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Thread: Farewell, Gasoline Alley; the changing face of Noho

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    Default Farewell, Gasoline Alley; the changing face of Noho

    Farewell, Gasoline Alley; the changing face of Noho

    By Keith Crandell
    http://www.thevillager.com/villager_...linealley.html

    On the former site of a car wash, a new office building with retail space is going up at Broadway and Houston St. At least residents no longer have to look at Calvin Klein ads of semi-naked young men with their zippers open posted on the building behind the lot.

    New people are coming into Noho and more are on the way. I must admit, I have yet to see one of the most famous of my new Noho neighbors, Britney Spears, the pop singer notable for her romances and her role with the Mouseketeers on the Disney Channel so many years ago, waiting for the #1 bus on Lafayette near Bond. And therein lies the challenge. I will get back to Ms. Spears in a moment.


    Let me explain first that Noho, the little trapezoidal neighborhood north of Houston St. between Mercer and the grungy old Bowery, extending up to Astor Pl., has for years served the automotive needs of its ritzier neighbors in Greenwich Village and elsewhere. But are things ever changing. Noho is no longer Gasoline Alley!

    All over Noho, the businesses that serviced motorists are vanishing. Parking lots are disappearing. So are gas stations. Gone are the repair shops. Bye-bye car washes!

    Take a stroll with me through Noho. We’ll begin at the northeast corner of Houston and Broadway, where the most garish car wash and gas station in the Western world (complete with whales spouting a rainbow of bubbles) has given way for construction of an office and showroom building certain to be more staid and dignified. Go someplace else to wash up and gas up.

    We walk east past Crosby St. where the tiniest of parking lots survives. It holds spaces for, perhaps, eight cars. Across Lafayette, the noisy shop where automobile engines were repaired is now closed, to be replaced by a residential building?

    We head north on Lafayette to the dinky triangle formed by the confluence of Lafayette, Bleecker and Mulberry Sts. A few drivers once parked their cars here. Now the site is occupied by a clothing store and a mini food shop.

    Up Lafayette, one block north of Bleecker, we come to the corner of Bond St, a short street extending just two blocks from Broadway to the Bowery. On the northwest corner of Lafayette and Bond, across from the residence for homeless women with mental challenges, stands a billboard of notable ugliness urging neighbors and passersby to drink plenty of Jose Cuervo. For years, the site had housed a gas station and auto repair shop. It has since been sold to a hotel entrepreneur for a huge amount of money.

    Walk east on Bond St. toward the Bowery. On the south side is a parking garage, soon to be replaced — if the developer has his wishes — by a 10-story (or so) residential tower. Across the street, on the north side, on the outdoor lot where scores of car owners have parked for a quarter-century, another residential tower will rise. Half a block away, at the corner of Bond and the Bowery opposite CBGB’s and the Amato Opera, a shabby little gas station favored by cab drivers has been replaced by a small (six-story) condo where you can buy a floor for $1.4 million. (Would you believe that a home on the Bowery could ever sell for a million dollars!) Across the Bowery, next to the Amato, N.Y.U. has replaced a one-time parking lot — and later, garden center — with one of its ubiquitous new dormitories.

    We stroll north on the Bowery. At the corner of E. Third, the old gas station/auto repair shop, is being replaced by a new residential tower. At Astor Pl., across from the Cooper Union, ground has just been broken for a new 22-story condo tower on the site of what had been a parking lot since shortly after World War II.

    Comes now the first obvious question: What’s to become of the local drivers who relied on the parking, the gas stations, the car washes, the repair services of Noho?
    I have a dream: That people coming to Noho will come by public transportation, thereby cleansing the air and maiming fewer pedestrians. Public transportation in Noho is splendid. The 6 train on the Lexington Ave. line stops at Bleecker St. The old I.N.D. line, with its heavily used F line, stops at Lafayette. The M.T.A. has made upgrading of the Bleecker and Lafayette stations a top priority, including disabled accessibility and complete interchangeability for the two lines. (About time!) What’s more, the area is well served by bus lines along Broadway, Lafayette and the Bowery (which becomes Third Ave. to the north.) So weep not for local drivers. There are plenty of good options. This writer has managed to live here for more than 30 years without a car and most of my neighbors do without as well.

    Comes now the second obvious question: How will the residents of the hundreds of new, expensive homes fare with no place to park or gas up or get their flats fixed? Will the folks who fork over a million dollars for a condo at the corner of the Bowery and Bond be willing to ride the bus home at night, even if it stops right at their corner? Will they be persuaded to adopt a different lifestyle?

