Gone For Good: The Elk Hotel & The Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge Finally Bite The Dust

One of the weirdest little holdovers of a bygone Times Square can be found at 42nd Street and 9th Avenue, where a collection of four-story apartment buildings sit nestled in the shadow of the neighboring skyscrapers.

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Most impressive of all in the group is The Elk, Times Square’s last true roach motel.

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As I wrote a year ago in my post on the Elk, nothing beats the hotel’s grime-covered sign on Ninth Avenue, featuring a Pepsi-Cola ad that probably dates back to when Taxi Driver was filming in the area (in fact, according to one reader, Pepsi was using this logo circa 1962):

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Amazingly, the Elk is said to have been in business for over 100 years, originally serving immigrants passing through Ellis Island. Sadly, it’s run has finally come to an end; last week, I got an email from a reader informing me that the Elk had finally closed its doors for good. Sure enough, when I went to visit on Friday, there was a white sign over the door reading “Hotel Closed”:

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In fact, there were a lot of signs posted all over the doors, windows, etc.

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The Elk evokes fond memories in some. A few choice comments left on my original Elk Hotel post:

I actually stayed at The Elk on New Year’s Eve 2009 (it was the only place I could find an impromptu room for my lady friend and I had the best sex of my life! So, there’s that.

WOW – my first day in the NYC film industry took place in this seedy hotel, just after the massive blizzard in Jan 1996! ’Twas a low budget indie. I recall one of the location PA’s breaking down in tears after the shoot because they had to ‘clean’ the areas we were in, which included bodily waste, used needles and stray condoms. YUCK! For my part I just had to shovel out the sidewalk of 9th and 42nd for an exterior shot.

I stayed there in the 90s, overnight a few times, while it was still a hotel. A real dump, nothing to get too nostalgic over. But it was cheap – and being poor it was a great place to stay at the time. … I bemoan the loss of housing for “transients.” I was transient for several years in my 20s. My spirit still is.

I remember waiting for the bus going to high school right outside the entrance of the hotel…And low and behold did not this pimp throw this ho right out the window one floor up and my hand to God that’s the truth.

For those looking for a glimpse of the Elk Hotel’s grandeur, check out the Elk Hotel Appreciation Facebook page for a peek inside, with such gems as the sink…

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Photo by Elks Appreciation Member James Cassidy – Click for more!!

According to my contact, who claims to be a former resident, “The Elk did not go down without a bang – Elk style. A body was found in one of the rooms, having been decaying there for 2 weeks.” Nice.

Future generations will now only know The Elk for its appearance in 2008’s Jumper:

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Next on the extinct list is one of the very first places I ever wrote about, Flushing Ave’s Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge, a gritty bar/strip club dating back to the neighborhood’s rougher days.

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A few of you have emailed over the past few months, and I finally had a chance to check out it’s makeover the other day. Wow.

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Like The Elk Hotel, my favorite bit was the Navy Yard’s sign, with its anchors and raised COCKTAIL LOUNGE lettering reminiscent of the 1940s.

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Today, the only evidence of its existence is a strange strip of red bricks running above the first floor:

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Only one comment was left on my original Navy Yard Lounge post, but it tells you all you need to know about the place:

I was stationed there in the early 1980′s as my ship was getting overhauled in the Navy Yard. I am pretty certain J&J stands for Jimmy & Julia Constantino or a very similar name. It was barely hanging in then.

They ran a bar, you could get food at lunch. Very rough neighborhood at the time. The Navy put single sailors in some rat trap building in the yard and you had to go to war to get through the nearby projects (ironically Navy housing from way back) to the subway.

The ratrap was right on the fence with flushing ave, I recall the sailors drinking beer on hot summer nights, then filling the bottles as small Molitovs from the parked motorcycles and exchanging them for the rocks the natives would occasionally launch.

