Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kiev Card

Cartoonist Joe Dator sends in this shot of a business card from the long-lost Kiev.



Joe writes, "I was using it as a bookmark in something I probably purchased off a blanket on Second Ave."

Take a look back at the old Kiev. We still miss it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Greek Corner Coffee Shop Diner

There's a window on 7th Avenue and 28th Street that has always attracted me, but only at night when it glows a yellow fluorescent glow behind a small gathering of dressmaker's dummies. The ceiling is pressed tin. A wall is hung with spindles of colored thread. Sometimes, you see the shape of a seamstress going by. It looks like a window into the past.



I've always been so captivated by the window that I never looked at what lies beneath it.



When I finally did, it was like a discovery. The Greek Corner Coffee Shop Diner, in business here since 1980, is another window into the past. (The building owner must be a decent human being to allow so much to remain.)



It has a long counter and matching tables covered in aquamarine Formica, a color perhaps meant to conjure memories of the Aegean sea. A poster of the Acropolis hangs above. At the other end, by the front window where it can be seen and admired, a hunk of gyro meat sits on its spit.





The Acropolis poster and the gyro rotisserie were once staples of the New York City dining experience. But we don't have many Greek coffee shop diners left. We don't have many coffee shop diners left. For now, we still have this one--with its sizzling eggs and sausages in the morning, its stacks of plates, its bread wrapped in wax paper from Bakers Best, its poster in the window boasting "We Make the Best Burger in NYC."

The Greek Corner Coffee Shop Diner also has an ancient cash register--and it's a Faerman, straight from the Bowery. When I tell the cashier that I love her cash register she tells me, "You love it? You can have it," and demonstrates how difficult it is to push the antique buttons. Her boss is old-fashioned, she explains, as the drawer pops out. It is lined in weathered wood. Gorgeous. "Take it," the cashier says, "Take it!"





Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nighthawks P.S.

One last thing about the Nighthawks diner search, especially now that the Mulry Square triangle is covered in plywood, readied for its transformation into a subway ventilation plant for the MTA.

I followed up awhile back on a suggestion by author Jack Womack to take a look at the photo book New York Then & Now by Watson and Gillon. In it, they include the following photo looking south at Mulry Square, the triangle in question, in 1976.



The stone building in the left foreground is the old St. Vincent's Hospital. The blank wall is where the Barney's painted billboard was recently.

A close-up shows the White Tower (not White Castle) burger stand on the left side of the triangle, and the old Esso has become an Exxon. It further cements the evidence that the remaining structure in the empty lot today is a remnant of the gas station's garage and not of a diner.

The "mystery diner" is on the right with its extended, glassed-in dining room beneath an awning--before it gained a second story. While I can't read the sign, it doesn't look much like Nighthawks. It's another dead end, of sorts--but not for people interested in hunting down old White Tower burger joints.

Presumably, any remaining remnants of the White Tower and the gas station are being demolished by the MTA right now.




Monday, February 25, 2013

NYU & Bloomberg in Cahoots

Henry J. Stern, the longest-serving Parks Commissioner in New York City history, aside from Robert Moses, says forcefully that NYU and the city lied--the city illegally gave public parks to the university. The full press release is below. Show up at court tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb 26 at 11:15 AM, 111 Centre Street between Franklin and White, Room 574, and tell Justice Donna Mills "no" to the NYU expansion plan.

