Thursday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m.
By Caitlin Hawke
Neighbors, I don't think you'll regret coming out on Thursday evening at the youth hostel for this homegrown story about the now-gone applicance store, RCI, and the time when Mom & Pop businesses filled our streetscape. Hats off to the wonderful folks over at the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group, a neighborhood treasure in and of itself.
I've been writing a lot about Mom & Pops on our blog pages. You can scroll through old posts here.
Spring Planting Day is Almost Here
By Caitlin Hawke
I love the Spring and Fall block association events to beautify our tree wells, even if I don't have mulch of a green thumb. Neighbor Mark Schneiderman and the Block Association ecology team are soil good at planning this event, they've got everything covered. All you, your kids and your favorite neighbor have to do is turnip! Saturday, April 20, 10:30 a.m. until it's all done. Meet in front of 878 West End Avenue and spade some time on a gift that will keep on giving. The event is open perennial neighbor. Shy because you are new to the block and don't know anyone? Be bulb and come solo! We'll get you connected quickly.
April 13 from Noon to 3 p.m. is Friends of Straus Park Memorial Day
By Caitlin Hawke
Some know her as Audrey. Some as Memory. She lies in suspended contemplation of those who perished on the Titanic, including Bloomingdalers and notable New Yorkers of their day, Ida and Isidor Straus.
The group named Friends of Straus Park invites you out to contemplate along with her on Saturday, April 13th. Details and a lot more of this history may be found in the flyer below.
I've written previously about Straus Park here, here and here. So brush up on your Bloomingdale, and, on April 13, come on out to the trivium where beauty lies in memory: Broadway, West End Avenue and W. 106th St.
Turn Closet Contents into Cash. Sell Your Arts and Crafts. Support Your B.A.!
By Caitlin Hawke
You've been winnowing. You have piles. You are ready to sell, sell, sell. Now all you need to do is take that vendor space at this year's block party and pile it all into your radio flyer, and on May 18 wheel it on over to West 103rd Street to turn it into a pile of cash. Or split a space with your neighbor or daughter or grandson. It's the 'Great Redistribution of Matter' day in Bloomingdale, and it's coming quickly. So lock in your vendor space today by clicking on the image or button below to read all the how-tos.
Len Tredanari is no longer around to take a hose to the cars parked on W. 103rd on Yard Sale Saturday. So we still need volunteers to help in the Motor Pool as well as a host of other volunteer gigs. Speaking of Len, I dug out an old newsletter from September 2003 and excerpt of which is below. Len's bigger-than-life presence on W. 103rd is still warmly remembered by a lot of neighbors, and if you concentrate you can conjure the wafting aroma of his sausages and peppers, grilled to mouthwatering perfection and sold to benefit, you guessed it, your block association.
Contact Bob at email@example.com call him at (212) 662-4046.
We Need You!
By Caitlin Hawke
In the last edition of the Block Association newsletter, May 18 was announced as the big day. It's the annual Block Party, and the organizers need volunteers. There are roles aplenty, and if you are someone who has enjoyed the feeling of community you get from this blog, I know you'll also enjoy leaning in.
Bob Aaronson, a W. 103rd St. resident and a walking, breathing saint, has agreed again to coordinate the event. If you (or your teenage or adult kid or grandkid) can take on an organizational role or if you have only an hour to spare, please get in touch with Bob and let him know how you can help. Give us a little of your time, and together we'll make a beautiful block party!
Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (212) 662-4046.
So, without further ado: We. Need. You! From our latest newsletter, here's how to get involved. Our operators are standing by.
Rent a Space and Turn Clutter to Cash: Click here for an application and detailed information about how to get a vendor space. Know someone who is eager to vend? Share this blog post! Help us get the word out. Post this on Nextdoor and other email lists you belong to. The more vendors, the better the ambiance and the more deals to be made! Which leads us to another way you can help:
Mark Your Calendar for May 18. Come Out. And Shop 'til You Drop: come to the party and support our vendors. It's the great cosmic redistribution of stuff. And it all takes place along W. 103rd Street between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, May 18, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.
Advance Publicity: Basically, if we don’t step up our efforts to publicize the event, we won’t get the vendor participation we need in order to make the day financially worthwhile. We need to start attracting vendors now. Then, just before the event, the focus shifts to attracting attendees. The more people who come, the more the vendors sell, the happier they are, and the more likely they’ll be eager to come back next year. If you’re good with media, especially of the social variety, we need you.
Raffle Ticket Sales: The way to make money and to make for a happy winner is to start selling tickets weeks in advance of the event. That means we need to hit the streets on every evening and weekend when the forecast cooperates. If you can keep your eye on the weather, coordinate shifts, and entice people to sell, we need you.
Refreshments: To keep our visitors and vendors well fed, we always offer a variety of sweet and savory foods. If you’d be willing to coordinate this aspect of the event, we need you. Or donate food, offer to do a Costco run, make some sandwiches, bake some cookies. We need you.
Entertainment: The party is always more fun with live music. If you can lend a hand arranging performers, we need you. Or volunteer to perform! We need you.
Activities for Kids: When kids are happy, parents are happy. We could use facepainters, magicians, jugglers, balloon artists, and/or storytellers. It's all part of the atmosphere. If you’re kid-friendly, we need you.
Motor Pool: Making sure that the owners of the cars parked on W. 103rd St. know that they need to move elsewhere in advance of the event is a job in itself. It requires repeatedly putting flyers under windshield wipers the entire week before the event, especially catching drivers during the alternate-side parking shifts. If you’re around during the day, we need you.
Flyer Distributors: the best way to make sure potential vendors know about the event and shoppers know to attend is to hang flyers in building lobbies. We provide the paper, you provide the legwork. We need you.
Crew: We need folks to set up and break down. It’s always busy first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon.
We. Need. You.
Again, our operators are standing by. Contact Bob at email@example.com or call him at (212) 662-4046.
Would-be Branders, A Bit of Wisdom: Play It Safe. Stick with Bloomingdale.
By Caitlin Hawke
Along the lines of my "Throwback Thursday, Bloomingdale Edition" and "From the Vault" posts, I continue to traffic in nostalgia for the neighborhood, both old-old and new-old ephemera. In a neighbor's files when questing for something else, I came across this 22-year-old NYT article from March 1997 that I, too, had clipped at the time. My thinking was: if I ever sell, this will prove to prospective buyers what a great neighborhood this is.
Ha! Here we sit two decades later in this charming district -- now basically subsumed under the generic Upper West Side moniker -- wistfully remembering the days both when we were a little out of the way and when the median rent for a one-bedroom was $1800, and a one-bedroom co-op in 300 Riverside Drive went for $245K, a bag of shells to folks in the market today.
By and large, the piece holds up. I think you will enjoy it. If the print in the images is too small, you can read it in the NYT archives here.
And another thing about this piece, I like that the Times had it right with the surtitle: "If You're Thinking of Living in Bloomingdale."
Oh, dear. But first the headline screams "A Family Enclave That Some Call SoCo" -- for South of Columbia.
