Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Not Responsible

Back in 2011, La Nueva Rampa closed its doors on West 14th Street. It was one of the city's last Chino-Latino restaurants--and the last one in Chelsea, where they had once been abundant since the 1960s.

It then became El Paraiso, keeping up the Chino-Latino menu. Then El Paraiso shuttered in 2016.

And now?

It's a temporary "immersive installation" called Unspoken. (At least it was when I wrote this post--it closed last week.) Strands of shimmering strings hang from the ceiling.

According to Untapped Cities, the installation by activist artist Ann Lewis is presented by "social impact production company Killer Impact." Viewers are asked to reflect on 'different questions regarding mortality such as “Do we actually exist?' and 'Can death be an adventure?'”

The part I found the most compelling, however, was a revelation in the wall. (I was told it was original and not part of the installation.) I'd never seen it when dining at the restaurant/s, and it's possible I missed it, but I'm assuming it was behind something and now has been revealed -- a beautiful tile wall with hand-lettered signage saying NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HATS & COATS.

What decade was this from?

According to Lost Womyn's Space, this location was home to Kooky's Cocktail Lounge in the 1960s and 70s. The blog quotes the following description from Karla Jay's Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation:

"Kooky, the proprietor, had the air of a retired prostitute or poorly put-together drag queen. She favored pastel prom dresses--the kind that required several crinolines to inflate them properly, were zipped in the back, and called for a strapless bra and large bust to keep the dress up. Perhaps she fancied herself the Scarlett O'Hara of Greenwich Village. Her hair was shellacked into a large golden beehive that suggested that she had last set, teased, and sprayed her hair in the 1950s and then left it permanently in place."

Good stuff there, but that gold-lettered wall looks too early to be Kooky's. If anyone knows what was here before, please let us know.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Roland Antiques


Roland, auctioneers of antiques, has left the city. Family owned and founded in 1973, they've been in the neighborhood south of Union Square since 1974, and in the St. Denis building at 11th Street and Broadway for several years.

But the neighborhood is being rapidly changed.

In 2015, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) put out a call to redevelop a city-owned site on E. 14th Street. They were looking to “create an iconic commercial development” for tech startups and co-working spaces. Mayor de Blasio soon announced the winning “Tech Hub,” a glass tower that politicians and developers hope will boost more high-end development. It is attracting major real estate speculation, including Normandy Real Estate Partners’ 2016 purchase of the St. Denis building for $101 million.

Normandy stopped renewing leases, and hundreds of small business people--most of them psychotherapists and other providers of wellness--were forced to leave the building. I was one of them. (A longer story about the building is forthcoming.)

Roland is the latest loss.


For years, people in the building took pleasure in Roland's presence. Regularly, the auction house would receive a truck full of antiques from some estate and unload them onto the sidewalk to take photos for their catalog.

Roland occupied a large corner space with several windows along 11th and Broadway, plus two showrooms along the back hallway and more in the basement, but this was not enough to contain all the items.

The antiques would overflow into the lobby of the building, where they'd stay for awhile, providing an ever-changing--and often strange--decor.

Every month, Roland held an auction.

Before attending the auction, you'd go to the preview, wandering in and out of the showrooms, looking at the objects. Sometimes, a prospective buyer would try out a baby grand piano, filling the halls with music. 

On auction day, always a Saturday, the main room filled with New York characters. Brothers Bill and Robert Roland ran the show, with Bill as auctioneer. Bids came in over the phone and the Internet. A few items sold for as little as 10 bucks. Others went for big money. That large nude painting of Milda, Lithuanian goddess of love, sold for $55,000.

I was looking forward to their March auction. I only went a few times, but I loved the energy of that room, the people, the jokes, the excitement. No more.

Roland is moving out to Long Island--you'll find them at 150 School Street in Glen Cove.

When I visited as they were sadly packing up, an employee told me, "Unless you're Christie's or Sotheby's, you can't stay in the city anymore. The rents are too high."

