Friday, August 28, 2015

The Palm


Back in June, thanks to a tipster, I first reported the intel that the original Palm restaurant was gone for good.

Earlier this week, The Real Deal confirmed that the owners have sold the building for $5.9 million. But will it be preserved? Will the historic, priceless murals be cherished and maintained for the next generations? Don't hold your breath.

Yesterday, Eater posted photos of the restaurant's interior, its wonderful murals painted over, destroyed. One of the buyers, Steven Kachanian (of the apparently not ironically named Klosed Properties), told The Real Deal, “We’re working with some high-end tenants looking to do some major work to the property."

What the fuck is wrong with people? This was the original Palm restaurant, 90 years old, gorgeous, storied, beloved, its walls covered in caricatures hand-drawn by some of America's most celebrated cartoonists. This was a one-of-a-kind treasure, never to be reproduced. You can't buy this kind of uniqueness, it has to grow organically and mature over time--over a century of time. But we're living in a fucked up city where fucked up people do fucked up things like destroy art, culture, and history--all in one fell swoop if they can manage it--just to replace it with something banal and miserable from the monoculture of the day.

If people can't see the value in preserving something so obviously exquisite and exceptional like the Palm, there is no hope. Just put in a cupcake shop already and call it a day.

The Palm is Vanishing

Update: Zagat published a statement from the owners. In part, it reads: "The beloved hand painted caricatures were housed on walls made of plaster, which made it impossible to remove the caricatures for preservation purposes. Photos and videos have been taken of the famous walls prior to the sale for our internal preservation purposes."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Before & After

A black-and-white photo of the northwest corner of 11th and University in the Village recently came to my attention. Shot by Edmund V. Gillon in 1975, it shows the Village Voice offices next to the Cedar Tavern.

I thought it deserved the "before and after" treatment.

After the Village Voice, there was Jack Bistro. Villagers wept when they were forced out by a rent hike in 2013. Long a home for artists and poets, the Cedar was shuttered in 2006, demolished, and turned into condos.

Today, in their places, there's yet another TD Bank branch and yet another outpost of a chain salon that specializes in the removal of body hair via hot wax.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blatt Now

Just south of Union Square, on Broadway near 12th Street, Blatt Billiards sold their building in 2013 after 90 years in business. IDM Capital, a "syndicate of Israeli investors," paid $24 million for it.

Now it's being destroyed.

In 2013, Curbed reported that the new owners would be adding ten floors to the existing building, but that plan must have changed. More recent reports state that the "two-phase project entails the construction of 10 floors above a five-story office building...followed by the conversion of the existing structure."


The latest renderings show the historic structure is nowhere in sight, replaced with yet another chilly monstrosity. 

In the architect's images, the cast-iron building has been swallowed up in a sleek glass tower with the words "new style" written across the front. No cast-iron facade, no spandrels, no colonettes.

Today, at the 809 Broadway demolition site, passersby have written their opinions of the development on the poster tacked to the plywood.

"UGLY WORK IN PROGRESS," says one. To which the opposition has replied, "You're [sic] taste is in ur [sic] ass."

"YUCK," says another. 

An arrow points to a neighboring antique building and says, "Beautiful Building." While up above, in a speech bubble, the new tower speaks: "I'm judging you."

The Blatt building was constructed in 1887, a cast-iron beauty among others of its type. It's listed on the Endangered Cast Iron Buildings in NYC list, where it is noted that the Times once described the building as "perfect in all its details."

Was somebody not paying attention here?

I liked looking up at that old building, especially on warm days when the big upper-floor factory windows were open and you could look in to see the men making pool tables, sawing and sanding the rosewood and maple.

I liked seeing that funny name, BLATT, written across the front ("since 1923"). And, now and then, I liked going inside and looking at all the things they sold -- stained glass pub-style chandeliers, dart boards, boxes of shimmering dice.

