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Duane Reade Sign

Heading to Canarsie in 2018, I spied this Duane Reade sign at 1 Remsen Avenue—which shares a crazy intersection with East New York Avenue, Utica Avenue and Empire Boulevard—tickled by its shape and colors; it brought to mind a rogue chess piece.

The shape—a cylinder-bracketed cuboid—and the isolation, reminded me of the Borselino hat on Coney Island Avenue. But this sign is more than isolated—stranded might be a better word—as if it had been there a long time, escaping history, the city flooding and ebbing around it.

Duane Reade, founded in 1960 by by Abraham, Eli and Jack Cohen—the first store was on Broadway between Duane Street and Reade Street—most recently sold to Walgreens Boots Alliance for $1.070 billion—has 250 locations, almost all in New York City. This outpost may have been the strangest.

After minimal digging, I discovered that the site—and the sign—originally belonged to Empire Chevrolet, which closed—according to Brownstoner—in the 1980s, but had a long Brooklyn history.

During a return visit on a brutally hot July 22, I discovered that the Duane Reade and its sign were gone—though the steel skeleton remained. Perhaps a victim of Walgreen’s recent cost-cutting announcement that it’s closing 200 stories nationwide?

Denuded, the skeleton lacks the sign’s beacon-esque power.


Staggering across one of the intersections, I came upon a tiny triangle formed by Empire Boulevard, Utica Avenue, and East New York Avenue, where someone—the Parks Department?—has planted a brave little garden with a phantasmagoria of flora. But after a few minutes trying to make sense of the kalaidoscopic plant-life, the location and traffic noise and brutal heat turned my visit into a bad trip.

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