I had a friend back in the 90s. A bit sassy. But smart. She lived in this neighborhood when it was unchic by many realtors' standards to do so. Frankly, I thought, let them think that! My neighbors and I could live with that illusion. Preciously, I thought at the time, that friend called this area "Peru" since it was south of "Columbia." Fortunately that didn't stick. Nor has SoCo. On the other hand, I find myself wondering if there is a south of Columbia? It seems the university's reach may know no bound.
So to all the would-be branders: Here's the thing. When you have a great name, don't mess. It's Bloomingdale. It's been Bloomingdale. And Bloomingdale it will be.
You just don't change something that's been around since 1688.
And if you don't believe me, believe Gil Tauber.
Happy Spring Equinox
By Caitlin Hawke
We've changed the clocks. We've seen the snow drops. Crocuses and daffodils are popping up quicker than in time-lapse photography. Next come the cherry blossoms and blooming trees of all sorts. It's officially Spring; so bring on the rain. Or as someone I cherish quipped with regard to global warming, "March flowers bring April showers."
The diluvial photo below from last year is courtesy of neighbor Ozzie Alfonso, and I thought it was a good way to ring in the season. (Did anyone hear the thunderstorm on Friday? It took me straight to summer!)
For 10 years, Ozzie has run the Bloomingdale Aging in Place Photography group as a volunteer. The group's monthly output has been lovingly socked away into dozens of galleries that he maintains. If you click on the link in the previous sentence and then onto a theme, you can view their postings.
If you don't know about BAiP and feel like you could use some ways to bloom in place in sync with the spring season, see more here. There are nearly 80 activity groups all run by volunteers for neighbors who join BAiP. Most are full, but neighbors may express an interest in joining one once they've signed up for membership. For more about BAiP membership (it's free and for residents who live between West 96th and 110th Streets), see this link.
As BAiP looks to its 10th anniversary this fall, maybe you'll find something in there of interest to you!
See You on March 18 at 7 at the Marseilles
By Caitlin Hawke
First sure sign of spring: it's time for the annual meeting! Come hear what your Block Association has been up to and help recognize folks who call our neighborhood their workplace. There will be reporting on the budget and the annual induction into the neighborhood hall of fame.
It all happens in the Marseilles community room (230 W. 103rd Street) at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 18, 2019
1901: West 99th Street and Broadway
By Caitlin Hawke
The subway comes to Bloomingdale in this great shot on Broadway looking northwest from about W. 99th Street on the east side of Broadway. Note the three-story Grimm building at the NW corner of 100th Street and Broadway toward the right edge of this picture. (For more on the Grimm building, see prior posts here and here. This shot is prior to the subterranean postcard I put up several years ago here.
Note, too, that the site soon to house the Whitehall on the SW corner at 100th Street is empty.
Post 1902: West 105th Street and Riverside Drive
By Caitlin Hawke
Behold 330 Riverside Drive, The Davis Mansion at West 105th Street (exact photo date unknown) now owned by Opus Dei and undergoing major interior renovations these past many months.
The Daytonian in Manhattan blog has written extensively about 330 Riverside Drive which was built on spec by Joseph Farley in 1902.
Neighbor Dan Wakin in his recent book about the stretch from 330-337 Riverside Drive also tells the story of the eponymous Davis Baking Powder fortune that enabled the Davis family to move into this beaut.
Thanks to this building and the townhouses between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, W. 105th Street has enjoyed landmark status far longer than most places around here. The landmarking report for the so-called "Riverside-West 105th Street Historic District" dates to Mayor Lindsay's days, compiled over several years. (I was amused to see the name Deborah S. Gardner as a main author of the report; she currently serves as the in-house historian of Hunter's Roosevelt House.)
An interesting aside for lovers of the "Bloomingdale" moniker: the landmarking initiative was originally referred to as the "Bloomingdale Historic District" but later changed to reflect greater specificity.
Landmark status was designated on April 19, 1973 by the Landmarks Commission citing the streetscape's visual harmony and fine preservation of the buildings. By and large, the Beaux Arts buildings in the district -- all built within about three years of each other -- had the good fortune to have housed tenants of long occupancy and, as a consequence, suffered little remodeling, making them ripe for preservationists to rally around. For the report, I've extracted below the case to preserve 330 Riverside Drive and a description of its architectural features.
Also in this gem of a report, there is a fine history of the neighborhood and its development all the way back to the 1660s! It's worth clicking on the link above to read more.
Just a final thought: one must marvel at the date of 1973. Forty six years ago, our city and neighbors saw fit to protect the 30 buildings that sit in the shaded area of the map below, to lock in their existence for us all to enjoy, to ensure the neighborhood's grip on the past. On your next walkabout, make a point of delecting this breathtaking block.
The text below is an excerpt about 330 Riverside taken from the 1973 case to landmark the buildings in the bounded area above.
Artist Scott Benites Captures the Corners of Bloomingdale
By Caitlin Hawke
I love it when readers turn me on to something they've seen in the neighborhood. That happened not too long ago when Terence Hanrahan shared that he'd encountered a young painter, Scott Benites, right outside his building and snapped a shot of Scott at work and sent it to me. You'll see Terence's photo of that painting at West End Avenue and West 102nd Street when you scroll down.
Knowing about Scott led me down a fun rabbit hole of discovery and to an appreciation of this rising artist who cites the work of Edward Hopper and Edouard Manet among his influences.
Scott kindly agreed to let me post some of his local cityscapes and to talk to me about his fondness for painting "en plein air," his training, his drive and passion for art, and, very happily, his first gallery show.
With a hat tip to Terence and gratefulness to Scott, I give you now a brief interview with the man who loves our corners bathed in a certain light: Scott Benites.
To see more of his work, jump over to his website: scottbenites.com. Better yet, read on and click through for information about attending his show on March 7, 2019.
Q&A with Scott Benites
Caitlin Hawke: Why did you pick the corner where Terence Hanrahan met up with you?
Scott Benites: I was born and raised on the Upper Westside, and I was always inspired by the cityscapes and, specifically, the architecture of this city. Last summer I planned to create a unique oil-on-canvas cityscape collection. What better source than to paint the scenes in 'plein air'.
After doing my first plein-air painting of West 96th Street and Columbus Avenue and receiving so much positive feedback from the neighborhood, I figured I should continue to paint local sites because it was so much fun. My plan was to first paint every avenue, and then to continue down the city blocks to create a unique collection.
Caitlin: I love the originality of that idea. It seems, though, that you have a particular fondness for positioning your easel at the southwest corner or west side of the street looking toward the northeast corner of intersections. True?
Scott: Yes, it is true. Painting from a distance allows me to draw the preliminary sketch of the buildings' perspective. From this distance, I can see the light of day play on the forms of the buildings. I can also determine the composition of the painting. I strive to capture the strong contrast of light and shadow of the block. That contrast of light adds a dramatic feeling to my work.
Caitlin: Do you have any special connection to this neighborhood of West 102nd and 103rd Streets near Broadway?
