31 July 2008

What Gives With Kane and Hicks?

It seems to me that this multi-story condo complex at the northwest corner of Hicks and Kane Streets near Cobble Hill was finished more than a year ago. The building, known as 115 Kane, seems complete, yet a plywood fence remains in place around it and no one has taken up residence. Nothing ever happens on this site.

I've taken notice of the building for some time because, of all the new structures in the area, it's significantly less horrifying. They've done some mildly interesting work with the lintels and the roofline, and the color of the brick is vibrant-ish. It's also not terribly huge or out of proportion with what's around it. I don't mind having the building in the area.

But obviously something's gone wrong. It's in a state of limbo. Weeds and long grass have had their way around the perimeter. I have noticed occasional postings on Brownstoner but none that mentioned the developer by name. DOB certificates posted on the plywood wall list something called Metrotech Construction, but that may or may not be the developer. Did someone run out of money or go to jail? What gives?

Yesterday's Cabs as Big as Today's Apartments

Saw a perfectly maintained Checker Cab parked under some scaffolding on Hick Street in Brooklyn the other day and, since no one was about who looked like the owner, I took a good long gander at the interior.

Ever wonder about those scenes from old movies where four people climb into the back of a cab and have a confab, two seated in the back seat and two faces them with their backs to the camera? Well, that wasn't a movie contrivance. There plenty room for four in the back. Take a look at that back seat! It could comfortably seat three across. And attached to the back of the front seat are two round black stools that can be folded down if they're needed. Luxurious.

Some Stuff That's Interesting

The Ward's Island Footbridge is the oddest and most under-appreciated bridge in NYC.

The Plaza "Hotel"'s fabled Oak Room will reopen in September.

The Orange Hut in Woodside, where I've sometimes had breakfast in the past, has an interesting history. Always thought it might.

The Keller Hotel in photos.

Richard George of the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association of Far Rockaway scores a victory.

LICH: Ruining Your Life For You

Long Island College Hospital is back doing what it does best: selling off its real estate holdings so they can be turned into eyesore condos.

The geniuses who can't make the only hospital that serves Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook work as a business proposition ("Gosh, we've got a monopoly on five Brooklyn neighborhoods! Now, how do we make money?") is going to sell 97 Amity Street and the Pholemus building across the street. (Above, courtesy of Brownstoner.)

LICH has already sold the Lamm Building at 110 Amity Street and Carroll Gardens' International Longshoremen’s building at 340 Court Street, which is becoming The Collection, a hideous-looking condo complex, plus a bunch of buildings on the west side of the BQE near Congress and Warren, of which all but one have already been demolished. Condos will follow there, as well.

Doctors at LICH continue to cry out against Continuum Health Partners, LICH's parent company, saying this is all part of their plan to dismantle and close LICH. The corporation, of course, keeps saying "No, no, no, no, no. That's not our intention at all!"

The transaction will involve not only the selling off of property, but of LICH history. 97 Amity Street was the original core hospital, and the Polhemus building was once a medical school.

Chasing Rainbows

This is how it goes in New York these days. You discover a great old restaurant or shop, and soon after you learn it's going out of business or is up for sale.

I only laid eyes on the Rainbow Cafe in Sunset Park last winter. Last June, it shuttered after its owner passed away. Now Brownstoner reports that it's on the block. It's listed for a cool $3.25 mil, and the broker handling the property offered this choice piece of crappy advice, "Ideal for Large Retail Chain, Bank, Fitness Center, Fast Food."

Yeah, would also make a nice site for a new crematorium for unscrupulous real estate brokers.

30 July 2008

Cemusa Cleans Up Its Act

Thanks to Sybil Cuma, who wrote to me today to say that, following my Sunday, July 27, attack on the filthy state of a Columbia Street Cemusa bus shelter, "On Monday night Cemusa sent their cleaning contractor Shelter Express to clean the Columbia Street bus shelters—and they did a pretty good job. Then I noticed on Tuesday that Shelter Express was back again with lots of cleaning trucks. They spent hours cleaning and polishing the bus shelters. They were spotless after they were finished."