Another great scene: coming back 4AM on a Monday morning was a dumptruck on blocks, engine stripped, etc. It lingered all summer, graffiti, then arson, then finally gone. South of the yard is developing into a more trendy hip area. If I only knew I would have been buying up the war zone back then…

The building was sold for $2,000,000 a year ago, and is being renovated for use as an eatery on the first floor, and residences on the upper floors. Oh, if these walls could talk…

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Some people have bemoaned the loss of The Elk and the Navy Yard Lounge; my feeling is that most of these people never hung out at either, but liked the idea of a seedy side to New York still existing. And I get it – there’s something great in that, somehow, these pockets of down-and-out-ness have managed to escape the gentrification wrecking ball.

On the other hand, a few years ago, I was working on a movie shooting in a roach motel in Brooklyn. If you’ve ever seen the movie (you probably have), the squalor of the hotel was played for laughs. While we were filming, however, one of the residents overdosed on heroin, and we had to stop the shoot as an ambulance arrived and he was somehow literally brought back to life.

Ever since I saw the guy get wheeled out on a stretcher, I’ve had a hard time romanticizing the seedier side of New York. Honestly, doing so makes me feel like a tourist, and if you think about it, there really is no tourist worse than the one looking to go on safari to seedy, down-and-out places and think it’s all so cool…and then go home to a life of comparative luxury (note: some people have taken umbrage with this; see comments for clarification).

The value of places like The Elk and the Navy Yard Cocktail lounge is primarily in how they’ve managed to survive through the ages. Unfortunately, that value is intrinsically linked to their one day disappearing.

Special thanks to all who shared their memories of The Elk and the Navy Yard Lounge in the comments pages!

-SCOUT

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47 comments

  1. Love it! I feel a strong affinity for the seedier side of my hometown and as a former sailor, I especially like the unique blend of bad neighborhood and marine life you can find all over the world. It is sad in a way when these places get fixed up or razed. I agree with your sentiment at the end, we certainly shouldn’t fight for these places. It is a tiny tragedy buried in a larger good. Also, I always remember that these places don’t really ever go away – they just move to some other dark corner of the city, to be rediscovered by some other photographer in 20 or 50 years.

  2. I visited JJ’s one evening about 2 years ago with 2 friends and my girlfriend. Nobody was there except the bartender, Mystique… wearing super short shorts and a t-shirt with tears across her body, the owner who apparently just sits and watches wrestling all day and night and Mystique’s friend who looked in pretty bad shape (high as all hell). It was happy hour and drinks were nice and cheap, minus the fact that every cocktail they had named was sweet as hell and had either Hennessy or Hipnotiq in it. We sat and drank with Mystique and had a a great time… at one point my girlfriend was talking with Mystique and her nipple popped through one of the tears in the shirt. “Mystique, your nipple”… “Girl, that’s what it’s there for!” At this point a man walked in, put some money on the counter. The bartender’s friend walked over and mounted the guy in her mini skirt…riding him like a pony. My girlfriend is convinced to this day she saw the man unzip his fly and the 2 were having sex but I can’t vouch for that personally. All in all it was great fun… and I miss that place.

  3. I only mourn the loss of the dives in a purely artistic way. It has nothing to do with what I actually want to happen in real life.

  4. “and if you think about it, there really is no tourist worse than the one looking to vacation in seedy places.”

    Unless I misunderstood what you were saying, that’s a needlessly insulting thing to say.

    • I’m not sure I understand. What I’m saying is that I hate when people romanticize the elements of a city that have a very real dark side to them. When most people talk about wishing the gritty Times Square of old was still around, they don’t actually mean they’d start doing heroin, hire diseased hookers, or go to the peep shows; they just would like to have it as a colorful backdrop to walk through and take high contrast pictures of with zillion dollar cameras right before they grab lattes at Starbucks. In other words, experience it like a tourist.

  5. I agree with what Scout is saying. A lot of tourist say they wish they could experience the “Old New York” but they don’t want to live in. They eventually go home with a few stories to tell their wide-eyed friends, paying little to no thought to the people who are trapped in the cycle of hooking and drugs.

