Friday, May 30, 2008

The Joneses Are Here

I've been puzzling as to why yunnies hate mom-and-pops so very, very much. I was reading this post by EV Grieve in which he quotes an online review of an Irish pub that came down to make way for a new luxury tower. The reviewer writes:

"I hope places like this close down soon: We are all working on building a better downtown. I bought a 1.5 million dollar condo around the block from this place. I stopped in one weekday during lunch (i was off.) The place had 3 patrons at the bar, all of which looked worse then the other. The decor is lacking, the floors dirty, and the food was just ok. This place may be decent for someone who does not like finer things..."

And I wondered, as I have many times when reading similar commentary, what is this about? Why do yunnies feel such intense hatred of harmless, dumpy old places? The hatred seems deeply personal and expresses itself in a wish to destroy. It's one thing to say, "I don't like this place so I won't go there," yet another to say, "I hope it is eradicated." We hear this sentiment again and again in blog commentary and online reviews. It feels a lot like hysteria.

Then I realized (with thanks to Mr. Grieve): It's all about property values.



The yunnies are like suburban home owners, the Joneses who mow their lawns every Sunday and keep their porches freshly painted. Trimming hedges and weeding gardens, they want their neighbors to do the same--to not damage their property values. When a neighbor chooses to let their lawn grow, display chainsaw stump art in the yard, leave a car up on blocks in the driveway, or allow their paint to peel, oh how Mr. and Mrs. Jones go wild! "We are all working to build a better downtown," they say, "Why aren't you one of us, one of us, one of us?"



It is hysteria. "Burn it down! Run them out of town! A scourge on Elm Street!" the Joneses cry. Terrified by the specter of falling property values, they drag their neighbors into court, ordering them to keep up, keep up, keep up with us Joneses! And if you don't keep up...well, here comes good old blight, good old eminent domain, and didn't we need a new park anyway? Maybe something with cannons and faux piles of cannon balls, symbols of our terror of dirty, smelly natives who don't care about the finer things.

I have nothing against cleanliness. I like to see my elderly, immigrant neighbors sweep their stoops in the morning. This is Old World tidiness, not the same as New New York sterility. A little dirt is good for you--keeps the immune system strong. Today we're besieged by germaphobes. Their fearful suburban parents taught them to slather themselves and everything around them with antibacterial agents. Vongerichtification is their way of cleaning up the city.



The children of suburban Boomers have come back to reclaim the cities their grandparents fled years ago. They bring with them fear and hatred of anything urban. They bring suburban values that don't mesh with the city--and this is different from other, non-yunnie transplants to the city, who yearned to leave suburbia behind. The yunnies refuse to be city people. Dirt, rats, ugly signage? Clean it up, clean it up, clean it up! they say. Or else.

*Everyday Chatter

Is the new Stuy-Town Heaven or Hell? [NYO]

Mmm...the Belmore Cafeteria. [Urbanite]

False crap alarm at Ruby's, it was just dirt. [Curbed]

Michael Perlman, savior of diners, has a new cause in Queens: the 91-year-old Ridgewood Theater. Looking to invest? Click here.

Cheyenne Diner is about to make its move to Red Hook. [Urbanite]

I spoke too soon when I said the entire block of 6th Ave between 17th and 18th except for a holdout frame shop was closing down--that holdout frame shop? It ain't holding out anymore. Their move means every single business on the block has been pushed out:


The city has been giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to chain stores and bupkis to mom-and-pops. [Times]

More girls in pink--first it was SATC, now it's Legally Blonde. When will it end? [Flickr] via [Gothamist]

Oh boy, an SATC "schadenfreudian delight," my favorite! [EVG]

NYC not gritty enough for the movies--requires artful grittifying for that authentic NYC look. [Gothamist]

Saw this parked outside BBQ in the EV. For a minute I thought I was in Bush country, then I remembered, it's the new New York and the Joneses are here:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Here are some pics of that SATC mob scene. I keep imagining a modern version of the Maenads, with their "violence, bloodletting, sexual activity, self-intoxication, and mutilation." [Racked]

Speaking of bacchanalias, I do so love hearing about the A Building's crazy pool parties. Especially when they involve hedge fund guys taking drunken craps on the floor. [Curbed]

And speaking of crap on the floor, Bloomberg's really upset that his part in the SATC movie ended up on the cutting room floor. [City Room]

16th Street gets more condoschmerz as old #335 is bookended by the opened Modern and the soon-to-open Condominiums @ 333, which comes complete with an odd-looking round escape hatch in the roof--maybe they'll put in a fireman's pole. Now that's an amenity. But don't worry about the old tenants of #335--they won't feel squeezed because they're leaving. SVA signed a lease for the whole building, which is owned by Tyco. Remember them?


