Monday, June 30, 2008

"Changing for the bettor"

As you may know, the OTB outlets will stay open now that the city and state hashed out an agreement deal two weeks back.

Now that all this drama is settled, I hope we can see some OTB commercials, like this one from 1986:


An ad from 1986 for Belmont Park:

[YouTube videos via MyCommercials]

But of course (And a look back at 110 Third Ave.)

So what's new at 110 Third Ave.? (Or, shall I say One Ten Third Ave.?)

And this branch won't haven't any of that panhandling (they spell it pan handling, meaning someone who handles pans? Or something to hold hot pots with?) or nonbanking business!

Meanwhile, a moment of silence for the old 110 Third Ave. (Sigh.)

RIP, June 2005.

[Photo courtesy of Patrick Crowley]

And, of course, 110 Third Ave.'s place in cinematic history:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"The old Hollywood sense of lawless New York is rearing its ugly head"

Julia Vitullo-Martin, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote an op-ed in today's New York Post titled "Revenge of the Bad Old Days."

She begins:

Does it feel some days as if New York-- wealthy, successful, seemingly at the top of the world -- is slipping back into the bad old days of crime, noise, dirt, rudeness? Like pentimento rising from an old canvas, the traces of New York's previous misery are appearing on the streets and in the subways -- graffiti, aggressive panhandling, open drug dealing, filthy public areas, ear--splitting noise, screeching sirens, a sense of disorder we thought was gone. It's not "Soylent Green" again, but the old Hollywood sense of lawless New York is rearing its ugly head.

And fast-forwarding past a lot of analysis and stats and what not:

Are we heading backwards? No, but we need to remember our own heritage.

New Yorkers haven't always understood that some ominous trend was beginning. For example, 1958 was the start of what the late Erik Monkkonen, a historian at UCLA, called New York's "rogue tidal wave of violence." Almost no one noticed at the time. It lasted until 1992, when the Dinkins administration, under Commissioner Ray Kelly, began its Safe Streets program. And while Monkkonen was optimistic about New York's future, he warned of the relentless cycle by which, once some "lower level of violence had been achieved, the mechanisms for control and the value of peace get forgotten, and a slow rebirth of violence begins." We can fool ourselves into thinking that the New York of the last few years is the New York that will always be. But our city is and always has been a tumultuous place, in which the miseries of the past don't seem so far away. We need to be vigilant, as we have been since 1992, against the small, unpleasant, menacing intrusions on New York's quality of life.

We know that New York's economic engine, the financial industry, is under immense strain, that the mayor's budget faces severe deficits, and that some businesses are starting layoffs.

Bloomberg has been the right mayor for good times. Now the truly difficult part starts: keeping New York great in hard times.

[Image of the East Village in the 1970s from Litter Bugged via Filthy Mess]

An EV Grieve FYI (AKA, Sunday filler)

At 14 Street and Second Avenue. Back open July 3!

I've long been a fan of the random use of quotation marks on signs and in print...(which is why I'm a big fan of The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.)

Meanwhile! And how can anyone hate the Colonel? Here's why:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Looking back: Red Square and gentrification

[Photo by Stephen L Harlow, via his Flickr page.]

In the last few weeks, I've posted several archival articles that discussed the gentrification of the East Village/Lower East Side, including one from the May 28, 1984, New York magazine ("The Lower East Side: There Goes the Neighborhood") and one from the Sept. 2, 1984, New York Times ("The gentrification of the East Village").

The New York piece focused on the Christodora House, which some viewed as a symbol of gentrification in the neighborhood, and later a focal point of the "yuppie scum" protests during the 1988 Tompkins Square Park riots. I recently came across an additional good read that examines another symbol for change in the East Village/Lower East Side: Red Square, the luxury apartment building (featuring a statue of Lenin on the roof) that opened in June 1989 at 250 E. Houston St. between Avenues A and B.

Frederique Krupa, a Paris-based designer and writer who teaches at the Parsons School of Design, wrote a fascinating article on Red Square that was published March 10, 1992. The article is online here at

In the article, she interviews two key people involved in Red Square's creation, Michael Rosen, a former NYU professor of radical sociology who now lives in the penthouse of the Christodora, and Tibor Kalman, the renowned graphic designer who passed away in 1999. (In a review of the 1998 book "Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist," The New Yorker wrote, "A witty, eclectic tome of images and writings . . . spanning the career of the graphic designer . . . the man behind Benetton's Colors magazine; a Communist-theme apartment building called Red Square that hastened gentrification on the Lower East Side while seeming to subvert it...")

Krupa's article on the revitalization of the East Village, and the role of Red Square in this, is far too complex to summarize in a blog posting.

However, one passage is particularly interesting: The Red Square marketing campaign. She notes, "[I]nstead of doing a slick brochure like so many buildings now have, they are marketing the coarseness of the area as the primary selling point.

"The Disneyfication of the area and its population, written like a movie script, is obnoxious."

She then quotes part of the Red Square brochure copy:

"A seamstress and a presser, shy as villagers falling in love over the accompaniment of whirring sewing machines and sweet tea...[fade to...] The lint of sweat shops swept out by raucous Spanish accents...[fade to...] Long haired poets silk-screening posters for the revolution...Today it's an after hours club. Or is the apartment where the incredible Dutch model with one name lives with Mr. Wallstreet?"

Krupa continues with a description of the brochure, which I'd love to see for myself:

"Considering that Mr. Wallstreet is most likely one of the prospective tenants of Red Square, the last quote reads like bad subliminal seduction. Never mind that the account executives may well be forcing out the pressers, seamstresses and long-haired poets. The sepia-toned cover features a kissing, tangoing white couple swinging a piece of cloth in a standard tenement apartment, with its open shelves and small windows. He wears a large, stylish suit; she wears a plain, loose dress. He has short brown hair in a standard businessman haircut; she has long, peroxide-blond hair. The standard clock is on midnight. Wires dangle down from strangely placed sockets. The picture appears ordinary, yet it is incredibly strange that it would be chosen for the cover. These people are probably celebrating the fact that they will be able to trade in the five story climb for an elevator and crumbling walls for new construction. In other words, they are trading reminiscence for amenities."

Perhaps this trying-to-be-provocative approach served as the template for the free-for-all that is now the Lower East Side with the multiple hotels and high-rise condos like The Ludlow, which according to its site, "connects the buzz of the neighborhood with the tranquility of home."

By the way, the community work of Michael Rosen since Red Square should be noted. Krupa writes that he "is now focusing solely [on] subsidized housing for the poor . . . as well as construction of half-way houses and shelters for battered women. His early ventures are then seen as an anomaly to his social convictions." As a Nov. 23, 2006, article in the Times on Rosen notes, "He dresses shabby chic and rides his bicycle to community meetings to fight what he sees as insensitive development." As this article in the Aug. 4-10, 2004, issue of The Villager reports, Rosen has held various fund-raisers to protect the special character of the East Village. He and his family have been part of helping save St. Brigid's, creating the Kids' Art Bike Ride for the Lower East Side, among many other admirable endeavors.

[For more of Stephen L Harlow's amazing photos like the one above, please visit his Flickr page.]

Fulton Street construction at a glance

Sure, I don't know much in the way of construction equipment, but this thing looks like a prop from, say, There Will Be Blood.

At the Waterfalls: This was bound to happen

As everyone knows, Olafur Eliasson's waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge is ON as of yesterday.

Didn't take long for it to create problems, as this EV Grieve EXCLUSIVE video shows:

And now that I'm being stupid, might as well air the EXCLUSIVE Cloverfield 2 footage that was uncovered recently on YouTube (via Goldenfiddle)...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Conspiracies: Where are all the fliers?

Last night, I saw several fliers around the neighborhood for the July 11 protest at 47 E. 3rd St. When I went by where the fliers had been (dramatic pause), they were gone! It's possible, of course, that the fliers were removed by local shopkeepers or people interested in going or neatniks. Or! Someone is purposefully taking them down so that no one knows about the protest...

Which you can read more about in Patrick Hedlund's Mixed Use column in this week's The Villager.

Dark star

Houston and the Bowery.

Come on in, the shopping's great!

As Urbanite reported (via Jeremiah) on Monday, the Strand Annex on Fulton Street will close after the summer. Why?

The Annex, purveyor of discounted books both new and used, has been at its current location for 12 years. But store owner Fred Bass says that recent construction in the area has decreased customer traffic and lowered profits.
“We were doing very well with that store, and then they started the construction, which really hurt our sales,” Bass said. “The lease was up, and of course the landlord wanted the normal increase. But we figured the construction will last at least another year, and we just felt that it wasn’t viable to do that.”

Another year? Good luck. I made a joke in April about 2078. That seems realistic. I see this mess on Fulton Street every weekday. It's only getting worse. This is an area you want to avoid. And I know people who do, unfortunately. If something like the Strand is giving up, what about some of the other smaller shops?  They need the business.

Been on Fulton Street lately? What a treat! 

All Fulton Street-related posts are here.

Dorms, dorms -- everywhere

Michael Stoler provides a New York dorm update in today's Sun, the alarmingly titled "From Condominiums, Dormitories May Rise."

As he writes:

Fordham University is aiming to increase the population at its Lincoln Center campus by 2,500 students, to 10,500; New York University's long-term plan calls for 1,000 new students locally, and the City University of New York has reported record high enrollments for the past eight years, and now claims 230,000 students citywide.

The New York State Education Department reports that more than 475,000 full- and part-time students receiving school credits were enrolled at colleges and universities in the five boroughs last fall, up from 417,000 in 2000.

With the sales of residential condominiums sluggish of late, industry leaders say some will be redeveloped to serve as residential dormitory halls. In March, NYU purchased Gramercy Green, a newly completed 21-story, 300-unit building at 316 Third Ave. at 23rd Street. Originally planned as a residential condominium, the building is slated to open in the fall, providing housing for 900 undergraduate students as well as faculty.

He reports that renovations are under way at the former residential tower, the Booth House, at 318 E. 15th St., between Second and First Avenues. In February, Arun Bhatia Development Corp. paid $56 million to New York Downtown Hospital for the 129,000-square-foot property.

The New York Sun has learned that the developer plans to convert the property into dormitory space to house students and faculty of the New School, a university comprising eight schools with a total of 9,400 undergraduate and graduate students.

Meanwhile, a little closer to home:

On the Lower East Side . . . construction is nearly complete on a new dormitory for the School of Visual Arts. The 20-story, 80,000-square-foot building is situated at Delancey and Ludlow streets on the former site of a Duane Reade. The new dormitory will house 350 students in a building that will be leased to the school for 40 years with an option to purchase at the end of the lease.

I don't have a problem with students...But. I have a problem with how the student population changes the types of businesses a neighborhood attracts. This means more things that cater to the taste of students. Yogurt shops, for instance. Chains like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Things that will drive up rents. And force out the (remaining) mom-and-pop stores.

Dumpster of the Day

Ninth Street between Second and Third Avenues. Very tidy!

EV Grieve: South Florida edition (continued, unfortunately)

Last item on the trip, promise.

So! If you do happen to find yourself in the Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., area . . . and don't feel like working on your skin cancer, I recommend spending time at the Pelican on the Pier, an old-school, open-air bar that I wish were closer to home.

Here's what the Miami New Times had to say about the place. That's a pretty accurate account.

Cheap beer, fresh fish, good views. And some interesting characters.

Meanwhile, let's see if anyone is paying attention...Man, Caruso is annoying.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Piece of cake: July 11, 8 p.m.

[I've been away, so in case this has already been covered...]

Tompkins Square summer movie series begins tonight

And I'm ready to defend Better Off Dead as a great movie.

EV Grieve: South Florida edition

Just spent a few days at the usual place in South Florida. Wouldn't write about a short vacation except that what's going on there fits in with the theme of this site.

Been going to this part of Florida for several years now, an unassuming area north of the madness populated with mom-and-pop motels and resorts and beach clubs that were probably really grand in, say, 1973. I love the lively little pool- and ocean-side bars in these places, where many retired New Yorkers and other locals mingle with the tourists. There's often a glorious feeling of community spirit.

But. For how long? There is no escape. The high-rise condos and hotels have been making their way up the beach in recent years. Someone needs to start a blog about the (possible) end of days here.

Guess who came to build some of the condos? The locals seem to appreciate him. (I actually took this shot of the Trump billboard in May 2007.)

In March 2002, the Times had an article on the condo boom in the area:

''I had a guy who bought a unit here, get this, who worked at U.P.S. his entire life,'' said Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development, the city's largest landowner. ''If you saw the guy on the street, you wouldn't think he had a dime to his name. But he was a shareholder when U.P.S. went public and he is a millionaire. He bought a $400,000 unit with $80,000 down.''
Several years ago, envisioning just that sort of demand, Mr. Dezer's father, the New York developer Michael Dezer, started buying up all the property he could, including blocks of bargain-rate motels dotting the oceanfront, offering rooms for $39.95 per night with free cable television.
''Every owner, I was after him to sell to me,'' said Michael Dezer, who with his son has since bought 27 acres of prime oceanfront real estate here and replaced the old motels with 11 hotels and resorts.
The latest father-son project is a collaboration with Mr. Trump, the Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residence. It is a $600 million condominium and hotel development where units start at $350,000 for a studio and go up to $5 million for a penthouse with pool.

Meanwhile, I'll celebrate the people and the places that make this area what it is. (Yes, pretty cheesy. Still.)

The poolside bar entertainment at the Monaco Resort.

At the Thunderbird Beach Resort.

Finally. Overheard poolside. A young man from Kentucky bragging about a wealthy New Yorker he knows:

"...and he owns a house on six acres on the Lower Manhattan River in downtown New York."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jimmy Carter, Jesus and the Lower East Side

The Sep. 17, 1984, issue of Time magazine included this brief:

After three days of hammering and sawing, Jimmy Carter, 59, looked more like a seasoned construction worker than a former President, with good reason. While most Americans were using Labor Day to putter around the house or relax, Carter and about 40 members of a Georgia volunteer group spent their holiday renovating a six-story tenement building in downtown Manhattan. "I'm liking the work," said Carter, who was joined on the second day by former First Lady Rosalynn, 57. "I've done a lot of carpentry before, but not like this. The tallest building in Plains, Ga., is two stories high." After work the former Chief of State read from the New Testament at a local Baptist church, whimsically relating his group's good deed to the Bible: "If Christ came to New York he would probably spend lots of time on the Lower East Side -- before it's gentrified that is."

So much potential for a smartass reply.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Looking at the signs and window displays along Fulton and Nassau Streets

I began my walk on Nassau Street in front of the Tiny Towel Spa. (Or is it The Towels Were in the Dryer Too Long and Shrunk Spa?)

The sign for Samuel's Hats on the other side of Nassau has an air of high society about it. According to their Web site, "If you are planning to attend the Kentucky Derby or you need a hat for any special occasion please take a look at our new arrivals by the greatest American and European designers. " I just don't see too many women wearing these kinds of hats these days.

The sign remains, the store is no longer in business. This is now the new home of Hat Corner.

There are several discount stores along Fulton Street (I should just call it Fulton -- there isn't much Street left with all the construction) and Nassau Street. The area reminds me a little bit of 14th Street between Third and First Avenue several years ago, when there seemed to be 99-cent shops every few storefronts. With all the fancy condos and hotels cropping up in the Financial District, I'm afraid there won't be much need for mom-and-pop stores selling, say, plastic backscratchers, Spanish-language greeting cards and off-brand detergent.

Ralph's has been here for nearly 35 years, I'm told. By the way, the door to the right of Ralph's is marked 82 Nassau Street. According to New York Songlines, "This was the address of the South Baptist Church; Herman Melville may have written "Moby-Dick" in a building in the church's courtyard, reports Literary New York. Later, in March 1878, the first telephone exchange was opened here by the Bell Company."

Been curious what this building was on Nassau Street before someone slapped the NATALIE on it.

Love the jazzy, roaring-20s look of the Wendy's sign. Adds a touch of class! Now, must order a Triple Stack with cheese.

There may be a Sophie's under here somewhere.

An exercise studio for nuns? Or mimes?

Yes, I know Dress Barn is a national chain with affordable clothing for women. That name, though. Sounds like the place to shop for the Sadie Hawkins dance.

Always like the 1-2 punch of a fried chicken chain and fitness center side by side.

More random storefronts along Nassau Street selling affordable shoes and clothing. How long will they last with the neighborhood becoming more and more affluent?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday afternoon video salute

As we prepare to start the weekend, we pause for a quick salute to the lone Republican who was brave enough to come out in support of the Republicans last Friday at the Bowery Wine Co. protest. Here's to you, good sir.

Bar Show hopping

Unfortunately, I'm away this weekend. Otherwise, I'd be hitting the Javits Center for The Bar Show 08. As the site says, "The Bar Show is the Only Trade Show specifically for Professionals representing the Bar, Nightclub, Restaurant, and Liquor Store Industry. The Bar Show means business!"

Well, I'm not in the bar business. But! I love going to bars! I'm certain the ownership from all my favorite neighborhood places will be learn the latest ways to dazzle me with laser-light shows, interactive ads and Port-O-Pong! It will make getting drunk even more delicious! And entertaining!

So what will be going on during the convention?

Big Apple Showdown-Flair Bartending Competition - This show will be presented both days on the Main Stage and will feature participants from all over the world who will demonstrate the wildest bottle flipping, shaker spinning and glass tossing on the planet.

DJ CHEF Spinnin' the Beats While Cookin' the Treats. DJ CHEF is the only entertainer who simultaneously cooks & dejays for special events around the globe.


Port-O-Pong Tournaments!

Plus, there's the exhibit hall. This caught my attention:

FogScreen is currently working with bars and nightclubs to help them promote and advertise brands in a never before seen way. Consumers can now interact and walk through ads, providing advertisers with endless possibilities for engaging audiences.

Hmm, interesting! I don't understand this whatsoever!

Meanwhile, to get in the proper mood: