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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).

The shell of the Divine Lorraine hotel, North Broad Street, Philadelphia.

When I was growing up, the family business was one of  scores in the apparel industry. Our shop was on the fourth floor of a building in North Philadelphia that housed a half dozen other manufacturers and contractors. More than two decades have passed since our doors, as well as those of all the others in the city, have creaked shut.

The North Philadelphia I remember from of the 1970s and 80s was decaying, falling apart, verging on abandonment. I drove down North Broad Street with my father recently, through mile after mile of a falling apart, torn down, overgrown, weedy and trash-strewn cityscape. “It’s gotten much worse,” he said.

Boarded up house, Allegheny Ave.

House for sale, Allegheny Ave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brutalism is a style of architecture. It seems to explain itself well enough in this image made recently of the AT&T switching center on 10th avenue between 53rd and 54th. The sun shone bright did not illuminate. No light enters, and no light leaves. Waves riding another frequency slip in, deposit their messages and exit with others to carry off into the ether.

It is said that on particularly dark nights and lunar eclipses a body can pass through the solid matter walls only to be absorbed by them. If you find it following you, walk slowly until you find help. Never look it in the eye. Image

There’s the desecrated truck at rest on East 66th Street as gravity begins pulling it slowly into the asphalt. Perverse, elegant accidental street sculpture. A patron of the arts looks on.

The door was ripped from its hinges and shoved into the gaping maw of the cab like a dismembered tongue stuffed into the mouth of a decomissioned stoolie.

Danger, we are warned. Danger.

He really didn’t want to be photographed this morning. He was handing out flyers for a rally.

A few of the last day’s customers.

People coming and going Friday.

The penultimate bag: four poppies, four sesame.

I shifted my gaze from the tops of my shoes and street level and there, painted long ago on the sides of brick buildings, were signs still visible decades after their businesses became defunct. 

Magid Handbags and Coblentz bags and Alan Mill, gone since the fifties. Click here for a great website and more info.

Stiner & Berlfein, again, click for the full story.  My photo is 8 years newer than the one in the story and the paint is starting to show some wear.

Spring has signaled return of the fruit stands, little islands of spherically-contained naturally sugary fruitplosions and fruitruptions all nurtured to fruition by a little bit of warm weather.

…and horning in on the action, a few pathetic inedible houseplants, clad only in their limited shades of green.

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.

Dateline, NY. Madison Ave. and 33rd St. Is the Nap Building, at one time the tallest building at 33rd and Madison, dying or merely slumbering?

 

June 2019
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