Thursday, October 31, 2013

Looking Sharp on Steinway

The first Prato Men's Wear store was founded by Frank Ashwamy, and opened in the garment district in the mid 70s.  It expanded into a chain of outlet stores in New York and New Jersey, aimed at customers of modest means. 

"The goal of Prato Outlets became to provide it’s customer with the perfect suit without sacrificing its dedication to low affordable prices. Frank’s attempt to cater to his most cherished customer, the working man, led him across the globe. The key was to purchase directly from the world finest mills and factories without sacrificing quality; then to pass on those savings to the customer... Many of our visitors are out-of-state customers. Knowing that "New York's a BARGAIN if you know where to shop," customers began spreading the word about Prato's everyday low prices."

The Queens Prato, on Steinway, has a nothing-special awning, with an image of a rather generic Dapper Man ("Since 1975") up front, but much more pleasing is the picture up above the awning, a larger, reverse version of Dapper Man, painted on a second floor window, illuminated by stockroom light.   Now that's a style I like!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I'd heard about the rapid pace of construction, but still, I couldn't believe the change since I last walked this way. Where the Coignet building had long stood alone, in a dream landscape, crumbling away a little more with each passing year, it was now wrapped around by Third & 3rd Whole Foods.  Still crumbling, the long neglected beauty is available for lease or sale.

"360 3rd Avenue is the most unique retail opportunity in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. The landmarked Coignet Stone Company building was built in 1873 and measures approximately 3,000 square feet over two floors. Directly adjacent to the Whole Foods Market, the subject property is ideally positioned on the corner of 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue and will benefit from the increasing number of destination shoppers visiting this Whole Foods location." (Massey Knakel)

The exterior will be fixed up by Whole Foods.  Interior a gut job.  It comes with a dock space on the canal.  Submit all offers.

Monday, October 28, 2013

King of the Baja

Back in June, I posted about King of the Baja, an upcoming "unfinished memoir" of the late Robert Guskind, the former Washington Post reporter & Gowanus Lounge blogger. The book has now been released by the Underground Voices press, & is available at Amazon.

Cover art: Vince Bank (from a photo by A. Kavousian)

Third & 6th

Real Estate Monday Bargains

Another look at the lower end of Times listings in the South Slope/Greenwood/Gowanus area.  Can you find a house for under a million dollars?  Yes, yes, yes!  There are six houses available, ranging in price from $999,000 (Prospect Avenue), to $699,000 (31st St. - "Create a SunSet Dream!").  Here's the Betancourt listing for a property on 19th St.:

"This two family clapboard cottage maintains the unique charm of the last century" (my italics). "The property is in need of restoration and modern updates, but remains habitable."

(middle house)

As the listing states, this two family is currently being used as a three family, is a "great buy" at $929,000, and is only a "short stroll" away from the cemetery.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New at 23rd

Sad news late last month, when the Guerrero Food Center closed down.  Better news today, when I passed by to see a Grand Opening sign at the same location (Fifth & 23rd).  Another Mexican grocery store has arrived:  Puebla de Los Angeles.  It looks like it'll be operating in half the Guerrero space, but it's great, at least, to see a similar kind of business taking over.  Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles is already in place, up on the wall at the back of the store, and the ladies setting up assured me that hot food is coming in two weeks. 


My F commute has expanded to include the journey home - a slow and dreary passage that seems that seems to take twice as long as the morning ride.  Too sleepy to read, I find myself resorting to that old strategy: getting off the train for a coffee, and a look at the world upstairs. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

San Remo (AStoria8-7979)

Weekend Special Tuxedos - $59.99.  Bride's Maids Gowns Altered.  32 - 64 Men & Woman from $79,80.  Boutique Items, Sport Jackets, Top Coats, Tuxedos, Slacks.  Catering Tuxedos.  Tailor Shop.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


The old S & P newsstand, glassified in late 2012, was christened Park Beer Store in July. The plastic banner declaring its sorry name seemed like a final touch of indignity.  Where once a lovely ramshackle old stand had been - one rooted in the history of Fifth - there was now but a sorry, characterless beer box.  You can follow the links back from here to see its past incarnations.  Just in the last week or so it got a more permanent sign:

Park Beer Store is in small letters at the corner (unseen here).  I suppose this is better than a sagging banner, but the general effect is still sad. 
The "beer store"sign is increasing in popularity.  Where once newspapers or groceries might be advertised, now there's a bald, boozy call to passers by.  Today at the corner of Fourth and 11th, new signage was going up:

4th Ave Beer House.  I like a good liquor store sign as much as anyone, but these are kind of desperate.  This is still actually a grocery store ("organic food" - ha ha ) with a new beery name. 
I can't quite figure out how the signs, and the "relaxation" spas sprouting on almost every block, fit an ever-wealthier demographic, but I'm no expert in these matters.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


No Banksy sightings for me, I'm sorry to say.  I'll have to settle for some other work, seen from the 7.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Real Estate Monday: Listing of the Week!

