Friday, May 28, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

"Bare Elegance, which was the very last pocket of depravity left in Times Square (unless you count Flashdancers, which is more of a flashy tourist trap) has finally, inevitably shuttered." [Grub]

Congratulations to JVNY reader, tipster, and smut-writer Mick Dementiuk for winning the Lambda Literary Award for best bisexual fiction.

Someone on Orchard St. thinks the Sex & the City gals are "Botox Whores." [BB]

Another scathing review: "SATC2 takes everything that I hold dear as a woman and as a human—working hard, contributing to society, not being an entitled cunt like it’s my job—and rapes it to death with a stiletto that costs more than my car." [EVG]

JOIN the "Get George A. Romero to direct 'Sex and the City 3: Triumph of the Dead'" group now on Facebook.

An indie theater comes to Williamsburg. [Gothamist]

Hello, sailor! It's Fleet Week and the swabbies are heading downtown. Lock up your ____. [EVC]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

What's poisoning a typically toxic East Village apartment? [NYT]

Max Fish
is in a pickle. [TLD]

Beverly Hills cupcake chain plans to keep Gino's zebra wallpaper. Not sure that's a good thing. [LC]

Video of Ben's Best delicatessen. [HP]

Bucolic gardens ready for destruction. [EVG]

St. Vincent's 2

This Saturday, you can join "Hands Around St. Vincent's" to demand a hospital for Greenwich Village.

Meanwhile the plywood at St. Vincent's keeps expanding, and gaining more and more notes.

A giant CLOSED sign has gone up, and the notes are getting more graphic and moody. Former patients are taking the opportunity to recall experiences of being shot and having their "insides blown out."

They're sharing stories and photos of husbands who nearly died.

And one poses a challenging existential question: "I was born here in 1958. Now where was I born."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

SATC2 review: "you may be shocked at just how much older you feel when the whole thing is over... Is Manhattan really that over? Maybe it is for Carrie and her friends." We can only hope. [NYT]

Great Jones auto repair shop is doomed. [EVG]

Rich NIMBYs do it with lobbying firms. [Eater]

How to avoid misanthropy. [LC]

The Tasti-d-Lite that moved into the former and beloved Chez Brigitte is now open for business:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Williamsburg expats gentrify small-town NY: "In the beginning people seemed resentful toward us for coming in and trying to do something different." [NYT]

Jonathan Lethem is leaving New York for California. [NYer]

Visiting Circo's Bakery: "a sweet vestige of Sicilian Bushwick." [BBK]

Cupcakes are "marching over the landscape like little frosted storm troopers." [WL]

"Attention, locavores, omnivores, urban butchers, backyard beekeepers, cheese fanatics, and conspicuous consumers of consuming," Shut Up Foodies is all about you...including this very disturbing cupcake-related image.

Check out a short documentary about how garbage collection works on Roosevelt Island--via vacuum pipe. [LM]

A sign over Lafayette and Great Jones...what does it mean? It must be selling something...

Downtrodden trendy, crowded businesses in EV fight back against "mean-spirited" neighbors. [EVG]

Cafe Colonial closes today. [BB]

Bloomberg wants Wal-Mart: "People that live in this city are going outside the city to shop at Wal-Marts. So, if they’re going to shop at Wal-Marts, they might as well live here, they might as well have the jobs here and the tax revenues here." [WSJ]

A look at the changing face of Governor's Island. [GIB]

Meet "the dean of regulars" at Sardi's. [CR]

Stolen Laptop

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called Steal This Laptop, about how people in the city have developed the tendency to leave their laptops and other valuables lying around unattended.

Not long after that, a police officer at a protest told me what she thought of the most recent arrivals to the East Village, saying, "These people are victims. Stupid. They save seats with their laptops! With their handbags! And then just walk away. That's all we deal with now--stolen laptops."

Even so, I couldn't believe that anyone would actually use a laptop to save a seat. Now an anonymous tipster sends in the following story...

"Tonight I was in the Starbucks at Astor Place. I was looking for a chair and I saw that somebody had saved a good seat at an empty table by placing a laptop bag on it. With the laptop in it. I thought, Who would leave that there?