  6. I have to agree with Jeremy in Kansas. The tourist remark struck a sour chord with me as well.

    • Let me see if I can put it another way. When I was on my cross-country road trip, I drove through dozens of small, derelict towns, many verging on abandonment. While I’m fascinated by the history of them, the beauty that has somehow managed to linger, and by the fact they’ve become abandoned, I would never turn to a resident and say “Isn’t it SO cool that your town is totally abandoned? Don’t you hope it’ll stay this way FOREVER??” Because the resident should have every right to turn around and smack me for being a dumb-ass tourist. That resident has to live there, and deal with the fact that their town is going through hard times; and here’s this tourist saying how great it all is…and then driving off to never return.

      Now, there’s an argument to be made that the seedy NYC of yesterday is way more desirable to the gentrified metropolis we live in today. There’s a frequent commenter on the site named Karen, who’s lived in NYC for decades and has been through it all, and really prefers the old days today. And she’s absolutely entitled to that opinion. On the other hand, I never lived through those times, so I feel uncomfortable wishing it back, so NYC will look like the gritty high contrasty pictures you see in 70s and 80s photobooks; there’s a saying that we all get nostalgic for places and times we never lived through.

      Am I making myself any more clear? I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t visit down-and-out locations, or poor countries, or anything like that. But I’m saying to not act like a tourist about it; and DEFINITELY don’t be mad that it hasn’t stayed in some sort of photogenic state of shitiness so you can snap a picture and never return.

      For more info, see the lyrics to Common People, by Pulp. Much prefer that to the lyrics of NY, You’re Bringing Me Down, by LCD Soundsystem.

      If I’m still not being clear, or you disagree, please explain.

      • I wish that Karen would have commented by now because her comments are always great, but I’ll try to explain what I mean.

        “When most people talk about wishing the gritty Times Square of old was still around, they don’t actually mean they’d start doing heroin, hire diseased hookers, or go to the peep shows”

        I wouldn’t want heroin or diseased hookers, but I would want soft drugs, healthy hookers, and peep shows. Maybe it’s because I grew up in whitebread Kansas, but I like the seedier side of cities and I seek them out when I go to new places…but like in New York City, they’re disappearing all over America and being replaced by cookie-cutter developments that don’t have any character or soul. Maybe I’m not the “tourist” that you have in mind, but I am someone who likes to go to seedy places to do seedy things. I like being able to buy drugs on the street, I like being able to pick up a streetwalker, I like being able to go to a big old theater to see pornography. Maybe that makes me a bad person, I don’t know. I do know that there used to be places where you could do that from coast to coast, but they’re almost all gone.

        (and to answer any “you don’t have to live there” arguments, I WOULD and have lived in those areas, but economic reasons brought me back to Kansas)

      • Hi, Karen here! Just seeing this post now.

        Scout, when I talk about the “bad old” days, I’m not talking about roach-filled SROs full of junkies. I’m talking about character. A city that didn’t look like the cookie-cutter collection of glass skyscrapers that Manhattan is turning into.

        Times Square wasn’t something that I walked through on the way to someplace luxurious. The great thing about NYC in the 1970s was that there WERE so many places to live that were affordable; that’s gone away. My first apartment (November 1978) was a studio walk-up on the third floor of 453 W 50th St, so Times Square wasn’t a distant nabe for gawking;; it was basically the nabe.

        And, for the record, I am thrilled that the Flushing Ave building still stands; I don’t care that much about the bar. I thank heavens it wasn’t torn down and replaced with something that looks like those glass monstrosities in your first photo. The character I miss about NYC in the ’70s is only in part its grittiness, which came from a truly diverse array of residents who could all still afford to live here. What I miss more is walking through a visible and varied streetscape that respected the history of the city. Buildings from nearly every decade of the past century and a half. But now, most of those very NY buildings, rather than being restored like that Flushing Ave one, are torn down and replaced with something that could be in…Houston, or Santa Fe, or Los Angeles, fer chrissake.

