Gray's Papaya the latest New York icon to fall victim to surging rents
Even famous hot-dog joint Gray's Papaya unable to withstand cost blow
No more "recession specials" neon lights and cheap bites washed down with papaya juice: New York has lost one of its most iconic hot-dog joints after three decades.
Gray's Papaya in Greenwich Village, a reputed favourite of the late rocker Lou Reed, has fallen victim to the near daily roll-call of New York institutions crushed by massive rent increases.
Shops, bars, cafes and restaurants that for generations were considered integral to the world's most exciting city have suddenly disappeared, no longer able to pay the rent.
"I'll miss getting those hot dogs at midnight," jobbing actor Peter Coleman, 28, said in a nearby bar, waxing lyrical about the shuttered premises on Sixth Avenue and 8th Street.
"It's sad to see another neighbourhood staple go the way of Ray's Pizza," said Coleman, who still misses the pizzeria that closed a few years ago.
Famous for its "recession special" - two hot dogs with a medium soft drink for US$4.95 - Gray's Papaya was a veteran culinary landmark.
Youngsters, late-night drinkers, clubbers and the homeless counting out their last coins came for a dog and the legendary papaya drink "made from the magical melons of the tropics".
They flocked to the 24-hour joint, as much for its food as its quirky decor of paper-mache fruit hanging from the ceiling and its witty ads: "If you're hungry, or broke or just in a hurry."
Another fan, film-maker Ashbey Riley, paid tribute in an emotional blog on the Huffington Post.
"I can hardly remember the first time my father took me there. I must have been about three. It doesn't matter really. Gray's became an everlasting part of my life," she wrote.
"Gray's has always been there through every phase. Gray's was enduring, never changing, always dependable, forever delicious and conveniently, Gray's was always open."
Tourists came for a genuine taste of the Big Apple.
The place featured on television and movies, among others Sex and the City, How I Met Your Mother, and the 1998 romantic comedy You've Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
Owner Nicholas Gray confirmed the reason for the closure was the sharp increase in renewing the lease.
"They wanted to raise my rent to US$50,000 [per month] from US$30,000," he was quoted as saying in local media.
Employees and the manager of Gray's remaining branch, away from the Manhattan bar scene on the Upper West Side, declined to comment.
Journalist Jeremiah Moss has catalogued rent casualties on his blog, Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, since 2001.
Moss blames much of the loss of "6,926 years of history" on billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, who left office this month.
"It's been 12 merciless years of destruction and loss, from 'significant' losses to countless 'smaller' ones - neighbourhood laundromats, shoe-repair shops, drug stores," Moss wrote.
Besides Gray's Papaya, 2014 has already seen the loss of several other businesses, including the Famous Oyster Bar, which shut down after 55 years on Seventh Avenue and 54th Street.