Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Not Responsible

Back in 2011, La Nueva Rampa closed its doors on West 14th Street. It was one of the city's last Chino-Latino restaurants--and the last one in Chelsea, where they had once been abundant since the 1960s.

It then became El Paraiso, keeping up the Chino-Latino menu. Then El Paraiso shuttered in 2016.

And now?

It's a temporary "immersive installation" called Unspoken. (At least it was when I wrote this post--it closed last week.) Strands of shimmering strings hang from the ceiling.

According to Untapped Cities, the installation by activist artist Ann Lewis is presented by "social impact production company Killer Impact." Viewers are asked to reflect on 'different questions regarding mortality such as “Do we actually exist?' and 'Can death be an adventure?'”

The part I found the most compelling, however, was a revelation in the wall. (I was told it was original and not part of the installation.) I'd never seen it when dining at the restaurant/s, and it's possible I missed it, but I'm assuming it was behind something and now has been revealed -- a beautiful tile wall with hand-lettered signage saying NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HATS & COATS.

What decade was this from?

According to Lost Womyn's Space, this location was home to Kooky's Cocktail Lounge in the 1960s and 70s. The blog quotes the following description from Karla Jay's Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation:

"Kooky, the proprietor, had the air of a retired prostitute or poorly put-together drag queen. She favored pastel prom dresses--the kind that required several crinolines to inflate them properly, were zipped in the back, and called for a strapless bra and large bust to keep the dress up. Perhaps she fancied herself the Scarlett O'Hara of Greenwich Village. Her hair was shellacked into a large golden beehive that suggested that she had last set, teased, and sprayed her hair in the 1950s and then left it permanently in place."

Good stuff there, but that gold-lettered wall looks too early to be Kooky's. If anyone knows what was here before, please let us know.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Roland Antiques


Roland, auctioneers of antiques, has left the city. Family owned and founded in 1973, they've been in the neighborhood south of Union Square since 1974, and in the St. Denis building at 11th Street and Broadway for several years.

But the neighborhood is being rapidly changed.

In 2015, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) put out a call to redevelop a city-owned site on E. 14th Street. They were looking to “create an iconic commercial development” for tech startups and co-working spaces. Mayor de Blasio soon announced the winning “Tech Hub,” a glass tower that politicians and developers hope will boost more high-end development. It is attracting major real estate speculation, including Normandy Real Estate Partners’ 2016 purchase of the St. Denis building for $101 million.

Normandy stopped renewing leases, and hundreds of small business people--most of them psychotherapists and other providers of wellness--were forced to leave the building. I was one of them. (A longer story about the building is forthcoming.)

Roland is the latest loss.


For years, people in the building took pleasure in Roland's presence. Regularly, the auction house would receive a truck full of antiques from some estate and unload them onto the sidewalk to take photos for their catalog.

Roland occupied a large corner space with several windows along 11th and Broadway, plus two showrooms along the back hallway and more in the basement, but this was not enough to contain all the items.

The antiques would overflow into the lobby of the building, where they'd stay for awhile, providing an ever-changing--and often strange--decor.

Every month, Roland held an auction.

Before attending the auction, you'd go to the preview, wandering in and out of the showrooms, looking at the objects. Sometimes, a prospective buyer would try out a baby grand piano, filling the halls with music. 

On auction day, always a Saturday, the main room filled with New York characters. Brothers Bill and Robert Roland ran the show, with Bill as auctioneer. Bids came in over the phone and the Internet. A few items sold for as little as 10 bucks. Others went for big money. That large nude painting of Milda, Lithuanian goddess of love, sold for $55,000.

I was looking forward to their March auction. I only went a few times, but I loved the energy of that room, the people, the jokes, the excitement. No more.

Roland is moving out to Long Island--you'll find them at 150 School Street in Glen Cove.

When I visited as they were sadly packing up, an employee told me, "Unless you're Christie's or Sotheby's, you can't stay in the city anymore. The rents are too high."

Monday, February 19, 2018

Your Neighborhood Office


The emptying out of western Bleecker Street continues with the coming closure of Your Neighborhood Office store.