Click here for more info about tomorrow
Click here for more of what you can do


For Immediate Release: February 22, 2013

NYU Expansion Plan Case:

Stern to City, NYU: A Park is a Park is Always a Park

Former Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern Testifies: City Illegally Gave Parks to NYU;
Assemblymember Deborah Glick Confirms: Giveaway of Parks Without Legislative Approval is Illegal

Today, Petitioners in the ongoing Article 78 lawsuit against various City and State agencies for their unlawful approval of NYU’s 2031 expansion plan will appear before Justice Judy Mills (State Supreme Court, NY County) to ask for a hearing and expedited discovery on their “parkland alienation” claim. They offered conclusive and explosive testimony that bolsters their case that NYU illegally took over, with the City's approval, protected parkland, filing sworn testimony from former NYC Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern and Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

The case contests the City Planning Commission's and the City Council's decision to approve a massive building plan by NYU, which would radically impact a crown jewel of New York City: turning the heart of Greenwich Village into a jam-packed construction site for over 20 years. Various groups, including a substantial number of NYU's own faculty, including NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (NYUFASP), the Historic Districts Council, and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, filed suit because the approved construction plan, among many other illegalities, gave NYU rights over public parkland, in violation of state law, which requires, under the Public Trust Doctrine, that parkland cannot be given away without the approval of the State Legislature.

Here, there is no doubt that NYU failed to obtain legislative approval before applying for permission to take over the parks within the construction zone.

NYU and the City's Law department have claimed that, despite the decades-old use of some properties on the proposed construction site by the public as parkland, the sites were not, in fact, dedicated parks.

Henry J. Stern, the beloved and long-term Commissioner for the Parks Department, filed a blistering affidavit, which puts the lie to NYU's and the Bloomberg Administration's claims.

Mr. Stern’s affidavit refutes these absurd contentions made by NYU and the City, confirming that four separate properties were, in fact, dedicated parkland. In blunt terms, former Commissioner Stern said, “In my opinion, all four of these sites have been dedicated as public parks, either expressly or impliedly, and therefore cannot be alienated by the City without the State Legislature’s prior approval under the Public Trust Doctrine. It was always the City’s intent in continuously making these sites available to the public for recreational use over many years to treat them as dedicated parkland.”

In addition, Stern testified that the only reason the four parks in the construction zone – Mercer Playground (whose dedication he presided over in 1999), LaGuardia Corner Gardens, LaGuardia Park and Mercer-Houston Dog Run – were never “officially” mapped was because NYU itself obstructed the Park Department's efforts to map sites as parkland. Stern calls NYU the “800-pound gorilla…solely responsible for blocking the formal mapping of these sites as parks.”

Stern also attests that there is no formal process for mapping parks, and that many parks are never formally mapped because it’s a bureaucratic process that has no bearing on the status of the land as parkland. Legally, the fact that all four parks have been used as parks continuously, in some instances for decades, is all that’s needed. “These sites exemplify the concept of impliedly dedicated parkland and therefore must be afforded the protections of the Public Trust Doctrine. To fail to do so exalts a quid pro quo, plutocratic form of government, and blatantly disregards the values that state law embodies of accountability and transparency,” says Stern.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick also wrote an affidavit supporting the contention that the City’s approval of the NYU expansion plan amounted to an illegal giveaway of public parkland. “The issue of parkland alienation is central to this case. Greenwich Village possesses among the least amount of open space in New York City, the dearth of which is so acute, that every strip of open space-down to the smallest traffic island- is closely guarded." She further swears that NYU and the City "chose here... to bypass the State Legislature and purport to act on it own authority. In doing so, it has violated State law embodying the Public Trust Doctrine.

NYUFASP member and 1st Vice Chair of CB2 Manhattan, Bo Riccobono, said that it is well known that many parks in the City are technically owned by the Department of Transportation (DOT). “What matters is their use, not how they're mapped. That the City, and NYU, would claim that that those park strips on the superblocks aren't parks is really staggering. As Henry Stern has shown, it's an outright lie," said Riccobono.

The Petitioners' attorneys, former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro and Jim Walden, both partners of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, summarized today's filing as follows: "NYU's massive expansion, rubber-stamped by the City Planning Commission and the City Council, alienates dedicated public parkland in violation of state law. For that reason alone, NYU's approved plan simply cannot go forward. We applaud Henry Stern and Deborah Glick for setting the record straight and taking such a strong stand against this blatant illegality."

