Flatiron’s red-light district past explored in historic walking tour

This building on Sixth Avenue and 24th Street was once home to Koster & Bial, a music hall where scantily clad dancers would spend time with guests in private rooms. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While these days, the neighborhoods of Flatiron and NoMad are known for their newly built, trendy hotels and an increase in families moving into the neighborhood, what few who even live there know is that at one time it was home to numerous houses of ill repute, gambling dens and saloons.

This was during an era that spanned from about 1870 to 1910, with the area then commonly known as the Tenderloin. It was also called Satan’s Circus, or at least it was by the Tenderloin’s most vocal critic, Reverend Charles Parkhurst of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, while slamming it in a Sunday sermon.

Over a century later, that swath of the city can still be explored — or at least the area that once housed those infernal brothels as well as hotels and dance halls where much of the action took place — through a weekly walking tour.

The tour, coordinated through the Museum of Sex on Fifth Avenue, is led by Robert Brenner, a veteran New York tour giver. He is also an almost 30-year resident of Chelsea, in a section of the neighborhood that was once within the confines of the Tenderloin, the boundaries of which have shifted over the decades.

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Con Edison will pay $636G in settlement from East River oil spill

Oct3 Con Ed and Stuy Town

Con Ed’s East River substation south of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As a result of a transformer malfunction at a Con Ed substation that caused 30,000 gallons of insulating oil to leak into the East River last May, the utility has entered into a settlement with the state, and will be paying $636,015 in damages and penalties.

As part of the settlement with the Department of Environmental Conservation for violating of New York State Environmental Conservation Law, Con Ed will also be required to continue the cleanup effort. The company will also be expected to assess the petroleum containment compliance at its 13 waterfront substations located throughout the boroughs.

The May 7, 2017 incident happened at the utility company’s Farragut Substation in Brooklyn, with the DEC and the U.S. Coast Guard quickly descending on the scene in Manhattan and Brooklyn to try to minimize the contamination of the river. While the substance, dielectric fluid is similar to mineral oil, as opposed to petroleum, it was still foreign to the East River. Following the leak, booms were placed in the water and absorbent pads were placed along the shorelines where much of the fluid had seeped.

The settlement payout will go towards funding for local environmental and restoration efforts. Out of the $636,015, $100,100 will go to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy for its water-based environmental education and kayaking programs, and $71,000 in natural resource damages to New York City Audubon for its Governors Island common terns nesting project. The remaining $464,915 will go to the New York State Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund (Oil Spill Fund), New York State Conservation Fund, and the State General Fund.

“At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York continues to prioritize improving and protecting the State’s waters,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The funding that came out of DEC’s enforcement action and penalty against Con Edison highlights the positive investments that can be made after an unfortunate event. Settlement investments through DEC’s Environmental Benefit Projects Policy will improve and restore the environment and natural resource damages funding serves to make the public whole.”

In response to the settlement, which the DEC announced on Wednesday, Allan Drury, a spokesperson for Con Ed said, “We are pleased to have resolved issues stemming from this incident and to support valuable environmental programs.”

Drury added that there was “no long-term impact” to the East River as a result of the spill. “The cleanup process mentioned in DEC’s announcement relates only to what is left of the spill on Con Ed’s substation property, not in the river,” he said.

Robbers force Kips Bay spa worker into back room

Oct3 Kips Bay robbery suspects

Two of the robbery suspects

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are looking for three men who forced a spa worker into a back room during a robbery.

On Thursday at 4 a.m. the robbers strolled into Wood Spa at 133 Lexington Avenue at East 29th Street where a 30-year-old woman was working. Despite the early hour, they were able to enter the business by posing as customers, police said. However, the men then started asking for money and opening drawers. After snatching the employee’s cell phone, they forced her into a back room. It isn’t known if they took anything else before fleeing the scene. Police said the victim had bruising but no serious injuries.

Oct3 Kips Bay robbery suspects2

Robbery suspects

A phone number for the business had no option to leave a message when Town & Village called.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at

Nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

L train, noise and MCIs will be addressed at Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village TA meeting

L train construction and other train related issues will be discussed on Saturday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As was announced earlier this month, the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will be holding a meeting a number of issues on Saturday, September 29 at 2 p.m.

Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg says those who attend can expect to learn more about the following topics:

One will be the L train, specifically residents’ concerns surrounding construction, and, once the shutdown begins, transportation.

“The MTA and the DOT are being awfully vague about what their plans are,” Steinberg said. “As you reported about the L train, they talk about mitigation steps but they don’t say what they are. And I love how they said they’re not really going to be 24/7, but if they need to be, they will.”

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Nature-inspired sculptures now on display at Madison Square Park

This sculpture of a woman is now on display as part of Arlene Shechet’s installation, “Full Steam Ahead.” (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has debuted a series of nature-inspired sculptures as the latest public art installation to go up at the park. The work opened to the public on Tuesday to torrential downpours throughout the morning and afternoon but the rain lightened to a drizzle in time for the installation’s opening reception that evening.

