Saturday, June 15, 2013


It seems every spring in New York after the slush has melted, the tulips have finally opened their cups of color and the weather has turned from frigid to short-sleeve the city's inhabitants once again begin to take their seats at the outdoor cafes and public benches that populate the borough known as Manhattan. Faces that had been sheathed in fur lined hats and wool scarves or the ubiquitous hoodie were now discreetly eyeing you up and down or boldly staring at your transition from winter's black to spring's sherbet hues as we walk the streets of the island.
As with every new awakening the city also transforms its attire and neighborhoods that once were sections of seedy luggage and discount clothing vendors mystically find a new set of clothes in sophisticated awnings, freshly cleaned stone and trendy black industrial street level windows. Broadway between twenty-third and thirty-fourth streets was filled with wholesale suppliers to the street vendor trade.
Before the onset of winter unkempt storefronts with hand-painted signs offering cheap costume jewelry and imitation handbags lined the street.
This spring a rebirth has started in one of the few areas left in Manhattan yet to be gentrified. Facades of glorious turn-of-the-century architectural masterpieces long left unattended had now been reborn into sophisticated hotels and European boutiques selling expensive clothes and spa accessories.
The whole tenor of the area is fading from what was a crushed cardboard box strewn series of midtown blocks into a potted plant garden of outdoor delights. For a while we lived not too far from this tin and sequin ghetto. The 28th Street R train was our link to getting Emmy to and from grade school. When we walked from the subway it was always with our heads turned toward the sidewalk dodging discarded Chinese food cartons and the occasional rodent.
I never took the time to look up and see what existed above eye-level. That was not the case this spring. What a shame we missed all that lovely architecture for years. What a delight it was to discover it this spring

At the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 24th Street, across from Madison Square Park there sits a spit of concrete watched over by a statue of General Worth to the north and the iconic Flat Iron Building to the south. It had been nothing more than a point of egress from the bustle of the office buildings on the west to the serenity of Madison Square Park on the east,
but for the month of May this triangle of cement and iron fencing was transformed into an eating and drinking outdoor garden of innovative street vendors selling the likes of
Seoul Food,
Red Hook Lobster rolls,
People Pops,
and fully dressed Tacate.
Groups of Friday evening twenty-somethings and lucky unsuspecting tourists sat at tables shaded by Marimekko umbrellas under lines of string lights reminiscent of popular European beer gardens but with that unexplainable New York twist.
Every day the tables were packed with people tasting the wonders of exotic grilled cheese sandwiches
and Italian pastas dressed in amazing sauces.
Asian shrimp breaded with honey and served on shredded cabbage in disposable street-wise paper dishes could be devoured for under five dollars. The whole place was a really cheap date. And then when June came the whole scene evaporated. General Worth was left once again to guide those office workers safely across the intersecting of western chaos to eastern tranquility but the haunting peels of laughter generated by the crowd that once was still echoed on that triangular sliver of concrete between Broadway and Fifth Avenue.

Flatiron Building, 1946
Harold Roth, photographer
Represented by Elizabeth Clement Fine Art

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