Monday, May 16, 2016

Talking Storefront Neon

I am very excited to be lecturing this week with James and Karla Murray, photographers and authors of the landmark books "Store Front," "New York Nights" and most recently "Store Front II."  

Please join us on Wednesday Evening (May 18, 2016) at the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative.  Here are the details:

WHAT:   Mom-and-Pop Storefronts and 
        the Art of Vernacular Design:
        NYC's Lower East Side & Chinatown

WHEN:   Wednesday, May 18, 2016 6:30-8:30 pm 

WHERE:  The Neighborhood Preservation Center 
        232 East 11th Street, Manhattan (betw. 2nd and 3rd Aves.)

Click here for more info.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Signs by Klein

One of the happiest discoveries I made while researching New York Neon was running across a certain Charles J. Klein.  Identifying the designers of New York's old neon storefront signs was one of my main objectives in undertaking what became the New York Neon book.  But assigning authorship to the signs proved almost impossible.  Their design, I learned, typically belonged to artists from the sign painter's union.  Union sign painters often moved itinerantly from one sign shop to the next, leaving their work anonymously scattered around the city.  

Charles Klein, right, poses with Murray Higger at the Silverescent Neon shop in Brooklyn, in front of a new sign for a photographer on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Courtesy of Phyllis Kramer)

Charles Klein was an exception, working steadily for the Silverescent Neon Sign Co. of Brooklyn during the 1950s and early 60s.  For all my research, Klein was just about the only designer I was able to definitively associate with any of the old signs I photographed for the book.  I first learned of Mr. Klein thanks to Al Higger, whose family ran Silverescent for decades. "Charlie was a great mentor for me and taught me a lot," he recalled. "The day prior to his death he took me to the local hospital to get my hand stitched.  I had a large cut on my finger, still have the scar."   

Mr. Higger remembered Klein for having masterminded the distinctive letterforms and graphic compositions that characterized Silverescent's work in those years, and for having developed a kind of a formula for drug store signs such as that of Maiman's Pharmacy in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Maiman's Pharmacy, formerly at 821 Franklin Ave. in Brooklyn. (T. Rinaldi)

Maiman's unfortunately disappeared back in 2012, taking its old sign with it.  For its handsome letterforms, its appealing juxtaposition of three colors and its prominent location at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Eastern Parkway, Maiman's was a real favorite among fans of New York's old neon signs.  Eulogizing the sign here at the New York Neon blog, I was able to name Mr. Klein as its designer.  In a lucky turn of fate, Mr. Klein's surviving adult children discovered the post and sent me an e-mail.  His daughter Phyllis consented to an interview providing a biographical sketch of one of New York's otherwise largely anonymous midcentury sign designers.

Antelis Pharmacy, 1502 Elm Ave., Brooklyn. (T. Rinaldi)

"Charles Jacob Klein was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on May 8, 1907," Phyllis wrote me.  "He died on May 4, 1963 at the age of 56. Way too young."

"He was proud of his work."  (Courtesy of Phyllis Kramer)

Like many in New York's sign business, Mr. Klein was the son of immigrants.  His father, Morris Klein, came to the US from Romania in the early 1900s.  An uncle, Jacob, was among those killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, when Charles would have been just four years old.

Katz's Drugs, 76 Graham Ave., Brooklyn. (T. Rinaldi)

"Charles married Edna Nosoff in 1937," writes his daughter. "They had three children, Allen, Ira and myself, Phyllis. He spent most of his married life living in Boro Park Brooklyn. He attended High School in Bushwick, I think. There I believe he got training in drafting and possibly mechanical arts and probably sign painting, etc. Before WW2 he did some sign painting professionally.

Maiman's Pharmacy, Brooklyn.  (T. Rinaldi)

"He did not serve in the Armed Forces. During WW2 he worked as an aeronautical engineer / draftsman for Republic Aviation in Farmingdale, Long Island. He was an essential part of the group that designed the P-47 bomber. At the American Airpower Museum (a fabulous place to visit, with retired flyers as guides) there is a photo of him and his group discussing the development of this plane. His love of flying started very young. We have photos and stories of him flying in the twenties, scaring his parents by flying overhead in an open biplane. 

(Courtesy of Phyllis Kramer)

"After the War, he continued for a number of years at Republic as many planes were being converted from military to commercial use. Then in about 1948, the work at Republic ended and he went to work for Murray Higger at Silverescent Sign Company. I think he was originally hired as an electrician. But his obvious talents and artistic capabilities led him to become the chief designer there. He had a talent not just for drafting and design, but also for dealing with customers, sales and follow-up.  

(T. Rinaldi)

"Dad was always busy. He had many interests. There were the planes, always. Then in an unfinished attic room (we lived in the attic of an old three story walk-up that was really quite charming) he built a huge layout of first O gauge, and then HO gauge trains. With towns and mountains and all the adorable miniature trimmings. We all worked together on building it out of papier-mache and painting the scenery. My father would put together all the cars from kits, with all the decals on the boxcars, coal cars, flatbeds, and locomotives. I loved the caboose.

(Phyllis Kramer)

"Besides the planes and the trains, he built televisions from kits on the kitchen table. And repaired them too. He built a radio, turntable and stereo unit in the same way. Plus the cabinets to house them. He built beautiful pantry cabinets. I remember a particularly beautiful blue glass and chrome fold-away tray table that he designed. Boy, I wish I had that now. He repaired his own car. 

"We had a porch on this top floor attic. Set among sloping roofs of green Spanish roofing tiles was a lovely aerie. He painted the waist high walls as trompe-l'oiel fieldstone and built a short wooden fence so his children wouldn't tumble over. Then at the sign shop, using sheet metal, he built flower boxes painted green. They ringed the edges. Every summer we had gorgeous flowers and roses spilling over, shaded by an awning and roll-up bamboo shades. He would sit for hours and cross-pollinate petunias to get new varieties. I got my love of botany and horticulture from him. He would take me on many weekends to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. 

"He would also take Ira and I to Coney Island, most every Saturday in the summer. We got to choose five rides that we wanted to go on, and then we would go to Fabers arcade. I think that that was my favorite sign. 

Faber's Fascination, Surf Ave., Coney Island.  Made and installed by the Silverescent Neon Sign Co.  (T. Rinaldi)

"I was 13 when he died. But he had a lasting impact on his children's careers. My oldest brother Allen became a leading set and costume designer for grand opera all over the world. My brother Ira became an electrical engineer and pursues interests in aeronautics. I became a textile designer, which I did for 35 years. We were all very influenced by my father's work, always having access as we grew up to art supplies, drafting equipment and that wonderful attic to mess up.

"As a child I gave him credit for every sign in NYC. He did point out certain signs that he had designed, and was proud of his work."  Work, happily, that has endured to be admired generations after his death.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pepsi and Other Neon News

First, the big news, which happens also to be good news: the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has voted to prioritize Landmark Status (i.e. legal protection based on heritage value) for the Pepsi Sign in Long Island City, Queens.  Pepsi thus seems poised to become New York's first and only sign to be Landmarked in its own right (some other historic signs are protected incidentally if they happen to hang from Landmarked buildings).  The decision is pending confirmation by the Commission later this year.

Pepsi Ablaze.  (T. Rinaldi)

While this is basically good news, the actual ramifications of the designation remain somewhat murky.  Per Curbed: "even if the sign is landmarked, the Commission will have no say on the lettering. For example, as a commissioner wryly pointed out during the meeting, a beer company could purchase the sign from Pepsi and put up its own lettering. Where the Commission would step in would be the actual movement of the sign, so, continuing with the same beer example, if the beer company wanted to move the sign to install its own lettering it would have to come before the Landmarks Commission."

The Pepsi sign is one of just 30 sites prioritized by the Commission from its list of 95 "calendared" sites earlier this year.  65 other sites have been left to their fate.  


• More big news, also good, from LA:  the Museum of Neon Art has re-opened in its new permanent home in Glendale.  

• Related:  Blogger and sign-documenter extraordinaire Debra Jane Seltzer reports on MONA's Grand Opening.

RIP to the Stage Deli, long-time neon neighbor of the Orpheum Theatre on Second Avenue in Manhattan's East Village.

(T. Rinaldi)

• From the why-God-why department, news that one of New York's greatest ghost signs was recently senselessly obliterated on Eighth Ave by Times Square.  

Rooms 1-2-3, pre-desecration.  (T.Rinaldi)  

• A sliver of happy neon news from upstate:  the old signs of Troy's sadly-deceased South End Tavern have been preserved, restored and now displayed (scroll down) at the Rensselear County Historical Society in Troy.  The RCHS crowdsourced funding to acquire the signs last year.