Back to Nighthawks

In 2010 we embarked on a search for Edward Hopper's Nighthawks diner and decided that it never existed--at least not in the form it takes in the painting.

Remembering that one of Hopper's interviewers said it was "based partly on an all-night coffee stand," and Hopper said he "made the restaurant bigger," we might look (if we were still looking) for something small, something possibly even a bit ramshackle--a coffee stand, not a diner.



With the posts here and the Op-Ed in the Times, I've received many suggestions, questions, and memories from readers. (Almost three years later, I still get these emails.) Some crossed my own tracks, others blazed new trails, and others still took us way off, into other cities. Everyone wants the Hopper diner to be in their own town, close to home. It speaks to the power of the painter to create something intimate and desirable.

Some suggested it's a pizza place in Hopper's hometown of Nyack. Reader "RRP", with an impressive memory, recalled the Perry "mystery diner" in detail and came up with the intriguing idea of Riker's triangular coffee shop. And Don Everett Pearce parsed the noir film Blast of Silence to see if Nedick's filled the bill.

Though all of this got my obsessive inquisitiveness stirred up, I had no intention of exhuming the body again. And then a 70-year-old man named George wrote in. His father grew up on Perry Street and George recalls a small stand somewhere near Mulry Square. He got ice cream there. He was sure this was it and that one day, long ago, it might have been a coffee stand.



Using George's description, I went back to Mulry Square and tracked down a small, ramshackle piece of property (blue circle above). It abuts the backside of Fantasy World on 7th Avenue South. I've passed this tiny building many times, but never looked closely at it.


2011

A quick peek around its side reveals that, while it looks square from the front, it is actually built into a perfect pie-wedge shape. I got excited once again. Here we are, directly across from Mulry Square, looking at an old, small, triangular building. One that might once have been a "coffee stand." One that could have been the seed for Hopper's imagination, stretched into a diner, populated with melancholy customers, and elaborated into a Village pastiche.

So it was back to the Archives for me.


2011

Unfortunately, the tax photo shows that this little building held the Graziano Market, an open-faced stand with awnings and a sidewalk loaded with buckets and barrels full of dry goods, maybe, or flowers. Hard to tell. But it was not a coffee shop circa 1940.

Hopper started the painting in 1941. Could it have been turned into a coffee stand by then? Sure, yes, maybe--why not?


today

After a brief life as the Yavroom jewelry store, #184 is empty again and ostensibly for rent. Maybe someone would like to turn the fantasy into reality and open a coffee shop here, creating a Nighthawks replica. It could be part of the museum that New York is becoming anyway.


Read the whole story here:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Kentile Sign 2

Last week, on a tip from Thomas Rinaldi at New York Neon, I shared the rumor that the great Kentile Floors sign was coming down. The rumor stirred up panic and was soon, thankfully, debunked. Today the New York Times follows up with a full profile of the sign, its history, and possible future.



Writes Joseph Berger,  "It is savored by connoisseurs of a forgotten New York and a generation of young Brooklynites with a consciously defiant preference for urban grit — water towers, latticework bridges, faded wall advertisements — over more manicured scenery. These aficionados were startled recently by an Internet rumor that the sign would be torn down."

I spoke to the reporter about how the sign is an important artifact of Brooklyn's lost industrial heritage and I talked about the beauty of the sign, but the only quote from me that made it in was something about hipsters and their lack of authenticity. I said it but, out of context, it makes me sound sour about the sign, which I am definitely not. I also said something about how there's a general hunger for the authentic in postmodern society.

Sorry, Kentile Floors sign, you know I love you just as much as the hipsters do. (I also have come very close to buying that Kentile sign t-shirt from Live Poultry. I might still do it.)




Thursday, February 21, 2013

Which Ratner's?

