Long ago, Manhattan was a fertile island loaded with wild elk, bears, birds, old growth trees, natural meadows, beautiful rocky cliffs and plenty of ponds, brooks and streams. In his book, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, ecologist Eric Sanderson writes:
If Mannahatta existed today as it did then, it would be a national park. It would be the crowning glory of American national parks.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the rivers and streams that have been long covered by our daily hullaballoo matter again. As flood waters rose, so too did the hidden banks of those all but forgotten bubbling brooks of water, but now into the basements and sub-basements of some of the city’s most expensive and celebrated buildings. You can read about some of that here on Curbed and Scouting New York. But we also thought it would be interesting to include this interactive version of Egvert Viele’s 1865 map of New York City’s grid overlaying the original streams, lakes, rivers and hills of good-old Mannahatta.
Take a minute to zoom in and out, swipe up, down, left and right. My building in the East Village sits on a swamp between a couple of streams that flowed into the East River. Pretty much all of Tribeca west of Church was either a swamp or THE Hudson River. Midtown was a full-on maze of brooks, streams and knolls. What lurks beneath your building? Let us know.
I moved to Alphabet City about a decade ago and there was one of the crappiest Chinese take-out joints this city has ever seen right across the street from me on Avenue C. Finally, that place closed and construction began. A few months later, a crappy Italian restaurant opened. Like, I’ll-pay-for-the-damn-food-just-get-me-out-of-here crappy. I always felt terrible for the owners who would assemble all of their friends at the front of the restaurant just behind the newly installed glassed-panelled garage door to try to attract unsuspecting patrons into the otherwise empty room. PEOPLE! You cannot open a crappy Italian restaurant in the East Village and expect success. WAY too much great competition. But then something wonderful happened. The Italian place closed and a couple of supremely talented restauranteurs took over the lease and began to transform the space into what is now Edi & the Wolf.
Edi and his good buddy Wolf have created one of the best rooms in the city in which to enjoy a meal with an aim to “recreate tradition with a feast of rustic Austrian cuisine and a carefully curated European wine list” and they manage to do just that. Today, the aforementioned garage door feels as if it has been there for a hundred years with a happy mess of herbs and vines invite you to venture through a barn wood shack that leads into this amazingly warm and creative display of cozy genius. Your attention is drawn to many curiosities scattered throughout and the much written about thick coiled rope above the bar. I have no idea why it is there, but it doesn’t rally matter because it looks amazing hanging there from the wide-planked ceiling with candle wax dripping down its side. It’s a warm addition to just the sort of room that makes you want to curl up on one of their banquets and enjoy an amazing meal with a big bottle of red wine.
And speaking of food, the friendly folks at Edi & the Wolf nail it every time. Small plates like the Hamachi, Pork Belly, and Liptaurer & Herb Gervais are served perfectly arranged on black slabs of slate. If you’re into sharing or being so full that you’ll have to be rolled out of the place, the Spätzle is a must. It is one of the finest examples of culinary comfort love I have experienced in my few short years on this earth. And if that’s not enough, the main courses are incredible. I usually get the Pork Weiner Schnitzel which is perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside with refreshingly prepared potato salad with cucumber and lingonberry jam. On my last trip, however, I stepped outside the box and went for the Shell Steak. Oh, my! Divinity! Perfect char on the outside and uniformly pink in the middle, every bite was a short trip to heaven. Served up with parsley root, mustard greens, wild mushrooms and nugget potatoes, I was in no mood for my meal to end even when my attention was required by the three-year-old whose IPad’s juice had just run dry. So if you haven’t already, go to Edi & the Wolf on Avenue C between 6th and 7th Streets. It’ll be well worth the trip.
It’s closed for the summer, so now’s a great time to go take a breather and check out some dirt. A big giant room full of dirt. About two feet deep.
The story has been told a million times, but this majestic old elementary school should be seized from its bastard-of-an-owner Gregg Singer, restored, and reintroduced to its rightful owner…the community. With hopes of tearing it down and building a massive dorm on the site, Singer began to deface the property so that it would not be designated a landmark. The Landmarks Committee would have none of his douchebaggery and gave it landmark status anyway. Now he wants to sell it for $30,000,000 or just let it sit until it crumbles or gets torched.