(Rob Yasinsac)

• Enjoy this short video tribute to Vegas neon and the efforts to keep it alive.

• Sign art:  a gallery of sign photography by Tim Davis.

Philnea 1924 - an early neon curiosity unearthed at the Design-is-Fine blog via Memory of the Netherlands


• Ending on an up note:  New York's Carnegie Deli, a neon landmark among neon landmarks, finally re-opened last month after a prolonged closure.

(T. Rinaldi)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hotel Neon: the Hotel Allerton

The Allerton's big neon sign, a relic of the bohemian fringe if ever an old sign was, retained its place over Eighth Avenue in Chelsea well past its time.  That such a genuine remnant of urban grit could survive so unabashedly in Carrie Bradshaw's New York seemed unbelievable, which in an odd way is partly why I never paid much attention to the Allerton.  The hotel finally closed in 2007, and I am still utterly displeased with myself for not not having photographed that old sign, which seemed just too real to be real in 21st century New York.

The Allerton, at 302 West 22nd Street, in 1994.  (Walter Grutchfield)

But the Allerton was indeed the real thing, as an excerpt from Patti Smith's book Just Kids and newspaper headlines from its last years attest.  "Chelsea residents have tried to stop the noise, crime, drugs and harassment they say come from tenants at the Allerton Hotel," wrote David Kirby for the New York Times after a murder took place there behind the flickering neon in 1998.  "The victim . . . and the other man checked into a room at the Allerton Hotel at 3:10 a.m. Monday," reported the Daily News of that particular incident.  The pair had apparently met at the legendary Limelight disco on Sixth Avenue earlier that night.  "Cops believe they went to the hotel for a sexual liaison . . . They were there for less than 20 minutes when a loud argument broke out."  One man was stabbed in the chest and abdomen; the other disappeared down West 22nd Street into the night.  

The Allerton flickering away in the mid-1990s. (Gregoire Alessandrini / NYC in the 1990s)

Patti Smith's account of the scene at the Allerton a quarter century earlier provides a sort of be-all-end-all summation of the dark world of the neon hotelJeremiah's Vanishing New York featured Smith's remembrance of the hotel in a post entitled "Patti's Allerton" back in 2011.  The Allerton passage from Just Kids serves here to provide as graphic a window into the "hotel neon" milieu as anything since Raymond Chandler first cast Philip Marlowe in that menacing red glow back in 1940.  Having run out of options, Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, then young artists struggling to catch a break, checked into the Allerton as a last resort:  "We left most everything behind . . . traveling across town to the Hotel Allerton on Eighth Avenue, a place known for its very cheap rooms,"  writes Smith:

These days marked the lowest point in our life together.  I don't remember how we found our way to the Allerton.  It was a terrible place, dark and neglected, with dusty windows that overlooked the noisy street.  . . . The springs of the ancient mattress poked through the stained sheet.  The place reeked of piss and exterminator fluid, the wallpaper peeling like dead skin in summer.  There was no running water in the corroded sink, only occasional rusted droplets plopping through the night . . . .

The place was filled with derelicts and junkies.  I was no stranger to cheap hotels. . . .  There was nothing romantic about this place, seeing half-naked guys trying to find a vein in limbs infested with sores.  Everybody's door was open because it was so hot, and I had to avert my eyes as I shuttled to and from the bathroom to rinse out cloths for Robert's forehead. . . . His lumpy pillow was crawling with lice and they mingled with his damp matted curls.
I went to get Robert some water and a voice called to me from across the hall.  It was hard to tell whether it was male or female. . . .  He had once been a ballet dancer but now he was a morphine addict, a mix of Nureyev and Artaud.  His legs were still muscled but most of his teeth were gone.  How glorious he must have been with his golden hair, square shoulders, and high cheekbones.  I sat outside his door, the sole audience to his dreamlike performance, drifting through the hall like Isadora Duncan with chiffon streaming as he sang an atonal version of 'Wild Is the Wind.'

He told me the stories of some of his neighbors, room by room, and what they had sacrificed for alcohol and drugs.  Never had I seen so much collective misery and lost hope, forlorn souls who had fouled their lives.  

The Allerton, still hangin' in there in 1999.  ( / Verplanck)

The horrors of the Allerton drove Smith and Mapplethorpe to seek refuge at another neon-crested hotel around the corner - the Chelsea Hotel - where things took a turn for the better.  

