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Great Jones Street

FINAL ENTRY

GREAT JONES STREET

There are two ways to walk down Great Jones Street.

The street was created as a means of transportation: it is a channel for cars and pedestrians. People walk down the sidewalk staring straight ahead, at a phone, or their own feet in order to reach a destination. It is a mere two blocks, thus easily missed or ignored. For many it is a means to an end and nothing else.

Although Great Jones Street was established to transport foot and vehicular traffic, its purpose and function, in actuality, can be interpreted in various ways. Michel de Certeau discusses the idea of a city as a concept and text that its reader can either follow obediently or resist. If Great Jones Street is a text, it could be read from start to finish without pause or interruption, or it could be studied, examined, tested, and questioned.

Slowing down to examine, test, and read Great Jones Street, one uncovers its exciting eccentricities—it is characterized by a dysfunctional diversity.

Samuel Jones, a New York  lawyer and politician, donated the two block section of land that is now Great Jones Street to the city of Manhattan in the late 18th century. At the time of the streets naming there already existed a Jones Street in the West Village so the adjective “great” was added to differentiate the two. The origin of “great” is somewhat mysterious and controversial—one theory suggests the adjective was added because the East Village street was the wider of the two while another claims it was the idea of Samuel Jones. The former is the more plausible and acceptable of the two. Even at the time of its creation, Great Jones Street was unusual and mysterious.

In the 1840’s, Great Jones Street was one of the most prestigious addresses in Manhattan. The mayor of the time, Philip Hone, was one of its most renowned residents. Unfortunately, the wealthy eventually moved uptown and by the 1880’s the block contained mostly wagon, hat, and coffin makers. Like many other early Manhattan streets, Great Jones was plagued by fires. In January 1886 4 Great Jones Street went up in flames at 1 o’clock in the morning and burned until noon the next day. In June 1907 a building on Great Jones near Broadway burned as employees of a hair ornament manufacturing company jumped out of windows onto nearby buildings. The fires are one of many factors contributing to the eclectic street. They made room for new buildings and architecture while leaving behind remnants of the past. Today, when walking down Great Jones Street, the oddly shaped buildings and their dysfunctional relationship to each other is a reminder of the past and the drastic changes Great Jones has undergone.

The eccentricity of Great Jones Street is not only evinced by the architecture of its buildings, but also the establishments that inhabit these structures. These include a diner, a Japanese meat store, a fire station (established in 1899), apartments, a discount furniture store that sells human-shaped pillows and machine gun decor, a giant parking structure, an auto-mechanic, and a newspaper delivery service called Alpert’s Newspaper Delivery. There is also an alleyway, a rare sight in New York City, on the block between Broadway and Lafayette. The alley is called Great Jones Alley and was once a meeting place for drug addicts and dealers. ‘Jonesin,’ the term referring to an intense craving for drugs, was coined by junkies in the alley. The various establishments on Great Jones Street share little to no commonality but seem to work together in a dysfunctional but oddly interesting way. They characterize Great Jones and give life to the name.

Great Jones Street’s eccentric and charming character is also evident in representations of the street. In the opening chapter of Don DeLillo’s novel, Great Jones Street, the narrator, rockstar Bucky Wunderlick, writes: “It was dark in the street, snowing again, and a man in a long coat stood in the alley between Lafayette and Broadway. I walked around a stack of shipping containers. The industrial loft buildings along Great Jones Street seemed misproportioned, broad structures half as tall as they should have been, as if deprived of light by the great skyscraper ranges to the north and south. I found a grocery store about three blocks away” (5-6). DeLillo’s description of the street, although short, is shockingly accurate. In just a few words he gives his reader a realistic glimpse of Great Jones Street’s odd existence. Each building is either short and too wide, tall and too skinny, oddly shaped, or just unpleasant looking. Instead of fitting together like a puzzle, as many other New York blocks seem to do, the structures framing Great Jones Street seem to either fight for attention or hide from something. The idea of light deprivation that DeLillo references also adds an element of reality to his writing. Everything on the street is covered in dull, dark paint, and the alleyway contributes an ominous, dark, mysterious element to the street. The last phrase of the selected passage is revelatory of Great Jones Street’s lack of normal fixtures.

The song “Great Jones Street” by the band Luna is hopeful, romantic, and nostalgic. Its lyrics read, “up on the roof, it’s almost dawn, see the water towers, look so forlorn… night turn to day, let’s get away, it’s another day.” The melody is soft and pleasant. It is charming, just like the actual street, but also utilizes the important role of nightlife that has shaped the history of the street. The song subtly references the presence of drug culture on Great Jones Street as well as the feelings and thoughts of its inhabitants.

