Back in 2011 I wrote about the teardown of all the shops on the east side of Broadway between 77th and 78th Street. A year later I looked in on the construction, which was just beginning. The low-slung building that housed New Pizza Town, Jewelry Store, World of Nuts, Subway, Laila Rowe and Cosi was landmarked for some reason and couldn’t be torn down. Now complete, here’s the once interesting block:

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I don’t know much about architecture – aside from some inspired work with Lego (OK, the kids helped) – however, this seems like a lost opportunity for creating something distinctive rather than bland and ugly. I eagerly await its teardown sometime in the next century.

Another tradeoff: Eight locally owned and operated businesses and franchises for a bland store selling CCME (cheap crap made elsewhere) and another massive chain pharmacy. One of those lost businesses was Ruby Foo, a place where my wife and I had our second first date. Its previous occupant was Mad Fish where we had our first second date three years earlier. I’m willing to bet that Ruby Foo alone employed more people than the two current occupants on the block.

The people who operated World of Nuts, a candy and ice cream store, knew our kids by name.

Grom, Broadway & 76th, closed last month. Get the full scoop here.

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Walking east on 34th St., right around the time I found out about Jim.

My neighbor Jim died last month some time. I’m not even sure of the day. He lived across the hall to the age of 83 or so and walking home tonight I thought about him. Jim and I always ran into each other…in the lobby, the hallway, walking our dogs, crossing a street. We’d stop and chat and he’d talk about the changing neighborhood or his wife who died not long after I moved into the building or some problem or other with the building. He engineered subway cars in the 50s or 60s, and had something to do with shale oil in Saskatchewan.

Jim liked beer and he really liked to shoot the shit. He wore big, thick glasses and in his last few years he had some kind of an eye problem and one eye looked off to the side. A lot of our conversations started out, “Did you hear about what they’re doing over on _______?” Or “Have you heard the one about… ?”

After his wife Ellen died, he took care of their old English sheepdog because “she’s Ellen’s dog.” When the dog became so old and frail, he’d pick her up to carry her outside and did all the things you do for old dogs. Jim was sharp, informed about everything, but more than anything, he was kind.

The last time I saw him, it was summer and Jim was walking on Amsterdam Avenue but he didn’t see me. I was in a hurry and I didn’t stop to talk. Hey Jim, what do you think about that monstrosity they’re putting up on Broadway & 77th? I’ll tell you what, he’d have said, it’s not the same neighborhood anymore.

 

“No longer shall the public have to gaze upon these unauthorized plants,” an official proclaimed.

This corner lot has been hidden behind a plywood fence painted blue and left to go wild for the past four years. Weed trees and grasses have sprung up through the rubble of whatever had been there.

In an alternate version of the city, the public and the developers agree that this rare bit of open space so near the Empire State Building should be turned into a park. “Open public spaces are more important than squeezing every bit of profit out of an investment,” the developer said. “The well-being of the neighborhood’s inhabitants and workers make it well worth taking a loss.”

A civic group agreed to develop the park completely on the donations and labor of volunteers. The park’s design, incorporating only indigenous plants and materials, has already been approved by the mayor’s office.

 

 

May 2017
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