Friday, October 31, 2008

Albanese Meats & Poultry

Yesterday I wrote about the transformation of Elizabeth Street and mentioned that I am worried about sole survivor, Albanese Meats & Poultry shop. The last time I visited Elizabeth, one year ago, the shop's windows were full of signs and memorabilia, and the shop was cluttered with photographs, papers, and other signs of busy life.

Today the place is spare and uncluttered. It was closed when I went by and the only indication that Mr. Albanese was still at work was the calendar on the wall, turned to the current month.

October 2007

October 2008

Maybe he's just neatening up the place. Maybe it's a sign of vanishing. Either way, it got me in a sentimental mood (not hard to do).

For those who remember, or want to remember, the way Elizabeth once was, the following is excerpted from a journal I kept in 1996. Bear in mind, I was younger then and more exuberant, and the city was a more enlivening place.

Walking home, I stopped at LaRosa's on Elizabeth Street. I can’t resist that smell of hot baking bread that fills the neighborhood. I stepped inside. The bakers were pulling hot loaves from the oven. I bought one for 50 cents, broke it open on the street, and ate it with my bare hands. The soft, white bread was like warm milk.

I passed Bella’s Luncheonette where you can eat cheeseburgers at the window and maybe see Jim Jarmusch walk by.

Inside Albanese Meats, the butcher was working on a slab of beef, carefully trimming the fat. He stepped out to the street for a moment, the blood on his apron, knife shining in his hand. He looked around as if expecting someone, then nodded to me, and went back inside.

I went in and asked, "Is that veal you're working on?"
"You got a taste for veal?" he asked me.
"Yes," I said, "How much for one good cutlet?"
"About four dollars. You want one? I'll get you a good cut.”

He went to the back and took out a bag labeled HIPS and a long sharp knife. He tried out the knife on the HIPS before going back to the veal. His white-haired mother sat watching the television. She smiled at me. There was a poster-size photo of her hanging on the wall with a banner that said: Happy 90th Birthday.

Albanese mother and son

I watched the butcher work on the veal. It was still practically a calf. He slapped it with his palm, as if to wake it, then trimmed off a nice pink slice.

"Good?" he asked, holding it up to the watery light.
"Very good," I said, watching him wrap the cutlet in butcher paper and put it in a bag.

I was so happy, carrying home what seemed to be the most beautiful piece of veal in the world. I put on Mario Lanza, baked a potato, and fried up the cutlet dipped in egg and bread crumbs. It was possibly the most amazing piece of food I have ever put into my mouth.

Back to 2008:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Houston Street is getting benches. Who wants to sit in the middle of Houston Street? Same people who sit in the middle of 9th Ave I suppose. If you build it (and add WiFi), they will come:

Tonight the public is invited to a Chelsea Community Meeting at St. Paul's Church, 7 pm, to welcome the Gem Hotel (no comment). The enticing part is there will be a presentation on the history of Chelsea, complete with some great vintage photos, including images like this one of the old Allerton:

Our cuddliest Slacktivist, John Penley, is leaving NYC for "parts unknown." Now what will we do? [EVG]

Remembering the magical Martinka. [BBoys]

How marketing concepts become sickening realities: Please let's not nickname West Harlem "ViVa." [NYB]

As an addendum to today's Elizabeth Street post, another shot of the 290 Mulberry scaffolding signage, because the sky is not falling, right?

Elizabeth Street

Some years ago, when Elizabeth Street began to change, I began to avoid it. But before then, it was possibly my favorite street in the city. I used to go out of my way just to walk on it. Now I make sure not to go near it. Recently, I made the terrible mistake of visiting.

Today Elizabeth is another street altogether. She's the plain, approachable girl who went on Extreme Makeover and came out wrapped in a shiny, plastic, Barbie-doll skin. You don't recognize her, searching in vain for some familiar feature that will bring her back to you.

On her polished, high-maintenance storefronts, she proclaims herself "Trust Fund Baby" and "La Petite Princesse."

