30 November 2009

Nom Wah Tea Parlor Back Open

The historic Chinatown dim sum palace Nom Wah Tea Parlor, which was shut down earlier this month by the Department of Health, is back open as of Sunday, Nov. 29, according to a reader who ate there. Nom Wah has become a regular target of DOH in recent times, having been shut down for nearly two months last year. The place has been on Doyer Street since 1920, and is the first dim sum parlor in Chinatown.

Shrunken Heads

Halloween was a long time ago.

Christmas Holds Court

Christmas tree salesman made their first appearance on Court Street in Brooklyn today.

A Challenge

Carroll Garden's Coffee Den's sandwich-board messages have become more saucy of late.

29 November 2009

Merry Firehouse

Engine 224 on Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights, looking festive.

Pull Cord Buses Debut on B61 Line

I read about New York City Transit installing old-style bell cords in new buses some five months ago, but I didn't see one until this past weekend, on a routine trip on my local B61 line. It was strung there along the sides of the bus like a long strand of yellow, holiday garland.

I liked it. It was possible to call for a stop anywhere you stood or sat. You didn't have to go searching and reaching for those buttons and magnetic strips. And my son thought it was infinitely more fun. My friend, though, thought they were stupid, and an invitation for vandalism. I don't know. Though cords looks pretty damn tough.

Apparently, there are more than 500 of these buses all over the City by now. Maybe the B61 only gets one.

Cheese Hamburger

When's the last time you saw a cheeseburger—perhaps America's favorite food—referred to as a "Cheese Hamburger."

At Sal's Pizzeria in Carroll Gardens.

Holiday Boats Parade

I arrive at Fulton Ferry on my bike last night at 7 PM, just in time to see the Holiday Boat Parade. There were few New Yorkers there. Mainly Frenchmen, who wouldn't stop taking pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge, and hardly noticed the boats.

I was a bit disappointed to see there were only four lighted boats. Thought there would be more. I took these not-great shots; best I could do. The above vessel was the lead boat.

This one almost forgot to turn around upon reaching the bridge. It actually went well under the bridge before making the turn. The lights on it switched from red to green to blue to gold.

You probably can't see, but this is a shot of two boats passing in close range of each other.

28 November 2009

A Good Sign: Weinstein and Holtzman Hardware

On Park Row, opposite City Hall.

27 November 2009

Recipes of the Lost City: Toast Colony

That's right, swank Cafe Society joint, The Colony, was such a big deal once that it has it's own recipe for toast.

Actually, this is a spin on Welsh Rarebit—a dish once massively popular in restaurants of all stripe, but now almost never made or mentioned. I, personally, am a big fan of this original, easy and very tasty entree.


Soften four ounces of butter; two ounces of grated Gruyere and two ounces of grated Parmesan cheese; two spoons of cream; salt; and a little cayenne. Mix well and place thickly on round pieces of toast.

I love that the toast has to be cut into a circle.

Just to show that not everything The Colony did was haute cuisine and super-complex in the French manner, check out this hilarious recipe for White Bean Salad:


Open a can of beans, wash well under cold running water, drain. Season with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.

Makes me wonder if there was a recipe for Boiling Water Colony.

Previous "Recipes of the Lost City"

Sparkly Boats to Cruise New York Harbor

New York Harbor will sparkle with Christmas lights this Saturday night.

As the Hudson River Quadricentennial Celebration year comes, the Lighted Boat Parade will be sailing down the Hudson, around the tip of Manhattan and up to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Each vessel well be decorated with twinkling lights and holiday d├ęcor. Each participating boat offers tickets for passengers, at a wide range of prices with varying added features on board.

The Parade Route (below) ibegins on the West Side of Manhattan at approximately West 23rd street at 6:30 pm. The route then guarantees a pass by the Financial District, Ellis Island & Statue of Liberty, South Street Sea Port and a pass under the Brooklyn Bridge!

26 November 2009

How They Get Those Lights Up There

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a few days ago.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

25 November 2009

Union Street Gets Newly Painted (If Too Short) Bike Lane

I got my wish.

When I saw earlier this month that the City was laying down a new coat of blacktop along Union Street, from Van Brunt on east, I prayed that this meant they would paint a new bike lane. The Union Street bike lane, one of the oldest in the area, had been in a deplorable state for years, faded and full of potholes. Hurrah! They started painted the lane yesterday. (I even met and chatted with the guy who did it.) Now it's done and it looks great.

