Sunday, October 24, 2021

Petrosino Park Is Out of Control

Yesterday I spoke to Christopher Marte, the man I hope will be my City Council member, about the deteriorating quality of life around Petrosino Park, a small, triangular park in Nolita that is bordered by Lafayette Street, Kenmare Street and Cleveland Place.

Despite numerous complaints to the Fifth Preinct and 311 from my neighbors and I, the situation has not only not improved, it has actually gotten worse.

There’s a general atmosphere of lawlessness in the neighborhood which the police say they’re powerless to do anything about. (I actually stopped a patrol car today to talk to them about it and they said that, while they agree with me, they can’t do anything about it.)

I seem to recall that it’s illegal to even play a radio in New York City parks, much less set up a microphone and amplifier that could fill a nightclub. But there seems to be a general lack of enforcement of “quality of life” crimes these days, as anyone who rides the subway can attest.

But amplified music is just one (albeit the most egregious) example of the deteriorating quality of life in my neighborhood. On the west side of the park, Lafayette Street has been converted into a de facto skateboard park with skateboarders shouting and banging their skateboards at all hours of the day.

The space that used to be Spring Street Natural Restaurant (it’s vacant now) is covered with graffiti. The non-profit Storefront for Art and Architecture was also covered with graffiti and had to be repainted several times. Perhaps the worst offenders are the restaurants themselves, particularly 19 Cleveland and La Esquina. 19 Cleveland has been operating past legal hours, has been doing construction at 23 Cleveland Place without a permit (at least none that I can see) and throwing rooftop parties late at night. They’re also expanding into the garden behind 23 Cleveland Place, again, without any permit or neighborhood input.

La Esquina has also been a horrible neighbor pretty much from the day they opened. I can always tell when they’re closing (2am) because their clientele seems to be incapable of leaving without waking up the entire neighborhood.

This whole outdoor dining phenomenon, which was supposed to be a temporary measure to help restaurants make up for income lost during the pandemic, has turned our streets and neighborhoods into all-day nightclubs, complete with loud music (and customers) and crowded sidewalks. I’m hoping that when they (hopefully) take office, Christopher Marte and Eric Adams can put an end to all this, because it’s clear that the Fifth Precinct and Mayor de Blasio have no intention of doing so.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Bob Gruen Ruined My Life

I just finished reading rock photographer Bob Gruen’s aptly titled memoir, Right Place, Right Time and it’s thrown me into an existential crisis.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Gruen’s immensely entertaining autobiography about how a kid from Great Neck, Long Island wound up hanging out with the coolest people on the planet. (In fact, I tore through it in four days.) It’s that his very existence has me questioning my life choices.

Gruen’s book touches on three things that have been a major theme of this blog lately: 1) that I was born too late/born at the wrong time, 2) that New York City’s best days are long behind it, and 3) that rock music itself is now a matter of history.

As an avid reader of the biographies of creative people, it often seems in retrospect that they led charmed lives. (Actually, that also could have been the title of Gruen’s book: Charmed Life.)

To recount just one example from Gruen’s book, he talks about how one time he was working on the West Coast and he had to fly back to New York in order to do his taxes. If he hadn’t flown back to New York for those few days (remember, this was in the days before cell phones and personal computers), he wouldn’t have had an important meeting with John Lennon (who also happened to be his neighbor), resulting in a lifelong friendship and business relationship.

These kinds of chance occurrences happen throughout the book, whether it’s a childhood connection to musician Todd Rundgren or finding the Westbeth apartment that made his entire life possible.

This has caused me to question my own super-regimented life where I read The New York Times every day and know what I’m going to eat for every meal. A life, I might add, that’s completely antithetical to the kind of artistic life I’m trying to lead.

Or is it?

It’s hard to imagine Gruen ever having time to read a newspaper or watch television with his peripatetic lifestyle. Hell, it’s surprising to learn he even owns a TV set! (He does, but as far as I can tell, he just uses it to watch the videos he’s filmed.)

So while I go from one soul-destroying job to another in order to support my artistic endeavors, Gruen seemingly glides from success to success—although he strenuously argues otherwise. Yes, Gruen may have had a few soul-destroying jobs at the beginning of his career, but not his entire life!

The result is that Gruen’s work is now exhibited in museums and galleries, and he’s widely recognized as probably the most renowned rock photographer in the world. (I’m sure you’ve all seen his photo of John Lennon wearing a New York City T-shirt, among many others.)

And I’ve got a blog into which I can pour my musings on his accomplishments.