    Some will be delighted to learn that public transportation is so handy and offers an economical way to get around town. Perhaps getting rid of the family flivver will help them pay the steep cost of buying into Noho.

    Ah, but many of the folks who spend a million dollars or more for a co-op will not really care about saving on their local transportations costs.

    Which brings me back to Britney Spears, who I recently found out lives, fittingly, in the building above Tower Records. I welcome her to Noho. I hope she gets over her breakup with Justin Timberlake. I hope she registers to vote, setting a splendid example for young people. I hope she signs up for the Noho Neighborhood Association. Most of all, I hope to see her at the bus stop. She would certainly liven up the wait outside Marty’s second-hand shop on Lafayette. More important, she might even make riding public transportation chic.

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Why don't they build new buildings with parking garages. That way, there will be no need for surface garages parking option and peolpe don't have to worry of letting go of their cars. :wink:

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    Thank you. Every multi-level or surface lot shoud be moved underground, and developed on. MAJOR incentives should be given to the land owners and possible developers to make it happen. More offices, retail and/or residences, same parking... good for developers, good for land owners (let them run the parking) and good for the city.

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    Chuck Close tries to keep walls from closing in on him in Noho



    Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel
    Chuck Close, on Bond St., shows the narrow, 6-to-10-foot-wide strip of
    property by his building where a developer wants to build a retail space
    that would block Close’s windows, which were original to Close’s building,
    the artist says.

    THE VILLAGER
    By Lincoln Anderson
    Volume 76, Number 8
    July 12 - 18, 2006

    Renowned portrait painter Chuck Close has lived in an array of loft spaces in the Village area since 1967. He lived with other artists in a building New York University owned on W. Third St., but eventually the university threw everyone out. Then he lived on Prince St. in Soho for a while, then on Crosby St. But his loft in Noho at Bond and Lafayette Sts., where he has resided, at least part time, and worked for the last 18 years, has been the studio of his dreams.

    But now, he fears, his ideal workspace will be ruined if a developer wins approval to build a seven-story residential condo building on Great Jones and Lafayette Sts. with a thin extension running down Lafayette St. that will drastically reduce his natural light.

    Close is a quadriplegic, which makes finding a suitable studio a challenge. His Bond St. space is on the ground floor, so he can roll his electric wheelchair in and out without any problem. It has excellent northern light, thanks to original skylights at the uptown end that had been blotted out with tarpaper when he moved in, but which he uncovered. There is also western light from two windows on his studio’s western wall — again, windows that were original to the building, he says, probably once windows for men’s and women’s bathrooms when the place was a sweatshop. His canvases are stretched in the basement and Close raises them through a slit in the floor via a pneumatic lift he operates with a foot pedal. With the foot pedal, he raises and lowers and pivots the paintings as he needs when working on them. He paints directly beneath the skylights.

    The setup works well for Close, and he turns out about four portraits per year, using his signature “incremental” style, in which the portraits are composed of large pixels of pigment or shapes. The paintings sell for “a lot,” he said, “probably an obscene amount.”

    If the new project is built per its application, Close says he will probably have to leave the city.

    “This can’t be easily duplicated,” he said. “If I lose my light, I’m gone.”

    The new project is seeking two variances: to allow 14 residential units; and for retail on the ground floor, including the extension that would wrap around on Lafayette St. This thin leg of the proposed new building would be flush against Close’s west side windows, blocking them entirely. The main part of the new building, which Close says would be about 10 feet away from his building, would effectively put his studio at the bottom of “a pit,” meaning his light from that side would be cut severely.

    Until a few years ago, the low-rise Jones Diner was on the project site at Great Jones St., while a juice bar and a shack that a reformed drug dealer turned furniture dealer sold out of were on Lafayette St. But, despite a fierce community battle to landmark the old diner, these were all cleared for the new project, being developed by Olmstead Properties and designed by BKSK architects.

    Across the street from Close’s place, a new residential project by a group of investment bankers is rising, while further down Bond St. hotelier Ian Schrager is constructing a swank new condo building. The neighborhood’s gentrification is accelerating, and artists are losing out, Close says. He and a group of other artist tenants, primarily painters, with one dancer, all live and work in 20 Bond St., a seven-story building, under Soho and Noho’s special artist-in-residence zoning. The artists saved the neighborhood when no one wanted to live there, but now they’re being condo’ed out, Close says.

    “Nobody wanted this neighborhood. We saved it,” he said on Tuesday, showing a visitor around his space. “Ian Schrager wants to build here now because of the cachet.”