Scott: The entire UWS is very special to me as well as to my family who also grew up in the same neighborhood. My main subjects are Manhattan buildings from Riverside to Central Park. Every time I complete a new plein-air cityscape painting, I become completely moved and inspired to create more, as well as to connect with other artists and admirers from around the neighborhood.
Caitlin: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Scott: I am a born and raised Yankee, and I have been interested in the arts since I was 16. I knew at that age that I would commit the rest of my life to the arts. During my teenage years, I participated in a MoMA afterschool program where I had my first exhibition and met mentors who guided me to the best art colleges and exposed me to the galleries and salons of Pablo Picasso and other well-known artists whose works hang at MoMA.
I credit my artistic 'discovery' to my high school graffiti friends. They inspired me in 9th grade with their black book sketches and lettering. After one of my close friends passed away at 19, my desire to pursue the arts in a more professional manner grew.
I am 27 now, and a passion for the arts is still a burning desire for me. It was a struggle to complete my bachelor's degree; having to attend three different colleges. My burning desire is what pushed me to persevere when my financial circumstances restricted me in any way. If I was short on money, art is what set me free.
Over the past two summers I have sold over 80 paintings.
Caitlin: It's paying off because I understand you have your first gallery show in March. Congratulations. How can readers come see you work?
Scott: I am excited to have my first show in the New York Art Gallery -- NYA Gallery -- in Tribeca.
Over the last five years, I’ve been desperate to exhibit my work in a New York gallery. I would send numerous emails to galleries all around Manhattan and, after two years of waiting, I received an acceptance letter from NYA Gallery. I knew it was my destiny because I’m a New Yorker and what better place to show my work then in my hometown. The grand opening for the white wall gallery at 7 Franklin Place is March 7th. Anyone is welcome to RSVP at this link.
Caitlin: I can see from your website that you paint a lot of exteriors but also note there are portraits. How would you characterize your style?
Scott: My work explores the style of realism. Most of my works reflect the four seasons of the city. You can see in my paintings how the stores change their window displays and how the figures change their attire to fit with the feeling of the seasons and temperature. Selections of my works reflect my favorite season, the Christmas holiday.
Caitlin: Do you draw inspiration from any particular artists?
Scott: Many. But my top five include Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell, Fairfield Porter, Rackstraw Downes, and Edouard Manet. I love their painterly approach to life drawing and the form.
Caitlin: I take it that your career as an artist is gaining momentum. What is the ideal way to balance your artistic goals with the pressure of high cost of living in NYC? As a young NYC-based artist, what do you want to tell our policy makers to preserve your ability to remain here?
Scott: It is my burning desire to be successful as a visual artist. My artistic career has been my number one priority for the last 10 years and it's now off to a great start. My ideal way is to run my own online business, selling latex original giclée prints to my fans and supporters to fund my work and continue my collection of plein-air cityscapes. To make it, I also currently work for a museum in Soho called the Color Factory.
I'd like to sell my works to private collectors and museums. It is extremely challenging for an artist to afford living and working in NYC at my age. To be successful as a visual artist, you need to have superior skill, discipline, and the right connections and people skills. Learning essential business skills throughout the artistic curriculum is a valuable asset in a young artist's career. This is something a lot of art schools leave out. The artist is then forced to rely on a gallery to help with painting sales and logistics. Many artists have to learn this on their own the hard way.
Affordable housing for artists, I would say, would be the best thing to advocate for.
Caitlin: If someone wanted to buy your work, where would they go?
Scott: All of the artwork that you see on my website is for sale, and available in four different sizes. Visit my website: scottbenites.com.
Caitlin: Thanks for your time and your beautiful work depicting Bloomingdale, our neighborhood. And here's to a hugely successful show in March and to more paintings of northeast corners bathed in beautiful light.
Circa 1910: West End Avenue between W. 102nd and 103rd Streets
By Caitlin Hawke
Depicted below are numbers 863, 865, and 867 West End Avenue. This, of course, is the west side of the avenue, between W. 102nd and 103rd Streets, and it puts into perspective how the contemporaneous eight-story 855 West End Avenue stood tall on the avenue in its early days.
The residences below were built in the mid-1890s and are in keeping with those that still may be seen directly across the avenue on both the northeast and southeast corners of W. 102nd Street, which thankfully have been preserved as landmarks. To see what those looked like circa 1911, see this old post.
In 1923, the northern half of the block below was demolished to make way for Rosario Candela-designed 875 West End Avenue, and in 1924-25 the entire southern half of this block, including these three, was demolished for the construction of 865 West End Avenue, the apartment house on the NW corner of W. 102nd Street, also designed by Rosario Candela.
Candela was born in Sicily and emigrated in 1909, just the year before these photos were taken, to train at Columbia University. He earned his degree in 1915 and less than a decade later he was churning out luxurious designs for east and west side living. For more on Candela, see this piece or google him. Or better yet, just go outside and look up at pediments for the entwined carving 'RC', and you'll begin to see him everywhere.
The second shot, below, is the same three houses as above but a closer view of 863 and 865, taken in 1910. Notice detail of the doorways and the front stoops, and the figures in relief.
The maps above show, in 1912, the make up of West End Avenue, averaging 10 buildings per block.
Our NYPL Branch Closes for 15 Months This Friday Afternoon
By Caitlin Hawke
If you are a regular library goer around here, you know the Bloomingdale branch staff, the ways of reserving online, the seasonal free help with taxes, the exercise classes, the fabulous neighborhood history collection, the children's programs, and much more.
Well, brace yourself! Because that's all going away for fifteen long months while a $3 million improvement project delivers back to the community a branch that better serves the neighborhood with a new dedicated teen room that will allow teens to talk, engage in group study, use computers, or work independently without disturbing other patrons. The project also provides much-needed upgrades to the second floor restrooms and adds new drinking fountains.
BAiP's Hooray for Hollywood's last hurrah at the branch (for now) takes place on Wednesday, February 13, at 4:30 p.m. The topic is Barbara Stanwyck and all are welcome. Details about this talk by Richard Harris are here.
Even if you can't make it to Hooray for Hollywood, do get in there for one last spin this week before the end of Friday, February 15, to say your til-we-meet-agains to branch manager Yajaira Mejia and the great staff who will be flung to various other branches for the term of the project.
During renovations, the nearest branches are:
Renovation project updates will be posted here.
To put that 15 months in perspective, if our Republic is still standing, we'll likely know the two parties' nominees for POTUS when the Bloomingdale branch is back up and running.
Time flies, neighbors, time flies.
1920s: Broadway at West 103rd Street Looking West on 103rd Street
By Caitlin Hawke
Nice and simple today: The Marseilles in all her glory. For another historic image of the Marseilles, see this post.
The New Curb Appeal of Central Park's Strangers' Gate
By Caitlin Hawke
Ok, for folks who park on the street, this post might get your Irish up. It entails the eventual loss of three parking spaces on Central Park West.
That's the bad news. But the good news is that what I am about to report is a story of grassroots efforts to increase safety and improve aesthetics of "Strangers' Gate" -- the W. 106th Street portal to Central Park.
