RIZZOLI, West 57th Street

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Oddly enough, the Rizzoli bookstore at 31 West 57th Street only entered my consciousness just recently, when endless development put its 109-year-old building in jeopardy on a stretch of West 57th that has traditional brick and mortar high rise apartment buildings (as well as beetling towers like the IBM building). Sleek glassy high rise apartment buildings are also beginning to pepper West 57th and developers’s sights are now set on Rizzoli.

Naturally enough, the exterior of Rizzoli was completely covered in scaffolding and netting a few days ago (in 1/2014) when I staggered past. If I was even more loonish than regularly, I’d swear that because of social media, crews of men are hired to scaffold and cover the fronts of buildings where I had foolishly tipped off where I would be passing the night before I was due to arrive.

I did get a couple of photos of the interior. I’m always reluctant to shoot interiors, mainly because proprietors are uneasy about baseball-capped grotesques like myself, who appear to be likely to shove some merchandise under my coat and bolt out the door, snapping around with cameras. I’ve been dissuaded by the staff at the Barnes and Noble downtown on Greenwich Street from photographing tables upon which my own book, Forgotten New York, was displayed, and similarly, at the over-150-year-old C.O. Bigelow drugstore on 6th Avenue, when I was trying to get a decent picture of their gaslamp fixtures, which are turned on during blackouts, I was heatedly advised to desist.

Nevertheless, I was able to furtively acquire this shot of the chandelier from the 2nd floor alcove. I was sorry to have missed Rizzoli all these years. Everything’s wood paneled and stuffed with books. They specialize in coffee table art books, but there’s also a very generous New York City section. I’d hope that Forgotten New York was displayed in such a prestigious-looking setting when the book was new in 2006. I found at least five books I wanted to purchase and bring home, but lacking full time work these days, those kind of expenses are on hold for now.

Anyway, Rizzoli says nothing is happening anytime soon, but they are actively seeking a new location (they have been on 57th Street since 1984). They’re as good as gone from this setting; the building wasn’t landmarked (the Angel of Death, the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Mary Beth Betts, says so) and it will come down sooner or later.

1/23/14





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4 Responses to RIZZOLI, West 57th Street

  1. George Cassidy says:

    I do my book buying at places with lower overhead, but it will be a shame to see this one go.

  2. Bill says:

    Reminds me of Aperture’s photography books store on the south side of 23rd directly across from where Madison starts. It was on the ground floor of a 3- or 4-story Victorian-era townhouse until the building was bought and razed for– a sleek and shiny tower, some time in the 2000s. That was such a special location. You could be browsing and then look up from your book to see for blocks or, even, miles up the avenue. How rare are buildings situated opposite a T-intersection in the Manhattan grid.

  3. Andy Subbiondo says:

    I love bookstores, to me they are like churches and Rizzoli’s was Notre Dame.

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