    Other notable artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Stella, Brice Marden, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Franks, have also made or continue to make Noho their home, Close wrote in a July 7 letter to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which will consider the variance applications at its July 18 meeting. Community Board 2’s Zoning Committee will consider the applications on July 13.

    With hands that he doesn’t have full control of, clasping the piece of paper as if with flippers, the artist displayed an 1885 map illustrating how the former Lafayette Pl. used to stop at Great Jones St. At some later point, Lafayette Pl. was extended south as Lafayette St., punching through both Great Jones and Bond Sts., clearing out a townhouse next to 20 Bond St. in the process. But this townhouse did not extend as far into the lot as Close’s old industrial building, and the map shows that the buildings shared a common courtyard into which Close’s western windows faced.

    Close rolled outside to look at the proposed building site from the sidewalk.

    “Oh Beth, the portrait of the Dalai Lama has come in,” he noted while exiting to his assistant of a cardboard box by the door. Close also takes photographs. The Dalai Lama would like him to sign the portrait he took of him.

    “My windows were never lot-line windows,” Close said, now out on Lafayette St. Lot-line windows are windows that are installed when a neighboring building that would have previously blocked them is demolished. “The outline of the old townhouse [that was demolished to create Lafayette St.] can still be seen on the side of my building,” he stressed. This old outline stops right before it comes to Close’s western windows. (It also happens to bear the faded traces of an ad, painted later, for crankshafts “of distinction.”)

    “You can see all the original lintels and window frames,” Close added of the windows on 20 Bond St.’s western wall, again stressing that these were not lot-line windows added later on.

    So, Close argues, the thin leg of the new project should not be allowed to run down Lafayette St. past his western windows since this spot was an open courtyard in the past.

    Jay Segal, the developer’s land-use attorney, said he and the owner and a representative of the developer recently met with Close and are seeing what they can do to make the project more acceptable to the artist.

    “We are now evaluating what he had to say — and what the building’s other tenants had to say — and what our response will be. We have listened and will have a response,” Segal said.

    As for Close contending they have no right to build on the thin strip of Lafayette St. by his two western windows, Segal said he isn’t familiar with the argument and hasn’t seen the map, but that it sounds like it doesn’t make sense.

    “I don’t know any theory of law that says it would be illegal to build on our strip that we own,” Segal said. “I don’t know what he means. I don’t understand the argument. I don’t know why it would be relevant if there was another property there [in the past] with another configuration.”

    Segal also added that at some points the new building will be set back 20 feet from Close’s building — twice as far back as the artist claims. Also, he said, any new residential construction would need a variance, even for new artists’ joint work-live units, so the developers’ are within their rights to request nonartists’ housing.

    Councilmember Alan Gerson, a strong supporter of the arts in his Lower Manhattan district, which includes Noho, said that because the new project is probably “on the cusp” of the Noho special manufacturing zone, it legally must include some portion for artistic use.

    “Soho and Noho zoning has to be respected to protect the artistic character of those communities, despite the fact that it has been eroded in recent years,” Gerson said. Gerson said that the city must do more to insure that the artistic integrity of these Downtown neighborhoods is protected.

    Gerson said he will be issuing a paper on Soho/Noho zoning and the lack of enforcement of the neighborhoods’ artist-in-residency requirement and will be holding a public forum on the same soon.

    © 2006 Community Media, LLC

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    For anyone interested ...

    SAVE NOHO PETITION
    The neighborhood north of Houston Street—known as Noho—has been overwhelmed during the past decade by a sudden surge of new development. While some developers have been respectful of the neighborhood's architectural history and artistic character, others have ignored these important considerations in their plans. Unless a concerted effort is made by community organizations and city agencies to curb Noho’s overdevelopment, the neighborhood will soon suffer an unprecedented shift in character and demographics.

    Since the 1960’s, Noho has been—at its core—a home to New York’s emerging and established artists. Some of the most notable Noho artists have included: Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Stella, Ellen Stewart, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Frank, Brice Marden, and Chuck Close. At the center of Noho’s current crisis is a proposed building at 363 Lafayette Street, which—under its current design configurations—would force one of Noho’s last living legends, Chuck Close, to move out of his Bond Street studio.

    The proposed building at 363 Lafayette Street would wrap around the western wall of the adjacent building at 20 Bond Street—along a narrow wedge-shaped sliver of land (6 1/2 feet at its base and 15 feet at its crest)—blocking nearly all of Chuck Close’s light. In addition, the building at 363 Lafayette Street would also disrupt the work and lives of other residents of 20 Bond Street, unnecessarily blocking air and light on six floors along the northern and western sides.