Thanks to neighbors' efforts, in particular to transportation advocate Peter Frishauf with help from Henry Rinehart, in mid-January Community Board 7 passed a resolution to improve access to this entrance to Central Park by opening the curb and prohibiting parking immediately outside it. Department of Transportation signage should be updated soon so that the approach will look like the photo below instead of the view in the photo above.
This will protect pedestrians who flow through Strangers' Gate, affording them better visibility of traffic on Central Park West and giving drivers a much better chance of seeing exiting and entering park goers.
I love the name of this gate and was vaguely aware that many of the park's entrances bear names. In fact, there are twenty named gates. Each honors a special population of New York City in an early nod to the fact that this vast green space was to be 'the People's Park.' You might have been entering the park at W. 100th Street all these years and not have realized that that is Boys' Gate. Of course, anyone can go through it. But if you want to use Girls' Gate, you're going to have to go clear around to E. 102nd Street. Or you can pop down to the Dakota and enter through Women's Gate.
The key to the 20 gates is below.
The bitter irony of naming the gates for different NYC populations is that in creating Central Park, land was taken by eminent domain, and the African-American neighborhood known as Seneca Village was demolished in 1857. You won't see a Seneca Gate on the list below, but the rich history of Seneca Village is becoming better known.
The story has been told in recent plays and films, by creative writers, historians and archeologists. I will be posting more about it over the month of February. But while thinking about our newly visible Strangers' Gate, I wanted to pause and think about those who are largely invisible, those who were dispossessed of their homes, whose community was razed, and whose story was mostly lost -- all in the push to create a park that is a stranger to none of us.
Choose any of these 20 gates and enter this urban sanctuary with a thought toward Seneca Village on your way in.
By Caitlin Hawke
I usually reserve this rubric, 'Seen in the Neighborhood', for unexpected but pleasing things I stumble on in Bloomingdale. This time, not so much. It's more about things not seen in the neighborhood, such as: your mail, your holiday packages, old-style mailboxes.
The good news is that the USPS has finally -- as of some weeks ago -- gotten around to swapping out most of our pulldown-lidded mailboxes with ones that have thin letter slits instead. The hope is to thwart all the "check fishing" that thieves are doing with glue traps. This way of intercepting checks is not unique to NYC, it's happening in lots of places. But, frankly, I thought the response was not terribly swift.
Putting a letter in the mail is something we all should be able to take for granted, especially in the wealthiest country in the world. In the letter goes, and delivered it gets.
Long gone are the times of multiple daily letter deliveries. And yes, modern technology has supplanted the need for much mail. And yes, too, I recognize that most mail is unwanted. But that's another story.
It boils down to this: when you mail something, you shouldn't have to ask yourself whether it will get there intact or get there at all.
But I think a lot of us are asking.
Just as these new mailboxes appeared, in unrelated incidents neighbors suffered a spate of lobby thefts. The holidays bring nothing if not packages, big and small. UPS, FedEx, USPS are regularly double-parked while drivers dip into buildings with armfuls of boxes. Because the carriers have huge volume to contend at the end of the year, many will resort to dropping your deliveries without a signature, right inside your lobby whether it is attended or not. That can be great if you can't be there to receive your package. But less great if someone slips into your building and gets to your package before you.
And that's what the M.O. seems to have been. At high delivery times, one or several interlopers were working the streets, slipping into vestibules and lobbies and ferrying out packages of all sorts.
This was happening up and down W. 102nd Street. I noticed signs along the south side of W. 102nd Street with a message to the thief in question, blaring that they had him on security cam footage. If you had a package stolen, maybe you'll comment below about where and when it occurred.
The truth is, this goes on all year long, not just at holiday times. So make sure you tell your shippers that you want to sign for your package if you've positively, absolutely got to receive it. If not, you might find yourself in a special limbo where the package tracking system shows it was delivered, the carrier says he or she dropped it off, but you never saw it! Claims have to be made and replacement shipments are not guaranteed.
But wait, there's more. Just last week, neighbor David Olshefski posted the picture below online. It seems that within the Cathedral Station post office on W. 104th Street, there's been an ongoing issue of letters and packages being ripped or cut open with money and goods removed.
David tells me that Danny O'Donnell's office is looking into this trend and has a staff member collecting photos like the one below for an investigation. If items in your mail have been stolen or you are experiencing inexplicable incidents of mangled mail, take a photo and/or describe the incident and email it to Liam Galligan in Danny O'Donnell's office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This kind of data could help the USPS determine if patterns emerge that can narrow in on the "pain point" in the chain of possession.
I've always had a soft spot for the postal service. I love my carriers and have found their service to be unfailing. But if we want to keep these jobs, keep the postal service, and fend off the much-menaced-by-Amazon sci delivery drones that we joke are the future, USPS is going to have to tighten controls inside and outside.
And while we're fixing this, could we also get "Microsoft" to stop calling us from some far off country every day to tell us we have a virus on our computer?
Thanks, that would be grand.
H/t and thanks to David O. for this photo and contact information in the O'Donnell office.
1950-51: Upper West Side Kids
By Caitlin Hawke
One of the posts I never got to last year was this charming shot. It comes from a gentleman who grew up around here and recalled, among other things, going to the Horn and Hardart automat, to the Armstead beauty salon (where Henry's was), to the TV store nearby and the candy store, Pollak's. Suba was Armstead Pharmacy back then and had a soda fountain where Mark's brother worked.
So readers may recall when the Hudes sign reappeared after the 103rd St. deli closed. Mark recalls that whenever he went into Hudes, the lady who ran it would give him half a salami sandwich.
Those were the days, my friends!
If you know someone who went to Booker T. in the early 1950s or if you know someone in the picture, email me with your stories!
A Glorious UWS 800-Person Wave Turns Back the Tide
By Caitlin Hawke
Neighbors, as many of you already well know, there's been a true blue spectacle of a miracle come true.
Our beloved West Side Rag got in there first to cover a familiar sad song and then, heroically, to amplify the message of a couple New Yorkers who'd thrown up their sashes, mad as Hades, screaming "I'm not going to take it anymore."
It all started just a few short days ago when WSRag writer Carol Tannenhauser and publisher Avi Salzman put out into the ether a melancholic story the likes of which we've read time and time before. Death by a thousand cuts of Mom & Pops gone down. This time it was Westsider Books, longtime purveyor of used books at Broadway and 81st Street, putting out the last call and walking over to the light switch to call it a day.
What ensued was just plain amazing to watch in real time. Bobby Panza, inspired by a line in Carol's article, fired up a crowdfunder page on GoFundMe. Local philanthropist Sally Martell fueled the endeavor with a jump-starting $10K donation; the Rag got in there with its great coverage (major hat tip to Avi for being the pillar of UWS communications), and then other press outlets and booklover fora amplified the message thanks to Bobby. In what seems like a blink over $50K was raised from 818 (and counting) donors from near and far at an average donation of 64 bucks.
