All posts by James and Karla Murray

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Features, Greenwich Village, More Top Stories, Where I Work

The secret history of Julius’, the oldest gay bar in NYC

By James and Karla Murray, Tue, July 21, 2020

Owner Helen Buford with longtime bartender Daniel Onzo

On the corner of West 10th and Waverly Place sits Julius’ Bar, New York City’s oldest gay bar. Constructed in the middle of the 19th-century, the landmarked Greenwich Village building first opened as a grocery store and later became a bar. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously operating bars in the city, Julius’ is also known for its historic “Sip-In” on April 26, 1966, when members of the Mattachine Society–one of the country’s earliest LGBT rights organizations–protested the state law that prohibited bars from serving “suspected gay men or lesbians.” Not only did the demonstration lead to the courts ruling in 1967 that gay people had the legal right to assemble and be served alcohol, but it also became one of the most significant instances of gay rights activism before the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

Like many businesses forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic, especially now that indoor dining is on hold indefinitely, Julius’ owner Helen Buford is struggling to pay the bills and launched a fundraising campaign this month to help save the bar. Ahead, go behind the scenes of Julius’ while it remains closed, learn about its unique history from longtime bartenders Daniel Onzo and Tracy O’ Neill, and hear more from Helen about the struggle to survive as a small business during COVID-19.

Go behind the scenes

Featured Story

Features, Queens, Restaurants, Where I Work

We may not be able to gather together for Easter this year, but we can certainly still place a chocolate order to lift our spirits. And if the Easter Bunny is choosing where to get the best homemade chocolates and candies to fill his basket, Schmidt’s Candy in Woodhaven, Queens would certainly be a top choice. German immigrant Frank Schmidt founded this nearly-century old confectionery shop in 1925. We recently had a chance to tour this iconic shop with Margie Schmidt, Frank’s granddaughter and the third-generation owner. Margie continues to make specialty holiday chocolates and candies by hand using the same recipes that were handed down to her by her father. Ahead, go behind the scenes to see how all these tasty treats are made, tour the historic interior, and learn about the shop’s history from Margie.

You’re in for a sweet treat

Featured Story

City Living, Events, Features, holidays

Some were spooky, others political, all were adorable. The 29th annual Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade took place last Sunday, bringing together hundreds of New Yorkers and their furry friends from all over. While the parade is no longer really a parade nor held at Tompkins Square Park, the event remains one of the year’s best. Photographers James and Karla Murray witnessed first hand the canine costumes and shared with 6sqft photos of the cutest and most creative choices, including the ultimate winners: two Yorkshire terries as Snoopy and the Red Baron.

More dressed-up pups this way

Featured Story

Events, Features, little italy, photography

Take a food tour of Little Italy’s Feast of San Gennaro

By James and Karla Murray, Tue, September 17, 2019

Food, faith, family, and more food. The Feast of San Gennaro is in full swing, bringing the best of Italian cuisine and culture to a few blocks of Little Italy for 11 straight days. In its 93rd year, the Feast has evolved from its early 20th-century roots, as has the former immigrant enclave. Despite these changes, the Feast of San Gennaro remains one of the largest and most popular street fairs in New York City, as well as a way to preserve Italian American culture. Ahead, photographers and New Yorkers James and Karla Murray take us on a whirlwind food tour of the Feast of San Gennaro, from powdered sugar zeppoles and fried Oreos to Italian sausage and calzones.

Dig in

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Behind the Scenes, Coney Island, Features

The Wonder Wheel with no cars installed; photos © James and Karla Murray

Honoring a 60-year tradition of opening on Palm Sunday, Coney Island Amusement Park will be back in business this Sunday, April 14th. One of the many activities will be the annual blessing of the rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. The 150-foot-tall, 100-year-old structure is one of the most iconic pieces remaining at Coney Island. But there’s a lot that goes into this seasonal opening than even the most well-versed New Yorker may not know. Each winter, the 200-ton ride is repainted, and all of its 24 cars are removed. But come spring, second-generation co-owner Steve Vourderis goes through the process of precisely reinstalling and aligning the cars. We were lucky enough to visit Steve and his brother Dennis on a recent frigid Sunday to watch the magic happen.

Go behind-the-scenes at the Wonder Wheel

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East Village, Features, History, Restaurants, Where I Work

Ask a group of New Yorkers where to find the best cannolis or cheesecake, and without a doubt, you’ll hear Veniero Pasticceria and Caffé. An East Village institution, Veniero’s is a family-owned and operated Italian pastry shop that was established by Italian immigrant Antonio Veniero in 1894. Veniero, who lived with his family next door, started the business as a candy shop. He then started serving Italian espresso and biscotti and by the 1920s, he had brought in master bakers from Sicily to run the kitchen. 

A century later, Veniero’s is still family-owned and is celebrating is 125th anniversary next year. We had the chance to tour the caffé and bakery with Robert Zerilli, the fourth-generation current owner and great-nephew of founder Antonio Veniero. Today, Veniero’s serves more than 150 desserts, from traditional Italian butter cookies and cannolis to some more modern offerings such as red velvet cake and oreo cheesecake. Ahead, go behind the scenes to see how all these tasty treats are made, tour the historic interiors, and learn all about Veniero’s history from Robert.