See the picture above, taken today, compared to the one below, taken July 26. Quite a difference. They even cleaned the glass roof. Now, I know I'm jumping to conclusions thinking Cemusa acted after seeing my post (which was helpfully picked up by good folks at Curbed, Queens Crap and City Desk), but, Hell, I'm feeling kinda low today, so I'm taking full credit! Lost City spoke and Cemusa jumped! Power to the bloggers!

I still hate their bus shelters, though.

29 July 2008

Rat-Squirrel House Lady Doesn't Recognize No Stinkin' Badges

It's been months since the City erected a shed around the crumbling Rat-Squirrel house at 149 Kane Street in Cobble Hill, but the tumbledown address is still standing firm, despite an exceptionally rainy spring.

Also standing firm is the Lady of the Rat-Squirrel House, Arlene Karlsen. Lost City has reported in the past on local scuttlebutt that Karlsen has openly floated the DOB's order to vacate the building and still lives there. But here's official confirmation in the form of an April inspection of the place, which noted a "FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH COMMISSIONERS ORDER TO VACATE." No news on whether they finally go Arlene to go.

Long Island Restaurant Update

I've been watching the fate of the long-closed Long Island Restaurant so closely, I don't know how this May report in The Brooklyn Paper slipped by me. But better late than never. Here's what the paper found out:

When the Long Island Restaurant, a decades-old fixture at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Henry Street, closed in August, a note on the door suggested the eatery was just shuttered for a short vacation.

It’s now a nine-month respite.

The three owners — Emma, Maria and Pepita Sullivan — had shut it down to spend the fall in their home country of Spain.

But tragedy struck.

The fall trip extended into winter and then spring after the family matriarch, who is in her 100s, fell and became bedridden, said Brandie Burns, a Sullivan family friend.

Then, one of the Sullivan sisters’ sons died, extending the delays.

“It is heartbreaking,” said Burns. “They are all broken up right now.”

The Long Island Restaurant has been a favorite neighborhood haunt for 56 years and locals eagerly await its reopening. Indeed, the place looks ready to open at any time — a dishrag and glasses are still on the bar, as if the place was closed merely for the night.

The eatery’s neon sign, scrolled in classic 1950s style, was a community landmark and with the lights out, the neighborhood doesn’t feel the same, said Burns.

“It was the kinda place you could go to just hang out and relax,” said Burns, who added that Emma, Maria and Pepita’s kids are “busy doing their own thing,” and have little interest in carrying on the family tradition.

Burns said the Sullivans remain “hopeful about reopening.”

“They’ll never sell it,” he said.

Most of that jibes with what I've heard over the months, although no one told me that the Sullivans actually wanted to reopen. Funny how Brooklyn Paper managed to report on the restaurants fate without actually quoting any of the Sullivan. I guess their reputation for being private people is well earned.

I hesitate to point out that it's been nearly three months since this article appeared. Sigh.

Some Stuff That's Interesting

The economy changes everything: Maybe the Hotel Pennsylvania won't be demolished.

A foul-mouth idget blogger defamed Dominic De Marco of Di Fara's and Grub Street defamed the blogger in return.

Rich folks can't afford for Bloomberg to lose his job.

Porkchop Express reports extensively on the changed look of the Red Hook Ballfield vendors.

Cool pictures of Staten Island's Ship Graveyard.

And, as usual, the MTA sucks.

28 July 2008

Ridgewood Theatre: Soon YOU Can Afford It

The price on the 92-year-old Ridgewood Theatre is going down.

The old movie house—diner-saver Michael Perlman's professed latest target for salvation—closed down last winter after nine decades of continual service. The Thomas Lamb-built structure was then put on the market for $14 million.

But don't fret! You can now have it for only $9.5 million. Guess old Vaudeville houses in out-of-the-way nabes aren't as hot as they once were.

Heights Books to Go?

It appears that Heights Books, the nice used books story on Montague Street in the heart of Brooklyn Heights, is to close. (Forgive me if this is old news.) A listing on the dependably depressing Massey Knakal real estate site, says the building Heights Books occupied in on the block for $4.5. million and the retail space will be "delivered vacant."

