Bob, that isn't a very friendly first post.
This country is very large. People living as far from New York as forumer Benniest does shouldn't be expected to know the neighborhoods or political units of NYC. Plus he's a young guy still in school.
I don't know what this:
"Given that you Americans seem to find it impossible to leave your own country"
is about, but I can assure you that many of the people on this forum are very well seasoned travelers. There are more than 300 million Americans, so don't bother with stereotypes.
Welcome to the forum. Now lose the attitude.
I think Ben just used the wrong word, it seemed to me he was using it as an analogy. The village is to manhattan what manhattan is to the whole city. No need for insults.
hell's kitchen to Alphabet city? hmmm...
schade, he said Times Square to the village. I can get the 1 at Times Square and be in the vill in 15 minutes easily, and so could you; like I said it's 5 stops to 14th street and 6 to Christopher on the 1 train. How far something is would usually indicate to its closest edge, in this case traditionally considered 14th. If someone asked me the distance from Europe to America, I wouldn't measure from Istanbul to LA.
Times Sq- 14th, in 15 minutes is a piece of cake.
^ 2 stops on the express. Maybe less than 10 minutes.
I was just joshing you, MidtownGuy.
However, it is always interesting to see the way people break down travel time within the city. It takes me 20 minutes to get from my midtown office to my home in the Bronx, which is the same amount of time it would take for people to get from parts of midtown to the Village. By mental geography, on the other hand, it's a much longer distance.
So true. It's weird really, when I lived in Fort Green it was a quick D train over the bridge to the Village and yet mentally it seemed farther.
This is just on the boarder, not sure what the name is, please help
E3rd & Lafayette
Greenwich Village is one of the neighborhoods, for me, that I can look at all day long. I love it.
Thank you again ablarc.
Volume 78 / Number 9 - July 30 - August 5, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Villager photo by Gabriel ZuckerButcher-block paper covers the windows of the Minetta Tavern as a historically sensitive renovation goes on inside.
Hoping that Joe Gould’s haunt won’t become history
By Gabriel Zucker
Rising rents felled another fabled Village landmark in May, when the Minetta Tavern was bought by Keith McNally, the prolific restaurateur of Pastis, Balthazar and Morandi fame. Minetta Tavern, at the corner of MacDougal St. and Minetta Lane, will become McNally’s fourth restaurant when it reopens in November.
Neither the building’s landlord nor Taka Becovic, the restaurant’s former owner of 13 years, responded to The Villager’s phone calls. But rumors circulated that the rent had risen above $50,000 for the small, 71-year-old restaurant. Regulars said that they had not seen any considerable drop in business prior to the place’s closing, and speculated that, if not for the steep rent increase, Becovic would have stayed in business.
At the Minetta Tavern’s well-attended “last supper,” the bartender announced that Becovic was planning to open a new restaurant with the same staff, and had customers sign an e-mail list to stay informed.
McNally first began thinking about buying the Minetta Tavern last December. Word of his purchase spread when he applied for a liquor license transfer in March. In a move that pleased some preservationists, McNally announced at the start that he intends to preserve as much as he can of the historic eatery.
“I didn’t buy the Minetta Tavern in order to change it,” McNally wrote in an e-mail, though he noted that he would have to renovate the kitchen. “I bought it because it was — and still is — a very beautiful place.”
Minetta Tavern is renowned for its distinctive interior. Murals of Village sights and scenes cover the walls, and the wooden bar is original from 1937. McNally bought not only the restaurant but everything inside of it, down to the paper cutouts that line the bar.
“All the murals will be preserved, as will the bar and almost everything else,” McNally wrote.
In the same vein, when asked whether the restaurant had a name yet, McNally said, “Yes, it has a really good name — The Minetta Tavern.”
Construction seems to have commenced on the restaurant’s interior in recent weeks. But McNally says he is not ridding the restaurant of its lore, but rather reinstating it.
“There are…parts of the Tavern that have been ‘modernized’ over the past 25 years in a manner which I found sufficiently disturbing to make me decide to replace them with something much closer to their original state,” he explained.
Still, the MacDougal St. haunt’s six-month hiatus has some patrons wondering what’s really happening inside.
“I don’t understand why it’s taking him as long as it is to open the place back up, unless he’s going to rip it all up,” said Bob Martinez, who was a regular at Minetta Tavern the last four years. “Even if he’s going to redo the kitchen, that should only take two months. I can only think he’s not going to keep his word,” Martinez concluded.