Oh, this may be the first & last Listing of the Week. We shall see. I was wasting a Sunday hour idling through the Times Real Estate offerings, & this came up as the cheapest house for sale in Greenwood Heights (though really it's Sunset Park).  Let's take it away, loud, loud ReMAX of The Slope:

952 Third Avenue is next to Industry City, and Sunset Park is getting pricier by the minute, so a property at $679,000 has to be considered a steal in 2013.  And there's also Costco nearby!  What other liveliness is promised here?  Well, the top floor windows would give you prime views of the Gowanus, which could be a selling point for those of you who are motor-inclined.  And down below?  You already have a business onsite (Sunset Videos (All Kinds of Video, DVD & Novelties, Open 24 Hours), and you'll find yourself part of a under-expressway niche market, with another video store two doors down, and a strip club two doors along from that.  Liveliness indeed. There's a cafĂ© right next door, and a deli across 37th, with the best kind of name, a name I won't forget in a hurry: The Hot and Cold Hero Champ. A fine name.  The real draw for me though, is the billboard. How many times have I dreamed of the fun one could have with access to highway signage?

Even with such special assets, even at a relative bargain of a price, it was strange finding this one up on the Times site.  But I'm sure, as the ad shouts out, that there's investment potential.  These days, even the louchest fringe of a neighborhood will find itself becoming hot in a whole new way.

Thursday, October 17, 2013



I hadn't been by since Monday, when I dropped by for an afternoon drink. The place was almost empty, with just a couple of guys sitting alone at the bar. Apparently there'd been endless phone calls, all about the real closing date, and it was too much. As were the cheap sarcastic online snarks about the place. And what about the mothers who had come by recently, wanting to bring their strollers inside and sip sodas?  There was talk of old and new drinkers on the avenue, of older drunks quieter in their stupors, calling it a day early, and the newer ones out on the streets in the early hours, in loud and screaming clusters. 
I wasn't an old or a new drinker.  I wasn't a regular, but had reached the age where Jackie's, like Timboo's, was a far more comforting perch than most of the newer places here, where I might be a parent to the customers.   The talk was always better, the ladies at the bar  - young or old-  friendly and no-nonsense, and you felt the warmth of community.  These were the places that put me in mind of the English pubs I grew up with. Toughness & tenderness and no bullshit.  I'm sorry another one's gone.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Zipper Documentary Playing at the Nitehawk

Amy Nicholson

Amy Nicholson's documentary Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride, chronicles a sordid history of planned decline and redevelopment as real estate dealers and city government vie for control of waterfront property.  Along the way: the displacement of businesses that were the heart and soul of the Coney Island experience, and in their place, a blander, pricier, more anodyne boardwalk world.  In showing what was lost, Nicholson focuses on one ride in particular, the Zipper, its owner Eddie Miranda, and the rest of the Zipper crew.
The film played at the IFC this summer, and will be back in the city for a screening at Williamsburg's Nitehawk cinema on October 30th.  It's essential viewing. As the Bloomberg years draw to a close, I fear we've almost got used to the pillage of neighborhoods, & the casual conveniences of rezoning & eminent domain.  And the properties, institutions, lives tossed aside for another buck.  Historic Bowery buildings, a rowhouse neighbor, a host of libraries, a whole community of businesses at Willets Point?  Twelve years of this seem to have worn us down.  I'm not even that confident about what a new mayor can or will do to turn things around, but I hope my cynicism is mis-founded.  Zipper is a sad film, in showing us what has been lost, but also a beautiful one, and reminds us again what's worth fighting for. We can't take more of the same.

Time for Another?

The clock is ticking, but there could be just a little more time to raise a glass at Jackie's 5th Amendment.  Stock remains, and the deal is not quite done, so it's worth looking in to see if the doors are still open. 

Spotted: The Five-Borough

From the 7

To LIC & another cluster of services. A peripheral location.  At Queens Blvd. & Van Dam, in the shadow of the elevated train tracks: livery cars, adult toys, & a sleep lab.  Luxur cars & Passions (24/7, Buddy Booths, Live Girls One Dollar) clearly belonging to the same set, and even the sleep lab clients inhabiting their own dark & restless journeys through a city's nights.

Monday, October 14, 2013

On the Way to the Temple

A quiet Queens row of staples. The Bowne Lounge, Beijing Style Barbecue, Bowne Laundromat, Merci French Cleaners (or its ghostly remains: French Cleaners becomes King Fu school), Laati Liquor & Wine.  The church behind them is a nice touch. I  generally avoid those Yelp-style reviews, but this one's got a lot going for it:

"Characters is being nice, theres a real loud redhead who's voice could cut through glass.... She seems like a regular,, who kept playing love songs hoping this guy would pay attention to her,I only wished as i was sitting there this biker guy would pick her up, just to get her out of there..She then went out the back door to smoke well you know..... its not a nice local bar, its only for regulars, who make you feel unconfortable anyway.... much better places to be in flushing" (Insider Pages)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

EU's Shoe Repair

The Euro business?  Ubiquitous here in Astoria, but this one on Broadway is a step above the rest: a shoe repair shop 28 states strong!  Not the best of awnings, but you can't have everything.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Winnie's (Bayard)

The karaoke evenings? Not for me, but earlier in the day, a good place to nurse a drink or two.