Great Jones Street is also home to the annual Arab Festival in New York City. The block between Broadway and Lafayette is blocked off in order to celebrate the cultural heritage of the Arab people. There are no Arab restaurants or stores on the street, so the setting of the festival is most likely arbitrary. The presence of this festival further contributes to Great Jones’ odd mysteriousness.

Great Jones Street is much more than a channel for cars and pedestrians—it is a character. The buildings half as tall as they should be and the strange combination of restaurants and stores all thrive in unison. The street’s colorful history and poetic representation in literature and music give it life. Great Jones is strange and sometimes confounding but, just like the rest of New York City, it is extremely lovable.

ENTRY #11

To gain an understanding of how Great Jones Street exists in the digital world I did a simple, quick search on Google Earth. The site gave me an aerial view of the street and its surroundings. After further zooming I was able to see certain details and buildings that the site deemed worthy of digital representation.

Aerial view (screenshot from Google Earth)

Several restaurants, the fire station, and the parking garage were among the various buildings highlighted, but I also discovered a few locations that had previously gone unnoticed. The first was a newspaper delivery service called Alpert’s Newspaper Delivery. Alpert’s, owner managed since 1950, delivers local and out-of-town newspapers at the most convenient time for their clients (as early as 4:30 AM). It is extremely unique since very few people still get newspaper delivery– it’s a sort of relic from the past. Another highlighted location was titled “New York’s Hauser.” The location was accompanied by a link of an image of what I assumed to be “New York’s Hauser.” After some research, I have discovered that there is nothing on Great Jones Street with this title, and the link did not even provide an address. It is unclear whether someone fabricated “New York’s Hauser” or if it is simply too new to research online. Google Earth also reaffirmed previously discovered locations that I deemed valuable to the street. For instance, the alley on Great Jones is titled in bold on the site, giving is an important presence.

Alpert's!!!!!

In her article, “Intimations of Everyday Life,” Anne Galloway discusses how “ubiquitous computing seeks to embed computers into out everyday lives as to render them invisible and allow them to be taken for granted” (384). Google Earth functions in this way: it is an exact replication of a location that gives its user the feeling of actually being present in the space while they are in fact staring at a computer screen. Although it does replace reality, in a sense, Google Earth, and the digital world in general, oftentimes reveals certain facets of the real world that would otherwise go unnoticed. This is evinced by my discovery of Alpert’s presence on Great Jones Street– it is clearly important to the history and existence of the street, but I only know this because of its digital representation on Google Earth. The digital world can also be deceptive, as evinced by the presence of “New York’s Hauser” on the digital Great Jones. If I had not performed further research, I would have assumed this was an actual location on Great Jones because of the way we now interpret the digital, computer world as trustworthy and accurate. It has become invisible as well as unquestioned.

ThE aLLeY

ENTRY #10

The band Luna!

Luna, a pop band formed in the early 90’s, recorded the song “Great Jones Street.” The song has an acoustic quality and sounds very light and romantic. The lyrics of the song (which I will post below) contribute to this feeling. The singer sings about sitting on a roof waiting for night to turn to day while staring at forlorn water towers (that have no reason to feel that way). The most repeated lyric, “it’s another day,” highlights the themes of redemption and habit. Although the song only explicitly references Great Jones Street in the title, one can easily imagine it being sung on a rooftop of one of its old, odd-shaped apartment buildings. The song captures the essence of New York City with its hopefulness for new beginnings and adventurous spirit, two things commonly associated with Manhattan.

What I find most interesting about the song is how it invokes a feeling of nostalgia not because of the lyrics but because of its association with New York City (thanks to the title) and it’s composition. Sound is a very powerful medium used in different ways to influence people, and although the song is probably not intended to force any sort of ideology on its listeners, it does force them to feel something specific. It may be different for every individual, but hearing this song with the knowledge of its association with Manhattan draws on certain stereotypes and themes dealing with the city.

