31 October 2009

Jack-O-Lantern Overload

Someone on Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights either has a great love of carving pumpkins or a monstrous brood of children. It's Jack-O-Lantern Overload!

And right across the street: Cobweb Overload!

30 October 2009

Halloween's Front Line Missing in Action

Many residents of Cobble Hill and thereabouts have every Halloween looked forward to the appearance of what Lost City deemed last year "Halloween's Front Line," a long row of small pumpkins skewered on the spikes of the cast-iron fence surrounding the house at the southeast corner of Kane Street and Strong Place. Above is an image of the scene in 2008.

This year, however, the dozens of tiny Jack-O-Lantern sentinels are AWOL. (See below.) There is no sign of them, and with Halloween only a day away!

Perhaps the gory spectacle of last year's Great Pumpkin Massacre (below) left a sour taste in the mouth of the house's residents.

These Colors Don't Run! Any Neither Does This Pizza!

Not sure of the significance of this very large mural just off Seneca in Ridgewood Queens. Twin Towers, American flag. Check. A typically patriotic 9/11-themed work. Also an Italian flag. OK. The painter, evidently Italian, wants to show his solidarity with the American cause.

But a huge, flying, piping hot, pepperoni pizza? What is its role in this tableau? Is it heading toward the World Trade Center? Or is it there to protect the towers? Is it there to feed the victims of the attack? Or taunt the terrorists with its toothsome pork toppings?

Even stranger: the building this mural is painted on is not a pizzeria.

UPDATE: Queen Crap has sent me a picture proving there used to be a pizzeria here, called Carlos' Pizza. It's now a 99-cents store. There are a lot of 99-cents stores on Seneca.

Death of a Meat Market

I was walking down Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, Queens, when I saw some workers ripping out the inside of what the bright red awning told me was once Nino's Meat Market.

I know nothing about Nino's Meat Market (motto: "What's for Dinner?"), but I suspect it was there for some time. Two things tell me thing. One, if you peer under the new plastic awning, you can seen a much older sign for the shop. I could not discern the actual wording, so the hidden sign could very well be for another business. But I do think I saw something about cold cuts.

Two, inside the walls had been torn down pretty good, but you could still spy near the top some stray words: sausages, steaks, eggs. The old business had evidently hand-painted a list of its wares on the wall. Very charming. The glimpses you see here are all that's left. The construction workers did not look like the sentimental type. I'm sure they did not think the painted walls were anything special.

The location will next be an Asian fusion restaurant.

6626 Fresh Pond Rd

29 October 2009

Elk Candy Lives!—It Sells, It Ships, It Twitters

Bygone Yorkville icon, the Elk Candy Company, has long taunted us with the prospect that it would one day reopen and sell again to the marzipan starved.

Now, that day has arrived!

Tells the company:

Many people have been looking forward to this day and now, we take great pride in announcing Elk Candy Company is now open and ready for your marzipan orders at www.elkcandy.com. We are proud to be able to share our world class marzipan with you.

We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and PayPal on our secure website.

We offer a variety of shipping methods through FedEx and UPS. To celebrate our online opening we are offering free ground shipping on orders of 1 pound or more now thru December 31, 2009.

Those of you who were familiar with the store will remember our complimentary gift wrapping, we will continue to offer free gift wrapping to our online customers. We ask that if you would like your purchase gift wrapped please state so in the special instructions portion during the checkout process,.

Keep up with our updates through our blog, email, Twitter, and Facebook.

Shop at: http://www.elkcandy.com

Keep up with us on our blog, Sweet Talk: http://blog.elkcandy.com

Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElkCandy

Checking for availability of this username ...Become a fan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elk-Candy-Company/156612677005

Just in time for Christmas, too! I'm placing my order....now!

A Good Sign: Joe Fuoco's Music Center

In Glendale, Queens.

Stating the Obvious

The New York Times weighed in big time on Mayor Bloomberg's myopic vision for economic development in New York yesterday. The revelations in the article should come as no surprise to anyone who has bridled at the longtime, wholesale, City Hall-backed, real-estate rape the five boroughs have suffered over the past eight years. But it's nice to see the Paper of Record state it in plain terms:

The administration’s economic development policies started with a simple concept: New York must grow to compete with other cities.

Development became the means toward that end. Create new opportunities for developers, the wisdom held, and good things will happen for New York as a whole. Companies will rush to glorious new towers in reinvented neighborhoods, diversifying the city’s economy in the process.

