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Thread: New York City Books

  1. #121


    This isn't about a specific book, but rather the decline of bookstores in the city. Hopefully, they won't completely disappear. I'd hate to think I have to use a browser to browse for books in the not too distant future. Also, it's just as important to have bookstores that sell new books as it is to sell used.

    Shelf life

    Losing bookstores -- even chains -- chips away at New York's soul

    Last Updated: 4:58 AM, January 9, 2011
    Posted: 11:28 PM, January 8, 2011
    Comments: 3

    More Print

    Kyle Smith
    Blog: Movies

    Looks like Kathleen Kelly had the last laugh.
    Kathleen (Meg Ryan) was the winsome book peddler who, in “You’ve Got Mail,” found her small shop swamped and driven out of business by a Barnes & Noble-style superstore chain led by Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox. In a happy coda, she wound up managing the childrens’ book department of the big-box store, and everyone was content in that gleaming Nora Ephron way.
    Kathleen and Jim found each on the Internet. Now their real-life counterparts are both looking for a new line of work — thanks to the Internet.
    The same economic forces that drove her store, The Shop Around the Corner, out of business in the 1990s last week killed the Lincoln Triangle Barnes & Noble megastore. It was a multistory bookplex that, for 15 years, was an excellent place to read, browse, flirt, attend readings — and never actually buy anything, since everything it offered was much cheaper and could be delivered free via Which didn’t even have to charge sales tax until recently.
    Helayne Seidman
    The now closed Lincoln Triangle Barnes & Noble bookstore

    The B&N was essentially the Upper West Side’s grooviest public library.
    In the “You’ve Got Mail” era, there were five huge book/music stores between West 66th and West 86th streets. Now there’s only one — the doomed B&N at 82nd and Broadway, where tumbleweeds roll across the gigantic second floor. You could leave cash in the dictionary aisle and it would be as safe as it is in the mattress.
    The majority of the prime space on the ground floor is given over to a display for the e-book reader the Nook (motto: “Someday we’ll be almost as good as the iPad!”). It’s like walking into a fire station and seeing an engine has been replaced with a display of Molotov cocktails.
    “You’ve Got Mail” was inspired by the real-life dramas of struggling bookstores. Broadway’s Shakespeare and Co. (where a scene in “When Harry Met Sally” was filmed) was KO’d by a B&N a block away (and three blocks from Ephron’s Apthorp home). This was a big improvement: S&C was a fusty little nest of disaffected graduate students with the highest snobbiness-to-income ratios ever seen. As The New York Times reported in 1996, it “had developed something of a reputation for surly service.” Its replacement was democratic, comfortable and welcoming.
    Dave Barry once defined an Irish town as “several buildings, one of which is always a bar, called a ‘pub.’ Next to this there will typically be another pub, which is adjacent to several more pubs.” The Upper West Side is now a Chase next to a Citibank next to three Banks of America and a Wachovia.
    Just think: Banks, in the last couple of years, have faced (i.e., caused) once-in-a-lifetime cataclysmic horrors — and they’re still doing better than bookstores. Perpetually rising rents are creating a modified Yogi Berra situation in Manhattan’s better neighborhoods: No one can afford to live there anymore; it’s too crowded. Bookstores where people could gather to chat and soak up the best writing from down the centuries (or Stieg Larsson) were slightly more integral to the urban landscape than another Duane Reade or T-Mobile branch.
    Other humble hangouts, like Laundromats, are also in trouble: The Post reported last week that residents of Hell’s Kitchen are now in a sudsless tundra from 51st to 67th streets. Laundromats can’t pay $20,000 a month rents. Some residents are taking to washing their clothes in the sink. Which sounds like another paradox worthy of Yogi Berra: Her neighborhood has gotten so rich, she had to buy a washtub.
    Online interaction, like online retailing, is in many ways an improvement over the random happenstance of finding a friend in Personal Growth. Just as it’s better to book a plane ticket online, it’s easier to find someone to discuss Jonathan Franzen on a blog than by hanging around bookstores. And you can’t blame landlords for charging the highest rents they can.
    But often landlords kick out one profitable tenant only to have the space sit vacant for months or years. If there’s anything more dismal than another Citibank branch, it’s a boarded-up storefront.
    Bookstores (and music stores) provided something special and New Yorky, their former density giving soul-sustaining reassurance that you were at the center of the creative community — people who care about art and ideas more than shoes. Every time one of them disappears, a part of what makes this city special dies.

    Read more:

  2. #122


    Edmund White's top 10 New York books

    From Edith Wharton to Martin Amis, the novelist selects his favourites from the thousands of books spawned by the great American city

    Wednesday 12 January 2011 12.24 GMT

    Manhattan's skyline, seen from Greenwich Village. Photograph: John Madere/Corbis

    Edmund White is the author of more than 20 books including the acclaimed novels A Boy's Own Story and The Married Man as well as his biography of Jean Genet. His most recent novel is 2007's Hotel De Dream. City Boy, his memoir of the social and sexual lives of New York City's cultural and intellectual in-crowd in the tumultuous 1960s and 70s, is published in paperback this month by Bloomsbury.

    City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and 1970s

    by Edmund White

    Buy it from the Guardian bookshop
    Search the Guardian bookshop

    "New York has been the subject of thousands of books. Every immigrant group has had its saga as has every epoch and social class. While writing City Boy, I relied mainly on my own memories. In particular I was able to describe the effect of gay liberation on an individual life (mine) as events paralleled my own growing self-acceptance; in this case the political truly was the personal.

    "I was also interested in counterpointing erotic adventure and artistic ambition in a period – after the invention of the birth control pill and antibiotics and before the advent of AIDS – that was one of the few when people were free to do what they wanted sexually.