That's right. You heard me. A line in the sand was drawn. A few angels lofted up on their wings. And a veritable flood of good-willed neighbors and bibliofolks stopped 'taking it' and started a grassroots blaze of love for...wait for it...used books. Books! Old New York. Simple, old-time, hardworking merchants. Honest trade. City texture. Cultural color. Apparently, we, together, hold these truths to be self evident.
That 50K enables the store's owners to live another day, to bridge to the future, and to remain. For now.
Old Bloomingdaler Christopher Ming Ryan got in there like he did for Joon Fish Market (covered in Part 2 of this series) and captured it on film with Evan Fairbanks in yet another beautiful mini-documentary. (If you are an email subscriber of this blog, to see it you have to go to the blog post title above and read this post online).
Readers, that is what I call an excellent day in the neighborhood. But we're not off the hook. Lights go out up and down Broadway every month. And if we are not putting our boots on the ground and crossing their thresholds to support them, we have no right to be perturbed.
Put down your tablets and laptops and go drop some cash at our hardware stores, cobblers, delis (if you can find them), small restaurants and specialty stores. Tell them you love them with your business. Tell our city officials that commercial storefront vacancies are intolerable and antithetical to thriving cities.
And then bask in the glory of this miracle come true. The miracle is you.
With thanks to Bobby, Sally, Avi, Carol, Chris, Evan and to the owners of the 818 feet that were put firmly down punctuating the collective cry: "no more!" My heart is full of love for you all. And to the owners and staff of Westsider Books, long may you ride.
Above I am embedding the film that Chris and Evan made. More of Chris's labors of love may be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/DisappearingNYC.
And I leave you with the "Lagniappe du jour" courtesy of Barry M.
1867-2019: W. 100th Street & Broadway - The Grimm Building Over the Years
By Caitlin Hawke
This is the second in what you might think of as a diptych of posts. My last Throwback post digging into the story of the Beastie Boys' genesis in the Grimm Building led me down a long rabbit hole of fascination for the structure. If you didn't see that one, click here to read the nitty gritty Beastie story.
For part two now, here in images from 1867 to present is a documentation of that remarkably unchanged site, the NW corner of 100th Street and Broadway.
It's rare that a building is so well documented over the years, so the gallery was great fun to pull together.
Recall in my prior post that this site does not enjoy landmarked status thanks to the gimme carveouts all along Broadway -- see the map on the prior post to understand what this means.
I don't know. Maybe I am just too in love with the past. But it defies any sort of reason or logic that our preservationists wouldn't protect this special building. Before the wonky land use and real estate savvy folks start to get impatient with me, I do get that it has been altered over the years, and that the Metro owners put a lot into it to bring it back from decrepitude. But so many readers have a huge place in their Bloomingdale hearts for this one, it just seems like a no-brainer that we, as a community, might go the extra mile for this nigh on 150 year-old structure.
Enjoy the picture show below.
To navigate this photo gallery, click on the arrows or press the play button.
Note: If you are reading this in an email subscription, you may have to click on the
blog post title to view the gallery, or click here.
Interview with Rink Maven, Neighbor Miriam Duhan
By Caitlin Hawke
The slideshow above should start automatically.
To navigate this photo gallery, click on the arrows or press the play button.
Note: If you are reading this in an email subscription, you may have to click on the
blog post title to view the gallery, or click here.
The wonderful series of photos above documents a weekly outing over the past few winters to the rink in the northeast corner of Central Park.
It all started in 2015, when neighbor and BAiPer Miriam Duhan pitched the idea to me of creating a regular group of neighbors who would skate together. It was part of our TriBloomingdale Initiative in conjunction with BAiP and the 104th Street Block Association. And while lots of folks signed up, Miriam ended up skating alone or with just one other person more often than not.
We reassessed, and she soon became a regular volunteer for Hostelling International New York where each week she leads travelers through Central Park and up to the Lasker rink for an early morning skate. Above are the images that chronicle her very popular seasonal group featuring many travelers coming from warmer countries who'd never skated before.
I caught up with Miriam about her passion for skating, and we discussed her gig at the hostel (scroll down for the interview). Many neighbors don't know what a vibrant place the 103rd Street hostel is. It's a beautiful Amsterdam Avenue landmark, saved and then landmarked in 1983 thanks to neighbors' efforts after Fred Chapman and Linda Yowell, both Columbia University students, had done the research and major lift. Since 1990, the hostel has welcome thousands of international and U.S. travelers each year. Pam Tice at the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group knows the building's story better than most and lucky for us she wrote it up here.
Miriam Duhan has lived in our area since 1989. Her children were already grown when she moved in. She got involved in her block association on 104th Street, eventually joining its board. She left the board just as BAiP was getting started and has been an active member since then, which led to the original skating idea.
Lucky for the hostel, this idea evolved to be geared for their visitors, and from the gallery above, you can see the pure joy in that the simple act of a skate can bring. (Don't neglect to scroll all the way down for today's lagniappe).
Interview with Miriam Duhan
Caitlin Hawke: How did you get started on the ice?
Miriam Duhan: My knees were bothering me and an orthopedist suggested that it was time for me to stop jogging. I was very sad. But I happened upon skating accompanying my grandchildren (at the time 4 and 7) to their skating lessons at Lasker Rink. Perfect, low impact on the knees. I had skated as a child and from time to time throughout my life, and I always loved to do it on my birthday. So I decided to go weekly but wanted company. This eventually led to becoming an official volunteer at the hostel.
Caitlin: There’s a series of iconic sepia photos that I am sure you know of Victorian New Yorkers skating in Central Park, with the Dakota in the background and an otherwise little developed Central Park West. The skating area looks huge and is packed with skaters. What has changed besides the climate?
Miriam: I went to the exhibit about skating in New York at the Museum of the City of New York and apparently skating was a craze in New York in the 1800s and early 20th century. It clearly was more reliably cold because there were a lot of places which were just flooded and used for skating, including some lawns in Central Park. I don’t remember when the first artificially frozen rinks appeared. I do remember the last time the Harlem Meer was frozen solid. I think it was in 2015. Lots of people wanted to walk or play on the Meer, but the police chased everyone off. I saw it when I was on my way to Lasker.
In terms of a skating culture, one thing I love about being at Lasker is that a couple of schools on the east side bring the kids there every week for PE, starting in pre-k. The teachers I spoke to said that they wanted to give the kids a lifelong skill. The pre-k’s are the cutest to watch and the 4th graders are excellent skaters. My first year when I had no other companions, I made friends with some of the kids, and we enjoyed seeing each other every week. (Note: with regard to youth skating, the NYT recently covered the afterschool program Figure Skating in Harlem, a program for leadership and academic development as well as skating. That article is here.)
Caitlin: When and where did you learn how to skate?
