Local Halloween events for adults

(Pictured L-R) Elizabeth Barkan, Elena Shadrina and Charles Battersby as Eco-Witches in a skit for Theater for the New City’s Village Halloween Ball (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

(Pictured L-R) Elizabeth Barkan, Elena Shadrina and Charles Battersby as Eco-Witches in a skit for Theater for the New City’s Village Halloween Ball (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

Halloween is coming up, and while one could always head to a nightclub or the parade that evening there are other things for adults to do. Read on for details of a few local events.

Ghosts of Greenwich Village Tour—In the days leading up to Halloween (every evening at 7:30 p.m. until the 31st of October) Ghosts of New York presents “Edgar Allan Poe and His Ghostly Neighbors of Greenwich Village.” Participants will go in search of the spirits of Eleanor Roosevelt and her pet dog Fala, Aaron Burr, the ghosts of the New York University Library and of Washington Square Arch, and, of course, several Edgar Allan Poe sites.

Meeting place is 85 West Third Street, one block south of Washington Square Park between Thompson and Sullivan Streets, Greenwich Village in Manhattan opposite Fire Patrol Station no. 2. Tours are $20 for adults, $15 students and seniors. For more information or to book the tour, visit http://www.ghostsofny.com.

Ghosts of the East Village Tour—Ghosts of New York presents “Peter Stuyvesant and His Ghostly Friends of the East Village” tour on October 31 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Participants will go in search of Peter Stuyvesant’s ghostly friends such as Edgar Allan Poe, August Belmont, Joe Papp, Washington Irving, Tredwell sisters of the Merchant House Museum, Samuel Clemens, Harry Houdini, and many others in the East Village.

This tour departs from the lion sculpture in Abe Lebewohl Park in front of St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, northwest corner of Second Avenue and 135 East Tenth Street. Tours are wheel-chair accessible, 90 minutes in duration, and approximately a mile in length. The cost is $20 for adults, $15 students and seniors. For more information, visit http://www.ghostsofny.com or call (646) 493-7092.

Theater for the New City Costume Ball and performances—Theater for the New City presents its 38th annual Village Halloween Costume Ball on Friday, October 31 at TNC, 155 First Avenue at 10th Street. The event takes over all four of TNC’s theater spaces, plus its lobby and the block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues.

Hot Lavendar Swing Band, an all-Gay and Lesbian 18-piece orchestra, and Maquina Mono (The Monkey Machine), a Latin Salsa Rock band, will perform at The Johnson Theater. The theater will also have aerial dance by Suspended Cirque. Holiday dishes are contributed by neighboring East Village restaurants. There will be performance artists, songwriters, poets and variety artists including Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Evan Laurence, Arthur Abrams, Norman Savitt, Richard West, Ellen Steier, Dawoud Kringle (sitar) and Gary Heidt.

Outside, there are R&B and Dixieland bands, fire eaters, jugglers, storyweavers and stilt dancers, all free to the public and a gift from TNC to its neighborhood. Inside, there is theater all evening. The lobby will be divided into rooms featuring rooms for astrology/numerology readings. Phyllis Yampolsky will throw the I-Ching.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and indoor entertainment begins at 8 p.m. There will be two continuously-running cabarets. Outdoor entertainment, free to the public, will start at 4:30 p.m. Outdoor entertainment is capped by “The Red and Black Masque,” an annual Medieval ritual show written by Arthur Sainer, scored by David Tice and directed by Crystal Field which is performed by torchlight. Reservations are strongly recommended. The TNC box office number is (212) 254-1109. Admission is $20; costume or formal wear is required. Once inside, everything is free except food and drink. For tickets, call (212) 254-1109 or visit http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

Ice cream dream becomes reality for Stuyvesant Town resident

Mikey Cole, owner of Mikey Likes it on Avenue A, with operations manager Pete Rosado, said his business will support local artists and youth programming. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Mikey Cole, owner of Mikey Likes it on Avenue A, with operations manager Pete Rosado, said his business will support local artists and youth programming. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

When Michael “Mikey” Cole opened his ice cream shop on Avenue A at the end of May, he did so with little fanfare, in the hopes that everyone’s favorite summertime treat would be enough to lure hoards of customers in.

Since then, Cole has gained a loyal customer-base, but that’s on top of all the people who already knew him. He’s lived in Stuyvesant Town for all his 35 years and Pete Rosado, the operations manager for Mikey Likes It, presented a challenge: walk more than two blocks down Avenue A without bumping into someone who would greet Mike with a big hello.

“It’s impossible,” Rosado insisted.

Before opening the shop just outside Stuy Town, Cole started in the ice cream business about two years ago after trying out an old family recipe for vanilla ice cream.

“(My aunt) was a cook and cooks always save their recipe books,” he said. “We were going through her things after she passed two years ago and one of the recipes fell on the floor. It was a page for a vanilla ice cream recipe. Me being curious, I went to Associated, bought ingredients and just made it to her specs. That’s what became my base for all of the ice cream.”

Originally, he sold the ice cream out of a cart in the neighborhood, in essence building up a customer-base before the business was even fully formed.

In its current incarnation as the shop on Avenue A, there are a handful of different flavors that will be rotating from month to month, but none of them with recognizable ice cream names.

“We’re like the Ben & Jerry’s for the urban community,” Cole said. “We wanted to create signature flavors. I make my own vanilla and even that has three different kinds of vanilla. Everything we do is a little far fetched and out there.”

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Movies, folk dancing, Summer Streets and more outdoor events this week

This week the following, free events will be held outdoors in parks and other spaces open to the public.

 Folk dancing at Stuy Cove Park

July31 folk dancing

Folk dancing led by Christine Meyers

The Stuyvesant Cove Park Association presents an evening of folk dancing led by Christine Meyers.

The session will take place on Saturday, August 2 at 7 p.m. at the park. No experience is necessary and all are welcome to attend regardless of age or fitness level. In the event of rain the event will take place on Sunday, August 3.


Movies at Waterside Plaza

Aug7 Bend It

“Bend it Like Beckham”

Waterside Plaza presents the return of RCN-sponsored movie nights on the plaza throughout August. Films will be shown on August 4 (“Bend it Like Beckham”), August 11 (“Kung Fu Panda”), August 18 (“Moneyball”) and (“Invincible”) August 25 at 8 p.m. (dusk) each night. No rain date. Event is cancelled if it rains.

Additionally, on August 16 at 8 p.m., Waterside will hold its first international food festival outside on the plaza. Event occurs rain or shine.

For more information, contact Yenneca Ketzis at yketzis@watersideplaza.com.


 Movies at Tompkins Square Park

AMPAS Gold Standard Series

David Bowie in “The Labyrinth”

Films in Tompkins presents screenings on Thursdays throughout the summer in the park, presented by Howl! Arts. See the Films in Tompkins Facebook page for updates.

On Aug. 7, “The Labyrinth” will be shown.

On Aug. 14, “Midnight Cowboy.”


Concert series concludes at Madison Square Park

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds

Madison Square Park Conservancy will conclude the twelfth season of Mad Sq. Music: Oval Lawn Series on Aug. 6 from 7-8:30 p.m., with a performance by Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds. Concerts take place on the Oval Lawn of Madison Square Park. The park is located at 23rd St. between Madison and Fifth Aves. Concerts occur rain or shine and are appropriate for the whole family. Visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket and picnic (no chairs allowed. For more information, visit madisonsquarepark.org.