Ruby's of Coney Island is shuttered by the Board of Health after a guy taking a leak falls through the floor into a pile of shit surrounded by rats bigger than dogs. Now that's New York! Here's more on Ruby's from last summer. [NYO]

Where once was a community clinic, there will now be a gated condo. [Curbed]

Indulge in more mourning for the Bowery. [Voice]

Worth checking out: a lovely exhibit of drawings by AK Corbin at the Ansonia pharmacy on 6th Ave and 10th St.

Take a video tour of sailors' tattoos--hot stuff. [City Room]

Then take a walk on rapidly vanishing Fulton Street, where condos are fast replacing scruffy little shops and bars, like Ryan's. Even if they could co-exist, the yunnies won't stand for dirty floors--though, as we read earlier, they will take craps on their own floors. [EV Grieve]

Montero Bar & Grill

I went to Montero's this Fleet Week in the hopes of finding a bar full of sailors, like they had last year. I passed a trio of swabbies walking down Atlantic Avenue--laughing with their white bell bottoms flapping in the wind, bringing to mind Sinatra, Kelly, and Munshin in On The Town--but none were drinking at Montero's bar.


flickr photos

I did, however, meet a merchant marine who told me about his life dredging sand from under the waters of the harbor's Narrows, that stretch that flows under the Verrazano and out to the Lower Bay and to sea. It seems the ocean is constantly pushing sand towards New York City and this sand must constantly be removed. It goes into concrete, mostly, but approximately 90,000 tons of it went under the parking lot of Red Hook's new Ikea. They needed that much to fill the historic Graving Dock. The guy I met at Montero's was the guy who dredged that particular sand.

He told me about how, for the permission to destroy a piece of New York's waterfront history, Ikea was required to preserve the gantry cranes that lined the former Graving Dock, which many people tried to save.

"I guess they're landmarks," he said. "They painted 'em blue and put floodlights under 'em. Can you imagine that? Floodlights on a buncha cranes."



The Graving Dock is gone, but Montero's still stands. It's a museum of Brooklyn maritime history, filled with model ships so brittle a single touch could crumble them, sailor hats yellowed by time, bright orange life preservers painted with the names of ships that no longer set sail. The original owner, Pilar Montero, still lives and sits at the corner of the bar. A poster of her in Flamenco garb hangs on the wall next to her husband's portrait in dress blues.

You could wander the bar forever and still find more to look at. On one shelf, there's a greasy, black steam engine that was built years ago by a sailor named Santiago. Flip a switch and you'll find, like the bar itself, in a sea of change, it's still going strong.

Life goes on at Montero's. They recently brought in a karaoke DJ--every Friday night in June, at 10:00, you can make a drunken fool of yourself among the artifacts.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Despite dire predictions this winter, the Russo Realty visual smorgasbord is still standing strong. ForgottenNY's coverage is definitely worth checking out, by the way.


Remember when I said pink + cupcake + SATC = the destruction of Bleecker? Here's more proof. You have to see it to believe it. [Racked]

At last night's SATC premiere an "angry crowd surged against police barricades, cursing and stomping their Manolo Blahniks." Is it real? Is it a nightmare? Will somebody please turn this into a zombie movie? [NYDN]

In the film A Hole in a Fence, visit Red Hook's industrial decay, graffiti artists, and more as they prepare to vanish in the shadow of gentrification and the coming Ikea. [Gothamist]

While we're in Red Hook, check out this great sign on Van Brunt. Little dogs are not exempt from capital punishment! Especially those carried around in designer handbags:


The Tower of Toys was like many urban creations that "served as demarcation lines, stopgaps against encroaching gentrification." And now it's gone. [EVG]

Gammablog is putting together video of the Toy Tower's deconstruction. [GB]

More Blade Runner-style giant ads coming to our city. The Apocalypse is upon us. [Times] via [Curbed]

Owner of the Vongerichtified Beatrice Inn says, "Obviously, it’s become one of the best places in the world of all time." [NYO]

R&S Strauss

Recently, Curbed reported that the R&S Strauss auto parts shop on 14th and Ave C has gone on the market for $13 million, thus further pushing the eastern end of 14th towards possible luxurification.



I figured I better get in there and check it out. Browsing around car accessory stores is fun. Even when you don't own a car. There are many creative air fresheners, decals both sexy and scary, and novelty seat covers to discover. At this location, you will also find plenty of bling to trick out and generally "pimp" your ride. I asked the salesgirl if they were closing and she said, "No way! If we are, nobody's telling us!"