In 2008, we took a look at the mysterious Ratner's of Second Avenue. Few images can be found of this Ratner's--it turns up as a sidebar in photos of the Fillmore East or, in its first incarnation, side-glanced in street shots from ancient archives. We found a menu from 1970 and parts of the old Ratner's mosaic wall that still exist today at Met Foods.

Still, the Second Ave. Ratner's remains something of a ghost.

Now we have this gorgeous interior photo of a Ratner's from reader Rebecca Krupp (click to see larger detail):



Rebecca writes: "My grandmother Ruby Krupp is seated in the center. The picture would have been taken sometime between 1931-1938. Maybe someone else could identify some of the other people in the picture."

But is this the Second Avenue Ratner's or the more famous and photographed one that vanished more recently from Delancey?

If it is Second Avenue, then it might be the original Second Avenue Ratner's, which sat on the corner of Second and Sixth during the 1930s, before moving mid-block. In fact, the fan/scallop motif on the exterior in this NYPL digital archive shot looks a lot like the motif in the interior photo.


from NYPL

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Off Broadway Boutique

If you have not yet been to Off Broadway Boutique, on the Upper West Side, you must go. It doesn't matter if you're not a woman of "advanced style," just go. The shop has been run for over 40 years by the great and glamorous Lynn Dell (watch her here!). Dell dresses "for the theater of my life" and she wants you to dress for the theater of your life.

The store is not in danger of closing, but Ms. Dell is advancing in age and you never know.



Walking in to the shop, you'll be greeted warmly by a saleswoman who will urge you to  "Never be a follower, there are too many followers already," and "Be yourself. Wear whatever you want. If your neighbors and the people on the street don't like it, do it anyway."

Try on the outrageous hats and the outsized jewelry. Bedeck yourself in leopard print.



The shop smells like an Upper West Side grandmother, the kind who wore loads of perfume and had her hair "done" and never went out the door without makeup on. It's packed to the gills with gloves, turbans, scarves, and more glitz. If you start feeling overstimulated, you can always take a seat in the Man Chair up front.



And don't miss the Hall of Fame by the door, a collection of signed photos from famous glamorpusses like Liz Taylor, Eartha Kitt, Liza Minnelli, Cher, Joan Collins, and more.





Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sal Dell'Orto

Sal Dell'Orto, patriarch of the great, lost Manganaro's Grosseria of Hell's Kitchen, has passed away. He was 84. My warmest condolences go out to his family, especially to his daughters who made dining at Manganaro's such an unforgettable treat (no matter what some people have to say about that--and I don't want to hear it--I still miss the place terribly).


From his obituary, it's clear that Mr. Dell'Orto and Manganaro's Grosseria will always have a place in local New York City history:

"Sal was born in Manhattan and earned a scholarship to Fordham University. He graduated Cum Laude and went right to work at his family’s business; Manganaro Grosseria Italiana; purveyors of premium Italian specialty foods. His family started the famous eatery on New York’s Ninth Avenue in 1893 and Sal proudly carried the torch until 2010. Manganaro’s was truly a New York City landmark during his tenure, and Sal was the charismatic owner that all of his customers came to love.

He became personal friends with the likes of Jackie Gleason and Shecky Greene, had coffee every morning with Burt Lancaster during the filming of Tough Guys, and Frank Sinatra would request that his Prosciutto be personally sliced by Sal. The Ninth Avenue Food Festival was traditionally started with the sitting New York City mayor enjoying a meal at Manganaro’s followed by an opening ceremony on the sidewalk right out front. Sal has had lunch with Jacob Javits, Ed Koch, David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani, just to name a few. Sal enjoyed many ‘firsts’ at Manganaro’s: first family to import Salami from Italy shortly after World War I, GQ magazine featured him in the late 1990’s wearing fine Italian suits, and he is credited with inventing the 'Six Foot Hero' sandwich in 1956. The six foot hero earned him a spot on the TV game show What’s My Line? where Sal successfully stumped the panelists. The Hormel Meats Company also used his grosseria as the set for many of their TV commercials over the years.

