Monthly Archives: January 2004

FreshDirect Conspiracy Update

Glad tidings! LS.com correspondent Marcia Lemmon, featured in Sunday’s Times article about the FreshDirect conspiracy to shut out the upper Lower East Side, has made contact with the dark side! She writes:

I spoke with Jason Ackerman, CEO of FreshDirect this afternoon—after he read the Times’ article.

He was apologetic and said we’d be able to order via the FreshDirect website
sometime about mid-March
. They are doing far better than they ever
projected; they turn-down something like 1,000 orders a WEEK! (We should be
so lucky!) He’s still trying to figure out how to serve Little Italy
around Mulberry Street because of the parking mess, restaurants, sidewalk
cafe’s, etc. He asked for my address and was trying to find me on a map. He was cordial and said to call him anytime with problems, comments,
etc.

We smell some PR hype in Mr. Ackerman’s response, but we’re willing to take him at face value. So put up or shut up, sir. We expect 10 pounds of lobster on our stoop just in time for the best St. Paddy’s Day ever.

Monday Linkage

· City Section article on the LES FreshDirect conspiracy (here’s our map) [NYTimes]
· Chattering Class Virtual Yearbook (kindly set aside the next hour of your life) [The Corsair]
· Bill Simmons is blogging from the Super Bowl [ESPN]
· Marshall Miller and Dorian Solot: Why We Moved to Albany (hint: it wasn’t for resident parking stickers) [Albany Times-Union]
· Rojas: “No offense to any of the Goofy People” [Gizmodo]
· BREAKING: Kerry couldn’t get laid at St. Paul’s! (“If he doesn’t make moves on a beautiful blonde, how can he be president?”) [Talking Points Memo]
· Drudge for Drunkards: Wonkette (Ana Marie Cox blogs about D.C., politics, and hair) [Wonkette]

Neighborhood Destruction Notes

· Additional Timesean Emergent Neighborhood Takedowns (thanks to Dan M, MG & KL):

· 1997: Ludlow Street (“The New Bohemia”… “the transition from rundown neighborhood to artists’ hangout to hip destination to overload”) [9/26/97]
· 2002: East Harlem (“Whites and Asians, mostly young singles, are crossing the once Berlin-Wall-like demarcation of East 96th Street”) [12/10/02]
· 2004: Some Unnamed Neighborhood Within Bushwick (“Neighborhood on the Verge?”) [1/25/04]

· Claim: The real LES divide isn’t North/South; it’s East/West (“‘Wessex’ now refers to the area west of Essex which includes all the nastiness of Ludlow and Orchard Streets”) [The Other Page]
· Encore: Not content with razing LES, Times turns eye on Nolita (“Hotbed of Hipness in Old Neighborhood”) [NYTimes]
· Historical parallel: Slumming on the Bowery (“Their journalistic voyeurism turned urban life itself into a commodity”) [Choire Sicha]
· Poetic Justice: Neil Strauss (author of ’96 east East Village takedown) now taking self-help class for picking up chicks [NYTimes]

Handy Guide to the Emergent Neighborhood Destruction Genre

Let me say right from the start that I am writing this blogpost with more than a little trepidation. Happily, I am also writing it with more than a little sedation, an approach we endorse if you, too, plan to browse Jesse McKinley‘s front-of-the-Weekend section opus on the “lower Lower East Side” in this morning’s Times. The piece, ostensibly a guide to the world Below Delancey, is in fact something far more sinister. Mr. McKinley sets the stage in the devil’s den of the East Village, his former home:

One of the reasons for the move — besides marriage, low interest rates and marriage — was that the East Village, in my none-too-snooty opinion, had become terrifically, horrifically overrun and overexposed. Every block was a party block, packed with trendy bars, trendy restaurants and often untrendy people.

Point, McKinley: we have seen some of these untrendy people ourselves, as recently as last eve at the Avenue A bar “Hi-Fi,” which replaced gritty, gritty live music venue Brownie’s approximately 1.5 moons ago. And yet, brushing off our untrendy hangover (we must not hide the fact that we were drinking Brooklyn Lager), we can’t escape the vague feeling that we’ve been through this before….

