City holds off on plan to diversify street fairs after community groups fight local vendor rule

Community organizations who rely on revenue from street fairs had opposed the proposal to make it mandatory to have 50 percent of the vendors be local. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Community organizations who rely on revenue from street fairs had opposed the proposal to make it mandatory to have 50 percent of the vendors be local. (Photo via Wikipedia)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

To the relief of a number of community organizations, the Mayor’s Office decided not to approve proposed new rules for street fairs for the upcoming year that would have required increased participation from local businesses. The proposal was aimed at sprinkling some local flavor into street fairs, which, despite where in the city they’re taking place, are often practically identical. The Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) of the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management (OCECM) announced on October 28 that it would be extending the existing moratorium on street fair applications through 2017. A public hearing on the proposed rule will be held this Friday.

The city had previously proposed new rules that, among other requirements, would require 50 percent of vendors participating in street fairs to be from within the community district boundaries of where the fairs were taking place. Another proposed rule would have decreased the number of fairs allowed in each community district per year from 18 to 10.

Community organizers were worried that the new regulation requiring increased participation from local vendors would affect their revenue because not enough local businesses would want to take part.

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5 Stuy Café closed after health inspection

Dec1 5 Stuy Cafe.jpg

5 Stuy Café, pictured over the summer, requested a reopening inspection on Monday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

UPDATE: The cafe is expected to reopen Thursday morning, according to Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk. Hayduk said in an email to residents on Wednesday evening that the cafe was reinspected earlier in the day.

By Sabina Mollot

5 Stuy Café, which opened in Stuyvesant Town last summer, has been closed since Saturday afternoon, following an inspection by the Department of Health.

The café, despite recently scoring an A by the city, managed to rack up 50 violation points from eight violations. They included infractions such as food items being held above the allowed temperature of 41 degrees to having foods that were from “unapproved or unknown source or home canned” to “inadequate personal cleanliness due to an outer garment being soiled with a possible contaminant,” according to details from the inspection. Six of the reported violations were deemed critical.

Others included hot food items not held at or above 140 degrees, a food protection certificate not held by the supervisor of food operations and proper sanitation not provided for utensil ware washing operation.

The department notes on its website that the inspections scores may not be final, since restaurant owners are entitled to challenge them.

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Council proposes ways to combat ‘high rent blight’

Small Business Committee Chair Council Member Robert Cornegy with a City Council attorney and Council Member Donovan Richards (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Small Business Committee Chair Council Member Robert Cornegy with a City Council attorney and Council Member Donovan Richards (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Suggestions include restrictions on chain stores, penalties for long vacancies of storefronts

By Sabina Mollot

The ongoing saga of New York City’s mom-and-pops facing extinction was the topic du jour at the City Council chambers on Friday, when a hearing was devoted to possible solutions. There were suggestions from Council members on ideas like restricting the ability of chains from opening (though this was shot down by city planners) and discussion on how to get businesses to open in neighborhoods that are currently underserved.

At the hearing, which was co-chaired by Small Business Committee Chair Robert Cornegy and Zoning and Franchise Sub-Committee Chair Council Member Donovan Richards, the Council members brought up “high rent blight,” a term coined by Columbia Professor Tim Wu to describe the warehousing of retail spaces by speculative landlords that’s led to many storefronts remaining empty for long periods.

“As Frank Sinatra once said, ‘If you make it here you can make it anywhere,’” said Cornegy, “but it seems that now real estate is so hot that even businesses who’ve made it (are closing). People have less and less interaction with bank tellers and we have banks on every block. We have commercial corridors with artificially inflated prices.”

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Marco’s now a Chinese restaurant with new owners and same name

Owner Aidi Xu and chef Feng Hui, who’s also her business partner, are hoping to change people’s perceptions of Chinese restaurants as fast food places. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Owner Aidi Xu and chef Feng Hui, who’s also her business partner, are hoping to change people’s perceptions of Chinese restaurants as fast food places. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents familiar with a restaurant called Marco’s on Second Avenue near East 23rd Street might know the business name but might be surprised that the spot now serves Chinese food instead of Italian tapas. Owner Aidi Xu opened the new restaurant in mid-August under the same name as the space’s previous occupant, even though the two restaurants offer two completely different kinds of cuisine.