This transformation began about 10 years ago. In 1998 Bella's Luncheonette became Cafe Habana. And then a shop opened. It blared ear-splitting music and expelled obnoxious people who stepped over the Italian ladies peeling potatoes on the sidewalk.

I was nervous then, but had no idea just how complete the change would be--and how little time it would take. It's the totality that troubles me, though it pleases the people on today's Elizabeth. They smile and shop, stop and chat, loving this made-over, plasticine swan.

This is Nolita now. An illustration on the scaffolding around the new 290 Mulberry informs us that "Elizabeth Street Is Da Bomb."

The only protest (if this can be called protest) against the endlessly encroaching, luxurious sameness comes from a man selling junk on the street. He sets up rows of little milk cartons and, with a golf club, drives them into the netted scaffolding of "beautiful, bespoke" 211 Elizabeth.

But the old girl is gone.

LaRosa & Son bakery is now a high-end home decor store. Habana attracts a crowd of hipsters and Europeans. The mysterious candle house is a mansion. The Italian ladies who used to peel potatoes have vanished. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Albanese Meats & Poultry is the sole remaining old-timer on this stretch.

I'm worried about Moe Albanese and his store. It looks emptier than it used to, and it wasn't open when I went by in mid-afternoon.

Elizabeth Street will break your heart. Don't go there. Unless you need a nice piece of veal. But when Albanese is gone, there will be not a single scrap left of what was. And I don't expect the octogenarian butcher will last much longer here.

to be continued tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tribal Soundz

Tribal Soundz, the music shop on East 6th Street that sold instruments from around the world, has vanished.

A benefit concert was held for them last year when they were about to lose their space "to the real estate bastards who seem to own NYC," according to voodoojive. So I'm not sure when it closed. I just walked by and noticed it was empty and shuttered.

A shop girl recalls her days selling dumbeks and djembes at the shop, saying, "I used to fill in for the digeridoo teacher and the jaw harp teacher... East Village was my spot, I made friends with every sitar player on Indian Row."

Indian Row itself is vanishing, too. Little by little, this block is being nibbled away by demolition and new, non-Indian restaurants. How long before the sound of sitars is gone?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Remember the recent plan to stick a condo on top of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection in the EV? It's not happening. Someone at the church told someone at CB3: "the whole plan is CANCELLED...CB opposed the new plan and were looking to landmark it. Church does not want landmarking and were trying to get this in place before new zoning...hallelujah!"

The new Maysles Cinema in Harlem is offering a selection of documentaries about rent control. View their calendar here.

Is the Hunter College School of Social Work good for East Harlem as it demolishes small businesses for its new building? [Times]

Watch movies and more about the decline of manufacturing in New York City--a decline that makes the city more vulnerable to economic instability. [13]

From the VNY Flickr Pool, thanks to Roaring Twenties, a pretty amazing ghost sign from some subway: Hats Cleaned!

As a 100-year-old Villager passes away, so does the memory of cows wandering Washington Square. [Villager]

Check out Runnin' Scared's new feature "The Crap Archives," offering "the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets." Nice. [Voice]

Enjoy some "lobstah" with BaHa. [SE]

Yuppie scum graffiti appears on Thompson LES. [BBoogie]


What's going on with Christine's Polish restaurant in the East Village?

A reader wrote in to say: "Christine's, at 208 First Avenue, closed recently. My friends and I ate there the very first day it opened back in the long-ago summer of 1982, and I can still clearly remember how the addition of just a new Polish coffee shop to what was then a really hardcore neighborhood could bring about such a sense of euphoria and excitement. (Little did we know what lurked ahead.) And now it's gone, leaving only Neptune (formerly KK's) on that stretch of upper First to carry the pierogi and blintzes torch."

But is Christine's shuttered for good? I went for breakfast at Neptune's and the waitress told me it's been "closed, like, forever." How long? "About two weeks," she clarified.

A photo on flickr shows it gated in mid-September with signs reading, "Closed for Renovations." But those signs are gone now, the place is empty and kind of trashed, with no sign of renovations in progress. So what's the story? Have we lost, along with Teresa's, one of the last of our Polish coffee shops?

