Yesterday afternoon, Jeremiah Moss posted a quick little headline regarding the closing of Alphabets on Greenwich Avenue, a great, cheeky little gift shop where you used to be able to procure everything from Fred Perry shirts to Jesus action figures and all stripes in between. I was saddened to hear of its demise, and almost couldn't fathom it. Like many of its fellow boutiques and businesses up and down that strip, Alphabets seemed like a pretty successful, attractive and lucrative venture. It had stood there for about sixteen years. But then, of course, as Jeremiah extrapolated, since the closing of St. Vincent's hospital, things on that avenue have changed.
I was incredulous at the news that St. Vincent's was closing. It was a historic locale. It was on the front-lines during the rise of the AIDS epidemic and it served as the first hospital to help victims and first responders on September 11th, 2001. On a personal level, my grandfather practiced there. I was born there (although I'm told I was almost born in the back seat of a taxi on 14th street), and both of my children were born there. As a parent, the notion of losing the neighborhood hospital made absolutely no sense at all. Regardless, St. Vincent's hospital is now all but a memory, leaving behind hulking, currently empty facilities.
Jeremiah linked to this compelling article (with accompanying slideshow) of Greenwich Avenue in the wake of St. Vincent's departure, and it struck me how many of those businesses I hold dear. From Johnny's Bar to Flight 001 to Partners & Crime Books and my beloved Elephant & Castle, there are so many destinations on that avenue that I count as favorites. I'm very sorry to see it all threatened.
I snapped the photo of the strip in question at the top of this post from the window of my wife's room when she was about to deliver my son Oliver back in 2006. Unfortunately, the window was a little dirty, so it's not exactly a pristine photograph, but it still demonstrates what an active little byway Greenwich Avenue was. Two years earlier, right after the birth of my daughter Charlotte, we'd had to rush back to St. Vincent's for a slightly hair-raising overnight session to combat my infant daughter's jaundice. We stayed overnight while they put our little baby in tiny goggles and inserted her into an container under bright florescent lights. In retrospect, we've learned that it's a fairly common treatment, but being newly-minted parents at the time, we were both terrified. At one point in the proceedings, I popped out to get us some food and ran down Greenwich Avenue to find something. I stumbled into Tea & Sympathy, and I must have been visibly shaken. Nicki the owner took one look at me, sat me down and asked me what was going on. I spilled my whole story about how we'd only just gotten Charlotte home before we had to rush back and were frankly really worried. She put together a lovely care package of food and goodies for us and didn't even charge me. She whisked me out the door, directing me to get back to my wife and daughter and not to worry. I'll never forget that.
I gather the remains of St. Vincent's are to be turned into -- wait for it -- pricey condominiums. Here's hoping, at least, that said development will spare Greenwich Avenue from the hard times it's currently facing. Until then, why not go down there and help out the businesses that remain? They'll assuredly thank you for it.