Sculptor Arlene Shechet created 11 different pieces that make up “Full Steam Ahead,” designed as an outdoor room intended to be interactive. Shechet is primarily known for her work in ceramic but the pieces in this exhibition are made from cast iron, wood, steel and porcelain.

Shechet refers to the exhibition as a “manufactured version of nature” and the installation is functional as well as a work of art, with a number of the pieces functioning as seating. Shechet said that the installation was initially inspired by memories of the living room in her grandparents’ apartment.

The pieces, located along the pathways and perimeter of the park’s reflecting pool, are human-scale sculptures that create a physical presence for visitors, and Shechet used forms suggestive of the nature around the park, such as twigs, tree trunks and other plants. Other sculptures around the pool are reminiscent of various fauna, some of which could be found at the park, such as a feather from a bird, although another, part of a lion’s head and paw, is less common in the middle of Manhattan.

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SBJSA will finally get Council hearing

Sept27 closed Loop

Loop restaurant on Third Avenue in Gramercy closed over the summer. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which has existed in some for over 30 years, will finally be getting the hearing its advocates have been pushing for.

According to the Small Business Congress, possibly the bill’s most vocal supporter, the City Council’s Small Business Committee will be holding a hearing on October 22 at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, the SBC and others who’ve been pushing for the bill’s passage, as well as its opponents in the real estate industry, have expressed some pessimism over how the bill will be debated. In the case of the former, it’s over a belief that the bill is just going to get watered down, and in the case of the latter, over the argument that the bill is illegal.

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Letters to the editor, Sept. 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Poor planning could impact local ERs

I’ve been worried about the fact that the Sanitation Garage pushed circa 2015 is referred to by some in NYCity’s government as “on hold.” I assume that means someone will reintroduce it sometime.

For now there’s T&V’s story (Maria Rocha-Buschel’s really thorough piece on 9/6/18) about parking some garbage trucks near Bellevue.  It seems to me what needs addressing is why is the city allowing the garage at 606 West 30th Street to fall to eviction?

This is between 11th and the Westside Highway and, if it’s not inside Hudson Yard’s perimeters, it’s next to it. My suspicions are that big developer money has prevailed to push the need for garbage collection out of the shiny new Hudson Yards. How did the city let this happen even if it was under the Bloomberg administration? Is it too late to alter any of this? Are any politicians addressing this issue?

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Police Watch: Men arrested for cornering woman, assaulting date in separate incidents

MAN ACCUSED OF CORNERING WOMAN IN BAR BATHROOM
Police arrested 35-year-old Ronald Alomar for alleged unlawful imprisonment inside the Oscar Wilde bar at 45 West 27th Street on Friday, September 21 at 8:15 p.m.

The victim told police that she was in the women’s bathroom in one of the stalls and when she was finished, she unlocked the door to leave. Upon doing so, Alomar allegedly walked into the same stall using his body to push the victim against the stall wall. The victim said that Alomar didn’t move but didn’t allow her to leave, using the front of his body to hold her in the stall.

The victim said that she ultimately wiggled her way out of the stall and Alomar allegedly fled but was caught at 28th Street and Sixth Avenue. The victim said that Alomar never said a word and never used his hands to touch her.

Alomar was also charged with harassment for allegedly spitting on an officer while inside the vestibule at Bellevue Hospital on Saturday, September 22 at 12:45 a.m.

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Animals find homes at Adoptapalooza in Union Square Park

By Maya Rader

Two-legged and four-legged patrons alike flocked to Union Square on Sunday afternoon for the pet-adoption extravaganza, Adoptapalooza. Hosted by the NYC Mayor’s Alliance for Animals, the event offered over 500 adoptable dogs, cats and rabbits in tents lining the north side of Union Square and the neighboring Petco. For those who already had a four-pawed pal, the event boasted a free microchipping tent, dog training enclosure, and many booths with merchandise and information. Union Square was crowded with hundreds of attendees, and after a few hours, many of the cages that were once filled with adoptable pets were empty, having found new homes.

Photos by Maya Rader

Opinion: Cuomo’s conundrum

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Elections results usually reveal answers to political questions. Last week’s Democratic primaries did that, but also raised a raft of new questions, some of which will determine the course of important policy issues next year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated his rival Cynthia Nixon with nearly two thirds of the vote. Usually that would be cause for celebration in the winning camp. But the noticeable muted response from the Cuomo campaign speaks volumes.

In vanquishing his opponent, Cuomo outspent Nixon by almost 10 to 1, depleting his considerable campaign war chest. And along the way he made some bad gaffes which may come back to haunt him. Moreover, his political strategy over his first eight years in office of maintaining control over the state legislature seems to be coming to an end.

