30 June 2009

Have Your Next Party at Club B66

I find this Bensonhurst club at 6612 New Utrecht Avenue hilarious. As far as I can tell, it's named after a bus line. It's in the middle of an industrial wasteland, and absolutely nondescript in appearance.

It is advertised as "a unique nightclub located in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Whether you are looking for a place to host your next Birthday/Baby Shower/Sweet 16/and more.. or you are just looking for a place to party all night with your friends come on over to B66 Club. With the sexiest European bartenders in all of NY, and the wildest crowd, we will definitely make it one night you will never forget!"

Some of those sexy European bartenders can be seen below.

A Good Sign: D'Still Liquors

D'Still Liquors. Get it? Distill—D'Still. Get it? Get it?

At 7020 New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn.

Sofia Brothers History Explained For You

Recently, I posted an item about the nearly 100-year-old, family-owned storage company Sofia Brothers.

Apparently, I didn't quite get the family history of the place quite right.
Theodore C. Sofia II, who was named after his grandfather, the founder of the business, wrote in to set me straight, and I am happy to be set straight.

Sofia said his father Alan and Uncle Ted sold out of their interest back in the mid-80's, leaving Theodore II's great Uncle John's the boys—Frankie, Johnnie and Lenny—to run the business. Thus, Sofia Brothers.

29 June 2009

La Bonne Soupe Back Tomorrow

According to Eater, quoting Bret Thorn at Nation's Restaurant New, the quaint Midtown standby La Bonne Soupe, which suffered a terrible fire three months ago, will return to business on June 30.

Or not. La Bonne Soupe responded to Thorn's item, saying later in the week was more likely. Anyway: soon! Visiting Frenchies and City Center subscribers rejoice!

Can't imagine what it will look like inside now. It's sweetly rundown atmosphere was always part of its charm.

28 June 2009

Stores Die, Websites Live On

Many a landmark New York shop, restaurant, bar or business has succumbed since I began this blog three-and-a-half years ago. Some pass away without a trace, paved over by Gotham's ceaseless, heartless march of progress. Some leave slight architectural hints of their existence. Others live on in the spectral twilight of the Internet.

Most shops that meet their final end quickly bring the curtain down on their website. Take, for instance, the site of Arnold Hatters, which shuttered a month ago. No sooner had it ceased operation than the owners took down all Internet info except for a succinct letter of farewell.

Other stores, however, aren't so thorough in cleaning up their cybershop. Joseph Patelson Music Shop closed its doors a couple weeks ago, but on its website, there's still a sale going on. Manny's Music ended its 83-year-long run on May 31, but www.mannysmusic.com is still open for business and ready to answer your e-mails.

OK, OK, those places only closes a little while ago. So we should give them time, right? Well, what about the Upper West Side's Cafe Mozart, which still a picture gallery, menus, applications for gift certificates and reservation page? It closed in summer 2008. And the vastly missed Vesuvio Bakery's site still boasts a menu from its final incarnation as a cafe. Maybe the owners are just too heartbroken to attend to details such as these. So they stay there, to break our hearts.

Another website floating out there without any material foothold on Earth is the one for Florent, the legendary Meatpacking diner that closed in 2008. But, then, there are rumors Morellet is reopening in a different location. So maybe he has his reasons for keeping the site up.

A Good Sign: Dick's Hardware

Nice, hand-painted sign way the hell up on upper Broadway, at 207th, in Inwood. "Everything you need for your home and more." Don't know how old, but people say it's been around "forever."

27 June 2009

Buildings on Stilts

Those who think Manhattan is a flat island would be surprised by what they find in Inwood, where hills, or even cliffs, are not uncommon.

Take, for instance, these apartment complexes on Broadway terrace, that look like they're built on the peak of some Tuscan hill town. The ones on stilts I find rather alarming. How do they possibly stay erect?

25 June 2009

Arnold Hatters' Old Flagship Store—Possibly

I was having a beer at the Rum House on W. 47th Street, when I noticed this picture on the wall. The words "Knox Hats" immediately grabbed my attention. Arnold Hatters, the great old Midtown hat store that closed late last month, had a sign like that above their store. (They once carried Knox Hats, and people came to think that was the actual name of the store, so they kept the sign up.)

