Katz’s Deli is about as close to a sacred space as we can think of. Forget landmark status; the place is a shrine, the soul of what remains of New York Jewish-American culture. So the rumors we have been hearing about its imminent purchase by condo developers are disturbing — and not any less so for being a little more persuasive than the ones we’ve heard in the past. Katz’s management denies the move, but ubiquitous restaurant Realtor Alex Picken tells us that he’s getting some specifics through the grapevine.
“From what I’m hearing, they will sell, a large building will go up, and then Katz’s will move back in and take over the first floor,” he says. Though a wrecked Katz’s would be in irreparable loss, we would settle for that; as long as their immortal pastrami, the heart of the Lower East Side, persisted, Katz’s would continue to matter. Much as we love the ancient walls and counters, they don’t define what makes the place special. (And anyway, we’re sure if it did happen, every effort would be made to make the new place look the same as the old.) But will it happen? It seems against human nature for anybody to resist the millions of dollars co-owners Fred Austin and Alan Dell are certainly being offered. Other men have sold atomic secrets for less.