Anyway, I ordered my coffee and took a seat nearby. I wasn’t paying any attention. My girlfriend came in and we were talking. At some point, two people sat down at the empty table, a guy and a girl. The girl was talking about looking forward to her summer vacation when she started looking around frantically.

'Oh my god,' she said, panicking. 'Where's my laptop?'

She asked everyone sitting nearby, 'Did you see anyone take it?'

Nobody had noticed the laptop and nobody saw anyone take it. The girl was very upset. I felt bad for her. Her boyfriend called the police, but I don’t think that laptop is going to turn up."

Monday, May 24, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

"Rent control is a vanishing New York treasure." [NYT]

The notes on Joe Jr's keep coming. The latest may be looking on the bright side of the closure:

The Times' City Room talks to Bob Arihood about the end of his irreplaceable and influential blog, Neither More Nor Less. [CR]

Whooping pirates claim luxury building at 7th and B. [EVG]

Following Fairey through the years. [FP]

Giant green beetle spotted in Times Square. [Blah]

A pigeon master on Delancey. [SNY]

May 30: Dick Zigun gives the State of Coney Island address. [KC]

Treasures & Trifles


After 44 years in business, Bleecker Street antique shop Treasures & Trifles closed some weeks ago. Their store is now empty--and available to become another Marc Jacobs. The entire contents of their shop were auctioned off recently.

The owners, Ned and Buddy, have decided to retire.

Ned Kell: photo by Omoo, flickr

Buddy McCarthy: photo by Omoo, flickr

Western Bleecker Street has changed dramatically since they opened in this spot 26 years ago. It has become, as the Wall Street Journal put it, the "new Gold Coast for designer boutiques." Not long ago, it used to be very different. As Ned Kell told the Observer, “Bleecker Street is a mall now. They’ve ruined the Village, as far as I’m concerned.”

Still in the window of the dark and empty shop, behind a rusty metal gate, Ned and Buddy have left behind the best goodbye sign ever, with a sad little nod to the kids on MJ Way: "It's too bad that this generation never experienced the village of yore..."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pig Sty

On a warm weekend night, at the corner of 2nd Ave. and St. Mark's, an older lady carrying groceries walks through the crowds of screamers, looks at the trash on the sidewalk and sighs, shakes her head.

"It's a pig sty," she says. "I moved to this neighborhood in 1967 and it was never, in all those years, such a pig sty."

Illustration by Victor Kerlow

"Even in the 70s?" I ask.

"No, in the 70s it was totally different. It was like after dark on Wall Street. So quiet. And clean. And then NYU came in and all these fast-food restaurants. Somewhere in the past ten years or so, boom! All these people showed up. And now it's a pig sty."

The light changes. We start walking.

"Eh, maybe I'm just getting old and cranky," she says.

"I'm getting old and cranky, too," I tell her.

"Well, then," she smiles, touching my arm, "Here's to the old and crankies!"

Note: This is the first in what may or may not become a series of true vignettes with original illustrations by the artist Victor Kerlow, whom I interviewed here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

More Potemkin Village, as Greenwich Village "has become like a theme park of the past, as these restored standards offer a vision of a lost bohemian New York — albeit with a well-heeled clientele and prices to match." [NYT]

A guide to the last of the old guard restaurants. Go before it's too late. [Eater]

Who "gets" Eisenberg's? New Yorkers do, says the owner, so do New York-loving tourists. Watch the video at

Behind the life and death of the Empire Diner: "The kids who went to the Empire during the late 1970s, when it first opened, genuinely thought they were the coolest kids in New York City." [NYO]

Empire Diner photo, courtesy of Seena Liff

CBGB bathroom recreated in Connecticut. [WSJ]

Bloomberg approves tour bus headset bill and Charlie is out of a job. [Curbed]

Finding the ghosts of Grand Street after the fire. [BB]

And have we really lost Neither More Nor Less, Bob Arihood's invaluable East Village blog? [NMNL]

Atlantic on the City

This month's Atlantic magazine has a special report on The Future of the City, and it is loaded with apologias for gentrification, a sort of anti anti-gentrification backlash. It was bound to happen, especially now that we're in the Bad Old Days and people are feeling nervous and angry about lost investments.