UPDATE: Brooklyn Heights Blog reports that "Tracy Walsh, owner of Heights Books on Montague Street... is searching for a new home and hopes to remain in the area. It’s just a matter of finding the right space at a good price she adds." Hopeful news.

Forward Into the Past

Some time ago, I sent away to the Municipal Archive for an old photo of a building at Henry and Verandah Place and got this instead: an old building at the corner of Henry and Degraw. It turns out it's the building that's been undergoing a major overhaul over the past year.

I wonder if the new owners ever saw this old shot of the property. Because it seems like they'd on their way to making the building look pretty much like it did in the 1920s. Until recently, the boxy thing was layered in white brick that made it look like the inside of a public bathroom. They've ripped that off and are back to the original red brick. They're keeping the old shape of the side wall. The only big difference is the new dormer windows on the front, giving the place a little more dimension.

Guess the owners figured the architects pretty much got it right the first time.

Update on the South End Tavern

I have readers in Troy, NY. Who knew? Or at least among former Troy natives. Mike de Seve wrote in recently about my recent Troy post, particularly the one about the age-old South Side Tavern (aka Marty Burke's) which transfixed me so. Turns out I had reason to be transfixed. The joint is a fascinating place. Read:

My grandmother was one of the ladies the sign was made for - an Irish girl, daughter of the contractor that did most of the major industrial building in the city, icluding the famed Burden Water Wheel, the world's largest I believe. They were the Behan family, and I grew up as the last of 6 generations that lived in the very same house, 334 4th, which Burden Avenue becomes as you travel north.

My favorite story of hers about Marty Burke's was that, in the ladies room, there apparently was a mural of the Garden of Eden, including a nude Adam. Adam sported an actual brass fig leaf for modesty—which was secretly tied to a string that rang a bell when a lady was curious enough to lift it. This was a signal to the band to strike up a fanfare for her as soon as she stepped out.

As a kid in the '60's -'70's I was raised on Marty Burke's fried codfish Fridays-only special (the old Catholic rule—no meat on Fridays). Still a benchmark of strong-flavored fish fry, a tradition carried on when cod is in season by Ted's Fish Fry, the area's most beloved chain of 3 stores. The other great thing about Marty Burke's is that the majority of the 8-ounce beer glasses are so old their glass is still communion-wafer thin. Very curious, feels nice in the hand.

I feel like holding one of those beer glasses right now.

27 July 2008

Cemusa: Beautifying Our City

Whose responsibility is the upkeep of the City's new bus shelters? I know the Spanish company Cemusa put them here, winning the right to do so after stuffing a billion or so into Mayor Mike Success-o-Manic City Hall. But what happens after they've been propped up and slapped silly with ads? Is the City supposed to give 'em a hose-down every now and then? Is Cemusa supposed to fly over task forces once a week?

I ask this after sitting recently in a bus shelter on Columbia Street, Brooklyn, waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the B61. The glass walls were filthy. They looked like they hadn't been cleaned in weeks. Pieces of tape remained stuck to some panels where flyers had once been posted. Dirt and debris had fallen on the translucent ceiling.

You can't tell from looking at this armrest (below), but it's loose. I give it another two weeks before it falls off or is ripped off. I knew when I saw these slick pieces of goods go up that they were the products of flashy design, but shoddy craftmanship.

And some more complaints while I'm at it: who decides what goes where on these ugly ad boxes. Here's a window on the side taken up by a piece of white paper that says "MTA." Very informative. Why not put a bus schedule there instead? Wouldn't that be useful?

And when the big panel of a Cemusa shelter isn't taken up by a paid ad for a movie or IKEA or something, why must it be occupied by an ad for Cemusa instructing people where to call to advertise? I'm sure if a business really wants to paste its ads on a Cemusa shelter, they'll know who to call. They're figure it out. In the meantime, can't the space be used in a less repulsive way? Just a thought.