Monday, February 19, 2018

Your Neighborhood Office


The emptying out of western Bleecker Street continues with the coming closure of Your Neighborhood Office store.

Last week, owner Helen Ann Lally sent an email to her customers to say:

"I am sorry to say that after 24 years, Your Neighborhood Office will be closing, effective Saturday, March 31, 2018. I have not come to this decision lightly, but I do know that it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life."

Unconfirmed, a couple of readers say it was the rent that did it. As we know, this end of Bleecker has been through hell in the past 5 - 10 years. First, almost all the independent small businesses were pushed out by high rents and un-renewed leases. They were all replaced by luxury shops, many of them global chains.

More recently, many of those luxury corporations decided to shutter their Bleecker locations. Storefronts have since sat empty, creating high-rent blight.

After the closure of Manatus and a few other small places on this block, Your Neighborhood Office was one of two shops that weren't luxury and/or a chain. Now there's just the Village Apothecary pharmacy, currently undergoing a renovation. And Manatus is still sitting empty--after four years.

Your Neighborhood Office is beloved by many--voted "Best Doorman Substitute" by New York and winner of a GVSHP Village Award. It will surely be missed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lanza's Murals

The great Lanza's restaurant shuttered in the summer of 2016. It had been in the East Village since 1904 and I miss it.

When we heard that Joe & Pat's pizzeria would be moving in, it seemed okay. I worried about Lanza's antique murals, but a peek inside showed they were being preserved under plastic during renovations.

A more recent peek shows the murals have been revealed--and they look good.

In the very back, the lady with one bared breast lives on.

Joe & Pat's has added two walls of vintage photos, presumably from their 57 years of family business on Staten Island.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NY Cake


NY Cake, the much-loved cake supply shop on 22nd Street near 6th Avenue is closing its doors.

"We're Moving," reads a sign in the window. They're not sure where they're going yet, but you can put your name on the mailing list to be notified.

A multi-generation family business, NY Cake was started by Joan Mansour in 1991-- it was previously known as the Chocolate Gallery in 1989.

The shop is a wonderland of cake supplies--shelves of sprinkles and sugars, racks of molds for making chocolate lollipops.

And lots of those plastic novelties for decorating cakes for every occasion.

They also have this amazing door, for reasons that remain a mystery:

I haven't been able to get through to NY Cake to find out why they're closing and hoping to relocate nearby. Back in 2011, they inked a 10-year lease extension, according to the Commercial Observer. “They’d been wonderful tenants,” said the landlord at the time. “The neighborhood is conducive to their business.”

The building has also been filling up with tech companies as the neighborhood changes.

Grub Street followed up on this story and reports:

“We have to be out by June; we’re looking for somewhere to go,” says co-owner and co-founder Lisa Mansour. “You can imagine the rent prices. I am looking diligently. Our old landlord passed away, and a niece and nephew took over a little before January. We never had problems before; we’ve been here 30 years.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

Artwashing the Sunshine's Demise

The Sunshine Cinema closed last month--bought by developers who plan to demolish the historic building and put up a glassy office tower that will surely help to further hyper-gentrify the neighborhood.

All photos by Herb Jue

On Thursday of this week, those developers, East End Capital & K Property Group, are hosting a party to celebrate--what exactly? Their triumph over history? The invitation says it's to "CELEBRATE THE LOWER EAST SIDE & PREVIEW OUR NEW OFFICE DEVELOPMENT."

I'm not sure how one can do both simultaneously.

Anyway, it's free and we're all invited.

The party will feature some artwashing--or poetry washing, I suppose you'd call it. Yes, poets are performing at a party thrown by luxury real estate developers to hype a project that is literally demolishing Lower East Side culture.

Some protesters might show up, but probably not.

This is the new Lower East Side.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hudson Diner Goodbye

As earlier reported, the Hudson Diner has closed.

A reader sends in these shots of one regular's heartfelt goodbye note, taped to the window below the roll-down gate:

We hear that Babu and much of the Hudson staff have moved on to the Moonstruck Eatery on E. 58th Street.

photo: Justin Hicks