Category Archives: Curbed

Curbed, Continued

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It’s been nearly two months since the Curbed relaunch. In my estimation, the site has been doing its best work ever. One example: if you missed Patrick Sisson’s deep dive into the history and culture of fire escapes and New York City: go, read, and enjoy.

The powers of a new publishing system have allowed Curbed to think even bigger. A few weeks after relaunch, the site dropped a giant package of editorial goodness called Home Sweet Home. To bring it to life, Curbed talked to 30 unique personalities across a bunch of industries to learn about where they grew up and what home means to them. I wrote a short essay for it about my years living on Rivington Street — the apartment where, as it so happens, Curbed was born. Certain parties will be pleased to learn that my famed floral print sofa does indeed makes a crucial appearance. The sofa is long gone; the nostalgia remains. (And check out the image for this post, which is also the image for the essay: it’s 110 Rivington in needlepoint.)

Also on the nostalgia front, I greatly enjoyed this reflection by Cory Schmitz on designing the new Curbed logo. (Literal lol: “When I lived in New York I was a devout Curbed reader so there is a soft spot in me for the old, extremely literal logo — representative of a lot of blog headers in the early and mid 2000s. In retrospect though the logo is somewhat silly and, now that blogs are media enterprises, rendering that logo in a broader range of applications must have been a pain in the ass.”) My thanks to Cory for crushing the new, less slightly silly, Curbed look.

Curbed, Reborn at Last

IT'S HAPPENING. The new Curbed.com is here.

A video posted by Lockhart Steele (@lock) on

Saturday afternoon, I wrote a blog post! For anyone who’s checked this space in the past six months, you know that’s a surprising development. But Saturday marked the final day that Curbed would be published on Movable Type, the blog software that Eliot set up for me way back in 2004. So I wrote a post in tribute (after asking for a little help).

As of this morning, the new Curbed is live. If you haven’t seen it yet, get on that. It’s gorgeous. (I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to deal with the changing of the logo, but I might love the new one more than the old one. In any case I have lots of new logo stickers so hit me up if you want one.) And there’s a new signature Curbed feature, too: Pocket Guides, which are each Curbed city’s guide to places to visit. Think of it as an architectural version of the Eater 38. Here’s the first Pocket Guide for New York City, and here’s one detailing important houses across America that are open to the public.

All that, and now there’s Curbed Austin — our first new city site in forever. To really get in the mood, check out this amazing intro video and read Kelsey’s manifesto.

Eliot and Josh

We held the going-away party (at The Scratcher, duh) two weeks ago on the night before Josh Albertson‘s last day at Vox Media. But it isn’t until close of business today when Eliot Shepard exits the Vox office for the last time that they’ll both stride off into the sweet summer fields of not-Midtown NYC. Which is awesome for them, though sad for me.

Working with people for a decade is intense. Working that long with people you’ve basically known forever, I don’t even have the word for it, though I do have plenty of memories. In 2004, when I made a list of 50 names for a website I was starting and emailed Eliot asking for feedback and he emailed right back: “Curbed is the only good name on that list.” In 2005, when Josh became the first non-me person to blog for Curbed, before he moved to Michigan for a few years and subsequently took over, uh, the entire business side of the company. The downs of the 2008 recession, when everything we’d built teetered on the brink, and the climb out of that to the acquisition by Vox in late 2013. And everything in between. A lot of days.

I loved every minute of working with the Curbed management team (seen reunited above outside The Scratcher). Haha, of course I didn’t. Plenty of sharp disagreements, the occasional fight. But we always fought through it out the other side, and we were better for the honesty — and for dealing with it. I would have built nothing without them.

It says everything about Eliot and Josh that not only current staffers but a whole bunch of longtime alums of Curbed.com LLC came to The Scratcher to bid them farewell. Squint and you can see the tears in all our eyes. (Except Eliot. He’s just blinking weird.)

Fair winds and following seas, boys. Let’s meet back up a little further on down the line.