Hear Robert tell Veniero’s story

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Behind the Scenes, Features, History, Jamaica

John Eberson architect, 165-11 Jamaica Avenue, Loew’s Valencia Theatre, Loew's Wonder Theatres, Tabernacle of Prayer for All People

Earlier this year, 6sqft got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at the majestic Loew’s Jersey City Theatre, as well as the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights. In 2016, we joined Untapped Cities and NYCEDC on a tour of Brooklyn Kings Theatre, and just last month, as part of Untapped Cities Insider’s Tours, we were lucky enough to tour and photograph the former Loew’s Valencia Theatre on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, which is now home to the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People church.

The majestic Loew’s Valencia Theatre opened on Saturday, January 12, 1929, as the first, largest, and most famous of the five flagship Loew’s “Wonder” Theatres established in the New York City area from 1929-30. All of the grand movie palaces were built by Marcus Loew of the Loew’s Theatres chain to establish the firm as a leader in film exhibition and to simultaneously serve as a fantastical yet affordable escape for people of all classes from the tedium and anxieties of their daily lives. The Valencia most definitely did not shy away from this fantastical approach, with its Spanish/Mexican Baroque architecture, gilded ornamentation, rich jewel-tone colors, and elaborate carvings.

Take the grand tour

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Features, Greenpoint, Restaurants, Where I Work

Paulie Giannone, Paulie Gee's Brooklyn, Paulie Gee's Slice Shop, Greenpoint pizzeria

6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and businesses of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re going inside Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop in GreenpointWant to see your business featured here? Get in touch!

Long-time pizza enthusiast Paulie Giannone opened his first wood-fired pizza restaurant, Paulie Gee’s, in 2010 on Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn. Since then, he’s opened locations in Miami, Columbus, Ohio, Chicago, and Baltimore. Most recently, though, he came back to his roots with Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop, just a few blocks away from his original spot in Greenpoint. While Paulie’s restaurants center around gourmet pizzas, including many vegan options, the Slice Shop specializes in classic New York City-style and Sicilian slices. In keeping with this classic pizza joint feel, the Slice Shop’s retro décor is inspired by the pizzerias Paulie Gee frequented while growing up in Kensington, Brooklyn.

We had a chance to speak with Paulie at the newly opened Slice Shop and sample some of the delicious pizzas, including his classic cheese slice and his sauceless Mootz. He filled us in on how he got his start in the pizza business, where he found the ’60s and ’70s decor, and his reaction to the long lines New Yorkers are waiting on to get a slice of Paulie Gee’s.

Get a slice of Paulie Gee’s!

Featured Story

Features, Lower East Side, Where I Work

Mendel Goldberg Fabrics, Lower East Side fabric store, NYC fabric store

6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and businesses of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re going inside 130-year-old Lower East Side shop Mendel Goldberg FabricsWant to see your business featured here? Get in touch!

Mendel Goldberg Fabrics, a fourth-generation family-owned textile boutique, has been in business since 1890 and is located on a quiet side street on the Lower East Side. People who walk down Hester Street often take the time to notice the exquisite designer imported fabrics that hang in the window display as well as the huge range of brocades, silk, gabardine, lace, wool, novelty fabrics and boucle´ in a wide variety of colors and textures, which line the shops walls from floor to ceiling. Despite a devastating fire in the building in 2012 that destroyed the entire basement fabric stock and required substantial rebuilding, the business is thriving. On a recent visit to the fabric store, we had a chance to speak with Alice Goldberg, the great-granddaughter of Mendel Goldberg, about how the business went from a pushcart to a unique destination, the joys of running one of the oldest surviving shops in the neighborhood, and the secrets of some of their most high-end fabrics.

Get a fabric lesson from Alice

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Behind the Scenes, Brooklyn, Features, History

Dead Horse Bay is a small body of water in Brooklyn that got its name from the horse rendering plants that were on the former Barren Island in Jamaica Bay near the shoreline of Flatlands. In the late 1850s, Barren Island was the site of the largest dump in New York City, fed by barges carrying garbage and animal remains. Factories on the island used the carcasses of horses, which were put in large vats and boiled until the fat could be removed, for use in fertilizer, glue, and oils. The bones of the horses were then chopped up and dumped into the water. Starting in 1930, the island also became the site of the first municipal airport (Floyd Bennett) after the city filled in marshland to connect it to the mainland.

The last horse rendering factory on the island closed in 1935 and in 1936, the island’s final 400 residents were evicted to make way for the creation of the Belt Parkway. The City continued using the area as a garbage dump until 1953 when the landfill was capped. Since 1972, the area surrounding Dead Horse Bay has been part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. We joined Robin Nagle, NYC Department of Sanitation’s Anthropologist-in-Residence for an exclusive exploration of Dead Horse Bay earlier this year with the City Reliquary Museum and had a chance to speak with her about this mysterious area, which is strewn with glass bottles, fragments of centuries-old horse bones, and mounds of trash.

Have a look around

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