Last week, owner Helen Ann Lally sent an email to her customers to say:

"I am sorry to say that after 24 years, Your Neighborhood Office will be closing, effective Saturday, March 31, 2018. I have not come to this decision lightly, but I do know that it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life."

Unconfirmed, a couple of readers say it was the rent that did it. As we know, this end of Bleecker has been through hell in the past 5 - 10 years. First, almost all the independent small businesses were pushed out by high rents and un-renewed leases. They were all replaced by luxury shops, many of them global chains.

More recently, many of those luxury corporations decided to shutter their Bleecker locations. Storefronts have since sat empty, creating high-rent blight.

After the closure of Manatus and a few other small places on this block, Your Neighborhood Office was one of two shops that weren't luxury and/or a chain. Now there's just the Village Apothecary pharmacy, currently undergoing a renovation. And Manatus is still sitting empty--after four years.

Your Neighborhood Office is beloved by many--voted "Best Doorman Substitute" by New York and winner of a GVSHP Village Award. It will surely be missed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lanza's Murals

The great Lanza's restaurant shuttered in the summer of 2016. It had been in the East Village since 1904 and I miss it.

When we heard that Joe & Pat's pizzeria would be moving in, it seemed okay. I worried about Lanza's antique murals, but a peek inside showed they were being preserved under plastic during renovations.

A more recent peek shows the murals have been revealed--and they look good.

In the very back, the lady with one bared breast lives on.

Joe & Pat's has added two walls of vintage photos, presumably from their 57 years of family business on Staten Island.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NY Cake


NY Cake, the much-loved cake supply shop on 22nd Street near 6th Avenue is closing its doors.

"We're Moving," reads a sign in the window. They're not sure where they're going yet, but you can put your name on the mailing list to be notified.

A multi-generation family business, NY Cake was started by Joan Mansour in 1991-- it was previously known as the Chocolate Gallery in 1989.

The shop is a wonderland of cake supplies--shelves of sprinkles and sugars, racks of molds for making chocolate lollipops.

And lots of those plastic novelties for decorating cakes for every occasion.

They also have this amazing door, for reasons that remain a mystery:

I haven't been able to get through to NY Cake to find out why they're closing and hoping to relocate nearby. Back in 2011, they inked a 10-year lease extension, according to the Commercial Observer. “They’d been wonderful tenants,” said the landlord at the time. “The neighborhood is conducive to their business.”

The building has also been filling up with tech companies as the neighborhood changes.

Grub Street followed up on this story and reports:

“We have to be out by June; we’re looking for somewhere to go,” says co-owner and co-founder Lisa Mansour. “You can imagine the rent prices. I am looking diligently. Our old landlord passed away, and a niece and nephew took over a little before January. We never had problems before; we’ve been here 30 years.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

Artwashing the Sunshine's Demise

The Sunshine Cinema closed last month--bought by developers who plan to demolish the historic building and put up a glassy office tower that will surely help to further hyper-gentrify the neighborhood.

All photos by Herb Jue

On Thursday of this week, those developers, East End Capital & K Property Group, are hosting a party to celebrate--what exactly? Their triumph over history? The invitation says it's to "CELEBRATE THE LOWER EAST SIDE & PREVIEW OUR NEW OFFICE DEVELOPMENT."

I'm not sure how one can do both simultaneously.

Anyway, it's free and we're all invited.

The party will feature some artwashing--or poetry washing, I suppose you'd call it. Yes, poets are performing at a party thrown by luxury real estate developers to hype a project that is literally demolishing Lower East Side culture.

Some protesters might show up, but probably not.

This is the new Lower East Side.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hudson Diner Goodbye

As earlier reported, the Hudson Diner has closed.

A reader sends in these shots of one regular's heartfelt goodbye note, taped to the window below the roll-down gate:

We hear that Babu and much of the Hudson staff have moved on to the Moonstruck Eatery on E. 58th Street.

photo: Justin Hicks

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Boots & Saddle

There's a marshal's seizure notice on the door of Boots & Saddle, the popular gay and drag bar that's been in the Village for over 40 years, and fans are panicking.