    "I immersed myself in books about New York, partly to remind myself of its past and partly to enhance my ability to see the cityscape around me."

    1 Kafka Was the Rage by Anatole Broyard

    The best New York memoir, an ebullient and exquisitely written account of Greenwich Village in the 1940s during the immediate post-war period.

    2. A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin

    Another great document of New York, about growing up poor and Jewish in the Brooklyn of the 1930s. "The Kitchen" chapter is an affectionate look at the whole family's life getting lived in the largest room of the apartment. His mother, a dressmaker, worked in it all day long with her sewing machine and her customers sitting around in their robes. The family ate all their meals there. "I did my homework and first writing at the kitchen table, and in winter I often had a bed made up for me on three kitchen chairs near the stove..." On Friday evening, of course, no one could work at all or even cook but friends and neighbours came in to partake of the already prepared meals.

    3. Old New York by Edith Wharton

    This collection of four novellas portrays a quiet, almost provincial world of the upper middle-class before New York became a world capital. The most heartbreaking of these tales is "The Old Maid", about a woman who disguises the illegitimate birth of her daughter by allowing her sister to adopt the child. The little girl grows up worshipping her adopted mother and dismissing her real mother as nothing but a cranky spinster. Wharton had total recall for all the social rituals and tedium of this vanished world of her own childhood.

    4. Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran

    The great novel of gay New York, written under a pseudonym and published in 1978, this pre-Aids novel renders all the melancholy of a life devoted to nothing but pleasure and all the glamor of a recently liberated sexuality. Disco culture, Fire Island, drugs, great sex – it's all in this remarkable and wonderfully written book.

    5. The People With the Dogs by Christina Stead

    A study of indolent, comfortable New Yorkers in the period just after the war. These are people who are constantly visiting one another, sitting on their stoops, playing with their pets, enjoying life to the fullest. I can think of no other novel that is so agreeable and so devoid of incident.

    6. Old Love by Isaac Bashevis Singer

    These are late stories by the Nobel prizewinner, all set in Manhattan or Miami. Most of the characters are Yiddish-speaking old timers who live (as Singer did) in the Upper West Side, eat at kosher cafeterias and continue their Polish feuds and loves in the new world. Cultured, poor, haunted by nightmares of the Holocaust, these characters are pulsing with life until their last breath.

    7. Collected Stories by John Cheever

    Brought together by the Library of America, these stories are often about well-heeled WASPs living on the Upper East Side or in exurbia, the world of Martini-drinking executives and their bored, brittle wives. Many of these stories were originally written for the New Yorker, but they are as much fairytale as sociology. In "The Country Husband", a man survives a plane crash but when he returns to his house none of the members of his family listen to his story; they're all too immersed in their own activities. The husband becomes bewitched by the teenaged babysitter – but nothing comes of this enchantment except beautiful prose.

    8. Money by Martin Amis

    One of the best novels about New York excess I know. Holed up in a Times Square hotel, John Self treats himself to booze, junk food and prostitutes on the principle that too much is never enough.

    9. Bricks and Brownstone by Charles Lockwood

    A detailed and always interesting study of New York domestic architecture. The same author's Manhattan Moves Uptown reveals how the island was settled in waves of building and fashion.

    10. Here is New York by EB White

    A little book written one sweltering summer from the author's room in the Algonquin Hotel. White no longer lived in New York but he was invited to write something about the city. He barely emerged from his hotel but his memories and observations of New York came flooding back in cautious, immaculate prose.

  3. #123
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Charles Lockwood's Bricks and Brownstone, originally published in 1972, was updated in 2003, including a marvelous colour photography section at the beginning of the book. Authoritative and very interesting read, with many black and white photos. There's also a "Best of the Brownstones Walking Tours" section at the end of the book with more colour photos.

    There are two different covers:

  4. #124
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    west village


    isnt there a new tourist travel book out for harlem?

  5. #125
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    ^ Yes !

    Valerie Bradley, Carolyn Johnson are tour guides for 'Harlem Travel Guide'

    Clem Richardson

    Valerie Bradley and Carolyn Johnson have been showing visitors the beauty of Harlem for years.

    So it made sense to finally write it all down.

    Their four-year collaboration culminated in "Harlem Travel Guide," which was released last month.

    The longtime friends, and Harlem residents, say they hope the 242-page tome will help clear up some of the misconceptions about their neighborhood, as well as attract more tourists - and their money - to its streets.

    "I was kind of sick and tired of outsiders coming into Harlem with their own spin on what Harlem was or is," Bradley said. "I would go on some of the tours and some of the verbiage was pretty negative. Sometimes they implied that Harlem was still dangerous and it wasn't."

    "A lot of tourists are here, but they're not really experiencing Harlem because their sneakers are not hitting the ground," Johnson said. "They're not walking around, they're not really mixing and mingling with people here because when they come they're taken to these churches, where they sit them in one general area and they leave before the sermon is done.

    "So they are not getting the full experience, which is unfortunate."

    Bradley, 65, was a spokeswoman for Andrew Young while he was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and also held offices in the administrations of former Mayor David Dinkins and former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

    In addition to hosting walking tours, Bradley runs a public relations company, The Bradley Group, and operates a bed-and-breakfast, Harlem 144 Guesthouse, out of the Mount Morris Park area home she bought in 1980.

    "What began as a real estate investment ended up as a romance with a neighborhood," she said.

    Fed up with the tour buses that "paused on 125th St. for 10 or 15 minutes so people could snap pictures of the Apollo," Bradley collaborated with City College's Adult Continuing Education Department to secure a grant to teach Harlem residents how to conduct tours of their neighborhood.