One gripe, though. (That's right, guys. We bikers are never, ever satisfied.) The old lane, for reasons I never understood, terminated at Henry Street. The three blocks of Union between Henry and Van Brunt have no lane. I was hoping they'd rectify this. But they didn't. The lane still stops at Henry (see below), meaning the bikers west of the BQE (and there are plenty of them) have to fend for themselves until they reach Henry.

Why is this? The parallel Kane Street a Congress Street bike lanes go to Hicks at least. Plus, there's a bike lane along a length of Columbia to the west. Why not connect to it?

Lead Shack Disappears

The hazerdous-material-bridge-cleaning device on the Union Street bridge—better known as the Lead Shack—has vanished. I have to guess that the City has finished scraping the lead paint off the overpass. Only now the metal bridge railings are this weird, splotchy green color. Is that the color they're going to be permanently?

The Lead Shack on Sackett Street bridge is still there, by the way.

Some Stuff That's Interesting

Finally, a new entry on Dino's Now and Then: Downtown skyscrapers from the East Village Pier.

The Blarney Stone on Fulton Street has finally reopened. [EV Grieve]

Environmental Protection Agency to hold a meeting on Dec. 3 about the proposed listing of the Gowanus Canal on the National Priority List as a Superfund site. [PMFA]

Restless finds some angels in bondage on Beekman.

Scouting NY Finds the Moore-Jackson Cemetery in Queens.

A Good Sign: Cloder

Also a confusing sign. Does anyone know anything about what this store was/is?

On Ann Street in downtown Manhattan. Right across from the back entrance of a particularly derelict Blarney Stone.

Lighten Up, Lady

I think I know why this bridal center on Seneca Street in Ridgewood, Queens, went out of business. Take a look at the hand-painted image of the bride on the left hand side of the sign. "Yikes!" says the would-be groom. "That's what a bride looks like?! She doesn't look happy!" And is she's not happy, better look out, bub. Pretty broad shoulders on that gal.

24 November 2009

Penn Bar Remembered

The Penn Bar and Grill used to be at 31st and Eighth Avenue. It closed for good in 1998 after 51 years.

These fine images are from Aonghais MacInnes' Flickr site.

Dirtiest Block in Midtown?

Hey, what's with W. 48th Street between Sixth and Fifth? I don't mind a little grit in my New York streets; if fact, I welcome it. But this block of tiny eateries is really, really dirty, especially when you consider its proximity to super-clean, spic-and-span Rockefeller Center. Part of the block faces directly on the plaza where the Rocky Center tree stands. There's all kinds of mud and garbage in the gutters, as if a street sweeper hadn't been through here in weeks.

The stained and muddy state of most of the awnings made me wonder if any of the business owners had ever thought of investing in a hose. Or maybe the City cut off their water supply some time ago.

Down below that dirty Le Monde awning is this dry erase menu board which instructs us to "Taste the difference of high quality food service." Based on the facade, I'm not confident what I'd be tasting would have anything to do with "high quality food service."

There's a second-floor Chinese restarant halfway down the block which was dealt some high praise by the New York Times and New York magazine in the 1990s. But you can hardly read the reviews. There're behind a pane of glass that hasn't seen Windex since Obama took office.

The steps leading up to the restaurant look like they've recently suffered through a California mudslide.

And the sign itself has made many a pigeon happy over the years.

Pigeons also like the sign outside the Plaza Arcade.

The arcade itself is about as dreary and dusty as you can imagine. Most of the shops are shuttered.

Finally, it doesn't help matters that about half the block is covered with either scaffolding or police barricades.

Strangely enough, the OTB, while hardly promoting a wholesome atmosphere, has one of the cleanest frontages on the block.

Greed Makes Landlords Stupid

From the Daily News:

After inflating rent, Brooklyn landlords find storefront empty during sour economic times


After almost 25 years of running their Cobble Hill dry cleaners, Kyung Dong Oh and his wife Kyung Ja Oh closed the doors for good in March of last year.

The landlord wanted to hike the rent for Trusting Cleaners from $2,500 to $6,500 a month, and the Ohs couldn't afford it.

"It was hard," said Kyung Dong Oh, an immigrant from South Korea who opened the shop in 1984, and saw it become a beloved neighborhood fixture. "My store was not only a store, it was a meeting place."

Twenty months later, the space on the corner of Court and Baltic Sts. still sits empty. [The] Landlord... is still asking $6,500 for the space - and no one has bitten.

It's one of several cases around the borough where landlords saw gold during boom times and shed longtime tenants by raising rents, only to see their storefronts sit empty as the economy turned sour.

"We asked them to compromise," said Kyung Dong Oh, who gathered more than 1,000 signatures from customers to try to save the store, and offered to pay up to $5,000. "He said no, [that] many people are waiting on the line to get a $6,500 lease."

Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future, said many borough landlords gambled and lost, leaving vacant storefronts where thriving, if less lucrative, businesses once operated.

"For years, they were able to replace old time tenants that were paying lower rents with newer entrepreneurs, people that were opening boutiques or high-end restaurants or spas that were willing to pay two or three times as much in rent," he said.

On Flatbush Ave. in Park Slope, Royal Video moved out of the space it had occupied for 20 years when landlord Lena Fang jacked up the rent two years ago.

"It was just too much," said owner Michael Gidiuli. "It didn't make sense for us anymore."

Royal Video has settled into smaller digs a few blocks down Flatbush, but its old space still stands vacant.

A source said Fang, who could not be reached for comment, is demanding $10,000 for the space and won't let it go for less.

"It's a real shock to these landlords to have to accept something lower at this point, but they better get used to it," Bowles said.

Jay Javed got the boot from his Remsen St. shop, Photoreal, in 2007, when new owners Clinton Realty Holdings announced plans to turn the building into high-end condos.

That never happened - and Javed still walks by his boarded up storefront every day to get to a stall he now rents in the back of a graphics shop down the street.

"I begged them," said Javed, who said business is down by half since he lost his own storefront. "I was so heartbroken."

"Every day I see my store, feel my store, touch my store," he said. "It's just sitting there....They're all empty. Now it's nothing."

Even in the midst of the economic downturn, some landlords are still looking to trade up from low-paying tenants - but keeping their expectations in check.

[The landlord] opted not to renew the lease for Roberto's Shoe Repair, a long-time tenant on Myrtle Ave. in Fort Greene paying $1,200 a month. The store has been empty since September.

"We're not shooting for the moon. We're trying to get a reasonable market rent, and he couldn't afford that," said broker Michael Prince.

"It's always a challenge to get [a new tenant]. It was easier a couple of years ago than it is today," said Prince, who cut his asking price from $3,900 to $3,595 and predicted the space won't stay vacant for long.

Miguel Morocho, owner of the shoe repair shop, who found a cheaper spot further down Myrtle Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, wasn't so sure. "It's crazy," he said. "The rent is too much money. ... The store is empty. Nobody wants to take it."

NOTE: I have been informed by two landlords mentioned in this article that the Daily News has named the wrong man as the landlord of the Court Street building that held Trusting Cleaners and Roberto's Shoe Repair. In light of this, I have eliminated their names from the News article. C'mon, News! Papers are supposed to be more accuarate than blogs, right?

Local Owners, Who Like to Walk Around Grand Army Plaza

The opening of the new Union Market branch that is taking over the former Blockbuster Video space on Court Street should be just around the corner. Serious shelving has been moved inside the building and there are posters advertising the market in the window.

There's also a computer-generated screen, which flashes a different image and message every few seconds ("Fresh Vegetables," "Home Delivery," "Fresh Seafood"). My favorite image is one titled "Local Owners." It shows three guys, apparently the owners of Union Market, walking casually, yet purposefully, towards us, while seemingly engaged in serious conversation. They're perfectly lined up, like they're walking in a parade, or are posing for the poster for an action movie.

My question: if you're going to boast about being local New Yorkers, why would you set the picture in the middle of Grand Army Plaza, with the arch in the background? What native New Yorker every spends time on the traffic island in the middle of Grand Army Plaza?! That's No Man's Land! It's surrounded by swirling traffic all the time! Nobody spends time there. It's impossible to get to and, when you're finally there, it's impossible to get off.

23 November 2009

I Don't Want to Think About It

I'm a parent. And I just want to let the fine people at Kellogg's know that exactly what I don't want to see on the front of a cereal box I buy for my kid is "NOW HELPS SUPPORT YOUR CHILD'S IMMUNITY."

Though, in theory, it may be nice to think that the breakfast cereal I select may in some small way prevent my kid from getting Swine Flu, it nonetheless absolutely freaks me out to have that implied in big letters on the cover of the box.

And, after I've calmed down and been completely repelled by the Rice Krispies (it appears to me that Snap, Crackle and Pop themselves are doing the pandering), I begin to think about how crass and wrong it is for the Conglomerate, Incorporated, Monolithic Whatsit that controls Kellogg's to capitalize on my fear in order to sell more boxes of their crappy, crunchy, anti-nutritional, air puffs.

UPDATE: Turns out these boxes are relics. Kellogg said on Nov. 5 that it is pulling labels from its Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies cereals that make claims about boosting children's health. "The cereal giant began adding antioxidants to the Krispies cereals last year, as a response to "parents indicating their desire for more positive nutrition in kids' cereal," the company said in statement. Labels on the cereals' boxes read "Now Helps Support Your Child's Immunity." The nutrients have been shown in studies to boost immune-system health. Kellogg said boxes of cereal displaying the label will remain on store shelves and that it will take a few months for the change to take effect."

Christmas Comes to Court Street

Court Street has been ready with its Christmas decorations for weeks now. I thought, since they hadn't lit them all this time, they'd wait until the day after Thanksgiving. But not. They went on tonight.

Other Court Street shops have started to show their holiday spirit as well.

Guess Where This Is?

Well, the first-ever Lost City walking tour took place yesterday, and though my modest Midwestern blood does not permit me to boast, I think I can say it went well. The weather was fine, bright sun and just a touch of chill. I was blessed with a wonderful group of fellow walkers, inquisitive, intelligent and easygoing. They made it easy for this novice guide.

We tromped about from Henry to Degraw to Hicks, across the bridge to Union, Columbia and President and back. The whole walk took about two hours—a half hour longer than I expected. Looks like my wife was right, and I over-researched. Ah, well. The time flew. Which is not to say that by the end, I hadn't worked up a huge hunger, and was more than ready for a visit to the House of Pizza and Calzone. I was happy to see that two of my guests had taken me up on my suggestion to hit the place for lunch.

Just a note there are a few spaces left for the Sunday, Nov. 29, Thanksgiving tour, of the same area. If you're looking to walk off some of that turkey and stuffing, this is a good way to do it! Write me at lostcitybrooks@gmail.com.

And if you come, I'll tell you what intersection this picture, from 1945, depicts. You'd be surprised.

Long-Closed Astro-Turf Reopens. Sort of. Sometimes.

You could have knocked me over with a feather yesterday when I walked by the Smith Street kitsch antique pavilion Astro-Turf and it was....open!

This once-popular Carroll Gardens suddenly closed in early 2008 and it's been as still as the tomb ever since. The shop initially shut down to execute some brick-work repair, to judge by the DOB records, but that work was completed long ago. Since then, the merchandise has remained in place, quietly gathering dust.

Last fall, a local merchant who does business across the street told me the elderly lady who owns Astro-Turf simply chose to let the place cease functioning. Well, the lady changed her mind. She was in there, manning the store. She told me the shop was now going to be open "occasionally" on weekends. No set hours. You just take your chances. On Sunday, a lot of people were happy to look around for the first time in two years. The recession that has befallen the nation since Astro-Turf shut down has not, however, caused the prices to go down.

The Danish Do It Better

The Danish could teach the Swedes a few things.

The day after I went to the Holiday Fair at the Swedish Seaman's Church in Manhattan, and was appalled by the prices, I went to the Holiday Fair at the Danish Seaman's Church in Brooklyn. (You'd think these churches would space out their holiday events so as not to directly compete with one another. Then again, maybe Danes don't go to Swedish events, and vice versa.)

Well, the Danes had it all over the Swedes. The church was packed, as opposed to sparsely populated. The mood was convivial and friendly, not somber and insular. In back, there was a huge line for the food tent, where folks were happily drinking Carlsberg and eating "Danish Hot Dogs" (cucumbers and bacon bits are involved).

Moreover, there wasn't just one choice of eats at one astronomical prices (like the $20 meatball plate at the Swedish Church). There were many choices, all reasonably prices. Hot dogs were $3. Meatballs were $3. Glogg was $3. Beer was $3.50. Now that's how you say Merry Christmas.

And then there was the unique shopping. You could get as many jars of Danish Remoulade, or packages of Haribo candies and Stimorol gum as you needed.