Many mayors have favored the real estate industry, whose campaign contributions are often generous. Mr. Bloomberg lobbied forcefully for developers even though he did not need their money.

“I think a mistake that mayors have made,” said Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, “is that they’ve really only been willing to push projects where they would be around to cut the ribbon to open the project, and what this mayor has done is to take the long-term view.”

The first obstacle to remaking the city was the lack of available parcels for large-scale development. Rezoning became the solution, Mr. Doctoroff said. He had headed the committee that sought to bring the Olympics to the city and had become familiar with largely undeveloped tracts outside the Manhattan core, like sites along the Brooklyn waterfront.

“That sort of became the genesis for the effort,” he said in a 2007 interview.

The effort became the most extensive rezoning in modern city history. Sections in all the boroughs were rezoned to boost their development potential. Fallow factory sites were recast as places for housing or office towers as the city confronted the idea that it was no longer a manufacturing center. At the same time, the city reduced allowable densities in many neighborhoods that were troubled by illegal or unpopular development.

More choice outtakes:

At times, urban planners have questioned whether the Bloomberg administration has gone overboard in offering incentives to developers. The Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan have been looked at successively as a potential Olympic venue, a football stadium and now an urban village. And the city, through a specially created authority, has issued $2.1 billion in debt to pay for the extension of the No. 7 subway line to the area.

The debt is supposed to be paid from taxes generated by the new development, but if no development occurs, the city could be on the hook for $100 million a year in payments....

Some housing advocates say the gain in moderately priced housing units has been offset by the loss of 200,000 apartments that switched back to market rates under state rent-regulation laws that they say Mr. Bloomberg did not push Albany to change.

“Everyone will admit that New York City can’t build its way out of its affordable housing crisis,” said Mario Mazzoni, lead organizer at the Metropolitan Council on Housing, a tenants’ rights organization. “If you are talking about building affordable housing, the way they conceive of it is as a massive subsidy to developers.”...

“It seems like in a lot of places, the attitude has been like a field of dreams: If you zone it, they will come,” said Robert Perris, district manager of Brooklyn Community Board 2, which includes the downtown area. “It’s been kind of a mixed bag here.”

Brownstoner, assessing the article, said "they don't say so explicitly, but it looks to us like the authors would not give it anything higher than, say, a C-."

The result of this great "vision"? People are leaving New York City and New York Stage in droves. From the New York Post:

New Yorkers are fleeing the state and city in alarming numbers -- and costing a fortune in lost tax dollars, a new study shows.

More than 1.5 million state residents left for other parts of the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy. It was the biggest out-of-state migration in the country.

The vast majority of the migrants, 1.1 million, were former residents of New York City -- meaning one out of seven city taxpayers moved out.

"The Empire State is being drained of an invaluable resource -- people," the report said.

28 October 2009

Gage & Arby's Will Be Ready in a Few Weeks

It's almost here. God help us.

The Arby's franchise that is taking over the space long occupied by the classic restaurant Gage & Tollner—one of only two interior restaurant landmarks in the City—will open in a few weeks.

Construction was underway today, with lots of activity inside. An Arby's sign has gone up where the vertical Gage & Tollner sign once hung. There is no big hat logo, just two little hats. (Tasteful!) I took a peek inside. I must say, the famous interior, gas lights and all, looked in fine shape.

If you wish to participate in this besmearing of an icon, there are job opportunities. I'm almost tempted to apply; the experience would be so surreal.

And, as usual, the Devil is in the details:

27 October 2009

Politician, Heal Thyself

Hear the one about the mayor who speeds around town in several SUVs to execute and support his various environmental, biking and pro-mass-transit initiatives? The mogul who thinks he's the one to save the city from an economic crisis partially created by the technology he sold to the Wall Streeters? The zealot who insists we all eat well even as he wolfs down junk food with piles of salt on it? The populist who goes out of his way to make sure the people don't have a say in the running of the city? The self-professed anti-politician who attains offices by whoring himself out to the political party that will most quickly expedite his re-election?

Everything Bloomberg does seems rooted in the most flagrant hypocrisy and do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do self-delusion. A new example of this can be seen in an article in the New York Times today (which paper recently endorsed the would-be third-termer. Remember when one of the purposes of journalism was to bring discomfort to the comfortable?). Bloomberg's people are bemoaning the low turnout in the recent primary and runoff elections, and are determined to get the vote out next week.

“At the end of the day, every election is about one thing: making sure your supporters get to the polls and vote,” Lenny Speiller, the campaign’s get-out-the-vote director, declares on the Bloomberg Web site.