To listen to a clip of the song click this link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-music&field-keywords=luna+great+jones&x=0&y=0

LYRICS:

up on the roof
it's almost dawn
see the water towers
look so forlorn
they've got no reason
to feel that way
night turn to day
let's get away
it's another day
let's get away
it's another day
we'll go somewhere
we've never been
time's runnin' out
we'll start again
what's round the bend
i just can't say
night turn to day
let's get away
it's another day
let's get away
it's another day

ENTRY #9

In episode 9 of the 8th Season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Great Jones Street is featured prominently when the shows main character, Larry, takes his car to a body shop to fix a broken seat. As an individual who has never seen this television show, the episode is extremely confusing but also humorous and fun to watch. It starts with Larry, his girlfriend, and two friends dining outside at a New York restaurant. Throughout the episode Larry faces relationship and sexual issues due to childhood drama, loses a baseball game, and witnesses an infamous baseball player catch a baby thrown from a burning building. The most notable feature of an unfamiliar show, especially for someone who lives in New York, is how “New York” the show seems to be. The characters all talk fast, seem Jewish (they probably are), live in apartments, dine outside, and spend time in parks. Every location is an authentic New York City spot that locals frequent daily. It is easy to connect with these characters because of the familiarity of their actions, personalities, and the locale, but how does a foreigner interpret this television show? William J. Sadler and Ekaterina V. Haskins discuss this idea in their work “Metonymy and the Metropolis: Television Show Settings and the Image of New York City.” A postcard effect occurs when only fragments of a location are presented to a viewer– they experience the pleasure of a tourist. Someone from Illinois watches “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and experiences the pleasure of what they imagine New York City to be while a local viewer watches an episode and experiences the pleasure of endless familiar locations in a city they (hopefully) love.

ENTRY #8

Great Jones Street is not known for its nightlife. In fact, there has been recent turmoil over the prospect of new hotel that might threaten the tranquility of the two-block radius.

In 2009, father-son hoteliers Sant and Vikram Chatwal announced their plan to build a 48-room hotel at 25 Great Jones. The hotel would tower over surrounding buildings and bring unwanted traffic and noise to the street. One concern many locals and residents voiced was the potential nighttime activity it might attract. Great Jones Street on a Friday night is rather empty and dark, save for a few restaurants and homeless people. This type of issue is extremely common in New York City, one that any person affiliated with NYU is sure to understand. New Yorkers are resistant to change, modernization, and intruders. The 25 Great Jones Street Hotel would bring every one of these undesirable additions ( and an unsightly exterior).

It is unsurprising that certain individuals expressed worry over a giant hotel and an increased number of tourists– they want Great Jones to remain a safe nighttime haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city, a place where families can walk in peace, friends can eat quietly at a cafe, and the homeless can do drugs in the alleyway.

Works Cited

http://ny.curbed.com/tags/25-great-jones-street

ENTRY #7

In “Eat, Pray, Love,” a 2010 film, Julia Roberts stars as Elizabeth Gilbert, a woman who ends her dysfunctional marriage and travels the world in search of purpose and adventure. The address E 4th St. and the Bowery is used in the film the apartment of her rebound relationship.

The most interesting aspect of the director’s use of this location is its inaccuracy. The apartment is beautifully furnished and spacious on the inside, a extremely uncommon trait of East Village apartments. In reality, most are small, cramped, and inhabited by young  people with little money to spend on furnishings. As discussed in class, there is a disillusionment that film creates in regard to New York City: it is made out to be exciting, grand, and unrealistically easy to inhabit. The apartment of Elizabeth and her rebound lover are perfect examples: a car easily parks in front of the building, there is hardly any traffic or noise, and the block is impeccably clean. The film contributes to this false idea of Manhattan that, for a foreigner, serves as their reality.

E. 4th St and the Bowery, the location of Elizabeth's rebound lover (screen shot from YouTube trailer)

Although the scenes shot for “Eat, Pray, Love” do not use Great Jones Street, the location of East 4th and the Bowery is virtually indistinguishable from the former. I have been studying the street for two months, and I myself was unsure whether the street scenes in the film took place on Great Jones or another nearby block. Several New York streets seem to blend together, even to locals, and it is definitely an aspect that filmmakers have taken advantage of.

ENTRY #6

In the opening chapter of Don DeLillo’s novel, Great Jones Street, the narrator, rockstar Bucky Wunderlick, writes: “It was dark in the street, snowing again, and a man in a long coat stood in the alley between Lafayette and Broadway. I walked around a stack of shipping containers. The industrial loft buildings along Great Jones Street seemed misproportioned, broad structures half as tall as they should have been, as if deprived of light by the great skyscraper ranges to the north and south. I found a grocery store about three blocks away” (5-6).