The Allerton had opened its doors in a very different era, back in 1912.  Its origins are traced by historian Walter Grutchfield at his superb web site  Grutchfield relates that this was actually the first in what grew to become a chain of at least five hotels by the 1920s, run by one James S. Cushman, a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, who named the enterprise for a Mayflower ancestor called Mary Allerton.  Architectural historian Christopher Gray tells us that in their day, the hotels offered "club-type lounges, gyms and laundries" intended to serve a clientele of white collar workers, "but by the 1930s, the Allerton corporation faltered, and the buildings were converted to conventional hotels."

By the late '90s, the 22nd Street Allerton had become a make-shift shelter for the city's Department of Homeless Services.  Its crumbling neon sign made way for a nondescript replacement around 2003.  The beleaguered old hotel finally succumbed a few years later, by then starkly out of place in a city that seemed hellbent on shaking off all traces of its wayward past with the fervor of a born-again zealot.  The building was subsequently gut-renovated and reopened as the Gem Hotel, a boutique hostelry whose rooms offer "down pillows, free WiFi, flat screen TVs, coffee makers and free bottled water."  Foragers Market, a "gourmet grocery store" on the ground floor, sells 45-gram packs of spaghetti for $7.99. 

Walter Grutchfield notes that a remnant of the Allerton's old signage remains in place on the facade.  One wonders if that old neon sign, had it survived just a few years longer, might have been kept around as a nostalgic gesture to bygone grime, now just a flickering memory. 

The Allerton reborn, sans-neon. (T. Rinaldi)

THIS IS THE EIGHTH in a series of stories entitled "Hotel Neon," exploring the unique resonance of neon hotel signs in the American psyche. See also: 


 If you haven't gotten to it yet, Just Kids is a must-read.
• Jeremiah's Vanishing New York visits the Allerton, here and here.
• Walter Grutchfield on the Allerton's origins.
 Gregoire Alessandrini's photographic timeport back to New York in the '90s.
 A fantastic field guide to other backdrops from Just Kids by Alison K. Armstrong and Fiona Webster.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Ziegfeld

The Ziegfeld Theatre called it quits last week after nearly 47 years on West 54th Street.   Opened in 1969, the Ziegfeld stood in the shadow of a big bland glass and steel office tower and, moreover, of its namesake theater, which was destroyed to make way for that tower in the mid-1960s.  Though the latter-day Ziegfeld never really escaped the shadow of its illustrious predecessor, it was not without its charms - its kitschy, Pat Nixon-meets-Diamond Lil, gay-90s-bordello decor that survived intact as a kind of freeze-frame of the day and age from which it sprang.  

The Ziegfeld, outside and in. 

Its neon, too, is worthy of study as a period piece.  For the purposes of my book and blog, the Ziegfeld fell outside of my scope for the simple reason that its signs concealed their neon behind acrylic lenses.  In this, the Ziegfeld's signs were in step with their times:  by the mid-1960s, neon had fallen decidedly out of favor, and the popular trend away from exposed tube signs changed the aesthetic of the commercial landscape everywhere.  

Marquee names.

In New York Neon, I trace the chronology of this change and explore the fascinating psychology behind it.  From heights of vogue in the early 1930s, neon's appeal began to suffer even before WWII.  Big corporations, which had fueled the explosion of the neon business in the 1920s, began to dump neon by the late 1930s.  Plexiglas became commercially available in 1936; design requirements at the 1939 New York World's Fair discouraged the use of exposed tube neon signs.

The crowd pours in for the Ziegfeld's final screening last Thursday.

Particularly for small, independent businesses, neon storefront signs maintained a certain look through the 1950s, typified by what I call "pre-Helvetica" letterforms wrought in exposed neon tubes.  But this began to change by the early 1950s.  Chain businesses and corporate franchises led the way.  In 1953, Nedick's began to re-equip its New York locations with acrylic panel fascia signs.  Three years later, Woolworth's introduced a new program of plastic-clad signs to be installed at its five-and-dime stores nationwide.  By the mid-to-late 60s, exposed tube neon signs were down and out.  

Ziegfeld script.  

Enter the Ziegfeld.  Like so many banks and chain drug stores of the period, its signs conscientiously abandoned the neon-bedecked aesthetic that characterized movie theater marquees of the previous generation.  (As its NYT obit pointed out, the Ziegfeld was "the first major new movie house in Midtown Manhattan since Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932.")  But with their jaunty script letterforms, their old-world spelling of the word "theatre," the signs had one foot in the pre-Helvetica landscape of the early 60s, marking them as products of the changing times into which they were born. 