Recalling the record-low turnouts in last month’s primary and runoff, Mr. Speiller exhorts Bloomberg volunteers to shift into overdrive. “Our efforts have been and will continue to be the most expansive and effective grass-roots operation this city has ever seen,” he said in a blog post dated Friday. “Tonight we will knock on our 1,500,000th door, make our 550,000th volunteer phone call and hand out literature at our 4,000th transit stop and high traffic location — and if you think that’s impressive, you haven’t seen anything yet!”

Admirable. Let's put aside, for the moment, the ridiculousness of a campaign that has spend more millions than any other in New York City history calling itself a "grass-roots operation," and focus on what the Bloomberg camp seems to be missing. That is, if there is widespread apathy among New Yorkers at present, the Mayor created it. When an election is hopeless and corrupt, voters react in two ways: some get angry and fight, joining the opposition; but most throw up their hands, give up and walk away in disgust.

Most New Yorkers presently feel as though they have no say in how their City is run; no power whatsoever. Bloomberg's end run around term limits hollowed out voter will. We're all empty hulls now. Why go to the polls when it was clear long ago that Bloomberg had decided he was going to be Mayor as long as he liked, no matter what we said, thought or did? We can't stop him. That he wants our vote seems absurb and unnecessary. He's already King; does he really need us to act like serfs? If he can thwart voter will by overturning term limits expressly to serve his career and ego needs, can't he stuff the ballot box and otherwise fudge the results as he sees fit?

You can either run an honest and fair race, or you can have voter interest, Mike. You can't have both. If you don't give a fuck about us, a lot of us aren't going to give a fuck about you.

(Thanks to Restless for the picture.)

Smith Says Goodbye to Professionals

I was walking down Smith Street in Cobble Hill when I noticed the old Professional Building had been emptied out and was for rent.

I find the so-called "Professional Buildings" of our country so square and quaint, products of another time. You'll find them in every town, typically squat, one or two-story structures hewed of quasi-ugly, quasi-Modernist Postwar design. Inside is usually a warren of doctors, dentists and other people meant to do you good.

The one on Smith was a grungy thing: dirty, with chipping paint and black roller shutters. But it was one of the last remnants of the old Smith Street, before it became Brooklyn's Restaurant Row. It provided solid dental care for the surrounding, (once) largely poor population. I went there once in the mid-90s when I didn't have any dental insurance and didn't know where to go. (Wait—have I ever had dental insurance?) The waiting room was certainly depressing, but they did a good job.

But, of course, what Smith Street really needs is another eatery, right? Not people with healthy teeth to chew that food.

That's One Political Pumpkin

26 October 2009

Final Visit to the Red Hook Ballfield Vendors of the Season

The Red Hook Ballfield Vendors will soon end their season hawking fine food (I believe next weekend is the last). I swung by last Saturday for what will probably be my final visit until next spring. Not having indulged in a ceviche all summer, I ordered a "mixto" from the Rojas Ecuadorian stand. The, for my finale, I tried something new: a Chicharon taco from the Perez stand. Chicharon is deep fried pork skin. Very crunchy. Impossible to eat as a taco, really. Best to treat is as a tostada.

Ahead of Schedule

The past few seasons, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens have dragged their feet to hang up whatever paltry Christmas decorations they do put out. Not this year. Not only are their strings of lights already hung across Court Street, which Halloween not even here yet, but they run all the way from Atlantic Avenue down to Hamilton. Nice work.

My guess is their flick the switch turning them on on Nov. 1.

Due North

On the north-bound platform of the 4, 5 line at Grand Central last night at 7 PM. Guess where these guys are headed.

For Your Bilious Needs

Given the way people are behaving these days, I'd say a lot of people shop here.

Because You Asked

Here are some more of the tall arched front doors that can be found on a choice number of Carroll Gardens' and Cobble Hill's brownstones.

And here's what can happen when they aren't appreciated by their owners:

23 October 2009

Scotto's Illustrates Circle of Life

Lost City Asks "Who Goes to The Red Rose?"

For my latest "Who Goes There?" Eater column, I stayed local, going to the good old Red Rose.

Who Goes There? The Red Rose

You can walk the length of the gentrified restaurant row that is Smith Street, Brooklyn, and about the only reminder you'll find of how the neighborhood used to eat is The Red Rose. It's one of Carroll Gardens' few surviving red sauce joints, and the crowd inside doesn't in any way resemble the one you'll see in Po down the block. Nearly everyone who walks through the door seems to be on friendly terms with the Romano family, who run the place and own the building its in. Dad Tony founded the restaurant and can be seen shuffling among the white-clothed tables or sitting near the door, and son Santo is your gruff but affable host.