One thing the two spots do have in common is the bar, which Xu said she wanted to use as a connection from the old iteration of Marco’s (which also added “A Taste of China” to the name) to the new one.

“People wouldn’t normally come to a Chinese restaurant for drinks so we’re trying to utilize that,” she said.

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Ess-a-Bagel finally reopens

Owners plan to offer outdoor seating

Co-owner Mike Wenzelberg at the new shop in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Co-owner Mike Wenzelberg at the new shop in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Carb fiends rejoice! Ess-a-Bagel’s new shop in Stuyvesant Town opened to a soft opening on Sunday, after multiple delays following an initially planned reopening date of February.

On Tuesday, following the Labor Day weekend, by noon, the line was already snaking around the back of the shop to 10 people and one of the owners, Mike Wenzelberg, reported business had so far been good.

Wenzelberg also sat down with a Town & Village reporter to discuss the reasons behind the delays, the controversial decision to install a toaster at the new shop and the company’s rabidly loyal fan base.

On Sunday, he recalled how a young woman outside, upon seeing Ess-a-Bagel was open, was “dancing and jumping.” Already, he’s seen quite a few regulars from the original location across First Avenue, which lost its lease nearly two years ago to Tal Bagels.

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Carb Tease: Ess-a-Bagel says re-opening is next week

Sept8 Ess-A-Bagel bagels

Toasty (not toasted) Ess-a-Bagels (Photo by Danny Chin)

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday, Ess-a-Bagel announced via Facebook that the long delayed store opening in Stuyvesant Town would be some time early next week.

“Will post the exact date over the weekend. Happy Labor Day and look forward to seeing you all next week!!” read a post.

Owner David Wilpon didn’t return a call for comment but said previously that the delay in opening had to do with numerous permits.

Ess-a-Bagel at 324 First Avenue was originally supposed to open in February, nearly a year after the company lost its lease across the street to Tal Bagels.

Since then three permits have been approved by the city for work related to the new store’s renovation, for signage, sprinklers and floors.

By Wednesday, Town & Village reader Danny Chin alerted us that good news was in the air.

“I was lucky enough to get a photo of the 1st test batch of bagels from the new Ess-a-Bagel,” he said. “They were testing out their new oven as I was walking by this afternoon. The bagel was nicely blistered and crispy.”

Tivoli owner agrees to remove word ‘bar’ from new cafe’s sign

Tivoli’s owner said there would be no stand-up bar and the establishment would close at midnight, which calmed some concern from neighbors that the place could become a college watering hole. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tivoli’s owner said there would be no stand-up bar and the establishment would close at midnight, which calmed some concern from neighbors that the place could become a college watering hole. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The owner of the new Tivoli restaurant on Third Avenue has agreed to remove the word “bar” from his signage in exchange for the support of the community in his application for a full liquor license at the incoming establishment.

Owner Gus Kassimis voluntarily agreed to the change last Thursday at a meeting held by Community Board 6’s Business Affairs and Street Activities committee, which voted to approve the application.

Kassimis also agreed that the restaurant, which is replacing the popular Lyric Diner, would not have a stand-up bar. He also said in his application that the business would be closing by midnight every day, which quelled neighborhood anxieties about the place’s potential to become rowdy college student hang-out.

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Fujifilm opens modern day photo print shop in Flatiron

Wonder Photo on Fifth Avenue (Photo by  Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Wonder Photo on Fifth Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

As tourists wander around Madison Square Park taking pictures that mostly stay trapped inside their phones, a new shop nearby on Fifth Avenue is hoping to encourage these photographers to create more lasting memories with the snaps.

Photography company Fujifilm opened Wonder Photo Shop at the end of July and an employee told T&V that the purpose of the store is to get people more engaged in photography by having their photos printed out instead of only stored on their devices.

The store features a DIY lounge that will soon offer classes from experts and special guests to help crafters create personalized photo products and there is a variety of scrapbooking materials to choose from. There will also be classes available on the technical aspects of photography.