    Johnson, 48, was one of the first graduates of that program. A senior project leader with the New York State Liquidation Bureau, Johnson four years ago opened "Welcome to Harlem," a welcome and tour company with offices at 2360 Eighth Ave.

    "I just wanted to put a positive spin on a community that I love and I live in," Johnson said. "What better way than to be a mouthpiece for your community?"

    Both live in the Mount Morris Park neighborhood and conduct walking tours of the entire community, which include entering private homes.

    Their comprehensive travel guide is divided into the Central Harlem, West Harlem, East Harlem and Washington Heights sections and includes everything from historic sites, restaurants and museums to service stations, Postal Services branches and live entertainment venues.

    They hope the guide, which also contains street maps suitable for self-guided walking tours, will encourage visitors to explore the Harlem and spend money there.

    "Harlem is the third-most-visited site in Manhattan but gets hardly any of the multibillion dollars tourist spend in the city," Bradley said. "We want to change that."

    The "Harlem Travel Guide" is available on, at local bookstores, and at

  6. #126
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Review> Bloomberg Makes Space in New York

    Studying the transformation of place in New York under the Bloomberg administration

    by Fran Leadon

    Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City
    Julian Brash
    University of Georgia Press
    $69.95, cloth; $24.95, paper

    It’s always bracing to read urban studies not written by architects. Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City is an exhumation of the three (and counting) terms of Mayor Mike, written by Julian Brash, who is an anthropologist and therefore refreshingly uninterested in arguments based on aesthetics. Brash is primarily concerned with issues of class—always a tricky and elusive subject—and the commodified “place-making” promoted by Bloomberg stalwart and former deputy mayor Daniel Doctoroff, described here as a “youthful man blessed with a preternatural ability to maintain both a set jaw and an ingratiating grin.”

    Brash makes it clear that his allegations of class warfare are tied to “the production of space,” and it is that focus that makes Bloomberg’s New York worthwhile reading for architects and planners. He examines the Bloomberg administration’s various over-scaled proposals for Hell’s Kitchen (“Hudson Yards”), a key puzzle piece in Doctoroff’s unsuccessful attempts to bring the 2012 Olympics to New York. Brash reveals that the plan’s ultimate defeat was due in large part to the ability of neighborhood groups, including the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association and Community Board Four, to co-opt the Bloomberg administration’s use of rhetoric and renderings that promoted an idealized, “elite” city.

    Aerial view of Hudson Yards in Manhattan.

    Beyond issues of who’s part of “the elite” and who’s not (and Brash applies the term too often and too vaguely) the “luxury city” has, in fact, become a reality, and Brash smartly ties class politics to place-making. By examining Hudson Yards in detail, Brash shows how a supposedly “placeless” group he calls the “Transnational Capitalist Class”—bankers, investors, and developers with global aspirations—don’t “transcend space,” but in fact inhabit and change the city on a very local scale. Brash’s insights here are thoughtful and intricate, offering a more vivid, not to mention more accurate, explanation than the tired and simplistic label “gentrification.”

    In fact, I would go a step further than Brash and say that while “transnationals” do indeed occupy and transform physical space in the city, they often do so in a deliberately non-contextual way that is the very definition of placelessness. Many of the startlingly daring condominiums, for example, built during Bloomberg’s first two terms from 2002 to 2009, were promoted more often as good investments than nice places to live. Some of the flashier projects seem completely shrink-wrapped and divided from the city, marketed as opulent interior worlds uncorrupted by the neighborhood lurking outside. Tsao & McKown’s William Beaver House in the Financial District has an indoor dog run, a movie theater, and an on-site auto mechanic. Annabelle Selldorf’s 200 Eleventh Avenue in West Chelsea has an elevator that lifts your car directly into your apartment. Meanwhile, Trinity Real Estate president Jason Pizer, who manages Trinity Church’s six million square feet of space in a neighborhood north of the church that he insists we call “Hudson Square” (in honor of the previous Hudson Square neighborhood that Trinity helped to destroy between 1867 and 1918), refers to the church’s vast parcels of land as “the portfolio.” Under Bloomberg, much of the physical space of New York became a kind of three-dimensional futures market.

    A 2004 rally supporting a New York Jets stadium in Manhattan.

    There is much to enjoy in New York City under Mayor Bloomberg, notably new public spaces like Hudson River Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line. And I certainly don’t feel nostalgia for the “good old days,” 20 or so years ago, when there were 2,605 murders in a single year (1990) and New Yorkers regularly carried “hold-up money” (usually a crisp $100 bill) in order to have something to offer the inevitable mugger. But over the last decade, things have definitely swung towards a monocultural, less sustainable city. Brash points to New York’s lack of economic diversification as a disturbing trend, and this is where his argument against the “Bloomberg Way” is most convincing. A city overbuilt with offices, condominiums, and chic restaurants for the “creative class” isn’t actually very creative urban planning. When I first moved to Cobble Hill in Brooklyn 15 years ago, there was still an active furniture factory at the corner of Smith and Warren Streets. Now it’s a condo. It’s impossible to imagine light manufacturing in my neighborhood today; industrial spaces have universally transformed into boutiques and bars.

    Pizer, in a recent interview in Trinity News, practically crowed about the death of industry in Hudson Square: “[In] 1999 we were still primarily a printing area, and to see the portfolio morph from light industrial into the creative office tenants we have now is very exciting.” Exciting? I find the over-reliance on “creative office tenants” a precarious gamble. A city built only for the “elites” means that if they go down, we all go down.

    Fran Leadon is an architect and co-author, with Norval White, of the fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City.