I've been unable to reach the owner for comment, but people close to Boots on Facebook say the place is temporarily closed--there's a dispute with the landlord--and they hope to reopen soon.

As you may recall, the bar was priced out of its long-time home on Christopher Street back in 2014. They relocated to 7th Avenue South.

Court St. Office Supplies

Reader Mark Satlof writes in:

"Court St. Office Supplies here in Downtown Brooklyn is going. They say they will be closing in about two weeks and have been there 40 years. Old-school, old-fashioned stationery and everything else store. It's really a wonder, not a small store. Really a loss of the fabric."

On the shop's Facebook page, they write:

"Our shelves are emptying as we say goodbye, and the store has been full of well-wishers. We'll be closing in a few weeks, but we're staying in the office supply business. So like us on Facebook, join our email list or stop by just to say hello."

They will continue to run the shop online. Owner Jacob Gutman told Brooklyn Paper, “Our challenge has been the shift in how people purchase things these days. Our decision to close the store has nothing to do with rent.”

So blame this one on Internet shoppers.

Monday, February 5, 2018

69 West 14th

Neil Greenberg, Professor of Choreography at the New School, recently wrote on his Facebook page: "Another dance studio bites the dust--a location with a lot of history." The dance studio was PMT, located on the third floor of 69 West 14th Street at 6th Avenue, above Sol Moscot's.

Pavan Thimmaiah, director of the studio, tells me the building was bought by Extell -- and it will likely be demolished.

Tax photo (1940s?)

On the history there, Neil writes:

"From 1959 - 1963 The Living Theatre, directed by Judith Malina and Julian Beck, occupied floors two and three. Merce Cunningham had his dance studio on the top floor, which is where Robert Dunn taught the composition classes that launched the Judson Dance Theater. In 1977 Peter Saul, who once danced in Merce’s company, taught ballet classes in this studio. I’ve taught here, for The New School, since 2010, and have rehearsed my work here as well. Goodbye PMT Dance Studio. Goodbye this potent history. Soon to be gone, but not forgotten."

photo: Neil Greenberg

One of the studios in this building was the site of the first post-Stonewall gay and lesbian dance. That was 1970 and the dance was held by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) at a place called Alternate U.

From Come Out!, the Gay Liberation Front’s official newspaper, via Box Turtle

In a review of the dance in the Come Out! newspaper, Kathy Braun wrote, "The purposes which we set out for the dances were, to provide an alternative to the exploitive gay bars in the city, to raise money for a GLF Community Center, and to politicize the homosexuals hanging around this town."

She noted, "The records played were exciting, danceable, and at the right volume. My current favorite song is 'And the World will be a Better Place'... The dancing was of the usual superlative quality. Them queers can sure shake a leg... 600 people, music, lights, costumes, kissing, seductions, promises made, truths explored, conflicts, politics. Hit it, sisters & brothers."

GLF members preparing for a GLF dance at Alternate U, 1970. Photo by Diana Davies, via NYCLGBTSites.

The Gay Liberation Front formed in July 1969 and used Alternate U. as the location for many of its meetings and social events. Soon after Stonewall, a flyer for Alternate U. read: "Do you think homosexuals are revolting? You bet your sweet ass we are. We're going to make a place for ourselves in the revolutionary movement. We challenge the myths that are screwing up this society."

reports that "Alternate U. was a free counterculture school and leftist political organizing center in Greenwich Village, founded around 1966 by Tom Wodetski. It had several classrooms in a former dance studio on the second floor of 69 West 14th Street."

Gay night at Alternate U. included classes on: "medical, legal, demonstration, gay squatters, racism, gay history and literature, sexism, exploration of roles and identity, and Marxism and political workshop."

In addition, "Protests were organized here against politicians and The Village Voice (which refused to print the word 'gay' in ads), and meetings were held here in the aftermath of the Snake Pit raid in March 1970."

GLF meeting at Alternate U, 1970. Photo by Diana Davies, via NYCLGBTSites.

PMT Dance Studio will be moving to a new space. On their Facebook page, they wrote, "It's the end of an era. January 31st will be the last day 69 West 14th Street will be open. Afterwards, preparations to demo the building and create new developments, reportedly luxury high rises, will be underway."

Richard, the reader who tipped me off to the closure of PMT, writes, "Curious how far whatever's going to get built is going to go, since several of the storefronts north of this building on Sixth Avenue are vacant -- perhaps extending to Lester Bangs' former abode" at 542 Sixth Avenue.

Indeed it looks like Sol Moscot is the only business left open in the building--and in the three buildings to the north. Nine storefronts have been shuttered here. That's nine businesses, plus those upstairs, put out. And who knows what happened to the residential tenants in the smaller buildings.

What if we had commercial rent control once again? Would buildings like these be protected by protecting their small businesses?

Meanwhile, across the street, another building is coming down for another luxury tower. 101 West 14th was built in 1953 as the Greenwich Savings Bank. It was soon decorated with a large mural by the artist Julien Binford. After an effort to save the mural, it has been removed and put into storage--making way for the wrecking ball and the luxury condos.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Moishe's Is Not for Rent

A reader sent in a real estate listing that gave me quite a shock. It says that the space that holds the great Moishe's Kosher Bake Shop is for rent and possession can be "immediate."

I called the bakery and spoke to Moishe Perl, who also owns the building. He laughed and said, "People always put up these things." He assured me that he did not put up the listing and that he is not closing. He might be doing some renovating over the summer, but that's it.

When I told him the listing said his place will rent for $27,000, he laughed even louder.

The listing was recently updated, but it was originally posted a few years ago. It didn't close then and (hopefully) it isn't closing now. Charles Beyda and Judah Sutton of JUD Leasing are listed as the realtors, but their phone numbers go nowhere. What is this about?

Moishe's has been here since 1974. It is much beloved and if it ever closes, the East Village will rise up screaming. Seems like as good a time as any to go get yourself something nice.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Capitalism Killed This Cinema

Last night, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas closed its doors for good, shuttered by the landlord, Milstein Properties, who refused to renew the lease, despite pleas from local politicians and thousands of New Yorkers.

The cinema held a memorial last night--for the place and for the man who began it, Dan Talbot, who died just a few weeks ago. Michael Moore was there, along with Wallace Shawn, Philip Lopate, and other speakers.

Deadline Hollywood reports today on Moore's speech at the event:

“Capitalism killed this cinema," he told the audience, "this evil, greedy, 20th century form of capitalism. The multi-billionaires known as [landlord Milstein Properties] have done this.”

The Milsteins, Moore said, “are part and parcel of what this city and liberals have done for a long time — and that’s just to sit back and take it. It’s so strange that this neighborhood, the capital of the left in America, would allow this theater to close. It’s shameful — it should be embarrassing.”

"You understand though that each time we let another thing like this happen, they become empowered. It’s like in horror films when the beast gets fed another morsel and it becomes stronger and stronger.”

“I don’t know what to do about this situation,” Moore concluded. “I can say, I’ll be there for anything you want to do — anything you can do to out the Milsteins for what they have done here... At some point, people say, ‘I’ve had enough.’ And the revolt begins. I encourage you and all of us.”

With that in mind, here are three easy things you can do right now:
1. Sign and share the petition and give the Milsteins a piece of your mind.
2. Take one minute to send a ready-made letter to the mayor and Council Speaker telling them to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.
3. Join #SaveNYC on Facebook, meet people, and organize an action.



Ed writes in: "I’m sad to report that while having dinner this evening at Sapporo between 6th and 7th, I found out they’re closing at the end of the month. I’ve been going there for years and the staff is exceptionally close and dedicated. They were told a few days ago they’ll all be out of work in a few weeks. I spoke with the cashier and she didn’t have a clear idea of what was going on. She knows that all the restaurants in the adjacent buildings are being closed down. Maybe the owner is selling the buildings? Sapporo is always packed and a great affordable place to eat. I’m so sad."

