Tuesday, February 13, 2007

There Goes the 'Hood: Greenpoint to get Starfu..ed

Check out this posting on Craigslist. Seems like you can now get a pricey cup of crap with your perogi and stuffed cabbage.

There "officially" goes the neighborhood.

Here's the link.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Platinum my...

From the good peeps at Curbed, this is exactly what I mean. More cheesy new construction. No offense, but what self-respecting New Yorker would want to live in such a mass-marketed luxury residence? Oh, that's right, it's for the foreign investors.


Calling all Cafes...

Help me put together a list of great cafes throughout the city. If you have a fave, or a few, post a comment. I'll check it out. (Not that anyone is reading yet, but maybe some day I'll have the masses.)

Just so you know, I'm not asking for suggestions because I'm too lazy to find them myself. I think adding an interactive element to a blog devoted to a city of neighborhoods needs more than just one perspective. Basically, I want this to reflect the city. And I like to eat, so sampling the suggestions is an added bonus.

What's Cookin'? Hell's Kitchen Report

The sales office is open for business at the new "luxury" Archstone mini-city. 10th Avenue. 51st Street. Typical of the new structures lining 10th, and 42nd Street for that matter, the lobby is modeled after Wallpaper layouts circa 2000. I didn't check out the prices, but I'm sure you'll be getting the typical parquet floors, granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances for a bargain 2 grand studio...how chic. Ugh!!! Is it just me, or is anyone else unimpressed by all this boring, "luxury" new construction? Can't someone design a building with something to say? This mundane architecture is sucking the life out of this city. Where's the character? I want to see a building, even just one, that says, "Hello. Welcome to your new home" or even "Welcome to your friend's home." Instead, I get "Stay away! I think I'm too cool for school."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cafe of the Day: The Grey Dog

In the first of my campaign to get people out of their local neighborhood Starbucks, or Starbuckssssss, I present the Grey Dog's Coffee. Carmine Street, West Village. Yours truly considers this to be one of the best cafe's in town. And the best part, this is not a new establishment aimed at pleasing the masses through market studies. It's been there for years, at least ten I'd say, likely more. I don't even know. I just know it has remained in my warmed with good coffee heart since my days living around the corner. Despite its name, this cafe is no dog. In many ways, it's the heart of the old West Village before all the baby stollers, celebrities and multimillionaire businessmen overtook this former nook of bohemia. And though these types frequent the establishment these days, they haven't spoiled it's charms.

Entering the cafe is a breath of fresh non-Starbucked air. The exposed brick, simple tables, fresh muffin and bread filled counter, and menu on the wall screams NON-CHAIN. It's so refreshing. There's no branding on anything. What they sell is place. And a great breakfast to boot. I mean, it truly is a neighborhood coffee and breakfast (or lunch or dinner) location that remembers that a comfortable and casual environment presents a wonderful way to spend one's day, or an hour at the very least.

Now, if the above sounds like a little slice of fresh bread heaven, think about this. It's up to you, and the rest of the Starfucked masses, to support this type of establishment. Not just in the West Village, but in other necks of New York's woods. This is a city severely lacking in quaint cafes where locals gather and interact, actively or passively. We are oversaturated with corporate coffee. We have accepted the $2+ cups of crap, and been brainwashed into thinking IKEA like interiors are homey and comfortable. We have forgotten that the small businesses need our support. After all, it's the small, local establishments make better neighborhoods.

So the next time you feel the need for unconditional warm and cozy love, check out the Grey Dog's Coffee on Carmine, or rescue another dog in your neighborhood.

Gehry Is So Very....

Pretentious. Okay, I'm a little late to this issue as it's pretty much a done deal, but I din't have this blog then. I just needed to give my two cents. And I may get some flack for this post, more because I don't really have a problem with the idea of the Atlantic Yards development. This is New York, shit happens. And when I say shit, I mean, large developments coming down the pipeline. But the problem with Atlantic Yards isn't that it's been proposed. It's the way in which the developers blinded the masses (with the exception of DDDB) by bringing on the world renowned Starchitect, Frank Gehry, to place his signiture undulating panels above what is basically a sports arena and residential complex.

Don't get me wrong, good architecture goes a long way in creating a sense of place, however the sense of place for large scale development should take into consideration it's surroundings. And Gehry was the wrong man for this job. The site, though underutilized, is in the middle of Brownstone Brooklyn. Park Slope is to the East, Boerum Hill to the South and Fort Green, Bed Sty and Clinton Hill to the West. These are historical neighborhoods that have actually remained mostly intact, unlike most of NYC. This site could be the key to linking them all together, and maybe even an arena would help that. But Gehry's designs are wrong for this corner of the world in Brooklyn.

Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily dislike Gehry. His Disney Concert Hall works in it's location. It's a focal point in an otherwise modern city landscape, which brought a sense of place to a somewhat vacant area just out of LA's Bunker Hill business district. And the new Grand Avenue plan, which he is also involved in the design, has the potential to be a great destination and living environment. Additionally, his building in Chelsea, the name escapes me at the moment, works because it's in a more industrial area, it's design elements almost wave like with the waterfront across the street, and established row house neighborhoods separated by the soon-to-be-maybe-park "The High Line". It works. Here, however, his unusual facades, will stand out in a bad way, especially when up against the beacon of the Williamsburg Savings Bank.

I'm not saying that the development needed a traditional "brownstone" look to link the neighborhoods on either side of the development, but a design that was both progressive, yet also respectful to the current neighborhoods would go a long way to creating a good hood, one that adds to the existing areas, while also giving it it's own identitiy. As the design stands now, this will be a 1970s superblock, completely isolated from the surrounding environments, not just because the footprint of the development isn't more welcoming, but because it will stand out...and not in a good way.

Place matters. Starchitects often don't!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Bank This, Chase!!!

Nothing is more annoying than bank branches taking up valuable corner locations in residential neighborhoods. Case in point, the Chase location in Hellsea. "The Nicole" 9th Avenue. 55th Street. TThis branch is grossly out of place for several reasons. One, the majority of the branch is cubicled office space looking directly onto the sidewalk. With the branch closing late afternoon or early evening, the entire front of the building is dead space at night. It breaks the flow of commercial space, and it's ugly to boot. Okay, the ugly part is subjective, but I dare anyone to argue against the statement effectively. Two, how many banks does Chase really need? There is another branch a block and a half away. Few people actually see tellers anymore, so why a full branch so close to another? Open a convenience ATM midblock.

This location would be ideal for a restaurant. With a larger setback from the street than the remainder of the block, this location is perfect for seasonable alfresco dining. Hell (no pun intended considering it's location), it's right across from a major cultural institution, The Alvin Alley Center. People could actually eat a nice meal, see a recital, brunch when the kids are taking lessons. The options are limitless.

But a freakin' bank?

Eatin' Good in the 'Hood (Hellsea)

Okay, so perhaps I was rash not to name names yesterday, because certain establishments deserve good old fashioned shout outs! And today's is "Empenada Mama" in Hellsea. 9th Avenue, in the low 50s.

Like the delicious South American tapas sized goodies they serve, this establishment proves that good things can come in small packages...a concept likely lost on the Kitch's boy on boy majority. Take the ham and cheese wheat flour emp. Deep fried, perfectly melted goodness, through and through. I had two. And the chicken wheat flour. Forget the Colonel, this is finger licking good. Served in simple white bags with your order stamped on the outside, you always know which deliscious emp variety you're getting (and there are many. baked. fried. wheat. corn. chx. beef. steak and cheese. veggie. you name it, they got it.) And did I mention the avacado salad. I had a bite of my companion's greens. Fantastic. (You will never read the other "f" word made famous on SATC here.)

To top it off, it's a delicious little place, just like the emps. Bright colors, appropriately small two-tops that can become four, or six tops. And a nice little view of the street. And the servers are pleasant to boot. Check it out, or pick up. It's fun food for maybe an Oscar party in the near future.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Brew with a View

There is nothing better than a brew with a view. And that's just what I had last evening at a mellow, old-timer bar along Hudson Street in Tribeca last evening. (The joint will remain nameless...I'm not one to plug places, nor do I want others to one day overtake the charming places I choose to visit.) Let's just say, an old pub-like feel, with giant floor to ceiling windows, and a handsome fiftysomething bartender, make for a comfy locale to people watch on the street, but also in high priced loft-like dwellings with large pre-war windows across the way.

Sitting there with a lovely friend from my grad school days in Urban Planning...yes I have a degree...no, I don't know it all...but yes I know what I like...I got a warm fuzzy feeling even though it was a particularly cold night. That window was an eye on the neighborhood, and we were the retina. A slightly drunk retina, but a retina nonetheless. The neighborhood outside was quiet and cold, the inside warm and cozy. Views of an occasional passersby making their ways home, or to the restaurant across the street, or to another drinking establishment down the street, was somehow entertaining. It was evidence that outside, this toney neighborhood, was a living, breathing, functioning place. Somehow, the combination of the built environment and the people who built it, worked. Sure, this is the upper crust, a crust I can't remotely afford, but it worked nonetheless. And that alone made me happy, as well as everyone else sitting along that window.

And the view of the hot guy in the 14 foot ceiling loft across the way was a nice bonus.