  7. #127

    Default A Well-Preserved Road Map to Perdition

    January 26, 2011, 7:00 am

    A Well-Preserved Road Map to Perdition


    National Police Gazette
    A drawing titled “The Genius of Advertising” from an 1880 issue of the National Police Gazette shows men outside a brothel gazing at pictures of some of the attractions awaiting them inside.

    Encyclopedic in breadth but compact enough for the vest pocket of a 19th-century gentleman on the go, the book was an insider’s guide to Manhattan, easily picked up at the newsstand before a night on the town, much the way tourists and locals now consult a guidebook when they are in the mood for a memorable restaurant or meal.

    Only this palm-sized book, published in 1870 and long hidden away at the New-York Historical Society, did not confine its anonymous critique to the quality of wines or the ambiance of the 150 establishments listed between its covers. Rather, it defined its role as delivering “insight into the character and doings of people whose deeds are carefully screened from public view.”

    Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Alan Balicki of the New-York Historical Society took the 141-year-old directory out for a spin at the request of The New York Times.

    Vest Pocket Guide to Brothels

    Only 4-3/4-inches tall, this detailed guide to New York City brothels in 1870 hints at what people did before they had tools like the Internet to help navigate an unfamiliar urban scene.
    Especially fragile, the book is usually kept under lock and key. At the request of The New York Times, however, the historical society took it out for a spin this month so readers could experience one of the more colorful and detailed guides ever produced on the ins and outs of New York City’s brothels.

    Readers of the book, “The Gentleman’s Directory,” learned that “an hour cannot be spent more pleasantly” than at Harry Hill’s place on 25 East Houston Street. And they learned that Ada Blashfield of 55 West Houston Street had “8 to 10 boarders both blondes and brunettes,” playing host to “some of our first citizens.” The book also divulged that Mrs. Wright’s place at 61 Elizabeth Street had “everything that makes time pass agreeably,” and that Miss Jennie Creagh had spared “neither expense nor labor” at 17 Amity Street, a one-time Manhattan address, to conjure a “palace of beauty” out of French mirrors, rosewood furniture and fine bedding.

    All of those listings can be viewed here. Just as historians might someday parse Zagat dining guides to see how our generation ate and lived, “The Gentleman’s Directory” provides this generation with a glimpse of the simultaneously libertine and puritanical city that came before it. Prostitution was illegal, but brothels were rampant in the decades after the Civil War, operating under the noses of police and census takers. And proprietors were not shy about using newfangled marketing techniques to stand out and gain a share of the market.

    Timothy J. Gilfoyle, a professor of history at Loyola University, put the number of brothels in Manhattan in 1870 close to 500 in his 1992 book “City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920”. While “The Gentleman’s Directory” did not survey every brothel, it managed to include more than 150 establishments — 23 on West 27th Street alone — in the book’s 55 pages of commentary and advertisements. Readers might almost come to pity the researchers who knocked on all those doors, collecting information and sampling the wares.

    Coincidentally or not, all nine brothels that advertised in the book were found to be “first-class.”
    In the column on “profession, occupation or trade,” census workers in 1870 bluntly wrote “House of Prostitution.” Click to enlarge.

    Readers were warned on Page 5 that they would not learn where Central Park or the Croton Aqueduct were from the book’s contents. What they would find, the book stated, were facts about New York hospitality “which could not be procured elsewhere.”
    The mission, its author (or authors) wrote with a wink, was to tell people where not to go.

    “Not that we imagine the reader will ever desire to visit these houses,” the text stated. “Certainly not.”

    “We point out the location of these places in order that the reader may know how to avoid them,” the book insisted, “and that he may not select one of them for his boarding house when he comes to the city.” It compared itself to the buoy that “warns the inexperienced mariner to sheer off, lest he should be wrecked on a dangerous and unknown coast.”

    It apparently took effort for businesses in this line of work to displease, and only a dozen or so landed reviews harsh enough to scare people away. Mme. Pauline Beck of 69 Elizabeth Street came close, running “a noisy and untidy den of assignation, visited only by the lowest class of people” while the landlady at 105 West 27th Street was said to be “as sour as her wine.” The book was equally withering about Hattie Taylor’s house at 111 Spring Street, which it contended drew a sketchy crowd of “roughs and rowdies and gentlemen who turn their shirts wrong-side out when the other side is dirty.”

    At least 50 businesses got rave reviews. Sportsmen were advised to check out 25 Houston Street. Nervous types could rest easy at 128 West 27th Street, where a doctor was on stand-by. Those with a fetish for furnishings could call on 108 West 27th Street for a peek at the frescoes. And anyone craving good conversation might have enjoyed seeing the “seven beautiful young lady scholars” of the “Ladies Seminary” on 123 West 27th Street put to the test.

    One of the stranger entries was 127 West 26th Street, run by a Madame Buemont. “There is a report of a bear being kept in the cellar but for what reason may be inferred,’’ the book reported.

    Modern roués, of course, have tools like the Internet. But in 1870, the closest anyone could come to getting a road map to the nearest den of iniquity was the police blotter or perhaps the federal census. (Though it was hardly the norm to be so blunt, census workers in 1870 knew enough about the goings-on at 114 West 26th Street and 116 West 26th Street to twice write “House of Prostitution” in the column asking about residents’ “occupation, profession or trade.”)

    Books like “The Gentleman’s Directory,” filled the information gap, and because only a handful survived, Dr. Gilfoyle suspected that patrons sensibly had ditched their copies before heading home.

    Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Ogdensburgh, most likely a variant spelling for the city in northwestern New York, qualified as one of the “principal cities in the union,” along with Boston and Philadelphia, in this 1859 “Directory to the Seraglios.”