The front half of the narrow space, in particular, is treated by regular patrons like a communal living room. A mildly cacophonous mix of TV noise, piped-in music and Italian and Brooklynese chatter fills the air. Men with ponderous guts perch at the bar and watch the tube, keeping up a running conversation with Santo and showing no sign of leaving anytime soon. Friends—in running suits; in t-shirts; in suit and tie—mill about casually, standing, then sitting, then getting up again, ordering drinks ("Here's to bow-legged women") and plates, asking who exactly among the staff mixed their cocktail. It's insular and friendly. The quieter back is more the province of civilians, with a surprisingly wide range of diners. A young couple here, a table of soccer coaches there, a dinner meeting of executives from the Citibank branch on Court Street. On weekday nights, the restaurant may seem like a ghost town early on, but it fills up steadily as the night goes on, and is sometimes packed on weekends.

The Red Rose is actually more Old School Carroll Gardens than it first appears. The restaurant is only 26 years old—a respectable age, of course—but the Romano roots reach further back. Before opening the eatery, Tony ran a longstanding deli pizzeria on nearby Cheever Place, buying it from his godfather (seriously) in the 1970s. It serviced the nearby Sacred Hearts school (now a condo), feeding the Roman Catholic kids slices and meatball heros when they spilled out for lunch. When the school decided to serve meals in-house, the pizzeria withered on the vine and closed.

The Romanos took the pizza oven with them when they moved east to Smith Street. They also took their recipe for rice balls, which remains one of the best things on the menu. Prices are pretty cheap, and there's almost no bottle of wine over $20. Nothing bowls you over, but, if you approach the menu with the right attitude, nothing disappoints, either. Mainly, the place makes you feel at ease. The very young waiter/busboys (everybody seems to do everything here) may be among the most breezily friendly I've encountered, answering "No problem" to every request. Very likely, they don't have any problems. For customers don't go to the Red Rose to get uptight about their dinner. They go for a meal out that sorta feels like a meal at home.
—Brooks of Sheffield


Hurrah For Tall Doors!

Fairly often—though not nearly often enough—you'll find on the brownstones of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens these wonderful old sets of high, arching double doors. They're usually worked out in three sections: square panels at the bottom, long rectangular panels in the middle and quarter-circle windows at the top, like two curious eyes staring out onto the street. Sometimes the lower panels are windows as well. Almost all of them are high decorative, and, if they're kept in any sort of decent condition, they're all magnificent.

I love these doors. They soar up to the lintel and, when I look at them, my spirit momentarily soars too. They're grand and commanding and elevate the character of the street. It's a pleasure to walk through them.

Quite a few doors in the same neighborhoods are like the one below: still high and arched, but the upper semi-circle is merely a window and not part of the working door. While these are not nearly as breathtaking as the full doors, they are also handsome. I'm not sure if most of them used to be full doors and were altered at some point, or if they were always had their bisected structure.

Unfortunately, it's very rare that you can find two or three such doors in a row. That's because there are always plenty of genius homeowners who are ready to rip out the grand old doors and replace them with some Home Depot wonder—like the one below. Yeah, good one, bud! It's about as boxy and dwarfed as your imagination. And think of all you're saving on your winter heating bill! That made the change worth it, didn't it? I mean, didn't it?

22 October 2009

"Here's What I Think of Your Goddamned Historic District!"

How are we supposed to protect our City's historic districts when we can't even protect the signs that designate them?

Better Take That With Some Sugar

What exactly does Carroll Garden's Coffee Den want us to think about their coffee?

Little Records, Little Shop

Used to be, in most neighborhoods, you could find a record store where the selections reflected the tastes and language of the ethnic group that dominated in that area. Not so much anymore.

Such shops, however, are still fairly prevalent in Bensonhurst. I've noticed not one, but a few, all selling Italian-language music. This one, Little Records, is on 18th Avenue. The show is more than 30 years old. Seems to have been a big enough deal in the past for the owners to go out of their way and created a logo featuring a strolling minstrel.

Here you can also buy "DVD & VHS films, gift sets, art, religious items, souvenir items, sport items, hats, jackets, shirts, balls, flags, coffee espresso makers, car accessories, playing cards,...Italian home bath and body products such purfumes, colognes, creams from Nivea, Felce Azzurra, Proraso, Malizia, Borotalco, Cleo, and many others."

