Monday, March 31, 2008

Madonna is over New York

Former East Village resident Madonna, a singer who, like Cher and Donovan only goes by one name, is over New York. She says this in the new issue of Vanity Fair.

As reported on by New York magazine's Daily Intel:

“It’s not the exciting place it used to be. It still has great energy; I still put my finger in the socket. But it doesn’t feel alive, cracking with that synergy between the art world and music world and fashion world that was happening in the 80s. A lot of people died.”

Daily Intel's response: "Oh, yes, because living in a giant, ultraluxe townhouse in Marylebone, London is so CBGB circa 1983, Madge."

[Image: Madonna © 1983 Amy Arbus]

It's not your imagination: There are more buildings going up (and why you can blame Albany)

Says this week's New York magazine:

According to a Department of Buildings spokesperson, there’s been “a significant jump in the number of jobs filed for residential-building permits between January and February.” For all five boroughs, the DOB has received notifications—meaning that excavation’s starting within days—for 298 jobs, noticeably up from the year before. Brooklyn saw an increase of more than 20 percent. (The actual number of permits has fallen a bit, but that appears to be a paperwork lag.)
Why? A tax program known as the 421(a) abatement is set to expire—at least in its current form—this summer, and developers are rushing to get started before the deadline...

Yankee Stadium 2009 Opening Day

Every so often, EV Grieve will -- gasp! -- venture above 14th Street. Such as catching a game at Yankee Stadium. Today, of course, is opening day at Yankee Stadium, the last one in its current home. (Not that they'll even play today -- looks like rain.) What will opening day in the schmancy new stadium look like next year? Here you go. Meanwhile, I'll go look for a $14 cup of Budweiser and $7.50 stale pretzel.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Meanwhile, just another day in the neighborhood

And our dumpsters being rated today? Wonder what a two-star dumpster looks like? (Sorry...)

27 years, 1 dumpster

Jeremiah had the awful news about Fontana's shoes being gutted on Friday. Walked by myself and saw the aftermath.

He had been at this location for 27 years; been in business in the neighborhood since 1962. Jeremiah has more photos here. And there's this feature from The Villager. Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder what Angelo is doing now. He's 75, and doesn't want to stop working.

“I would like to stay another 10 years, well maybe five years,” he told The Villager. “I’m used to working all my life. I don’t want to stop now. I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m not the kind of person who sits and watches TV all day. I like to be active.”

Why was this man's life destroyed? So the landlord could try to make an extra $1,500 a month in rent from Angelo, who was already paying $4,000 a month.

This whole thing bothers me on so many levels...the greed...the heartless removal of a neighborhood institution...the fact that this kind of thing is happening too often today...

There was also something comforting about the shop. For several years my walk home from work took me by his matter how shitty things seemed to be, you could always count on seeing Angelo working away in his rather ramshackle store ... the TV with the rabbit ears that was always on but no one ever seemed to watch...

My walk home included passing by the Bendiner and Schlesinger medical buildings on the northeast corner of 10th Street and Third Avenue. The buildings weren't much to look at, though there was a plaque on the 10th Street side commemorating Peter Stuyvesant, whose family once owned the buildings. Oddly enough, I found comfort in this place too. At night, I'd look up to a paneled office in the lab. I could see enough to tell that it looked as it the place was frozen in time circa, say, 1974. It reminded me of an office my father had.

Of course, though, these historic buildings were demolished in 2005 to make way for more soulless apartments and a Commerce Bank. You can read more about it here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

An Olsen twin hangs out at a nice new bar the New York Post considers a dive

Not sure why I'm bothering with this one. First, it's outside the geography of EV Grieve. Second, well... Let's just say this Page Six item today annoyed me for various reasons:

LOWER East Side pub crawlers, who tend to hop from bar to bar on skateboard, were a little surprised to see two black Escalades roll up to Orchard Street dive bar Sweet Paradise at 2 a.m. Sunday. Passing up standard hot spots, Mary-Kate Olsen and her posse slummed it up with some die-hard hipsters. Page Six overheard one bystander comment, "An Olsen just went in there." When asked which troll-sized twin it was, our witness replied, "I think it was the fat one."

The Post's definition of dive bar is different from mine. Sweet Paradise is just fine -- I have no problems with the place. (And I'm a fan of their other spot, Welcome to the Johnson's, though only when it's not full of yahoos.) But a bar that opened in the summer of 2006 isn't a dive bar. I don't care how much the owners recreated the physical characteristics of some old dump that serves a working-class demographic, one without trust funds and $200 haircuts.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"All of Manhattan has lost its soul to money lords"

That's Cheetah Chrome in today's New York Post discussing the new i-banker playground off the Bowery. "Extra Place," as it's being called, is in the former piss-filled alley behind CBGB. (See the Ramones photo above.) As the Post notes, that spot is "getting dragged into the 21st century with a makeover that would make Martha Stewart proud." Yes, because she could afford the kinds of things that are going into "Extra Place." (How not just call it "Extra Expensive"?)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saint Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, Easter 2008

Prefab Sprout -- Hey Manhattan!

Music video from 1988. Prefab Sprout, a Brit pop band from the 1980s...and I never told anyone that I actually liked them. But what a sunny little song, so gosh-darn happy about being in the city.

East 10th Street just off Second Avenue, 7:50 a.m., March 23

Too many bank branches? Too many Sarah Marshall movie ads? Too many small businesses like Fontana Shoes closing?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sophie's will be big in London

From the UK Guardian:

New York magazine recently handed out its annual gongs for all that is good in the city - from burgers to dive bars. Former Gawker restaurant critic Joshua Stein offers his alternative awards

They say: Mars Bar (25 E 1st St, +212-473-9842).
We say: Sophie's (507 E 5th St, + 212-228-5680). I mean a dive bar is a dive bar is a dive bar. The appeal is the same: cheap booze, no pretension, hopefully a toilet seat with a lid. Sophie's has all three plus, it has picaresque East Village characters who seem to have walked out of the pages of Henry Roth's Call It Sleep; a truly wonderful jukebox (everything from The Pogues to Gang of Four); and a wickedly competitive pool table.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An open house on East 12th Street

For no good reason this past Sunday, Mrs. Grieve and I decided to go to an open house on East 12th Street between A and B. I've watched this eight-story apartment building go up in recent months and was curious what it would look like inside. (I wish I could remember what was on this lot prior to this apartment building...) Plus, I saw the open house ad in the Times with the price range...$2,900 for studios to $4,900 for two-bedroom apartments (roughly 920 square feet) a month. More than anything, I guess, I wanted to know what nearly $5,000 -- an amount that seems criminal to me -- would get you in the East Village today. The short answer: Not as much as I'd like. By the way, this post isn't meant to rip this new building...everything was top of the line...and I'm really so tired of grumbling about the continued ridiculous rents being charged in this neighborhood...I'm sure I'll have to move away soon enough. But until then! Might as well have some fun.

Many of the larger apartments come with a small balcony that overlooks the back of the buildings on East 13th Street. I can only imagine the joy the folks on 13th Street will experience while watching you sit on a tiny balcony in an apartment that costs nearly $5,000.

There's also a lovely rooftop deck with panoramic views of the city. [Updated 3/20: To be fair, the rooftop deck was nice...I sounded sarcastic when I wrote "lovely" -- I often sound sarcastic even when I'm being serious!...the photo below mostly shows the adjacent building's roof...Regardless, a nice rooftop hardly makes up for the steep rents.]

The building opened on March 1...and I was told that it was nearly half full as of Sunday. For my money, I'd prefer to live in the building right next door....this is more my style.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You've been warned

AKA Amateur Hour.

East 7th Street, 4:50 p.m., March 16

Just wait until tomorrow.

Live like Jimi Hendrix (but maybe without all the mysterious death part)

This rental notice caught our eye (must have been the five exclamation points) in today's New York Times:

Jimi Hendrix Lives On!!!!!

More like his old house lives on. But, yes, starting April 1, you can rent "The Cottage," the unique home at 50 W. 8th Street that Hendrix once lived. Can be yours for $7,950 a month. (Hendrix's legendary Electric Lady Studios is at 52 W. 8th Street.)

The online version of the ad in the Times doesn't mention Hendrx. Neither does the listing at Buchbinder & Warren.

Still, sounds nice, huh?

One of Manhattan's most unique properties offering country living in the heart of Greenwich Village. This 2bdr/2bth home, with washer/dryer and fireplace, offers stylish and sophisticated living with a private outdoor garden/patio area perfect for gardening and entertaining. A secure private entrance leads to this glass enclosed living space where the oversized, sky-lit solarium looks and opens onto the outdoor patio garden. FEATURES- Striking architectural elements include sky-lit solarium/greenhouse - Spacious contemporary 2bdr/2bth home with open plan living/dining areas- Fully-appointed, modern kitchen with custom cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, and stone counter tops- Gas-fueled fireplace- Washer/dryer- Central AC/heating throughout- Pre-wired intercom and cable - Two modern tiled windowed bathrooms- Central Greenwich Village location convenient to wonderful restaurants, great shopping and all transportation.

Great shopping? Like all those shoe stores that went out of business on 8th Street?

By the way, LES native Norman Buchbinder, a principal in Buchbinder & Warren, died early last year. He was 84. The feature obituary in The Villager mentions "The Cottage."

Another signature property he owned known as “The Cottage,” fronting into the backyard garden at 50 W. Eighth St., was once the residence of rock-and-roll legend Jimi Hendrix.

Accidents waiting to happen?

Given the number of high rises (4,000?, 5,000?) going up in the neighborhood ... yesterday's deadly crane tragedy in Turtle Bay gives us pause ... we already had close calls with that piece of shit condo at 110 Third Ave.

Got a chill today when I saw the crane (pictured) stretched across Third Avenue like that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The way we were

The current Time Out New York has a Lower East Side map circa 1882 that spans Houston to Broome Streets between Norfolk Street and the Bowery. In total, there are 61 liquor bars and 242 lager saloons in that area. A lot, sure, but did they have to worry about annoying I-bankers?

[Map image from Time Out New York via Gawker]

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Breaking: New York Post finds that bars in the East Village and LES can be kind of loud

It has been a whirlwind few days of investigative reporting for the New York Post. Sunday, in an EXCLUSIVE, the paper told of a "shady Atlanta businesswoman armed with a gallon jug of silicone and syringes . . . offering to inject women seeking 'J.Lo butts.' " Yesterday, they turned to another blight of our city: Noise pollution, in particular the racket made by the many bars and clubs in the East Village and Lower East Side. (How much better would our city be without noisy bars and women with J. Lo butts?)

The paper reported, "between July 1, 2007, and Jan. 31, 2008, Community Board 3 -- which covers the two youth-dominated neighborhoods, as well as Chinatown -- recorded 1,872 complaints about the pounding din coming from nightspots. That represented 26 percent of the 7,157 complaints for bars, clubs and restaurants in Manhattan."

"Pounding din?" Nice.

Well, this isn't really any surprise for people who have lived here for more than, say, a week. Yes, it must really suck to live above a bar or club (or even near one), especially since the smoking ban forced people to congregate outside. And since so many seemingly hideous night spots opened. (Won't get into any names here. Let's just say there are a few on Avenue B around 4th Street that attract a heinous mix of jackals. Do you see me throwing up or peeing in the parking lots of your malls in Paramus?)

Oh. Well, back to the Post article. The article was accompanied by a photo of Manitoba's on Avenue B, a bar that I happen to really like (earlier in the evenings, anyway -- I just don't like crowds of any sort). The caption reads: "The sidewalk outside Manitoba's bar, in the East Village, exceeded the danger level of 80 decibels, on a recent night of rowdiness." As you can see from the above photo, there are roughly six people in the bar at the moment (usually when I'm there). Obviously the photo was taken at a different time. (There are even two different photo credits.) Manitoba's isn't even mentioned in the article. What annoys me is that there are dozens of places in the neighborhood worthy of being singled out.

Curious what Handsome Dick Manitoba's reaction was when he saw the piece. The bar does have a history of noise problems, particularly back when they were doing live music on Monday nights. (Blame one prudish couple who bought a place above the bar for this -- not that I'm taking sides!) Still, Manitoba's stopped the music nights. Manitoba seems like a real decent guy and good neighbor. He lives around the corner. I like what he does with the bar.

Finally, on a related note, I do sympathize with folks who are stuck near or above noisy spots -- at least the places in which the residents were there first, and a bar/club opened later. Not quite as sympathetic to people who chose to live above a bar. For instance! A former college roommate moved to New York years back, settling in a nice apartment above the Grassroots Tavern, another bar I like very much, on St. Mark's. She didn't last there too long. Why? "It's too loud." What did she expect? "I didn't think it would be this bad."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The song in my head

There were times when I'd walk around the neighborhood...and the vibe I'd get could be set to a song and video like the following from Pussy Galore.

Now, given all the condos and fancy shops and clueless young people with too much money, it seems more like this from the band Whiny Dork Who Could Never Date the Model in the Video. (Actually, that may not be the name of the band. Whatever.)

We don't know what to say about this

An aside: Because all the models I know drink Guinness.

Paying attention to the little things

This plaque is on a building on East Ninth Street between Avenue A and First Avenue. I'm always happy that such tributes survive through the years. Can easily see some new builinding owner or creepy super be like, "Who in the &*&^%$ is Astor Piazzolla...?" and take it down.

By the way, I wasn't familiar with him either until I first saw this plaque some years back.

No room for mom and pop in the neighborhood

Hate to say it, but this was all too inevitable. From this week's issue of The Villager:

Discount stores, ethnic restaurants and small local businesses line the south side of E. 14th St. along the stretch of Alphabet City. Many of these congenial mom-and-pop shops have been serving the lower- and middle-income Lower East Side and Stuyvesant Town communities for decades with their affordable prices and personal customer relationships. But it is becoming more and more difficult for these establishments to survive, caught between rising rents and gentrification. Charlies, at 532 E. 14th St. between Avenues A and B, a neighborhood staple for the past 41 years, is the latest to fall victim to this trend.

Bonnie Rosenstock's article says Charlies will shutter at the end of this month.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 7 or 8,” said a 46-year-old Hispanic woman. “We need to have our community stores. This is what keeps the neighborhood healthy. There is so much greed that is destroying the neighborhood.”

[Image: Villager photo by Bonnie Rosenstock]

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Richard Price on the Lower East Side: "This place is like Byzantium"

There's a feature on Bronx-born Richard Price today in the Times. His new novel, Lush Life, is set in the Lower East Side, and concerns a seemingly random murder.

Excerpts from the article:

About the Lower East Side today, Mr. Price said, “This place is like Byzantium. It’s tomorrow, yesterday — anyplace but today.” He added that he sometimes thinks of the neighborhood as a very busy ghost town, where many of the ghosts milling around still speak Yiddish.

His grandparents got their start in the Lower East Side, he explained, and while Mr. Price was growing up his father worked here as a window dresser for the many small clothing shops that used to be an important part of the neighborhood economy.

“In a way the whole place has come full-circle in five generations,” Mr. Price said. “A hundred years ago there were Jews trying to claw their way out of here, and now the descendants of those people are paying $2,000 a month to live in what used to be their tenements.”

[Price image by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

East Ninth Street between A and First Avenue, 7:40 a.m., March 1

The bicycle orphans of the East Village

I've always been fascinated by the numerous bicycles chained to just about anything in the neighborhood. Difficult to tell sometimes which ones are still still being used, and which ones are abandoned. Back before I had a camera, I'd pass by this one carcass of a bike on East 10th Street near Second Avenue. Seemed as if every time that I walked by, another piece of the bike was missing. Eventually, the chain was the only thing left. (I kind of figured it was some awful ongoing art project.)

Several years back, there was a woman's vintage bike chained to the light pole in front of Sophie's. It was never touched. Eventually, it was said that the bike belonged to a young woman who did some work at the now defunct Le Tableau a few doors down. She was killed one night after getting hit by an oncoming subway. It was an accident that didn't get much, if any, press. The bike remained there for nearly a year. Then one day it was gone.