    Picking up “The Gentleman’s Directory” in a gloved hand, Alan Balicki, the historical society’s senior conservator, pointed to its thumbed pages as proof that the little book got around. He also indicated telltale signs of hurried assembly: runny inks, pages that appear askew, breaks in the borders. “This is not a fine printing,’’ he said. “This is for information.”

    A similarly themed book at the society is the “Directory to the Seraglios,” pictured on the right. Compiled by the pseudonymous “Free Loveyer” in 1859 and stitched together haphazardly, the earlier book promised coverage of New York, and “all the principal cities in the union.” Philadelphia had 57 listings, about half as many as New York. Washington landed 7, Boston 6 and Ogdensburgh, N.Y. was apparently one of the cities that had to make do with a one-woman welcome committee.

    As a comparison of the two guidebooks made clear, stepping out with an out-of-date directory had its perils. According to the 1859 book, gentlemen “wishing to enjoy the comforts of connubial feeling with their wives intended” were well-served at 83 Crosby Street in Manhattan. Eleven years later, “The Gentleman’s Directory,” pronounced the same spot, possibly under new management, “small potatoes.”

    The earlier book recommends several addresses on Greene Street, while the later directory warned readers to steer clear of the street, calling it a “complete sink of iniquity.”

    Though a few guides of this type circulated in New York in the decades before “The Gentleman’s Directory,” Dr. Gilfoyle said he thinks this was the first to solicit ads.

    Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    This advertisement for condoms and related services appeared on the last page of “The Gentleman’s Directory.” Click to Enlarge.

    Safe sex was delicately broached in the last page of the book in an ad that advised anyone needing “French imported male safes,” otherwise known as condoms, to see Dr. Charles Manches any time until 9 p.m. Another, possibly in-house, advertiser was John F. Murray of 57 West Houston Street, offering additional copies of the directory for $1 or copies of “Dr. Groves’ Marriage Guide” for fifty cents. Take your pick.

    The low-rise buildings that housed these quaint “temples of love” have mostly vanished.
    City Room thought it had spotted one still standing at 105 West 27th Street, the place whose landlady was “as sour as her wine.” But PropertyShark suggests on its Web site that the sooty-looking, four-story building only went up a century ago.

    There is also no trace of an opulent three-story brownstone that once ruled West 25th Street and catered to an aristocratic crowd. Ten years ago, a hulking residential building, known as Chelsea Towers, took over much of the block.

    Dr. Gilfoyle, who used police records, guidebooks and news clippings to plot the location of 5,000 known brothels for his book, said the oldest brothel he found still rooted to its spot was at 105 Mercer Street. A squat brick building with a fan-shaped window over the door, it got only the briefest mention in the 1859 book and was not cited in the 1870 work.

    Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    105 Mercer Street was built for a seamstress in 1819, according to a former owner, and later converted into a brothel.

    Jeremy Spear, the home’s previous owner, agreed it was the real deal. He said he did extensive research at the New-York Historical Society after buying it and was surprised, but pleased, to learn that what started as a seamstress’ home in 1819 was later converted to a brothel. “There’s a certain grit in New York City history, and people love to hear that everything wasn’t all rose-smelling,’’ he said. “It is part of the city’s fabric.”

    Readers familiar with the fate of other places in the book are invited to send their findings to City Room in the space below.

    Alain Delaquérière contributed reporting.

  8. #128
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    105 Mercer (last photo above) just recently got a face lift / makeover. For years the bricks here were painted dark green, but that was stripped off this past fall and the brick facade restored. Too bad they felt the need to leave the bars up on the main floor window. Up top there is a fantastic roof deck, lushly planted.

    105 Mercer last fall ...

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    105 Mercer faces onto the fantastic 101 Spring, the home and studio of artist Donald Judd, now home to the Judd Foundation. It's covered in scaffolding and undergoing an extensive restoration.

    Here's a shot of 105 Mercer, back when it was painted blue gray, taken from 101 Spring and included in a Judd commemorative booklet:

  9. #129


    A New City Handbook Demystifies Zoning


    Published: February 3, 2011

    SINCE becoming New York City’s planning commissioner in 2002, Amanda M. Burden has presided over the rezoning of wide swaths of the city.

    Department of City Planning
    A new 168-page handbook contains cartoonlike illustrations of what each zoning designation allows.

    Some changes have served traditional zoning goals — encouraging higher density on commercial thoroughfares (particularly near transit hubs) while lowering density in residential neighborhoods. And some have served goals not usually associated with zoning — improving food choices (by encouraging grocery stores to open in underserved neighborhoods) and promoting nonpolluting transportation (by requiring bike parking inside new residential buildings, for example).

    "It turns out that boring old zoning, when used creatively, can be used to solve a whole lot of problems,” Ms. Burden said in a telephone interview.

    The catch is that the rules can be found only in the zoning resolution, a 1,500-page tome incomprehensible to all except city officials — if it’s even comprehensible to them. (In a recent case, a judge said the word “development,” which appears at least 2,500 times in the resolution, did not mean what the city said.)

    That the resolution is “impossible to understand,” Ms. Burden said, has taken the tool of zoning out of the hands of the public. She hopes to change that, with a new handbook, available Monday, that she said not only “demystifies zoning, but I think is entertaining — it’s fun to read.”

    Along with admirably lucid prose, the 168-page book contains cartoonlike illustrations of what each zoning designation allows, as well as images showing successful applications of the provisions.