Needless to say, he enjoyed a lengthy career and was blessed with many wonderful and dear friends throughout the years."

Read more here

Monday, February 18, 2013

At an UWS Diner

At a non-descript diner on the Upper West Side, enjoying the quiet until a young couple walks in and sits in the booth behind me. They are loud-talkers.

He: I like to come to a diner every once in awhile to have a Seinfeld experience.

She: Do they have latkes?

He: Sure, they have hashbrowns.

She: I want latkes. I've had a very stressful day!

He: Latkes, hashbrowns, what's the difference?

She: Come on. I've had a very stressful day.

He: Look, they have something called the Colossal Meatball.

She: Colossal balls sound good to me! Ha ha! I've had such a stressful day. Seriously, don't they have any fruit on this menu? How about some organic greens? All they have here is crap.

He: I need a drink.

She orders a fruit, "no melon," and he gets a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. They continue to wish out loud that they were dining someplace else. I wish the same.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Kentile Sign

VANISHING? (No.)

Over at New York Neon, Thomas Rinaldi got this alarming note about the Kentile sign from an anonymous commenter:

"The sign is coming down during the week of February 18th 2013. Hurry and take your last pictures."


Could this be true? The sign is a Brooklyn landmark--it's even "a place that matters." It has its own Facebook page. It's on t-shirts.

Can anyone confirm or denounce this rumor that Kentile is about to vanish?

*Update: Thanks Andy Newman and Gothamist for tracking this one down and letting us know the Kentile sign is here to stay.

*Everyday Chatter

Target the Coney Island cat and his owner's arcade are forced out to Las Vegas. [ATZ]

Emerald Inn likely to close after 70 years on the Upper West Side. [WSR]

Go see Su Friedrich's "Gut Renovation," on the hyper-gentrification of Williamsburg, in March at Film Forum. [FF]

Arthur Avenue gets a "glossy...chic" beer hall that "aims to change." What will this mean for the old neighborhood? [NYT]

The Brooklynizing of Sweden. [Grub]

Sign the petition to save NYC's public libraries from Bloomberg. [OMFS]

Check out Karen Lillis' new short story--"Set in Greenpoint and the East Village, and on the L train in between." [TC]

Meet Mike Bakaty, East Village tattoo artist. [EVG]

What is a New York Dive? [youtube]



Thursday, February 14, 2013

El Sombrero (The Hat)

Recently, we've been hearing about a flood of losses on Ludlow. Places that came up in the 1990s--early gentrifiers certainly, but before the hyper-gentrification of the Bloomberg era--are dropping like flies. The Pink Pony closed, then we got the news about Motor City, the Living Room is leaving, and we know Max Fish is on borrowed time. Many people are asking, "What's left?" And answering, "The Hat."

Now we hear from the grapevine that the Mexican restaurant is "on its last legs" after serving the Lower East Side since 1984.


1988: Michael Horsley, flickr

I reached out to Regina Bartkoff, an actor, artist, writer, and a waitress at The Hat since 1988. She gave me the scoop:

"They are not closing yet! They are trying to stay open! The rent has been steadily going up and they have a lease for a few more years, but in 2012 we took a nose dive. We have been losing our regular customers steadily, due to them not being able to pay the rents on the LES and being forced out. It just keeps going down.

Most Mexican restaurants on the LES are very chic now with a smorgasbord of a million kinds of tequila and fancy appetizers. El Sombrero was famous for their frozen large pints of margaritas that packed a wallop. They are still $8. A big burrito with rice and beans, heavy with cheese is still $9. It was cheap and you could get wasted quick. We waitresses were never told to sell anything and we never hurried anybody out, even if people were lined up and waiting outside. Everybody was relaxed. The waitresses would dance with the customers at any given moment (to the annoyance of some tables waiting for their orders). Working class, artists, gang bangers, and their families mixed together. Writers would write there. Actors and directors met and worked on their plays. I put everybody's posters on the windows and walls. I gave out cards to my shows and got asked into shows all the time.