Miriam:Probably when I was in 5th grade. There was a rink near where I lived in Roslyn Heights. I don’t remember any lessons, it was just for fun and very popular. There were a few times when a natural lake in Westbury froze over, and I skated there. As an adult living in Brooklyn, I skated in Prospect Park from time to time with my own kids and then on a lake in our village when I lived upstate. True, funny story: For my 30th birthday, I told my husband that what I wanted to do was go skating in Prospect Park. We got a babysitter and went. After about ten minutes he complained that his legs were hurting so badly that we had to stop. (I should have smelled a rat; he’d been a speed skater in high school). So we decided to go to see my brother in Greenwich Village, and there was a surprise party for me. I have never gotten over my disappointment! I try to go skating on my birthday whenever I can.
Caitlin: What is your favorite place to skate of all time?
Miriam: No favorite. Anyplace I skate on my birthday makes me happy.
Caitlin: Who is your favorite person to skate with?
Caitlin: Speed or figure?
Miriam: Figure. Every year now, I fix a goal of improvement and work on it a bit every week. This year its turning from skating forwards to skating backwards and from backwards to forwards. I’m very careful because, like other seniors, I don’t want to fall and break a bone. So far so good.
Caitlin: What’s your best move? Can you do any jumps?
Miriam: My feet never leave the ice. What I like to do is enjoy the music (lovely jazz in the mornings) and dance.
Caitlin: Since you started volunteering for the hostel, and we made this into, more or less, a youth outing, though I know travelers of all ages join you. What have you learned about hostelers?
Miriam: They’re enthusiastic and adventurous. They think skating in Central Park is very romantic – especially if there’s snow. There’s always a huge sign-up list, though not all come. There's so much going on at the hostel. And they are really caring. One person told me that she unexpectedly arrived in NY in the middle of the night, no place to stay, and the hostel was full. They gave her a couch to crash on until a space opened up.
Caitlin: What’s a typical outing like?
Miriam: Many are traveling on their own, and they easily talk to each other on the walk over and during the skate time. Quite a few show up alone and leave with new companions interested in the same things to do next. There is no set end time. People leave when they’re ready or just sit and watch for a while. I’m on the ice for about an hour and that’s enough for most people, but some stay longer. Some go back to the hostel, some stay in the park or go elsewhere. I like to find out about them, but with big groups I only get to talk to a few people. On the ice, people with experience help and encourage newbies. I’m not a teacher, but I check to make sure beginners have tightened their skates properly. I encourage them to just go. The brain figures it out after a couple of times around. Almost everyone does well by the end. From time to time there’s a really good skater who helps others and sometimes teaches me something. On the ice there’s lots of picture taking. There’s also picture taking when we pass the waterfall in the park on the way over. I should also say that the first couple of years I got to know the staff at the Lasker skating rink, and they have been so lovely to us.
Caitlin: How do you feel during and after the skate?
Miriam: Happy and exhilarated. (In the afternoon I usually need a nap, but I doubt that the travelers do!)
Caitlin: Has your volunteering changed how you might travel?
Miriam: Hadn’t thought about travel skate experiences, but it’s a good idea. I think if I was traveling alone I’d try a hostel. And I’m encouraging my grandchildren to do so. One traveled on his own to Amsterdam, stayed at a hostel and had a wonderful time.
Caitlin: Do you have any great rinks or skating experiences on your bucket list?
Miriam: I’m thinking about visiting all the skating venues in New York. That’s as far as I’ve imagined.
Caitlin: Last question: do you have any advice for beginners or rusty skaters?
Miriam: Yes. Get out there, make sure your skates are snug around the ankles, hold on to the rail as long as you need it and move your feet. About two rounds is usually enough for people to start getting the feel of it. When your ankles feel tired or tense, get off the ice and take a break, then go back. Check out Youtube first. Recently a Costa Rican told me she’d gotten advice that way. I could see her doing the things she’d been advised and pretty soon she was flying!
Readers, as a lagniappe, I am throwing in an archival 1902 video from the Library of Congress. It shows what looks like a thousand skaters on the Lake in Central Park just at the level of the Dakota. Just look at them all!
If you are reading this in an email subscription, you have to click on the blog post title to view the video or click here.
The Grimm Den of the Beastie Boys: Hip-Hop Landmark If Ever There Was
By Caitlin Hawke
A good while back, when I posted a quizlet on the architectural detail seen here, many readers replied quickly. Of course Pam Tice got it in a heartbeat, as did Lorne Sharf, Anthony Bellov and others. Anthony wrote that the Grimm building (aka 2641 Broadway, home of the Metro Diner) is "definitely the oldest remaining building on the Upper West Side - period."
The wooden structure was built in 1871 and run for a few years by Henry Grimm as a grocery, with apartments above. Grimm was foreclosed on and the building soon became The Boulevard House, a respite for travelers, reflecting the slow to develop state of upper Broadway (then known as the Boulevard).
Anthony also shared that, "in 1894, a German immigrant named Peter Doelger, a brewer who owned many saloons, bought the building. The bar was in front and a respectable restaurant in back. He lived at 280 Riverside right down the street. The saloon closed with Prohibition and became a seller of ladies' finery and then even a theater."
Interesting side note from the wonderful Forgotten New York: Peter Doelger was Mae West's uncle. So she may have lifted a pint or two there.
For more on Doelger, see this great post from the Daytonian in Manhattan.
At the time of the quizlet, neighbor Elizabeth del Alamo also quickly chimed in that the Grimm building is reputed to be the last wooden building in Manhattan. I haven't fact checked that but am sure she's right about it being the oldest on the UWS. Elizabeth recalled that the Grimm building was the subject of a New Yorker cartoon, probably from the early 1980s. I failed to find the cartoon and would love it if a reader would send it to me at email@example.com.
Emily Berleth told me that when she was a youngster, there was a pottery studio on the second floor where the salon is now.
I, of course, remember it in the late 1980s as La Tacita d'Oro. The album cover above and below depict Tacita faithfully. And I'd give anything to have their café con leche in my little golden cup again. The Metro Diner replaced it in 1993, and I recall that Tacita moved south before it shuttered completely about 12 or so years ago.
All these are great tidbits, but Jim Henderson topped them all with his tip off that this was where one of the first (white) hiphop supergroups -- the Beastie Boys -- had their inaugural concert on August 5, 1981, in founding member and guitarist John Berry's father's building on Adam Yauch's 17th birthday. John's father, also John, was a "1930s-style left-leaning intellectual with a serious work ethic" who was editor in chief of Library Journal" (p. 52 Beastie Boys Book). As a single dad, he gave his son a lot of leeway in terms of band practice but when he got home, the band stopped playing in deference to his intellectual downtime after work.
The bassist had his buddies over to practice in his third floor bedroom, and, according to Rolling Stone, the "first Beastie Boys shows took place at Berry’s old loft...where a small crowd gathered to hear the fledgling hardcore/punk band." The site popturf.com reported that that same evening "Dave Parsons of the Rat Cage record store said that he wanted to start recording bands, and asked the Beastie Boys if they were interested. They said yes, and the Polly Wog Stew EP was the result" and the Rat Cage label was born for what that is worth to music historians.
A great description appears in the new Beastie Boys Book:
"How do I even begin to describe this place? Start with the fact that it was an old, squat, three-story wooden structure in the middle of a concrete jungle, like someone had forgotten to tear the place down when they were building the rest of the modern city. Also, for a wood building, it was ancient, literally a hundred years old; it had been a saloon in the late 1800s -- before the streets up here were even f*&*ing paved -- and the place looked and felt like it hadn’t been touched since. It was a dilapidated, sagging, slant-roofed structure of rotting wood, parked in a sea of concrete, brick, and steel. At that point there was a greasy Cuban-Chinese restaurant on the ground floor (that’s right Cuban Chinese). John and his dad lived above the restaurant. John's bedroom, where we practiced, was the building's third-floor loft; the second floor was a single open room, but not like a glamorous designer loft. Large windows were set in rotting and splintered wooden frames. Fading and chipped paint covered the clapboard. Every piece of furniture looked like it had been found on the street.... Framed picture of Che Guevara, books on Lenin and Trotsky, and pamphlets about the IRA lay around the house.... Upper Broadway at that time was like a multicultural mixtape. Salsa blaring on one block, a JVC boombox playing rap outside a housing project on the next, sounds of AM broadcasts from Panasonic clock radios coming out to the opened windows on the next. Across 100th Street from John's place was the large residential hotel -- politely known as an SRO (single-room occupancy) building, and impolitely known as a flophouse....The constant hubbub across the street worked out well for us...because it allowed us to play music as loud as we wanted....We were pretty far down the precinct to-do list. So we'd just set up and practice after school on the third floor....When we weren't actually practicing, our whole cast of characters just hung out and played music full blast... [For the inaugural 1981 makeshift concert] maybe two dozen people showed up. Us. the Bag Ladies, a few of Yauch's oldest friends, and Dave Parsons and his girlfriend, Cathy, from a newly opened and really cool downtown record store called Rat Cage." (pp. 51-55, Beastie Boys Book)
Berry was sometimes credited for coming up with the name for the group which, perhaps tongue-in-cheekily, was said to be an acronym for "Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Inner Excellence." Other early members included Kate Schellenbach, "Mike D" aka Michael Diamond, and "MCA" aka Adam Yauch. "Ad-Rock" (Adam Horovitz) joined later after the departure of Berry and Schellenbach.
The Grimm building was also the location where, again thanks to the Berrys, Beastie side-project Big Fat Love formed in 1984. The structure in all its wabi-sabi greatness was featured on their album "Hell House" in an illustration on front and in a photo on the back. An homage to the building (was it in fact the hell house?) appeared in the album's liner notes:
"Big Fat Love's sound is unlike any other Beastie Boys side-project and may take a few listens before one gets into it or out of it, as the case may be. The music though is a wonderful document to just how creatively diverse this group of musicians could be. When people ask about this period in the band's history, Thomas Beller described it best in the liner notes: "Big Fat Love was organized around a particular living space, in this case a house, where several of the band members lived and where, in the mid-80's, an amorphous and slightly derelict group of people spent time. Big Fat Love didn't move to the house as a band, they just sprung up out of the house the way that, in the right conditions, a random bit of plant life springs up from a crack in the sidewalk." (Quoted from the site Beastiemania.com; also more here.).
Sadly John Berry died at the age of 52 in 2016.
If you weren't a Beasties fan, you might at least recall their top Billboard hit "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)" in 1987. Their place in rap history was sealed forever by the success of the album "Licensed to Ill" which was the first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
If you were a fan, you might enjoy the audio embedded below from the NPR radio show "Wait wait...don't tell me" that I heard on December 22. It seems the surviving members have a new book out. The last of the beasts now tamed, the boys have turned to men, less anarchic and ever so slightly more capitalistic, now packing a license to shill.
Times change. The Grimm building has remained, but the scary part is that this wooden relic is not landmarked. So, stay tuned for next week's continued homage to the Building Grimm.
The Metro owners put a lot of cash and TLC into the refurbish they did before opening in the early 1990s. Thankfully, the diner seems to be going strong. But, incredibly, the Grimm building site was included in the controversial Broadway carveouts and didn't make the cut in the 2015 landmark ruling that protected so much of the area west of Broadway.
I hope the Grimm building will endure given the New York miracle that it's pushing 147 years old without landmark status.
Many thanks to all the above readers for chiming in. Clearly, this building has captivated many of us, if not the powers that be at LPC!
Note: If you are reading this via an email subscription, you'll have to click on the blog post title to listen to the radio audio.
Bloomingdale Predictions for 2019
By Caitlin Hawke
Last week, I left you with one version of a 2018 recap (if you missed it, you will find it here). Now, I want to look forward.
My father has a very particular, clean-and-dry 1950s style sense of humor. Throughout my childhood, he would ghostwrite wry insider predictions for the year to come for the New Year’s newsletter of a Congressman who shall remain nameless. Before he submitted them to be published under the Congressman's name, we would gather with my mother and siblings in the kitchen as my father read his cheeky premonitions aloud, cracking his own self up as we all laughed through the list. It’s a tradition that I miss.
So, in that spirit and with great admiration for my dad's humor, here now are my top ten predictions for Bloomingdale in 2019.
10. The long-mired construction of the W. 103rd Street brownstone will miraculously be expedited and completed in 2019, and in 2022 will be purchased by Senator-elect Ocasio-Cortez for use as her NYS HQ.
9. That Bloomingdaler Samantha Bee will take on the story of the Ginkgo of West End, giving it full Full Frontal treatment and sentencing the perp to a lifetime soundtrack of the soft-thudding sounds of ripe ginkgo berries falling on pavement and to a year's worth of meals that taste the way ginkgos smell.
8. That Henry Rinehart, formerly of Henry’s, will return to the restaurant business by transforming the old Abbey Pub into a swank new speak-easy and the password for entry will be “Bennie the Bum.”
7. That an important, show-stopping sculpture will be erected in the Broadway median at 106th Street opposite Straus Park — a long lost work that the American Venus, Audrey Munson, posed for in her old age, giving lie to the adage that youth is beauty, and turning that crossroads into the Mecca for Munson mavens the world over.
6. That instead of the hotly-lit plasmas delivering ads to us as a captive audience on the subway platform during our interminable waits, the MTA will instead feature gorgeous old pictures of the neighborhood celebrating the history of Bloomingdale curated by our own Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group.
5. That the granddaughter/son of the erst-while and missed owner, Jessie Salha, of Cafe Amiana, also known as Au Petit Beurre, will return in glory to the neighborhood and transform the now ridiculously-long-vacant HSBC space into a glorious plant-filled, warmly carpeted, electronic-device-free cafe with backgammon and chess sets for patrons young and old. It will become the new town square and a gold mine for the young entrepreneur, and greedy landlords throughout the catchment will rue their decision to leave storefronts empty when the way forward to everyone's good fortune was just sitting here all along.
4. That the DOT, in all its wisdom, will realize that their inability to cope with systemic flooding at curb cuts during winter melt is actually an asset; and with little extra effort (and less salt) they will turn these unjumpable puddles into full-fledged skating rinks simply by diverting the flow across the entire street. It is my further prediction that the great West End Avenue rinks will be subject of a takeover action by the Trump Organization in a vicious branding dispute which will last until global warming renders the legal action moot.
