“Who will remember . . . that Pronto Pizza place? Or Tad’s Steaks, with its ‘Bathroom for Customers Only’ sign, and those rotisserie chickens spinning interminable on the spit?” asked a New York Times writer some months ago, in one of those winsome local scene pieces that put a Times writer at serious risk of mistaking himself for Walt Whitman. “Who will remember these disposable businesses along this stretch of West 42nd Street?” Silly Timesman: the Bridge and Tunnel Club (bridgeandtunnelclub.com) is who. Those businesses are gone now, knocked down to make room for another midtown skyscraper, but not before the BTC photographed them all and added the snaps to its monumental (and truly Whitmanesque) Encyclopedia of Cultural Detritus—a steadily growing catalog of New York City street views, as seen through the loving but unsentimental eyes of photobloggers Scott Sendrow and Jennifer Keeney Sendrow. Yes, Pronto Pizza bakes no more, but online, at least, it’s not forgotten.
Indeed, the evidence compiled here—from “Amboy Road in Tottenville, Staten Island, A Walk Down” (13 pictures, with special attention to L’il Joe’s/Big Al’s Bait and Tackle Shop) to “Zaytoons Menu (Middle Eastern), Carroll Gardens” (one of a dozen or so close-up menu shots)—just goes to confirm the increasingly obvious: If ever there was a time to fear for the future of New York City’s collective urban memory, this isn’t it. Between the carpet-bombing comprehensiveness of Amazon search engine A9’s “BlockView” (maps.a9.com), photo-mapping of the city’s streets, and historically researched photoblogs like Kevin Walsh’s forgotten-ny.com, street-level New York has never been more amply and accessibly documented. But that hardly makes the spare lyricism of the Sendrows’ Encyclopedia superfluous. Every picture tells a story, after all, and in this naked city there are still at least eight million to be told.