Some Stuff That's Interesting

Somebody finally got the bottom (sort of) of the mystery behind Carroll Gardens' Vermont Market and Pharmacy.
This gal can't forget Bay Ridge was once Viking territory. I've met Victoria Hofmo, actually. Her focus on this issue is unwavering.

A remembrance of Cheyenne Diner in the Times, by an author who doesn't seem to know that the diner is not gone forever, but moving to Red Hook.

Delusional lame duck and Cheeze-it eater Bloomberg won't shut up about national politics, and still has lousy taste in food.

This is why builders use such crappy bricks these days. The old kind cost too much!

Recalling the New York high-life scene of old, via Lucius Beebe's epic 1960 grazing tour.

Cloud support.

Another mainstay of the old Midtown has closed.

Every politician, it seems, is in the pocket of the developers.

More Fountains!

I'm not an urban planner, but I've got my ideas. One of them is fountains. If anyone ever put me in charge of laying out a new city, the first thing I'd do is fill is with fountains. Fountains in every park and every square. The thought first occurred to me in Rome. I thought, "Why is this city so pleasant and enlivening to stroll through when parts of New York—mainly Midtown—are so stultifying and deadening?" And it struck me: fountains. Flowing water everywhere, a sign of life and activity, falling gently on the the eye and the ear, filling the air with pleasing sound and needed moisture. Plus, it was all good water to drink!

Cheers to whoever erected this nice fountain in Churchill Square on Sixth Avenue near Bleecker. It improved the surroundings 100 percent and makes people want to sit and pause, rather than skirt across the square as fast as you can—which used to be the case.

25 July 2008

News About the Minetta Lane Tavern

Some new news about the historical Minetta Tavern, which is getting a new lease on line and a redesign courtesy of restaurateur Keith McNally. Many have been concerned about how respectful McNally would be of the tavern's timeless interior and old-world architecture.

This early report from Ken Mac of Greenwich Village Daily Picture is rather encouraging:

Spoke to the guy out front doing renovations; they are going to restore the facade to resemble its original design, with bay windows and wood trim detail below. Also, they uncovered two beautiful columns that have apparently been covered since the mid 70s.

They have also removed the old neon from the classic sign, hopefully with the intention of putting new neon in its place.

The photos here are courtesy of Ken.

360 Pulls a 180

Curbed reports that developer Billy Stein's controversial 360 Smith Street building—the one that nobody in the neighborhood but Stein wanted, that was horribly out of proportion for the area, that is going to fuck up the Carroll Street subway station for years, that was initially to have been built by a maybe-felon—has run into a little snag.

On Wednesday, the City Council unanimously passed the "Narrow Streets" Zoning Text Amendment for some streets in Carroll Gardens. This is significant because the building would be 70 feet versus the 55 feet allowed by new zoning. By Wednesday night, emails were circulating telling people to call the Department of Buildings. DOB logged a complaint at 11:49 yesterday morning about the building being out of compliance with the new zoning. By 2:58PM, a Buildings Inspector was on site, noting that only 20 percent of the foundation was done and ordering a halt to work. Later, the developer of Oliver House told the MTA to cancel a planning closing to an entrance of the Carroll Street subway station due to construction. It's likely there will be an appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals to "vest" the building under the old rules, which means there will be more bizarre arguments in front of one of the city's most obscure, yet contentious bodies coming in the fall.

Hm. What's the proper response to this piece of bad news for a developer who always made it clear that his wishes and his bank account, and not the concerns of hundreds of local citizens, were always the only thing that mattered?

Oh, yes: Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha Ha ha!!!!!!!!

Half a Church

Some East Villagers, as they're strode up Lafayette Street, may have noticed this someone grandish, red-brick back end of a building hiding behind an unlovely parking garage on Great Jones.

If you think it looks like it was once part of something important, it was. The arched structure was long ago the aspe of an old neo-Gothic church known as the Mission Chapel of the Immaculate Virgin. It was founded by the Rev. Father John. C. Drumgoole.