Great Jones Street in 1936 & in 2010. The odd buildings are timeless indeed. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/realestate/23scape.html)

DeLillo’s description of the street, although short, is shockingly accurate. In just a few words he gives his reader a realistic glimpse of Great Jones Street’s odd existence. Each building is either short and too wide, tall and too skinny, oddly shaped, or just unpleasant looking. Instead of fitting together like a puzzle, as many other New York blocks seem to do, the structures framing Great Jones Street seem to either fight for attention or hide from something. The idea of light deprivation that DeLillo references also adds an element of reality to his writing. Everything on the street is covered in dull, dark paint, and the alleyway contributes an ominous, dark, mysterious element to the street. The last phrase of the selected passage is revelatory of Great Jones Street’s lack of normal fixtures. It possesses a Japanese meat shop, vintage movie prop store, and elevated parking garage, but no grocery store.

ENTRY #5

These two images, found in the NYPL Digital Gallery, reveal the simple timelessness of New York City and its streets.

The first image is a map of the east and west villages, bordered by Sixth Avenue, 14th Street, First Avenue, and Great Jones Street. This map is special because it was created in 1902, only about 100 years after the naming of Great Jones Street, and because it is hand-drawn and extremely detailed. 109 years later, the map is still completely accurate and every detail, even the oddly placed Great Jones Alley, still exists today. A 2011 visitor could use it to navigate through the streets and a native could mistake it for a modern map. The map also makes the unfamiliar familiar by exposing the timeless structure and organization of New York City.

The second image is of a building on Great Jones Street and Broadway. It has the same affect as the map. With a few alterations, the building could easily exist on Great Jones Street and Broadway in 2011. It is a small, quirky building situated next to much taller and plain structures—something not uncommon in the city today.

ENTRY #4

A quick search in the New York Times database proves that Great Jones Street was prone to fires in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although it was not uncommon for New York City buildings to be at risk, it is astonishing that among thousands of articles, several referenced fires on a short, two-block street.

One article references a fire that occurred on January 12, 1886. 4 Great Jones Street went up in flames at 1 o’clock in the morning and blazed until noon when firetrucks finally left the scene. Many inhabitants and businesses, including an umbrella maker and a china dealer, lost thousands of dollars. What is interesting about the article is its focus on the money lost by each affected individual and its lack of description regarding the scene (1).

The Great Jones Street Fire House est. in 1899 (would have been useful in 1886) http://www.ronsaari.com/stockImages/nyc/greatJonesStreetFirehouse.jpg

Two other articles reference a fire that occurred on June 9, 1907 in a building on Great Jones Street and Broadway. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon when flames burst from windows on the Great Jones side of the building. Forty people nearly escaped, several of them women, as the building burnt down. These forty people, faced with death as the fire escapes and back stairwell were engulfed with flame, slid down hoses in order to escape. Some unfortunate individuals were forced to jump from the building onto the roof of another (around twelve feet) to avoid death.The fire started in a storeroom of Klaus & Glauberg, manufacturers of hair ornaments (2,3).

These three articles give a small glimpse of the struggles of living on Great Jones Street in the 19th and early 20th century.

Works Cited

1.”The Great Jones Street Fire,” The New York Times (1857-1922); January, 13th 1886; ProQuest Historial Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007)

2. “Many in Fire Peril: Workers Slide Down Lines of Hose to Safety in Broadway Blaze,” New-York Tribune (1900-1910); Jun 9, 1907; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Tribune (1841-1922) pg. 12.

3. “Hose a Life Line in Broadway Blaze: Men and Girls Slide to Safety from Seventh Floor,” New York Times (1857-1922); Jun 9, 1907; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007) pg. 1.

ENTRY #3

The Great Jones Cafe-- an odd place (http://quiteallright.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.html)

There are two ways to walk down Great Jones Street.

The street was created as a means of transportation: it is a channel for cars and pedestrians. People walk down the sidewalk staring straight ahead, at a phone, or their own feet in order to reach a destination. It is a mere two blocks, thus easily missed or ignored. For many it is a means to an end and nothing else.

Although Great Jones Street was established to transport foot and vehicular traffic, its purpose and function, in actuality, can be interpreted in various ways. Michel de Certeau discusses the idea of a city as a concept and text that its reader can either follow obediently or resist. If Great Jones Street is a text, it could be read from start to finish without pause or interruption, or it could be studied, examined, tested, and questioned. To walk down Great Jones Street with an open mind and wide eyes one notices many interesting details. Firstly, Great Jones Street is unusually diverse. New York City is diverse in general, but Great Jones Street is two blocks of strange establishments that possess little to no commonality. A diner, a Japanese meat store, a discount furniture store (that sells human-shaped pillows and machine gun decor), a giant parking structure, apartments, a fire station, a car repair shop, a tailor, and a rather large and expensive Chinese restaurant color this NoHo street. No building on Great Jones is inherently eye-catching or exciting, so to discover this diversity the walker must deviate from the standard path and closely examine the space they are in. As this space is discovered, Great Jones almost becomes a character– it has life. All of the stores, restaurants, etc. that exist on its two blocks seem to work together in a dysfunctional but oddly interesting way. They are all connected because of their location, and in this way the street becomes more than a mode of transportation, but a concept or text (as de Certeau discusses).

