The Little Italy Pasta Eating Contest

June 30, 2007

Its heyday as a center of Italian-American life passed long ago. While tourists still flock to this section of lower Manhattan to eat spaghetti and buy souvenirs, several other neighborhoods in New York eagerly proclaim themselves as the real Little Italy.

But authentic or not, today this block had something no other neighborhood could claim — a pasta eating contest.

Presented by the Little Italy Merchants Association and sponsored by Tuttorosso tomatoes and Rienzi Pasta, the event known as the Fifth Annual Tuttorosso Pasta Eating Competition was held on Mulberry Street.

The participants, all male, work in shops and kitchens around Mulberry and Grand Streets. They gathered at a long table on the sidewalk in front of Sal Anthony’s S.P.Q.R. Ristorante. There, the contestants donned white aprons, sat down and — for eight long minutes — devoured bowl after bowl of carefully-measured spaghetti and marinara sauce.

Some barely spilled a drop of sauce, tightly clutching their forks until the end, while others threw decorum to the wind and dug in with both hands. The winner, Fabrizio Rinaldi, a waiter at Il Cortile, earned a cash prize of $250, a shiny gold trophy, a handshake from a politician and a fleeting, messy moment of glory.

The competition is underway
The competition is underway

Digging in with forks & hands
Digging in with forks & hands

Going for a close-up
Going for a close-up

Fabrizio Rinaldi received the cup
Fabrizio Rinaldi received the cup

Little Italy Online: 5th Annual Pasta Competition
Association of Independent Competitive Eaters
Gothamist: Tidbits
NY Post: Lotsa Pasta
Sorrento Cheese Summer in Little Italy Festival
Little Italy Neighbors Association
Wikipedia: Little Italy
Sorrento Cheese & Italian street festivals
Menu Pages: Sal Anthony’s S.P.Q.R. Ristorante
Tuttorosso


Pearl River Mart

June 29, 2007

More than 30 years ago the first Chinese-American department store opened its doors in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Known as Pearl River Mart and offering a wide range of foods clothing, home furnishings and accessories imported from China, the store quickly became an essential resource for designers and trend-setters.

Pearl River Mart moved around lower Manhattan several times, from one ramshackle building to another, before arriving at its current, thoroughly modern home in trendy Soho. 

A far cry from the store’s earlier incarnations, the glossy store at 477 Broadway features a waterfall, tea bar and, hanging from the ceiling, a display of the enormous masks and dragons used to celebrate Chinese New Year (yes, they are for sale).

Paper lampshades
Paper lampshades on display

Dragon
Block-long dragon for parades

Animal masks
Lion, tiger and other animal masks

Pearl River Mart
Village Voice: Pearl River Mart


Hare in the Square

June 27, 2007

Dexterously the Drummer was right handed,
there are examples in bronze from that mould
in other locations.

The left handedness of this Drummer
speaks to the other side of the brain,
from the past to the future;
another tune in composure.

Broadway!!
A seed of hope after the conviction.
I would subtitle this piece
‘I don’t want to set the world on fire.’

– Barry Flanagan

I’m certainly not the first to note the temporary exhibition of Barry Flanagan’s Large Left Handed Drummer, but I may be the last New Yorker to write about it.

Flanagan, a Welsh-born, Dublin-based sculptor, has been producing monumental hares since the early 1980’s. This 16’ tall bronze statue of a dancing rabbit playing a drum is on a busy traffic island near Union Square Park.

It has been displayed since February and, sadly, it is scheduled to be removed this week. Hope you had a chance to visit the Large Left Handed Drummer while it was here.