Show's over.

Much as I loved going there, it always struck me that the Ziegfeld must have been something of a bitter pill to swallow for those who had admired its predecessor and the other old movie palaces of New York that had already begun to disappear en masse back in the 60s.  None of those grand old pre-war theaters survives intact as a dedicated cinema in New York today, so the Ziegfeld was about the best thing we had.  And after nearly a half century, it had taken on its own authenticity, and in fact even outlived its predecessor (the old Ziegfeld lasted just 41 years).  Arguably the best place to see a movie in New York, it was certainly the most fun.  The Times reports that the former Ziegfeld will re-open as an event space catering to "galas and corporate functions" next year.  


The Paris
• The main auditorium at the Village East
• The occasional screening at the United Palace
• The Loew's Jersey


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

History's History

After 15 years, the bell has tolled for the massive History Channel sign up in the Bronx, various sources reported last week.  As of this past Saturday, the big neon letters had all come down, the old incandescent "motograph" was dim and half dismantled, and just the network's giant "H" logo remained in place. 

History bows out. (T. Rinaldi)

When this sign reared its head over this old Bronx warehouse  about 15 years ago, it struck me as somewhat ironic that such a historic form of advertising should be taken up by, of all things, the History Channel.  This was a neon "spectacular" in the classic style of those Times Square signs of yore, even if it lacked the animated bravado of its iconic ancestors.  Owing its existence to grandfather clauses in zoning codes that banned giant roof signs like this decades ago, its history stretches farther back than probably all but a very few of its admirers imagined.  

History in better days, January 27, 2015. (T. Rinaldi)

A few fun facts about the late History Channel sign: in addition to being very likely the largest neon sign in New York, it was one of the last works of the prolific Artkraft Strauss Sign Corp, renowned for having produced most of the 20th century Times Square spectaculars that remain etched in the retina of New York's collective memory.  The scrolling motograph that ran below the sign was a truly remarkable relic, a thing only slightly evolved from the first electric signs that appeared over Broadway in the 1890s.  

And in fact, the sign's origins likely go back almost that far.  In a past life, the big brick building beneath it was an ice house for the brewing empire of Jacob Ruppert, the beer baron who also built Yankee Stadium.  Ruppert seems to have first installed a large electric roof sign here sometime in the early 1900s. 

The old Ruppert sign shining out over the Willis Avenue bridge in the 1940s. (NYPL)

An old photograph preserved with the Artkraft Strauss papers at the New York Public Library shows what may be the first in a series of signs to occupy this perch over the past 100 years.   As traffic on the nearby Triborough bridge boomed after WWII, the Ruppert brewery cashed in on its location by hiring Artkraft Strauss to throw up a huge new spectacular advertising Knickerbocker Beer in 1952.  Trade publication Signs of the Times Magazine noted that the new installation replaced "the old Ruppert sign which had been a landmark in the Bronx for years."  Of the new sign, ST reported that "the letters are 40 feet high and extend 200 feet in length.  The spectacular employs 3-1/2 million candlepower and is said to be visible for 12 miles."

Ruppert's Knickerbocker spectacular was unveiled on August 20, 1952. (Signs of the Times Magazine, used with permission)

Ruppert eventually relinquished the space, leaving the sign to be reborn in 1962 with a new meganeon spectacular for Cities Service Oil (petroleonic predecessor to Citgo), which ST noted was visible to "an estimated 250,000 motorists a day."  Also erected by Artkraft Strauss, the sign flashed out the words "SEE AMERICA BY CAR" with candle power equal in intensity to a town of 10,000 people.  Cities Service in turn made way for a giant neon billboard for Kent Cigarettes, once again put up by Artkraft Strauss, which appeared in the mid-1970s. 

The Cities Service sign crowned the old Ruppert rooftop beginning in 1962. (Signs of the Times Magazine, used with permission)

The Kent sign, seen here in a brief cameo from Sidney Lumet's 1975 film "Dog Day Afternoon."  

