Volume 75, Number 33 | January 4 - 10, 2006

After 60 years, a laundry is left hung out to dry on Waverly Pl.

Harry Chong sitting one last time at his old sewing machine.
Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

“After six decades in the Village, Harry Chong closed the door to his corner laundry at Waverly Pl. and Charles St. for the last time on New Year’s Eve. The business, opened by his father in 1945, is another victim of rising rents. His rent recently was doubled.

“Sixty years, $3, now, $5,000!” Chong exclaimed when asked why he was closing. Pointing to an apartment building across Waverly Pl., he said it wasn’t even built until 1965. Asked what other businesses existed across Seventh Ave. when his father opened, he swept his hand in a grand gesture and replied, “Nothing!”

On Saturday night, he stood with a friend from the laundry across the street. At one point he sat at an old Chinese sewing machine and stitched one more piece of cloth. The mostly bare shelves held a dozen packages of pressed shirts; a handful of dry-cleaned garments hung from above.

He reassured that, after he closes, all his customers’ remaining cleaning can be picked up at the Mermaid Laundry, right across the street at Waverly Pl. and Charles St.

Before the laundry closed, Bonnie Slotnick, who owns a cookbook store on W. 10th St., called the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation to try to save the place.

“The business goes back years, and photographs of the storefront in the snow are sold at the poster galleries in the neighborhood — it’s a true local landmark,” Slotnick said. “The hand-painted lettering on the window and the orderly stacks of wrapped shirts on the shelves certainly bespeak an earlier era.”

Slotnick fears that the replacement could be “a Starbucks or worse. She said a representative for restaurateur Keith McNally was recently inquiring about the laundry space, as well as two adjacent vacant storefronts, a former Verizon store and a former restaurant, and thinks the three could be joined to form a large new restaurant space.

“And who knows what amenities the attendant crowds might need — perhaps a cell phone shop or a nail salon.”

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