Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sile's Gun Sign

Reader Monique wrote in to say: "The Sile sign is gone on Centre Market Place, seemingly overnight. I work on the block in a converted gun shop and was comforted by its sight daily. All of a sudden it is gone, turned into white... nothing."


The white nothing, photograph by Monique

I wrote about the vanished gun shops of Centre Market Place back in 2011--trust me, it's a fascinating bit of history.

The Sile sign was the last remnant of the gun district. These little things. They matter in the psychogeography of the city.


2011




Monday, March 27, 2017

The Lost Village

On April 4, at the New York City International Film Festival, you can see Roger Paradiso's "The Lost Village," the story of NYU and real estate in Greenwich Village.



Here's the synopsis:

"Once a haven for the proverbial starving artist who brought creativity as their currency, the Village is now a hangout for cover bands and Wall Street hipsters hopelessly aspiring to recreate something that is lost. We encounter testimony of NYU students turning to prostitution to pay NYU’s predatory tuition that fuels NYU’s real estate ambitions.

We find 'Mom and Pop Shops' in trouble. Their closures have changed the culture and character of our Village. High rents and no regulations cause over 1,000 small businesses to leave New York City every month.

Can the Village be saved? Or is Greenwich Village lost forever?"

Watch the trailer here:


The Lost Village Trailer 2.28.17 from Roger Paradiso on Vimeo.

See the film at The Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, April 4 at 8:00 p.m.

Angelica Kitchen

VANISHING

After 40 years, Angelica Kitchen is closing.


Civil Eats

Gothamist reports:

"The restaurant had been struggling for several years, particularly because rents in the area have become almost unbearable for independent businesses. A new lease McEachern signed in 2014 was for over $21,000 a month—keeping in mind that doesn't include additional expenses including utilities, taxes, insurance, payroll, etc.—up from $450 a month when the restaurant first opened nearby on St. Marks Place."


Pearl Paint Luxe

The trophy hunters have snared Pearl Paint and stuck its head on a pike.

Curbed reports:

"Pearl Paint, the beloved downtown art supply store, closed in 2014, but a piece of the shop still lives on—in the new, pricey rentals that have just hit the market in its former Canal Street headquarters. Listings for four apartments that sit atop the former art shop just appeared, with the cheapest going for $16,000/month, and the priciest—a top-floor penthouse—asking $18,000/month."



And: "Unsurprisingly, they’re using the store as a selling point: the brokerbabble touts the apartments as being part of 'the stunning residential conversion of the iconic art store,' and the neon 'Pearl Paint' sign that once hung on the flagship is now installed in the building’s lobby. (One could see this as either a nice piece of historic preservation, or an egregious way of capitalizing on the store’s historic cachet. We’ll let you make that call.)"

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Scorsese

If you haven't yet gone to see the Martin Scorsese show at the Museum of the Moving Image, go soon. You've got another month.

It is pure New York.

That's all I've got to say about that.
















And this is the table and chairs from Scorsese's parents' home on Mulberry Street, as seen in the great 1974 film "Italianamerican."


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

City of Sin

Back in the "crime and grime" 1980s, Michael DiPaolo walked the streets of Times Square (and "other equally sleazy parts of New York City") with a hidden camera, secretly filming the whores, hustlers, homeless, and other denizens who came out after midnight. The result is "City of Sin," a compilation of footage from DiPaolo's nighttime walks.



I asked the filmmaker a few quick questions:

What inspired you to do the hidden camera?

Well my “day job” at that time was videotaping confessions for the Brooklyn DA’s Office, where I also did some surveillance stuff and I thought I could get a more “real” unguarded view that way. In addition, I was planning on going down to the West 20s/30s to video the prostitutes, and I knew that there would be no way in hell to do that without hiding the camera. Finally, I wanted to get some background footage for a couple of shot-on-video features I would later complete in 1988 and 1989--Bought and Sold and Requiem for a Whore.

What was your technique?

I would put the camera--a Panasonic VHS camcorder with a wide-angle lens--inside a black gym bag that had a hole cut out on one end. Then I placed black gauze/screening over the hole. I would start recording about a 100 feet before turning onto the block I was going to shoot, then just kept walking and pointing the camera in the direction of anything interesting. But I made it a point of trying NOT to look where I had the camera pointed and I always kept walking. By doing it this way, I never knew what I had until I got home and was able to screen it.

Did you ever get caught -- or worry about being caught?

The only time I was “caught” was when I stopped walking to shoot an argument/fight outside Port Authority. One guy noticed and said something, so I immediately walked away. I was most worried about getting caught when I was shooting the prostitutes and pimps and police down in the relatively desolate West 20s/30s. Actually, I think I was most worried about videotaping the police, as they especially don’t like to make “unscripted” appearances on camera.

