Tucked away in the shade between two rows of cast-iron buildings at 76 Mercer Street stood Mayor Bloomberg, Billy Joel, and Clive Davis, all gathered on a temporary stage to announce that this would be the site of the New York annex of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The sign behind the trio read, “This is Rock and Roll. This is New York City.”
The alleged proof: CBGB’s old phone booth, here on display at the Wednesday midday conference, along with the electric guitar Joey Ramone played at the Ramones’ final show. Also represented, New Jersey: the first car Bruce Springsteen ever owned, a cream-colored ’57 Chevy Convertible with orange flames, sat below the stage. The Boss bought it in 1975 for $2000.
Tourists and residents walking nearby heard the press-conference commotion and wandered over. Construction workers stopped on nearby scaffolding and peered down to watch the show. Office employees stepped out on their fire escapes to get a glance of the celebrities.
The city partnered with the Ohio-based institution to exhibit local musical history through a permanent exhibit they’re calling, “New York Rocks.” As George Fertitta, CEO of NYC’s official tourism organization, put it in a press release: “With more than 46 million travelers already visiting our City each year from around the world, we are confident that the annex will be a ‘must-see’ attraction whether you are from Barcelona or Brooklyn.”
Or Long Island, if you believe the presence of Billy Joel, here to donate some of his personal memorabilia—or as he called it, “tcotchkes”—to the new museum. He looked tired.
“Billy is always willing to do things for the city pro bono,” said Bloomberg proudly. “I am glad to know him on a first-name basis.”
Joel told us he’d originally planned to donate a Mets jersey he’d received from Shea Stadium. But the jersey was currently being shipped to Hong Kong. Whoops. So instead, he grabbed some things off his walls—a bat from Mets player David Wright and a framed picture commemorating his 12 sell-outs at Madison Square Garden—and now handed them to Joel Peresman, President & CEO of the Hall of Fame foundation.
“I don’t have a speech prepared, so I’m just going to wing it,” Joel told us when he first took the microphone. Apparently. “The concert after 9/11 was the most emotional concert I ever played,” he said as part of his non-speech speech. “[After 9/11], the music community sent our country on the road to recovery.”
Hmm. The conference ended shortly after this, with Bloomberg stepping into Springsteen’s car for a very long photo op. His first car, the Mayor said, was a similar model.