All is Quiet on the Eastern front …

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Deserted! Park Avenue at 92nd street, 4PM. Photo: JH.

Monday, December 30, 2019.  We’re almost there. It’s raining in Manhattan as I write this on Sunday night mid-evening. If the weatherman is right, it’s going to rain for the next two days and nights.

This past week has felt like a very long weekend of a week of Sundays. The city has been very quiet. Most noticeably on the roads and sidewalks. I went over to Zabar’s on Friday, and while waiting at the light to cross Broadway east to west, only three cars passed by. On  a weekday afternoon in New York City. And there were no cars in sight behind or beyond them. 

A few hours later, looking south along Lexington Avenue from 88th Street. Photo: JH.

Crossing the downtown lane of Broadway in the 80s, there was only one solitary car waiting for the light. Ordinarily there are at least a dozen or maybe bumper to bumper. It’s been that way all over the city, at least mid-town and up-. Downtown may be a different story. It felt like Sunday.

Central Park having its own quiet moment. Photo: JH.

Meanwhile, the weather is unseasonal. Christmas week temps ran from the low 40s up to the low 50s. First week of winter. Meanwhile Blair Sabol told me they’ve been having a lot of rain and temps in the high 30s and low 40s down in Scottsdale.  And the East Coast of Florida has been having a lot of rain. JH’s brother Jason Hirsch sent us a photo of the golf course in Palm Beach where they were having a hail  storm. Beautiful though, no? It’s Mother Nature’s version of  Contemporary Art, weatherwise.

In the meantime, it’s always sunny in Mar-a-lago!

There goes the neighborhood. JH has been out with his camera, as you can see. This is the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and 86th Street. It looks drab and vacant – as do many commercial blocks in the city. However, this one has a popular reason. It’s about to be razed and replaced with a shiny new condo development. Most of the commercial businesses are moving to new locations and presumably the new building will have commercial space. 

Vacated: Madison Avenue between 85th and 86th Street.
Ristorante Morini …
H.L. Purdy Opticians …
Chuckies …
Prestige Cleaners …

There is a lot of this sort of construction going on in the area. It’s been active for years now. On East 86th Street from Lexington Avenue to East End, residential construction has been ongoing since the ‘90s, and it has changed the face of the neighborhood. These are all “luxury” buildings which means specifically that they are expensive, and generally impossible for the working people whose forebears worked and brought up their families here.

When I first came to New York out of college, I shared a one bedroom on East 87th Street between Lex and Third (one bath, kitchen in a closet; rent $110. a month). This area was known locally as Yorkville and latterly as Germantown. It was a community of mainly brownstones and tenements, and hundreds of storefront businesses including bars, bakeries and restaurants, as well as movie theaters including RKO and Loew’s movie palaces. Then east of First Avenue to the Carl Schurz Park on East End was — and remains — the higher rent, mainly co-ops.

Demarchelier Restaurant on 86th Street between Madison and Park. In the good news department, daughter Emily will be reopening Demarchelier in Greenport, Long Island to continue the family tradition — she’ll just be doing so just a little closer to the beach and the surf (and away from those NYC rents).

Photo Memoir.  Over the long “weekend” I was spending some time updating and organizing files and archives. I’ve taken hundreds or thousands of photos for the NYSD Diaries, many of which were taken on the run, things that just caught my eye. All of them reflect these times of the New York Social Diary in my life. JH chose these two because they reflect the season.

I remember that Christmas wreath and I remember hanging it in the bathroom, although I don’t recall why I hung it there in the first place. I do recall taking the shot because it was so odd it was funny.

The packages being removed from the FedEx Truck in front of my apartment building is a daily scene on many streets and avenues. This is only one of four delivery trucks that daily double park on the block, and unload over a week’s time hundreds, if not thousands of cardboard packages.

It looks like excess although a lot of that is simply the replacement for all the empty stores along the avenue. A lot of people I know prefer having their lives delivered to their door rather than venturing forth. The “community” regarded in the previous columns has gone the way of the cardboard box for many of us. “Life goes on; Oobla-dee, Oobla dah!”

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