It is now East
Houston Street’s turn to go through a spectacular transformation with new
condos and glass towers sprouting all along its sidewalks, from Broadway all
the way to the Manhattan Bridge. The upcoming "Essex Crossings" will further the
massive clean up and never ending gentrification of the Bowery with more
clothing stores, sports clubs, hip hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars.
gas stations are now all gone and the last iconic Mom and Pop’s stores of the
area are vanishing,
early 1990’s, this portion of Houston street was the virtual frontier between
the already changing/gentrifying East Village and the still pretty gritty lower
east side. Artists and pre-hipsters were living in storefronts and a few bars
were starting to open with success but you still had to know where you were
going to avoid any unpleasant encounters.
One of East
Houston’s treats was the short stretch where local graffiti artist Chico
(famous in the East Village and LES for his RIP and store murals) had taken over
the vacant buildings walls. Street and RIP portraits, Chico’s style, of
celebrities as diverse as Tupac Shakur, Mike Tyson (« If you can’t beat
them, bite them » after his memorable fight against E. Holyfield!), Lady
Di or Joe Camel, the long gone cartoonish character with his
« camel » cool and flair.
of the beginning of Richard Price’s great novel Lush Life, perfectly depicts
driving around Clinton, Delancey and Eldridge street, enumerating the newly
opened nightspots, the local businesses and historical buildings and of course Chico’s
murals in the mid-nineties:
« Iglesia, matzo shop, corner. Bollywood,
Buddha, botanica, corner. Bling Shop, barbershop, car service, corner.
Bar, school, bar, school, People’s Park, corner. Tyson Mural, Celia Cruz Mural,
Lady Di mural, corner ».
photo of the month is Chico’s tribute to rap artist Tupac Shakur. It was painted
only a few days after the rapper’s death and it's one of the most sought after images
on my site. Today, I am
happy to be able to share with you a few shots of this iconic (and now gone)
New York City mural.
see many other murals by Chico and other East Village and Lower East side graffiti
artists in the 90’s:
|The Lost Diner (Terminal Diner) 1995|
I recently learned that the Empire diner in Chelsea will be back in business soon. I guess this is great news for all those (like myself) who saw the slow disapearance of all of Manhattan's classic diners. Before it closed, the Empire had become an expensive restaurant, a bit far from the American diner's tradition. I bet that it will now be a luxury and/or gourmet restaurant catering to Chelsea's hip crowd...but at least it still exists and its owners have obviously understood the value of such a place as a real New York landmark.
In the mid-90's, there were a few diners left in Manhattan, trying to survive in a city that had already started to change.
The Jones diner on Lafayette actually showed an amazing resistance to the transformation of this very trendy area. It was small and greasy but a real fixture of NoHo area when Lafayette street was still a kind of frontier between the already super-gentrified Soho and the still kind of gritty (but already changing) East Village. A bit more west was another New Yorkers favorite: The Moondance with its poetic name and its moon crest spinning night and day above the entrance door. A diner that was dismantled to be rebuilt in Providence, Rhode Isalnd, but it finally closed in 2012.
But it's probably along the West side that one could find some of the prettiest exemples of this classic architecture. The Cheyenne was definitly a classic New York place you could find in touristic guides and the untouched Market Diner (were Sinatra used to meet with his mafia friends in the good old times), was hosting cool parties at night. The Market Diner is actually one of the latest casualties of the current real estate frenzy in New York. It was recently destroyed and will be replaced by guess what ? A big glass tower !
Some other diners, smaller and not as spectacular located closer to the West side highway had been forgotten but were still standing. The River Diner with its deep blue store front and of course the Lost Diner that I had the chance to discover while exploring the area. It's obvioulsly its real classic look that caught my attention and of course its wonderful name ! I thought that it could be perfect as a location for a David Lynch film. A name that was fairly recent at the time since a new team had taken it over and was trying to give back its former deco glory. Originaly named The Terminal Diner, it was finaly totaly abandoned in 2006 and slowly became a ruin.
As I have written in my post dedicated to New York's diners, I shot a lot of images of this diner as well as of all the others for an article (which was not published) for french magazine Telerama. Unfortunately these images were never returned to me by its editor Pierre Murat. I was fortunate enough to find a second choice in my archives in order to keep a trace of these old diners and I am happy to able to share these photographs with you today.
|Indian Larry, Alphabet City, Winter 1996|
A little bit of fresh air for the last days of a hot summer !
Winter 1996 is remembered for its incredible blizzard and snowstorm, which literally paralyzed Manhattan for a few days. A wonderful opportunity for photographers to walk around the city to capture instants where everything feels still and quiet in the bright white wonderland.
Living in the East Village at the time (12th/Ave.A), I went for a stroll this early Sunday morning in Alphabet City and the Lower East Side to witness a total very different vibe of the whole area
Bright light and sky, unusual silence, some skiers in the middle of the empty streets. Everything buried under the thick snow.
Somewhere near Avenue C, my attention was caught by the roaring sound of motorcycles. At the end of the block, some tough looking guys where riding bikes in the snow, laughing and acting crazy, drinking and smoking. One of them skidding on the snow with a dirt bike, only wearing a pair of shorts despite the cold and showing tattoos on his chest and arms. I snapped a couple of pictures.
It's only a couple of years ago when the internet site EV Grieve wrote a nice review of my blog with a selection of my pictures that I had the surprise to learn who was that crazy looking dude!
The one and only Indian Larry, bike builder, stunt rider and biker, notorious Alphabet city resident and a TV show host. I learned that he died in 2004 from injuries due to an accident while performing in a bike show.
He was known in the neighborhood as Indian Larry because of the chopped Indian motorcycle he used to ride in the streets of New York City.
RIP Indian Larry! It was great crossing your path on that 90's winter day!