There's one piece in which a blogger insists, in all caps, "NOTHING STAYS THE SAME." In another piece he says, "nostalgia alone should not be understood as a rational evaluation of the present and its merits." And the anti-nostalgia continues in "Gentrification and Its Discontents." They even stick in an article written by Robert Moses.

But the most strikingly fierce and frightening statement about the present moment comes from an interview with Andres Duany, the father of New Urbanism (which means making Stepford towns like Disney's Celebration). He's talking about Miami, but it sounds so familiar:

"There's this generation who grew up in the suburbs, for whom the suburbs have no magic. The mall has no magic. They're the ones that have discovered the city. Problem is, they're also destroying the city. The teenagers and young people in Miami come in from the suburbs to the few town centers we have, and they come in like locusts. They make traffic congestion all night; they come in and take up the parking. They ruin the retail and they ruin the restaurants, because they have different habits then older folks. I have seen it. They're basically eating up the first-rate urbanism. They have this techno music, and the food cheapens, and they run in packs, great social packs, and they take over a place and ruin it and go somewhere else.

I've known for 10 years about this destructive monoculture that's condensed in the suburbs. These people would normally be buying real estate by now. And we designed for them. We kept saying, 'Aha, these kids, between 24 and 35, will be buying real estate.' Guess what? They aren't. Because they can't afford it. But they're still using the cities--they're renting and so forth. The Gen-Xers also discovered the cities; they're buying in a proper way. The Millennials are the ones we're talking about. And they love cities desperately. And they're loving them to death."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Playboy with Zukin

In the April issue of Playboy magazine, Professor Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, published an essay in the Forum section entitled “How the City Lost Its Soul.” An editor from Playboy asked me to write a response to that essay, and they published my letter in the June issue.

In the letter (below), I call 9/11 "the last nail in the coffin of New York's soul."

I wanted to continue the dialogue with Sharon, and give her the last word. So we did that over email, where I started off by asking her if she thought I was being a bit hyperbolic in my Playboy letter.

click twice to enlarge and read

SZ: I think you do well to state issues boldly (as I tried to do). I don't think we disagree on anything vital. That being said, you probably exaggerate the effect of 9/11. The leveling of the Twin Towers, when the city's loss of life and innocence made its exceptionalism more palatable to the heartland, did not mark the beginning of the end.

The end of the gritty, noir New York begins instead in the very heart of darkness: the 1970s. Landlords, banks and industries walked away, and a certain part of the middle class--children of the suburbs and those whose hearts had never left the city despite their education--began to move back to neighborhoods their grandparents had fled. That was when the manufacturing economy, which anchored so much of the city's old physical structure, lost the politicians' support and gave way to loft living, gentrification and dreams of new development. We didn't know it at the time, but this is when the corporate city began to celebrate the urban village in order to promote new investment.

JVNY: Maybe "The End" has come in stages. The seeds were sown in the 1970s and germinated through the 80s and 90s, but we've seen the full flowering in the 2000s. And 9/11 gave it a boost. I don't want to let go of this notion that the 2000s, in particular, have been out of proportion in terms of immense, rapid changes to the city. Other urban scholars have argued against this, saying it's "change as usual." Where do you stand on that question?

SZ: Cities are always changing. And New York, especially Manhattan, has a bad rap for tearing down and rebuilding all the time. But something was happening in the 2000s. Global capital flowed into New York real estate. Chain stores like Costco, Target and Ikea changed their bad opinion of the inner city and wanted to get into New Yorkers' pockets. Young people--especially white college grads--flooded into the city to make a career in art or finance. These were all forces for change.

there are also some naked ladies in the June issue

JVNY: These days, young white college grads get automatically labeled gentrifiers, or yuppies, or (in my own parlance) yunnies. But they've long come to the city, and many contributed to New York's "soul"--the Beat poets, the abstract expressionists, etc. Today, it seems like many of the young people (not all) who come to New York don't want to live in a city, they want to live in a suburbanized fantasy of the city. What's going on with these people?

SZ: Tastes change. Young people today have grown up surrounded by shopping malls and branded stores. Maybe they don't care about preserving the old city but they do care about sidewalk cafes. And let's face it, this is the image the city government and real estate developers want to project.