From Allen Ginsberg's "Charnel Ground":

...Meanwhile the upstairs meth head shot cocaine & yowled up
and down
East 12th Street, kicked out of Christine’s Eatery till police cornered
him, ‘top a hot iron steamhole
near Stuyvesant Town Avenue A telephone booth calling his deaf
mother – sirens speed the way to Bellevue –
past whispering grass crack salesman jittering in circles on East 10th
southwest corner where art yuppies come out of the overpriced Japanese
Sushi Bar -- & they poured salt into potato soup heart failure
vats at KK’s Polish restaurant...

Monday, October 27, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

So what's up with the bar on 2nd Ave and 4th St? Why can't they decide on a name? And how much money are they spending on awnings? First it was The Bar. Then it was bra-dancing 2 by 4. Last month it became the supposedly upscale Ambiance. And now: E4olution?

"Bankers and brokers looking to escape the financial meltdown are scrambling to relocate their families, possessions and rarified talent far from Wall Street to places such as Florida, Chicago, Milwaukee, Virginia and Asia." [Curbed]

"Many in New York have delighted, at least a little, in a sense of schadenfreude over investment-banker woes, having viewed them as a greedy breed that helped homogenize and gentrify the city." [Times] via [EVG]

The economic downturn is good for the city's tailors. The mending upturn has come too late for Mili and Balabanis, but it may help keep Gino alive. [Times]

Fight to save Met Foods succeeds, the Clam Shell salads will continue to be sold for $3.99 each, and the Ratner's "R" will be preserved. And I'll still be able to buy my groceries. [Villager] via [EVG]

But the losses keep coming: Two Boots Pioneer Theater to shutter, thanks to rising rents in the EV. [NY] via [EVG]

Here I am, complaining about text messaging. [AMNY]

Farrell's Bar & Grill

This summer I went for a beer for the first time at Farrell's Bar & Grill in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. They were--and still are--celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, founded in 1933, the year Prohibition was lifted.

A man's bar, with few women in it, the place is spare and echoing, with a white pressed-tin ceiling and a wooden phone booth. Unlike other old bars, like Pete McManus or Julius' or Montero's, it isn't dark and cluttered with memorabilia. There are no black-and-white photos of the founders in their shirtsleeves, no dusty felt Dodgers pennants, no faded menus from the 1940s. In its starkness, it's almost anti-nostalgic. But that doesn't mean Farrell's embraces the new.

It's still an authentic old bar, a blue-collar enclave on the edge of gentrified Park Slope. Its customers wear firefighter and ironworker t-shirts with pro-union caps. They tell raucous, drunken, curse-filled stories around the bar.

But a subdued mood descended on Farrell's last week when the news came that owner Danny Mills leaped to his death off the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a bridge he helped build as an ironworker in the 1960s.

In 2006, The Times described Mr. Mills as "a sturdy sort, with the terse diction of the woefully unlubricated." The Brooklyn Paper says he was "known for his big smile, jovial demeanor and generous buy-backs." And the Irish Echo wrote of Farrell's, it's "not so much a neighborhood bar, some would argue, as the heart and soul of the neighborhood itself."

Apparently, for some reason, some locals hope for the demise of Farrell's. Writes one Brooklynian, "Unfortunately for those who, upon hearing this sad news, are secretly hoping that this means the end of Farrell's, it's my pleasure to inform you all that the bar will carry on like it always has."

Let's hope that's true.

The Brooklyn Eagle writes about Mills and the bar:

"In 1964, Mills, at age 23, became a bartender at the legendary Farrell’s Bar and Grill, at 215 Prospect Park West by 16th Street. In 1996, he became the owner...

Farrell’s was opened in a then-heavily Irish neighborhood in 1933 by Mike Farrell at the end of Prohibition, serving Ballantine and Knickerbocker beers at first. It has long been known for its drinks, food, socializing, beer served in Styrofoam cups, and famous patrons. Later, Bill and Eddie Farrell became the owners. In 1996, they sold their bar to their three bartenders, one of whom was Mills.

