Late last week, Curbed linked back to a quick entry I’d posted about the impending demise of everything that’s cool about 190 Bowery, calling me a “nostalgia blogger” along the way. I suppose that’s technically sort of accurate, but I came away from that feeling a little short-changed. Earlier this week, meanwhile, after I posted an image of the newly re-designed fountains in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Facebook, a friend of mine flatly declared: “You miss everything.”
While I hate to think of myself as a flagrant nostalgist, I guess it must seem like I do genuinely miss everything (especially coupled with my disdain for so much of what’s new here in NYC).
In light of this, I thought I’d fly in the face of convention and cite six things about New York City that I DON’T miss. You, dear reader, will invariably beg to differ with at least one of these, but then — start your own list:
6. PUBLIC PAY PHONES
They required a pocket-full of change, they were frequently broken, they were filthy and smelled like urine .. what’s not to dislike? As much as it's brought along a wide spectrum of new things to complain about, the advent of smartphones has rendered pay phones pretty useless, and that’s fine with me.
5. B. ALTMAN’S
365 Fifth Avenue (now the CUNY GRADUATE CENTER)
If you’re a youngster, you probably don’t remember B. Altman’s, but it was a massive department store on Fifth Avenue just north of the Empire State Building. It’s not that I’m a big fan of its then-competitors like Gimbel’s, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and the like, but I remember shopping for school clothes at B. Altman’s with my mother and always having a miserable time. When it closed, my heart cheered.
4. “SEINFELD”/“FRIENDS”/"SEX AND THE CITY”
Here’s where I really start alienating people. I’ve never given the single, slightest whiff of a good goddamn about any of these “quintessentially New York” shows. Bullshit, all three of ’em. “Seinfeld” is the most overrated sitcom in history, and the other two are so lamentable that taste and decorum forbid me going into detail here about how much I loathe them. It sucks that they all live on in syndication, but they all made me want to friggin’ move out of New York City with all goddamn speed. That douchey location tours, themed coffee shops and jello shot trivia contests have been spawned in their respective wakes only fuels my ire.
3. LE Q
36 East 12th Street (now a comparatively sedate antique emporium)
This probably seems like a fairly obscure one, but it drove me insane. True crime fans might recognize the name as being the location of a notorious 1992 shooting by a Chinatown street gang called the Tung On Boys. I naively hadn’t heard about that particular crime when I moved into an apartment in a building across the street from it in 1996, but I doubt it would have stopped me anyway. Regardless, Le Q was a twenty-four-hour pool hall on East 12th between Broadway and University Place. During the day, it was pretty easy to ignore, but in the otherwise placid dead of night, you had cars parking outside with boomin' trunk-o’-funks, blasting hip hop at volumes that rattled the rafters. More worryingly, however, were the gang activities that still went down there, even years after the afore-cited 1992 shooting. One night, I heard a scuffle outside and ran to the window. From the relative safety of my living room, I watched what I can only assume was an initiation as at least thirty Asian teens brutally swarmed on one hopeful newbie outside of Le Q. They beat the tar out of him in a coldly-calculated spectacle that was both fascinating and horrifying. The departure of Le Q was a moment of great joy for the neighborhood.
2. THE TUNNEL
220 Twelfth Avenue (Not sure what’s there now)
I know The Tunnel was a part of Peter Gatien’s notorious circuit of iconic NYC nightclubs that also included The Limelight and The Palladium, but I have to say that I was never a big fan of this particular establishment. I didn’t like the music they played. I didn’t like the scene and I certainly didn’t dig the crowd. I only went a couple of times, but it was never especially fun. I mean, techno and hip hop aren’t really my cups of tea to begin with, but beyond that, the vibe was just kinda unpleasant. I didn’t cry when it closed in 2001.