JVNY: Sidewalk cafes. Now that it's spring, they're proliferating like weeds, making the sidewalks narrower and the street noise noisier. I used to like the presence of sidewalk cafes, until there were too many of them. Maybe that's part of the growing up with brands thing you mentioned, maybe there's a generation of people who want LOTS of a thing, repetitions of the same. That's how brands work. They flood the mind with copies of themselves. I think about, and worry about, this kind of stuff and its effect on the city, but you seem unfazed by it all. Do you remain optimistic about the changes, or is that a shrug of resignation I hear?

SZ: I'm not unfazed, I'm angry. But changing tastes reflect consumer culture. It's hard to change that. The only solution is to change the laws--for zoning to keep old buildings in place and build low-rise affordable spaces, for rent controls to keep individually owned stores and residential tenants where they can build communities. Whether it's a Latino grocery in Bushwick or a bagel shop in Williamsburg, let it put down roots.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Remembering when the Upper West Side was all "decaying tenements packed with poor Puerto Rican and Negro families and the gathering place of drunks, narcotics addicts and sexual perverts." [NYT]

On "Gentrification and Its Discontents" bemoans "all this bellyaching about authenticity and lost soul." Apparently, the city never had a soul to lose. [Atlantic]

Good news from the daughter of vanished Master Shiki. She comments that Shiki is happy in Japan.

Terrible news: "Gino’s Makes It Official: May 29 Is the End." [CR]

Victory for the EV: Last night's "Community Board 3 SLA Committee meeting was possibly historic" = less noise for Ave A. [Blah]

"Our world is getting louder, a bone-crunching and I.Q.-lowering fact..." [NYT]

Banksy gets dissed. [Gothamist]

Skateboarding advertising thing brings wheels back to (nearby) Philip Johnson's New York State Pavilion (once a roller rink). [RS]

Best headline: "Cowboy Confronts Man-Boobs." [NMNL]

Enjoy three clips from Frank O'Hara. [P&W]

Monday, May 17, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

1883 mural endangered by Chelsea Hotel demolition. [LWL]

A see-saw has been installed in the bike rack outside Chelsea's Apple Store. It's the second bike-rack see-saw I've seen this week. Call it a teeter-totter mini-trend?

Rival sideshows for Coney this summer? [ATZ]

Remembering Pete's-A-Place. [IL]

Banksy has arrived in New York. [Gothamist]

Over the weekend at the Fairey mural. [EVG]

Check out a whole bunch of street art photos. [FP]

Ghost ads for coffee and tea. [ENY]

Bloomberg to close 50 senior centers in the city. [HP]

Friday, May 14, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

I am now doing some blogging over at the Huffington Post's New York edition.

MTA plans a brutalist, concrete "faux townhouse" for the former site of the Edward Hopper Nighthawks diner--perish the thought. [Curbed]

Thor keeps more amusements out of Coney this season. [ATZ]

Talking with the author of What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs. [Gothamist]

Answers about Robert Moses. [CR]

On the Upper East Side, we're about to lose another good old sign with the word "stationery" on it:

The pigs are still flying on 2nd Ave. [EVG]

What is "turning NYC into a Yuppie North Korea," in which "it is your DUTY to be HAPPY for the opportunity to trade your city and soul for the bland, ad-sponsored comfort of suburban emptiness"? [Restless]

It's spring and the sidewalks are louder and more crowded. Pulino's adds to the clutter. [BB]

Ray scores a Green Card! [NMNL]

May 23: Your last chance to enjoy Zoe Beloff's Dreamland at Coney, with an artist talk at 4:30. [CIM]


I like thinking about how words are used and how they travel virally through groups of people. Words like "Doucheoisie," and prefixes, too, like "Celebu-." And now, thanks to a few blog posts about the opening of Mast bookshop on Avenue A, I'm thinking about the word "curated" and what it means these days.

"Curated" popped up in a post by EV Grieve, where an anonymous reader said that Mast's "Focus is on a 'well-curated' collection of art and photography books." This word triggered anxiety in many of Grieve's readers.

from the Times

Erin commented, "The price automatically goes up $15 dollars the minute anyone says the word 'curate.'" Gabriel wrote a dramatic scene about a guy named Mike who curates a sandwich. People started to freak out a little. For myself, I worried that a "curated" bookstore meant the same thing as "artisanal"--pizza, hamburgers, donuts, whatever--something simple turned precious and expensive, part of the hyper-gentrification juggernaut.

After my own visit to the shop, after finding it unfussy and reasonably priced, I wrote that the owner planned to add "a curated selection of new books" to the stock. Reader Baha chimed in, "I'm eating my curated breakfast alongside my curated Cafe Bustelo. Please, Jere, don't help promote this annoying new usage."

So what's up with "curated" and why does it make so many of us upset?


The Times actually did a whole story about this word in 2009. They wrote that curate:

- "has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting."
- "is code for 'I have a discerning eye and great taste.'"
- is "an innocent form of self-inflation."
- "can be good for one’s image and business."

"Pretentious?" asked the Times, "Maybe. But it’s hardly unusual for members of less pedigreed professions to adopt the vernacular of more prestigious ones."


So the use of "curate" is aspirational, which does put it in the same league as "artisanal." And that makes some people nervous because it signals to consumers something very specific. It signals "exclusivity" and is meant to attract people who yearn to be in the club. It may also repel people who find the use of such words pretentious and exclusionary.

In addition, museum curators really aren't happy about it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Yesterday's fire on 14th Street and Avenue A ravaged a number of small, independent businesses that were important to the community. Among them was Permacut Hair Stylists.

I keep wondering what will happen to their sign with the old telephone exchange letters on it? I always enjoyed seeing it when I walked by.

my flickr

ORegon-3 was designated for the Lower East Side.

Already, in the photo below, you can see the the P and the word "PERMANENT" have gone missing. "Permanent Waving" is another ghost you don't often see. Most likely, if the business ever reopens, the sign and its artifact from the city's lost phone numbers, will not return.

Photo: EV Grieve

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Ghost condos: "the Lower East Side has the largest number of delinquent buildings, with 1,187 empty units owing $1,978,304 in back taxes." [Curbed]

The White House flop fights for its life. [Curbed]

Saying goodbye to the V and W trains. [FNY]

NYU admits, "We understand that we have over saturated that Third Avenue corridor." [EVG]

Coney's Henderson Building, former home of the World in Wax Musee and other good stuff, is getting gutted by Thor. [BStoner]

"NIMBY gadfly" is busting heads in the neighborhood formerly known as Little Italy. [Gothamist]

Enjoy some "dictionary-definition-level Capital-H Hipsterism and Cultural Snobbery, taken to an entirely new level." [VV]

Who doesn't love a good mansard roof? [SNY]

Short films and poetry about New York at the Bowery Poetry Club, May 16. [FB]

Celebrate 30 years of Sharon Florin's realistic New York paintings, May 23. [SJFNY]

See Clayton Patterson's portraits of drag queens from the Pyramid Club, June 3. [EM]

Monday, May 10, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Obama says, "With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations...information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation." [Gothamist]

The Meatpacking wall covered by a wheat-paste war gets plywooded--to make room for a "dramatic retail presence"--and Brainwash bombs the plywood with the Beatles and Memorex ads, plus a giant pink heart:

After long languishing, Cinema Classics sadly folds. [FP]

Living in a world of Clitter and "CBGB's Lives On" at Varvatos. [Racked]

What do you think of the malls of Manhattan? [Racked]

Street art rat. [Gothamist]

Nuyorican poet finds home in E. Harlem, "I was supposed to be claimed by Loisaida, by my community, but they couldn’t find a place for me there." [CR]

Mast Bookshop

As Grieve and Alex reported this weekend, the Mast used bookshop has opened on Avenue A near 5th Street.

It's a courageous move, especially when the future of books is so precarious, thanks to E-Readers and the like. You know, all those glowing rectangles we spend 90% of our waking hours staring at.

The bookshop already has a steady crowd, and the selection is good. Alphabetically, in the Fiction section, you'll find bunches of Auster, Bellow, Bukowski, Carver, DeLillo, Hemingway, Murakami, Pynchon, Roth, Woolf, Yates. (Some of my favorites there.)