It was a beautiful thing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bicycle Habitat

The original Bicycle Habitat opened on Lafayette Street in 1978. It is now being forced to close due to a massive rent increase.

photo: Andrew Burton, NY Times

Reader Wendy points us to a report from Bicycle Retailer: "Rent for the 244/242 Lafayette Street store, which encompassed two storefronts and about 2,300 square feet of space, was $21,000 a month. And [owner Charlie] McCorkell said his rent was going to increase by nearly 3 1/2 times to $72,000 per month, which wasn't sustainable with the revenue from bicycle sales."

The shop and its owner have long advocated for a bike-friendly New York. It is also a favorite of celebrities. Wrote the Times in 2012, "On any given day, you might see Jake Gyllenhaal. Or Matthew Broderick or David Byrne. David Beckham has been said to swing by, just for some much-needed air."

But in today's New York, doing good business and making money won't keep you afloat. Not when landlords can hike the rent to enormous heights--and favor national chain stores.

"I am concerned about the future of SoHo," Charlie McCorkell told Bicycle Retailer, "as more and more of the stores, galleries and artists who transformed the area are being replaced by eateries and high-end chain stores. Will SoHo become another high-end suburban-like mall, lacking local flavor?

Bicycle Habitat's last day will be September 30. The store will merge into its other location three doors down.

If you want to the city to put a stop to these insane rent increases, join #SaveNYC and support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.

Charlie Mom


Charlie Mom Chinese restaurant has been in the Village since 1983. This coming Wednesday, August 26, will be its last day.

Why is it closing? I called to ask. "Rent going too high."

photo via Mitch Broder's NY

In 2011, Eater paid a visit to Charlie Mom.

"It's the sort of Chinese restaurant that was once seen in abundance in New York," wrote Robert Simonson, "the kind that makes cocktails and offers choices from Column A and Column B, and a Peking Duck meal for $19.95."

He continued, "Who comes here? I asked my waiter. 'Old man. Old woman,' he said with halting English and stunning frankness. I looked around. My eyes confirmed his blunt assessment. Nearly everyone was old. Very old. They talked of ailments and pensions."

photo: Daniel Krieger, via Eater

So another place that caters to older folks is getting the boot. Once again, it's not a lack of business. It's not because "people" don't eat Chinese food anymore. It's the rent. It's the rent. It's the rent.

Have a last meal at Charlie Mom between now and Wednesday at 464 6th Avenue near 11th Street. And if you want to the city to put a stop to these insane rent increases, join #SaveNYC and support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Still Empty

It's depressing to walk home to the East Village and see the old St. Mark's Bookshop space still empty after they were forced to move by a rent hike. I try not to walk by there anymore.

With the space vacant for over a year, landlord Cooper Union is contributing to the high-rent blight of the neighborhood, presumably while they wait for a Chipotle or Starbucks to take the spot. As I've said before, there ought to be a law.

You may recall that many of us tried to keep the bookshop here--with tens of thousands of petition signatures, protests, letters to Cooper Union, visits from Michael Moore, and book-buying weekends. But without protections like the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, there really is no hope for any mom and pop. Now the bookshop is on E. 3rd, where the foot traffic is low and business is down. Shelves are bare. They're looking for investors to help keep them going.

But this is what typically happens when a long-time small business is forced to move, especially from a prime spot. They struggle in their new location. They often don't make it.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

B&H Reopening Party

The B&H Dairy has reopened after five long months, and they are celebrating this Friday at 6:00pm.

From the Facebook invite:

"Come celebrate the reopening of B&H after nearly 5 months closed in the wake of the March 26 Second Avenue explosion and fire. Cakes, coffee, and challah! Standing room only (putting the chairs and tables in the basement for the event). Joining us will be guest of honor, Florence Bergson Goldberg, daughter of the original owners, Mr. & Mrs. Abie Bergson Goldberg. Thanks to #SaveNYC for their support!"

Read about Ms. Goldberg's family here.

And you can still donate funds via YouCaring.