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



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

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

AUGUST 18: Book Discussion in Kingston, NY
The Golden Notebook presents Jeremiah Moss, author of Vanishing NY, in conversation with Sari Botton, editor of Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving & Leaving NY
Outdated Cafe
314 Wall St., Kingston, NY
6:00 - 8:00PM
Visit the Facebook invite here.

More to come. Check back for updates or follow on Facebook.



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.