Downtown by the Numbers

Do you remember numerical series problems from elementary school? Things like: 2,4,8, __ What is the next number in the series? Why, its 16 of course (each number is twice as much as the prior one).

Well, here is another series that will really tease your brain: 280, 110, 100, 110, 17, 116, 2, 22, 120, __ What is the next number? And what is the series anyway?

I will answer the second question first. These are the building numbers of all the buildings I have worked in over the last 40 years. And they are all in Lower Manhattan. I never made it above Reade Street. Two of these buildings have undergone residential conversions; two were significantly upgraded by the City of New York and are occupied by city agencies. One is nearly entirely vacant and the building I am now in – 120 Broadway — is probably the finest of the bunch.

Over the last 40 years I have witnessed many comings and goings. Sloppy Louie’s and Sweets were the places to go for fish. They had very different personalities, but given their proximity to the Fish Market, they had the freshest food around. Alas, they are gone, as is, of course, the Fish Market itself. And while I am reminiscing about restaurants whose names start with S, the corner of Park Place and Church Street used to have two such restaurants, Schraft’s and Suerken’s. Schraft’s was a table clothed chain restaurant and Suerken’s was an old style- German bar and restaurant, opened in 1877 and closed 110 years later.

And I remember buying records out of wooden boxes on legs at the very first J&R store in the basement on Beekman Street. And then watching the empire grow all along the entire Park Row block, except of course for Weinstein and Holtzman’s Hardware store.

And one more establishment that I miss is the original Job Lot on Church Street; a destination for bargain hunters from all around. I am talking about a store, before it was ruined by expansion, that actually sold its merchandise from push carts and would have both a section of fairly stable merchandise as well as true odd lots that would come and go in an afternoon. I found that out the hard way when I bought mirrored switch plates for ten cents (yes, a long time ago). Unfortunately, I miscounted and needed two more, but when I went back the next day they were gone.

All by way of saying that this stroll down memory lane has been replaced by new destinations and adventures, many of which can be found by a walk down any of our historic streets or by using the retail directory on the Downtown Alliance’s Web site.

To return to the first question of the numerical series — what is the next number? — who knows? Will we move? Will I move? Maybe the answer is that this is the end of the series. Maybe not. We’ll see.