Among its many famous patrons in the 1970s was Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine, who broke the tradition of being chaperoned by a male and became a well-known customer. Famous newsmen Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill were frequent patrons."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kim's on 1st Opens

Though the signs said yesterday was the grand opening, the big day is in fact today. There are festive balloons outside and everything inside (except accessories) is 30% off.

You might notice those Love Guru posters have been taken out of the window. The selection here is a Kim's selection, clearly geared toward smarties and cinephiles. They have an enticing Documentary section, where you will find some of my faves, like The Corporation and Grey Gardens.

Organized in true Kim's fashion, the movies are sorted according to director and genre--if genre includes Noir, Experimental, and, you might be happy to know, as I was, Sexploitation.

Also, oddly enough, the cashiers are friendly and smiley.

Remember, there are no more rentals in the Kim's universe. So go to the new Kim's and buy some movies. They also have vinyl and CDs.

The Kim's on 1st Saga:

*Everyday Chatter

"Mayor Bloomberg is morphing into our very own Vladimir Putin and Marty Markowitz into Brooklyn’s own low-rent version of Napoleon." [GL]

“The people of the city will long remember what we have done here today, and the people will be unforgiving,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We are stealing like a thief in the night their right to shape our democracy.” [CR]

"Me, I’m just writing this day down as one more reason to get out of NYC. The Billionaires, it would seem, really have taken over. And you, you have no say in what happens next…" [AngryNYer]

Who says the City Council's overturning of term limits is "disgraceful"?

When asked if she was threatened by Bloomberg or Quinn to change her vote, one councilwoman simply responded, "I don’t want to discuss it." Some cry foul play. [CR]

"the argument for extending the two-term limit for Mr. that the city needs someone with his financial acumen to help weather the fallout from the banking crisis. The biggest problem with that argument is that Mr. Bloomberg hasn't been very adept at managing the city's finances, even though he's had record revenues to work with." [WSJ]

Angry mob tells Bloomberg to "get the hell out of town" as he grinningly climbs into his giant SUV. [VV]

And, for your reading pleasure, if you haven't already had the chance, check out The Bloomberg Way--so you can spend the weekend arguing with friends and family who insist this is all a good thing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

The Cooper Union "communal hive" has sprouted giant wings:

Another Cemusa typo
. First it was Bowery Street, now it's Frederick Douglass Blvd. [CR]

Silencing, cajoling, horse-trading, and arm-twisting--these may be appropriate tactics for a CEO and owner of a private company, but when an elected public official uses them, doesn't it sort of sound illegal? [Times]

Looking forward to Synecdoche, New York? Read an interview with Charlie Kaufman. [Gothamist]

Here's another peek into Nom Wah--any news about its reopening? [BPH]

No urinating on The Ludlow! [BBoogie]

Gowanus Wilderness

It must be in the air--Gowanus Lounge just visited the former (?) Whole Foods site as did I. Who can resist a hole in a fence on an abandoned lot turned wilderness? At the opening, with one foot in, a shiver runs through you. It's like standing at the edge of a zoo habitat and realizing the gate is wide open. You can't see the animals crouching in the weeds, but you feel their presence.

Cement silos, a glittering pile of scrap grabbed by giant mechanical hands, the rib cage of the viaduct silhouetted in the distance...

There is something about industrial wastelands that fires the imagination. Especially when they include graffiti, thick vegetation, and castaway toilets. The decaying and forgotten--these are haunted landscapes, filled with possibility and risk. The danger of nature unbridled, pushing back, erupting from concrete constraints. Who knows what is hiding there?

Blue Jake ventured in earlier this year and got a gorgeously eerie shot that includes the backside of the mysterious Coignet Stone Company building, recently landmarked. The building sits on the edge of the vast lot like a dessicated, once-splendid spaceship landed on a vacant moonscape.

As Brownstoner writes, the building "commands the attention of everyone who passes by it."

ForgottenNY recalls that this is the corner, "thoid and thoid," where the Brooklyn Dodgers were born.

And Laura Raskin at Brooklyn Rail dives in deep, putting it eloquently when she describes the building as: "crumbling and elegant, with steps that widen outward like open arms. An industrial wasteland of nothing surrounds it, as if it has been repeatedly left behind like a lost child in an empty parking lot. And there’s a slightly magical appeal to a building that sits on the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street."

An image of the Coignet Stone building in its former glory hangs on the wall of the Montauk Club, captured here:

photo: davidfg's flickr

We need haunted houses and weird landscapes like these. What happens to the imagination when everything is smoothed over, packaged, Xeroxed, and polished to a uniform luster?

When all of these places have been erased or tamed, where we will go to be inspired and challenged?

With Whole Foods possibly backing out, does that mean there are still some places left in the city that are too wild, too dangerous to be domesticated?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Is the city addicted to real estate? Check out the new book by Tom Angotti, "New York For Sale." Hey, it's the Bloomberg Way. [CR]

Mass evictions underway at The Chelsea. [LWL]

Kim's is getting so much love--The Observer and Nerve both covered the story. And now it's official: The new Kim's opens tomorrow, 10/23, on 1st Ave, according to the signs in the window.

That Recession graffiti on the 8th and University Capital One? It's been quickly and efficiently painted over...but not before making the cover of Washington Square News:

The neighbors and Community Board are not happy with the bank's sidewalk-hogging plywood. Writes one VNY reader: "The bank's intent to 'squat' on the build on the footprint of the old BBQ's former outdoor illegal and wrong. Your readers, rather than venting their righteous fury in impotent graffiti, could then write, call and email their council people, the state senator and the bank itself and tell them they do not want this bank illegally taking up the sidewalk."

More and more insane development to be wedged into the LES--and another house of worship is going synagondo, except it's a church this time. [EVG]

But hope yet springs: How do you stop a bar from getting a liquor license? Just show up and make some noise. Apparently, it works. [SLES]

Check out this new video about the 1939 World's Fair. [NYPL]

An illuminating article by Michael Gross about the transformation of Bond Street and its former 1970s life. [NYO]

While we're erasing the past, why not just erase unwanted memories from the brain, too? [yahoo]

In August I reported the 8th St. Salvation Army might be closing. Well, it's closed. Seems like bad timing--with the economy in freefall, we could use some more thrift:

The Bloomberg Way

Julian Brash, Ph.D., a Brooklyn-born professor of anthropology and urban studies now at Montclair State University, has written a book entitled Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City.” As our economy crashes and burns, with the City Council set to vote on term limits tomorrow, I talked with Professor Brash about what he calls the Bloomberg Way and its effect on the city.

Doctoroff & Bloomberg

What is the Bloomberg Way?

It’s a notion of governance in which the city is run like a corporation. The mayor is the CEO, the businesses are clients, citizens are consumers, and the city itself is a product that’s branded and marketed. And New York is a luxury product.

This is all about class. Bloomberg and many in his administration are asserting their right to both govern and shape the city into a place for corporate elites and high-level professionals. This is the culmination of a major shift in policy, underway since the 1970s, away from the post-war idea that working-class people are the heart of the city.

Sure, they’re saying, we need people around to fight fires and serve sandwiches, but it’s not their city. It’s really a city for the well-off. Bloomberg realizes this vision through a privatized, top-down, outcome-based notion of government.

What effect does the Bloomberg Way have on the city?

Bloomberg’s administration is corporate, technocratic—and a touch authoritarian. Its development agenda is Robert Moses-type stuff. A complete transformation of the city is underway. Bloomberg’s rezonings are about creating high-end commercial and residential districts. His administration aims to create an urban environment conducive to the people you call “yunnies.”

His development model is a corporate model, in which growth is a good in itself. It’s the fetishization of growth, constantly accumulating more and more and more. This leads to real problems, as the basics—especially infrastructure—have not been maintained and expanded adequately.