    Zoning designation R8A, for example, is illustrated by 459 West 18th Street, an angular black-and-white building by the Brooklyn architects Della Valle Bernheimer. And the designation R8X is illustrated by On Prospect Park, the Richard Meier-designed condominium building facing Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Ms. Burden said she went over every “line, every illustration, every photo,” adding, “I love this guidebook with a passion.”

    But this is no coffee-table tour of the city’s architecture; it is meant, Ms. Burden said, to be a tool.

    Ms. Burden said a property owner (or a potential one) could use the book (parts of which were adapted from a less extensive 2006 handbook) to determine what is allowed on a given lot.

    Rachaele Raynoff, the spokeswoman for the department, said: “It won’t replace lawyers and architects. But even before you bring in professionals, you’ll already have an idea of what you can build.”

    Conversely, if a neighbor is already building, the book will help show if rules are being followed. “It will make it much easier for communities to flag early if something looks wrong,” Ms. Burden said.

    Beyond identifying uses for specific parcels, the book could help activists and residents shape their neighborhoods, Ms. Burden said. “You might flip through the book, see an illustration that appeals to you, and think, I’d like my neighborhood to look like that — and you’ll see that it’s R3A or R4A,” she said. “And you might go to the Planning Commission and ask for one of those designations.”

    “Without the handbook,” she added, “you would never have known that in a million years.”

    During Ms. Burden’s tenure, the city has created 10 new zoning designations, with names like R9D and C4-5D, to reflect more closely the qualities of specific neighborhoods, and 23 special zoning districts, for places like Coney Island and the Bronx side of the Harlem River. All together some 9,400 city blocks have been rezoned, Ms. Raynoff said.

    But how to know which of the myriad districts you’re in? The book doesn’t have a zoning map, which could never fit on its 8.5-by-11-inch pages. One is available on the city’s Web site, and soon the commission will have a system called ZOLA (for Zoning and Land Use Application). Clicking on the map will open a Web version of the relevant zoning handbook section. (Until then, the book can be bought for $35 at the planning department bookstore, 22 Reade Street, or by downloading an application at

    Ms. Burden says she will be happy when residents start attending meetings with dog-eared copies of the new book. “Planning,” she said, “is most effective when it’s in the hands of the community.”

  10. #130
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Jana Leo's Rape New York: Scary Tale About What Happens When a Bad Landlord Won't Fix Your Front Door Lock

    By Elizabeth Dwoskin

    If someone strolls into your building because the front door's lock is broken, forces his way into your apartment, and then rapes you at gunpoint, can you sue your landlord?

    The answer is yes, of course. And a new book, Rape New York, by conceptual artist and former Cooper Union prof Jana Leo, unfolds the tragic and strange court saga about what happens when a woman decides to do just that.

    Rape New York opens with a terrifying scene.

    In January 2001, a man showed up at the door of her apartment at 408 W. 129th Street in Harlem, and raped her at gunpoint. He had entered through the lobby door, which, like that of many neglected buildings, had broken locks.

    At the police station, Leo asked if the cops could force her landlord to replace the locks. She had begged the landlord for repairs long before the rape. But she writes that she was told that the police had no authority to change the locks on a privately owned building. When she called her landlord to complain, she was told, "If you don't like it, move out."

    This was the second break-in at gunpoint that had taken place in Leo's building. "My life was worth less than the cost of a lock to my landlord," Leo writes.

    Her landlord, Steven Green, had been named to the Voice's 10 Worst Landlords list in 1990 and was later dubbed by the Post as the "landlord from hell." (Green is no relation to Stephen L. Green, a mega-landlord who is the brother of former Public Advocate Mark Green.)

    In Leo's case, she didn't give up. She brought a civil suit against her landlord, who was a notorious real-estate figure both here and in Florida; the case became a six-year-long battle. During that time, the rapist was found through DNA matching, convicted, and sent to jail.

    Meanwhile, the landlord argued that Leo was at fault because she "had let the attacker in," even though he was holding a gun in her face. The judge sided with Leo and found the landlord negligent in not providing a safe building.

    But because the property happened to have changed hands on the day of the rape, it was unclear whether the new landlord or the old landlord was responsible (Green was the old landlord). The case was finally settled out of court, on the day before it was scheduled for trial.

    Leo not only wrote this book about her case; she also staged an exhibition about it at Invisible-Exports (an art space on Orchard Street just north of Canal Street).

    Green wound up stiffing the city for more than $2 million in fines for numerous violations in numerous buildings, and he moved on to new ventures in Tennessee and Florida. He eventually got his due. In January 2007, Green was convicted and sent to jail for fraud in Florida. He had used a false Social Security number on a multimillion-dollar loan and had failed to pay taxes.

    During the widely publicized Florida case, Green was hailed as a great guy by celebrities such as Sopranos star Lorraine Bracco.

  11. #131


    Douche. Now he gets a taste of his own medicine. I'm glad Ms. Leo was able to channel her anguish toward a constructive, informative outlet.

  12. #132
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Good. Thumbs up to booksellers who actually care about books, unlike the big chains.

    New York City indie book stores bounce back, as big-box retailers struggle
    BY Dino Grandoni

    Independent bookstores may be making a comeback in New York City , as big-box book sellers face increased competition from Amazon and other online vendors.

    More than a half a dozen indie bookstores have opened citywide over the last couple of years, according to Crain’s New York Business.

    Take Posman Books. The store expanded from its original location in Grand Central Terminal to Chelsea Market in 2009. Revenues at the new 2,000-square-foot store were reportedly more than $1 million last year - enough for the store to commit to a 10-year lease - while sales at his Grand Central location have dropped.

    “If you do your numbers right, it can work out,” Robert Fader, of Posman Books, told the outlet.

