Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bowery Bar Protest Signs

While watching Kevin Frech's documentary Bowery Dish, I was excited to see the following shot of 38 East 4th Street, the former tenement that stood next to Bowery Bar:

For years, I've been trying to find a photo of this window--and to find out who was behind the signs, a question that remains unanswered.

In addition to "Cooper Union: How could you do this to our neighborhood," there was also a box sign with a red blinking light inside of it. You can just barely see it in the lower left of the window here. I don't remember what it said.

A little history:

When nightclub developers Eric Goode and Serge Becker opened the "grit-to-glam" celebrity hangout Bowery Bar on the site of an old gas station in 1994, the locals got restless. The Times reported that many members of the neighborhood association and community board argued “that the bar, and others they believe would open in its wake, will erode the character of the area by changing it from a haven for light industry and artists into a trendy night spot."

That year, the New Yorker reported on "a curiously medieval sight" outside Bowery Bar, when "a small crowd of Bowery denizens were peering over the courtyard wall, like serfs at the castle gates." New York magazine called the scene “an exercise in extreme cultural dissonance, evoking images of Calvin Klein and Linda Evangelista sipping Cristal on the inside as derelicts guzzle Night Train on the outside.”

the cultural dissonance continues today

In 1995 a group of artists, purportedly led by bicycle activist George Bliss, painted a trail of footprints leading to the bar, marked with slogans like "Boycott the Bowery Bar" and "Don't Party on the Poor." Bliss and other detractors argued that the bar was operating without a zoning variance, doing business on land zoned for light manufacturing, an environment conducive to artists. In the Times, Goode responded, "We're manufacturing. We're manufacturing hamburgers."

At some point, in the tenement window next to the luxe lounge’s entrance, a protesting neighbor put up the “Cooper Union, how could you do this to us?" sign. (It was the college that owned the land and had granted the lease to Bowery Bar.) The sign lasted a long while, providing a constant protest that could not go unseen by Bowery Bar and its customers.


But by 2007, Goode and his new partner, Sean MacPherson, would take over the protestor's tenement, call it a brownstone, and turn it into the monied hipster hotel Lafayette House.

I don’t know what became of the protester and the angry sign--or to anyone else who lived in that building. (Does anyone know?) The window where the signs once hung is now the doorway into Bowery Bar's exclusive hotel.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hair of the Poet

At Brian Cassidy Bookseller, the artifacts, ephemera, and "cultural detritus" of the old East Village have washed ashore. There are old newsletters from the Poetry Project, flyers for clubs long defunct, mimeos and zines. It's an impressive collection.

But there's one extra special item that recently caught my eye at Cassidy's booth at the New York Art Book Fair.

The item's card reads: "Sanders, Ed and Allen Ginsberg. [Pubic Hair]." The condition is described as "Generally very good, though lacking all but one of the original public [sic] hairs."

"One of the most infamous and written-about literary artifacts of the 20th century," the original collection of hairs was requested by Sanders and gathered personally by Ginsberg to be sold via mail order through Sanders' Peace Eye Bookstore on Avenue A.

Cassidy has Ginsberg's handwritten list, including descriptions of each hair in the giver's own words, as they were collected at a party for Giuseppe Ungaretti's poetry reading in 1963 or '64. Without looking too much into it, the way each poet described his pubic hair may provide some insight into his personality--competitive, self-deprecating, straightforward.

Frank O'Hara: "Mine are more golden than Frank Lima's, to tell the truth."
Joe Brainard: "Sort of irregular."
Ron Padgett: "Hey, mine's got dandruff."
Edwin Denby: "Beat up grey."
LeRoi Jones: "Black and curly."

Also included in the piece is a note from Ed Sanders, affirming the authenticity of the hairs, and stating that only Kenneth Koch and Barbara Guest refused to give up theirs.

Today, only one hair remains. To which poet it belonged remains a mystery. Each hair originally sold for $15. This whole package can now be yours for $2,750. Contact Brian Cassidy Bookseller if you're interested.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lemon Ice King

For this week's piece in Metro NY, a long walk to the Lemon Ice King of Corona.

