New Mediterranean spot giving away free meals until 9 p.m.

The line at VERTS earlier this afternoon (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The line at VERTS earlier this afternoon (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New East 23rd Street restaurant VERTS Mediterranean Grill debuted across from Madison Square Park by offering free entrees on their first day of business today.

Keith Peterson, the vice president of marketing for the company, said that the free meals on the day of a grand opening is a standard business practice for the company, which is based in Texas and recently opened its first East Coast location in Boston recently and the East 23rd Street spot is the restaurant’s first New York location. There are no restrictions on what entrees customers can order and the full menu is available to pick from. Entrees include pitas, salads, rice bowls and quinoa bowls with protein add-ins, vegetable toppings and a variety of sauces. Side orders and drinks are not included in the deal but Peterson noted that the profits from those sales today will be donated to charity.

The restaurant is open until 10 p.m. and plans to serve the free meals until an hour before closing. The line still stretched down the block by 3 p.m., crossing in front of the entrances for neighbors Chop’t and Gasoline Alley Coffee, but Peterson said that it was even longer earlier in the day before the wind started picking up, and there was even a line at 10:30 a.m., half an hour before the restaurant opened for the day. Customers were waiting between half an hour to an hour for their meals and Peterson predicted that the line would get longer again once office workers started leaving for the day.

Former Tammany Hall gets $57.5M for renovation

The former home of New York's political machine is being renovated to house office space and retail.

The former home of New York’s political machine is being renovated to house office space and retail.

By Sabina Mollot

The planned transformation of the former Tammany Hall in Union Square into a retail/office building has just gotten a little closer to becoming reality with $57.5 million in financing.

RM Capital Management, a real estate and merchant banking firm, announced on Friday it had arranged to provide that amount in first mortgage and mezzanine construction financing on behalf of the building’s owner Reading International, Inc.

The landmarked building is being gut renovated to include a total of six stories that will have a glass-domed roof, and the space will be leased for retail and office purposes. Its new address will be 44 Union Square; originally it was 100 East 17th Street.

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Editorial: Albany gets even less transparent

Jan7 Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman is opposed to the new policy. (Photo courtesy of Senator Hoylman)

Last week, State Senator Brad Hoylman, a frequent critic of his own chamber in Albany, posted a photo of that very chamber on his Twitter feed. It would likely be the last photo he’d be posting of the place, he revealed, thanks to a new rule voted in by the Republican majority to ban photo-taking there by anyone except official Senate photographers. This means lawmakers, members of the press and members of the public will from now on be made to ask permission first any time they think it’s important to record a moment, whether it’s of a vote or debate or any other relevant thing happening.

The vote came shortly after Congress proposed a similar policy to fine members for taking photos or livestreaming from the House floor.

The reasoning for the Senate rule, according to its sponsor, is that photo-taking and other cell phone use is disruptive during proceedings.

Fortunately, Hoylman has recognized this weak argument for what it is, an excuse to further shroud the legislative process in secrecy, since apparently having all major decisions impacting the state made by three men in a room just isn’t enough. Asked what inspired his colleagues to start 2017 with even less transparency than in prior years, Hoylman guessed it has to do with the fact that sometimes, other than candid photos of hands in the air that end up on social media, there’s no publicly available record of who voted for what. And many would like to keep it that way.

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