Do you ever go to Times Square anymore?

I still do pass through Times Square--with great sadness--as the very first place I went to when I first moved to New York City back in the early '70s was the Times Square that I had read so much about. To me it was magical, some sort of profane church for the lonely where I worshiped until Disney came along and turned it corporate.

Some people say the cleaned up Times Square is an improvement over the "grime and crime" of the past. What do you think was valuable about the old Times Square in your film?

Times Square BD (before Disney) was a unique, one of a kind place offering a cultural smorgasbord that could only have existed in New York City and nowhere else in the entire world. It has now become just another outdoor corporate mall replicated hundreds of times around the world.

Also, it was for New Yorkers (including those who choose to come to New York to make it their new home) of all cultural, financial, and racial variations, as well as the tourists. Today it seems to be catering mostly/mainly to the tourists.


Watch the film trailers here and here -- and find out more at Black Cat Cinema.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Merchants

VANISHED


photo by Brian

Brian writes in about the closure of Merchants, a popular Chelsea restaurant that had been at 17th Street and 7th Avenue for 25 years:

"The owner was papering up the place because they closed on the 28th. I knew that the day was coming because a developer bought the corner of that block and shuttered the health food grill and the bodega last year. In fact, the bodega owner I’d known for 16 years was so upset that he went home and died of a heart attack. They had just put money into remodeling, a brand new awning, and repainting. Now it’s a graffiti magnet."

I reported on the bodega's closure in July. It is, indeed, still sitting empty, more high-rent blight, collecting graffiti and garbage. The new awning has been carved up, the name of the store removed.



Brian continues:

"I spoke with the owner of Merchants and he told me landlords in the area are using the new Barney’s as a benchmark for their rents, meaning they’re not going to be affordable to the average non-corporate lessee. You need Walgreens or Red Lobster dollars to afford to open. He’s been looking to stay in Chelsea but says the prices are so high he’d have to do something beyond selling food and drink to actually make money."



And, as with many closures, there's a goodbye sign on the door. This one encircled with a glitter heart.



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Loft's Restoration



Many of you have noticed the vintage Loft's Candies sign downtown on Nassau Street--I wrote about it here back in September.



Two Boots Pizza is moving in to the space--and they say on Twitter they're restoring the sign. So it's not going anywhere.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Katz's & Tourists

For over 20 years, I've been going to Katz's deli on the Lower East Side. I go because I love the atmosphere, the history, the aroma. I get hot dogs, mostly, and egg creams. I go alone and I go with friends. But, lately, I don't go at all. I can't get in the door.

There are too many tourists. Way too many. Sure, tourists have always filled Katz's, but now it's out of control.



They line up down the block, keeping New Yorkers from easily accessing this local treasure.

The last time I tried to get into Katz's, I thought maybe the line was from a tour, waiting to go in as a group, so I walked in the door. The bouncer--yes, the bouncer--stopped me and told me to get in line. No, thanks. I left.

I'm not sure if I'll ever get back inside. It's like this every day.

And now that the Carnegie Deli is gone, the tourist hordes will only get worse at Katz's. No longer content to stay in tourist-centric parts of town like Times Square, they are spreading outwards, finding all our local joints, and making them inaccessible.



A symptom of globalization, mass tourism is a worldwide pandemic. It's a trend increasingly referred to as "overtourism."

“A rapacious tourist monoculture threatens Venice’s existence,” wrote Italian art historian Salvatore Settis in the Times in 2016, “decimating the historic city and turning the Queen of the Adriatic into a Disneyfied shopping mall.”

In cities like Barcelona, Reykjavík, and Amsterdam, leaders are taking steps to slow the influx of tourists, and city dwellers are doing their part. In his book Coping with Tourists, Jeremy Boissevain observed Europeans engaging in “covert, low-key resistance” to tourists, i.e., “sulking, grumbling, obstruction, gossip, ridicule, and surreptitious insults.”

In Berlin, the anti-tourist outcry has been especially fierce, with protests and graffiti slogans that say “Tourists Fuck Off” and “No More Rolling Suitcases.” In a backlash to the backlash, tourist sympathizers argue that tourists are just like immigrants or refugees, and that anti-tourist sentiment is the same as xenophobia, casting the protesters as fascists. This is a false equivalence. Tourists and immigrants/refugees occupy very different positions of power, and people on vacation do not come to cities seeking sanctuary. They come seeking selfies and souvenirs.



A little while ago, Jake Dell, the fifth-generation owner of Katz's, penned a heartfelt goodbye letter to the Carnegie Deli. In it, he wrote: "Here in the 'city that never sleeps' we cherish the bold and beautiful bustle that makes New York the greatest city in the world, yet agonize over the nonstop gentrification when we lose too many of our classics."

