Pound Sign

New York City, pop culture, art and nightlife. Because nobody else is blogging about those things.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Dismantling of New York.

I wasn't born in New York, I'm a transplanted Midwesterner. I've been here for a fair number of years now though, and coming from the Midwest, where the farmland and downtowns of my youth are being swallowed whole by exurban sprawl and big-box retail parking lots, one of the things I immediately loved about the city was the sense of realness, of connection to its history, and a shared understanding among its residents that part of what makes it great to live here are the neighborhood businesses and creaky old apartment buildings that may have leaky radiator heat but also have genuine character...ok, that all reads like total cliche, but I think it's also true.

But quite frequently, it feels to me now like I got here just in time for what I call the Dismantling of New York. At a terrible Off-Broadway play earlier this week (that shall remain nameless) I was flipping through the playbill and read the last page about the Barrymore, that charming theatre-crowd hangout bar and restaurant on 45th Street, that closed in January after decades as a neighborhood staple to make way for a luxury hotel. Now, I had already read about that in the Times, because, like the late, lamented McHale's in the same neighborhood, the Barrymore was the kind of place that inspires writers to lament their passing-and with good reason! But, what really bums me out are the places you walk by every day in neighborhoods all over, where a small business has been closed to make way for another condo, without anybody noticing except the people who cared, right there in that neighborhood where it had always been. Perfect example; earlier this year, my wife and I met her brother for late (LATE) weekend breakfast at the Skyline Diner on the corner of 75th and Lex. The Skyline was nothing more then a typically friendly Greek diner with faded celebrity pix over the counter and worn-down tabletops (although it had a nice, distinctive frilled canopy over the corner entrance, with the name in neon), but it's exactly the kind of spot you want to end up on a chilly late morning for bacon and a bottomless cup of coffee. Literally the next day, we walked past it on the way to the 6, and it was closed, with a for-rent sign in the window. Just like that. Uncertain what will take it's place-it's a corner property so indications would point to sun-blotting condo tower, BUT it could also be that distictive sub-class of the Dismantling: the Bankification.

My neighborhood is overrun by bankification. Virtually every store that closes turns to a bank, that sits humming and glowing with its vast empty lobby. Who the hell needs so many banks? All the people supposedly moving into the new condos, I suppose.

If I see a nice, neighborhood place close so we can have another condo/bank, that I seriously doubt will inspire a Talk of the Town piece, I'm going to try to write about it. Honestly, Gothamist can't get to all of them.



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