3. That soon a new app will make street parking profitable, not for the city but for the car owner, by allowing drivers to contract with the hit Falun Gong spectacle “Shen Yun” to place magnetized ads on your car doors, hoods and roofs, turning your alternate-side of the street jig into a lucrative new-economy gig causing you to leave your day job and no longer need a car.
2. That the Metro theater will finally come alive again as Bloomingdale’s — yes, the department store — finally opens an uptown branch in Bloomingdale, a long overdue hat tip to our naming rights and clearing up all confusion that we came first.
1. And my number one prediction for Bloomingdale in 2019 is that New Plaza Cinema, the start-up nonprofit group that grew from the ashes of Lincoln Plaza Cinema, will take up residency in the crazy old Turkuaz space, deeding back to the neighborhood its moving-loving future.
Happy New Year, neighbors. And may some of these actually come true.
The Year in Blog Posts Gone By
By Caitlin Hawke
Well, neighbors, we’re coming quickly to the end of 2018. And I don’t know about you, but it sure flew by for me. I remember last year’s polar vortex like it was yesterday.
Taking stock, I can measure the year in the number of blog posts I've gotten up, despite that I have such a backlog of potential posts. It puts me in a perpetual state of disappointment that I don’t have more time. Still, I looked at the log and see a grand total of 85 posts in 2018. That’s the most in one year since I started maintaining the site in April 2014. But the guilt persists, and I will try to roll out some of the treasures sitting in my desktop folder ominously marked "Blog To Do."
As I often write, our neighborhood is a very inspiring muse. Like Bob L. or John K. and so many others of you who love to “noodle” in different neighborhoods, I always enjoy a good city walk — looking for a bit of old New York. Or at least authentic New York. It’s getting harder to find, but it’s there in pockets. And those walks, no matter where, always remind me how much I love my home turf: bookended by two great parks, sleepier than the now mall-like UWS, relatively low-lying in terms of the architecture, and so luminous. Bloomingdale has it all.
Add to that the great history, and that’s what makes it so satisfying to chronicle.
Bloomingdale also has a tradition of community -- from the "Old Community" supplanted by Park West Village whose spirit truly lives on (and gave rise to the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group), to the community fostered by this Block Association with half a dozen events and four newsletters each year, to the communities that our neighboring block association and the one Bloomingdale Aging in Place has built over the last 10 years. That's just four quick examples, and there are many micro-communities in between, too.
When I reflect on what at times seems to be the electronic and political dystopia taking hold, I have to say all this community-building that has come naturally in Bloomingdale gives me quite a bit of hope going forward -- especially if new neighbors will join in, roll up sleeves and take up the tradition.
As part of my ongoing love letter to our piece of the Manhattan pie, I wanted to offer back up some of the slices from the year gone by — posts that have received great traffic from readers together with the ones I most enjoyed writing. It's far from an exhaustive list of the 2018 posts. But it's perhaps the cream.
Have a look at the links below and then perhaps you’ll write with your favorites to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments section of this post.
In any case, I appreciate that you read along throughout the year, and I send best wishes for an excellent 2019. If you know nearby neighbors who would enjoy the blog, send them this link where they can subscribe.
And now to the Year in Blog Favorites....
To read each post, click on the corresponding image at left or the hyperlinked text. If you are reading this post in an email subscription, it may be easier to view directly on the website.
• Bob on Broadway: Dylan's Powerful Residency at the Beacon
Then if you want, gild the lily with a post to honor his 77th birthday here.
Yes, a bit of a stretch for the Bloomingdale catchment, but I'm counting on you to humor me. It took all I had to refrain from writing about The Public's Girl from the North Country and its superb cast including the luscious drummer in red, the boxer, and Mare Winningham -- three actors who stole the show. Look for Girl on Broadway soon.
• Beautiful Block of Riverside Drive: Seven Beauties in Our Midst
Author Dan Wakin digs into the history of 330-337 Riverside Drive.
Pictured at left: Bennie the Bum with the sawed-off leg, not pictured!
• Women's Suffrage & Bloomingdaler Harriot Stanton Blatch
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's remarkable daughter Harriot (a babe in arms at left) lived right here. Read more about the fight in NYC to get women the vote, including the effort to get Columbia's men to the polls.
• Nightmare on 102nd Street
Always a blog favorite, the annual Block Association Halloween Party "Ghouls' Gallery", replete with a visitation from King George the Wee. The party is just one offering of the Block Association; for other B.A. event coverage in 2018, see this link.
• Estelle Parsons: Triple Threat of a Neighbor
What do I love about Miss Parsons? Everything!
Her intensity and her energy are her superpowers that allow her to thieve every scene she's in. Catch her in this Bloomingdale walkabout. Probably the year's most-viewed blog post! The lady has a legion of fans.
• Manfred Kirchheimer's Time Encapsulated
What do I love about filmmaker Manny Kirchheimer? Also everything!
A Bloomingdaler for five and a half decades, he's chronicled the city in his contemplative documentaries along with the odd fiction such as the film "Short Circuit" at left, shot entirely in our neighborhood.
• Throwback Thursday Spotlights 1920 Victrola Store
Throwback Thursday: Bloomingdale Edition is the section of the blog where I feature historical pictures and tidbits. A trove of these await publication, time permitting in 2019. Emanuel Blout's Victrola store, circa 1920, was my favorite this year. Have a TBT favorite? Let me know in the comments.
You can view all TBT: BE posts here.
• Throwback Thursday: The Divine Tight Line & Philippe Petit
This TBT: BE post comes in a close second place.
Discover the neighborhood feat of the great tightrope walker Petit, high on Amsterdam Avenue. And divine as ever.
• JFK Impersonator Vaughn Meader on the UWS
JFK would have turned 101 in 2018 and in his honor this post unearths the wonderful two albums that comedian Vaughn Meader turned out before the stars fell down and the curtain closed on Camelot.
• Catching Up with Hedy Campbell
Four years and 330 posts ago, Hedy asked me to write for the blog. The idea was to pick up where the creators had left off and fill in the gaps between quarterly Block Association newsletter issues. Without breaking a sweat, Hedy has turned out the publication since 1987 -- a massive feat if ever there was one. The blog is child's play by comparison. I end the highlights of 2018 with Hedy because she is a neighborhood jewel whose efforts have helped build and sustain a community feeling now for over 30 years. It's a team effort to be sure, so this hat tip goes to all folks who value this organization.
And now is your chance to help sustain it!
Join us by becoming a member here.
Catch you in 2019 for more Throwbacks,
more Hyper Local Eats, more Bloomingdale,
and, yes, probably more Bob Dylan.
Thanks for reading.
On December 20th, It Is Time for Solstice Caroling! Come Join In!
By Caitlin Hawke
Neighbors, sing the shortday blues adieu. It's the ancient tradition of marking the Winter solstice, and we're doing it with song.
Songsheets are downloadable here.