Many people will say: What’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t we let the Bloomberg Way continue?
The reason we keep having fiscal crises in the city is because we’re so dependant on the unstable industry of finance. Bloomberg has not diversified the city’s economy enough to protect it. In fact, he made it worse. He created a place where only super-profitable companies, namely finance, can buy into the city.

Bloomberg is very good at short-term fiscal management and he might be able to get the city through the next couple of years of fiscal crisis. But in the long term, he isn’t the person who’s going to be able to address the basic problem of New York’s inequitable and unstable pattern of economic development.

Basically, it’s a very bad time to be one of the financial centers of the world. The next few decades are likely to see finance decline as the leading edge of capitalism. New York’s economy will suffer from this.

Which brings us to the term limits issue.

Right. It fits right in with the whole corporate governance model for three reasons:

One, the argument goes: Bloomberg’s an excellent CEO, he’s getting things done, so why shouldn’t he continue? It’s not about making decisions in a democratic way. Democracy doesn’t matter in his model of governance because the CEO makes the decisions.

Two, it’s personalistic. Only Bloomberg, they’re saying, only this corporate superman, a God-like figure with some internal, personalized quality that makes him exceptional, can govern the city. The idea that in a city of 8 million people, Bloomberg’s the only person who can govern the city’s affairs is wrong and alarming.

And three, there’s the class element. Bloomberg helped to solidify the class shift in the city. A coalescence of billionaires around Bloomberg basically asked themselves, Who among us can govern the city? Richard Parsons, the CEO of Time Warner, was a possibility, but then he decided to tend his vineyards in his retirement instead. Bloomberg was the guy interested in the job.

Billionaires for Bloomberg: dnblog1

Most people in New York aren’t billionaires. So why aren’t we seeing a large-scale protest against Bloomberg and his policies?

Nobody’s causing a ruckus because, in Bloomberg’s vision of the city you’re not a citizen, you’re a consumer. Citizens get rowdy. They protest in the streets, they don’t make complaint phone calls. Now we have 311, which provides great customer service, and basic services are being delivered well—no small accomplishment. But the consumer model diminishes political action because it’s so emotionally seductive.

A lot of mid-level professionals--teachers, academics, urban planners, people in publishing and non-profits, people like you and me, basically--identify with Bloomberg because they identify upward. They are so happy to be living in this shiny, elite city, that the fact they’re amassing thousands of dollars in credit card debt or are desperately house-poor to fit into the New York standard of living escapes them. They’re getting screwed. Eventually, these people will just leave.

Marx said about the peasantry that they are “incapable of enforcing their class interest in their own name.” These professionals are the peasants here. They’re allowing themselves to be led by Bloomberg without a sense of their own class interest. These people are the most deluded of all.

Is there any hope?

Don’t overestimate the degree to which the Bloomberg administration has changed the city. New Yorkers are still citizens—not consumers. People are agitating against it. Political action is not dead—it’s just not being articulated in a coherent way on a city-wide level. It’s hard to tell where a coherent alternative would emerge from right now. But it's hard to believe it will not.

Check out the book here.

The following images are from a brochure Brash received at a Doctoroff speech in 2004. The brochure is entitled "Bloomberg Administration Major Economic Development Initiatives." It outlines a massive plan to transform the city. Click to enlarge:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Blame Starbucks for financial woes: "The higher the concentration of expensive, nautically themed, faux-Italian-branded Frappuccino joints in a country's financial capital, the more likely the country is to have suffered catastrophic financial losses." [Slate] via [Eater]

Now coming to a digitized bus billboard near you--because drivers need more TV ads to watch. [Gothamist]

The blue fencing has come down from around the Balazs Standard Hotel, revealing a hodgepodge of lobby facades and outbuildings. I am no architecture expert, but none of these look like they're in the same style. Reminds me of the suburban FrankenMansion way of building. From the sprawling compound, here's one lobby facade, with bright yellow canister doorway (?). Kinda looks like IKEA. Click for more photos here:

What's it liked to be sealed into a concrete tomb? Watch this video from East 13th Street. [EVG]

A startling before-and-after of the once mysterious and wondrous 11 Spring. [FP]

Yet, with all the super-gentrificating, scary guys with knives are returning to Avenue A. [NMNL]

And in some parts of the LES, a white guy can still be called a "cracker." [CR]

And, here and there, people are still doing some amazing things with bicycles--didn't know you could "Brazil" your ride. [HG]

...speaking of the transformation of 7th Street, check out this report from last night's CB3 meeting: "The owner of Klimat Bar on E.7th St., in particular, did little to appease area haters while applying for an upgrade to a full liquor license. After a resident of an apartment above the bar started to tear up while describing how he couldn't open his windows because of the noise and because of the smoke and because he has emphysema, proprietor Peter Koziej couldn't help but crack a grin. Oops! Immediately everyone in the room began to boo and shout taunts. Koziej wiped the smile off his face, but it was too late: denied, with nary a vote in his favor." [Eater]

David's Shoe Repair

First we lost Fontana's. Now it looks like David's might be the next to vanish.

Yesterday I got an alarming email from a reader, who wrote: "David's Shoe Repair at 74 East 7th Street is closing this week after 28 years in business. Same old story: landlord wants to double the rent. Just walked in with a pair of shoes that needed fixing. He said I'd have to pick them up before the end of the week."

I've been worrying about David's for awhile now, but all is not (yet) lost.

Last night I went by to talk with the cobbler. From what I could understand, he's not sure what's happening with his lease, but he hopes to last until after the new year, perhaps until July, as long as he can sell and repair enough shoes to pay that new rent.

He needs your business, so go to David's. He even sells those trendy little Worishofer clogs, and recently I noticed he had some items from the Paris Hilton Footwear collection. Anything to stay alive.

Over the years, he has fixed many soles and heels for me. He has shined my shoes and replaced their laces. But he will only take a pair, never just one shoe. Try giving him just one shoe and he'll say, "I can't take one shoe! My wife will die!"

A cobbler's superstition, I guess.

David's shop goes back in time. It has the best Cat's Paw decal in the window. She looks like a 1940s girl, yellowed with age. While David's has been in this storefront for 28 years, it's been a shoe repair shop for much longer.

You can see the decal here too, back when David's was A. Brym's shoe repair shop. This photo is from the book The Lower East Side, by Edmund V. Gillon, Jr. I think it's from the 1960s:

After it was Brym's, it made a 1980s appearance in Moscow on the Hudson, its yellow sign printed partly in Cyrillic lettering. Not yet David's, but still a shoe repair shop.

Yes, that's an egg shop on the block. You can watch a movie of the shop and read about it here. And while we're talking about the recent wave of transformation on 7th Street (Addukkan and more), here's another vintage shot, this one from Brian Rose's fantastic Lower East Side Project:

This place is still a tailor/dry cleaners; though, like David's, it has changed hands and design elements many times over the years. Note in all these photos the tenement doorways with the decorated marble columns. They really knew how to make affordable housing back in the day. They also knew how to fix your shoes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

On 1st Ave, the new Kim's is making us excited with a "30% off Grand Opening" sign as they keep their gates closed. As this peek inside shows, it's stocked and swept--should be opening soon:

Meanwhile, the Post catches up with Kim's closure news--didn't know "Mary-Kate Olsen was a customer until she refused to return several out-of-print Jane Campion films." Maybe she'll volunteer to sponsor the collection for us all. [NYP]

On a sidewalk book vendor: "Some local residents see the books as an emblem of the Upper West Side’s rich intellectual and cultural history. Others see the assemblage as a case of one man taking over an entire stretch of public sidewalk." [Times]

Recession prices at Gray's Papaya going up. [Times]

A visit to the Domino Sugar refinery. [EVG]

Feisty Carnegie Hall tenant wants a bunch of bucks before she'll be booted. You go Editta! [Curbed]

A close-up of Nicola Verlato's public art at 14th and 9th: A "Sleeping Monster" of heroes amassed from some not very imaginative imaginations of Chelsea residents--it includes Mickey Mouse, Derek Jeter, and SpongeBob Squarepants:

Ginkgo Gatherers

Heralding the arrival of autumn, Canada geese make their way across the skies in V formation. Green leaves turn to gold. The air smells lush with mud and decay. In the city, we catch only glimpses of these seasonal shifts, never quite getting the full effects of fall that people in the country enjoy.

