Archive for the ‘LES’ category

Yiddish Theater Walk of Fame on 2nd Avenue

February 20, 2008

The Lower East Side was heavily Jewish and German for a long time in the 1800s-1900s.  The people there created their own theater where they spoke and performed in Yiddish.  I don’t know how many theaters there were, but apparently enough to sustain a number of performers throughout their professional lives.

I was on a tour of the LES when, just walking along a part of 2nd Avenue I’ve been on a dozen or more times and the guide pointed out that we were at the Yiddish Theater Walk of Fame.  It’s on the corner of 10th Street right at the Chase Bank.  Apparently it was the site of the famed 2nd Avenue Deli.  Notice the plaques on the ground.


I did some searching on names and couldn’t find a listing of the “famed”.  So, I’ve decided to put them here for a little bit of posterity.  There’s only one performer that I’ve remember having heard of, but all are of importance in NYC theater history.  I’ve done my best to find appropriate links for the names.  When I wasn’t sure, I made a note of it, but I think they’re pretty solid.  Whether the links will change/vanish over time is a different question.

First, Fyvush Finkel is the only one of a few who has a “solo” star.  His is also one of the most readable.


Next is the way the rest of them are:  two names sharing a star.  Here’s Jennie Goldstein and Ida Kaminska (she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar).  I’m going to do these as thumbnails because of the volume.  Click on the picture to see the actual star.


Then Lillian Lux and Pesack Burstein (a wife and husband team, respectively).


The next star is for Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison.


The next star is for Abraham Goldfaden and Michal Michalesko:


The next star is for Miriam Kressyn and Seymour Rexite (alternative spelling of Seymour Rechzeit):


Abraham Goldfaden gets a second star, this time for being the founder of the Yiddish Theater in 1876.


The next star is for “Alt Raymond” and Barry Sisters.  I’m not sure about the spelling of the first name.


The next star is for Jack Rechtzeit and Mike Burstyn (I couldn’t find anything on Rechtzeit, but Burstyn has his own website).  Of course, it’s possible that “Jack Rechtzeit” and “Seymour Rechtzeit” (cited above) are the same person:


The next star is for Max Bozyk and Rose Bozyk:


The next star is for Boris Thomashevsky and Bessie Thomashevsky:


The next is for Ed Fuchs and Rebecca Richman (I can’t find anything I’m certain is a link for either of them but I suspect this is Rebecca and I wonder about a link I can find for Leo Fuchs and Rebecca Richman and who might “Ed” be if not “Leo”):


The next star is for Shulon Seckoa (possibly Sholum Secunda) and Peretz Sandler:


This next one was completely unreadable by me:


The next is for Molly Picon and Jacob Kalich (Jacob was Molly’s husband, but that’s all I know):


The next star is for Leon Liebgold and Lilly Lilyana (Leon was a Holocaust survivor):


The next star is for Mary Sureanu (thanks to reader Elise, the spelling is now corrected) Mary Soreanu and Lucy Levine:


The next star is for Irving Jacobson and an “unknown” Jacobson:


The next star is for Ben Bonas/Ben Donus and Mina Bern (it looks like Ben Bonas was Mina’s husband, but that’s a guess as I can find a “Bonas” link to Mina, but it looks like “Donus” on the star but there was a “Ben Bonus” that is also linked to Bern – this was a man of how many names?!):


The next star is for Ludwig Satz and Moishe Oysher:


The next star is for David Kessler and Zvi Scooler (also spelled Zvee Scooler, at least so it seems):


The next star is for Herman Yablokoff and Bella Meisel:


I’m sad to say that I cannot read the next star:


The next star is for Alexander Olshanetsky and Abe Ellstein:


The next star is for Mischa Gehrman and Lucy Gehrman:


The next star is for Joseph Rumshinsky and Arnold Perlmutter:


The next star is for Jacob Jacobs and Betty Jacobs:


The next star is for Maurice Schwartz and an unreadable person’s name:


The next star is for Henrietta Jacobson and Julius Adler  (wife and husband, respectively.  Their son is Bruce Adler who was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor two years in a row):


The next star was unreadable:


And the one after that was unreadable:


The final star on the Yiddish Theater Walk of Fame is another single-person-on-a-star, Daniel Libeskind, the architect, with the interesting suffix “Friend of Folksbiene” which was the/a theater:




Riis Houses on Ave D in Alphabet City

February 4, 2008

At the end of Alphabet City is the Jacob Riis Housing projects.  I was there on a very cold day and the smart people, unlike Famous Ankles, were inside and comfortable.

But, I have to admit that I’m not fond of this area.  Not because of anything other than the Soviet-style feel to the place and it’s general lack of any aesthetic that I can appreciate.


I guess that they may look good on paper and they are probably laid out in some nice little grid that I can’t appreciate…but I just don’t think much of the area.


In the middle of the above picture, you can see a bit of artwork that someone put there.  And to the left, there’s a children’s playground.

Here’s a closeup of the sculpture.


And the playground.


I mean, there’s nothing really to object to, but I don’t like it.  Maybe it’s because it looks like a low-income project, and maybe it is one, and such things seem to have a hopelessness about them.  But, I think it is just that it is so very sterile and there’s no signs of life here.  No sign of commercial activity, no sign of much.  I’d just walked through a number of blocks of mostly empty streets, but got none of the negative feeling I got from here.  I hope and expect it’s more my imagination than anything else, but all I can think of is that some architects really didn’t put much of themselves into this place.


The 9th Precinct

February 3, 2008

When I was a kid, I enjoyed the old TV show “Kojak” with Telly Savalas.  Recently, I was down in the East Village and ran across the old precinct house that he was supposedly based out of:  the 9th Precinct.


