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RIP Manny’s: A big piece of NYC music history was just cleared for demolition

RIP Manny’s: A big piece of NYC music history was just cleared for demolition
The old Manny’s storefront on West 48th Street in Manhattan. [Photo: Christopher Zara]

It was a favorite shopping spot for famous musicians from Buddy Holly and the Beatles to Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, and now the building is set to be pummeled into a purple haze.

The former site of Manny’s Music at 156 West 48th Street in Manhattan has been approved for demolition, according to a city permit issued last month. It’s a final nail in the coffin for the legendary music store that served as a mecca for generations of musicians and once stood as the crown jewel of New York’s famed Music Row. The storefront has been closed since 2009, but the five-story building had been left relatively untouched, and even still retains the large vertical “Manny’s” sign and adjacent clock. The building was built around 1920 and is not currently landmarked by the city, records show, meaning nothing is protecting it from the wrecking ball.

Dwayne Doherty, a spokesperson for Rockefeller Group, which owns the building, confirmed the permit, but said it was too early to comment on plans for the site. “We don’t comment on projects that are in the preliminary stages of development,” he said. “However we can confirm the demolition permit for 156 West 48th Street, which has enabled us to continue to advance our plans for future development.”

Manny’s operated at the site for 74 years and was frequently cited by notable musicians as the place where they purchased their first instruments. In a book about the store, Paul Simon talks about getting his first guitar there at the age of 14. Even though the store itself has been gone for eight years, music fans still visit the site often and post pictures to its unofficial Facebook page.

New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission sometimes offers landmark protection to buildings that hold a special historical significance, as it did for the Stonewall Inn—the birthplace of the gay-rights movement—in 2015, but that’s a lengthy process, and landmark designation can’t prevent work from taking place on a permit that’s already been issued. (It’s also unclear if the former Manny’s site would even rise to a level city officials would consider worthy of such protection.) A spokeswoman for the landmarks commission told me the agency has not received any requests to evaluate the building.CZ