Drumgoole was apparently a remarkable fellow. For 21 years, he was the Janitor and Sexton for St. Mary's Church, where he let many poor children living on the streets use the basement for shelter. He trained them as altar boys and educated them. Drumgoole was ordained in 1868 and jot a job at his old employer, St. Mary's. In 1871, he took control St. Vincent’s Home for Homeless Boys of All Occupations, calling it "Newboys Home." Soon it was full of boys paying 25 cents a night for lodging and board.

In 1881, Drumgoole established the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin for the Protection of Homeless and Destitute Children, a then-humongous, 10-story building at Great Jones and Lafayette. It has classrooms and libraries on the 2nd floor, living quarters were on the upper floors and the 1st rooftop playground in New York. Again, 25 cents was the fare.

And he kept on. In 1882, he purchased a 138-acre farm off Raritan Bay on the southern tip of Staten Island. It was named Mount Loretto. It was home to hundreds of kids and was a working farm. 1,000 quarts of milk were produced daily. The barn housed 300 head of cattle and 50 horses, and the pen kept 600 pigs. Drumgoole died in 1888. Apparently, a statue was erected in 1894. Who knows where that is.

In the late 19th century, the congregation broke up and the Great Jones church building was sold. Whoever bought it redid the front for commercial purposes, but left the back as is. And there it remains today, the Mission Chapel of the Immaculate Parking Garage.

24 July 2008

Bleecker Street in Seedier Days

Here's a photo I purchased a while back of Bleecker Street, looking a lot sinister than it does today. Not sure what part of Bleecker it is, but I'm guessing it's the stretch right before it reaches the Bowery.

What really got me about the photo, however, was the enormous wall of ads for things like Trimble Whiskey and Nestle's Milk. And in particular the ad for the play "The Count of Monte Cristo," starring James O'Neill. The was Eugene O'Neill's father, a famous actor of great talent who frittered away his talent by riding the wildly popular "Count" vehicle into the ground for decades. The photo was taken in November 1900, when little Eugene was 12 years old, having been born in a hotel on Times Square in 1888. He wrote all about what he thought of his dad's career in "Long Day's Journey Into Night."

Some Stuff That's Interesting

A like a girl who likes old menus.

Grimaldi's learned it had to pay its taxes and stayed open. Thank God.

Some nice old records will go to Syracuse University.

Some good ways to stick it to Cemusa.

And, of course, the MTA sucks.

The Ruination of a Great Slice

This isn't exactly on-topic, though it does concern Sal's Pizzeria, which has been serving pie on Court Street in Brooklyn for 50 years.

Among the old-school pizza places in the area, Sal's has always struck me as a bit of a mess. Their regular pie is OK, but nothing to scream about. The interior's a riot of conflicting intentions and past business models. The counter's right at the front door, making it difficult to line up. There's no easy-to-see menu listing prices. Tables crowd out most of the walking space. There are display cases full of rice balls, stromboli, buffalo wings and anything else you could think of. They make heroes, pasta dishes, salads, soups, etc. A jumble of signs cover the walls. There's often a half-assed sidewalk cafe set up. And the restaurant next door is affiliated to the place in an ambiguous way. Plus, no one seems to steer this ship; a changing cast of characters is always to be found behind the counter. In short, you never know where you're at when you walk into Sal's.

I would never visit the place if it weren't for three things: They've got a great location, smack dab at the crossroads of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens; the great old neon sign attracts me like a moth; and the chicken-jalapeño slice.

The chicken-jalapeño pizza has long been, to me, their one decent menu item. It was thin and flavorful, not too spicy, with a good sauce and eschewed gooey mozzarella in favor of other cheeses. It always satisfied.

So why did they fuck around with it? I don't know when the change occurred, but lately Sal's has severely altered their chicken-jalapeño slice. It's crust is now significantly thicker; it's almost deep-dish-like. Mozzarella overwhelms everything; you can barely taste the chicken or hot peppers. And the sauce is almost a non-entity in the new formula. It's a terrible slice now, doughy and flavorless.