Prices are decent--comparable to, if not slightly less than, the prices at old standby East Village Books, the last (until now) used bookshop in the neighborhood.

There are no business cards yet, no bookmarks, and no sign out front. But the owner says they're coming, along with a curated selection of new books. In a city and a neighborhood that has been running its indie bookstores out of business, let's help keep this newcomer going.

More Bookstores:
Left Bank
Mercer Street
Spoonbill & Sugartown

Vanished Bookstores:
12th Street Books
7th Avenue Books

Friday, May 7, 2010

Downtown Dream

The Downtown Dream Hotel is getting skinned in quilted, robot-silver sheet metal.

You may remember that this hotel, running up the back of the swank Maritime Hotel in Chelsea, took the place of the Covenant House homeless shelter.

Renderings show a slick, swiss-cheesey metallic facade slanting over a sidewalk where white, trim, well-dressed couples walk holding hands.

The building was designed in the 1960s by Albert Ledner, who also created the threatened O'Toole Building of St. Vincent's Hospital. The Times called the 17th Street building "Ledner’s most dramatic work... When completed, the white tile facade burst out from its low-rise tenement surroundings like a storm wave over the bow."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Fairey's Deitch billboard/artwork has been deemed an illegal advertisement and it's got to be demolished. [Curbed]

The notes on Joe Jr's keep coming--a neighbor on May 3 calls the landlord "a greedy, greedy man":

A suspicious fire in Coney Island destroys a non-Thor building and kills a cat. [ATZ]

Why NYC needs the street vendor: "a living, breathing time-lapse camera, attuned to subtleties we don't stick around long enough to notice. Can we really afford to risk losing so many?" [HuffPo]

A lovely documentary film on how vinyl ads are killing sign painters (and it has many Stella ads in it). [Vimeo]

Dechaining: A former Dunkin Donuts gets a little pizza place. [EVG]

Inside the newly restored Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain--and look back at the old. [LC]

In a recession, the city votes to raise the rents. [Gothamist]

Ansonia Windows


The Ansonia Pharmacy has recently moved from its long-time spot on the corner of 6th Avenue and 10th Street, where it has been since 1933.

Luckily, they only moved two doors up, in a space formerly occupied by The Bean coffee shop, which shuttered after a two-year stay in October. But not every part of the Ansonia moved with them.

One thing that made the Ansonia special, other than its venerable age, was its window gallery, a revolving display of mostly local art known as the Ansonia Pharmacy Windows.

I often enjoyed the art that appeared here--which included, among many others, the work of JVNY reader Sharon Florin.

Sadly, the Windows gallery won't be following the Ansonia. A note from the curator says goodbye to a 14-year-long tradition.

Why the Ansonia moved after so many years I don't know, but the "see you later" signage from the front window included a cryptic clue from Aristotle: "Everything that moves is moved by another."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

To whoever is sticking these "Another gadget" stickers to iPad ads... made my day.

Beloved Gino has been going strong since the most recent rumor of its demise, now they're saying they'll close at end of May. Say it isn't so! [Eater]

Dan Clowes talks about his misanthropic Wilson, at the Strand tonight. [Gothamist]

When bed bugs infest the affluent homes of Upper East Siders, some infested Lower East Siders might feel some schadenfreude. [NYM]

Flaneur around town with Romy. [P&W]

St. Vincent's Plywood

With the closure of St. Vincent's Hospital, a pall has settled over the abandoned building. The Emergency signs have been ripped from the facade, leaving twisted cords dangling like entrails.

The emergency room's ambulance loading ramp has been covered over with plywood. Candles and flowers set a funereal tone. "Closed" signs flank a saintly goodbye poster memorializing the hospital's birth and death: "1849-2010" with "A boundless thank you..."

And all around it, on the plywood, neighbors have written notes in black Magic Marker.

Some of the notes express gratitude for lives saved, and for lives lost with grace.

Others express rage--pointed at politicians: "Fuck you Bloomberg! May you break a leg on 7th Ave & 10th!"

And aimed at the New New York, the irrationally exuberant city of twisted priorities: "money for stadiums," and the shamefulness of being "sold out for luxury apartments!"

It reminded me of the last time the exterior of St. Vincent's became a community board for memorial notes, in the days after 9/11, when every spot on the hospital's wall was covered in Missing flyers, handwritten notes of despair, portraits of grief.

And through it all, a stricken sense of betrayal, shock, and disbelief.

This time, a 160-year-old hospital has vanished. Make way for the condos.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

A tour bus guide asks you (and Pete Hamill) to help veto the anti-loudspeaker bill because "no machine--no piece of plastic in the ear--is going to talk of Emma Lazarus, read the entire poem; Jackie Robinson, J.P. Morgan, Boss Tweed, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Martin Scorsese, Edna St. Vincent Millay, or recite the intro to the Grand Central Station Radio Show." [WIC]

Fairey mural is used to turn Houston St. into Times Square with a double-decking, flickering, flashing TV ad space. [BB]

An actual used bookstore is actually moving onto Avenue A. [EVG]

The Two Boots empire will get a little smaller. [TLD]

Coney gets a vintage flume. [ATZ]

On the Fugs, poetry and punk in the EV. [P&W]

Clayton on The Wall

Last week, as I reported here, Shepard Fairey invited a trio of taggers to add their work to the sides of his mural on Houston Street. Lower East Side photographer Clayton Patterson was there, snapping pictures of taggers Cope, Indie, and Ewok. His photos are included here. I also asked him some questions about the Houston Wall and his famous graffiti door, which is under threat from the Bloomberg Graffiti Police.

All photos on this page courtesy of Clayton Patterson

You've been intimate with the Houston graffiti wall for some time. You actually painted a mural on it. Tell us about that.

Yes, Elsa Rensaa and I painted a mural on the wall in 1990. The imagery came from my black-and-white drawings. The message of the piece was political and related to the LES struggle for Truth and Justice. All the writing on the image was taken from the inscriptions carved into the walls of the downtown courthouses.

What's your opinion of the Houston wall's shift from open canvas for street artists to a showcase for Deitch Projects?

The wall like everything else has been gentrified. In this day and age there are very few free public spaces for artists to work on. The other day I walked through SoHo and was quite surprised to see that there was almost no graffiti. And even more surprising was that there was almost no street art, a few paste-up pieces, and very few stickers.

What would you like to see on the Houston wall in the future?

More NYC artists. I want to see support for the locals--would like to see more outsiders and outlaws. Not just corporate art, or commercial art that already has a strong market base. It is like waiting to see if Banksy will do the wall.

It is my guess that since Deitch has now brought enough attention to himself, that he now has the MOCA director's job, the wall will once again go dormant.

I know for Tony Goldman the wall is just a business deal. Around 10 years ago Anthony Zito, Steve Ellis, Marco, and I approached Goldman about doing the wall. He wanted big money, so we suggested we could make something in support of a non-profit organization, like the LES Girls Club--he hemmed and hawed and hemmed and hawed until it became obvious that he was only playing us. Pay or get out.

I understand Bloomberg is coming for your famous graffiti door?

Bloomberg has already come for my Front Door. His message was loud and clear: Clean it or the city will, and if you don’t, I get a $300.00 fine!

Elsa stopped the city workers from trying to clean our door. It was at night, and Elsa heard this loud smashing. Her first thought was: Someone is attempting to break in. She ran to the window to investigate. Turns out it was not robbers, but a crew of city graffiti cleanup workers using some kind of power chisel to hammer off the stickers on our door. Stupid as this sounds, the tool left a trail of little chatter marks, and small dents where they chiseled away the paint and the stickers.

In the 'hood, my front door is famous. I have photographed in front of that door for over 25 years. Documented kids growing up in front of that door. There is a book of photographs out called the Front Door Book, published by OHWOW. All the photos were taken in front of my graffiti door.

The graffiti on the door is as important as the photos. In the old days when drugs controlled the streets in our community the graffiti was almost only neighborhood tags. You had to be familiar with those working the streets in order to hang out on the block and to leave your mark. Today the block is not watched in the same way--it is possible for people from outside the community to come into the neighborhood and tag or to do large pieces.

So the tags on my front door, in the old photographs, are another history of this community.

More Wall Stuff:
Billy on The Wall
Houston Wall
Fairey Gets Targeted