Monday, July 31, 2017

Before We Got Starfucked

Jen Fisher runs a well-loved book table on the sidewalk at St. Mark's and Avenue A. Tomorrow, the table will become a memorial exhibit called "Before we got Starfucked: A Memorial for the Lower East Side before it became the East Village."



Jen and the resident artist Ana Marton describe it as:

"A personal archive of a LES resident from the late 80s to early 90s of photographs, newspaper cuts, flyers and B&W Xerox books will be displayed on Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 from 530-8PM outside, on the corner of Ave A and St. Mark's Place, where the bookstall usually is.

The archive is based on 80s and 90s events such as The Tent City in Tompkins Square Park, the annual Stations of the Cross, Father George Kuhn, and the fight against gentrification as it was recorded and put together by a resident of the Lower East Side. Seen in the light of today's ongoing destruction of our neighborhood, we believe that this archive has acquired historical relevance as a record of the Lower East Side and the life it once contained."

Lanza's Murals

When the 112-year-old Lanza's suddenly shuttered last year, many of us were heartbroken to lose the gorgeous red-sauce joint, especially after the loss of so many others.



When E.V. Grieve reported that Joe & Pat's, a 57-year-old pizzeria on Staten Island, would be moving into the space, many of us felt hopeful. Lanza's would not become a Starbucks or an artisanal bone brotherie. It would, at least, remain Italian--and New York.

But I worried about the antique murals.



Now the renovation of Lanza's has begun. I recently walked past this troubling sight--scaffolding, wheelbarrows full of concrete. They're putting in a new floor, which is alright--the old floor of Lanza's wasn't anything special.

What about the murals?



When I peeked inside I saw plastic sheets taped to the walls--and I am going on the assumption that they are there to protect the murals.

If you click the photo below twice, you can see, above the shoulder of the young man in the "Extreme Violence" t-shirt, the painting of the half-topless woman beneath a plastic sheet. She's not as fully covered as she ought to be, however, so let's hope for the best.



You can also see that the pressed-tin ceiling has apparently been removed--hopefully for refurbishment and re-installation. 

And while we're hoping, let's hope all the antique stained glass makes a comeback, too.






Friday, July 28, 2017

Solidarity for The Voice

The Village Voice, historically the alternative voice of New York City, is struggling to save its soul.



Two years ago the paper was purchased by Peter Barbey, a member of one of America's 50 richest families, according to Forbes. It looked good at first. The staff was hopeful. "The atmosphere at the Voice, though, quickly soured," Hamilton Nolan explains in his thorough piece on the story, "The Village Voice's Liberal Savior Owner Is Trying to Crush its Union."

An editor was hired and fired. The paper got a cosmetic overhaul. And Barbey "is no longer perceived as the hero who will save the day." Union negotiations have been especially tough. In his article, Nolan lays out the details of what could be lost, including Affirmative Action, child care leave, sick days, severance, and much more.

In response, earlier this week, a host of respected authors and journalists signed an Open Letter to Peter Barbey.

"We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the Village Voice Union," they say. "We hope you will meet its members with a fair and reasonable contract, upholding their hard-won rights and benefits. If you do, our entire field will be much richer for it."

The letter is signed by Hilton Als, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Vivian Gornick, Colson Whitehead, Manohla Dargis, Michael Musto, and many more.

If you would like to support the Voice's union, consider a donation to their Strike Fund: "In the event of a strike, Voice employees who are members of the union will not be paid. Your donation will be used to help us survive, and will help show management that the community supports our struggle."






Francisco's Centro Vasco

VANISHED

On 23rd Street in Chelsea since 1979, Francisco's Centro Vasco has now closed.



Bedford & Bowery reports: "Yesterday, a sign on the door announced that it had 'closed permanently' and thanked customers for 'over 35 years' of patronage."

Last September, they suffered after the terrorist bomb explosion, but they managed to reopen. The reason for the permanent closure is not known. Francisco's was one of the last of a dwindling number of Spanish restaurants in the city, along with El Quijote in the nearby Chelsea Hotel and Spain, on 13th Street.

UPDATE: The owner had a change of heart--they're not closing

RE-UPDATE: They closed again.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Park Deli

VANISHING

"I stay here," says Krystyna Godawa. "I'm not moving."

For the past ten years, Krystyna has run the Park Delicatessen at the edge of McGolrick Park on Nassau Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The deli has been here since the 1930s. But the landlord recently doubled the rent and Krystyna can't afford it. She's looking for another spot nearby and plans to stay put until she finds it.



Customers come in and out of the shop, ordering meals to go from the refrigerated case of home-cooked pierogi, potato salad, chicken cutlets, cole slaw, and beets. They stop to ask Krystyna, in Polish and in English, "Any news? When's the last day?" They promise, "I'll keep my fingers crossed."

And then they touch Krystyna--they all touch the woman they call Babcia Krysia, "Grandma Krystyna"--on the shoulder, the arm, the back of the neck. Their touches are tender and familial. They are family.



Krystyna holds their histories--the births of their children, the deaths of their parents--as she holds the history of the deli, still making German dishes that hearken back to the days when the place was Mullenbrock's delicatessen. Back in Poland, Krystyna worked as a librarian, another kind of preservationist, another holder of memory.

"I'm only ten years here and this is sentiment to me," Krystyna says, looking around the shop. "If you like your job, you put the heart." Losing the deli is like a death. "It is like you take out your heart from your body."

She feels powerless to stop the loss, "like kids who cannot do nothing, like tied my hands."



Her lease expired in April and she'd been on a month-to-month since. But once her landlord found a new tenant (rumored to be an ice-cream shop), she gave Krystyna until August 1 to vacate. It's too soon. Krystyna has no place to go--and she's having trouble finding an affordable rent in a neighborhood that is gentrifying.

"I will try to do everything to stay with my people," she says, referring to her customers, the people who give her "heart and happiness." Her blue-green eyes fill with tears. As she feels the grief of her own loss, she also feels her customers' grief.

"If I have to close, okay. But I see how much people want this place, how much people like me, and it's very tough to me. That is the worst. How can I live if I don't have my customers?"



Heart and sentiment are important to Krystyna. It's the stuff that keeps people connected, that keeps neighborhood communities together. But she sees these positive forces diminishing in the world. The new generation, she says, is cold. The newcomers to her apartment building don't say hello, don't hold the door. They all seem disconnected and disinterested.

"Life is too tough," she says. "If we're not nice to each other, what kind of life is it? The sentiment is second now."

What's first?

"Money. Everything is about the money."


photo by Yulia Zinshtein

If you visit the Park Deli before it's gone, you'll find a neon sign in the window that reads: VANISHING. A few of the letters flicker.

It is the work of artists Troy Kreiner and Brian Broker of Shameless Enterprise, in collaboration with "Vanishing New York" and built by neon artist Patrick Nash. This is the second installation, after Cake Shop earlier this year.

People walking by see the sign and come in to talk to Krystyna. "It's a shame," they say. "Soon all the small businesses will be nothing."


photo by Yulia Zinshtein







Tuesday, July 25, 2017

French Roast Downtown

VANISHING

Today is the last day for French Roast in Greenwich Village. Located on 11th Street and 6th Avenue since I don't know when, the bistro will close its doors tonight. (H/T New York Foodscape.)



Employees were unable to say why the place is closing, but we can guess. The uptown location will remain open.

*Update: Many people in the comments are remembering a Blimpie here--yes, there was. Here's that story.

Pub Day

Today is the official publication day for Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul. You can now buy it wherever books are sold. (Like your local independent bookstore.)


At Spoonbill & Sugartown

You can also get a copy at the launch party this Thursday night at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, or next Thursday night at the Brooklyn launch party at powerHouse Arena. For a full list of book events, click here.

In the meantime, check out two exclusive excerpts: the East Village chapter at Longreads and the tourism chapter at Vice.


At the Strand

Reviews:
“Essential reading for fans of Jane Jacobs, Joseph Mitchell, Patti Smith, Luc Sante, and cheap pierogi.” –David Kamp, Vanity Fair

“This is a very good, angrily passionate, and ultimately saddening book…. a brilliantly written and well-informed account.” –Booklist, starred review

“Vanishing New York is an urban-activist polemic in the tradition of Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities: Every page is charged with Moss’s deep love of New York. It is both a vital and unequivocally depressing read.” –Molly Fitzpatrick, Village Voice

“a compelling and often necessary read…. One of the great accomplishments of this nearly 500-page polemic, is that even as I read through in a state of outrage and sadness, I was also reassured: I am not crazy. The city really has vanished…” –Glynnis MacNicol, Daily Beast

“a vigorous, righteously indignant book that would do Jane Jacobs proud.” –Kirkus

“This polemic is likely to stir a lot of emotions.”—Publishers Weekly

“A relevant lamentation of New York’s rebellious, nonconformist past and its path toward an inexpressive mélange of glass and steel big box stores and chain restaurants.”
–New York Journal of Books


Monday, July 24, 2017

More Hotels, Fewer Flowers

In the Flower District, along West 28th Street between 6th and 7th, the fragrant green jungle of the sidewalks continues to vanish.

Another hotel is coming.



It's a big one: 45 stories, 146,000 square feet, 522 rooms. Said architect Gene Kaufman, “The demand for hotel rooms in Chelsea continues to grow, with ever larger and ever-taller hotels being constructed to accommodate the number of tourists wishing to stay in this vibrant neighborhood."

This glass behemoth joins several more new tourist hotels here. In fact, the block is becoming nothing but hotels. I can't think of a worse death for what was a wonderful and unique little district.

Ten years ago, I talked to some of the plant sellers. One told me, “10 to 15 years ago, it was all flowers. Now it’s dead. They’re putting up 22 new hotels in a 5-block radius. Only those of us with a good lease will stay.” Another echoed the sentiment, “Some will leave, some will stay. All the city wants is big business. There are 3 hotels going up on this block.”



There are only a few green sections left. I walk through as often as I can, taking my time to smell the flowers. Literally. Right now, the place smells of gardenia.



And there are the Flower District cats, at least six that I've counted, lounging among the succulents and orchids.



This is life. This is real. This is New York. And it's being destroyed, like everywhere else, replaced by the dull and the dead. But it doesn't have to be this way. There are alternatives.






Thursday, July 20, 2017

Goodbye Notes to Cup & Saucer

The Cup & Saucer luncheonette on Canal and Eldridge closed this past week due to the landlord nearly doubling the rent. After the shutters came down one last time, neighbors and friends hung posterboard and pens to gather goodbye and thank you notes.


click to enlarge and read



Among the heartfelt goodbyes and good-lucks, they ask to "Save Chinatown" and "Support the SBJSA," the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, the bill that could have stopped the closure of the Cup & Saucer, as well as many, many others.

It wasn't lack of love that killed the Cup & Saucer.



As I went to leave, a man in construction vest and hardhat walked up and stared at the notes. It's a familiar scene, the devoted regular who hasn't heard that his or her favorite place has shuttered, the New Yorker who shows up to find it gone. They always have the same look of confusion and loss.

"Did you eat breakfast here?" I asked the man.

"I used to eat breakfast here," he replied. "Guess I don't anymore."

We shook our heads. He turned to go and then turned back. He had something else to say.

"This is probably going to be some CVS or Duane Reade or some other useless fucking thing," he said, frustration in his voice. "I live in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and all the little shops are gone. There's nothing left. The rents are totally out of control."

I told him what the rent went up to on the Cup & Saucer: "Almost sixteen grand."

He shook his head and waved his hand, brushing it all away. And then he went, looking for another place like this, a place he won't be able to find.





Wednesday, July 19, 2017

10 Years Later: The Voice

This week marks the ten-year anniversary of this blog, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with the news that I have found myself on the cover of the venerable Village Voice. A decade ago, I never imagined "Vanishing New York" would end up here. Many thanks to everyone for reading and supporting the blog over the years. I would not have this voice without you.

Pick up the issue on the streets today or read it online here.



Come celebrate at a launch party for Vanishing New York the book:

JULY 27
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby St., New York, NY
7:00 - 8:30PM
For more info, visit the Facebook invite

We're expecting a capacity crowd, so please get there early--and if you miss it, there's a second one in Brooklyn the following week:

AUGUST 3
powerHouse Arena
28 Adams St., Brooklyn (DUMBO)
7:00 - 9:00PM
For more info, visit the Facebook invite or RSVP at powerHouse



Monday, July 17, 2017

Cup & Saucer Goodbye

Today is the last day of the Cup & Saucer.



Last week, the Lo-Down announced the closure. Today the classic diner got its goodbye feature in the Times. They describe a neighborhood in the midst of being wiped out:

"The family jewelry and wholesale shops that once dominated the area are long gone, and more expensive restaurants and bars have moved in. This time, Mr. Vasilopoulos and Mr. Tragaras said, the rent increase was too steep for Cup & Saucer. Mr. Vasilopoulos and Mr. Tragaras have owned the restaurant since 1988, but Cup & Saucer has occupied the space since the early 1940s, Mr. Vasilopoulos said. In March, they learned their $8,200 a month lease would increase by $7,600 per month. Attempts to negotiate with the landlord, 99 Canal Realty, failed, they said."



If the City Council had passed the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, the Cup & Saucer might not be closing today.

It could have been saved.

If you're sick and tired of watching the city die, why don't you send an email to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and tell her to pass the thing already? You can send one to the mayor, too. It's easy--we already wrote the email for you, just click and send. You really have no excuse.



I went for my last meal at the Cup & Saucer on Friday. I had a BLT, fries, and a Coke.

The place was packed. More than usual, but the diner was always busy. Once again, don't say it closed because business was slow. Don't say it closed because "tastes have changed." It closed because the landlord nearly doubled the rent. It closed because small businesses cannot afford to pay nearly double the rent. It closed because hyper-gentrification. It closed because greed.

The Cup & Saucer did not close because it wasn't loved.

It was loved.



By the register, there's a page from the New Yorker magazine, an artwork by Maira Kalman. She writes of "The Optimism of Breakfast":

In the Optimism of the Morning, it is Wise to Get Going.
To be Confident, Expansive, Exuberant. If you find
yourself at the Cup and Saucer Coffee Shop--or
any Coffee Shop--with a Jelly Doughnut and a
cup of coffee, staring out the window at
the parade of passersby, you could do worse.
A whole lot
worse.


from the New Yorker

Kalman is right. We can do a whole lot worse--and we will.

Whatever comes after the Cup & Saucer will be worse, because it won't be the Cup & Saucer. It won't be the faded Coca-Cola sign that says LUNCHEONETTE. It won't be the 3-D letters washed by years of weather. It won't be the shapely swivel stools padded in orange-sherbet vinyl. It won't be the doughnut case lit in fluorescent light, or the cup and saucer inlay in the floor.

It won't be co-owner and cook Nick Tragaras singing softly to the music of metal spatula hitting grill.

It will, I promise you, be worse.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dafuture

Sometime in the early morning hours, an artist known as #stickntwisted installed a "pop-up gallery" on an old fence on West 28th Street just off 12th Avenue. On Instagram, they write, "Come see The City Of Dafuture. Not sure how long it will last. Depends on the kindness of strangers."



In the rising luxury shadows of Hudson Yards, under a coil of razor wire, the miniature foam city known as Dafuture shows pipe-cleaner stick figures living their urban zombie lives, leashed to smartphones.

Colorful signs narrate the goings on, where "Technology is turning humanity into self-absorbed machines."



The mom and pop shops have been shuttered and the city has become big-boxed and homogenized.



A mega-store called Messy's has taken over and left behind high-rent blight.

On this piece, the artist writes: "What was once the town's fashion epicenter, Ma & Pa's Fashion Hut was wiped away back in the 90's when Federated started buying out all the local retailers and then converted all of them into Messy's...home of the forever on going 1 day sale. Now that they have put all the other stores away, they are closing the Dafuture store and leaving them with nothing. Thanks Messy's for being great neighbors."



There's a queer theme here, too. "In all the excitement in gaining equal rights in marriage," one sign reads, "we lost our self-respect and caring for our community."

In a gay sex club, stick figures in black chaps take selfies of their asses in front of pictures of stick-figure Tom of Finland posters.



In a lonely apartment, bedecked in pink, a resident celebrates alone, "Happy Birthday to Me." Next door, above a bank, the neighbor has hanged himself because he didn't get any social media messages.



The public library is "permanently closed," because no one wants books anymore. They want donuts instead.

A UFO appears to be taking a cow into space.

A homeless man advertises his GoFundMe page and his "Faceless Book" profile, but adds: "Don't follow me. I get paranoid."

Meanwhile, several citizens of Dafuture have fallen down a manhole, too absorbed in their phones to see the danger.



Go see it.

Before it's gone.





Thursday, July 13, 2017

Book Events

OCTOBER 19 
Book Discussion at The Strand
Join us in the Rare Book Room as Jeremiah Moss discusses the slow death of old New York City and his new book with Amy Rose Spiegel.
7:00 - 8:00 PM
Click for info and tickets

OCTOBER 27
Reading and performance with Penny Arcade
The Cutting Room
7:00 - 8:00 PM

NOVEMBER 4
Reading at Words Bookstore
179 Maplewood Ave.
Maplewood, NJ
7:30 PM

NOVEMBER 30
Book talk with Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

6:30 PM
Location TBD



Check back for updates or follow on Facebook. Some details may be subject to change.




PAST EVENTS:

JULY 27
Book Launch Party
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby St., New York, NY
7:00 - 8:30PM
For more info, visit the Facebook invite

Brian Lehrer Show
11:00 AM, WNYC

AUGUST 3
Brooklyn Book Launch Party
powerHouse Arena
28 Adams St., Brooklyn (DUMBO)
7:00 - 9:00PM
For more info, visit the Facebook invite or RSVP at powerHouse

Leonard Lopate Show
12:00 PM, WNYC

AUGUST 17 
Book discussion with the Atlantic Magazine's CityLab "Happy Hour Lab"
The Bedford (110 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn)
7:30 PM
The event is free, but please register for tickets at Eventbrite.

AUGUST 18
Book Discussion in Kingston, NY
The Golden Notebook presents a conversation between Jeremiah Moss and Sari Botton, editor of Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving & Leaving NY
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston, NY
6:00 - 8:00PM
Visit the Facebook invite here.



SEPTEMBER 6
Reading/discussion at East End Books 
389 Commercial St.
Provincetown, MA
6:00 PM

SEPTEMBER 11 
Running Late with Scott Rogowsky
Featuring: T.J. Miller, Richard Kind, Jeremiah Moss
The Slipper Room
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
Click here for tickets

SEPTEMBER 14
Brooklyn Book Festival Book End Event
“Building Down, Tearing Up: Construction and Destruction in NYC Today”: In conversation with Alessandro Busa, author of The Creative Destruction of New York City: Engineering the City for the Elite.
Free and open to the public: View the Facebook invite here
Christ Church, 326 Clinton Street (at Kane), Brooklyn
7:00 - 9:00pm

SEPTEMBER 17
Brooklyn Book Festival
12:30 - 1:30PM Book signing: The Strand booth #305
&
2:00 PM Panel: "The Problems and Promise of Cities." With Joshua Jelly-Schapiro (Nonstop Metropolis) and Kay Hymowitz (The New Brooklyn). Moderated by New School architecture professor and urban theorist Quilian Riano.
Brooklyn Historical Auditorium
128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn

SEPTEMBER 28
Book event at The Bureau of General Services - Queer Division
Just the Queer Parts
The Center, 208 West 13th St., NYC
7:00 PM

OCTOBER 5 
Reading and discussion at the Greater Astoria Historical Society
35-20 Broadway
Long Island City, NY 11103
7:00 PM







Cornelia Street Cafe

VANISHING?

Yesterday, New York State Assemblymember Deborah Glick tweeted:

"I try not to curse but the Damn Landlord of the Cornelia Street Cafe sent an eviction notice to treasured 40yr old gem @BilldeBlasio HELP!!"



We've been hearing rumblings about the possible demise of Cornelia for awhile now. Just this month, the beloved cafe celebrated its 40th anniversary, "with some concerns," as the Times put it. They wrote:

"Mr. Hirsch [the owner] and his team are sweating now... Their rent for the restaurant and basement space, at $33,000 a month, is 77 times what it was when the club opened (that’s not adjusting for inflation — but, in the name of consistency, they’re not charging $77 for a croissant)."

Back in March, DNAInfo reported that the cafe was struggling--especially with landlord Mark Scharfman, "a frequent fixture on various 'Worst Landlord' lists."

"If I'm 10 minutes late with my rent, he threatens me with eviction," Hirsch told the blog.

If Glick's tweet is accurate, the axe has come down.


photo: Wikipedia

I was unable to reach restaurant management for comment or confirmation, so we don't know the details of this case.

City-wide, in general, there are zero protections for good small businesses when it comes time for lease renewals. The landlord can refuse a new lease or jack up the rent so high, it's basically an eviction.

This is why the City Council must pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a solid first step. The majority of councilmembers support the bill--they just have to bring it to a vote. If we'd had it years ago, when it was first proposed, there would be a lot more left of New York's vanishing soul.



Books to Bean

After four years of leaving the former St. Mark's Bookshop space vacant, Cooper Union has finally filled the spot. The Bean coffee shop is coming soon, according to new signage in the windows.



A local mini-chain, it's certainly better than a Starbucks. (And with much better coffee.) But it's not that great bookshop, which should still be here, enriching the lives of East Villagers as it did for decades.

I still miss it. Every day.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cup & Saucer

VANISHING

For the past few years, now and then, I'd hear a rumor that the Lower East Side's Cup & Saucer luncheonette was closing. I'd run down there to discover that it wasn't. And yet it always was. It's been a place to often worry about -- an entry in my What to Worry About list, rapidly dwindling.

Now, The Lo-Down gets word that the Cup & Saucer's days have come to an end.



They write: "The reason for the closure is a steep rent increase, to $15,000 per month including real estate taxes. The last day in business will be next Monday, July 17."

Once again, it wasn't lack of business. It wasn't "people don't go to diners anymore." It wasn't "trends are changing." It was the rent.

Once again, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act could've saved this one. Once again, here comes more high-rent blight. Once again, another waste. Another little piece of New York's heart ripped out.



I thought the place would go back in 2007 when a condo started rising across the street. But it hung on.

One of the last of the greasy spoons. One of the very last of the long lunch counters, the swivel stools, the antique signage, the fluorescent-lit doughnut case, the short-order cook slinging hash and singing quietly to himself in his native language.

Greek, I think.



We have only a few days left. And this one hurts.