Strauss is an old company. According to their history, the R&S in the name refers to the store's founders, Harry Roth and Herman Schlenger, who opened their first shop in 1919. The Strauss part belongs to a guy named Izzy they merged with in 1983. It is now a global chain.

Chain or not, its loss from the eastern ass-end of 14th will still be cause for grief if it means what we think it means--an opening for the overall Meatpacking effect that is rippling up and down this main artery to reach deep into the East Village. The site has "flagship opportunity" written all over it. And all it would take is some brave "revolutionary" like Diane Von Furstenberg to move in and there goes the neighborhood. If she, and those like her, were willing to suffer the stink and blood of dead carcasses, what will they care about housing projects and powerplants?

And as we've seen from cupcakes and Marc Jacobs, the ripple effect grows quickly and powerfully. What will the loss of Strauss beget for an entire neighborhood?

Fear This!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Another Sex and the City star bemoans the death of NYC, as Chris Noth says: "New York is pretty much commercialized to the point of no return." He misses the "diverse eccentrics" and "different neighborhoods" that have "all been washed out; it’s very suburban... It’s all about sort of a corporate sensibility, and it’s squeezed out room for any other kind of sensibility.” Of course, he's right, but what sensibility did the squeezing? Maybe the one packaged, branded, and thrust upon NYC by SATC? [EOnline]

Andy Warhol lives--apparently, in the body of Marc Jacobs according to the current Interview magazine. This is the story of the new New York: We don't get CBGB, we get John Varvatos. We don't get Andy Warhol, we get Marc Jacobs. Nothing but high-priced simulations. Maybe Andy would dig it. [WWD]

The Chelsea Hotel tailors, Mr. and Mrs. Balabanis, are closing after 31 years in the neighborhood. Unable to bear another rent hike, they're retiring to Greece. [LWL]




Many 20-somethings who come to NYC (all of them white, most working as publicists and marketers earning decent starting salaries with much more to come) make big, big sacrifices to live here--like giving up pedicures and blonde highlights. [Times] ...and, boy, are Gothamist's commenters annoyed.

"Very blond, well-boned, expensively jeaned buyers have been pouring into East Village apartments for so long," except now they're blonder, younger, and more expensively jeaned as a 21-year-old spends $2.2 million to live in Alphabet City. [EV Grieve]

Charlie's Lives

Back in December I reported that the 41-year-old store Yes! This Is Charlie's would be forced to close due to rising rents on the eastern end of 14th Street.

More recently, The Villager reported on the March 31 closure, quoting manager Danny Rodriguez: “Mostly outsiders are moving in, and they couldn’t care less about us. All the new shops don’t cater to the people here. You feel like an outsider in your own neighborhood. To be honest, I don’t think they even want us here. They would love it if little by little we would just get out so they can move into our apartments."



Curbed picked up that story and their commenters confirmed Danny's suspicions, saying "Cry me a river," and "There's still too many poor people in Manhattan mucking up the City," and "Let them live in the outer boroughs where they belong," etc.

Curbed speculates that the eastern end of 14th is doomed, thanks to the "A Building, with its rooftop pool and glassed-in wealthy residents," along with other changes in the area, including Stuyvesant Town's frat-house transformation and the possible $13 million sale of R&S Strauss at Avenue C. I have to agree.



But the good new is...Charlie's lives! They found a new spot, miraculously, on Ave C between 10th and 11th. It's smaller than the last place, but still filled with odd coloring books, greeting cards in plastic tubs, and rolls of crepe paper. When I was there, two women walked in and greeted Charlie with kisses, saying, "We found you! Thank God--and we're sending everybody over."

Help spread the word, before Charlie's is eventually pushed again, next time off Ave C. This one neighborhood shop is still surviving in a city ever-filling with people who are pointedly, unabashedly, and aggressively hostile to the mere existence of places like it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Bob Arihood gets into the 6B Garden to show what has been saved from Eddie Boros' Tower of Toys--a collection of hobby horses and other toys that a garden insider told me will likely be auctioned off to raise money for the garden. I'll keep you posted on that possibility:

photo: Bob Arihood

Speaking of lost toys, a member of the VNY Flickr Group just posted a bunch of great pics of defunct toy shop Second Childhood. They closed in February and I'm still mad about it. [jackszwergold]

VNY reader BaHa blogs about Kalustyan's, a great old place I've been meaning to get up to and haven't, so read all about it here and smell the spices. [Serious Eats]

Park Slope mommies kill one of their own--as their favorite hangout shutters thanks to the gentrification they helped bring: "like Saturn devouring his young, that insatiable gentrifying beast has come to home to feed." Nice, but Medea might have been a better metaphor here. [Bk Paper] via [Gothamist]