Regardless of the interior, other local residents felt that a McNally-owned Minetta Tavern would simply be not the same.
“The places that are traditional to the area are losing their leases and going out of business,” said Doris Diether, a longtime Village resident and veteran member of Community Board 2. She pointed to the loss of Meat Market institution Florent restaurant last month as another example.
The Minetta Tavern was historically a famed spot on the beatnik and celebrity circuit. Literary luminaries Ezra Pound, E.E. Cummings and Ernest Hemingway frequented the restaurant. Joe Gould allegedly wrote parts of his infamous “Oral History of the World” at the tavern, and a portrait of him can be found on the wall. The restaurant was featured in the movies “Sleepers” and “Mickey Blue Eyes.” Rumor has it that Reader’s Digest was born in the basement.
“It was a historic restaurant and an important part of our neighborhood lore,” wrote Bradford Sussman, a 15-year resident of the block, in an e-mail. “Additionally, it served as a place of employment for generations of artists in need of day jobs while developing their crafts.”
“You just knew that there was something different about the place,” said Martinez.
More recently, Matthew Broderick and Mathew McConaughey raved about the restaurant to newspapers.
Despite cries that McNally may be renovating away the historic tavern’s authenticity, many foodies have pointed out in recent months that the restaurant had lost its touch and was offering overpriced and unsubstantial Italian fare. While the bar was often crowded, a sparsely populated dining room was not uncommon for Becovic’s Minetta Tavern, especially on weeknights.
Not surprisingly, the food at the new Minetta Tavern will be largely French, designed by Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr — chefs at Pastis and Balthazar and McNally’s “equal partners” at Minetta Tavern. Still, said Nasr, “We don’t intend to replicate what we are doing at Balthazar and Pastis.” Nasr said the atmosphere at the new restaurant would inspire a different kind of food.
“Minetta has a real timelessness about it,” wrote Nasr in an e-mail. “It is every bit a tavern and therefore masculine and bold. We want to complement that with our menus and some things in this more intimate dining room that the sheer scale of Balthazar and Pastis prohibits.
“We will focus as much as possible on what is locally grown, including the meat, fish and cheese,” he continued. “Preparations will be simple, bold and straightforward, the trademarks of solid bistro cooking.”
While the food may improve under McNally, Minetta Tavern’s fans point out that they were never focused on it.
“The food at Minetta could vary,” admitted Martinez, who claimed that while he always enjoyed his meals, some friends had been less pleased — especially when the kitchen was busy.
“It certainly wasn’t fine dining,” added Dan Lapin, a food blogger who used to frequent the restaurant. “The people were very friendly. It was a real neighborhood restaurant — there was no shtick about it.”
Lapin recalled how more than 20 years ago when, as a self-described “poor student,” he was working to pay for college, and visiting the Minetta Tavern at night.
“I was working selling Christmas trees in Chelsea, and I would head down there almost every day after work,” he said. On one of his last nights there, right around Christmas, he gave the bartender an especially generous tip — and his money was returned.
“I’ll never forget the bartender — he literally yelled at me,” laughed Lapin. “He told me I was working to go to school, and he told me to take the money back.”
Lapin’s sister Ruth, who lived across the street from the restaurant in the early 1980s, was also a regular.
“For four years, I ate there twice a week,” she said. “It was like what you imagined a classic Italian restaurant to be. I drank my first martini there with my cousin. We actually ended up drinking seven martinis each.”
Even as she lamented the Minetta Tavern’s closing, however, Lapin questioned how much really had been lost with Becovic’s departure.
“I think the neighborhood’s so lost it doesn’t even matter anymore,” she said, resigned. She now leaves in Brooklyn. “I loved that restaurant, it was sweet, it was great. But there’s not all that much charm left on MacDougal St. anymore.”
© 2008 Community Media, LLC
Blowin’ in the Forgotten Wind
Bess Greenberg/The New York Times
Le Figaro Cafe, on Bleeker Street has officially closed.
By JAKE MOONEY
Published: August 22, 2008
THE windows of Le Figaro Cafe at Bleecker and Macdougal Streets were whited over last week. Except for the workers stepping past boxes of new floor tiles and appliances, the inside was as quiet as it has been since June, when the old place closed its doors. Plans to install signs for the new tenant, a branch of the Qdoba burrito chain, were still awaiting city approval.
One recent afternoon on Bleecker, returning college students lugged bags from the Container Store into a stairway, and a display of obscene T-shirts met shoppers at a store called Modern Village. The Figaro, two doors down, might have been called Ancient Village by comparison. This holdover from the neighborhood’s beatnik and folkie days outlived the scenes that passed through it, disappeared for a while, returned for a 33-year encore and finally expired, mostly unlamented.