A phone call to the restaurant confirms that today is their last day--they will close for good at 5:00 p.m.

photo: Manhattan Sideways

Sapporo Restaurant opened on West 49th Street in 1975. On their website they say they were "the first to bring Japanese ramen to New York City."

Robert Sietsema wrote about it for Eater, calling it "a kind of diner for Japanese ex-pats, specializing in homely luncheon fare that included gyoza, fried chicken, katsudon, curry, udon, and, most particularly, ramen. In fact, it was one of the few places in New York City that offered the Chinese-inspired wheat noodles at a time when they had not yet been fetishized to the extent they are now."

Friday, January 26, 2018

JAM Paper & Envelope

As E.V. Grieve reported earlier this month, JAM Paper & Envelope is closing on Third Avenue near 14th Street. They started business in 1954 and opened their first shop in 1983. Today is the last day.

all photos by Katrina del Mar

This week, some interesting signs went up in the windows that might tell us something about the closure.

Reads one: "So my wife of 40 years says... Honey, no one shops retail anymore. That's why we are online. Fine, I say. She then says, Now we can go to Florida."

The next is a list of "Facts I Remember," including "People saying please and thank you," "Talking instead of texting," and "Shopping in stores."

So maybe we chalk this one up to the changing demographic in the East Village, a new population that prefers to shop online, rather than engage with the local commercial culture. As many long-time residents have noted, the hallways of our buildings fill up with packages as new people move in.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Goodbye Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

As you already know, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas is vanishing. The lease was not renewed and its last day will be January 28. We tried to save it, but Milstein Properties apparently isn't listening.

Filmmaker Christopher Ming Ryan went to the movies to talk to folks about why Lincoln Plaza is so special--and why it should not vanish:

Ryan writes:

"We have a message to the landlord, Howard Milstein: make capital improvements on this space, but keep the people who run this theater by offering them an affordable lease. Toby Talbot deserves to stay. I want to enjoy the films they hand pick and continue to support the wonderful staff here--for a very long time. Do the right thing."

Over 11,000 people agree--and many more. Sign the petition and let the landlord know what's on your mind.

Benny's Un-Vanished

Three years ago, East Village favorite Benny's Burritos shuttered after 27 years in business. Last year, owner Mark Merker tried again with Che Cafe, a little joint on 7th Street that featured a rounded version of the empanada--but, sadly, no burritos.

Then, sometime during the deep freeze of a few weeks ago, Che Cafe suddenly vanished. The shutters were down. No sign said why.

Last night, the lights were on again in the shop, with Mark and his new business partner, Scott, behind the counter. Today, they reopen as Benny's Burritos & Empanadas. The place will be serving, yes, burritos and empanadas, along with tacos, chicken tortilla soup, and more.

Said Mark, "We're going to squeeze everything we can out of this little spot."

So take a walk by and reconnect with those burritos you thought you'd lost.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hudson Diner


A reader in the Village wrote in to say that he heard the Hudson Diner will be closing soon.

"I'm really sad about this one," he wrote. "It is not about the food (not so great) or the prices (as high as any in Manhattan). It is maybe the large windows. They've always made it easy to see who was sitting there, and wave hello or just stop in. I was talking to some of my favorite regulars early this morning -- I like to get a coffee to go, and yet I always get pulled into a conversation -- such a simple little part of my day, but such a wonderful way to interact with my neighbors. And the owners and staff were always welcoming to all folks."

Located on Hudson near Barrow, the Hudson Diner has been a local favorite possibly for as long as 43 years.

While I could not get a firm confirmation of the closure from the diner, neighbor Neil at Oscar's Place said he heard that Sunday will be the diner's last day, though they could go even sooner -- or not.

Neil will start opening his place earlier in the morning to accommodate Hudson's displaced regulars. He says, "I'll do my best to feed everyone with bagels and coffee, and just take care of everyone. Losing the diner will leave a big void."