To get to the Lemon Ice King of Corona, especially on a day when the 7 train is running express, you walk from Junction Boulevard in Queens. The walk is half the pleasure.

Under the elevated tracks, you go past the botanicas and tarot card readers, the driving schools and tortillerias, the women at sidewalk stands blending fruit into juice. You walk past the giant, flashing signs for Corona Oral Surgery–the ones that inexplicably advertise OB-GYN! OB-GYN!–and turn right onto 104th Street, through the land of barber shops...

...It’s Indian summer, or more Global Warming. The locust trees along the sidewalk are turning gold. The Mets have just one game left to play. At the Lemon Ice King, the candy apples have appeared, another sign of the changing season. A new crowd arrives, taking vivid colors into their hands—pistachio green, cherry red, blueberry blue. No one buys a candy apple. They’re not quite ready to give up the ice.

Read the whole essay at Metro NY

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Video Gallery


The Video Gallery in Park Slope is closing.

One More Folded Sunset writes, "It had to happen sooner or later. At a time when the video store is practically extinct, the much loved Video Gallery, on Park Slope's Seventh Avenue, will be gone by the end of the month. Last time I returned a DVD there, a couple of weeks ago, the owner, Kathy Smelyansky, waived my late fee, and I guessed the end was in sight."

Recently, I took the above photo, thinking how melancholy is the video store at night, a little lonely. I wondered how long before it was gone. Brokelyn says it's the last video store in the neighborhood.

Says Folded Sunset, "When you go into the store right now, the atmosphere is one of shocked sadness, and appreciation.  We can't believe the place is really closing! There's a sale on in the store & the DVDs are disappearing fast."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

John's Bakery


In the Ficarra family for over 50 years, John's Bakery of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, closed its doors earlier this month.

photo: Ditmas Park Corner

Ditmas Park Corner first reported on the closure, including the goodbye note, which stated:

"opportunities unexpectedly arose and quick decisions had to be made which necessitated closing the store. Please join us in welcoming your new neighbors who we are sure intend to contribute to the neighborhood’s upswing."

Some commenters worry that this means what's coming next is either an upscale artisanal cafe or a Starbucks. Like most of the city, and more and more of Brooklyn, Ditmas has been rapidly gentrifying.

The Real Brooklynite calls John's "One of the few remaining business in Ditmas Park with real Brooklynite roots and without large-scale corporate ties." They add: "If you’re looking for a bagel and coffee in Ditmas Park now then it’s best to prepare to feel like you’re an extra in a scene from Girls… Why did John’s close? Well, it’s hard to speculate but the pieces can be placed together. A very nice goodbye note on their door said it wasn’t their intention to close. A townie neighbor outside the store told me their rent was doubled."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jack Bistro to TD Bank

Last year, when I reported that Jack Bistro would be closing on University Place, a regular from the neighborhood told me, "The landlord is renting the space to a bank for $50,000 a month. Jack offered $30,000, but the landlord wanted more."


Well, it's a year later and here it is, as promised, yet another brand-new TD Bank. The Village needs this like it needs a hole in the head.

today, via Coney Island doc

Please write the mayor and the City Council and tell them to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, so our small business owners have a chance to negotiate fair lease renewals. It's time to put a stop to the chaining of New York City.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Floating Library

For today's Metro NY, a visit to the Floating Library:

Across the ship, readers lounge on mattresses and chairs, books in hand. All mobile devices must be powered off. The Floating Library is an analog experience. Swaying in the water, bumping against big rubber fenders that keen against the dock, the Lilac smells sweetly of rust and rot, of the saline Hudson and time gone by. Like a library, it is peacefully quiet. The only racket comes from the loud, intrusive music of the mini-golf course across the pier, another dubious amenity of the city’s suburbanization.

Onboard, though roped to the city, you are yet away from it. The 1933 lighthouse tender is a floating artifact, a lovely ruin through which you are free to roam, peering through portholes and poking into musty rooms washed in river light.

Read the whole piece at Metro NY