Back in the halcyon days of ’96, we secured a lease on a studio apartment on Avenue C. It was our first residence on the isle of Manhattan. It was a time when cab drivers steered clear of most of Alphabet City and our parents took ironic photos of us standing outside our place of habitation.

Then, one bright fall Friday, we awoke to a Weekened section banner headline: “Life Beyond Avenue A.” The story, penned by Neil Strauss, launched with the immortal lede “I decided to move out of my neighborhood in Alphabet City the night I heard a couple getting held up at gunpoint outside my window” and rolled from there. Strauss’ piece, ostensibly a guide to Avenues B, C and D, was in fact something far more sinister: a stalking horse for the infiltration of (to exploit Mr. McKinley’s words) “often untrendy people” into what in retrospect probably should have been called the east East Village.

And so, thanks to the magic of the Times online archive, we can reveal Mr. McKinley’s piece about the lower Lower East Side for what it is: another in a long line of Timesean take-downs of delightfully gritty neighborhoods. With nothing left to lose, here’s our Handy Guide to the Emergent Neighborhood Destruction Genre, a side-by-side comparison of the journalism of Mr. Strauss and Mr. McKinley:

Boundary Lines Being Drawn…
Strauss: For many New Yorkers and tourists, Avenue A is a boundary line, east of which they will not cross. Beyond Avenue A, the streets get darker, the commercial offerings more sporadic.
McKinley: Those crowds, however, have seemed less eager to cross Delancey Street, a wide red-light-be-damned boulevard that feeds a constant stream of heavy traffic across the Williamsburg Bridge.

… But the Cool Kids Know Better
Strauss: East of Avenue A, the night life is more spread out. Thrill-seekers don’t wander; they head to a destination. A few are well-known tourist meccas, and others are local dives.
McKinley: By the time my compatriots and I stumbled to Lolita, it was almost 1 a.m. and the crossing-Delancey set was out in force. The basement bar was packed, while upstairs two women were D.J.’ing rock ‘n’ roll and old-school hip-hop.

God Bless Ye Olde Melting Pot

Strauss: It may be one of the most ethnically, economically and culturally mixed areas in the world. German, Irish, Ukrainian and Jewish immigrants continue to live there, alongside yuppies and squatters, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, students and punks, addicts and artists.
McKinley: It was home to hundreds of thousands of Irish, Italian, German and Jewish immigrants fleeing famine, political oppression and economic desolation. Later came waves of Latino and Chinese settlers… Now, as the East Village overflows, the neighborhood is once again flooded by newcomers…

Obligatory Progress is Good! Quote
Strauss: “I used to go to the store with a .38 in my belt,” said Russell Harvey, a 42-year-old employee of Janovic Plaza who was born on Avenue D. ”Now you don’t need anything anymore. The neighborhood has changed tremendously, for the better.”
McKinley: “There’s a sense of finding something down here, of discovering a spot,” [Happy Ending owner Clyde] Rennie said, slinging beer in his bar’s basement. “And I think that’s part of its appeal.”

Obligatory Is Progress Good? Quote
Strauss: Sarah Ferguson, who has written about the area for The Village Voice since the late 80′s, said: ”I feel like the neighborhood has lost its soul. There’s no center. There’s not the same sense of community and neighborhood. We’re in the midst of a huge shift.”
McKinley: “This area is interesting because what gives it its character is the grittiness,” [the Lolita bouncer] said. “That’s what makes people want to come. But the more who come, the less grit and less character. So it’s tough.”

Area’s Seminal ATM Moment
Strauss: A community bank, the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, appeared on Avenue B and Third Street, offering the first cash machine east of Avenue A. It was inevitable.
McKinley: The next stop was 169 Bar… The bar attracts a varied clientele; a pool table in the back is usually busy, as is a video-game machine in the front. (The bar also has an ATM — inside.)

Secret After-Hours Spot
Strauss: There are after-hours clubs both established (Save the Robots on Avenue B, near Third Street) and obscure (Buono Sera, on Fourth Street near Avenue C).
McKinley: True adventurers might also be able to find the mysterious Milk and Honey, a semi-private lounge that also opened several years ago just below Delancey on Eldridge Street.