Gawker gets "riled up" about the recent--and not so recent--New York vanishings, and their commenters wonder WTF is going on in this town. [Gawker]

What do you miss about New York? Read all about it. Hundreds commented. Makes you feel less alone. [City Room]

A "poverty tourist" from the UK decides the LES is too unappealing to merit saving. [EVG]

Watch this rather adorable New York story illustrated by comic-book artist Chris Ware. [Tilzy] via [Fimoculous]

Is it time to stop hating the SATC-wannabes, the "Scary Sadshaws" who angle for the position of "queen of New York narcissism"? Nah... [Jezebel]

Who doesn't love New York's potato-peeler guy? You've seen him, you've wondered about him, now here's his story. [Villager]

Brooklyn Horseshoe Crabs

This week, horseshoe crabs mated on Brooklyn's shores. I went to see them awhile ago and wrote about it.

When the Sun and the full Moon aligned with our planet on Sunday night, their combined gravities swelled the ocean’s tides and pulled from the Atlantic depths the lumbering denizens of an ancient world. Every year, in a mating ritual that dates back 300 million years, horseshoe crabs make the journey from their winter residences on the continental shelf to a narrow stretch of Gerritsen Beach near Brooklyn’s salty Marine Park, lazily pushing their way past the shoreline’s litter of beer bottles, plastic shopping bags, and floating chunks of Styrofoam, to dig their nests and lay thousands of pearly, green eggs.

This week, the Urban Park Rangers hosted a crowd of nature-seekers that included local residents as well as hipster kids lured by the promise of something wonderful and strange. “The horseshoe has, like, a million eyes,” one young ranger-in-training explained. The crowd grew fidgety as the rangers talked on about photoreceptors. Kids chased each other up and down the beach, waving flashlights. Adults turned restlessly to cell phones, loudly bemoaning, “I’m standing on a beach waiting for some horseshoe crabs to mate.”


photo: Klaus Schoenwiese at urban calendar

We inched closer to the water. The rangers urged us to stand back, “Let’s step out of their bedroom and give them a little privacy.” The horseshoes clamored together at the surf line, the males clasping onto the backs of the bigger females, hoping to be dragged ashore where the females would dig their nests, lay their eggs, then allow the piggy-backing males to drop their sperm onto the clutch.

An older woman told me how she’d lived in the neighborhood her whole life, and “every year, the horseshoe crabs come to lay their eggs. My brother once brought an egg home in a jelly jar, and would you believe? It turned into a horseshoe crab. A little, bitty one.”

The woman's grandson, dressed in a Superman cape, flashed his flashlight over the water and shouted, “I’m attracting them! They like me!” before pouncing onto a slippery log and falling, up to his knees, into the drink. His grandmother fished him out and told him, “Your mother’s going to kill you.” Then his mother walked over. She calmly lit a cigarette, looked at the boy, and said, “I hope you’re happy. Now you can die of pneumonia.”


photo: Klaus Schoenwiese at urban calendar

Out on the water, a party boat cruised by, strung with lights and blaring music. The revelers didn’t take notice of our small crowd on the sand, nor were they aware of the antediluvian drama that unfolded under the agitated waves their boat made. I thought about the living fossils on the sand, surviving through multiple mass extinctions, and about our city and its own chances of survival.

No matter how our epoch ends—whether in fire, ice, or at our own hands--the horseshoe crabs will outlive us all. Brooklyn will one day be empty of hipsters and stroller mommies and condos. The Wonder Wheel will roll into the sea. Park Slope will be underwater. But as long as there are salty seas and a moon above to move them, the beaches will be crowded with the urgent, quiet couplings of the horseshoe crabs. In this, at least, there is some comfort gained.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Recently, I wrote about the Georgica condo getting concretized. This week, at their 86th St sales office, Yorkville's landed gentry were feted with a welcome-to-Georgica cocktail party. And no such bash would be complete without violinists, a lot of white people in khaki, and a person-of-color in maid's uniform holding a mop in the background. This looks like a scene from some pre-Civil Rights Hollywood movie.

photo sent in by reed korach

As Bloomberg gets closer and closer to the end of his reign, he has become "short-tempered, scolding, even petulant," and invokes the royal We as he screams, "We need the power!" Holy cow. [Times]

Hands off the Wonder Wheel Bloomie! [Gothamist]

Tonight: Don't miss Luc Sante chatting with filmmaker James Nares at Anthology Film Archives.

