Greetings from New York, where no neon news is good news of late. Topping the list of bad tidings is word that New York's Landmarks Commission is poised to "de-calendar" Long Island City's famous Pepsi Cola spectacular, together with nearly 100 other historic sites across the five boroughs.
Pepsi, a New York landmark in all ways but one. (T. Rinaldi)
In Landmarks Commission terms, "calendaring" means that a site has been nominated for legal protection, but that the Commission has taken no action on the nomination (often to avoid antagonizing influential property owners opposed to designation). Though not formally designated, "calendared" sites are tentatively protected from demolition. In many cases, the historic sites in question stay in limbo for decades: the Pepsi sign has been calendared since 1988.
Pepsi of Long Island City. (T. Rinaldi)
By way of background, the Pepsi sign has beamed out across the East River since 1937, when the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corp. erected it atop a Pepsi bottling plant in Long Island City. Huge waterfront spectaculars were once a characteristic feature of New York Harbor, positioned to catch the attention of anyone on or across the water. Zoning ordinances outlawed such signs in the 1960s, and almost none remain today. Though not officially Landmarked, the Pepsi sign charmed its way into posterity when the bottling plant beneath it was demolished in 2005, and has since been incorporated into LIC's new landscape of parkland and luxury high-rises. To date, not one historic sign in New York has been Landmarked in its own right.
Vera Lutter / Whitney
Sources indicate that the Commission is set to decide the matter in a closed hearing on December 9, 2014, with no room for public testimony. In the meantime, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has set up an online portal through which to voice your concerns to City Hall; you can also write the Landmarks Commission directly via this link.
(UPDATE: LPC dropped its de-calendaring proposal in early December.)
DeRobertis will close on December 5, 2014, after 109 years. (T. Rinaldi)
Meanwhile, from the East Village (or the Lower East Side, if you prefer) comes sad news that DeRobertis Pasticceria on First Ave will close its doors on Friday, December 5, 2014, after a jawdropping 110 years in business. No evil landlord to pin on our dart boards this time: the DeRobertis family has sold the building (for $12 million) and decided to retire from the cannoli business after four generations. Read the full story in this touching write-up by Frank Mastropolo at Bedford+Bowery. Then hurry up and treat yourself to a cannoli after sounding off to DeBlasio on the LPC's de-calendaring nonsense.
Mishkin's, in happier days. (T. Rinaldi)
Still more grim news from uptown, where ScoutingNY reports that Mishkin's Pharmacy (145th St and Amsterdam Ave) has inexplicably executed a total self-gut, completely erasing all traces of what had hitherto been one of New York's most remarkable old drugstore interiors. Mishkin's exceptionally great neon vertical sign is still there, but "most depressing of all," writes Scout, "the neon hasn't been lit up in some time." Given the carnage perpetrated below, this does not bode well for some of New York's finest old storefront neon. Photos and well written commentary at ScoutingNY - fair warning, it ain't pretty.
Reflecting on Miskin's. (T. Rinaldi)
All of this comes as word has spread on the closing of Cafe Edison, one of the very last traces of pre-Bubba Gump Times Square. Cafe Edison doesn't have much in the way of neon (just a Budweiser sign over the griddle inside) but it has survived as a last link to the neon-crowned automats and cafeterias that fed the hoards of Times Square in the days before Disney's 42nd Street makeover. Check Jeremiah's Vanishing New York for updates on Cafe Edison's struggle to stay put.
Andreas Feininger / Life Magazine
Finally, one bit of bright news: the trailer is now out for Gasper and Son, a short documentary featuring two of New York's great neon stalwarts, Gasper and Robbie Ingui of Artistic Neon in Ridgewood, Queens (there's also some bonus rambling by yours truly). Check it out at Greenpointers.com and stay tuned for details on public screenings.
Gaper and Son.
Oh yes - almost forgot: tickets are still available for my next neon walking tour, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society. See you on December 11th!