Nonstop gentrification also brings mass tourism--which brings "tourism gentrification" in turn--and that inflicts its own negative impact on a city's treasures. What is New York if it can't be enjoyed by New Yorkers? A place lost to tourism is also lost.

I have a suggestion. Tourists get special deals--why can't New Yorkers? Our IDs, with their local addresses, should be our "city passes." These could get us into museums and other popular places ahead of the tourist lines. We don't need City Hall to get such a program started. We could start it right now, with small business owners.

So Katz's, how about it? Give a thank you to the local folks who've kept you going all these years and be the first to institute a "Local Priority" policy--let anyone with a valid NYC ID in the door ahead of the tourist line.

We will love you even more for it.











Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Grab 'Em

Last night, someone slathered the East Village with posters of the President of the United States explaining his method of sexual assault.



It's the old "grab 'em by the pussy" speech.



Just in time for today's Women's Strike.

Cobble Court

I wrote the following essay three years ago, when Cobble Court, aka the "Goodnight Moon" house,  was under threat of possible demolition. (It seems to be safe now.) I interviewed Mrs. Bernhard, who moved the house to the Village, but never posted the story. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the house's move. So here's the story--as written in July 2014.


New York Times

There is a house on Charles Street in Greenwich Village that captivates every passerby. Long ago named Cobble Court for the cobblestones that have surrounded it, the two-story dwelling looks like something out of a storybook. In its white clapboard and blue trim, the house slants at odd angles, standing asymmetrically on a green sheet of grass framed by a high wall covered in ivy and climbing roses. In spring, a cherry tree lowers its bright red fruits over the wall, almost low enough to pluck. If this fairytale wooden farmhouse looks out of place among the hulking bricks of former tenements and warehouses, that’s because it is. Twice saved from the wrecking ball, the house traveled here in 1967 from York and 71st Streets. Now, many fear that the wrecking ball has caught up with the runaway house and aims to try for a third time.

In her Connecticut home, Ingrid Bernhard has filled an entire wall with photographs and newspaper clippings on the subject of Cobble Court. She and her late husband, Sven, were its saviors.

“I am an old lady now,” she says, with her native Swedish accent. “I was just thinking I should do something to tell the story of the house, before it’s too late.”

She was shocked when she heard the recent news that the house has been put on the market--with a $20 million price tag and a realtor’s listing that coolly calls the historic home a “blank canvas for a developer or user to execute a wide variety of potential visions,” including “boutique condominiums.” The Bernhards didn’t haul the house across five miles of New York streets for it to be destroyed for condos.

“It was enormously difficult to save it,” Ingrid says, recalling struggles with the Archdiocese of New York, who had purchased the house as part of a parcel to be demolished for a nursing home. Though the Bernhards were only renters (paying $65 a month), Sven went to court and told the judge, “I will agree to move only if I can take the house with me.” Once they got possession of the house, with help from Mayor Lindsay, the Bernhards had to obtain a vacant lot to put it on, along with permits for just about everything. Then they had to physically move Cobble Court, stones and all.

Formerly part of a dairy farm, in the 1940s the house became the writing studio of Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon and many other children’s books. “The reason the house got into Scandinavian hands,” Ingrid explains, “is, well, it just happened that way.” She tells a story that begins with the untimely death of Ms. Brown, felled by appendicitis on a book tour in France. The author had willed the keys to the house to her young fiancée, James S. Rockefeller, Jr., a socialite sailor with a passion for all things Norwegian. He went on to marry the ex-wife of ocean explorer Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame, and his subsequent social connections led him to rent Cobble Court to a series of young Norwegian men, one of whom had a Swedish friend named Sven Bernhard. An opera fan, Sven traveled by sea to New York—paying his way by washing dishes on the Swedish American Line--for the sole purpose of seeing Arturo Toscanini conduct live at Carnegie Hall. When Sven arrived, however, the conductor had cancelled his New York concerts. Dejected, Sven crashed at his friend’s place. The young Swede fell in love with Cobble Court, vowing, “If I ever come back to New York, I’m going to live in this house.”

It was here that Sven took Ingrid when they were dating and later married. “When I first saw the house,” she recalls, “I was not crazy about it at all.” It was cold and damp, and the gas heat emitted a foul odor. “But then, with its charm and coziness, I got to like it very much.” When the Bernhards learned the fate of Cobble Court, Sven told Ingrid, “I want to save this house for other generations to come.”

And so, on a cold morning in March of 1967, the 18th-century farmhouse rolled down the island of Manhattan. It was a rickety little thing and must have looked wonderfully strange as it rumbled and swayed down the rain-wet streets, like a houseboat rocking on the waves, precariously balanced atop a wooden cradle towed by a 16-ton truck. Watching it, young Ingrid cried, “It’s saved, it’s saved!” She told the New York Times at the time, “The house, the move, everything, cost all the money we have. But this house is so important, it’s a way of life.”