I thought I had got them on a bad day, so I went back a week later. Sure enough: There was chicken-jalapeno slice 2.0. And it was just as lousy. I asked the counterman if they had indeed changed the recipe, and he said, yes, they had.

In contrast, here's some good pizza news. Lucali, the fantastic pizza joint on Henry Street, introduced hot peppers as a topping two weeks ago. They're great! Try them with pepperoni.

Pictorial Celebration of Frankie & Johnnie

Frankie & Johnny's Steakhouse, which we recently learned was on its way out, is captured in pictures by our pals over at the Greenwich Village Daily Photo. Wish we could handle a camera as well as Ken Mac.

23 July 2008

Who the Hell Owns Colonnade Row?

Colonnade Row, the spectacular sweep of marble residences on Lafayette Street fronted by majestic, two-story Corinthian columns, is arguably one of the most poorly maintained, working landmark buildings in the City. I first laid eyes on it in 1988 and thought it grand, but in a monstrous state of deterioration.

Well, nothing's been done to it since. There used to be nine houses, making for an even more imposing facade. Now there are only four. When they were built in 1833, the area above Houston was the City's fashionable district. It was called La Grande Terrace back then, and houses were sold to the Astors, Vanderbilts and Gardiners and author Washington Irving. A few decades later they were out of fashion, and the downfall began.

Back in 1923, the Times reported in 1995, a Princeton architectural student studied the buildings and noted "the marble is disintegrating very rapidly, and portions have been covered with a plaster coat of cement, applied without any regard for the original motives." Imagine what the student would think now. I am surprised the pillars are still standing or that people are allowed to live inside. The columns are chipped and discolored. There are cracks in the ceiling. Ornamentation is fast falling away. I noticed some defunct old Christmas lights wrapped around one column.

The buildings were among the first to be honored by the Landmarks Commission back in 1965. If ever there was a case for the Commission to come down on the heads of a derelict landmark owner, it's this one. The jerks don't ever keep their landmark sign in good condition! A sign inside the lobby lists something called Colonnade Management as the owner. A certificate listing building inspections shows that the most recent one was in 2001.

One Tim Ranney started an interesting blog this year called Colonnade Row. The man actually lives in the building. He reports, "The Colonnade is still a home to about 50 people in various types of apartments - some are the original ornate rooms with elaborate crown moldings and white marble fireplaces, others have been cut up and modified into smaller units, and a couple are very swank, tricked-out, multi-story townhouses... Today, the Colonnade is dirty, decaying, and somewhat decadent. And, frankly, that's exactly the way I like it. A lot has gone on here over the past 175 years which I will be getting into later. The facade was supposed to have been restored a few years back but that fell through and I wouldn't be surprised if it's never fixed up. I'd thought of starting a Save The Colonade non-profit, but couldn't get the cooperation of the owners and had to abandon that idea."

Couldn't get the cooperation of the owners. Whaddaya know.

Kielbasa Supply in Williamsburg in Danger?

A reader wrote in expressing concern over the status of Polska-Masarnia Czeslawa (at least that's what I think it's called), otherwise known as the Quality Meat Market, the longstanding Polish butcher at 172 Bedford Avenue in the heart of Williamsburg. Said observer dropped by last Monday and found "the gate was down and the place looked like it was stripped. Nothing hanging in the windows....a few years back there used to be a second butcher next door but it's gone. It's been going there for the past six years, so I keep an eye on it."

The reader expressed hope that the shop was undergoing renovation, while at the same time doubting this as wishful thinking. Several calls to the butcher shop (taken from the number on the sign) were answered by only a weird buzzing noise. A search through various directories did not even turn up any other phone listings for the place. A call to the nearby Bedford Cheese Market Shop brought a response that they "thought" it had closed.

Butcher shops seem to be going the way of the Dodo—in Park Slope, the East Village and no, perhaps, Williamsburg.

What You Can Get in the Public Theater Bathroom

It seems spectacularly incongruous to me that the Public Theater, that longstanding bastion of cultural democracy, is one of the few places left in New York City where you can encounter a bathroom attendant.

For as long as I can remember, a small old man who speaks broken English has lived in the Public's men's washroom, offering soap and towels and turning on faucets, and accepting tips from whomever feels appreciative enough. There's a small table to the right of the sinks crowded with items that can make you smell better. Usually, I avail myself of a mint or piece of gum from the candy bowl. The other night, however, I took a close look at what else was available. It's quite an amazing assortment.

There's Listerine, to cure vile breath. Tums, in case the play you saw made you ill, and Advil, if the play gave you a headache. Deodorant, in case the stuff you put on this morning is wearing off. Hand lotion for hands made rough by twisting the Playbill in frustration, and air freshener, in case the atmosphere in the bathroom offends you.

To top it off, you have a choice of three different colognes: Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole's Reaction and one other which I couldn't identify because the label had worn off.

So it's settled: You could arrive at the Public Theatre completely unwashed, unbrushed, smelly and hungover and have nothing to worry about. A trip to the restroom will set everything right.

22 July 2008

Whose Using Figaro's Chalkboard?

Passed by the recently deceased Le Figaro Cafe on the corner of Bleecker and Macdougal yesterday and paused in respect for the dead for a moment. The windows were all papered over. The letters if the Figaro sign had been removed, leaving only their shadows. And then my reverie was shattered by a blackboard nailed to the side of the storefront. It must have been used to advertise specials in the past. But now it read: "Comedy Corner. 3 Great Shows. 8:30 10:30 12:30." And then followed a detailed listing of the line-up.

I say, that's a little callous, isn't it? Using a businesses blackboard to advertise your business so soon after the cafe gave up the ghost? Comedy Corner is situated in the basement of the Cafe del Mare, right across the street. Ruthless business practices.

Not sure what's happening to the Le Figaro space, but it sure is happening fast. Past reports have a bank taking up residence in the back and a new restaurant up front. Work orders are pasted up everywhere. There's plenty of work going on in both sections. The place is gutted and new beams are being put in place. Wonder what happened to all that curious bric-a-brac that used to be in the Figaro.

Star Water

This fountain, shaped to resemble the ribs of a whale, is located in DiMattina Park in south Carroll Gardens, abreast of the BQE. Though I haven't visited the vest-pocket park many times I did not notice until yesterday that the jets of water embedded in the "ribs" created a star pattern when on at full blast. Nice touch.

A Cool Image

As a respite to the heat, take a look at this shot of Eldridge Street circa 1927. Imagine: so much snow that it piles up in ridges along the side of the street. The kids in the photo look like they're in the midst of a snowball fight. Just don't break old man Rabinowitz's grocery store window or you'll fetch a box on your ears!

21 July 2008

Almost Done at The Collection

They're down to the basement level at what used to be the International Longshoreman's Association building, knocking down them subterranean walls. Soon they'll be able to start building (ack! gag!) The Collection—the condo complex with the worst name in Gotham. Hm. Wonder what Mob confabs were held in that basement.

Lost City: New Orleans Edition: Service By Spencer Tracy

Rubenstein's Department Store has been on Canal Street in New Orleans since 1924. It remains in the Rubenstein family and, unlike many such stores in other cities, continues to do well. There are two floors of clothes inside, surprisingly high-end stuff for both men and ladies. There are some items made specifically for Rubenstein's and bear their label.

A sale was afoot when I visited and from the moment I entered I was shadowed by an eager, smiling young salesman named Spencer Tracy. I kid you not. I usually hate this sort of treatment, but he was so smiling and so friendly, I didn't mind his company. I think it was the moment he offered to bring me a Coke or a Beer that he won me over.

"Are you serious?" I said. "Yes," he smiled. "Do people actually take you up on that offer?" "Yes, one a hot day, they do." "I can tell you," I replied, "that if anyone in a store in New York City ever offered a customer a coke or a beer or even a glass of water, they would fall over from shock."

I bought a nice short-sleeved shirt with a Rubenstein label. Next year, I'm saying yes to that beer. Somehow, I can't think of anything cooler than shopping for clothes in New Orleans while drinking a beer.