Barry Flanagan's bronze sculpture
Barry Flanagan’s bronze sculpture

 Large Left Handed Drummer
Large Left Handed Drummer

The hare surrounded by cabs
The hare surrounded by cabs

The Hare In Union Square
Barry Flanagan’s Hares on O’Connell Street
Circa Art Magazine: Barry Flanagan’s Hares hit Dublin
Irish Museum of Modern Art: Barry Flanagan
Waddington Galleries: Barry Flanagan
Hugh Lane Gallery: Barry Flanagan
Union Square Partnership


Discouraging Signs in the Subway

June 24, 2007

With 6,200 cars, 840 miles of track and an average weekday ridership of 4.9 million, New York City has one of the largest, busiest and most complex subway systems in the world.

Unlike the systems in many other cities, New York’s subways operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That means all service and repairs must take place while the trains are running.

In an attempt to cause the least disruption to riders, most planned maintenance and construction work (as opposed to emergency service) is scheduled for weekends. As a result, getting around the city on Saturdays and Sundays can be challenging for even the most savvy New Yorkers.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) says that they issue service advisories to “provide information about planned service changes on weekends that are needed for their Capital Plan work such as construction projects.”

Many city dwellers try to stay informed about temporary service changes and interruptions by checking the MTA’s Web site, subscribing to special e-mail and text message alert services (such as those offered by HopStop and the Straphangers Campaign), and/or following local newspaper and television reports for updates on the latest service advisories.

Any of those approaches is more effective than just showing up in a subway station and hoping to locate and make sense of the printed advisories that are posted every weekend.

Today every station I entered had at least a few advisory signs taped to the walls, but these were the most discouraging, disheartening and headache-inducing of the bunch.

Service interruptions at Times Square station
Today’s Service Advisories posted in the Times Square station

Sign in Pelham Bay Park station
Sign in the Pelham Bay Park station

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)
MTA Service Advisories
MTA Guide to Weekend Travel in Lower Manhattan
MTA Subway Facts and Figures
New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign
Transportation Alternatives
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
HopStop New York


New York Dyke March

June 23, 2007

Chances are that you’ve never heard of it, but for a small, dedicated group, it has become an annual tradition. The occurrence? The New York Dyke March.

Although it has taken place in Manhattan every year since 1993, I never saw this highly-political event until today.

The organizers carefully stress that it is a protest march to promote lesbian rights and visibility, not a parade, and that — unlike tomorrow’s enormous Pride Parade — it takes place without city permits or corporate sponsorship.

Marchers gathered in midtown at Bryant Park, then headed down Fifth Avenue to Greenwich Village’s Washington Square, carrying banners, beating drums and gathering more women along the way.

While the Pride Parade attracts international news coverage, the New York Dyke March receives scant attention in the major media. Nevertheless, it always manages to draw thousands of participants and spectators in New York and similar marches are now held in major cities across the United States and around the world.  

The March begins at Bryant Park
The March begins at Bryant Park

4 Queer Womyn's Rights
4 Queer Womyn’s Rights

Queer Justice League
Queer Justice League

Spectators
A pair of spectators

Rainbow lei
Woman with rainbow lei

Temporary tattoo
Temporary tattoo

Couple in straw hats
Couple in straw hats

Unsponsored. Unpermitted.
Unsponsored. Unpermitted.

Woman from GO magazine
Woman from GO magazine

Orange shirt
Orange shirt

Pink lipstick and bandanna
Pink lipstick and bandanna

Woman with rainbows
Woman with rainbows

Let my mommies marry
Let my mommies marry

Three women
Three friends

Little feminist
Her shirt says “Little Feminist”

New Orleans needs stronger dikes
New Orleans needs stronger dikes

Sunglasses on her head
Sunglasses on her head

Red hoodie and bike
Red hoodie and bike

Pink hair & pink bike
Pink hair & pink bike

T-shirt with heart
T-shirt with heart

Happy Pride
Happy Pride

I love vegan dykes
I love vegan dykes

Not your grandmother's lesbian
Not your grandmother’s lesbian

NYC Dyke March
Lesbian Avengers
MySpace: Queer Justice League
Queer Justice League


Signs of South Williamsburg

June 21, 2007

What is Williamsburg, Brooklyn like? To a great extent, the answer you receive depends upon the age and class of the person you ask.