I walk the dogs by it almost every morning and it makes me sad because I think about how it could and should be an amazing school for the arts for kids from all over the city. There are so many amazing musicians, artists, poets and actors who still call the East Village home and would jump at the opportunity to pass on what they’ve seen and learned both good and bad to the next generation of taste makers. This amazing relic whose life began in 1906 deserves to be reborn to reflect the artistic locality in which it sits. Singer paid $3,150,000 for it in 2001. Let’s give him his money back and call it a day.
Yesterday afternoon I was searching for someplace great to go with Lesa for dinner. Combing through the pages of Eater, I decided to have a look at their 20 of NYC’s Most Underrated Restaurants page and our old friend Degustation popped off the screen and into our plans for the night. Billed as a Franco-Spanish tapas bar by its owners Jack and Grace Lamb, Degustation is still going strong on East 5th Street between Second Avenue and Cooper Square after six years. Though you can order small plates like the amazing Fried Egg with Pork Belly or Seared Foie Gras, we have always opted for the chef’s tasting menu. We went for the $75 a head 10 course version and it rocked our world just as it did the last time we were there five years ago.
- Seared Pork Belly as delivered.
- The after was oddly just as beautiful.
Before my daughter was born, I used to take weekly blues harp lessons (please don’t call it a “harmonica”) but I found it challenging to keep up with a newborn so I laid my harps down for a while. Now that she’s two and an independent woman, I knew I wanted to get back into playing. My teacher lives on Waverly in Greenwich Village on the fifth floor of a walk-up building. Maybe this is by design: if you can’t hack the climb up, you probably don’t have the wind to play the blues? Regardless, my teacher Leslie has been playing blues harp for decades and as soon as you hear a few notes you know you’re in the presence of someone who can play the hell out of this thing. It’s a seriously bad ass sound when done right. And the weapon of choice is Hohner’s Marine Band 1896.I’ve found the thing with playing the harp is you can become mediocre at it fast enough but to be good undoubtedly takes years. But at $40 a lesson with Leslie, it may be one of the more reasonable deals in town. Another reason to love New York City: can learn the blues from a serious Village great without having to hike to the crossroads.
A few long months ago, Greg and his wife Lesa were approached about taking part in a project called an afternoon with… It was presented as a project about people and spaces they live in and that’s exactly what photographer Michael Mundy and his wife Nhi have more than accomplished. The truth is that Michael & Nhi really captured the good time essence that is my buddy’s household and if you take a peek at the other stories on an afternoon with…, it’s evident how much these photographic storytellers respect all their subjects.
If you take the Downtown 6 train to the last stop at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and then stay on the train while it winds around underground to become the Uptown 6, you’ll get a nice little surprise out the window to your right.
Mayor Robert Van Wyke presided over the ground breaking of the City Hall Station for the IRT Lexington Avenue line in March of 1900. Originally designed to look like the other stations in the line with simple white utilitarian tile with inlaid mosaic labeling each stop, this curvy station got an upgrade when the new mayor, George McClellon, declared that his stop under City Hall had to be “more beautiful than the rest.” He got what he wanted and on October 27th, 1904 he turned the silver key official opening this amazing underground hub for business. It was never the busiest station, but certainly the most beautiful with its Romanesque Revival architecture, intricate tile work, arched blue leaded glass skylights and massive brass chandeliers.
Even the oak ticket booth with cast iron bars on its windows was more ornate than ones at the rest of the stops. Unfortunately, with the expanding size or the trains, the tight curve in the stations design created a tremendously unsafe gap for passengers to navigate and the station closed on December 31, 1945. Sealed with concrete slabs, it became a virtual tomb until 1995 when it was intended to be reopened as a part of the New York Transit Museum. Plans were halted for that project when the Giuliani administration deemed it’s location a “highly secure” area due to terrorist threats. So today, this incredible piece of transit history remains unused except for the occasional tour given to members of the Transit Museum.