21 December 2010

Bring Out Your Dead! 2010 Roundup of Lost New York Landmarks

As in every year of the Bloomberg administration, 2010 was a bad one for preservation-minded New Yorkers. There were a couple major restaurant losses in Gino and Fedora, cultural signposts of their time and neighborhoods that can never be brought back now that they're gone. Otherwise, the two biggest victims of this final year of the first decade of this depressing century were Coney Island and New York's dive bars. The seaside playland continues to be the most maliciously punished neighborhood in the City, wrung of all history and character and dignity by the twin evils of City Hall and Joe Sitt. Meanwhile, crusty old taverns who patronize the kind of people who used to live in New York by the drove, but are now being forced out by escalating rents, are dropping left and right. Mars Bar, Ruby's Bar & Grill, Max Fish, Rum House, you name it.

Gone, Baby, Gone

Gino, the 65-year-old, Upper East Side red sauce club with the crazy zebra wallpaper and devoted clientele, threatened to close and threatened to close for years, and this year finally did. A heartbreaking loss.
Fedora, unlike Gino, chose to retire after after decades of service to her eponymously named subterranean Village restaurant. Gabe Stuhlman, a local hotshot restauranteur, bought the lease and promised to keep the name and some of the interior. But it won't ever be the same. In fact, he didn't preserve the old neon sign, he replicated it.
Carmine's at the Seaport, a bedrock South Street Seaport business, closes after 107 years.
Empire Diner, yet another of the City's few remaining stand-alone diners goes belly-up.
Cono & Sons O'Pescatore Restaurant, a remnant of pre-hipster Williamsburg and political gathering place.

Cavalier Restaurant, Jackson Heights benchmark of civility closes after 60 years, victim of a rent rise.
Von Westernhagen Restaurant, a Glendale institution and one of the last bastions of the faded German community out there. The family sold out.
Frankie & Johnnie's original entrance, the old cozy upstairs bar and atmospheric rickety staircase that led up to it were replaced by a cheesy new, ground floor, way station bar. Cheap looking. A mistake.
Guss' Pickles, forced to leave the Lower East Side after nearly a century, due to an unctuous legal battle.
Hickey's, a Midtown dive, dead after 40 years.
Stoned Crow, a cherished Greenwich Village dive bar forced out by a rent hike after 17 years.
Elaine Kaufman, hostess of the famous Upper East Side literary salon/restaurant named after her. Very likely the restaurant will soon follow her.
The old Grocery sign on Degraw Street, taken down by the short-sighting owners of Ultimate Burgers & Dogs, which went out of business anyway one month later. Karma.
Feltman's Kitchen, the building in Coney Island where the hot dog may have been born.
Relish, a classic diner in Williamsburg.
Shore Hotel, a 107-year-old survivor torn down by Coney Island's official douchebag in charge, Joe Sitt. Sitt also demolished many other old relics of Coney's golden age, like the turn-of-the-century Henderson's Music Hall, where Harpo Marx first performed with his brothers, and the 1923 Bank of Coney Island. Somebody get this guy a heart attack already.

Endangered Landmarks

Mars Bar, the East Village's ur-dive was the most shocking of the many dive bar dives taken this year in New York. The owner says he will be part of the new high rise that will rise on the spot. Even so, it won't be the same nasty Mars ever again.
Max Fish, 20 years ago a pioneer on rangy Ludlow street, now a victim of LES gentrification. Rent hike. Same old same old. Owner says they will relocate.
Pink Pony, Max Fish's neighborhood, and another pioneer, but on the same lease, so goodbye. Like Max Fish, owner vows to relocate.

Ruby's Bar & Grill, kicked out after 75 years on the boardwalk of Atlantic City by some European landlord that also owns Luna Park, but keeps stubbornly opening for business. A legal fight seems likely.
Freddy's Bar, the great opponent of Atlantic Yards finally forced to give up the ghost. Supposedly to rise again in another location.
Cherry Lane Theatre, one of the oldest Off-Broadway houses in the City, and a space full of cultural history, is up for sale for $12 mil.

And These Landmarks Were Saved

Shore Theatre, one of the few happy outcomes this year in Coney Island, blessed by the miserly Landmarks Commission.
A Couple Nice Federal Style Buildings on the Bowery.
Ray's Candy Shop. Ever-endangered. Saved. For now.


Pink Tea Cup, the 55-year-old soul food restaurant reopened in a new location in Greenwich Village.
Skyline Books, the beloved used book store resurfaced in Tin Pan Alley.
Totonno's Pizzeria, the Coney Island institution finally reopened after a fire in 2009.

And Chumley's has still not reopened. 

Bloomberg, by the way, did not say one word about the passing of any of the above.


wh said...

I don't know if Relish really belongs on here, since the diner space is still there, and I don't think Relish itself is particularly special or pioneering - unlike say Empire Diner which was a pioneer and around for decades.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I take your point. Certainly, Empire was the more important loss.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Wow, what a sad list...

I have one correction - "Rudy's" should be "Ruby's" - that one almost gave me a[nother] heart attack.

Melanie said...

Happy Holidays to you. I agree with Goggla--sad list indeed!!

Lori said...

And in regards to Bloomberg not saying ANYTHING about the losses: Eff you, Mike. And all your horrible, white-trash, nouveau riche mayoral-ness. We hate you. Period.

Marie said...

Dear Brooks, you know I don't mind you using it, but do please credit the pic.


Brooks of Sheffield said...

Marie: I'm sorry, which picture did I forget to credit? Let me know and I'll amend it.

enodo said...

I bit unfair to Fedora's new owners, don't you think? (1) the old sign was rusted out (and therefore probably couldn't be fixed) (2) they took care to make the new sign is practically indistinguishable from the old and (3) they saved the old sign and plan to do something with it.

Marie said...

I sound like such a grump. The Shore.


Kevin Walsh said...

Don't forget the Scobee diner in Little Neck, not a classic building, but emblematic of changing demographics and also the desire of landlords to wring every last penny out of a property.


Lisanne said...

Freddy's IS rising again on 5th Avenue near 17th Street in the old (well sort of, they only lasted about 2 years) Ellis...I am collaging the bathroom doors with images from Donald O'Finn's video collection...it's all looking swell, a mix of the old stuff salvaged from the original Fred's mixed with some new(old)..should open in about 3 weeks.

Anonymous said...


IT MAKES ME SICK!!!!!!!!!!!

New York Travel said...

What a great blog! I was in Harlem a couple of days back and it was so sad to see so many historic buildings essentially demolished (or "renovated" beyond recognition) to make room for personalityless chain stores & restaurants. "The Big Apple" is now a popeyes etc. great to see someone keeping a tab on what we're losing.