So the most interesting aspect of walking down Great Jones Street is the dysfunctional diversity that characterizes the space it inhabits.

ENTRY #2

This sign, reading “Michael Andrews: Bespoke,” is displayed on a black metal fence bordering Great Jones Street. The sign is eye-catching due to its odd placement away from storefronts and billboards as well as its peculiar text. What exactly does this sign mean; who is Michael Andrews and what did he bespeak? Michael Andrews is evidently a tailor who cuts men’s suits “slim and sleek for a modern look that’s both striking and refined” (http://www.michaelandrewsbespoke.com/). His shop is located at 2 Great Jones Alley, off Great Jones Street between Broadway and Lafayette. The alley is gated and this sign is obviously placed to inform passersby of the whereabouts of a somewhat hidden, but highly regarded, tailor.

Another sign is posted near the notice about Michael Andrews’ shop– it reads “Great Jones Alley.” Although this sign is not nearly as mysterious or perplexing as the former, it is interesting because of the subject that it labels. New York City is notorious for its lack of alleys and Great Jones Alley is one of very few in Manhattan. Great Jones Alley is also called “Shinbone Alley” and is unique because, unlike most alleys in New York City, it makes two abrupt turns (forgotten-ny.com). The origin of the nickname is unclear, but apparently the slang term “jones,” meaning an addiction to drugs, originated among addicts who lived in the alley (Boland Jr.).

Great Jones Alley looking North (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pamhule/5349564164/)

Today Great Jones Alley is privately owned and seemingly drug free. The alley itself is not much to behold but its existence in a mostly alley-free city is interesting to ponder. Both of these signs merely label standard city landmarks, but each leads to rich and informative history.

Works Cited

Boland Jr., Ed. “F.Y.I.” The New York Times: March 17, 2002. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/17/nyregion/fyi-083828.html

http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/tag/great-jones-street/

http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/jones-vs-great-jones-which-street-came-first/

http://forgotten-ny.com/2011/06/u-s-bond-unbreakable-street-in-noho/

ENTRY #1

Great Jones Street is a two-block street running east to west in Manhattan’s NoHo district. It is situated East of Broadway and West of the Bowery, south of 4th Street and north of Bond Street. Great Jones is essentially another name for 3rd Street. Today this street is a tame yet vibrant area north of Houston, but in the 1840’s it was one of the most prestigious addresses in Manhattan. Fashion, culture, and class were abundant on Great Jones. The mayor of New York at the time, Philip Hone, was one of its most prestigious residents. Unfortunately, the wealthy eventually moved uptown and by the 1880’s the block contained mostly wagon, hat, and coffin makers (Gray).

The name Great Jones comes from a man named Samuel Jones. Jones was a lawyer originally from Long island who came to be known as “The Father of the New York Bar” because of his extensive work revising New York State’s statutes in 1789. Jones is also notable for his stance against the ratification of the constitution. As a member of the New York State Assembly, at the Constitutional Convention of 1788 in Poughkeepsie, he suggested that New York would only ratify the constitution with the promise of a forthcoming Bill of Rights. Since New York was a large and powerful state, the convention obliged. The land now referred to as “Great Jones Street” was donated by Samuel Jones and his wife (Meyer). At the time of the street’s naming there already existed a Jones Street in Greenwich Village so the adjective “Great” was added to create a distinction. Although it is obvious where the name “Jones” is derived, there is some discrepancy over the origin of “Great.” One theory suggests that the addition was an idea of the lawyer himself, another suggests it was added because the street is the wider of the two (“Great Jones Street”).

Since the time of Samuel Jones, the street has undergone significant changes and has lost the majority of its historical architecture. Today it is not a place of class and fashion or wagon and hat makers– its two blocks contain interesting architecture, diverse restaurants, and random shops. It does not contain any shocking or overly distinguishing features but blends in nicely with historic NoHo and the East Village.

Works Cited

Gray, Christopher. “In Noho, a Quiet Block Stirs.” March 3, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/realestate/23scape.html

“Great Jones Street.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Jones_Street

Meyer, John H. “The ‘Father of the New York Bar.’” March 26, 2010: http://www.antonnews.com/massapequanobserver/news/6950-the-father-of-the-new-york-bar.html

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