    One way indie book stores have been able to stay afloat, according to the outlet, has been to diversify their selection of merchandise. Posman Books, for example, gets only 75 percent of its revenue from books; much of the rest comes from greeting card sales.

    “Part of the success of the store is creating an atmosphere for buying things that are not just books,” Chris Doeblin, owner of indie store Book Culture, told Crain's.

    Meanwhile, Borders, one of the Goliaths of the industry, is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy and is predicted to close at least 150 stores, Bloomberg reported last week.

    But the outlook still isn’t entirely rosy for smaller shops.

    According to Crain's, digital book sales are projected to have 50 percent of the book market in five years, up from 10 percent currently. However, indie shops can expect to see some short-term gains if Borders shutters some of its stores.

  13. #133
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Review> Mining a Gilded-Age Milieu

    by Kevin D. Murphy

    Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White
    by Mosette Broderick

    McKim's New York State Building at the World's Columbian Exposition, 1893.
    Courtesy H.R. Hitchcock Collection

    A great biographer of an important cultural producer accomplishes two things: First, he or she explains for the reader the subject’s motivations and shows how that person was able to climb to the heights of his or her field; second, the author provides the reader with the feeling that you are there at the making of a work or works of great importance.

    In her new firm biography, Triumvirate: McKim, Mead and White: Art, Architecture, Scandal and Class in America’s Gilded Age, Mosette Broderick, an art historian at New York University, accomplishes just such feats. The book’s subtitle piles up the themes to be addressed in this monumental study, and indeed, they are all considered in a comprehensive account of what the author justifiably styles “America’s greatest designers from the death of Richardson to World War I.”

    McKim's building at Chicago's COlumbian Exposition, 1893.

    It has been more than a quarter century since two books on McKim, Mead & White appeared in 1983, one by Leland Roth and another by Richard Guy Wilson. Those pioneering studies were followed by Paul Baker’s biography Stanny: The Gilded Life of Stanford White (1989), and by a spate of more popular accounts of White’s liason with the chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit, whose husband Harry K. Thaw murdered White. In addition, White’s great-grandson, Samuel G. White, has published beautifully-illustrated books with Rizzoli that capture the visual richness of the firm’s work, and art historian Wayne Craven has written Stanford White: Decorator in Opulence and Dealer in Antiquities (2005), which considers the architect’s talents with interiors as well as his extensive practice as an antiquities dealer. The acceleration of publishing on McKim, Mead & White has corresponded to the emergence of architectural postmodernism that made the firm’s historicism critically palatable after the ascendancy and entrenchment of modernism had made it anathema, and also to the expansion of architectural history’s purview beyond its original concerns to include decorating, landscape, and other related fields.

    The University Club on Fifth Avenue in New York, 1896-1900.

    The earlier, sometimes more pious accounts provide in some cases more thoroughgoing formal analyses of the buildings than does this new biography, and certainly more extensive illustrations, but Broderick has truly accomplished what she sets out to do, namely, provide “a study of the path of the architects.” That may sound like a prosaic undertaking, but it isn’t. For one thing, such an effort requires the biographer to get inside her subjects’ head, to understand what led them to make certain career moves and what formal attitudes inspired the look of the work. For another thing, it requires the author to reconstruct the world around the subject in great specificity. Both of these things Broderick has done in astonishing detail, while acknowledging that the historical record for two of the partners—McKim and White—is much richer than for Mead, who left little in the way of either a personal or professional record and who, consequently, is less well understood than his peers. Indeed, this is the kind of book that can only be written over the course of years—even decades—by an author who hasn’t merely studied the material, but lived it. Thus Broderick is able to reconstruct the labyrinth of social relations between the architects, their artist collaborators, and patrons. Moreover, as a New Yorker, she can plot all of their actions in the city itself, recreating its appearance at the turn of the century and helping the reader see how the surviving works of the architects fit into their historical contexts. Broderick immerses us in the social set that McKim, Mead, and White navigated in becoming major American tastemakers.

    The pleasure palace at Madison Square Garden, 1887-91.

    In so doing, she fleshes out the identities of the three partners: White, the socialite charmer whose high living finally does him in; McKim, who finds solace from personal tragedy by fashioning himself the dean of American architecture in his later years; and Mead, the shadowy but level-headed manager of the firm, who held his partners in check. None of the three emerges as anything less than fascinating dinner company, if deeply flawed humans. Clearly, they could not have survived without their assistants, especially Joseph Wells, who comes across as perhaps the firm’s most talented designer and whose embrace of historical architecture shaped the direction the firm would take. His death in 1890, Broderick suggests, ended its most creative period of production. Without belaboring the point, Broderick shows that the works of McKim, Mead, & White were not the products of three men, or even of their vast office that helped establish a new form of architectural practice, but of an entire social milieu—at once high-minded and scandalous.
    Last edited by Merry; February 11th, 2011 at 07:36 PM.

  14. #134
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    A Legal Manual for an Apocalyptic New York


    ... this month, an official state legal manual was published in New York to serve as a guide for judges and lawyers who could face grim questions in another terrorist attack, a major radiological or chemical contamination or a widespread epidemic.

    Quarantines. The closing of businesses. Mass evacuations. Warrantless searches of homes. The slaughter of infected animals and the seizing of property. When laws can be suspended and whether infectious people can be isolated against their will or subjected to mandatory treatment. It is all there, in dry legalese, in the manual, published by the state court system and the state bar association.

    The most startling legal realities are handled with lawyerly understatement. It notes that the government has broad power to declare a state of emergency. “Once having done so,” it continues, “local authorities may establish curfews, quarantine wide areas, close businesses, restrict public assemblies and, under certain circumstances, suspend local ordinances.” ...