The Hudson Diner was recently cited in Westview News as a survivor of the high-rent blight that is gutting the Village. They wrote:

"...even though The Hudson Diner has emerged a winner in the West Village diner survivor square-off, co-owner Rajiv 'Babu' Chowdhury is forced to work seven days a week. He has been facing a decline in business for each of the last three years. Babu says that even though he can pay rising rents and works very well with his landlord, his business suffered when the lunchtime corporate customer base left due to their high rents."

If you need more evidence of the unsustainability of commercial rents, reader Ora McCreary points us to the corner of Hudson and Perry, just a few blocks up from the Hudson Diner. The Le Pain Quotidien location there is closing on March 25. The reason? A realtor says the landlord raised the rent from $30,000 to $40,000 a month. Even the international corporate chains can't survive this New York.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Goodbye Sunshine


The Sunshine Cinema closed this weekend. It wasn't landmarked--though it should have been. Soon it will be a pile of bricks.

1930, via NYPL

It was built as a Dutch Reformed Church in the 1800s. In the early 1900s, it became the Houston Athletic Club, for boxing matches.

In 1909 it transformed into the Houston Hippodrome, an affordable vaudeville and Yiddish movie house frequented by Jewish, Italian, and other immigrants of the Lower East Side.

In 1913, the Hippodrome was the site of a deadly stampede. During the movie "Daredevils Species," while robbers held up a western train, a flash came from the camera, causing someone to yell "Fire!" Panic ensued. People trampled each other as they clamored for the exit. Crushed to death were two women--Mrs. Margaret Corsa of Chrystie Street and an unidentified woman whose dark hair was "tinged with gray," and who wore on her finger a wedding ring with the initials P.M.

In 1917, the Hippodrome became the Sunshine until it closed sometime in the 1940s and became a warehouse for hardware supplies.

photo by Judith Thissen

In 2001, it was renovated and reopened as the Sunshine Cinema. Its crowds boosted sales at Yonah Schimmel's next door. Said the manager to the Times, "Now, I get a lot more people buying knish and sneaking them into movies. I bet that theater will soon smell all of knish. I bet nobody minds."

Last year, the building was sold to developers East End Capital and K Property Group. As The Real Deal reported at the time, "Landmark Theatres co-owner Mark Cuban initially planned to buy the building with his partner Todd Wagner and build a dine-in movie theater, but their plan fell through in 2012 after the local community board rejected their liquor license application."

The developers filed plans to demolish the building. They will build another soulless piece-of-shit office tower.

Said developer Jonathon Yormark to the Times, “We’re big fans of the Lower East Side. It really needs more 9-to-5 activity and it tends to be very active, obviously, on a night life basis. We believe there is a real demand for office space and for people to work there during the day.”

(There will be a developer victory dance party. We're all invited.)

So we're losing another beautiful building for something hideous and dead. We're losing history for emptiness. We're losing culture for corporate culture.

And don't let anyone tell you the Sunshine closed because "No one goes to the movies anymore." Don't let them tell you it's "Because of Netflix," like they say "It's all because of online shopping" and "No one buys books anymore. No one goes to diners anymore. No one eats hot dogs anymore." Don't let the creeps get away with dodging the rent issue.

The Sunshine closed because of hyper-gentrification. Because the rents are too high. The Sunshine closed because it wasn't protected.

As Tim Nye, the Sunshine's co-owner, told the Times this week, "the theater 'was doing incredible' financially. But they were paying $8,000 in monthly rent, which they expected would skyrocket at the end of their 25-year lease on Jan. 31. 'It’s the economics. We cannot pay market rent.'"

The Small Business Jobs Survival Act could have saved the Sunshine. The return of commercial rent control would have saved the Sunshine. Landmarking would have at least kept the historic building standing, instead of the soulless piece of shit that's to come.

And what will that soulless piece of shit do to Yonah Schimmel's? The knishery opened in 1910, one year after the opening of the Houston Hippodrome. Surely, it benefited from the crowds going in and out of the theater, just as it benefited from the crowds of the Sunshine. Will the new people who work in the soulless piece of shit want knishes? Will the presence of the glass box pressure a sale?

Will the creeps soon be saying, "Oh well, no one eats knishes anymore"?