Monday, September 30, 2013

Bakery Closed

La Dolce bakery, which opened at Fifth Avenue & 10th in mid-2012, has been shuttered for several weeks, with the ominous "closed for renovation" sign, and word of a bad DOH report, but I was told today that it's gone for good.  Though a recent arrival, it was an old-fashioned kind of store for current Fifth, with its gaudy party cakes, and inexpensive Italian-style pastries. It's trickier than it seems suiting the needs and tastes of customers, especially when rents are so damn high. Raw bars & boutique wine stores could theoretically make it, given their success elsewhere, but the right location is paramount, & the turnover rate is still high for niche-fare. Tastes are fickle, and pitch is all. A member of this household consumed many La Dolce baba-au-rhum desserts during its short stay. The staff were very sweet too.


I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly,
musical, self-sufficient,
I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb,
Rich, hemm'd thick all around with sailships and steamships, an
island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender, strong,
light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies,
Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining
islands, the heights, the villas,
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters, the
ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model'd,
The down-town streets, the jobbers' houses of business, the houses
of business of the ship-merchants and money-brokers, the
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week,
The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses, the
brown-faced sailors,
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds aloft,
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the river,
passing along up or down with the flood-tide or ebb-tide,
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form'd,
beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng'd, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the shops and shows,
A million people--manners free and superb--open voices--hospitality--
the most courageous and friendly young men,
City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts!
City nested in bays! my city!                                                                                    

from Leaves of Grass (1860) - Whitman

Sunday, September 29, 2013


One of my favorite buildings in the South Slope, the old furniture and appliance warehouse/store at Fifth & 19th, has a gaunt, desolate beauty and a fine collection of faded signs.  I've often fantasized about living up on the top floor. 


There are For Sale signs on the building, and looking on ACRIS, I saw that the property (657 to 665) had sold earlier this month for $8,500,000.  It would be a real shame if the building were demolished, but if it's a straight condo conversion I wonder if any of the signs might linger on? Unlikely I suppose.  Even left alone in the last several years they've faded significantly. B & A. Furniture. Bed Rooms, Living Rooms, Dining Rooms.  A Friendly Frost for a Lower Cost!  RCA, Victor, Bendix, Frigidaire, General Electric. . Most recently -  NON-DISCOUNT (the middle STOP invisible) - an unlikely sales pitch.   Here's the store thirty years back, in straight B&A mode.

And here's last summer.

Update - 10/18/: More on the sale of the property on Brownstoner, and it looks like a renovation & add-on are planned. Brownstoner commenters describe the corner building as an "eyesore".


Yesterday, writing about disappearing small businesses,  I referred to a store I loved, Guerrero Food Center, the Mexican grocery store at Fifth & 23rd.  The reference was to a place I assumed was open, but today I found out that it had closed.   Sad, sad news.  Yes, Guerrero had a run-in with the DOH, but I ate there plenty of times (taco el pastor a thing of heaven), and it seemed fine.  These issues will set you back though, and even though it got a good lunch crowd, and a steady, if modest stream of customers at night, changing demographics and rising rents will kill a business. A back-of-the-grocery two-table joint can't operate paying $6,000 per month, and though there are Mexican & other Spanish restaurants scattered about here (like Girasol, El Continental), their tenure is never secure.  Or you'll get ersatz Mexican, like the revamped Tacos Nuevo Mexico, with cocktails galore, and an all-in-English menu.  That's just how it will be.  Sunset Park is a safe haven for a good while, but change is a-coming there too, the more "discovered" it gets, and the more its waterfront develops.  Enjoy it while you can. 

June 2011

Last night

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Sandy's Internet Café (16th off Fifth) kept its name long after the computers disappeared, but who cared? What better than to stroll down Fifth, grab a tamale or two, or a coffee, or juice, and chat to Elia for a bit. Business seems to be on the quiet side, when really it deserves to be buzzing. You won't find a sweeter, friendlier woman around, the tamales (a handed-down recipe) are delicious, and I've never seen a single customer there lost in their phone or laptop world. No damned internet intruding at this internet café. A few weeks ago a new sign went up and it's now a straight Sandy's Café. It's as good as ever inside. I like the peaceful atmosphere, but I wish there were more customers enjoying it too. This is the kind of small family business that just about keeps me here, and I hate to see places like this driven farther south (or gone altogether) as development consumes the neighborhood, bit by bit. Sandy's is safe from landlord extortion or building sale (they own the place) but many other businesses are more vulnerable. The tailors, the beauty shops, the Mexican bakeries or grocery stores.  