Today Grieve checks in on the forlorn pile of wood that was once the Toy Tower. These pics are not for the faint of heart! [EVG]

And what will replace the EV's old eccentric gardens? Neat little orderly gardens sponsored by big corporations. [Curbed]

A "sweet little garden" dies behind Brooklyn scaffolding. [PMFA]

Ah, Fleet Week. I love seeing sailors walking around town--it gives me a wonderful, mid-century, MGM-musical kind of feeling. If you like sailors and long for Meatpacking sleaze, this party might be your kind of thing.

If you're like me and can't make sense of the crazy drama going on over at the Chelsea Hotel, here's a helpful round-up of reading material. [LWL]

A graffitist agrees, Generation O is "what's wrong with America." Among other things. [NYS]

Take another peek inside the just-saved St. Brigid's. [Otway]

We want to go skating: Save the new Coney Island roller rink--give them some money. [Gothamist]

Seems the NYPD thinks the kids at the Pour House are too dumb or spaced out to know how not to be victims. They require the following instructions: "be alert," "don't leave your handbag over the back of your chair, on a stool or on the floor," and "don't leave bags or laptops unattended." Duh.

When Condos Kill

Back in November I made the rather predictable prediction that the low-rise buildings on the southeast corner of 14th and 3rd would soon fall. Curbed confirmed it in December, revealing the big, glass-box monstrosity to come. And this week, the corner has fallen into rubble.

before:


after:

more pics of 14th and 3rd

I don't think it's a coincidence that this corner has come down so soon after the rise of the Toll Brothers' gargantua, 110 Third. It seems that wherever luxury condos sprout, their low-rise neighbors come down within months. Is it condoschmerz, that killer virus, that poisons everything in the vicinity?

Look at what has happened to the block of 6th Avenue between 17th and 18th. Earlier this year, the super-expensive ($1400 a square foot) 100 West 18th condo moved in and quickly added a chainbank-trifecta of Chase, Modell's, and Duane Reade on its first floors.

before:


Today, the rest of the block, except for one holdout frame shop, has shuttered. Two video shops closed, including Red Light District, which moved to 8th and 21st. New York City Bagels is closed and For Rent. And World Famous Pizza, on the corner of 17th, is already gutted and halfway to renovated. That's four small businesses dropped dead. Let's not be surprised when these low-rises come crashing down for yet another glass box.

after:


look who's come to visit the dead pizza corner!

more pics of 17th and 6th

The debate here is not about the inherent value of bagel shops, adult video stores, and tanning salons. It's about the breakneck pace of destruction in this town and the way luxury buildings commit mass murder--not only do they destroy the businesses and homes they immediately replace, they also have a domino effect. Just being in proximity to them is hazardous to the health of the city's diversity and human scale.

So what's next to go? My crystal ball says it will be the southwest corner of 14th and 3rd, where these low buildings look like doomed woodland creatures trembling in the crosshairs of the Toll Brothers' big gun:

before:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

St. Brigid's Saved!

Good news! St. Brigid's Church on Ave B has been saved by an anonymous donor. Maybe there is hope in Mudville after all. Rob Hollander, of Save the LES, sent the news and he is lining up interviews and TV cameras will be there today in front of the church. City Room has more info on the deal. I wonder, could the donor be Matt Dillon? That would be kinda hot. Especially if he shouted, "Do it for Johnny!" before writing the check.


Photo by William Alatriste

I've long loved the church because it is the butter-yellow beauty that inspired Frank O'Hara's Hymns of St. Bridget, as in:

"How funny you are today New York
like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
and St. Bridget's steeple leaning a little to the left..."
--from Steps

(It had steeples until the 1960s.)


photo by Bob Arihood: see his great pics here

And here is another from Frank:

Hymn to St. Bridget’s Steeple

It is to you, bending limp and ridiculous, on Ninth
Street, that I turn. colder than usual after a summer
of lime and smoke. I think you are the first of Ireland’s
saints, or the last, it doesn’t matter you are my dream
of an actual winter with your icicle hat and your arms
which somehow seem square like something I couldn’t see but
guessed at in the last Reinhardt I looked at. It wasn’t
black, it was red, like New York if you’re waste and
contained, or maybe maroon, like my heart which I imagine
inside me, although it looks black to you, St. Bridget,
although it is quiet and in need of filling. Please tell me
what it means “to pump,” as if I were a well
growing upwards and into a steeple which someone who cares
names my own, for always to face the dullest wind,
and you should know, St. Bridget.

Orchard Corset Center

There are some places in the city I simply cannot penetrate. One of these places is the back room of the Orchard Corset Center. Featured in yesterday's Times, complete with an audio slideshow and the good news that the shop is thriving and under no threat of vanishing anytime soon in the shark-infested waters of the endangered Lower East Side, Orchard Corset has hidden depths that I will never see.