Curbed team past and present sending Josh and Eliot off in style tonight. Yearbook photo by @nicksolares

A photo posted by Lockhart Steele (@lock) on

Curbed’s Rearchitecting

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[Photo courtesy Max Touhey/Curbed NY]

I’m sitting here at my desk in the Vox Media office as I type these words. Next to me, the Curbed team (which has encroached on my island) is talking about the new Whitney Museum that just opened in the Meatpacking District. As the only resident of New York that did not attend a pre-opening event at Whitney MePa, I can’t share an opinion of my own, but Curbed’s editor-in-chief Kelsey Keith just observed of Renzo Piano’s building, “It’s like a cruise ship docked on the High Line.” That’s a good thing (I think).

Speaking of Kelsey and the Whitney and Curbed, today the site ran its review of the new Whitney by Curbed’s new architecture critic, Alexandre Lange. This is Lange’s second piece for Curbed, following the announcement of her appointment and her debut column last week on the nutty (yet delicious?) Pier 55 design concept.

I’ve been a longtime reader of Lange’s in publications ranging from Dwell to New York Magazine, so I was thrilled when Kelsey said she was bringing her on at Curbed. This hire — as well as the addition of Asad Syrkett, who recently joined Curbed from Architectural Digest and is sitting to my immediate right as I continue to type these words — marks the beginning of Vox Media’s investment in Curbed leading up to its relaunch later this year. Just as Eater invested in serious restaurant criticism at a time when local newspapers are cutting back on it (and won a James Beard Award for it), so too does Kelsey perceive an opportunity for Curbed to publish deeper criticism about the built environment at a time of increasing scarcity of same. I’m extremely pumped about this.

If you despise words but don’t mind looking at photography, well, Curbed’s got you there too. Check this post on Curbed NY by photographer Max Touhey which captures the new Whitney from literally every possible angle. Literally every single one. All. Every.

Meantime, as I noted moments ago to everyone sitting in my vicinity in the Vox office, I’m still marinating on my landmark review of One World Trade Center. While other critics rushed to file on the tower, I have kept my powder dry, gathering thoughts and observations, stringing together two- and three-word phrases and rhymes. The time is drawing closer when I will publish my review of 1WTC in this very space. Perhaps even by summer. Time will tell.

Happy 50th Birthday, Gentrification!

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Until last week, I had no idea that the word gentrification was coined in 1964 by a British sociologist “seeking a word to sum up what she saw happening in the London borough of Islington, where creative young professionals were suddenly re-appraising the neighborhood’s Georgian terraces and intimate squares,” as Steven Thomson wrote in a wonderful essay on the history of gentrification for Curbed. Nor did I know that the stem of the word is “gentry.” In my gentrification ignorance, I was not alone.

So gentrification — the word if not the reality — turns 50 this year, the same year Curbed turns 10. For the past decade, the topic of gentrification has been a big part of the Curbed narrative. That’s because, as Curbed NY’s Hana Alberts writes, the topics of real estate and neighborhood change, Curbed’s raisons d’être, are inexorably intertwined. It’s also because the word gentrification gets used in ways that transcend its literal definition, which I think is well captured in the graffiti in the photo at the top of this post.

In that slightly broader spirit of gentrification discussion, Curbed NY asked a bunch of writers, bloggers, and NYC neighborhood citizens “to share with us one moment in which they knew their home had irrevocably changed. A shop opens; a dive bar closes. An industrial tank gets torn down; a pile of glassy condos launch.” Curbed’s resulting compilation of carnage makes for outstanding reading.

I moved to New York city in August 1996; my first apartment, in the odd cul-de-sac of East 5th Street between Avenues B and C in Alphabet City, was on a run-down block. Two weeks after I moved in, Neil Strauss wrote a story for the New York Times called Life Beyond Avenue A. Strauss wrote, “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. Stepping through a brightly lighted doorway could take you into a trendy new bar or a cockfight in progress, a fence may hide a burgeoning community garden or a sprawling garbage dump.” Indeed, the first bistro, Cafe Margaux, had just opened further up on Avenue B; hailing a cab on Avenue C was impossible, as cabs simply didn’t drive there. Less than four years later, the Times returned again, this time with a real estate reporter to tell the new story of the neighborhood: “It is impossible to take a stroll around the avenues and their connecting blocks without encountering concrete being poured, foundations for new structures being sunk, and old town houses and tenements undergoing facelifts.”