And many of the newer eating places around here?  Harder on the wallet, one-note in clientele.  Give me a place affordable to all, give me a place where anyone who's lived around here a while could feel comfortable.  A place that reflects the things and people I love here . I'd rather eat pupusas than celebrity chef Asian fusion, pernil than of-the-moment barbecue, back of the store tacos at Guerrero's than raw-bar oyster platters.  I'd take a slice at Luigi's, with spaghetti-western or cop-show on the TV, over an artisanal plate on the new Gowanus Third.  Anytime.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thursday Evening

Jackie's 5th Amendment, originally set to close a couple of weeks ago, will be around until mid-October.   Still time to get over there for a few more buckets.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bremer Buildings

A stately beauty, guarding the corner of 82nd & Third, abides a 7-Eleven.

The MTA Writes Back

A month ago I wrote a civil email to the MTA to try and find out how the Fourth Avenue station work was coming along.  Last week I got a reply!


Renovation of Fourth Avenue station in Brooklyn
Question Reference # xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date Created: 08/25/2013 11:02 AM
  • Date Last Updated: 09/17/2013 03:56 PM
  • Status: Closed

A terse response, certainly. Yesterday I spoke to a couple of friendly MTA guys fixing up one of the station stores, and they told me work was "way behind schedule".  No surprises there.  I should have also asked them about the VFW post at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue, which has been buried under station scaffolding for years, and is always shuttered when I pass it by.  Does it/will it remain?   I still want to rent the party room..

VFW in 2009

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

4 Ways of Looking at a Wooden House: 16th Street

An eclectic range of frame makeovers here, from stucco & brickface to the current, modestly fashionable corrugated look.  Right now the one on the far right is for sale at the amazingly-not-even-shocking-anymore price of $1,550,000 dollars, and although it's listed as brick, I'll bet it's wooden underneath.  I can't figure out its façade from this shot - I need to go back & look close-up.    Too flat for asphalt shingle, it looks like a kind of cinder-block veneer.  A small mystery.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Calder Place

Oxidizing at the Prospect Expressway: a 1965 "Quieter than a Rolls Royce!" Ford Galaxie.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rentals & Sales

Another small store in a diminutive row, Pacheco Dry Cleaning & Tailor (15th/16th), is gone, and the store is up for rent at $3,900 per month, with an option to lease the backyard.  "Food establishment acceptable."

After lingering on the market for years, the empty lot at 294 12th Street, with a ground-floor egress easement in place, has sold for $900,000.


This Fifth Avenue store's been around for years, and remains a pleasing antithesis to all that is precious or affected in the B-word brand. #1 Brooklyn Furniture & Appliance! Begone, fatuous associations!

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Man of mystery Carl Douglas, who graces this blog with a comment now and again, sent me a photograph from overseas.  Fenékig!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Around Esposito's (38th & Ninth)

I was up around Lincoln Center, crossed over to Amsterdam, & headed down, into Tenth & the 30s.  It was another fall day of perfect clarity.  You could walk all day in this weather.  I cut back east on 38th, past the firehouse, and there was Esposito's Pork Shop - the building a kind of burnished purple shot with red. The sight of it does your heart good.

I lingered at the corner for a good while, backtracked along 38th towards Tenth, then back to Ninth, pausing at the doorways under the scaffolding. Sometimes it feels like the city's just one big construction site, but there are still treasures here, large or small.  The sun catching the layers of color on the face on a five storey walkup, the rear view of another  - its paint peeling in shards of grey - and a third, defiant amidst giants. Gleams of light on hardscrabble entrances, a four-nine-seven blacked over on a door-frame, the number echoed on the transom above.       

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why Go to Work?