For that reason, when I visited the place earlier this year, I brought a somewhat reluctant female partner in crime. I made her try on brassieres while I waited in the plastic "man chair" by the door. Since she boldly went where no man (except proprietor Ralph Bergstein) has gone before, I will let her tell the rest of the story:



The shop was stacked floor to ceiling with faded, battered boxes of brands you never heard of before. The proprietor was a yarmulked man with hair that stood out perpendicular to his head, like a curly shelf, on one side. There were several buxom black ladies shopping. I decided to try on a couple of brassieres. To do this, I went behind a curtain into the back where there were more buxom ladies trying on brassieres. There was no room for me, so I had to go through another curtain, into the storeroom, where I was surrounded by more boxes.



I tried on the bras and the proprietess came to help. She showed me how the nipple should align with the shoulder, placing her fingers on said parts, marking point A and point B. Then she tried to make me a deal, like buy both for some cheap amount you could hardly refuse, except I didn't really like the bras. They made me feel like an alta kocker. They definitely looked like bras for an older lady--but without a fun, 1950s fetish feel.

Even though I myself would never buy these bras, I loved the boxes and the odd brand names and the fact that the saleslady knew more about breasts and bras, and how they fit together, than anyone at Victoria's Secret. The shop seems to cater more to buxom ladies--of which I am not--because the bigger-busted women in the store seemed very relieved and enthusiastic about what they were finding there. It was as if they'd discovered the mother lode of bras.


*Everyday Chatter

Hey Chris Stein, those Blade Runner days you were hoping for? They're coming to LA and no doubt heading east quick as condos turn into giant TV commercials. [Curbed]

Scary term of the day: "Eviction Mill." Read about the diabolical plan to take your home away from you. [Voice]

Bid au revoir to Florent in a big retrospective by Frank Bruni. [Times] via [Eater]

Remember when tents in Tompkins Square Park meant Hooverville? Not anymore. Not at $25o a head. [NMNL]

Every time I see this ad around town, I think it says: "Gentrification so instant, it already happened." Which is kind of exactly how it is:


The Lower East Side is declared endangered by the National Trust who says the Vongerichtification of the place "threatens to erode the fabric of the community and wipe away the collective memory of generations of immigrant families." [Gothamist] and more at [City Room]

Bleecker continues to die as Nusraty Afghan Imports, one of the last old-timers (circa 1980), is likely closing to be turned into another swank clothier. [Racked]

Another New Yorker falls victim to the unstoppable virus of condoschmerz. P.S. Isn't that plant place the one that sells men with cacti penises in their pants? [Colonnade] via [Curbed]

Check out this lovely visual assortment of anti-yuppie/gentrification graffiti--and the news that councilmember Peter Vallone is putting his energy into getting rid of it. [Curbed]

Where were the Minetta fans reading from Joseph Mitchell when I was there? Sorry to have missed it. [Chowhound]

Starbucks says no more vagina dentata on their coffee cups. [Eater]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Requiem for the Toy Tower

This morning I found some time to go over to the 6B Garden and watch the Tower of Toys be taken apart. It was an oddly hypnotic, elegant sight to see. Eddie Boros' sculpture, I am happy to say, did not go gentle into that good night. It resisted. Plank by plank, rusty nail by rusty nail, it fought back against the chainsaw and the cherry picker. A tangle of wood, wires, ropes, toys, and other junk, the tower, in its undoing, was perhaps just as regal as it was in its making.



The man with the chainsaw pulled on a hobby horse and the animal refused to budge. He tugged a board and was confounded. He placed a few strategic cuts, sending down a shower of golden sawdust. He tugged again. The sculpture resisted. He cut again. Withholding, restrained, the tower surrendered a few bits and pieces, which the man sent plummeting with a crash to the garden below.



Man and sculpture became--and it may be too sentimental to say so--like a pair of dancers, or boxers, moving from strike, to clutch, to separation. He tugged and the tower responded by twisting and swaying. He bumped and the tower shimmied. And like a tease, now and then, the tower relented, giving up a plank of wood, a silver ball, a string of Christmas lights, a bucket of water that tipped and cascaded down the length of the structure, foamy and brown.



Gradually, the tower gave in to the man's patient cajoling and coaxing. That little hobby horse that had at first resisted him, now seemed to leap into the man's hands. A lover to the end, he did not drop the horse. He lowered his cherry picker to the ground and gently, gently placed the toy upon a green bed of flowers.

Dare I say it? The tower has gone out the way it came in--with poetry and defiance and a fair share of beauty.