        Scout, you love those echoes of old painted wall signs, and the 1960s Pepsi logo–those are the hints of the old NYC that will be gone forever when the buildings they’re on are torn down and replaced with yet another generic building. I’m not asking for the Elk Hotel to remain full of junkies and rotted out sinks. But the building itself is perfectly serviceable, if it were gutted and restored. Who knows, it might even be made to accommodate middle-income residents, instead of the multi-million condos that will likely replace it!

        Does that make more sense?

        • It makes a lot of sense, and I’m with you on pretty much all of it. And lest anyone think I mean otherwise, I think it’ll SUCK if/when that block disappears.

          What it comes down to is that you can preserve buildings and architecture, but you can’t preserve character. And at one point, all the elements came together to create the NYC you describe. You literally cannot have the world of today and the New York of yesteryear – the two would be like oil and water. The Elk, in a way, is a final remnant of the extreme of that near-extinct character.

          But I’m still wary of completely denouncing the homogeneity of it, as you get a lot in return. Clearly, what’s happened to New York is a result of our world being connected (internet, etc.) in ways people 25 years ago couldn’t have dreamed of. “Local” has a completely different meaning, and small communities do not have time to develop the quirks and traits we once celebrated. And maybe they never will, because immigration patterns are completely different as to what they were 100 years ago, and so on.

          But try and preserve a neighborhood’s character, and you get phony Epcot versions like Little Italy, which I really dislike.

          Perhaps I should have simplified this all by saying I really just don’t like romanticizing ANYTHING! That’s all I meant!

          • Scout, I agree about Little Italy, which really has become a theme park. I am no fan of theme park towns (uch–never go to Stratford on Avon!). I guess I’m not talking about sealing 1982 NYC in amber (I am, for example, a HUUUGE fan of air-conditioned subways). I’m talking about distinctiveness and recognizability as New York City and not Big City, USA.

            Last night I was at an event at MoCCA, down in SoHo, and, feeling restless, instead of hopping right on the subway there I ended up walking up to Penn Station. As I walked along I found myself thinking about this post and then thinking about the changes I knew along my path, and the pros and cons of those changes.

            Some examples: there used to be an amazing store on West Broadway between Spring and Prince, called Artwear–one of a kind art jewellery. For the past 15-20 years, it’s been an Aveda store, like you can find in any mall in America. On Sixth Ave and 13th Street, I used to gift-shop at the coolest little (affordable) ceramics store called the Mad Monk–it’s either a bank or a nail salon, now, I can’t remember which (speaking of affordable, Tiffany used to have a “$25 and under” table up on the 3rd floor–great place to buy gifts).

            As I continued up Sixth Avenue I passed TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond, Burlington Coat Factory, The Container Store, Olive Garden…turning on to 33rd St there was a massive Foot Locker next to a massive Old Navy. These are places my mom goes to in Paramus NJ. Now, the building that the TJ Maxx and Bed Bath & Beyond are in was a vocational high school back in the ’80s, and its beautiful, coffer-ceilinged entryway was literally boarded over with a small door for the students embedded in it. It was decrepit. So, yeah, it’s great that that building has been restored (http://www.flickr.com/photos/klg19/3453958960/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/klg19/3453145073/), but it’s sad that the only entities that can afford to do that are massive mall chain stores.

            And these are the same entities that are the only ones that can afford today’s Manhattan rents. The Mad Monk could never support itself in this real estate market. When I lived on E 5th St in the early ’90s, there was a terrific little store called Civilization around the corner on 2nd Ave that sold stunning (and affordable) crafts. It’s a bank branch now. Around the other corner on 3rd Ave was a little auto body shop that has the most gorgeous murals painted on its security gates. That’s been replaced by a massive weird glass building that looks like a ship standing on its hull, which is in stark contrast to the rest of the neighborhood (on the right, here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/klg19/6334409407/).

            So, what I miss are the little neighborhood stores that affordable commercial rents allowed, and not the inexorable march of bank branches and mall stores and chain restaurants. Even up here in Morningside Heights, where mostly I can shop in Mom & Pop stores that have been here for decades, we’ve got a Chipotle and a Five Guys. When I say I miss the character of NYC 20 or 30 years ago, I mean I miss a city landscape that was filled with things found nowhere else in the country, not things found in every city in the US with a population over 100,000.

          • So glad y’all had this discussion. I love hearing what everyone thinks about change and improvements – which can be positive and negative to the personality of an area. It’s great to hear how and why people love their city. Y’all are both fascinating to listen to. Thanks!

          • I agree with Karen. Phoenix is a perfect example. Nearly all the buildings of Phoenix’s late 19th-early 20th century past are gone. There’s nothing but modern glass. There are no traces of the pioneers that built Phoenix. And as pointed out, for many reasons small proprietors have been pushed out of the market in the cities while the same cities bemoan the suburban flight of residents and businesses, leaving the inner cities empty of any character or life. Theme towns are awful too – Tombstone, AZ is now a complete 3-ring circus, with people making changes to buildings that are completely out of character but bring in tourists. This is the fault of the city leaders, however, who see $$ first since that is what it takes to provide services that everyone now demands, especially the out-of-towners who move in and set up shop, not caring or being cognizant of the local history and tradition.

  7. I miss the old days in nyc , im from hells kithcen , born and raised , and still live here , and yes i do prefer the old ny , it had more character and ny was……well ny , i cant stand how it looks today , i wake up ever sat and in the summer and look at the school across the street from my house and dont see kids playing from the old hood any more , instead there are 10 chinese two hindos and god knows how many butch gay men trying to play a basketball game , rent is 3500 for a one bed room , and i dont even know who the hell my neighbors are any more , the only familiar faces are the guys who run the deli who i have known for over 30 years , i much prefer the old hells kitchen when it was a real neighborhood , ya it had drugs and crime , but it almost never affected the ones who lived here , we never had gates on our windows and in the summer we would leave the window wide open , i didnt have a break in till the area went “Disney” , ya i miss the old ny where you could smoke a joint on your stoop and drink a beer and take a piss with out 100 cameras and the neighbors calling the cops and rent was still 400 for a three bed room and you realy had to be a hard person to survive here , ya give me back my old ny anyday !

    • I don’t know–it seems to me that 10 Chinese, 2 Hindus, and a passel of butch gay men is as good an example of a neighborhood with character as any other. In fact, that sounds more like the Hell’s Kitchen where I first lived in the 1970s.

      • Um No , your wrong about that , yes you would see ethnic people and gays playing basketball in printing highschool , but you knew where they lived , and there names , and where they worked , it was common knowledge that if you did not live in hells kitchen you where not very well received !

        • Come on Lenny, you obviously have lived here long enough to know that this city is always changing.

          In fact, the dynamic of change is one of the great things that set us apart from any other big city in the country. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of glass-encased condos and Starbucks, (that is why I frequent this site, after all), but neighborhoods change and evolve. New people move in (even Chinese and Hindus and butch gays), new businesses open to cater to them, and new buildings go up. This is how it has always been. In fact, I think that what makes us great as New Yorkers is our ability to roll with the changes. I can, and that’s why I’m still here. Many of my friends cannot, and moved out to LI, where they regularly spout out cliches about the good old days of the city.