As the neighborhood started to change around me, I thought the NYU crowd coming in would still want good cheap food. But the character of these new people coming in was weird. They didn't come in curious or wanting to find a place to call their own. They didn't try to fit into the neighborhood. They were rude and obnoxious. They would not leave a tip, and I can't tell you how many times we had to run down the block after them for trying to run out on a check. This had never happened before. Then even they started to disappear. (I guess after we would catch a lot of them, they weren't coming back.) They are probably finding places were you can down a $2 shot and not have to tip the waitress. The others want those chic places. El Sombrero doesn't fit either one. It was a working class/poor neighborhood place. I think that's the sad fact, we don't fit in any more."


Today: furcafe, flickr

As we're all asking "why Ludlow Street's last bastions of Bohemia are closing," and finding the answer in skyrocketing rents and a vanished culture of artists and outsiders, The Hat remains--but likely not for long. So go get some burritos and knock back a few of those powerful margaritas. Put some salsa on the jukebox, dance with the waitresses, and tip them well.

It's not too late to keep something real and alive on glassy, gasping Ludlow Street.


New York Magazine

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

80s Deuce

Awhile ago, photographer and illustrator Mitch O'Connell posted to his blog a plethora of photos he took of 42nd Street in the 1980s. He writes, "Wish I had taken 1000 photos (and gone back at night), but at least I got a handful of snapshots of the long gone cool decaying seediness of that bustling stretch of real estate!"


Mitch O'Connell

Thanks to Jim Linderman at Vintage Sleaze and to Mick Dementiuk for sending in the links to this amazing work.

You can see all of Mitch's 42nd Street photos by clicking: here and here and here and here and here and here.


Mitch O'Connell

Wait a minute, is that Jon-Erik Hexum in that fake ID photo? No, it's that other guy. What's his name?


Mitch O'Connell

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Eagle's Nest Update

A few years ago, at the once-desolate edge of far-west Chelsea, we went inside the former gay leather bar Eagle's Nest when it was being used as a temporary art gallery. This past summer I went back to 21st and 11th see what, if anything, had moved in since the High Line opened here.


Eagle, circa 1980s

Shuttered since 2000, the Eagle had become 21st Twenty-First, the home of "limited edition furniture." Much of the facade's graffiti art was left in place, but the windows with their sleek wooden trim, and the door punched through a once-barred window told a different story.



Inside, the ornate pressed-tin walls and ceiling were as they were--from the Eagle and the Eagle Open Kitchen before it, a longshoreman's bar from 1931 - 1970. White walls and platforms were added to showcase furniture that is more art than furniture.



The chairs are the sort that no one sits on. The end tables are signed and numbered. According to the catalog, each piece of furniture in this gallery "has a 'soul'--a personal 'voice' manifesting in a relationship between the 'artist' and collector."

There are no price tags.



It's hard to imagine crowds of sweaty, leather-clad men humping in the corners of this gallery. As Colors of Leather put it, this is where you'd "find the hunkiest, butchest, horniest, most handsome guys in the world. And they're at the Eagle for one reason--a good fuck, a hot suck, or whatever else the wonderful telltale system of keys and hankies announces they're into."

(Believe it or not, they also came for brunch.)

When it closed in 2000, the Eagle's employees found a new spot for a new Eagle--on West 28th Street. Today, with the High Line and a bunch of massive new condo towers moving in, we wonder what will happen to the Eagle--and if, one day, we'll see another gallery there filled with furniture meant only to be looked at, never put to use.

It's getting closer. Since writing this post, the furniture gallery has moved to W. 29th Street, another block rapidly transforming. I don't know what has taken its place at the old Eagle.

*Update: Looks like it's being demolished to make room for yet another High Line-hugging luxury tower.