In the early part of the 20th century, this waterfront community was the most densely populated neighborhood in the United States. Immigrants from Italy and Ireland lived in Williamsburg and worked in its thriving refineries, breweries and shipyards (Williamsburg was the setting for the best-selling novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn).

Following World War II, the neighborhood was transformed when thousands of Jewish refugees arrived from Europe. The area became headquarters for several displaced Hassidic sects, most notably the Satmar community that originated in Hungary.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Williamsburg changed again when it acquired a large Hispanic population, mostly new arrivals from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

In the 1970s, when the city teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, the neighborhood reached its lowest point. While the South Bronx burned, much of Williamsburg was overwhelmed by poverty, drugs, arson and violent crime. 

Real estate values plummeted, the middle class fled and, in their wake, young artists arrived. The 1980s and 1990s produced an influx of hipsters and musicians who established a creative community around Bedford Avenue (one subway stop away from Manhattan).

Today, ever-evolving Williamsburg is attracting developers who are replacing many of the old industrial buildings and tenements with luxury housing.

Despite the vast and rapid changes to the neighborhood, South Williamsburg remains almost exclusively the domain of the Satmar. This is an area where Yiddish is more widely spoken than English, strangers are regarded with suspicion, and most of the businesses cater exclusively to the needs of this devout, insular community.

It isn’t easy for an outsider to get a peek inside the world of the Satmar, but here is a sampling of the signs they’ve displayed on the streets of South Williamsburg.

Feltly Hats, 185 Hewes St
Feltly Hats at 185 Hewes St

Feltly Hats at Lee Ave and Hewes
Feltly Hats at Hewes and Lee Ave

Shoe shop on Ross Street
Shoe shop on Ross Street

Kolel Sibernburgen on Hewes Street
Kolel Sibernburgen on Hewes Street

We specialize in whitening ladies silk scarves
We specialize in whitening ladies silk scarves

Hem lines is our specialty!
Hem lines is our specialty!

Ms USA Inc
Ms USA Inc

Gestetner Printing
Gestetner Printing: Wedding and Bar Mitzva Invitations

Mikvah of Congregation Yetev Lev D'Satmar
Mikvah of Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar

Poultry store at Division & Driggs Ave
Poultry store at Division & Driggs Ave

It is strictly forbidden ... on shabbos
It is strictly forbidden … on shabbos

Optical shop
Optical shop

Crown Hatters
Crown Hatters

Bais Hasefer
Bais Hasefer

United Talmudical Academy school bus
United Talmudical Academy school bus

Delivery cart from Satmar Meat & Poultry on Lee Ave
Delivery cart from Satmar Meat & Poultry Market on Lee Ave

Heimish Care
Heimish Care

Not here! Shatnes is next house
Not here! Shatnes is next house

At the corner of Hooper & Lee
Signs on buildings at the corner of Hooper & Lee

Record Online: In Brooklyn, Hasidim Build Shul in a Flash
NY Post: It’s a House Of ‘Gosh!’
Block Magazine: The Satmar Community of Williamsburg Divided
Hasidic News: Satmar
OU: Rav Yoel Teitelbaum – The Satmarer Rebbe
Billburg
FREEwilliamsburg
Village Voice: Arson for Hire
Demographia: The South Bronx:
From Urban Planning Victim to Victor


Mysteries of Manhattan: The MetroCard Bicycle

June 16, 2007

This bike was leaning against a signpost near Union Square Park.

Nearly every surface — spokes, handlebars, posts, fenders, basket — has been decorated with discarded MetroCards (bus and subway tickets). If you look closely, you’ll see that there is even a chain made of MetroCards.

Who? When? Why? I have no idea. Just another mystery of Manhattan.

The bicycle near Union Square Park
The bicycle near Union Square Park

The bicycle from the right
The bicycle as seen from the right


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