  8. Scout, methinks thou hast struck a chord. Old vs new and edge vs bland. Jeremiah gets all this on his site. He and his ilk get all snarky about the suburbification of the city when all that is happening is the ongoing change in the city. It has always been thus. Get over it and accept it. The photographer in me misses the good old days of grit but the citizen in me appreciates the fact that the city has gotten cleaner and safer.
    When my ship was at Coastal Drydock at the Navy Yard in the mid ’80’s I went past JJ’s all the time and thru the projects on my way to the High Street station where I caught the A train to the city. Never had a problem but of course my Queens bred ass had his head on a swivel. My best story about that time period involved some of our less than aware country types. They got on the A and rode it into the city not knowing that above Columbus Circle the train doesn’t stop until it gets to Harlem. When they got there they promptly got mugged and lost their shoes in the bargain. It gets chilly in New York in November at the best of times but when you have no shoes life is even tougher.

  9. I miss the Times Square area of the 1980’s. It was creepy and unsavory but it had character. And yes, I lived in New York City in the 80’s and remember it personally. It was still the entertainment capital and a tourist mecca and there were certain parts you avoided. But it felt real and teaming with every-day life. I understand about wanting to clean up the area and remove some of the seedier elements. But a lot of that stuff never went away, it just wound up going underground or elsewhere and now Times Square feels like a cross between a shopping mall and Disneyland. This is WHY you get so many tourists thinking that “real New York” is quaint, because they’re so far removed from it.

  10. It’s seems a cliche, yet the first time I came to NYC was on a weekend pass from Fort Dix NJ, my friends and I got off the bus at the Port Authority and walked out into the full squalor of Times Square (1988). It was everything I imagined the place to be…I was both terrified and thrilled (a straight up country boy with his military hair cut and wide eyed naïveté!) Fast forward 15 years and I walk through Times Square in 2003, all I found was the same bland, homogenized suburban wasteland I experienced in every strip mall across the country.

    When people say the yearn for the old New York, I don’t believe they mean the crime, drugs and despair, I HOPE they mean how NYC was a unique place. Yes, undeniably, the City is safer, cleaner, richer and healthier. No one in their right mind would bring back the hookers and drugs of the Old City. Yet, the price we pay for this safety is the strip mining of the City’s culture and heritage. Places like the Elk and JJ’s are being replaced with Subway Sandwich shops and high end artisanal bakeries. Neighborhoods where working class people can afford to reside are being tilled up and plowed under for million dollar apartments, all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.

    I certainly don’t wish for a return the NYC I saw the very first time I stepped off the bus in 1988…but I am not sure I am not tourist in my own home, paying tourists prices to live in a place becoming a place by tourists and for tourists, and I exist only to wipe the tables when they leave. At least the junkies and whores were honest in their trade, the same cannot be said for the developers and speculators.

  11. Karen, you make sense. Stop making sense. Like the rest of the regulars here I wouldn’t want to go back to hookers and drugs and trash in the streets. The part I don’t like is that the city’s poisonality is getting scrubbed along with the streets. New York is starting to suffer from itsthesamethingeverywhere disease. I don’t want the city to look and feel like Denver or Houston or, shudder, L.A. I want it to feel like Noo Yawk.

  12. I hate to add little to the conversation beyond, “Yeah, what he said.” as I did yesterday. However, Dave captured just about everything I feel about the subject in his comment above.

    I do appreciate that you’re willing to showcase and discuss the opinions of your readers, though. Good on you, Scout.

  13. Karen, there is some good info on the Siegal Cooper building in New York 1900 by Robert A.M. Stern. That was and is my primary source for info on the Ladies Mile and other sections of the city of that period. I am currently working on New York 1960. What a difference a few decades makes. Just imagine about twenty years from now the Sex and the City crowd will look upon this time frame as their golden era. I am sure there is room for a gratuitous cupcake reference in there somewhere.

  14. Oh, by the way. Check out today’s L.A. Times for an article on the recycling of a drug den near the Staples Center into a boutique hotel. Or at least one hopes so. Perhaps there is hope for the Elk yet but I am not holding my breath.