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East 14th Street Target slated to open in 2018

Rendering of Target slated for East 14th Street at Avenue A

Rendering of Target slated for East 14th Street at Avenue A

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Target representatives confirmed this week that a store will be opening in the retail space at the Extell Development on the corner of Avenue A at 500 East 14th Street. The “flexible format” store, which is expected to open in summer 2018, will reportedly be “tailored to meet the needs” of city dwellers by offering home items for decorating small living spaces, as well as grab-and-go food selections.

The store will also offer men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, health, personal care and beauty products and portable technology products.

In a press release on Wednesday, the company said the flexible store design allows Target to open locations in smaller retail spaces and the company is focusing on growth in the urban market, with 23 flexible-format stores currently open throughout the country and more planned for this and next year, including in Forest Hills, Queens and downtown Brooklyn.

“We want to make it easier for guests in New York to shop at Target, so we’re focused on flexible-format store growth in Manhattan,” said Mark Schindele, senior vice president for Properties at Target. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Extell Development for this terrific location just below Stuyvesant Town, and we can’t wait to be part of the East Village neighborhood.”

The new store on East 14th Street will include 27,000 square feet on two levels, with 9,500 square feet at street level and 17,700 feet on the lower level.

 

Meet your local farmers: ST Greenmarket’s B & Y Farms

July14 Greenmarket BY Farms cropped

Judy Genova, owner of B & Y Farms (Photo by Maya Rader)

 

By Maya Rader

Judy Genova has always been a “pioneer,” as her mother says. Though Genova was born at Beth Israel Medical Center and grew up on the Lower East Side, she is now the owner of B & Y Farms, a 74-acre sheep, pig and chicken farm in Spencer, NY. “I just go in a different direction than everyone else,” Genova said.

Genova began to live on the land in 1991. As a stay-at-home mom, she homeschooled her children, and had a huge garden and some chickens. However, she didn’t start farming until nine years ago. She explained, “I just decided I’m paying a lot of taxes on this land; how can I put it to better use?”

B & Y Farms is not organic, though it is, “very natural” as Genova put it. Being organic, she explained, is “a paperwork nightmare.” Genova said she knows certified organic farmers who have to hire a full-time secretary to keep up with all of the paperwork.

Genova’s job title is technically owner, but at the farm she works on “anything and everything.” For example, this past winter she had over 70 pregnant sheep and no help. “I was on-call all of the time,” She said. “I basically did everything a shepherd would do, and also everything I guess a sheep-obstetrician would do.”

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Angel earns her City Wings (and a $100 tip from customer)

Eliana Polanco holds up a thank you note and $100 given to her by a woman she’d tracked down to return a handbag left behind at City Wings.

Eliana Polanco holds up a thank you note and $100 given to her by a woman she’d tracked down to return a handbag left behind at City Wings.

By Sabina Mollot

The mensch of the month award officially goes to Eliana Polanco, a cashier at First Avenue restaurant City Wings, who went above and beyond her duties in order to return a forgotten handbag to a customer.

William Hsu, a manager at the restaurant, contacted Town & Village to share the story which began on Sunday evening, April 3, when a customer left her handbag behind. It was soon found by Polanco, who then stayed over an hour past her shift, which ended at 11 p.m. to see if the customer would return. She didn’t yet know who the bag belonged to, but when no one came to claim it that evening, Polanco rifled through it in search of identification.

She then learned that the bag’s owner’s name was Lauren and she lived on 18th Street, so after her shift at the restaurant, at the corner of East 20th Street, Polanco walked over to the apartment building. Once there, however, she saw that it was under renovation and all the tenants had been moved to a midtown hotel.

“That’s when Eliana decided to come back to the store to wait for the customer because Lauren had also left both of her cell phones inside the bag,” Hsu said.

Sure enough, a frantic Lauren did come back, asking if her bag was there. Polanco said it was and also confessed to having had to look through it.

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Mariella Pizza closes doors after 37 years

Mariella Pizza closed due to a gas issue in January, then never reopened. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Mariella Pizza closed due to a gas issue in January, then never reopened. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Mariella Pizza, which had slung slices for 37 years on Third Avenue before closing in January due to a gas issue, has gone for good.

