Harold Harmatz, who owned Ratner's on the Lower East Side, died last week. His obituary in the Times is especially rich, showing how Harmatz both ran a linchpin of LES dining that offered "onion rolls, blintzes and the restaurant's staff of famously no-nonsense waiters" 24 hours a day in the days before gentrification and led the fight to prevent Robert Moses from building an expressway over the Lower East Side that would connect Williamsburg Bridge to the Holland Tunnel. As president of the East Side Chamber of Commerce, he wrote that New Yorkers should know if their city "is run by Mayor Wagner and its other responsible elected officials, or by the dark eminence of Robert Moses." As we all know, no expressway was ever built. The Lower East Side and New York thanks you, Mr. Harmatz.
Harmatz's sons built Lansky Lounge behind Ratner's. Ratner's, which closed in 2002, funnily enough, created a Second Avenue Subway sandwich in 1999, to garner support for the project: "The sandwich, which consists of sardines, onions, red peppers, black olives, tomatoes, and lettuce on a bagel, represents how crammed straphangers feel on the Lexington Avenue line."