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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.

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Last year, Upper West Siders saw the shutdown of the entire block of stores between 77th and 78th Street. I spent a few minutes catching up with Flag Guy. The northern portion of the block seen in the left of the above photo (click to see big), has been gutted. The shell of these historically significant buildings will be preserved, which earns the developer a tax break.

This section of the block: nineteen stories of glorious glass. What was most recently there? Manhattan Diner (so-so, but reliable), Ruby Foo’s (a classic standby), Cosi (where have all the new moms and triple-decker baby carriages gone?), Laila Rowe (emergency gifts for teenage girls), Jewelry store (reliable repairs, reasonable pries), Subway (so what), World of Nuts & Ice Cream (OK in a pinch, but Emack and Grom were always the first choice), New Pizza Town (the loss of this icon remains a tragedy).

Yee ha.

The tile floor from the entrance to Manhattan Diner remains for now.

Clark Kent works construction now that print media is dead.

Tourists exit bus and approach Central Park.

 

This restaurant last served a meal on New Year’s Eve. Normally an abandoned building in decay adds some character and history to a landscape or cityscape, delighting and intriguing anyone lucky enough to stumble upon it. But as this photo shows, this structure is clearly a blight and should be torn down and its construction components returned to the corners of the globe from whence they came.

33rd St. Vacant Lot

I walk past this vacant lot on East 33rd between 5th and Madison and it always catches my eye. Last week I saw a guy organizing garbage bags atop the fence, probably looping them on the unintentional hooks that form the top side of the fence. The bags hang on the inside, out of sight from the street.

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Theory: he collects cans, glass, and plastics for recycling and stores the bags up there before redeeming. Here’s a view from inside the lot – bags in upper left corner. It reminds me of what a hiker would do with food to keep it out of reach of bears.

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The rest of the lot from left to right, strewn with rubble and garbage, a modern urban ruin. Why not open this site to the public? Sure someone would invariably get some superficial injury and sue the city for millions, but why not…

Vacant lot - 33rd interior left

Vacant lot 33rd - interior right

In December, 2001, a five-alarm fire swept through the north transept of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Amsterdam Ave. You can see signs of reconstruction and restoration – building materials, scaffolding, large granite column sections – all along the north side of the Cathedral. Visit these grounds and you’ll see wide columns that abut the sky, light streaming in unglassed windows and stairs descending from total darkness.

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To see updated blogs in real-time, go to http://alphainventions.com,
http://condron.us/, or http://blogiche.com/.

A construction site at the corner of W. Houston and Hudson Sts. The sign posted at the gates makes makes we wonder: what is the future of the city; why is it being built by the Dept. of Environmental Protection; and is this the proper way to use semicolons or am I just being pretentious?

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A pile of rusted pipes or braces.

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An activity center in the middle of all the construction.

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April 2019
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