Alexandra McGrath, a 21-year-old student and restaurant hostess, stopped to look at a building permit posted in the window. Ms. McGrath grew up on Long Island, but from the time she was 11 or 12, her father used to take her to the Figaro on visits to the city. He had lived in Greenwich Village when he was younger, she said, and always recalled the cafe as a hip place to go.
Ms. McGrath lives in Queens and works on the Upper East Side, and until walking past, she had not realized that the place was closed.
Still, a few minutes earlier, she had consulted a tourist map of the neighborhood in her search for a friend’s apartment, and saw that the Figaro was literally on the map, marked prominently.
“So,” she said, “that means it was a big deal.”
Suze Rotolo started hanging around Washington Square Park as a Queens teenager in the late 1950s, around the time the Figaro opened and moved to the Village a few years later. She remembers the old French newspapers plastered on the walls and the management’s willingness to let patrons linger without buying much.
“Writers, poets, visual artists, actors, anybody could go and nurse a cup of coffee and not have to worry about spending too much money,” she recalled a few days ago.
Ms. Rotolo — an artist who hung around with Macdougal Street luminaries like Dave Van Ronk and Bob Dylan, dated Mr. Dylan and recently wrote a memoir, “A Freewheelin’ Time,” about the era — remembered the Figaro as a place to go before or after a performance at a nearby club.
It seemed to be aiming for the mood of a Paris cafe in the 1930s, she said, and for some customers, emulating that earlier, more romantic time was part of the appeal.
The Figaro went out of business for the first time in 1969, a victim of rising rents, to be replaced by a Blimpie sandwich shop and, later, an ice cream parlor. The cafe reopened in 1975 with a new owner, Ben Fishbein, who ran it until 2004, when he sold it to the corporation that owns the space today.
Ms. Rotolo still lives in the Village, but she had not been by the cafe in a long time. “The Figaro really became, for want of a term, plastic,” she said. “You know what I mean? Some things go from wood to plastic.”
The writer André Aciman, who used to spend time at the Figaro in the 1970s, said he was not surprised by its quiet passing. “Nothing is mourned in New York,” he said. “We miss it as an idea, but in point of fact, if it’s gone it’s because nobody was going there.”
Over the years the Figaro had its moments. Despite what Mr. Aciman recalled as nondescript sandwiches and limited pastries, it was a good place for an afternoon glass of wine, a late-night cup of coffee and maybe an impromptu conversation with a stranger at the next table. Mr. Aciman remembered seeing Fellini’s 1963 film “8 1/2” for the first time at the now-defunct Bleecker Street Cinema, down the street, then heading to the Figaro to talk it over with friends.
“You can’t do that in a burrito place,” Mr. Aciman said. “But on the other hand, if you don’t have a movie house that will show Fellini, then the Cafe Figaro becomes sort of unnecessary, too.”
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
This is one to lament.
It had an inspired business model. The price of an expresso was so high for its mainstay boho clientele that they lingered for hours to get their money's worth, thus providing authentic window dressing to lure the tourists for their brief and profitable visits.
Wonderfull pics. Thank you!
It is great to look at the pics and then cross-refrence with google streets.
The tiniest plot of private property in New York
Or at least until the 1930s, anyway. At the corner of Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue South in the West Village, in front of the iconic Village Cigars store, lies this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mosaic embedded in the sidewalk.
“Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes.”
What’s the backstory? In the 1910s, when the city was expanding the IRT subway line, officials tore down a nearby apartment building owned by the estate of a New Yorker named David Hess.
A small triangle of land was left over, and officials wanted the Hess family to donate it so the city could extend the sidewalk.
Nothing doing. The Hess Estate fought it out in court, won the right to preserve their little plot, and embedded the tile plaque as kind of a victory symbol. In 1938, however, they sold it to the Village Cigar owners.
Re opening this thread may give a few newcomers a chance to view ABLARC's wonderful photographic record of The VIllage.
See Post 1 of this thread. HERE
When I was in the village, this killed me every time I stepped outside. This beautiful building on 12th Street near Broadway is a parking garage. Surprised that a developer hasn't come along and restored/converted it. I don't know any cases where a parking garage was converted into apartments though, bet there would probably be contamination issues
Another nearby, but at least the exterior is in good shape.
Last edited by Derek2k3; December 12th, 2009 at 09:19 AM.