Let There Be Neon – a store opened back on 451 West Broadway in 1990 owned by Jeff Friedman – makes quite a few things shine bright. Originally opened by Rudy Stern, a painter, docu-filmmaker and artist in 1972, two years later it was recognized as “the first ever gallery dedicated to neon,” and was the first to install a neon environment for a disco. Its history tells much more of a tale, but today it offers works of art via animation, graphic design, pieces for residential areas, film, TV and other media and more.
What is the beauty and excitement behind this? Friedman believes that:
“Neon is red when it’s lit, the pure color of neon. But we also use argon, which is blue, and by combining the different gases with different glass colors or phosphorus inside the tube, that’s how we get all the different colors.”
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, “Let There Be Neon” was still shining bright, at least in all its neon glory, was store after store was shuttered following stay at home orders.
Now that things are somewhat getting back to normal, the SoHo region is boasting its offerings. From galleries to architecture, boutique and unique stores, this move is being bolstered by a rezoning proposal put forward by Bill de Blasio, NYC Mayor. If accepted, this would add a substantial amount of apartments to the area – 3,200 – 800 of which would be priced lower than the market rate.
While this would indeed help tackle the homeless crisis, the question has to be asked as to what it would do the city’s culture? Plus there is the environmental concern. Nonetheless, Will Thomas who sits on the Open New York board believes it would actually create an “historic opportunity, claiming:
“This would really change the unspoken rules around development in New York City. Breaking down the exclusionary barriers of SoHo is a matter of racial justice, is a matter of housing justice, and especially right now during a pandemic, affordable housing is more needed than ever.”
Whatever transpires and however it impacts the environment and the region’s culture, ‘Let There Be Neon’ shined bright it will continue to illuminate its environs.