On Monday, April 4, the pizzeria held a public auction to clear out its equipment before closing its doors once again.

One of the owners, who introduced himself as Tony but didn’t want his last name mentioned, said he would have stayed had he been offered a “fair lease,” but also indicated there were other factors like a vent that wasn’t up to building code, which he said the landlord had concerns about. However, on the latter issue, Tony said he couldn’t have it fixed. “If it was something simple, we would have addressed it,” he said.

Tony isn’t currently planning to reopen Mariella’s at another location.

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Visana owners get a break–for now

Visana pizzeria and cocktail lounge (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Visana pizzeria and cocktail lounge (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The owners of troubled First Avenue cocktail lounge Visana got a break on Tuesday when an administrative law judge granted an adjournment during a hearing at the State Liquor Authority to give them time to get an attorney. The adjournment for the two owners, David Jaffee and Ross Rachlin, came despite objections from the attorney for the SLA.

Margarita Marsico, associate general counsel for the authority, objected to Judge Ann Cullen’s adjournment because, she argued, Jaffee and Rachlin have had more than enough time to get legal representation. She said that prior to scheduling the hearing, the owners no longer had an attorney but Jaffee had indicated that he would be representing himself.

“We proposed this date ahead of time and he’d had ample time to get a lawyer,” she said. “He’s had an attorney (previously) and said that this date was okay. He had ways of meeting me and getting in touch with me about this.”

Marsico added that, due to the serious nature of the charges over noise, a number of residents had come to testify and they had agreed to appear under the presumption that they would actually get to testify at the Tuesday hearing.

“I have an 83-year-old resident who’s sick who came to testify,” she said. “It’s unusual to have residents testify in a case like this and I have four who came today. I respect everyone’s right to representation but he knew how to hire a liquor lawyer to apply for the license and he acts like he doesn’t know what to do now.”

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Stuy Town Associated owner’s Chelsea store is facing closure

Customers and elected officials attend a rally in support of the supermarket at West 14th Street. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Customers and elected officials attend a rally in support of the supermarket at West 14th Street. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of Chelsea and Greenwich Village, along with local elected officials, this past Sunday protested the impending closure of an Associated Supermarket on West 14th, which is run by the same owners as the Stuyvesant Town Associated.

The store, located at 255 West 14th Street near Eighth Avenue, is in the tenth year of a 15-year lease but principal owner Joseph Falzon said it will likely be forced to close in May because of a stipulation that says the rent can be increased to market value in the last five years of the lease.

It was previously reported that the rent would be increased to $200,000 and although the actual increase would be half that at $100,000, it is still substantially more than the store’s current rent of $32,000.

“Even if we came to an agreement, the rent can’t be much more than what it is now anyway or we won’t survive,” Falzon said.

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Cops issue summonses for underage drinking at First Avenue lounge

Mar17 Visana

Visana, a pizzeria in front and cocktail lounge in back, on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Visana, the First Avenue speakeasy style cocktail lounge that’s previously drawn the ire of neighbors due to nighttime noise, had the 13th Precinct’s commanding officer seeing red recently after officers issued seven summonses for underage drinking.

Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney said the 13th Precinct will be taking a more active role with regards to disruptive patrons at Visana after those incidents, which occurred at the end of February.

“We’ve been on top of them lately but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Timoney said. “(Visana owner David Jaffee) was crying out in the street saying they didn’t want this to happen but they advertised a party that night. They knew this would happen when they packed the place.”

Jaffee and his partner Ross Rachlin have been at a number of meetings of the 13th Precinct Community Council in the last few months but were not present this Tuesday as Timoney addressed community members.

Area residents, who were at the meeting to find out if progress had been made in keeping the bar under control, praised the police officers who have responded to the scene in dealing with the drunken crowds.

Visana recently failed to get the support of a Community Board 6 committee in its hopes for renewal of its liquor license. The business has an upcoming hearing with the State Liquor Authority regarding charges on noise and license issues.

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