I asked the waitress about the picture. She said it was given to the bar by a longtime regular, a guy who owned a hat store that had closed a few weeks ago. This was a picture of the store his family had once owned on 42nd Street.

Bells went off inside my head! Was Arnold Rubin the name of the regular? Was Arnold Hatters the name of the store? Yes and Yes. (I could see Arnold in the Rum House; it's his kind of place.) I remember, when talking to the Rubins in the past, that Arnold's uncle had owned a chain of hat stores, not just one, and one of them was on 42nd Street, just west of Broadway. Could this be it?

The name above Knox Hats troubled me, though. Scott Hatters. There was no one named Scott in the Rubin clan. But the address, 201, was right. That's right at the northwest corner of 42nd and Broadway. Maybe Arnold's uncle bought out an existing store called Scott Hatters. After all, the family was in the habit of leaving up old signs.

Nice looking store. Take note of the reflection of an old Kentucky Fried Chicken store in the window.

Some Stuff That's Interesting

[Picture courtesy of Best View in Brooklyn]

Wrap-up of the various ways the City lied to the Gowanus community at the Jan. 23 public meeting about the Superfund Scandal. [Found in Brooklyn]

The City then returned on Jan. 24 to lie some more. [Pardon Me for Asking]

The owner of an eminently landmarkable 1870 house in Bayside doesn't think the place is "elegant" enough for landmark status. Gosh, think he might have selfish personal reasons for that stance? [Daily News via Gothamist]

The inside of Circus legend James Bailey's unwanted Harlem mansion is crazy beautiful. [New York Mag]

Big crack in building: no good. [EV Grieve]

That was Beauty Bar, and don't it look grand. [JVNY]

Cuckoo control freak Bloomberg said on WNYC, regarding school control bill: "If the Senate passes something that differs by one word or more, it is saying to the city ‘We want to resurrect the Soviet Union. We want to bring back chaos.’” [Queens Crap]

The War on Bikes

I have a driver's license. But I don't own a car. I wouldn't want to in New York. It would be a nuisance six ways til Sunday, to myself and the City. But I own a bicycle, and, when not on a bus or the subway, it is my main "wheeled" way of getting around town.

And so, I notice when a new bike lane appears. And I also take notice of the reaction to them. These, in many cases, have been extreme.

To me, the new emphasis on getting around by bike has been one of the few things the Bloomberg administration has gotten right. But the communities on which the new bike lanes have been "inflicted"—even liberal ones like Park Slope—appear to universally loathe them. Stick-in-the-mud non-bikers hate then on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. They hate them on Grand Street in Little Italy.That is, if you believe the press, which seems to chase after a few loud voices and give them full play.

The battle is usually one of bicyclist (and the civic bureaucracy that aids them) versus merchant, though sometimes its pits parking-spot-losing car owners against bikers. Bike lanes take out about a yard-wide chunk of the road—a section usually used by the delivery trucks that service shops and stores. And so the merchants complain: these lanes are an inconvenience, they're bad for business. They also argue they could make is hard for ambulances and fire trucks to get through.

I understand that. It must be annoying for those store owners and truck drivers. But just a minute. Why are double-parkers suddenly victims all of a sudden. We all deal with double-parked trucks making deliveries? They back up traffic. They create congestion. They care about no one! And I've seen many a parked truck block the path of a fire engine or ambulance for minutes on end, far more often than I've seen a bike do the same truck. (Actually, I've never seen a bike do that.)

And, yet, news reports instruct us that we are to feel bad about them, and despise the bike riders, who do none of the above, road-clogging things, and only want to get from one place to another. No bike lane has every killed a business, and none ever will. The bike lanes help everyone in the city, decreasing congestion and air and noise pollution. The double-parked trucks contribute only to the stores they serve. They aren't going way—I know that. They bring goods to the City, goods that people need. But they're the ones who have to find a way to work around the lanes, not vice versa. The lungs of the City are more important that the balance sheet at one shop.

Recently, some students at Hunter College with nothing better to do conducted a study that revealed "a large number of cyclists routinely disobey many traffic laws." They compiled 5,275 observations of riders at 45 randomly generated intersections across Midtown from First to 10th Avenues and 14th to 59th Streets, and discovered such whopping truths as: 37% of the cyclists observed blew through red lights; and only 29.8% of the riders wore helmets.

I don't dispute any of this. Nor did it surprise me. (It surprised no one, actually.) But what sort of weird double standard is going on here? The study seems to be operating under the unspoken implication that cars are obeying laws, while bikes get away with murder. But, you know what? Cars sometimes run red lights. Cabs regularly do. Drivers don't wear safety belts a lot of the time, and also talk on cell phones constantly, endangering other drivers and pedestrians. So, what the study is telling us, really, is that bike riders can be as bad as car drivers when it comes to being scofflaws.

But the study also leaves out this important fact. If I get hit by a bike that isn't obeying traffics law (and I have), I probably won't die. A car? My chances aren't as good.

Yet, press organs that picked up this story gleefully took swipes at the biking community. The media—which is run, by and large, by rich white men who don't have a terribly progressive way of looking at things—seems to have a standing grudge against the bike lanes. Look at this obviously biased editorial that appeared June 18 in the Brooklyn Paper.

The Paper (the editorial is unsigned) states "in virtually every case, the lanes offer a false sense of security to bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians. Yes, accidents are down, but no amount of paint can protect a cyclist from a collision with a menacing automobile or save a pedestrian from the two-wheeler who speeds through a red light."

A fine piece of sophistry. I'm sorry, but, as a bicyclist, the lanes do give me a sense of security. Not total security—nothing delivers that. But I feel a hell of a lot more safe than if there were no bike lane at all. Also, if I am insecure in the bike lane, that has more to do with the behavior of the motorists around me. If you want the bike lanes to work, it's them you should be talking to. They need to adjust, not the bikers. Yet, this editorial is pointed at the bike-lane advocates.

The editorial goes on to say: "We do believe that the Department of Transportation’s bike program has played an important role in reducing accidents and encouraging bicycling. But too many bike lanes have been laid down without sufficient understanding of how the lanes will conflict with existing conditions."

The faulty premise here is that those "existing conditions" should continue to exist, when the whole point of the Green, environmental, pro-bike movement is that things have to change. A City that continues to rely completely on cars and trucks will be dead in the water in a couple decades.

The editorial then ends with a "common-sense quiz," which one should take laying out a bike lane:

• Does the road have heavy traffic?
• Does the lane fail to get bikers safely to key destinations?
• Is there a lot of through- or two-way traffic that will conflict with the bike lane?
• Is it a busy pedestrian area?

If the answers are “yes” to all of these questions, a bike lane is clearly not appropriate in that location.

Let's follow the illogic, shall we? A bike lane doesn't belong on roads with heavy traffic, right? But it shouldn't exist if it doesn't get a bike to a "key destination." Well, duh, guys—it's the roads with heavy traffic that go to key destinations. If you put a bike lane on a road with light traffic, you're not sending that bike to a key desination. Furthermore, pedestrians are everywhere in New York, so that nixes more streets.

Lets take the north-south roads my neighborhood of Carroll Gardens as an example and see where, using this test, it is appropriate to put a bike lane.

Columbia Street? Lot of through traffic there, heading to Fairway and IKEA. Also two-way traffic. So, no. Hicks Street? Heavy traffic heading to the BQE, plus a lot of pedestrians. So, no. Henry Street? Lots of pedestrians traveling back and forth across the BQE bridges; very residential. And it doesn't lead you to any huge destinations. Again, no. Clinton Street (where there already is a bike lane)? Again, lots of foot traffic, and through traffic; it's a big lane for cabs returning to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. Negative. Court Street or Smith Street? No. Major shopping thoroughfares. Cars, trucks, people, through traffic. Everything! What about Hoyt Street? Hm. Maybe Hoyt. Not much going on there. But it goes nowhere! So, scratch that.