*Everyday Chatter

The bashing of Park Slope has reached critical mass. God, I miss Dyke Slope. [Gawker]

This article by Lynn Harris is a must-read: "our feelings about Park Slope are linked to our feelings about our entire city: our overpriced, chain-store city run by bankers, socialites and, it seems, mommies. The artists are fleeing and your friends, it seems, have become Park Slope pod people. (And they’re coming for you, too.) It’s starting to feel as if there’s nowhere left to hide." [Times] More background: [OTBKB]

A fascinating timeline of the de-evolution of the Meatpacking District. The tipping point seems to be 1999, a year prior to Carrie's eating of the fateful cupcake and coinciding with the opening of McNally's Pastis. [Shecky's]

By now, everyone knows Florent is dead in the water. But here's the joint's official "au revoir" signage, spelling out a clever FOR RENT (let Ralph Lauren pay the $70,000 a month):

photo: micawave

“Flipping burgers, or folding shirts at a clothing store simply are not appealing to today’s technology addicted, career-oriented teen" -- nope, instead, go-getter teens are going after your job this summer. Hey, they need it for their resume. Resume? I didn't even think about a resume until I was in my 20s. [CNBC]

Back to that waiting in lines thing, I just found this article in the Sun with a choice quote from psychologist, Robert Leahy: "Today people are very insecure about getting the right thing, and the easiest way to make a decision is to seek out what everyone else is buying. If they didn't feel like they had to fit in, and they just looked at what they value, they might make different decisions."

Ancient "Die Yuppie Scum" cry of protest returns to LES. [Curbed]

“Sex and the City, the former HBO hit about four single women devoted to designer shoes and other forms of self-gratification, is about to be released as a feature film. But isn’t the film out of sync with the spirit of New York at a time when people are scaling back?" [Times]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Toy Tower Falls Today

My tipster tells me the Parks Department is in the 6B Garden right now and is dismantling Eddie Boros' Tower of Toys today until 2:00. They will continue tomorrow morning at 8:00 until it's finished.



The big orange cherry picker is picking away, dumping a piece of East Village history into the toy-gathering Dumpster of Death. Sob.

Just in: Curbed has lots of gruesome pics and reports the workers are letting tower-lovers walk away with souvenirs. Get 'em while they last!

As an aside, last week NY Mag offered an IM of mixed emotions about the tower. And may I say to Cristal that "it made me think of RENT" is not a good reason to love the Toy Tower. "Eek! Shit-covered toys hanging from the sky," however, is a pretty good reason.

*Everyday Chatter

11th and 2nd: I went to this oft-frequented bodega this weekend to find it suddenly eaten by its neighbor, Carerra wine bar. Another casualty in the war on East Village bodegas. I guess they're keeping the awning for irony--and to confuse people like myself who go looking for a Coke to sneak into a movie at Village East:


Just as Woody returns to film in the East Village, could the 2nd Ave Deli also be coming back? [Eater]

A couple with a high-gloss crash/party pad, a glass box containing glass boxes decorated with 11 televisions and 0 books, say: "We don’t need to have books out. We know that we know how to read." I guess they don't know that they know how to watch TV? [NYMag]

This weekend, the annual Ukrainian festival carried on like a trooper in the dark shadow of a giant, scary crane and Cooper Union's ever-rising beast, to which they supposedly surrendered amicably:

Chinatown and the Lower East Side are under siege and the residents are screaming back. [Villager]

A 101-year-old metalworking shop leaves Soho to make room for yet another condo. [Times] And here's the movie version: [City Room]

May 22: Save Coney Island and say NO WAY to luxury high-rises and mega-malls as Thor's BS "Summer of Hope" kicks off. [GL] via [Curbed]

Christians are upset over "Slutbucks" new old logo. Told ya it was a big pagan vagina. [HuffPo]

Friday, May 16, 2008

How the Cupcake Crumbled

*Update March 2012: The Carrie Bradshaw wannabes are starting to leave.

Original post:

Made giddy by the recent deluge of SATC-spanking media coverage (see end of story for links), and in the interest of further dragging out the saga of how SATC killed NYC, let's trace it back--not as far back this time as Bushnell and Star's fateful meeting at Bowery Bar, we've already covered that. No, let's go back to a seemingly more harmless moment in the year 2000, to a few seconds frosted in pink.

The Villager points the way, reflecting, "After Sarah Jessica Parker ate a creamy retro cupcake on Sex and the City at a beloved local landmark, The Magnolia Bakery, the tour buses began circling. The lines outside the tiny bakery swelled into queues stretching around the corner. Soon, upscale clothing retailer Marc Jacobs, salivating over the youthful crowds, rented a shop right across the street."


don't do it! stop!