  15. I’ve been reading the main article and the subsequent comments with sheer interest, especially Karen’s point of view, and I must agree with her. At the moment, I live in Barcelona, Spain, and I can relate to what she says: I witnessed how Barcelona is slowly losing all of its character and identity and sadly turning into an awful theme park for drunken tourists. So I believe this sadly is happening worldwide. Maybe it’s because of the so-called globalization effect, I don’t know, but I feel like I’m not living in old Barcelona anymore but in some other European city.. The funny thing is that, while NYC is cleaner-but-safer now, Barcelona’s crime index has increased alarmingly and it is seedier than ever.

  16. Scout, your insight, thoughts, and photos are engrossing. We haven’t been back to NYC for at least 20 years as we live in the midwest now so we go to Chicago a lot. There are still wonderful neighborhoods there and I’m sure there must be in NYC as well. So I guess I’m one of those “tourists” but I would never dream of saying it’s a shame an area isn’t run down anymore. Instead, being a social historian, I like to research and understand the progression of different areas and how they once were. For all people, I wish for a good place to live and food to eat. On the other hand, I do find it sad when history isn’t preserved in some way because we all learn from the past. And thank you so much for your website – it’s like traveling every time I look through your pages (just wish you’d add some descriptions to the pics on flickr!).

    Mary

  17. Hey, Scout. I don’t think it’s been touched upon, but my theory is that the real “nostalgia” is not for seedy or anything of the sort (although that’s certainly a factor post-Rudy), but it’s more a nostalgia for a New York that was AFFORDABLE; one in which any 20-something kid could get on a Greyhound with a suitcase and $50 in hand and make a new start of it. In Manhattan. Now. Of course that New York also didn’t really exist, and was just as difficult to navigate. But really, what kid can come in from Des Moines and find a studio with a tub in the dining room in the West Village and afford the rent on a waitress salary today? Not happening, and that’s the New York I’M nostalgic for.

  18. As always Scout a great post, fantastic finds, gritty and interesting stories, tremendous photos and last but certainly not least meaty comments and discussions. Well done Scout….well done.

  19. Great post/discussion! Wondering if anyone has mentioned this book in past threads: Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel Delany.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=B2Qmt_ocwywC&dq=isbn:0814719201

    It’s not for everyone, but probably the most nuanced and unique perspective on the gentrification of the old Times Square I’ve come across. I would highly recommend all of Delany’s autobiographical books as great, thoughtful, beautifully written time capsules of a very interesting life lived mostly in NYC. My favorites are The Motion of Light in Water, and Heavenly Breakfast (these focus on the East Village of the 60s/70s).

    • Thanks for the Google books link for the Times Square book. Unfortunately you can’t read the whole book that way, but I checked online, and my local library has a copy so I’ll be stopping there on my way home from work to pick it up.

  20. I hung out at the Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge a few years back. It was a sketchy pseudo strip club at that point. Scantily clad women in lingerie (fit for someone at least 100 lbs smaller than them). Shitty mixed drinks in small plastic cups and a “stage” that when standing on it you’d probably smack the ceiling. It was an interesting night, too bad it’ll be a chain store.

  21. I used to love using The Elk as my photo studio… For some reason you could shoot smack, have sex with hookers and beat them up, do ANYthing in the rooms…. except take photos. Very strange. I would have to sneak my cameras in with my “luggage”. Probably the last hotel you could smoke in too…

    Here’s a couple of my photos, from two different photo shoots but in the same room.

    http://jimherrington.tumblr.com/post/14626457570/rebecca-solnit-writer-new-york-city-c-jim

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimherrington/3196907087/in/set-72157612573301846

  22. Excellent post. Excellent details. Thanks Scout!

  23. Wow, the Elk memories. lol I, alas, never stayed in this fleabag, (though I did stay in a flea bag two nights while my apartment was being fumigated on 50th btw Broadway/8th. I went to school in the early 90s on Theatre Row when it still had the NYU annex in it. I’d pass by this everyday, sometimes, 2x a day.

    I’ve lived or worked (now very off than on) for 15+ years starting at 21 in the very early 90s. I will start off by saying I somewhat miss Mayor Dinkins and the City of then. It had character and a vibrancy. Having worked at a Broadway Theater on 44th I had to wade through the greatest street (but true life) theater on 8th Avenue everyday for years. I learned more from the denizens that hung outside of the old Nathan’s than anything. I was never bothered bc the regulars saw me as a good goofy kid and not a threat.
    I recall when the Ben & Jerry’s went in circa 94 as a way for the homeless who lived over it to get back on their feet. I miss the overnight twins at Smith’s, the Eros and Gaeity Theaters for the sleeze, the HoJo and the love for Show World. My friends and I laughed so hard when it became, first a tourist crap shop and now what it is. Thanks for the memory.

  24. Man went to the navy yard bar in 97 when i was attending pratt. Me and some friends walked in and the stage was right near the door. This chick was getting finger banged right there. Litteraly the record stopped and we got stared at. We ordered a drink and then left. Some Hasid came down the stairs too. I think upstairs was where the magic happened. LOL

  25. I am new to this site, and want to say, “thank you, Scott,” for the way you post with respect for the past and at the same time are not presently living in a past-that-will-never-be-again world. I, too, was a young man in NYC (my atlas: NY on $10 a day ~ a high school grad gift)and agree with the idea that the uniqueness of Times Square has been compromised by Disney-effects. I would like to add, and only because I have not seen them mentioned, that there may be two other things to consider. Age on the part of individuals has a tendency to make “old days” look better; whether they were or not is almost irrelevant ~ what matters is we have lost our youthful edge and natural energy of taking on any status quo of our parents and deciding it should be different. For our generation, Times Square did this. But then that became OUR status quo; now we are the parents and the pattern is repeating itself. Second, I don’t need a porn theater with 1,000 seats because it is avaiable on my phone. When we unpack THAT sentence, we will be getting closer to what’s really responsible for the changes we are uncomfortable with.

  26. I was drawn by the article on the Elk’s closing, and lo and behold, find an update on JJ’s and that my comment was the ‘survivor’ and deemed worthy of inclusion here. Needless to say, as a sailor I knew the times square of the late 70’s/early 80’s. I saw the first buildings being demolished for new construction, heard that Disney was involved, and thought “What the heck does disney want HERE??!!!” Very interesting discussion on the “tourism” aspect of the old dysfunctional New York. But in reality, it was dangerous, sad and no shortage of human wreckage. If the ‘modern’ NY generates more jobs and some more stable services for it’s most at risk residents, the loss of our nostalgia for places we didn’t have to call home is a small price.
    Great and interesting wring, scout.

  27. Most interesting is the complete (and continuing) transformation of the waterfront in Brooklyn, Queens, and on the NJ side of the Hudson. Everyone knows of course “Dumbo”, but the ‘Waterfront View’ effect is spreading south toward Red Hook, and Astoria and Long Island City show a sign of resurgence, spreading South to Greenpoint. The Navy Yard area is between resugent areas, and looks like it is next on the list. One wonders what they will call it when it is gentrified. Wallabout? (After the Bay) I’d prefer “Navy Yard”. I’ve heard it referred to as FT Greene and Greenpoint, I don’t think it is included in either neighborhood proper. Smart guys bought this whole waterfront up for pennies (I have to get more…any…rich friends). The thing is, as population grows, you can not create waterfront. True all over the country. You can see it happening in Philly. What’s next, smart rich guys, should I buy up the lethal neighborhoods of Chester, PA?
    I had a great meal at Il Porto, right accross from the former JJ’s Navy Yard Lounge. They had an old woodcut map showing wallabout bay and I showed the waitress that we were sitting in former cornfields.

  28. I usually do not create many responses, however i
    did a few searching and wound up here Gone For Good:
    The Elk Hotel & The Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge Finally
    Bite The Dust

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