Ladies and gentleman: the quiz that allows no bike lanes!

Call me a radical, but I think bikes should be allowed to go anywhere a car is. People in cars need to get everywhere and anywhere, right? It's just assumed that that's their right. Well, so do bikers. They're citizens and workers and family members just the same as drivers. They're not out on some endless, frivolous joy ride. Most bikers you see are going somewhere specific for a specific reason. Why should they live segregated lives, when the gas-guzzling, smog-creating, pedestrian-endangering metal dinosaurs are given free run of the City?

24 June 2009

Little Boxes, on a Hillside

These three, thin, little houses, on a sloped street in Inwood, look like they're about to topple over any minute. San Francisco-ey. As far as I can tell, none of them are inhabited.

"I Am Willing to Take Anyone Over Bloomberg"

Is it me, or are the cries for Bloomberg's ouster increasing by the week? Last fall, I often felt like a voice in the "But I like Bloomberg, he's all right" wilderness. Now, it seems astute observers from all corners are recognizing Mike's power grab for the rank piece of top-drawer corruption it is. (And the phrase "illegal third term" is being used more and more). This piece, written by The Pollitikat, was published on the estimable political blog Daily Kos yesterday. Worth a read.

Iran is Not the Only Election Being Stolen--Michael Bloomberg?

"New York, New York big city of dreams, but everything in New York ain't always what it seems, you might get fooled if you come from out of town," those lyrics are from a classic hip hop song next line to that classic hip hop song is "but I’m down by law and I know my way around," the reality is you might and will get fooled even if you are from town. If you dream of making it big in politics then New York is the city for you. New York City has a reputation of being progressive and that may be true when it comes to our vices but we are one of the most backwards. One of original thirteen colonies, we didn’t have an African American governor until the Spitzer sex scandal, and New York city the most culturally diverse cities has only had one minority leading the city, Dinkins who was kicked out after one term because of antics from people like Rudolph Giuliani.

We are often fooled by those seeking to use the state or city to promote their political careers; the most recent is Hillary Clinton who used New York as her base to establish a political career that would potentially lead to the presidency. It didn’t work out for Hillary but New Yorkers didn’t seem to have a problem with her using the state and overwhelmingly voted for her during the primary.

Now we have the situation of Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg an extremely successful Wall Street businessman was a registered democrat who many New Yorkers had never heard of before he decided to run for mayor in 2001. Bloomberg had virtually no name recognition outside the Business community and it was clear that he would not win democratic primary or the support of democratic political leadership so he jumped parties and captured the republican nomination. He spent over $75 million on the mayoral campaign and narrowly defeated the democratic candidate Mark Green. Bloomberg is now serving in his second and what should have been his final term except for one thing.

Michael Bloomberg is an opportunist; when it was clear that being a republican was no longer popular he again made the switch to "independent". Some speculated the change was made to line up for a possible run for the white house, but Bloomberg had something else in mind. He wanted to circumvent the wishes of new Yorker and run for a third term as mayor, even though new Yorkers twice voted to have the mayor serve only two terms.

Bloomberg has decided that he is the only one that could save New York City. The mayor claims the city has many problems and he wants to be around to help fix them. My question is where have you been for the past eight years Mr. Mayor? Wasn't he the one in office when the problems were getting out of control. The mayor has had eight years to tackle the problems that plague New York City, yet he has had minor impact. As a matter of fact the Mayor worked down the street from Wall Street and claimed not to know what was going on there. The mayor is one who also favored deregulation of the banks. While Wall Street stole the people money, the mayor was just chillin in city hall giving the cities money away.

While many New Yorkers seem to be fascinated with Bloomberg he remains in my eyes a mediocre Mayor, garnering much of his support from conducting what I call media stunts. The mayor has been very good at marketing himself and creating a smoke screen to distract us from his many failures since he became leader. The city has not gotten better, I would say things have gotten worse. Let us start with the MTA strike, the handling of the black out in queens, taking over of the board of education and the continued failure of the city's public school systems. Poor maintenance and deterioration of public housing, lack of low income or affordable housing, and the hole that’s still in lower Manhattan. Just to name a few. New York is one of the states affected by predatory sub-prime lending there are many houses in foreclosure and cars being repossessed. While Manhattan is kept nice and clean for the tourists the outer boroughs are in disarray. Drugs and guns continue to be a problem here.

