I grew up in the suburbs, where there was little dancing beyond whatever you did in front of the bathroom mirror.
There, in the carefully mowed wilds of Maryland, we were raised to believe that cities literally pumped and thumped with this unseen recreational pastime.
Then my best friend got a car, and we found abandoned warehouses all over Baltimore. In short, we danced.
Fast forward to two weeks ago: It is midnight and I am bicycling west on desolate Union Street. Suddenly, a bass-heavy club mix spills out from a people-packed garage. I hear drum beats, a pop chorus and heels slapping concrete floors and wonder: Why isn’t there more rumba in Red Hook?
New York City is in the midst of a slow, well-documented cha-cha away from its old partyland identity. The new sex columnist at the Village Voice is a married mother who reports that she hasn’t done the nasty in months. People bring their toddlers to bars. And the number of people boogying in public is dropping faster than a breakdancer’s rear end.
In 1960 there were 12,000 cabaret licenses in the five boroughs. In 2006, there are fewer than 200. Party pundits blame Giuliani-era crackdowns, the creeping condo-ization of the city’s warehouse districts and the noise-sensitive, 311-empowered residents those condos bring.
Alas, the party I passed was a one-time thing, a birthday bash thrown by the building’s owner, Arturo Galeano, before he reopens as “Piccolo Café.”
“This has never been a place for ballrooms,” Galeano sighed, recalling the pizzerias and body shops he had seen occupy his many storefronts in Red Hook and Carroll Gardens.
“Billiards, yes, but ballroom never.”
Still, there are signs of nocturnal potential. Practically speaking, there are plenty of buildings in the neighborhood that could suffice, and enough empty space around them to buffer a thumping downbeat. Plus, the zoning is right: the city will only grant cabaret licenses to venues in major commercial centers, industrial or manufacturing districts like the Red Hook waterfront.
There’s some activity, of course: The Hook, on Commerce Street, already features discordant anti-pop performers. Steve Buscemi’s kid rocks out with other 16-year-olds at the Liberty Heights Tap room. The bearded set fiddles down at Sunny’s. And the weekly karaoke nights at the Hope and Anchor on Van Brunt Street leave the diner’s windows steamy.
But still, there is nowhere to dance.
Don’t tell me to go to the Meatpacking District, or even to Williamsburg. There is space in Red Hook. Let’s have one last — or make that first — dance.
Buddy Scotto — who practically invented Carroll Gardens (and still buries many of its residents) — isn’t worried about the pollution moving underneath the neighborhood. “The gas from the old Keyspan plant [on the Gowanus Canal] hasn’t gotten up here,” the funeral home director and neighborhood legend told the Stoop. …
Can’t hold it in any longer? Tell Councilman Bill DeBlasio, who wants to know where you think the city should install new public toilets. Call his district office at (718) 854-9791 and tell him where to go. …
There’s supposedly a new liquor shop moving into the former video store on Union Street between Hicks and Columbia streets — but the big news is the cute black cat that’s been roaming the empty store. Turns out, it belongs to a couple upstairs, but the wife is allergic. They’re trying to find the feline a new home. What, a liquor store ain’t good enough? …
No wonder they call it Carroll Gardens: A group of green-minded residents are prettying up scruffy Thomas Greene Park at Degraw and Nevins streets. Wanna help? Call the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association at (718) 237-1862… How many Starbucks are too many? Court Street may soon find out. Sources tell The Stoop — which last week reported on the chain’s foamy incursion onto Smith Street — that the cappuccino kingpin is eying a third location in the BoCoCa triangle: Sal’s Pizzeria at Court and Degraw streets. Sal’s son hung up on The Stoop when we inquired about the coffee giant’s interest in buying the old-timer’s slice shop. Pumpkin spice latte anyone?
©2007 Community News Group
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