Save for one year in the West Village and one year abroad, I lived in the East Village and Lower East Side consecutively from 1996 until 2011. In that era, my answer to Curbed’s question about the moment of irrevocable change would be when the gas stations closed.

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It happened mostly in the 2005-2006 era; perhaps I remember it vividly because I was doing most of the writing on Curbed back then and found myself fascinated with the sudden closings of nearly every gas station below 42nd Street. The Gaseteria at the bottom of Avenue B? Gone. (Now apartments and a bank.) The gas station on the north side of the Houston/Broadway intersection? Gone. (Now that giant sleek Adidas building.) The one on lower Sixth Avenue, between Canal and Houston? Gone. (And only now being developed into apartments, if I recall correctly).

In this same era and area, I’d count the preservation of so many of the community gardens of the East Village as the biggest preservationist win. What would the East Village be without the garden at Avenue B and Sixth, or Avenue C and 10th? And gas stations, well, one wouldn’t think that’d be such a big loss. We’re now a city of Ubers, anyway. Yet it’s what sticks in my mind when I think about the downtown that was, and isn’t any more.

Here’s something cool that’s happening at FYI, the new cable network from A&E:

In 2015, FYI will partner with real estate blog conglomerate Curbed for My City’s Just Not That Into Me. It will follow different individuals who are parting ways with their current towns and shows how they pick their next stop. Like Tiny House Nation before it, it aims to address the financial limitations of urban real estate facing so many in their 20s and 30s. Curbed will be integrating editorially on the show and online. Real estate expert Courtney Poulos is hosting with 10 half-hour episodes already in production.

Conglomerate! Don’t mind if we do.

190 Bowery

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[Photo by Nathan Kensinger for Curbed]

It was only a matter of time after the property hit the market in August, but yesterday came the news: photographer Jay Maisel has sold 190 Bowery, the iconic former bank building at the corner of Spring Street which he famously purchased in 1966 for $102,000. The buyer, fittingly, is crazed developer Aby Rosen, who if you don’t know, taste this quotage from the Times on the 190 Bowery deal:

“The building is in terrible shape. There’s no heat, Jay lives in just a small area of the building, another winter is coming, and it was time,” said Mr. Rosen, who spent six months cajoling Mr. Maisel into selling the home. “When you own a property for that long, and you are not a real estate professional, it takes a lot of convincing.”

190 Bowery is known by many as the famous street art building, as seen in the above photo and again in the photo essay that Nathan Kensigner shot for Curbed last month chronicling the death throes of The Bouwerie. For some of us who love the internet and its creators, though, the building’s iconic status was marred by Maisel’s severely misguided 2011 lawsuit against Waxy.org’s Andy Baio for remixing the cover art to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which Maisel shot. (Eternal credit to the unnamed street artist who later plastered Baio’s remixed album art all over 190 Bowery.)

Personally, 190 Bowery never fascinated me as much as its neighbor to the west, 11 Spring Street, another former street art shrine better known back in the day for the eerie white candles that lit up each window at night (to say nothing of its past as an Ice House). 11 Spring fascinated me so in the early days of Curbed that a neighbor to the building, an art gallerist who’d just moved in across the street, struck up an email correspondence with me, offering to be Curbed’s daily eyes and ears on the 11 Spring beat. Which is how I became friends with Ms. Jen Bekman, who now runs 20×200.

The candle mystery long since solved, 11 Spring went under the knife in the latter part of last decade, having passed into and then out of the hands of Lachlan Murdoch before emerging as — but of course — luxury condos. The same fate appears to be in store for 190 Bowery. And with it goes a bit more of the magic of this once-magical corner of Nolita. Quoth the Rosen, Winter is coming.