By tacitly supporting the breakaway Senate Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) for years, Cuomo enabled the Republican Party to maintain control over the State Senate. The Republican leadership in turn kept a lid on a number of progressive pieces of legislation emanating from the Assembly including tenant protections, health insurance reforms, tax policy, education spending and political campaign contributions.

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Police arrest man for allegedly choking woman at 14th St. diner

Second suspect, who police say choked the victim

By Sabina Mollot

Police have arrested a second suspect in connection with an incident last month when a woman was choked and beaten at Good Stuff Diner.

On Tuesday, September 11, police arrested Bobby Williams, 27, a resident of Harlem. Williams is believed by police to be the one who started choking the victim. The other suspect, Caswell Senior, 31, of Brooklyn, was arrested shortly after the incident and charged with robbery.

Williams has been charged with robbery, assault and strangulation. He also has two prior arrests, one a weapon possession charge in 2010, the other a robbery charge in 2013.

Police said that around 4:40 a.m. on Sunday, August 5, the victim, a 23-year-old woman, got into an argument with three people, two male and one female, at the diner, which is west of Sixth Avenue at 109 West 14th Street. The woman had been recording the suspects and upon seeing this, one of them tried to snatch the phone from her hand to delete the video.

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Most Stuy Town businesses affected by electrical fire reopen

The First Avenue shops were barricaded off as Con Ed continued to work at the scene last Thursday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following the manhole fire under Stuyvesant Town that caused the evacuation of stores from 18th to 20th Streets on First Avenue, all but one of the businesses have reopened.

The one that didn’t, Ibiza Kidz, was hit the hardest in terms of smoke damage. While cleaning and airing out her shop and assessing damage last Thursday, owner Carole Husiak said she lost her almost all her inventory, including what was in the basement. Additionally, none of the clothing items could be restocked since they were ordered six months ago from wholesalers and are now out of stock.

Husiak said she’s since worked with vendors for new clothing to be brought in quickly. And the scooters and helmets previously in stock are still okay.

However, it isn’t clear yet when the store will reopen since the cleanup effort in coordination with her insurance companies, is ongoing.

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Resident plays a poetic prisoner on ‘Orange is the New Black’

Sept13 Dana Berger OINTB 2

Dana Berger plays Crystal Tawney in the series’ sixth season.

By Sabina Mollot

“Orange is the New Black,” one of the most popular shows on Netflix, began streaming its sixth season on July 27. This season, which follows up after a prison riot, centers on a new maximum-security existence for those who were involved in the breakout as well as other newly-introduced inmates. Among the crew of new characters is the Jesus-loving, haiku-weaving Crystal Tawney, who is played by Dana Berger, a lifelong resident of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village.

Berger, who is already filming the next season, is in four episodes of the current one. For those who have yet to binge-watch it all, Berger spoke with Town & Village recently about her character, how she got the part and how a fictional show has opened America’s eyes to the very real consequences of incarceration.

Berger, who’d been getting roles in local and regional theater as well as acting in web-based comedy videos, got her first major TV part as a paramedic on the CBS series, “Elementary.” She was later asked to returned to the role only to see the character killed off.

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Eleven-story building planned at former site of Beth Israel Karpas Center

Sept20 Karpas demolished

CIM group is the owner of the First Avenue property, which previously housed four small buildings. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm CIM Group appears to be moving along with its plans for the property that used to be the Beth Israel Karpas Health Information Center.

The four small adjoining buildings on First Avenue and 18th Street across from Stuyvesant Town have finally been demolished after undergoing a lengthy asbestos abatement treatment.

Additionally, CIM Group has filed an application with the Department of Buildings to be an eleven-story residential building with some retail space. According to the filing, it will have 48,374 square feet of residential use and 6,966 of commercial (with a total 55,340). Continue reading

L train neighbors worried about noise, dust and diesel

The possibility of 24/7 construction on East 14th Street as the Avenue A subway entrance is being built was raised at a town hall meeting on Monday night. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Village residents and local politicians demanded detailed mitigation plans from transit officials about noise and air quality relating to the upcoming L train shutdown at a recent town hall.

Speakers at the meeting, held on Monday night, brought up the construction that has already taken over East 14th Street and Avenue A as part of the work for the new subway entrance for the L train, with multiple others commenting on the increase in diesel buses in neighborhoods throughout Lower Manhattan.

“I think many of my neighbors were still surprised to realize that this will be a 24/7 construction zone moving forward in the months and years ahead,” Council Member Keith Powers said at the meeting, noting that he has already been hearing from constituents living near the construction zone at Avenue A who are dealing with noise, dust and vibrations in their apartments.

“That is in addition to everything else that we’ve talked about, which is making sure that people will be able to get to work every single day and get around the city,” Powers said. “I would ask again that we have a real plan to address long-term construction area around 14th Street, that we have a dust mitigation and noise plan. We can still do better in addressing these issues.”

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