    We, the undersigned, oppose the proposed building at 363 Lafayette Street to the extent that its current design will make it impossible for Chuck Close to continue working in his studio and will disrupt the lives of residents in the adjacent building at 20 Bond Street. We implore the New York Board of Standards and Appeals and Community Board Two to deny Olmstead Properties’ variance application for 363 Lafayette Street until the building’s design has been altered to allow Chuck Close to continue working in his studio, maintaining light and air along the western wall of 20 Bond Street. The future of Noho's long-established character is at stake.

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    20 Bond St. to the right of the empty lot at 363 Lafayette -- the site in question at Bond / Lafayette:


    (Photo/Patrick Moroney)
    This block-long ad, at 363 Lafayette St., is illegal

    http://www.mas.org/Advocacy/Architecture.cfm?ContID=1194&Full=Yes
    Last edited by lofter1; July 17th, 2006 at 11:05 AM.

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    A recent DISAPPROVED application for the 363 Lafayette site at DOB.


    Proposed: J-2 - RESIDENTIAL APT HOUSE
    No. Stories: 6
    Street Frontage:
    Height: 79
    Dwelling Units: 14
    Total Gross Area of Building: 33,050 Sq. Ft.

    Metes and Bounds:
    Street Status: PUBLIC - LEGAL WIDTH 60


    Beginning at a point on the EAST side of LAFAYETTE ST Distant Ft. SOUTH of the corner formed by the intersection of LAFAYETTE STREET and GREAT JONES STREET
    RUNNING THENCE: S 201.02 FT.
    THENCE: E 6.43 FT.
    RUNNING THENCE: N 100 FT.
    THENCE: E 25.62 FT.
    RUNNING THENCE: N 100.16 FT.
    THENCE: W 49.04 FT.

    ULT. NO. OF STORIES 6
    Comments for Document 01:


    NOTE: this New Building application will require the following Expedited BSA Objections from the Chief Plan Examiner for Proposed Zoning Variances:
    1) Residential Uses (UG2) Not Permitted in M1-5B Zoning District pursaunt
    to ZR 42-14 (D).

    2) Retail Uses (UG6) Not Permitted in M1-5B Zoning
    District pursuant to ZR 42-14 (D).

    3) There are no Residential Bulk Regulations for M1-5B Zoning Districts. BSA must provide.
    Additional work types to be filed after BSA approval as subsequent documents under this NB
    application.


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    This proposal for 363 Lafayette variances is on the Hearing Calendar at the Board of Standards and Appeals ( BSA )

    Tuesday July 18 ...

    ***
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    Although I enjoy his work, it is hard for me to be feeling great sympathy toward Chuck Close. It's one thing to protect struggling artists. I think we can all agree he is not a struggling artist.

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    Art of the deal:
    Close, artists near accord on Noho project


    Villager file photo
    Artists at 20 Bond St. hope to reach
    an agreement on development
    of the neighboring lot.

    thevillager.com
    By Lincoln Anderson
    October 18-24, 2006

    According to all parties involved, the developer of a new mixed-use building between Great Jones and Bond Sts. on Lafayette St. is close to reaching an agreement with Chuck Close and his fellow artist tenants in the adjacent building at 20 Bond St.

    Close — considered one of the world’s most important living painters — and the other artists who own condos in the building feared the new project on an unusually shaped lot would block their light and air. The lot has a narrow strip along Lafayette St. that Close and others were concerned would block their west windows.

    Last Thursday, Community Board 2’s Zoning and Housing Committee conditionally approved a new, modified design, provided that the artists and the developer finalize their agreement on the project, whose address is listed as 363 Lafayette St.

    “We cut back on a lot of the building so it provided a lot more light into all of the artists’ studios. We pulled the building back,” said Jay Segal, attorney for the developer, speaking Monday. “At the board meeting, it was clear they supported our design. But the board said its resolution is contingent on our reaching a written agreement on 20 Bond.”

    Michael Volonakis, a studio assistant to Close, relaying Close’s comments over the phone, said, “There’s an agreement about to be signed in a few days — but we can’t discuss the terms until it’s been signed.”

    Close, who is a paraplegic, paints by strapping a paintbrush to his hand, while raising and pivoting his canvases with a hydraulic foot pedal. The studio is set up so he can raise newly stretched canvases from the basement via the foot pedal, and sports skylights at the north end above his workspace and windows on his western wall.

    The application for the new building — which requires two variances — will go before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals next Tuesday. Variances for the project are needed to allow retail use on the ground floor, as well as for any kind of residential use, whether plain residential or joint living-work quarters for artists, in the Noho district, which is still zoned for manufacturing.