Previously:
Eagle's Nest
Eagle Under Siege
Folsom East and Eagle



Monday, February 11, 2013

Memory Keeper

VANISHED

Romy Ashby posted the following photo to her Walkers in the City Facebook page this weekend, sharing the sad news that the Memory Keeper has closed.

It may not seem like a major loss, a little photo lab on 14th Street between 6th and 7th, but I liked the place, and it had that old New York feeling. 



In the front window, a man who might have been Russian repaired wristwatches. You could bring in your watch and he'd fix it in minutes, sitting at a desk cluttered with interesting little tools. I often got my battery changed by him and he always gave my watch a quick tune-up. He was meticulous about it and utterly silent, never chatty. I got passport photos taken there, too.

Memory Keeper was one of those places I'd been waiting for to close. You knew it was coming. First of all, there was the name: "Memory Keeper." The city doesn't care much about that business. And then its two functions: developing film and fixing wristwatches, a couple of disappearing artifacts of our old world. How could it last?

(It was also next to La Nueva Rampa, the Chino-Latino joint that shuttered, then reopened.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

99-cent Fresh Pizza

There's a 99-cent pizza place on 9th Avenue behind the Port Authority bus terminal. It's next to Stiles Farmers Market, next to the now-shuttered Big Apple Meat Market. Actually, it's less of a pizza "place" and more of a pizza stand.

I wonder what will happen to it once Big Apple's building is demolished and the block goes luxury.



It's an orderly but somewhat makeshift little pizza stand, covered with red-lettered signs that seem to shout. It scored an A from the Health Department. And it always draws customers. It opened during the 99-cent recession pizza boom a few years back, and its manager claims to be first on the scene.

I especially like it at night, when it takes on a foggy, dirty-fishtank glow. It feels like something from the older New York.



In 2010, the Times described its scene:

"13 men and women stood on the sidewalk outside 99¢ Fresh, impatiently ordering and impatiently eating slices amid the ambiance of ungentrified Hell’s Kitchen: idling delivery trucks near the rear of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a barking dog named Leo someone tied up down the block, a prostitute who hurried by saying something about $150 for a half-hour and a bearded homeless man with a cane who spoke loudly to himself about the size of the average bear. He ate two slices."



99-cent Fresh Pizza also sells a few lonely doughnuts, warmed by a fluorescent bulb, bathed in mercury vapor.






Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Old Chelsea Station

VANISHING

DNA reports: "The Old Chelsea Station at 217 W. 18th St., which was built in 1937 and landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, is on the chopping block, the USPS announced in a letter posted in the station." The building is for sale and will pass out of federal ownership--meaning it's going from public to private. Meaning, let's face it, luxury condos and upscale retail.



I remember, as a kid living way out in the sticks, mailing some of my depressing little poems to a poetry journal with a P.O. box at Old Chelsea Station. I didn't realize that name was a post office, and I thought that "Old Chelsea Station" was a train station, like Grand Central Station, and I imagined that the poetry editor somehow lived in this train station in the middle of New York City, which seemed very weird and wonderful. Later, when I encountered the post office for the first time, I realized that this is where all those poems of mine had ended up and not at a train station at all.

So I have this odd fondness for it. Also, the post office boasts some lovely bas-relief murals of animals in the forest.



Romy at Walkers in the City wrote about their artist, Paul Fiene:

"He had his studio upstate in Woodstock, New York, and the two panels, called 'Deer' and 'Bear,' are bas-relief cast stone covered in silver leaf, made in 1938 for Old Chelsea Station, which was built in 1935. I read that Paul Fiene had studied at the Beaux Arts Institute to Design here in New York, and that he won first prize in a life class in 1917. Then he won the Prix de Rome, which he had to decline because he didn’t have enough money to get to Rome to accept the prize, and I imagine that he must have been very disappointed. But he must have been very happy to get the commission to create two works of art to decorate this Manhattan post office. Imagining a post office built during the depression and decorated with money set aside for just that purpose having to close for lack of funds made me feel very sad."