The Bernhards lived at Charles Street until 1985, when they moved to Connecticut. It wasn’t easy to leave. “That house,” Ingrid says wistfully. “You’d be busy at work, in the bustle of the city, and then you came inside and you closed the door and it was like a different world. A very pleasant world.”



The house changed hands a few times and soon ended up with its current owner, Suri Bieler. Like Sven Bernhard, she also had a chance encounter with the house, fell in love with it, and made a vow. As a girl, Bieler spotted the house from the window of her father’s car as he wandered lost through the streets of the Village. “She saw a man out front, wearing a bowtie,” Ingrid recalls Suri telling her. “That was my husband, of course. And Suri said to her father, ‘The people who live there must be very happy.’ She vowed to one day live in the house. When she returned to New York years later, there was a For Sale sign out front. She bought it.”

Ingrid wonders why the beloved house is being sold today, and why it’s being marketed as a development site. But if you walk a block or two in any direction, you can’t miss the rising tsunami. Richard Meier’s towering triplets of glass front the river, blank and cold. Futuristic 166 Perry glitters spastically on a once-cozy lane across from 150 Charles, a mega-development that neighbors have called “The Rape of the West Village.” Cobble Court is somewhat protected within the Greenwich Village Historic District, and preservationists vow she won’t go down without a fight. As Ingrid says, “Cobble Court is part of New York. So it should stay there. I like to see it there.”

Many people like to see it there. You don’t have to live in it to love it. Knowing this, when the Bernhards built their wall, they added a wide gate because, says Ingrid, “We wanted people to be able to look at the house. We thought it would be nicer if people could just look and not have to feel embarrassed about peeking through a fence.”

On the night that Cobble Court first arrived on Charles Street, the great New Yorker writer Maeve Brennan went out to have a look at it. In The Talk of the Town, she wrote that stories like this one “remind us that we are always waiting, and remind us of what we are waiting for—a respite, a touch of grace, something simple that starts us wondering.”

It may have been the Bernhards’ house, but they saved it as a gift to the city, to us all, so that we might look and simply wonder.





Monday, March 6, 2017

Vanishing New York - The Book

From HarperCollins' Dey Street Books, Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul is now available to pre-order wherever books are sold. (Nudge, nudge, buy it from your local independent bookshop.) Look at that cover!



What's the book all about? Here's the copy:

An unflinching chronicle of gentrification in the twenty-first century and a love letter to lost New York by the creator of the popular and incendiary blog Vanishing New York.

For generations, New York City has been a mecca for artists, writers, and other hopefuls longing to be part of its rich cultural exchange and unique social fabric. But today, modern gentrification is transforming the city from an exceptional, iconoclastic metropolis into a suburbanized luxury zone with a price tag only the one percent can afford.

A Jane Jacobs for the digital age, blogger and cultural commentator Jeremiah Moss has emerged as one of the most outspoken and celebrated critics of this dramatic shift. In Vanishing New York, he reports on the city’s development in the twenty-first century, a period of "hyper-gentrification" that has resulted in the shocking transformation of beloved neighborhoods and the loss of treasured unofficial landmarks. In prose that the Village Voice has called a "mixture of snark, sorrow, poeticism, and lyric wit," Moss leads us on a colorful guided tour of the most changed parts of town--from the Lower East Side and Chelsea to Harlem and Williamsburg--lovingly eulogizing iconic institutions as they’re replaced with soulless upscale boutiques, luxury condo towers, and suburban chains.

Propelled by Moss’ hard-hitting, cantankerous style, Vanishing New York is a staggering examination of contemporary "urban renewal" and its repercussions—not only for New Yorkers, but for all of America and the world.

What are people saying about the book? Check out these blurbs:

Gary Shteyngart: “I haven’t read a more impassioned book in over a decade. Vanishing New York is angry, incredulous, but also full of insight into a city of legend, where every legend happened to be true.”

Luc Sante: “Jeremiah Moss came to the party that is New York City just in time to see it turn into a wake. His book is lucid, eloquent, phenomenally detailed, and terribly sad. Future generations, assuming there are any, will read it in wonder and disbelief.”

Charles Bock: “Meticulously researched, thoroughly reported, at once a call to arms and a soul cry, Vanishing New York is a love letter to originality and the human spirit. Grab a knish and settle in.”

Pre-order yours today--wherever books are sold (nudge, nudge).


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chez Jacqueline

VANISHED

French bistro Chez Jacqueline opened on MacDougal Street in 1982. And now it's gone.


photo: Judy's Book

The last Yelp review was from January, so it must have shuttered recently. If you know what happened to Chez Jacqueline, please let us know.