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13th Street Gazette
Voice of the West 13th St. 100 Block Association Inc., 155 W. 13th St., New York, N.Y. 10011
Issue No. 13
Next Meeting: March 14, 2006 (Tues.), 8 PM At the Markle Residence, 123 W. 13th St. 4th Floor Lounge Guests speakers to be announced Discussion: Regaining our beautiful block once the MTA goes.
The Big Dig:
It Just Keeps Going, and Going...
There’s only one question anyone cares about: when, when will it finally be finished? For just a moment, early the morning of Thursday, Sept. 22, it seemed there was hope. With much beeping and grinding, a huge tractor-trailer rig was maneuvered into place on Sixth Ave., and the crane that had dominated the Big Dig worksite at the eastern end of our block was taken aboard and hauled away.
As I write this Message I find myself very concerned about the present status of our block. The Big Dig drags on and there have been reports of homeless people sleeping on the block (which I witnessed) and reports of break-ins at some restaurants (which I have heard second hand). The fact that my good neighbors the Fruchters are leaving this block after more than 30 years also saddens me. (See p. 5 –ed.) However, I must also say there have been some heartening developments. I recently had an opportunity, with other civic leaders, to meet with the Mayor at Gracie Mansion to discuss some of our concerns including the proliferation of street fairs in the Village, porn shops, and the Big Dig. The Mayor was receptive to our concerns and is spurring his agencies to take action in these areas. We have also added two new active members to our Board: Bruce Meyer, now publishing the Gazette, and Daniel Rocker, who has been in contact with the Parks Dept. and verified that the tree pits in front of our homes are indeed the homeowners’ domain: no one has the right to plant in them, or enclose them, without the homeowner's permission. He has also registered our complaints with the Postal Service regarding the fact that someone painted our mail boxes a horrible chartreuse color. It is a federal crime to paint them. I have also been working with Michael Rabiner of the DOT to have new sidewalks installed in front of a number of houses on the block. I expect that this work will be done soon. Of course, the Block Assn. can still use additional active members, and I urge you to come forward to help this block remain as one of the best in the City. – Gary Tomei
One guess: Mid-March (?) . But no. It was not the beginning of the end. Work goes on, and as of this writing, the crane that occupied the site on the east side of the avenue is being shifted back and forth on a near-daily basis. So I made it my task for this edition of the Gazette to learn as much as possible about the prospects for completing the job, and in particular to get an idea when the smaller, secondary site that has disfigured our block for more than three years now might be finished, at least on the surface. The answer: some time next year. Yeah, we’ve heard that before. But this time, it looks like it might be true. Details follow. This is an MTA project, installing a major new ventilation system for the Sixth Ave. Subway. Virtually all the work, from the start in the summer of 2002 through this past summer, has been to prepare the site for this ventilation system. Continued on P. 2
W. 13th St. Gazette
recently cut down in the garden of 147 but we have not found out why it was done.
continued from P.1 Now, at last, the final stage – installation of the hardware – has begun. So in a sense, it is the beginning of the end, after all. I spoke first with the on-site project manager, Joseph Ascolese, in his office in one of the trailers east of the Sixth Ave. He estimated the whole project will be completed by “the middle of next year – next summer.” What of our side, the smaller site west of the avenue? “We’ve completed most of it,” he said. “ We’re now waiting for ConEd to tell us what needs to be done” regarding underground power and gas lines. He said he hopes to be done on the west side “by the end of this year, the beginning of next – depending on the weather.” Seeking something a bit more specific, I worked my way up the MTA hierarchy, eventually contacting Charles Seaton, New York City Transit director of public affairs. His estimate was less optimistic than Mr. Ascolese’s.
Big Dig, disease, trucks, dogs &... a Mystery
Contributing to the decay of the trees is the fact that dogs are urinating in the tree pits and uncaring, unthinking people use them as trash receptacles. I implore those of you who walk your dogs not make toilets out of the tree pits and I ask all to admonish those throw garbage in the tree pits or let their dogs dirty in them. This is not them against us. This is for everyone who resides here and appreciates the benefit of our wonderful enviornment and wishes to see it remain as lovely and healthy as it is presently. –Gary Tomei
Real Estate Update
Have residential sales here ever been higher? Never! Every day prices rise even as interest rates keep climbing. Spring-Summer 2005 sales on our block included a four-story townhouse with an owners' duplex and two floor-through apartments for over $4,300,000. The apartment buildings with restaurant space at 133 and 135 West 13th St. sold as a package to one buyer for $5,450,000. On the market now, a four story single family townhouse asking $8,495.000. Recent condo sales of 1-bedroom apartments in the church building ranged from $1,295,000 to $1,019,000 and a two bedroom sold for $1,660,000. Coop studio sales ranged from $349,000 to $499,000 and a one bedroom apartment in a townhouse sold for $850,000. In 2005, rental prices zoomed upward. Onebedroom units on our block rented from $2,650 to $1,689; two bedrooms ranged from $3,900 to $3,750. Townhouse rentals included an 11-room single family home for $20,000; a 2-bedroom, 2bath apartment for $6,300 and a duplex for $9,750. (This information provided by Association member Kitty Sorell, V.P./Assoc. Broker, Corcoran Group, 212-539-4968.)
Officers of the Block Association: Gary Tomei, President; Alan J. Jacobs, First Vice-President; Mary Perica, Second VicePresident; Robert Kittine, Secretary; Judy Pesin, Treasurer. Steering committee includes: Officers plus Dorothy Graham (Beautification Committee chair); Bruce Meyer (Newsletter editor); Daniel Rocker (At-Large). Newsletter published by Bruce Meyer, firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> . Contributors: Gary Tomei, Alan Jacobs, Kitty Sorell.
An insider’s prediction: “March. Middle of March.”
“We expect to complete the project in mid-to-end ’06,” he said. “It’s being outfitted with the electrical and mechanical systems as we speak.” He promised to get back to me with an estimate for buttoning up the west-side site, but never did. So I dug a little deeper, and finally found an official who asked not to be identified (because he wasn’t authorized to make such pronouncements), but who seemed, to me, to have a clear notion of both the rate of progress on the job and the obstacles that remain. His prediction for finishing the above-ground work west of Sixth Ave.: “March. Middle of March.” Which turns out to be the latest official MTA forecast, as well. We can only hope. – Bruce Meyer
Recently it seems we have been losing a large number of trees on the block. These trees give the block such charm and character, their loss is a blow to the beauty and serenity of our surroundings. It is of course, also a blow to our health as these trees help clean the air and provide us with oxygen to breathe. These losses appear to be the result of damage done by the Big Dig, disease, truck damage as well as other causes. For example, a large tree was
W. 13th St. Gazette
Alan Jacobs on the Retail Scene:
Porn Shops and Nail Salons Stop Their Advance
I've gotten over my panic about Sixth Avenue being lined with porn shops from Houston to 26th St. By my observation, there hasn't been a new one in the Village (with the possible exception of the west end of Christopher) in at least a year, maybe two. I'm sure part of the reason is the our display of public ire, and part is that the courts seem to be upholding the strict local anti-porn laws. Our local shop on Sixth Ave., Xcellent DVD, has become considerably tamer in its window displays. The nameless body oil shop next to Xcellent put up a new awning, so I guess they will be staying for a while. I had feared that the next porn shop would be there; I just don't see that much body oil being sold. The scourge of nail parlors also seems to have come to an end. There are about 8 of them within 100 feet of our corners; is it possible that we've reached a saturation point, or maybe that people are discovering that they can cut their own nails. I noticed that Rehoboth Nails on 14th St. (near Sixth Ave.) has expanded, taking over the Veg City Diner space, and become Rehoboth Spa Lounge. They ain't just nails anymore. You can get a hydro-lifting facial, light/photo-energy therapy, honey, almond and buttermilk body polish, Dead Sea mineral mud wrap, oxygen inhalation and even a prenatal massage (presumably for those who haven't been born yet). In Genesis 26:22, Rehoboth was a big well dug by Isaac. The verse says nothing about nail-trimming. It looks as if our section of Sixth Avenue is getting a bit boutique-y, as the Meatpacking District becomes overpriced. How else to explain Estrella, a pricey baby boutique, and Kuhlman, a somewhat reasonably priced men's boutique, both on Sixth Avenue between 12th and 13th. I liked Estrella's recent display of streamlined, high-tech baby carriages. Kuhlman is part of a national chain of men's boutiques. Now, I am a dedicated FoF (Foe of Fashion), and have worn blue jeans and a t-shirt for the last 50 years, but Kuhlman's has some shirts that I might consider – for a special occasion. More to my liking is a new discount jeans shop on the same block, called Blues. "Twenty percent off at all times," the manager told me. Twenty percent off what? I don’t know, but the selection looks pretty good. Galileo, at 13th and 7th, has closed, and will be replaced by a Subway sandwich shop. I can't complain: I like Subway. While it's not as tony as we might like for our block, it's not out of place on Seventh Ave., which already has a Blimpie Base. The twee knick-knacks of Galileo were just too precious for that particular commercial strip.
Last month, the Far West Village preservation effort won a major victory when the City Council voted overwhelmingly for a re-zoning plan that took effect immediately. The re-zoning substantially decreases the allowable height and builk of new development in much of the Far West Village, which has become the target of high-rise developers determined to build luxury apartment towers entirely out of scale for the Village. The re-zoning campaign was spearheaded by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which credits Council member Christine Quinn and the City Planning Commission with responding to the community’s call for quick action.
W. 13th St. Gazette
Raising a Glass (or two): The Fall Social
Members of the Block Assn. gathered on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Gradisca (see 13th St. restaurants, p. 6) to renew acquaintances, socialize, enjoy the fine food and wine and – on a bittersweet occasion – salute two longstanding pillars of our block., Larry and Mary Fruchter. About three dozen people of all ages stopped by, and as the accompanying photos demonstrate, a good time was had, presumably by all. The Fruchters were the guests of honor. They’re moving on to warmer climes in winter and to taller climes elswhere in the Village the rest of the year (see “Meet the Fruchters,” p.5), and it was fitting that they be honored as the true anchors of our community they have been for so long. Association president Gary Tomei toasted them with these words: "At this time I'd like to toast two residents of our block that have lived here for over 30 years and who are, and have been, our block historians and the best of neighbors and friends to us all. “Of course I speak of Mary and Larry Fruchter. “Mary and Larry, your warmth, wit and true zest for life has touched us all. “Your concern, not only West 13th Street, but for all the Village has sparked in us a sense of pride and responsibility in our surroundings and a desire to see the charm and character of the Village preserved for our posterity. “Thank you for being who you are and for what you have done."
Above: Gary Tomei toasts Larry & Mary Fruchter; Right: the Welcoming Committee; Below: Good time being had by all
W. 13th St. Gazette
“Hello, we must be going”: Meet the Fruchters
Larry and Maria Fruchter have lived on our block for more than 30 years. In November, they are leaving, though we will always remember them as the best of neighbors. And they have quite a story. When the Allies won the Second World War, they freed the world from Fascism – and set the stage for Larry Fruchter to meet Maria Fravolini. In 1946, 1st Lt. Larry of the Air Corps was in Rome and attended a party thrown by some friends of Maria on the Via Margutta. Larry saw Maria, Maria saw Larry and on June 18 they wed in a civil ceremony at Il Campidoglio in Rome. When they returned to New York, they renewed their vows at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on 14th St. Larry is a Village native (his first home was at 84 Barrow St.), and when Mary saw Washington Arch, which reminded her of Rome’s heroic architecture, and MacDougal St., which reminded her of the cafes in Rome, she too wanted to live here. Eventually they settled at 134 W. 13th (currently, the Pesin-Boriello residence). In 1976, they bought 151 W. 13th (for $165,000), and moved there in 1979. Larry became a printer, the printer of choice for many of the city’s night clubs. The Fruchters had two children, Francine and David. David struggled with juvenile diabetes, and died in 1996. Francine now lives at 151, but is moving elsewhere in the Village. Larry and Mary remember the Village and our block when it was all brownstones, before the John Adams, Greenwich Towers, and Cambridge House rose. They fondly remember movies at the Loew's Sheridan, a grand theatre that stood on the triangle bound by Greenwich, W. 12th, and 7th Ave. (now the materials handling center for St. Vincent's). On the site of the National Maritime Union building (now the St. Vincent's clinic), at 7th Ave. and W. 13th, there were brownstones with filigree reminiscent of New Orleans. Where P.S. 41 stands, there were beautiful houses. The Fruchters are Vintage exterior view of the Loew's grateful the Landmarks Preservation Commission was established in 1969. Sheridan just before its destruction The Fruchters were fond of Reno Sweeney's, which occupied the space at 126 (now Gradisca). This was a legendary club – Peter Allen, Manhattan Transfer, Patti Smith, Judy Kaye, Nell Carter, Jane Olivor, Blossom Dearie, and many more appeared there in the 1960s and 1970s. The Fruchters remember walking down the street in the early 70s and bumping into Joel Grey – who, much to Mary's surprise, gave her a big hug. Larry did the printing for the club – in fact, Lou Friedman, who owned the place, still owes Larry for a job. Reno Sweeney's no longer exists because it got too noisy; amplified rock bands were too much for our sedate piece of the universe. Larry remembers that the Gradisca spot was called Little Venice back in the 1930s, and that Mayor LaGuardia used to eat there. The abandoned restaurant at 133 (formerly La Nonna, formerly MariaElena, formerly New Deal) was once called Covent Garden; daughter Francine was married there. Most visitors to our block are curious about the Church at 141. Larry and Mary remember the sad demise of two vibrant congregations, one Presbyterian, one Jewish, that shared the facility. In the early 1980’s, a new pastor replaced the popular and ecumenical Rev. Stitt, and Rabbi Block and his Brotherhood Synagogue moved to Gramercy Park. The Presbyterian congregation declined, and the church sold to a developer for $750,000. The Village Mews coop was carved out of the space, leaving the church-front as a façade. The Fruchters are leaving for Florida in November, but their main home will be the Vermeer, 7th Ave. and 14th St. Larry had a heart attack, and Mary has trouble walking and seeing, so they consider an elevator building to be better for them. But on the very day that they closed on their new apartment, their big red cat, Chester, died at 18. Mary thinks the cat knew that 13th St. would no longer be his home.
There will be an emptiness on the stoop of 151, where Larry and Mary once sat, chatting up the neighbors, bubbling with hospitality, observing the present and remembering the past. We will miss them, and are happy to honor them at this year's Gradisca social. - Alan Jacobs
W. 13th St. Gazette
Times Highlights “Good Eating” on W. 13 St.
On the Sunday before Halloween, the New York Times ran a feature on restaurants on W. 13th St. where parade-goers might stop for a libation and a good meal. Most of the recommended spots are on our block, including: Gonzo – “...specializes in antipasti and [grilled] pizzas ... Meaty roasted quail stuffed with a mixture of ground chicken, apples and rosemary is deliciously gamy.” Gradisca – “The look is rustic, with tables covered in butcher paper. Piadinas, unleavened flatbreads with fillings like prosciutto and mozzarella, are excellent starters. Gradisca serves spaghetti carbonara as it was intended: simply, with eggs and bacon.” Salam – “...specializes in Syrian dishes but the menu ranges as far as Morocco. You could make a meal of appetizers, though you would miss the excellent main courses like chicken ouzi, an untraditional version of a Syrian dish that adds a mild curry to the typical mixture of rice, peas and raisins cooked in phylo.” Sumile – “...a highly original and daring little restaurant. The chef ... has restricted his Asian flavors and ingredients to Japan with dishes like shoyu ramen with organic chicken, snow peas, matsutake mushrooms and aged sake.” Omitted by the Times article, but also block favorites, are Café Loup serving excellent bistro food (and a great jazz brunch) and Spain, which as its name implies, serves fare from that country.
Look out, kids: Tree Pit Danger
The tree pit and sidewalk in front of No.140 is in danger of collapse unless the Dept. of Transportation immediately fills in the void under that walk. Presently, there is a real danger that a child could slip into the open space and be seriously hurt. The Block Association, as well as some neighbors have reported this situation to DOT, the property owner and Community Board 2, but so far to no avail and it seems irresponsible of the Board and DOT not to remedy this extremely dangerous situation. I would think that the City & Country School would be particularly concerned about this matter.
I urge the City & Country School as well as all block residents and businesses to bombard CB2, the DOT and our local officials with demands that this unconscionable situation be remedied. –Gary Tomei
It’s the pits: that hole is really deep!
IT’S YOUR BLOCK ASSOCIATION: JOIN OR RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP NOW!
Block Association dues for calendar year 2006 may be paid now. Make checks to “W. 13 St. 100 Block Ass’n,” Mail to: W. 13th St. 100 Block Association, 155 W. 13th St., New York, N.Y. 10011 Resident ($10 per individual) Number of individuals: Brownstone owner ($50) Business ($100) Cooperative board ($100) Additional contribution (any amount) TOTAL ENCLOSED: $ ______ This is a renewal. Name or names: Address: Name of business (if applicable): Home phone: Work phone: E-mail:
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