If this P.O. goes, you and I might never see those bears and those deer again. They will become private property for those who can afford to enjoy them. And the community will lose a valuable public space.

People are fighting this sale. If you'd like to speak your mind about it, please do so at tonight's CB4 Full Board Meeting, 6:30 p.m., at Hotel Trades Council Auditorium, 305 W. 44th Street.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

That Fancy Coffee

This report from a reader:

I tried a fancy "artisanal" cup of coffee the other day from one of those places with the lines going out the door. It's in the East Village, but I don't want to say where, because the guys who run it seem like cool people.

The coffee was terrible. Bitter and muddy. No amount of milk and sugar could make it drinkable. I said to my wife, "How can people drink this? They line up for this? Do they really like it or do they just think they like it because it's popular?"

We passed an old homeless man begging for change so he could get a cup of coffee. We offered him the fancy coffee and warned him, "It's fancy but not very good." He took it, tasted it, and spat it out on the sidewalk. "Awful!" he says.

Then he says, "People drink this kind of coffee because someone tells them to drink it. No one could like this shit. And Starbucks? Awful. I never drink Starbucks coffee. I like the Mud Truck at Astor Place. I'd pay $5 for a Mud Truck coffee, but not this crap."

Smart guy.



Monday, February 4, 2013

Ginsberg Photos

You have until April to go see "Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg" at NYU's Grey Art Gallery.



A vast array of Ginsberg's black-and-white, hand-inscribed photographs, many were taken in the East Village where the poet lived first on 7th Street and later on 12th. (In the above photo, he's on the 7th Street rooftop, the steeples of St. Brigid's in the background.)

On one wall, a quartet of views from his 12th Street apartment show a ragged backside in winter, spring, and summer, scenes of ailanthus trees and chimney pots. Allen died there in 1997. Now someone new occupies that renovated kitchen, looks out that window, and does what with it?

Among the many photos, there are also artifacts in vitrines--letters, books, and other ephemera. In one hand-written letter to Carl Solomon, Ginsberg tells of visiting Ezra Pound, to whom he gave a Beatles record as an 82nd birthday gift. I keep trying to imagine crotchety old Ezra Pound listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Allen mostly took pictures of his friends, so detailed city scenery is rare. But there is one shot in the show that does the trick, a rarely seen photo of Avenue A between 7th and 8th along Tompkins Square Park. Taken in 1953 of a "Shopping Cart Prophet," it shows the long-lost businesses of that time--the Volga Inn, a Bar & Grill, a Soda Ice Cream Candy Luncheonette, and the Park Center Restaurant (now the "new" Odessa, a photo lab, a bodega, and Sushi Lounge). Writing on the photo, Ginsberg recalls: "Leshko's Restaurant was cheap and popular as at present." That's gone, too.

A little more Allen Ginsberg:
Howl
Kiev

Friday, February 1, 2013

*Everyday Chatter

Ed Koch, who got the ball rolling on NYC's hyper-gentrification, has passed away. [NYT]

"People have bought homes" on Bedford Street and they don't want Chumley's ruining it for them. [DNA]

Gentrification as an end-game and the rise of "sub-urbanity." [NG]

Check out this film about Marsha P. Johnson--"Stonewall instigator, Andy Warhol model, drag queen, sex worker, starving actress, Saint." [youtube]

Tomorrow, take the No 7-11 Bodega Tour of the East Village. [DNA]

The Pearl Diner may be making a comeback. [EVG]


Grand Central grandeur in the Village. [GVSHP]

"This small shop on a treeless, cheerless stretch of Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, not far from the Greenwood Cemetery, is more than a pizzeria: it is a social parlor where co-owner Giovanni Lanzo holds court." [PC]

Library closings in Brooklyn. [OMFS]

Burlesque birthday for good old Ray. [NEV]

What have we come to? Cupcake tours. [AMZ]