The Sad Evolution of the Hipster
Strauss: Of course, leather, piercings, used-clothes and tattoos do not a hipster make.
McKinley: Both places attract the type of good-looking young crowd that likes to eat with Mary J. Blige or Outkast playing in the background and vodka drinks playing in the foreground.


Random Claim
Strauss: Unless you know where the street Szold Place is, you cannot truly claim to have explored the East Village.
McKinley: Indeed, one of the joys of the neighborhood is its “Oh, wow” effect, the sensation of suddenly finding a new spot in the last place you’d expect.

Desperate Claim (N.B. perfect circularity)

Strauss: If anything is going to keep Avenue B from becoming the new Avenue A, it will be the community’s self-awareness. As J. C., a bartender at S.T. said: ”I don’t think they want to be Avenue A here. They want something that is Avenue B.”
McKinley: And while I don’t want to make it seem too hip for fear of encouraging any more of the teeming masses to come down below Delancey Street, I must say that the neighborhood’s unique mix of old and new seems far more interesting than those $5 lattes on Avenue B.

Word Count (n/inc sidebars)
Strauss: 2,406 words
McKinley: 2,335 words

With that, we stick a fork in our dear old neighborhood. It’s been fun. See y’all in Clinton Hill.
· Where the Lower East Side Keeps Trendy Masses At Bay [NYTimes, 1/23/04]
· Life Beyond Avenue A [NYTimes, 9/6/96]

Villager Scoops! (Oxymoron No Longer!)

Cue endtimes! We’ve stumbled upon three (3) linkable articles in this week’s edition of downtown newspaper of record The Villager:
2004_01_matzo.jpg
· Terrific story about the matzo factory on Rivington St. (“the only family-owned and operated matzo company in America”; peek in the windows between Suffolk and Clinton as you head to WD-50)
· Valentine’s Day tip: Closeout lingerie sale on 8th St. (Why closing? “The area is more rough,” the owner says.)
· People take new Houston St. traffic plan a wee touch too seriously (“The proposed blocking of Crosby St. vehicle traffic at Houston ‘is a cockamamie idea, just plain crazy,’ said Sweeney.”)

Double Agent Update

We haven’t been keeping up with our old friends at “[partially clad] intelligence for men” website Double Agent lately. As a true public service, New Yorkish gives us a glimpse of what we’ve been missing: to wit, a Double Agent survey of the surveys in women’s magazines. With data like this—”37% of women have worn a dress to work without underwear”—who needs breakfast?
· Useless statistics for men [NewYorkish]
· Double Agent [DoubleAgent.com]

Linkage: LES Meets New Hampshire

· Handy interactive electoral map [Edwards via Jarvis]
· Josh Marshall on the ground in NH (“It’s between you, John Kerry, and Lyndon LaRouche”) [Talking Points Memo]
· Graphing the Pats-Colts game with a heart monitor [Megnut]
· Cheating death at Welcome to the Johnsons! (w/photos) [two-twenty]
· LES Club Update: “Yuppies have begot clubbers” [ToTC]

· Mulberry St.’s ‘Miss New York’ Revealed [Gawker]
· Birthday stizz from Saturday (Buzz! Best!) [bluejake]

Inside the McNally Family

We’re loathe to link to Sunday Styles pieces you’ve already read, but sweet Jesus, it doesn’t get much better than Joyce Wadler’s piece on Schiller’s restauranteur Keith McNally in yesterday’s edition. A socio-economic takedown of Vegas fit for a Brown graduate seminar (“Just seeing working-class people on the slot machines, and they are just the people who are paying for everybody’s free hotel rooms and expensive hotel rooms”) aside, McNally becomes increasingly unhinged throughout the story in a way that makes one quietly pray he’ll be the star of The Restaurant‘s next edition. There’s even the obligatory takedown from estranged brother Brian, he of Cafe Lebowitz et al:

“I saw him in the street the other day,” he said. “I thought it was him. He’s put on a bit of weight.” A pause. “He’s fine. I don’t feel comfortable talking about this.”

As tasty as the Schiller’s bar steak! Dessert: Choire Gawker also dissects.
· The Restauranteur Who Invented Downtown [NY Times]
· Keith McNally: The Forrest Gump of Nightlife [Gawker]