, it has already pissed off the neighbors.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hoylman for Cafe Edison

Last week, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote a letter to the owner and general manager of the Edison Hotel, asking them to give Cafe Edison a lease. This week, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman gets in the fight with an eloquent and pointed letter of his own.

He makes a plea to Gerald Barad, Richard Hotter, and Shimmie Horn: "I therefore appeal to your sense of fairness and justice and appreciation for preserving the character of our city to meet with the operators of Cafe Edison forthwith and begin negotiations to grant the restaurant a lease."

Thank you Senator Hoylman! Hope you enjoyed that matzo ball soup at this weekend's Lunch Mob to Save Cafe Edison.

Don't forget, if you've missed our last three Lunch Mobs, or just want more, this Thursday night we're having a Dinner Mob to Save Cafe Edison with a great klezmer band. Don't miss it. (Click here for details.)

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks


Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks is being forced out of its Greenwich Village shop. Once again, it's not due to a lack of customers or changing styles of shopping. It's the landlord.

New York Times

Bonnie writes in: "I can't believe I'm turning into one of your sad stories, but I've just lost my lease. I have to be out by the end of January. I'm absolutely determined to find a place and move the shop (probably in the East Village, since nobody can afford the West Village anymore)."

Bonnie has had the popular and beloved bookshop on West 10th Street for 15 years. She was just profiled this past spring in the New York Times: "Whether you are looking for Sam Choy’s 'The Choy of Cooking' or 'The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking,' by Brother Rick Curry, Ms. Slotnick either has a copy or will find a way to get one for you."

New York Times

Bonnie has prepared this announcement:

Dear customers, friends, neighbors, and supporters,

I'm still here! But my landlord has refused to renew the lease on my shop. After 15 years on West Tenth Street, I'm going to have to find a new home. My lease expires on January 31, 2015. I plan to stay open through Christmas and maybe longer, and then I will be open by appointment only while I pack ALL these books.

I'm looking for a small storefront in the East Village, the West Village being totally out of my price range, but would also be open to other (marginally affordable) neighborhoods.

It's also possible that if I find the right person, I would consider sharing space--with another bookseller, an antiques dealer, a kitchenware shop. Maybe you'd be interested, or know someone who might?

I don't see any point in a petition to keep me here, because my landlord will not relent. But some media coverage of this increasingly common and sad New York story would be welcome. Since I'm not social-media-savvy, feel free to mention my situation on Facebook, Twitter, or What Have You. And when I do reopen (presumably in early February), front-page headlines would help a lot!

Rest assured that I will find a space, you will find your way there, and I will make it as cozy and welcoming as the old shop. And if you've never been here, it will be even more exciting for you to make your first visit to my new, improved place.

Please watch my website, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, for updates. And feel free to contact me by email or phone.

I thank you for your friendship, your patronage, your loyalty, your interest, your love.

Most sincerely,

Monday, November 17, 2014

What to Worry About

This weekend, Tim Donnelly at the New York Post published an interview with me about what's left to worry about in our vanishing New York. You can read that article here.

After we first did the interview, it prompted me to ask readers on my Facebook page: "What are some places in danger of vanishing, or that you just worry about?" Here's that list, somewhat organized. Not all of these places are in danger--most just give off that feeling, that sense of foreboding, of days numbered. They make us worry. I may not agree with everything on the list--some of the places I've never heard of--but it's a collective effort, and a work in progress.

We put the list together just this summer and already the places are being picked off. Both Yaffa Cafe and Smith's Bar & Grill have vanished. Cafe Edison has been given notice.

It happens fast. If we don't get the city to take action soon, all that's left could be wiped out.

Little Poland

La Bonbonniere
Cup and Saucer Luncheonette
Café Edison
Neil’s Coffee Shop
Lexington Candy Shop

Peter Pan Donuts
Donut Pub

Ray’s Candy
Raul Candy Store

Castillo de Jaguar
La Taza de Oro
El Parador on 34th

El Quijote

Le Veau D’or
Tout Va Bien
Chez Napoleon

Russo's Pasta
DiRobertis’ Pasticceria
Di Palo
Ottomanelli’s Butcher Shop
Isle of Capri
Ferdinando's Foccacceria

Yonah Schimmel
Moishe’s Bake Shop
Barney Greengrass
Streit's Matzo factory

Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn

Wo Hop

Pete McManus
Nancy Whiskey Pub
Old Town Bar
Jimmy’s Corner
Smith's Bar & Grill
Rudy’s Bar
Holland Bar
Hank’s Saloon
Grassroots Tavern
Ear Inn

Julius’ Bar
Ty’s bar

Village Vanguard
Arthur’s Tavern
Showmans Jazz
Paris Blues

First Flight Music
Music Inn
Other Music
Rebel Rebel
Academy Records

Donohue’s restaurant
Sam’s Pizza
Knickerbocker Grill
Yaffa Café
Noho Star
Café Pick Me Up

Gem Spa
Jim’s Shoe Repair
Trash and Vaudeville
Desco Vacuum Cleaners
Moe’s Meat Market art gallery

Cherry Lane Theater
Shore Theater

The Strand
East Village Books

Marietta Fashion
Moulded Shoes
Hyman Hendler & Sons
Orchard St. Corset

The Sensuous Bean
Porto Rico coffee

Royal Hair barber shop

East Village Meat Market