Monday, November 17, 2014

Only a Smile is Free at the Post Office

My visit to the main post office on 33rd and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan on Saturday afternoon netted this exchange after I handed the clerk, a friendly woman who expertly weighed and added postage stickers to my manila envelope. Service at this branch was fast and efficient with at least five clerks on duty. My late aunt Peggy of Oak Ridge, Tennessee is the only person I know who had better service: The front door of her house was left unlocked and the mail carrier used to open the door, call out her name, and sit down for a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. In this part of town, everything is locked, packages are left outside of my apartment door, and coffee? Fugheddaboutit.
Clerk: Would you like to add insurance, stamps, (another six items here) and American Express gift cards?

Me: Only if they're free!

Clerk: The only thing free is my smile.

Me: Not even a pen?

Clerk: Pens? The Post Office doesn't give us pens. We get our pens from TD Bank.

(I actually found one on the counter when I visited two days later. It mysteriously found its way into my handbag.)

The tables in the main lobby of the post office.

Back in the old days, mail was delivered by bicycle.

Mailboxes, anyone?

A horse drawn wagon for delivering mail.

Looking out onto 8th Avenue.

The booths where the clerks sit.

Lobby ceiling.

Revolving doors leading in and out.

At one point, their relatives delivered mail, too.


One of the many pens that find their way into my bag.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Save Cafe Edison


Putting business before sentimentality and matzo balls, the owner of the Hotel Edison has decided to end the run of the Cafe Edison before the end of the year. A another piece of New York City gone. 

Replacing the Cafe Edison, replete with its handprinted signs, matzoh brie, corned beef and coffee served at the bustling counter, with a high-end polished restaurant with a top chef isn't just about brick-and-mortar and dollar bills. An entire community of New Yorkers - from struggling actors to more successful ones, producers, stagehands, writers, folks from the neighborhood and other New Yorkers, out-of-towners sitting down for a comfortable meal in a place without pretense - will be displaced. Finding that atmosphere in a Starbucks is hardly the same or inspirational. I know. I've tried. And it isn't the same.

Cafe Edison was founded in 1980 when Harry Edelstein was invited by the real estate developer, Ulo Barad, to open in its current space on 47th Street. Barad and Edelstein were both Holocaust survivors with Barad, a man deeply involved in his past, serving as a board member and supporter of Yad Vashem and The Simon Wiesenthal Center.

When he died last year, the property passed on to his son, Gerard, who elected not to renew the lease of the Cafe Edison. Gerard Barad spoke of the dedication of the family synagogue in Fort Lee, the building named in honor of his parents. "For my father and my family this synagogue represents togetherness and connection between the many generations of our family."

The same could be said for Cafe Edison. 

If you'd like to sign a petition to help save Cafe Edison, click on this link: http://www.change.org/p/richard-hotter-save-the-cafe-edison

























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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Queen of Carrot Cake



Celebrating the life of Renee Mancino, the Queen of Carrot Cake. In this unedited interview from the fall of 2012, Renee talks about her love of baking, how she started out in the cake business, and her love of Inwood. Her two bakeries - Carrot Top in Inwood and Carrot Top in Washington Heights - were renowned for carrot cake. Renee died on Tuesday, November 12.

The interview is part of a larger project and Renee only had one line to say. But her personality and her role in the community was too important to leave at just that. So here she is.

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