But the supreme incarnation of the old Ruppert roof sign, at least for my money, came in the early 1980s.  Happily, the songline of my childhood just happened to intersect with the golden age of this dark angel of the night, when the big sign peddled the menthol wares of the Lorillard Tobacco Company, known to the world as Newport cigarettes.
The Newport sign in 1997. (T. Rinaldi)

Long drives between visits to relatives in Brooklyn and our family's home in upstate New York were a feature of my childhood.  Cooked up in the back seat in those prehistoric days before the Nintendo Gameboy, that drive felt like an eternity, especially the trip back north, which took place under cover of night.  Yet in the depths of those long dark schleps, I knew I could count on one thing to stir my little heart: that glorious, tricolor monument to tobacco, hawking smokes with consummate flair and unabashed showmanship.  Like the Fourth-of-July-fireworks it cartwheeled over the traffic:  

I / heart-heart-heart / NEW YORK!

I / heart-heart-heart / NEWPORT!

This was the supreme highlight of those eternal nightrides, year after year, a sight that will dance through the dim recesses of my memory for as long as I live.  But nothing lasts forever.  In the late 90s, some killjoy do-gooders decided there was no place in the skyline for animated billboards peddling highly addictive carcinogens to the youth of America.  The Newport sign went the way of its beer, cigarette and gasoline-pushing predecessors around the year 2000.  

A few years after the History Channel sign appeared here, Artkraft Strauss bailed out of the sign making business after more than 100 years.  Already, restrictive zoning ordinances had all but erased signs like these from the New York skyline, leaving the History Channel spectacular to stand out like a solitary neon dinosaur in an increasingly mundane nighttime cityscape. In the course of the sign's 15-year life, the big neon signs of Times Square and elsewhere have given way to giant LED billboards with all the character of supersized flatscreen TVs, completely devoid of the endearing mechanical acrobatics of their neon and incandescent ancestors. 

History in 2010.  (T. Rinaldi)

A long time ago, I had the idea that I would finish-off the New York Neon blog with a capstone tribute to the History Channel sign, an elegy plucked from the heartstrings in which this glow-in-the-dark landmark has been tangled up for as long as I can remember.  But now that the moment has come, I find myself not quite ready to put this blog to bed.  There's still enough left unwritten to keep this up a while longer.  Long enough, perhaps, to report on whatever the next chapter holds in store for the old Ruppert roof.  

History from behind.  (T. Rinaldi)


"A Spectacular Spectacular," Signs of the Times Magazine, December 1962, pp 46-47.

"200 Foot Trade Name," Signs of the Times Magazine, September 1952, p 21.

The Artkraft Strauss Records collection at the NYPL

Fabricating the old Kent sign at the Artkraft Strauss shop in the 1970s.  (NYPL)

Sunday, January 10, 2016


A late addition to December's "Lights Out 2015" post: dial CNN for Columbus Circle Neon No-more.  This recent feature over at the Shorpy blog reminded me that CNN's big neon spectacular over Columbus Circle vanished over the summer of 2015, as reported by the Daily News and Crain's New York.  

CNN has left its perch at Columbus Circle after 10 years. (T. Rinaldi)

Its replacement is a giant flatscreen jumbotron-type thing of the variety that have displaced most of the neon from Times Square in recent years. Though the CNN sign was only ten years old, it was descended from a series of roof signs that held down this perch for generations.  Its soulless replacement seems to mark the coup de grace in the desecration of the art deco skyscraper below.   


 ProjectNeon reports that Riverside Liquors (previously profiled with this post) has been forced to take down its venerable neon sign, an Upper West Side survivor for more than 60 years.

(T. Rinaldi)

 Check out the work of John Baeder, chronicler of neon signs, whose book "John Baeder's Road Well Taken" came out late in 2015.
 In West Chelsea, be sure to stop by and admire the neon art of Deborah Kass at the Paul Kasmin Gallery (through Jan 23 2015).
 An oldie but a goodie: enjoy this 2010 tribute to the neon of New York's Capital District, from the All Over Albany blog (thanks to Rob Yasinsac for bringing this to my attention). 
 If you haven't yet, listen in on the 99% Invisible podcast's recent "Tube Benders" episode.
 A project to preserve the historic neon of Boise, Idaho.
 Black Seed, a new cafe, has opened in the former DiRobertis Pasticceria space on First Ave in the East Village. 
 Meanwhile, Jeremiah's Vanishing New York reports that the real DiRobertis' has actually been reborn, in Clifton, NJ.

(Stuart Gewirtzman)

 And finally, one of Long Island's most spectacular neon storefronts has gone dark with the closing of Rockville Center's venerable Palace of Wong late last year.