Recap: The Place Matters Annual Awards Ceremony

Posted on: October 31st, 2011 at 11:14 am by

What do a candy store, a haven for the homeless, a matzo factory, and a local bar have in common?

It’s not that they’ve all been covered in Bowery Boogie. Last Wednesday night, they also won awards from Place Matters, an organization which recognizes New York City’s historically and culturally significant places.

The third annual awards ceremony was held more or less at the epicenter of these locations at the Museum of Chinese in America. Honoring six places in Lower Manhattan, awards were given to Economy Candy, The Bowery Mission, The Streit’s Matzo Factory, the Chinatown Senior Citizens Center, The Ear Inn, and the Tenement at 109 Washington Street.

Heartfelt speeches about “the intersection of people and place” were given by Jean Tatge of the Municipal Art Society (which, along with the group City Lore, sponsors Place Matters), Molly Garfinkel and Steve Zeitlin of City Lore, and author TJ English (“The Westies,” “Havana Nocturne,” and the recent “Savage Cities,” among others).

English focused on “the power of place,” observing that he normally writes “sociology, anthropology and history, from the point of view of the gutter.” Running through a brief history of Lower Manhattan, which he considers “anything below 14th Street,” he gave the audience a dollop of some lesser known NYC history, including a story about “Collect Pond Park.” Once the largest body of water in the city, the pond was once exploited for fishing and ice skating, but became so disease-ridden in the late 18th century that the city had to create a canal (which as you may have guessed, is now known as Canal Street) to drain the pond. Collect Pond Park, formed after the pond was gone, still exists today.

TJ English

As each recipient retrieved their award, the audience was treated to their various tales of the city. James Macklin, Director of Outreach for the Bowery Mission, was homeless and slept on the A train until a woman intervened, convincing him to seek help at the historic shelter. Alan Alder of Streit’s Matzo described handing broken pieces of matzo out the window to passersby at the factory on Rivington Street. The incomplete pieces, not allowed to be boxed for sale, were given out for free on a daily basis, causing long lines down the street (yes, we were there and the matzo was still warm!). Jerry Cohen of Economy Candy, pretty much grew up in the store and recalled his baby carriage having its own spot in the back. Martin Sheridan recounted the history of the James Brown House, home of the Ear Inn. According to legend, Brown, who originally owned the house, was an ex-slave who fought in the Revolutionary Army and was an aide to George Washington. Some believe he is depicted at Washington’s side in the famous painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

James Macklin of The Bowery Mission

The theme “there is no future without memory” echoed through the evening. Oral histories of the residents from the The Chinatown Senior Citizens’ Center helped launch the event host, the Museum of Chinese in America. Current residents of the tenement at 109 Washington Street, another honoree, retold the history of their building. Located in a long-gone neighborhood once called “Little Syria,” this area thrived in the late 1800’s through the mid 1900’s, attracting Middle Eastern families, along with immigrants from the Ottoman Empire. These urban historians continue to document tales of their ancestors, along with their own stories of living right near Ground Zero during 9/11.

Following the awards ceremony, guests were feted with klezmer music by Hot Pstromi, along with sweets donated by Economy Candy, of course.

Video about each of the award winners:

Writeup and photos by Lori Greenberg

Recent Stories

Good-locksmith-1
Longtime Grand Street Hardware Store ‘Good Locksmith’ is Moving [Updated]

Good Locksmith, the reliable mom-and-pop hardware shop located at 317 Grand Street, is reportedly moving next door. They’ve been on the Lower East Side for more than a decade. A sign inside the store alerts customers, as do the bare shelves. Update: a reader tells us, “I spoke to stephen who the grown son and […]

260South-cherry-facade
Reveal: Lands End II Parking Lot to Get 800-foot, Twin-Towered Beast

Three years after acquiring the two low-income buildings comprising Lands End II (265-275 Cherry Street) for $279 million, L+M Partners and the CIM Group are planning to develop the parking lots facing the water (aka 260 South Street). It’s another of the so-called “soft sites” along the Lower East Side waterfront receiving renewed attention from the industry […]

fitz-webster-1
Women In Music To Host Annual Holiday Party at Webster Hall

It’s that time of year again. Women in Music, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing equality and diversity for women in the world of music, is hosting its 31st annual holiday event and fundraiser. As in years prior, there’s much to celebrate when it comes to contributions and successes of women in the music and entertainment industries. While rubbing […]

christmas-tree-essex
Santa Claus is Coming to the Essex Street Market Tomorrow

Here’s one Santa who won’t be puking all over the Lower East Side. That’s right: jolly old St. Nick is coming to the Lower East Side this weekend. It’s all part of Essex Street Market’s annual yuletide cheer, which includes making your own ornament, trimming the Market Christmas tree, and hot chocolate and candy canes for everyone, despite […]

soft-swerve-allen-1
‘Soft Swerve’ Ice Cream Shop Debuts on Allen Street, Just in Time for Winter

Perfect timing. Soft Swerve has been ready to go for weeks now. The nascent ice cream shop at 85B Allen Street first announced itself back in early October, when workers promised an imminent opening. That didn’t happen right away, though, because the electricity system reportedly required an upgrade. That was what a store employee told us […]