After the strike fight with the union I did not expect what would come next. Bloomberg negotiated to give the New York Yankees over 600 million to build a new Yankee stadium. Well after we gave the Yankees our tax dollars they built a beautiful stadium that average new Yorkers cannot afford to attend, baseball which is usually a family affair, well the average New York family cannot afford it. If a family of four wants to see the game it will cost about $400 without tax. The Yankees are one of the most, if not the successful franchises partly because they are in New York. Did Bloomberg think the Yankees were going to leave the city if they didn’t get the money?

Campaign finance reform is something that we have been spending a great deal of time talking about for the past couple of years. Many feel that because Obama spent a record breaking amount of money in the last campaign that it should be ok for people to just go ahead and break the bank open if they have it. But realize that Obama raised that money from his supporters. People who wanted to see Obama win the office of presidency. Why does Bloomberg need to spend so much of his own money for his re-election? If he was doing such a great job as mayor wouldn’t there be an overwhelming show of support for his re-election. Wouldn’t he have been able to raise the money he needed from his supporters.

Wouldn’t he have presented to the people the option of allowing him to run again for a third term in the form of referendum vote; asking the people whether or not they supported him again for a third term. What the heck is Bloomberg afraid of and why doesn’t he respect the people of new York, why doesn’t he respect the fact that twice New Yorkers voted for term limits, yet Bloomberg felt that he had the right to overturn the will of the people and put himself on the ballot again for a third term. What is Bloomberg afraid of, he has no respect for the voters of New York and he bribed the members of the City Council to ok a third term for him by promising a third term for those who would have been also been termed out this year, he is once again trying to buy to office of the mayor. They way that the mayor is trying secure his third term I think is enough to vote him out, and any council member who supported the mayors efforts should also be removed from office.

It may sound good to just let Bloomberg go ahead and have his third term and I wondered who was going to step in as mayor because Bloomberg seems to be intimidating most of the cities leaders, and some treating him as a god, even though over seventy –nine schools have been closed under Bloomberg, the city is virtually bankrupt, public housing is falling apart, and wall street went bust under his nose. This city is in such bad shape that I considered keeping Bloomberg because there was no one else out there that seemed to be able to challenge him.

Bloomberg has a multi-million dollar budget and apparently willing to spend it all to ensure that he secures an illegal third term as mayor of the this great yet distressed city. To date Bloomberg has spent over nineteen million dollars on his re-election campaign. It is clear that he is once again trying to buy the mayors office. Although he feels it's his money and he should be able to do what he pleases with it I disagree. Millionaires should not be able to pour unlimited sums of their own money into a campaign and the law allowing that needs to be changed to limit the amount of personal funds a candidate can use to fund a political campaign.

William Thompson is the only candidate that is willing to take on Bloomberg, I am not sure that Thompson has the right message and is making the right points, I am willing to take anyone over Bloomberg, no politician should be a powerful as Bloomberg has become. So while we are condemning actions abroad in countries that have no bearing on our day to day lives, let’s remember those in this country who violate our laws, seizing power and refusing to let go. It seems we are always demanding that democracy be recognized abroad but when it is compromised here we are willing to acquiesce. People from out of town always have this perception of New Yorkers as progressive and not taking any crap, but most New Yorkers are from out of town. When it comes to our politics we are very malleable and easily fooled. We have to get Bloomberg out now, if we do not block Bloomberg at his attempt to steal a third term who knows when we will get rid of him.

People Die But Dino Is Forever

The same reader who sent me the priceless shot of the Betty Boop-Milky Way hearse at Carroll Gardens' Raccuglia Funeral Home now delivers this shot of the final farewell to someone who really, really liked Dean Martin. As Dino so wisely said: Ain't that a kick in the head!

Sign of Our Times

Grub Street uncovered that the late, great SoHo bakery, Vesuvio, is now living a spectral life as part of a Morgan Stanley Smith Barney ad:

The scene you see here (of a fictional employee walking in with a bundle of baguettes that he then puts in the window) is part of a montage accompanied by a voice-over saying, “Where will you find the stability and resources to keep you ahead in this rapidly evolving world?” Ironic.

To say the least.

I can't think of a more bitterly pointed illustration of wronged priorities of the New York we now live in. Independent businesses of long standing—businesses which truly contribute to their neighborhoods, and the cultural fabric of the City—tumble one after another, and no one in power lifts a finger or sounds the alarm. Meanwhile large, rapacious economy-despoiling money machines like Morgan Stanley prop up the corpses of the same indy shops to push forward further confidence schemes, trading on the integrity and purity of stores like Vesuvio—an integrity a Wall Street brokerage couldn't begin to approach.

Cynical. Hypocritical. Ugly.

Good Mexican Arrives on Union

Off-topic here. No longer will Carroll Gardens West (or whatever you want to call it) suffer a drought of good and cheap (I'm looking at you, Alma!) Mexican food. Calexico is finally open, roughly ten months after they announced they would move into the old Schnack space on Union Street.

The space is still recognizably Schnack-y. Same red banquette along the left wall. The door handle is still a hog dog. Otherwise, the place is agreeably spartan, aside from a couple mock Catholic shrines (see below) and a wall of crosses and quasi-Medieval, frameless paintings. (Mexico is a religious country—we get it.)

The lunch menu (no dinner yet) is simple and straightforward: burritos, tacos, quesadillas, tortas, chips, salsa, salad, beans, rice and sodas. Nothing above $10. Wednesday lunch, the place was already full by 12:30. And why not? Good, fresh, filling stuff. Yum.

Rainbow Rollercoaster at 191st Street

Anyone out there who thinks their subway stop has some flair and wit should first check out the 191st station on the 1 line. It gets bonus points right off for having the biggest extant IRT sign I've ever seen. Beyond that, it's been painted with a riot of colors, and with a wide variety of depictions of local Inwood and Washington Heights attractions (though, I must say, the sign saying "Malcolm X Tonight" on the Audubon Ballroom gives me the chills).

I guess riders need a bit of cheer before taking that long elevator ride down. At 180 feet below street level, the station is the MTA's deepest

Gino Makes a Change

Gino, the age-old red sauce joint on upper Lex, is one of those places that doesn't accept credit cards—even though a meal there will probably cost you $60.

But, perhaps feeling the pinch of the times, that has changes. The NY Post reports will begin Gino accepting credit cards.

"Times change," said co-owner Michael Miele. "You have to go forward. Especially the younger generation, they don't carry cash."

Then there's this priceless exchange:

Still, a sense of possibility hangs in the air. [Patron Michael] Barlerin turns to bartender Bruno Blazina.

"The next question I'm going to have is, 'When are you going to start serving [food] at the bar?' "

"That will never happen," responds Blazina.

"Credit cards were never going to happen, Bruno."

Lunch at the Capitol

The Capitol Diner has been sitting on upper Broadway near 207th Street since 1927. It's basically your last chance for standard-issue diner food before you hit the Bronx.

As is often the case with aged Greek diners, the splendid oldness of the place ends with the facade. Great sign. Inside, it's a more mundane oldness at work, probably only stretching back to the 1970s. The food's nothing special, but serviceable. The "homemade" cream of chicken soup was obviously Campbell's. The fries weren't bad. And I was impressed with a regular's very specific order: "Can you give me a burger, medium rare, no bun, with mozzarella, fried onions and gravy on top."

This tile design on the wall kind of blinded me. A bold choice.

I have no idea why, but the Capitol was serving drinks out of cups advertising The Hat, a California fast-food chain that specializes in pastrami.

One other thing that clinches this place's fabulousness: It's the Capitol Diner, ladies and gentlemen, not the Capital Diner. "O," not "A." As in the place where Congress meets.