It’s located on 5th Street between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue.  In the bad-old-days, this area was one of the toughest and most crime ridden places in Manhattan, being right next to Alphabet City.


I always find it interesting that the police cars are typically parked in the streets instead of a discreet parking lot someplace near.  Of course, a “discrete parking lot” would cost the city about a bazillion dollars, but they don’t even risk parking tickets by just pulling up front.

Below is the entire station house, or at least the front of it.


The old exterior was also used for the “NYPD Blue” TV show, so it does have even more “history”.  (The Blues was actually supposedly set in the 15th Precinct, but I understand that was a ficticious precinct number.) 

It just went through a lot of recent renovations.  It looks sharp.


Lower East Side Ecology Center Garden in Alphabet City

February 1, 2008

On 7th Street between Ave B and Ave C is a garden unlike any other I’ve seen in NYC.  The LES Ecology Center Garden is all about recycling.


Yeah, it really is a garden and they do grow stuff there (it’s winter now so there’s a bit of a hold on “growing stuff”), but it’s all about composting for them.


Like all NYC community gardens, it’s pretty small, but so are a lot of things in NYC, like stores and parking spots.  It ain’t worth complaining about.  Instead, we just make more and more of them.


I guess these community gardens are the one thing I can’t forget about in Alphabet City.  There are so many of them and they are all so small.  One person told me it was an outgrowth of how bad stuff was before Guiliani:  places would go down, perhaps they might be burned down or made completely uninhabitable.  Later, some people with vision would have the City condemn them and then take it over with the City’s blessing and funding.  They then would just put in some of these tiny plots of green that make life a little more livable.


Open Road Park in Alphabet City

January 30, 2008

I’ve been going through Alphabet City recently.  In other posts, I’ll describe it a little better, but it’s part of the East Village.  I’ve recently been informed that the old timers reject the “East Village” appellation and prefer to remember it as the Lower East Side (which generally is used nowadays as the same general area, but only below Houston).

Anyway, I kept running into small community gardens in the area.  Calling them “gardens” isn’t quite right as they don’t let you grow your own stuff, but are set aside as greenery areas in the midst of a lot of four and five story buildings.

On Avenue A and 11th Street, I ran into the Open Road Park garden area…although it’s not much of a park nor much of a garden (at least not right now).  Note the sophisticated signage.


This one’s quite a bit bigger than the normal community garden in other parts of the area, but it really does fall into the general type of garden in most ways.  Look at the plantings (it’s winter and all is dormant, of course).


In fact, it is very deep and even has a greenhouse area.


Amazingly, and I mean that with a lot of feeling, they even have a tiny pond!


It isn’t much, but it’s real.

The area itself is so mixed.  Alphabet City has areas of great beauty and significant poverty.  But it does have a lot of places like this and, although not unique by any means in NYC, it made me very pleased with how NYC has shaped up.


The Site of Richard Adan’s Murder

January 29, 2008

I know virtually nothing about who Richard Adan was other than an aspiring actor and a waiter at a small restaurant called the Binibon.  I remember hearing about the circumstances of his murder back in July 1981 and the huge uproar regarding his death.

I lead this section talking about him simply as a matter of citing the victim rather than the perpetrator.  You don’t want to celebrate Jack Abbott too much; he already has a Wikipedia entry and probably a hundred books cite him in some way.  Anyway, Abbott committed suicide in 2002.

Richard Adan was trying to be helpful to Abbott when Abbott asked to use the restroom and was informed it was for employees only.  Apparently he said Abbott should “take it outside” which might have been meant as use an alley or building side for a urinal (NYC was that kind of place back then); but Abbott apparently took as an invitation to fight.  When Adan led him outside, Abbott knifed him to death.

Most people probably don’t know who Jack Abbott was, despite the extremely brief celebrity of the man.  He was a lifelong criminal apparently with high intelligence and a gift for language.  He wrote a book called “In the Belly of the Beast” in which he put forth his anger and frustration with great talent and fanfare.  The New York Times published a glowing review of his book the morning after he murdered Richard Adan.

And the lifelong criminal would have been behind bars during the time of the murder if not for one of 2007’s most celebrated celebrities hadn’t made every possible effort to get Abbott released:  Norman Mailer (who died in 2007).

Maybe Richard Adan’s life would have made him someone that Mailer would have enjoyed.  He was also an author, but one cut short.  I have no knowledge of Adan, but am weary at the idea that both Abbott and Mailer have Wikipedia articles, but Adan doesn’t.

Enough of the ennui.  I’ve spent a couple of weekends touring the Lower East Side/East Village and the below was pointed out to me as the site of the murder.  The Binibon is gone, but I’m told is where the “Join or Die” sign is now on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 5th Street.



Avenue B and Avenue C in Alphabet City

January 26, 2008

Avenue B has the nickname “Charlie Parker Place”. The jazz great lived very near Tompkins Square Park back in the days that living near there didn’t have any cache at all. The street itself is quite pleasant nowadays.


I was going on 7th Street and subsequently ran into Avenue C and found it…perfectly normal.


In honesty, I expected it to look perfectly normal.  This isn’t the 80s and NYC is really nice.  I couldn’t help thinking about what I had been told:  if you get to Ave C, you’re crazy.  Nothing crazy about this…except for me sightseeing in the cold of the day.


If you look closely, you’ll see a NYC rarity:  a two-way north-south street.  There are a few, but most are two-way for only a distance.  I didn’t get below 7th Street at this point, but I think it held true for all of Alphabet City.