The Times ran an article on the demise of The Plaza yesterday. Apparently, the fabled old hotel-turned-condo has become a shantytown, with some apartments selling for a mere $5 million. One man noted that New York's landmarks are all dying. Could an Avenue A candy shop and French fry dispensary stop the bleeding?So it turns out that the conversion of the Plaza from seen-better-days but still beloved hotel to bland luxury condo cluster (as if the city needed another one) could not have had worse timing. The last 11 units that sold in the building went at a loss, with one three-bedroom bought for $14.5 million in May of 2008 going for $8.5 million this past July.
People are broke. And the few that aren't prefer to live in the company of finance celebrities untainted by the stench of failure:
"It is possible then...that buyers want to live near the chief executive of Goldman Sachs at 15 Central Park West, not the former chief executive of Bear Stearns at the Plaza."
Commenting on the closures of two recent city icons, Clark Wolf, a restaurant consultant, says that, "in an era without a Tavern on the Green or a Cafe des Artistes, we need something. New York is screaming for a landmark."
Maybe Ray's Candy Store could fill the void! The humble purveyor of cheese fries, cheesesteaks and "Obama burgers" has been open 24 hours a day since 1974. (The basement of the Plaza is about to turn into a suburban mall food court offering burgers and pizza, so comparisons between the Plaza and Ray's are weirdly apt.)
Owner Ray Alvarez has been threatened with eviction over owed rent (which increased from $800 to $3,5000 back in 2000). The East Village has rallied to his support, with loyal fans of the store setting up a PayPal account for donations and organizing a benefit concert and a street party. Even the mainstream media has chimed in, with Fox 5 running a segment and the Times covering the store's woes yesterday.
One man quoted in the Times article recalled the neighborhood in the 1970s," when the streets were so desolate that you couldn't find a cab." He remembered that:
"When there was nothing else around, Ray was around."
It might be too late to save the spirit of Eloise, but keeping Ray in business is the next best thing.
(Photos Courtesy of NYTimes.com)