And here's our smoking gun: “Our goal was to take advantage of the huge concentration of young people who flooded into the area, especially with the ‘Sex and the City’ show,” said Debbie Lee, a Marc Jacobs assistant manager.


oh no, you didn't! watch the cataclysmic catalyst here

The way a butterfly's wings can theoretically whip up a tornado, Carrie Bradshaw's bite of a cupcake set an avalanche in motion. That mouthful of buttery sweetness begat tour buses, which begat trendy lines, which begat Marc Jacobs. And what did Marc Jacobs beget?

Wrote the Observer, "Marc Jacobs didn’t invent the West Village, but his five stores there have made it into a precious, pricey, overpopulated, well-corduroyed, bubble-skirted dreamland." Time Out says this SATC effect created the "douchification of the Meatpacking District and the West Village," with "Lower East-Packing and Chinatown... neck-and-neck for the next douchey makeover," thanks to inclusion in the SATC movie.


the only bakery where cupcakes require bouncers for protection

From here, we can follow the cupcake crumb trail west, where toxic Bleecker connects to Hudson, which becomes 9th and leads straight into the luxury Meatpacking Mall. To the east, Bleecker infects Bowery and gives birth to the Cooper Sq Hotel, Varvatos, etc., which will in turn beget more of the same. These Bleecker offshoots stretch ever north and south, and even cross the rivers. You can see how quickly the light breeze from those butterfly's wings has built into a devastating storm--one that the media and the city has begun to turn against.

Just for fun, imagine an alternate universe in which Carrie Bradshaw opted not to swallow that cupcake. What if, instead, she spat it onto the sidewalk and said, "These cupcakes are horrible"? On the filmreel of your mind, watch the city rewind back to its old self--glass towers fall and fallen brick lowrises rise again, the sidewalks clear of heartless crowds, lost New Yorkers return to homes and shops they were evicted from...oh, what a fantasy that would be.



She's an easy target, but for the record, I don't think it's all Sarah Jessica Parker's fault. She has her part, but an actor plays a character co-created by writers, producers, directors. Let's not forget the others who brought SATC to power, including Darren Star and Candace Bushnell. And, clearly, the yunnies were already in the audience, primed and hungry to receive SATC's messages. In a time and place where image is king (or queen), television dictates behavior. It won't make us into murderers, but it can boost existing cultural trends that balloon into major changes.

In an essay on television and gentrification, one writer takes it to the next level, writing, "urban leaders have internalized these televisual images of the urban good life. When they think of 'urban vitality,' they envision the city as a playground of upscale consumption and leisure. And, in doing so, they have increasingly committed themselves to policies of gentrification and displacement."

And so the cupcake trail leads straight to Bloomberg and Burden. Wipe those crumbs from your lips, Carrie and the gang, you've got a lot of cleaning up to do.



A chain of blame:
  • The Post rolls out a list of crimes, saying, "Carrie Bradshaw, we're holding you responsible for the following developments, which you and your cohorts unleashed upon an unsuspecting city."
  • Time Out features an anti-SATC cover and a "haters package" for a "Carrie-free" New York.
  • The Daily Mail (and last night's CBS News 2) declares the Big Apple backlash begun.
  • AMNY wonders, "is it the show's fault that your corner diner was knocked down for a condo and places like Third Avenue in Murray Hill are overrun with Samantha clones?"
  • A former Villager details the ruination of her neighborhood, complete with: bitchy cupcake ladies! rats! desperate singles!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Neurotics vs. Narcissists

Smackdown! It's the neurotics vs. the narcissists as two of my favorite celebs, Woody Allen and Larry David, take over the East Village and Lower East Side for Allen's new movie.


See lots more photos by Lorcan Otway

They're at Cafe Mogador. They're at Yonah Schimmel's. They're everywhere! But can this follicly challenged dynamic duo from old-school New York take back the city for the rest of us neurotics?

Or will we lose it forever to the always-a-good-hair-day narcissists who, with the Sex and the City movie juggernaut on their side, aim to make "Lower East-Packing" the site of their "next douchey makeover"?

The tide might be turning as psychoanalysis gets a rennaissance and more and more New Yorkers complain about the deleterious effects of too much SATC.

Go Woody! Go Larry! Yay team!

(And before anybody helpfully informs me that Woody and Larry, like all celebs, are narcissistic, let me say that everybody's narcissistic to some degree--it's good to have healthy narcissism. Again, I am talking about the personality disorder, which is different. For more info, see Yunnies.)


  • See Time Out's guide to hating Sex and the City on more douchification: "With the ladies of SATC came careening tour buses, gaggles of fratboys puking outside Hogs & Heifers and rows of women linked at the elbows mowing down pedestrians."