That brief moment in fall when, still groggy from sleep, I climb the stairs at the station to meet the southbound platform in a pool of gold. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Not Quite Yet

Well, as I'd hoped, the date was not precise. Jackie's didn't actually close its doors for good last night. Depending on the terms of a lease, Jackie's will be serving buckets of Buds for either a week or a month longer. So it wasn't quite an evening of final farewells. What I like about older bars like this is the age range: sure there were small knots of twenty-somethings with W.G.Grace beards & heavy-rimmed glasses, who spent much of their time either wrapt in phoneworld or running to re-charge the devices, but they were absorbed easily enough into the larger stream of older drinkers and the atmosphere was tolerant. Despite its reputation for loathing the New Brooklyn Regime (who doesn't sympathize there?), Jackie's is a friendly bar, It was not crowded last night, but busy, with no chance of sitting at the bar. A group of sturdy older women holding down the far end of the room. Sports on TVs that no-one seemed to be watching. A motley selection of mostly older songs playing - Heart of Glass, Runaway, & even a sweet & maudlin Auld Lang Syne. The young woman tending bar was kept on her toes, but it wasn't so packed that she couldn't step out for regular smoke-breaks. Still, I'm never one for even vaguely crowded Saturday night bars. I like mid-week evenings or afternoons, up at a stool & quiet enough for random conversation. There's still a little time left for that here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday Afternoon: Brownsville

Too end-of-the-week slow to get my camera from my bag, as a father & child cruise across busy Eastern Parkway in a Barbie pink kiddie car.  They're right in front of me, looking as cool as can be, cool as any couple in a regular convertible, owning the highway & soaking up the sun as the weekend begins.  Before I get a picture they're almost out of sight.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

City Slicker?

In 2012, I was sorry to learn that the midtown Hagstrom store - the last one left in the city - had quietly closed two years earlier. Hagstrom was taken over by the Kappa Map Group and now you can only order your 5 Borough street maps (large and small) online. Sad, sad. This week I was tidying a drawer of old brochures, museum guides & maps & found a not-that-old Hagstrom City Slicker Greenwich Village Guide, a small laminated downtown map I picked up off the street a few years back. I think it's from 96? I don't think I've ever used it, though actually it's quite a handy size. On back of the map there's a tourist-guide index of restaurants, nightlife, galleries etc. and a list of bookstores is included. It's hardly comprehensive, but there are some classics in there. Let's see which ones are left.

B. Dalton 396 Sixth (W. 8th) - later Barnes & Noble, which closed in late 2012

Barnes & Noble 4 Astor Place – closed 2007

Biography Book Shop 400 Bleecker St. – relocated to 266 Bleecker as bookbook in 2010

Dover Publications 180 Varick St. (King St.) (bookstore already gone by 1983 I think)

East West Books 78 Fifth Avenue (14th St.) closed 2010

Forbidden Planet (E. 13th St.) moved to 832 Broadway in 2012 -

Hudson News 753 Broadway (E. 8th) - closed

Mercer Street Books 206 Mercer St. (Bleecker)

N.Y.U. Book Center 18 Washington Place (Greene St.) – relocated to 726 Broadway

Oscar Wilde Bookshop 15 Christopher St. (Gay St.) – closed 2009

Pageant Books 114 W. Houston (Sullivan St.) – closed in 1999, to become an online store

Pathfinder Bookstore 214 Avenue A (E. 13th) - closed

Printed Matter 77 Wooster St. (Spring St.) – moved to 195 Tenth Avenue in 2005

Rizzoli 454 W. Broadway (Prince St.) - closed

Saint Marks Books 31 Third Ave. (E. 9th)

Shakespeare & Company 716 Broadway (Washington Pl.)

Spring St. Books 169 Spring St. – closed (1999?)

Strand 828 Broadway (E 12th St.)

Village Comics 214 Sullivan St. (Bleecker) – closed

(I wasn't sure about exact closure dates for several of these)

Happily, new independent stores continue to open, but not enough to match the ones falling away. A consequence of changing reading habits, obviously, but the bookstores aren't helped, like many other small businesses,  by the pressures of crippling rents.  Along with bookstore decline, add library endangerment: our city fathers' rush to sell off library real estate, cut the numbers of books on library shelves, & even make that noble stock figure, the school librarian, a redundant one. Slicker indeed. Let's hope our next mayor cares more for our city's readers than Mr. B.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013

At the Corner

Yesterday, quite by chance, I ended up taking the Roosevelt tram.  The weather was September-perfect for views, and the riders were in good spirits.  A trio of silver-haired guys with racquets discussed their tennis games and joked around.  "We're just a group of old perverts, ha! ha!"
Getting off again eastside, I lingered for a while at one of the less dramatic views, looking down at the Tramway Diner, which closed a couple of years back, and was a great place to see river traffic overhead.  The other way round, even with the diner closed, along with several stores along that block, there are pleasures to be had in watching a corner's ebb and flow.

On the closing of Tramway, in 2011, read here (Vanishing New York)