    Both Segal and Doris Diether, the Zoning and Housing Committee chairperson, said the key change is a cantilever feature that has been added to the building design. Segal didn’t go into specifics, but Diether said that on the second and third floors in the new building’s Lafayette and Bond Sts. sides, the floors are shifted away from 20 Bond St.’s western wall, with the fourth through sixth floors then cantilevered over this space. As a result of the space taken away to create the cantilever, the new design adds another story on the tower part of the project on Great Jones St., increasing it from seven to eight stories and the total floor-to-area ratio from 5.0 to 5.5.

    In addition, the Zoning and Housing Committee made three other recommendations: that three balconies that would project into this space in the cantilever area be removed; that all units in the new building be at least 1,200 square feet; and that they be joint living-work quarters for artists, as opposed to ordinary residential units.

    “These things that we’re asking for are not big things,” Diether said, noting that she and the committee came up with these ideas independently of Close and the artists. On one floor, for example, she noted, an 1,100-square-foot studio and 1,300-square-foot studio could be made into two 1,200-square-foot studios just by moving a wall. Similarly, on the new building’s top floor, two small, planned 700-square-foot studios could be combined to produce an apartment more typical of the loft sizes in Soho and Noho. Similarly, joint living-work quarters for artists, as opposed to ordinary residential units, are also the norm in this arts district, she noted. And the artists will have more light — as well as privacy — if the balconies near their windows are eliminated, she added. Diether said the project also will be cheaper to build if using her committee resolution’s recommendations.

    But Segal said, “We’re not going to change the design” based on the committee’s recommendations, adding, “We’re going to stick with the design we have.”

    © 2006 Community Media, LLC

  11. #11

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    It seems that the old building pictured is the one which houses the artists' studios. It's nice to see it preserved.

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Bond Street Bind


    Rendering of 363-371 Lafayette

    therealestate.observer.com
    Matthew Grace
    October 20, 2006

    The Real Estate on Community Board 2 tentatively approved a plan for the development of 363-371 Layfayette Street last night, with several stipulations that the board hopes will preserve light and space for the adjoining building at 20 Bond Street, where legendary artist Chuck Close has a studio.

    Tenants at 20 Bond Street and the developer 363-371 Layfayette Street, Olmstead Propeties, have been in negotiations for months concerning the new development. Aided by big guns from the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art who wrote letters supporting Mr. Close and 20 Bond Street's other tenants, the tenants and the developer are negotiating a mutually beneficial plan that will allow the building to be developed while preserving light for the next-door property.

    An attorney for the tenants addressed the board last night and said the negotiations are nearly finished, yet declined to state what any sticking points might remain. Apparently satisfied, the board approved the variance request, with a few modifications.

    The developers asked for variances to change the ground floor to retail and the upper floors to residential, which is not allowed in the M1-5B (manufacturing) district, and an increase of floor-area ratio to 5.5, up from 5.0.

    In its resolution, the board recommended to permit the retail use of the ground floor, but not to change the upper floors to residential use--instead, it urged the developers to use the upper floors as "joint living-work quarters," with each unit required to be 1,200 square feet, eliminating the balconies from the design (to preserve light and privacy in 20 Bond Street), and that negotiations continue with 20 Bond Street, resulting in a binding agreement.

    The community board's decision is, of course, strictly advisory. The Board of Standards and Appeals must sign off on the plans before work starts.

    For further info, check out The Villager's extensive coverage here and here.

    copyright © 2006 the new york observer, L.P.


    ***

    The lot at 363-371 Lafayette, with 20 Bond in the background at the right ...

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    Does anyone know what the building is rising to the East?

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    That's an odd project that has been going on forever ...

    The address at that site is 25 Great Jones Street (that corner was the site of the funky old Jones Diner, which was torn down a few years ago).

    DOB describes the lot as 25' x 199'

    Job Description: ADD 8 STORIES (3-10) ON TO EXISTING BLDG. (SC1, CEL, 1 & 2) NEW STEEL,CONCRETE AND PLUMBING. OBTAIN AN AMENDED C/O.

    Seemingly this is part of a parcel that entends through the block to 22 Bond Street, where per DOB, there are plans for an extension of the 2-story building at 22 Bond Street ...

    Description: Vertical extnsion to existing 2 story building (cellar, 1st & 2nd). Add 3rd thru 9th floors to be used as hotel suites. Change of use on 2nd floor to Joint Living & work quarter. Obtain new CO.

    However that application was "DISAPPROVED" and there is a "STOP WORK ORDER" on this property.

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    A shot of the corner of Lafayette / Great Jones back in the days of "gasoline alley:


    Jones Diner, NYC 1999

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