Indian Corn

Because, it's not all just pumpkins.

21 October 2009

Lost City Goes Euro

Nearly a year ago, I met a very nice Swiss couple in Cafe Pedlar on Court Street in Cobble Hill. She, Albertine Bourget, was a free-lance journalist from Switzerland, and he was her photographer. They had someone found Lost City on the Internet and decided I would make a good story. They were perhaps disappointed that I couldn't take pictures of me, or refer to my real name, but they abided. I found them to be very thoughtful and probing, and understood quite completely the woes of an ever-gentrified, richified New York.

I forgot about the article until recently. I assumed it had been published and they had neglected to inform me, or that the piece had been killed. Then, today, I got a not from Albertine, saying the article had appeared today in Le Temps, one of Switzerland's leading dailies. It's a French-language paper and published in Geneva and is only 11 years old. I see she also found time to meet and interview Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York.

It's funny to think of what the Swiss, sitting over their no-doubt-wonderful morning coffee and Müesli, must think of my quixotic enterprise over here. The things I want to save must seem as young pups next to their ancient monuments and businesses. Anyway, here's the piece. My college French is a bit rusty, so I'm just hoping Albertine said largely nice things about me. (The title, I believe, translates to "Neighborhoods of the Big Apple on Canvas" and somewhere in there I think I'm called a Knight.) And, if she wrote anything negative, well, she wrote it in French, which is kinda cool.

Quartiers de Pomme sur la Toile

By Albertine Bourget

C’est un chevalier qui milite pour l’ancien temps. Mais qui fixe ses rendez-vous par e-mail. Ses textes sont rédigés sous le titre de Lost City, la cité perdue. Mais ils sont publiés en ligne, sous forme de blog*. Rendez-vous a été pris avec lui dans son quartier de Brooklyn. Il se fait appeler Robert.

Utiliser la technologie et les moyens de communication actuels pour critiquer la modernisation. Comme passablement d’autres, Robert a donc choisi la Toile pour raconter, de manière obsessionnelle et fascinante, les changements, les disparitions et les bouleversements – mais aussi les lueurs d’espoir – urbanistiques qui affectent sa ville de New York. Les cafés de quartier qui ferment pour de bon. Les «delicatessen» qui rouvrent par miracle. Les démolitions. Les boutiques standardisées qui remplacent des lieux de vie du coin. Des merveilles architecturales, des trésors mal connus et dénichés au coin d’une rue. Sur la Toile, Robert et ses pareils se sont mués en géographes de proximité, en cartographes du monde connu.

Amoureux transis de la Grande Pomme, Robert et ses collègues blogueurs ne reconnaissent plus leur belle, en train de se dérober et de perdre son âme sous leurs yeux, disent-ils. Pourtant, New York n’est-elle pas le centre du changement? Oui mais cette fois, c’est différent, clament les blogueurs. La ville, flétrie, pourrait ne pas s’en relever. «Bien sûr que le changement est la nature même de New York. Mais ces dix dernières années, elle s’est transformée beaucoup plus vite que d’habitude. Aujourd’hui, tout ce qui compte, c’est l’immobilier et l’argent. Les New-Yorkais se divisent entre ceux qui pensent comme moi, et ceux qui veulent un nouveau Starbucks au coin de la rue», résume Robert.

....Read more.

20 October 2009

Cobble Hill Cinema Mystery

Where did Cobble Hill Cinemas get the chairs in their upper-floor movie houses?

I was getting out of my chair after a recent screening of "A Serious Man" when I noticed that the back of every red seat was embroidered in gold with the name "Pavilion." I asked the manager, who seemed to know a lot about a lot of things, and wasn't shy about sharing his opinion ("Pizza? Well, you can go down the block to Sal's for BAD pizza, or go a little further, to World Pizza, which is OK."), but he didn't know anything about the seats.

Could they have come from the palatial Pavilion Theatre on Prospect Park West, which still exists and is open for business? Maybe they sold off some seats and ordered new ones recently. Or, perhaps more likely, did they come from the Flatbush Pavilion, which closed down in 2004?

I love this little theatre, though they charge too much for their 3-D films. It's so hokey and small-time and friendly. The wall painting of movie greats of homely, but terribly endearing. And the crowds are much more well-behaved than they are at swankier movie houses. I wished it was still called the Lido, like in the old days.

More Pumpkin Pictures

What's a blog in October without pumpkin pictures? Nothing!