    Ronald P. Younkins, the chief of operations for the state court system, said the book’s preparation was similar to other steps the New York courts had taken to plan for emergencies, including stockpiling respirators and latex gloves ...

    “It is a very grim read,” Mr. Younkins said. “This is for potentially very grim situations in which difficult decisions have to be made.” ...


    © 2011 The New York Times Company

  15. #135
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    It's so depressing and an outrage that this is still happening .

    Cops Are Missing the Bad Guys While Profiling the Black Guys

    David A. Love

    Twelve Angry Men: True Stories of Being a Black Man in America Today
    Edited by Gregory S. Parks and Matthew W. Hughey

    The history of African Americans is one of great accomplishments amidst the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. That legacy follows black people, and particularly black men, to this day. And it is enough to make you red-hot burning mad. Although some are ready to usher in a new post-racial era of colorblindness, it is clear that their efforts are grossly premature.

    In America, race is a proxy for violence. Black men are regarded as a criminal element, and racial profiling is a practice that goes far beyond the justice system. It is culturally ingrained and normalized. In the days of old, when black people were not allowed to roam about unattended or without permission, slave patrols policed the plantations and hunted down fugitives.

    Similarly, today, police sweep through communities of color, searching for criminals. Any black man will do. And cops are searching for drugs, not because black or Latino people use the most drugs, but because of preference, of policy. Drug use among white youth is greater than among youth of color, but you will never see the police descend upon the nation's college campuses, round up those who "fit the description" and force them to endure a demeaning arrest. After all, society views them as the victims. Society has already decided who should be designated as its criminals, even if the "suspects" are as innocuous and upstanding as Henry Louis Gates -- a Harvard professor who was arrested for standing on his front porch and attempting to enter his own home. But status is not what counts; it's all about race.

    Twelve Angry Men: True Stories of Being a Black Man in America Today is a new book which tells the first-person accounts of black men who, like Professor Gates, have been there. These twelve men were victims of racial profiling, at the wrong place at the wrong time -- which for a black man could mean anywhere. Edited by Gregory S. Parks and Matthew W. Hughey, Twelve Angry Men contains a powerful introduction by Harvard law professor Lani Guinier.

    A diverse group of people shares their encounters with the police, including a New York Times reporter who was detained while on assignment; Joe Morgan, a baseball legend who was racially profiled at LAX; Joshua T. Wiley, a hip hop artist who is constantly harassed by police, and Paul Butler, a law professor and former federal prosecutor who was stopped by the cops for living in a nice neighborhood. Meanwhile, Byron Bain, a Harvard Law student, was told by his arresting officer that he must attend the school on a "ball scholarship." Bain compiled a tragically comical "Bill of Rights for Black Men," which includes as its first and second amendments, "Congress can make no law altering the established fact that a black man is a n****r," and "The right of any white person to apprehend a n****r will not be infringed." Newly arrived, foreign-born black men with British accents are not immune from profiling and arrest. Even lawmakers are not exempt, as Congressman Danny Davis recounts his experience of racial profiling by the Chicago police while driving home from his weekly radio show.

    Throughout the book, which is factual yet reads like a novel, these twelve men share the humiliation of being told that you are not allowed in a certain neighborhood, and the terror that comes with having a gun pointed to your head. Told where they can and cannot go and forced to produce their identification, they compare their experiences to antebellum slaves, black South Africans under apartheid, and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. One man, who was stopped at least once a month and as many as three times, had to leave home early enough in order to account for the possibility of being stopped. Perhaps one of the more appalling cases was of a boy in Prince George's County, Maryland, who was accused of shoplifting by a police officer moonlighting as a department store security guard. The guard made the youth take off his shirt, go home and return with his sales receipt to prove that he purchased it. The young man was awarded $850,000 in damages by a federal jury.

    Although much of Twelve Angry Men deals with the anecdotal and the personal, the book also delves into the statistical, including a report on racial profiling as practiced by the New York Police Department. According to the report, which was released by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), race, not crime, drives police stops and frisks. This is what blacks and Latinos have been saying for years. And no matter what the neighborhood -- low crime or high crime, black, Latino, white or mixed, the results are always the same.

    For example, 80 percent of the stops made by the NYPD between 2005 and 2008 were of African Americans, who are only 25 percent of the city's population. Whites, who make up 44 percent of the city's population, were stopped only 10 percent of the time. Over the past six years, nearly half of all stops were made on the basis of a vague category called "furtive movements," while only 15 percent cited "fits relevant description." In over half of the stops, the officers noted "high crime area" as an "additional circumstance," even in low crime areas.

    "CCR has been litigating against the NYPD's racial profiling and suspicionless stops-and-frisks since 1999. For its part, during all this time, the police have claimed that they stop people based upon reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, based upon a description of a perpetrator, and as an effective tool to get guns off the street," Vincent Warren, CCR's executive director, recently told me. "The significance of this report is that New York City must finally come to grips with its racial profiling problem. There are hundreds of thousands of innocent Black and Brown New Yorkers who daily suffer the indignities of these illegal police tactics. And the police department should be protecting them and not harassing them."

    Reading Twelve Angry Men made me angry, not because the subject matter was brand new to me, but because it was far too familiar -- not only as a black man, but also as a human rights advocate who worked with police brutality victims and their families back in the 1990s and decided to go to law school as a result. Whether or not racial profiling is a new subject for you, this book should spark some discussions. And bringing this problem into the light is the only way we can begin to fight it. Black folks are not the only victims of racial profiling, to be sure. But examining America's badge of slavery is a good place to start.

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