But there is one sign of fall that never fails to come to our streets: the appearance of the Chinese ginkgo gatherers.

photo: charmante's flickr

The seeds of the female trees are a traditional Chinese food, writes Wikipedia, "often served at special occasions such as weddings and the Chinese New Year (as part of the vegetarian dish called Buddha's delight). In Chinese culture, they are believed to have health benefits; some also consider them to have aphrodisiac qualities."

I saw my first ginkgo gatherer of the season on Friday night, an elderly woman stooped over the sidewalk, scooping seeds into a red plastic grocery bag. She was alone. In the past, I've seen them mostly in couples, the man shaking the branches of the tree with a long hook, the woman grabbing the fallen seeds off the street--a welcome service to those repelled by the malodorous mushy seeds that slick the pavement.

I've never seen young people gathering seeds, and I assume this tradition is a vanishing one that will fade with the passing of the elder generation.

photo: rumble pie's flickr

Despite their stink, Ginkgos are one of my favorite trees. In a few weeks, their yellow leaves will carpet the sidewalks. Not only beautiful, unique, and very old, they are hardy survivors that do well in a harsh urban environment.

Writes Wikipedia, "Extreme examples of the Ginkgo's tenacity may be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where four trees growing between 1–2 km from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living things in the area to survive the blast. While almost all other plants (and animals) in the area were destroyed, the ginkgos, though charred, survived and were soon healthy again. The trees are alive to this day."

Inspiration for the battered urban survivors among us all.

Friday, October 17, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

To the annals of unsung anti-yunnification heroes, an as-yet unwritten list that includes That Guy Who Urinates on Soho's Delicatessan, we must now add The Guy Who Lives Above Death & Co. [Eater]

The fires of He
ll have been lit for the supermen and women of the Platinum Condo. [LC]

Domino Sugar Factory opens to public this Sunday. [Gothamist]

Now that folks are in the fighting spirit, here's the list of bars looking for a liquor license on the LES. Monday October 20: Go get 'em! [SLES]

Noise complaints send exclusive Eldridge club into further exclusivity. [Gothamist]

Check out the lovely Subway why doesn't someone open a bar like this down here? [GVDP]

Jackson Square Gets Armed

I like to check in now and then on the saga of my favorite condo/park couple, Jackson Square.

As reported before, it seems like the park has been sort of "adopted" by the condo. Formerly (and still) a park known for its rough-around-the-edges populace, homeless men and women, disaffected queer kids, etc., Jackson Square has been getting cleaned up, wired up, and greened up for its debut as the front yard for condo One Jackson Square.

Now, in their latest endeavor to prepare the park for the sensibilities of its new residents, the city Parks Department has placed armed guards at the perimeter.

"Armed," in this case, means carrying a nightstick with permission to "use physical and deadly force," as given to NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol officers. They can also "make warrantless arrests, carry and use handcuffs" (Wiki).

In wondering about this new security presence, I've been chatting with some of the officers and only later found this informative Daily News story. To sum it up, Armani and the Jackson Square Alliance have indeed adopted the park, much like entities can adopt a highway with the purpose of keeping it free of litter. They're running a big clean-up and that includes hiring Parks Department officers.

Who is the Jackson Square Alliance? Says the Daily News, it's "a nonprofit comprising local residents and businesses," and their president "is vice president of Hines Interests, the firm leading development of One Jackson Square."

What are the implications when a private, luxury-based company forms a non-profit to "adopt" a public space for the purpose of improving their own profits? How about when they hire guards who also happen to be public servants?

It's worth thinking about what this means and where it could go. If only certain types of people are allowed to visit a public space, can it really be considered public? Are there forms of back-door privatization?

Follow the saga here: