Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Carnegie Reopens

Last week I noted that the Carnegie Deli promised to reopen in 2016. Who knew it would be so soon? They announced on their website and Facebook page yesterday that they are reopening today:

Gargantuan sandwiches and creamy cheesecake! Also, "Dilly the Pickle Mascot" will be in the house.

And here's a shot of life inside from last week via Brian Fitzgerald on Twitter. Thumbs up!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Market Diner Demolition

The lovely, doomed Market Diner is being prepped for demolition. It has now been surrounded by a wall of green plywood.

Thank you to Andrea Kleiman for taking these photos

The Market Diner, opened in 1962, was forced to close a few months ago by its owner, the Moinian Group, who bought the site with plans to demolish the beloved vintage restaurant and erect on its grave a high-rise luxury condo tower -- making a total of three towers they will have on that very same intersection.

The diner is a true one-of-a-kind. What's replacing it is a dime-a-dozen. Once again, we're losing authentic local character for more soulless architecture from the "geography of nowhere." And no one in City Hall is doing a damn thing to stop it. As the proprietor of Chelsea's shuttered La Lunchonette restaurant just told the Daily Beast, "There’s not much integrity left in New York when chains get breaks and small businesses struggle."

The same goes for mega-developers, who have received billions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives, corporate welfare from New Yorkers' pockets, to reconstruct West Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen into a glittering city within the city for the super-rich.

It all makes me think of the 1995 essay “The Generic City" by architect Rem Koolhaas.

He riffs on the blankness of homogenization, the “superficial” city that, like a Hollywood studio lot, has no identity and no age. The Generic City is an “endless repetition” of blank facades, offering a kind of sedative to urban dwellers.

“The street is dead,” says Koolhaas. “Close your eyes and imagine an explosion of beige.”

I’d rather not.

In 2011, he commented on his prescient essay: “These days, we're building assembly-line cities and assembly-line buildings, standardized buildings and cities.”

Across the street from Market Diner

That cannot be said about the Market Diner. It is not one in an endless repetition of the same. It is not generic.

But it is dead. And, like much of the city we've loved and lost, it's the victim of murder.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The End of St. Mark's Books

After fighting to stay alive for so long, this finally looks like the end for St. Mark's Bookshop.

They're having a 50% off everything clearance sale right now, and folks are saying the store might shutter as early as the end of this coming week.

Go buy a book. While they last. There's not much left.

I've got no more words for this loss.

Read the story of St. Mark's long fight to survive:
St. Mark's Success
Michael Moore at St. Mark's
Columbia's Precedent
An Open Letter to Cooper Union
Buy A Book Weekend at St. Mark's
Xmas in September
St. Mark's Vestibule

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Carnegie Deli Comeback

Is the shuttered Carnegie Deli coming back?

Reader Brian Fitzgerald shared the following via Twitter:

"We would like to set the record straight," begins the December 17 letter posted in the window, "Carnegie Deli will reopen in 2016. We are ONLY temporarily closed."

It continues: "being closed has been a painful hardship on our family, employees and a heartbreak to our loyal customers. Over the past several months, we have experienced a number of surprise setbacks including: many unforeseen structural complications, months of inspections, and required renovations that have taken much longer than any of us expected."

(Sounds a lot like what happened to the B&H.)

Shuttered by the City last April when a possible illegal gas hookup was discovered, right after the Second Avenue explosion, the Carnegie deli has been closed since. As Ted Merwin wrote in the Post, "The loss of the Carnegie would be an outsized one for New York." It's been here since 1937.

Last month, the upstairs tenants got their gas turned back on--a hopeful sign for the restaurant. And in other hopeful signs, even in the recent blizzard, the neon lights of the Carnegie Deli were blazing:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

La Lunchonette Souvenirs

You can now take home a piece of La Lunchonette. Owner Melva Max is selling many of the items from the restaurant this week. She writes on Facebook:

"Please contact us at lalunchonette@verizon.net with any questions on what we are selling and how to buy! You can also come by the restaurant this week. call ahead 212 675 0342 as the landlord plans to do some work and we may be closed at that time."

The items for sale include art, antiques, kitchen equipment, dishes, and glassware.

La Lunchonette was forced to close by the High Line Effect, when its building--along with its neighbors--was sold to be demolished for a luxury condo.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Trowel and Square

The Trowel & Square Ballroom on Harlem's 125th Street had a great old sign. The typeface. The word "ballroom." And "social functions." Good stuff.

Anyway, it's gone.

The letters have been ripped down and the sign has been covered with a Ripco real estate banner. The Salvation Army thrift store on the first floor has also vanished. The entire building is available. It sold in 2014.

Located in the Croft Brothers Building, the Trowel & Square used to be the Tusken Ballroom, "used at least once as a meeting place by Malcolm X and his recently-formed Muslim Mosque, on June 22, 1964," according to Daytonian in Manhattan.

And next for this space? Probably another chain, as the whole of 125th Street is being wrapped in chains.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Little House on 18th Street

When La Lunchonette closed on New Year's Eve, forced out of business after the landlord sold the building, I wondered what would replace it -- and what would happen to the little house behind the front tenement along West 18th Street.

Berenice Abbott photographed the house in 1938, along with its equally diminutive neighbor.

via MCNY

Probably dating back to the 1880s, the two structures are hardly changed today. One had clearly been a stable for horses. It still has its arched hayloft window.

The interior of the living space above the restaurant looks like a hayloft, with wooden beams and ceiling. But it won't be here for long.

La Lunchonette's owner Melva Max told me that the little house will be demolished. A new luxury condo is coming. People are excited about it because it's made of wood, it's designed by Shop, the architects who did the Barclays Center, and we're all paying for it, through a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

(If you've got some free time, check out what Shop's Vishaan Chakrabarti thinks should be done with the area south of Penn Station. Hint: redevelop the whole neighborhood--those manufacturing zones "have an enormous potential to be part of our new economy in New York City.")

475 West 18th, Shop Architects

Also falling to make room for the new building are the two galleries on 10th Avenue to the north of La Lunchonette.

Three businesses and five good old buildings, all gone for one more luxury condo.

And the High Line Effect just keeps on chopping 'em down.