Not good spellers? Or do the owners truly revere the American democratic model?

Play Bloomberg-opoly! (We're All Forced To, Anyway, Right?)

The Angry New Yorker blog has come up with perfect board game for our time. It's frustrating! It's hilarious! It's all true! It's Bloomberg-opoly!!!

Of course, King Bloomberg is the guy in the tux and top hat. And it's his board, baby! You just play on it. Boardwalk and Park Place? They're the new Yankees and Mets stadiums, and you have to pay plenty in taxpayer money if you land on them. (Between them, taking the place of the luxury tax, is Bloomie's failed Olympic bid.)

Community Chest is now the City Council Slush Fund. Chance is now "Rezone?" The green squares are a series of failed developments: Coney Island, West Side Yard and Atlantic Yards. Only developers are allowed to land on the yellow space labeled "eminent domain."

Any, of course, Free Parking is now Free Ride, as in Term Limit Extension.

23 June 2009


Second Trip to the Red Hook Ballfield Vendors

Had an enchilada at the Carrillo Guatemalan vendor. Doesn't look like your usual enchilada, does it?

If Sofia Brothers isn't the oldest family-owned storage business in New York City, it's got to be one of the oldest.

The tall, impressive, art deco building at Broadway near 187th—which is adorned with a luscious piece of vertical neon along its side—says the concern was founded in 1910, making it nearly 100 years old. It was founded by Theodore Sofia and carried on by his five sons. It is still owned by the family.

Sofia Brothers has three locations in Manhattan now, but, from what I can gather, used to own more. One, at 1221 Intervale Avenue, the Bronx, was used to store 600,000 bottles of beer during Prohibition, leading the Feds to arrest Theodore. Excitement! Another, on West. 61st Street near Columbus Circle, which is considered by architecture critics to be an Art Deco gem, was converted into condos in the 1980s. The building was declared an official city landmark in 1983. It now called The Sofia.

22 June 2009

Armando's to Open in August; Sign's Fate Still in Limbo

The last report about Armando's—the "We're closing for good," but "We've had second thoughts, so we're reopening," landmark Brooklyn Heights eatery—was that it would be reopening in three months time. That was in the Daily News in March. So, it's three months. Where is it?

Not open. So I checked in. Activity is brisk on Montague Street. Construction is nascent, but very much going on. The owner, Peter Byros, was on premises, wearing a mouth mask. Armando's will reopen in early August, he told me. What about the iconic sign? Is it coming back, or is the Landmarks Commission continuing to give him unwarranted grief about hanging it back up. "We're working on it," is all he would say.

The Gimbel's Bridge

A reader sent in the above picture of the sky bridge that connects two building on W. 32nd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, asking what it was.

That's as good an excuse as I need to talk about this three-story, Art Deco, copper-clad wonder, which used to connect the Gimbel's flagship department store to its annex across 32nd. Before becoming the sorry excuse for a shopping center know as Manhattan Mall, the building on Broadway between 32nd and 33rd was the great Gimbels, which lost its war with Macy's sometime in the 1980s.

The unique bridge was built in 1925 by Canadian Richmond Harold ("R.H.") Shreve and William Lamb from Brooklyn, who, with Arthur Loomis Harmon from Chicago, went on to work on the Empire State Building.

Some Stuff That's Interesting

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade goes on, despite the rain. [Gothamist]

Another example of the endemic abuse of eminent domain now common in Bloomberg's New York. [Queens Chronicle via Queens Crap]

A toast to the number 169 [Ampersand Seven]

A house in Admiral's Row goes kerflooey. The culprit: rain, and governmental neglect. [Curbed]

Why I Want More Rain

The New York Times revealed on June 19 what most of us have been feeling in our bones for some times: June has been freaking rainy!

Record rainy! Rain had fallen for 15 of the first 19 days of June. And this article appears before this past weekend's (and today's) contributions. So make that 18 or the first 22 days of June.

On Friday, 2009 already ranked at the seventh wettest June in New York on record, with 7.62 inches. By now, I'm we've blown away No. 6: 1887's 7.76 inches.

You might think I'd be sick of the rain. And I am. But, I want it to continue, for a little bit anyway. I didn't go through all this dreary wetness not to set a record! 2003's 10.26 inched is going down! We're only a couple inches away. So, let's go for it.

And then we can have a nice sunny July, full of cloudless skies and big, brimming reservoir.

21 June 2009

A Belated Mourning

My apologies to Frank's Fish Market of Washington Heights. It deserved far better than to be mourned a full six months after it closed up shop. But I did not know.

Frank's was on Broadway between 179th and 180th. It served Washington Heights for more than 70 years, offering fair prices of fresh fish and seafood in a clean environment. A small storefront, partially obscured by a tree, it also boasted some bee-OO-tiful signage, which remains.

Hedge fund king Glenn Dubin—as recently as last September one of the richest Americans and worth $1.3 billion (no idea what his status is now)—scaled fish here as a youth, for what it's worth. Married a former Miss Sweden and bought Jackie Kennedy's former Fifth Avenue pad. I wonder: has he heard about Frank's?

20 June 2009

Greenhorns Get Their Goats

Saturday's rain did not stop the Greenhorns—a group of young, idealistic, back-to-basics farmers—from throwing a down-home hoe-down right in the heart of Carroll Gardens, inside and outside the newly reborn Vermont Market and Pharmacy, which look to became even weirder in its second incarnation that it was in its first.

There was a mighty crowd—average age: 24—on the corner of Henry and Sackett, enjoying music, politically correct food and informational literature under the scaffolding (which had been painted green and inscribed with quotes from Walt Whitman for the occasion). I swung by because I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see a goat turned on a bike-powered spit. And because I knew this would be a rare chance to see the inside of the long shuttered pharmacy. So, I got to see the tin ceiling for the first time.

And I got to see the ornate tile floor, which stills bears the name of Longo's Pharmacy, the gun-running shop that was here before the Vermont version showed up.

To see these attractions (and to claim a "free" beer) cost me $5. I was give a bean from the cashier, which I, Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-style, gave to lady in trade for the brewsky. To get a goat sandwich cost another $10. I opted not to get the $5 side salad and ice cream. Whew! Going Green sure costs a lot of green.

Now, I lean liberal in my political and social beliefs. But, I have to say the Greenhorn's new venture was about the most weirdly Hippie-ish happening I've ever encountered. People were sitting on hay bales, for cripes sake. Flowers were worn on various heads as halos. There was elderflower syrup for sale, for, I guess, to put on your pancakes. One could participate in something called a "Silent, Non-Violent Auction." (Is vocal bidding an act of violence?)

Don't get me wrong. I wish these guys well. (No target date on the opening, by the way.) I support most everything their into: local food, natural products, etc. They want to do the right thing, and more power to them! I just couldn't help but put myself in the shoes of the staring old Italian men across the street at the Society of the Citizens of Pozzollo social club, who were probably thinking it was the '60s all over again.

The goats were off the spit by the time I got there, but there was plenty of goat meat and goat ribs around. The little tin-can-chewers were brought down from a farm in Connecticut and there had been two of them. As I said before, the spits were powered by bicycle. Someone excitedly asked the man in charge if that ingenious arrangement has worked all right. He shrugged. "Not really," he said.

19 June 2009

Goose Heaven and Fly Hell and Other Mayoral Attitudes

From the Daily News, via Queens Crap, your Mayor is speaking...about...something:

"I don’t know why he did it. I had pickets outside my house for geese last night. We are sending some of these geese for well-deserved rest up in the sky, wherever geese go.

"But the bottom line is, we can make fun of the geese but they’re a danger to human beings flying. And we’re doing what's appropriate, and I’m sure what the president thought about was that particular fly might be spreading something like the H1N1 flu and he was going to risk his own life with hands - bare hands, without Purell - and he protected the public by hitting that fly, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude. I'm sure he’s laughing about it right now."

I'm sorry. Does Mike Bloomberg really believe in Goose Heaven?