Sunday, April 15, 2007

What will happen...

... to some of my favorite neighborhoods as new development takes over?

I'm worried about the direction of areas of Harlem, Greenpoint, the Lower East Side and so much of the Lower East Side as impersonal upscale buildings erase the areas' traditions and sensibilities. I don't lead a 9th Avenue tour anymore for that reason. My last visit to the Lower East Side was jarring, as I saw various new glass condos interrupting the traditional skyline.

Places like Russ & Daughters will retain their character and survive, even with soaring real estate prices (and the imminent arrival of a gigantic Whole Foods store a few blocks away...) because the Federman family had the foresight to buy the building they occupy - and stay abreast of the times, drawing on the Internet to market their great stuff and updating their offerings to accommodate a more diverse customer base. (I love caviar cream cheese, but I doubt Grandma Russ was peddling that back in 1913...)

I've seen this evolution, too, in some of the markets I visit elsewhere in NYC. at Balady, a wonderful Palestinian market on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge, not only beautifully expanded their store to include a wide range of gift items, but also sells cookbooks featuring Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Think about it: Balady's traditional Bay Ridge customers , coming from Lebanon, Egypt, Morroco and elsewhere in that region of the world, don't need cookbooks, so who is Balady reaching out to? Folks like those who come on my NoshWalks!

Yesterday I led a walking tour in Woodside, Queens. We stumbled on a flea market at a Korean Church, where the ladies were also selling Korean snacks. They beckoned us to the church kitchen, where they were preparing omelets with all sorts of wonderful spices and big chunks of onion. "Korean pizza!" they said! It was delicious. We also stumbled on the aftermath of a wedding a St. Sebastian's Church, as the wedding party exited to post for pictures.. My guess is that the family were Ecuadorean. Someone who joined previous Woodside tour told me that St. Sebastian's used to be a movie theater, and if you look at the building, the frong section appears to have been added on, and, indeed, it was a theater.

This part of Woodside isn't likely to change much because of geography: the odd angles of Roosevelt Avenue here make major development impossible, and the stretch from 52nd to 69th Streets is dotted with small markets, bakeries, pubs and cafes.

Oh yes - we noticed a new Venezuelan place, too, but actually not really new: Krystal's Cafe Venezolano existed in a different location, and at about one-third the size, some four years ago. It's run by the same owners of Krystal's Filipino bakery-restaurant. I remember it as a grim and unpleasant place, and it wasn't open yesterday. On the other hand, I like Krystal's restaurant a lot, and we often conclude ou tour there with savory sticks of barbecue chicken, which cost $1.50 each - a bargain!


No comments: