Changing cityscapes

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  • Cleaning the exterior of a newsstand. Photo: Billie Grace Ward, via flickr

  • Manhattan newsstand. Photo: Peter Burka, via flickr

by Arlene Kayatt

No news stand — Those silvery stands on the corner or mid-block on our city streets look to me like newsstands. In less shiny stands I’ve seen them over a lifetime. They were the place you went to buy a newspaper and to read what was then up-to-the minute headlines blaring the latest scoops or news of the day — or afternoon or early evening — and where you could eye an array of magazines, from Time to the Economist to People. Not so anymore. Maybe a Time. Sometimes a People. Less so an Economist. But they were there. Staples of sorts. Not anymore. These new — I’ll call them newsstands — don’t sell newspapers or magazines or anything resembling print merchandise. There’s candy. There are cigarettes. There are lottery tickets. Little, if anything, else. You can buy the same merchandise in brick and mortar convenience stores. I’ve asked the people working at the locations. They either don’t know what I’m talking about or say they’re newsstands but they can’t/don’t/won’t sell newspapers. Nobody’s been clear. What I’m trying to find out is why there are more news or non-news stands suddenly — at least it seems suddenly — on the already inaccessible, crowded city sidewalks? It seems that, with people and pets and carts and vendors and bicycles and skateboards and wheelchairs and other moving or non-moving objects vying for valuable sidewalk space, another oversized street structure for selling candy and cigarettes is an intrusion without a public purpose. These imposing structures pose a public safety and access issue on the city’s sidewalks and are unnecessary.

Lucky Katz — All the one-level stores are history — as in no more — on the LES street on East Houston between Orchard and Ludlow Streets. Except for Katz’s Delicatessen. Now co-owned by the Dell family (they are the first owners not of the original Katz family), Katz’s sold its air rights to developer Ben Shauol in 2014 and was able to insure that Katz’s salamis, pastramis, pickles would live on and on and on forever. All the other stores remaining on the block — from Bereket on the Orchard Street corner to Ray’s Pizza to Lobster Joint to the convenience store are gone. The empanada store moved to Allen Street. With all the razing going on around town, Katz’s preserved itself for the next generations of fearless foodies. Let’s face it, Katz has survived vegans, vegetarians, fresh-food mania, salad bars. Just walk into the beloved 100 years-plus deli, take a ticket from the ages-old dispenser used for marking purchases (you pay when on the way out). Walk over to the counter for a frank or knoblewurst, pile on some sauerkraut. Move down where the counter staff will hand cut some of the world’s best pastrami and corned beef and offer up some of the crispest pickles, sour or half sour pickles gratis, along with sass, also gratis. No matter how long the line along the counter, sometimes three-deep, everyone gets a sample, a nosh of corned beef or pastrami. It’s killer food for sure. Delicious and deadly. Despite its ability to clog arteries and shorten life spans, Katz’s remains forever. I’m happy that the next generations will get to partake and enjoy what will be a centuries-old institution and maybe learn about those who shared the same space. It’s sad that Katz’s will stand alone among the condos, high rises, and chain stores that make up early 21st century Manhattan. And that future generations won’t know life when small businesses were not only part of the landscape but part of everyday life. Life goes on. To life.

No more antiques — The watch repair shop which also sells various and sundry items, including antiques, maybe a chair or lamp, and located on 77th between 1st and 2nd Avenues, is no more. Owner Elias Lifshitz, who was profiled in New York magazine several years ago, is a transplant to New York from Mexico City since the late ‘60s. His passion and primary source of business was watch repair and selling antique watches and pocket watches — and collecting folding bicycles. If you traversed 77th Street on the way to the subway, you knew Elias. Victim of high rent. Bye to another neighborhood business and business man.

Food from the outside — It always amazes me when people bring outside food into another restaurant. I’ve endured the smells of curry, corned beef, pizza, pickles in the air as I’ve had a spinach salad at Lenwich’s, a protein pack at Starbucks, a lentil soup at Corner Cafe. Bad enough when customers do it, but employees? I can remember seeing an employee at a Fika’s on Lexington and 89th grabbing bites of what seemed like a brown bag sandwich between bouts of pouring coffee for customers. And most recently an employee at Panera’s Union Square unpacking tacos and quesadillas. Definitely out to lunch.

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