 Traveling theater in the East Village

“EMERGENCY!!! or The World Takes A Selfie,” a musical comedy about a New York EMT worker, will tour city streets, parks and playgrounds. A local performance will be held on Aug. 2 at 2 p.m. on First Ave. and 10th St. (Pictured) Foreground: Briana Bartenieff. L-R: Celeste Bradsher-Layne, Lily Frenaux, Terry Lee King, Justin Rodriguez, Primy Rivera, Danielle Hauser, Michael David Gordon (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

“EMERGENCY!!! or The World Takes A Selfie,” a musical comedy about a New York EMT worker, will tour city streets, parks and playgrounds. A local performance will be held on Aug. 2 at 2 p.m. on First Ave. and 10th St.  (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

Theater for the New City presents “EMERGENCY!!! or The World Takes a Selfie,” a musical which will tour city streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs from Aug. 2 to Sept. 14. The Sat., Aug. 2 show at 2 p.m. will take place in front of TNC, First Ave. and E. 10th St. The running time is one hour. Shows will take place at different sites in the five boroughs, returning to the East Village community for two performances in September. In this musical, a New York EMT worker is on a workingman’s grand tour of the world and decides to tackle global problems the way he does emergencies of his NYC beat. Every day, an EMT worker becomes inextricably entwined with the private lives of all kinds of New Yorkers, with all their personal crises. The hero of this play ministers to the widest variety of human beings, from vaudeville entertainers to ladies of the night to planet-saving protesters to occasional investigative journalists, one of whom makes him a sidekick for a worldwide expedition through trauma, violence, spying and accidental wars on a global scale. The music varies in style from bossa nova to hip hop to musical comedy to Gilbert & Sullivan.

Summer Streets

On three consecutive Saturdays in August, nearly seven miles of NYC’s streets are opened for people to play, run, walk and bike. Summer Streets provides space for healthy recreation and encourages New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation. In 2013, more than 300,000 people took advantage of the open streets.

A rest stop along the route will be located at East 25th Street and Park Avenue South. Additionally, the DOT will be offering free bike helmet fittings on East 24th Street and Park Avenue South on Saturday, August 2 from 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Fittings will also be offered during Summer Streets on August 9 and 16. For details, visit nyc.gov/summerstreets.


For even more events going on this week, including concerts, theater, kids’ events, art exhibits, burlesque and walking tours, see Town & Village’s Around & About section.

To find out about free events taking place throughout the city, see our Cutting Corners section.

For health related events, including free fitness classes, support groups and screenings, see Health and Fitness.

For events and services being organized by local houses of worship, see Religion in the Community.


Gashouse Gang catches Lightning to win championship

Peter Stuyvesant Little League juniors team The Gashouse Gang (Photo by Susan Crawford)

Peter Stuyvesant Little League juniors team The Gashouse Gang (Photo by Susan Crawford)

Although the team did not recognize why at first, the 2014 Juniors Team was something special from the get-go, according to team manager Tim McCann.
“Once we came up with the name ‘Gashouse Gang’, we somehow knew we were team of destiny,’” said McCann. “We knew we were going to play in the championship game and win.”
After the regular season the GHG was seeded #3 with a record of 6-3-1 in a league comprised of nine teams from the combined leagues from Greenwich Village, Downtown Manhattan, East Harlem and the East Side of Manhattan (PSLL).
All players aged 13-14 were eligible to play and represent their respective leagues and compete for the coveted trophy for the title of best Juniors team in Manhattan.
The Gashouse Gang title run started against the Eagles, seeded #2 and last years title winners from the Greenwich Village League (GVLL). Jackson Rocke was the GHG starting pitcher and faced the difficult task of quieting the Eagles potent offensive lineup. “The Championship had to go through the GVLL league and Jackson was more than up to the task pitching us to an 8-5 win,” said McCann.
Next up was the PSLL’s very own Lightning team who finished with a league leading record of 11-2 record and seeded #1. ‘The good news was a PSLL team was going to the Juniors king of Manhattan; the bad news is it could only be one team, McCann added.
Andrew Mattiello was the GHG starting pitcher and needed to pitch a near perfect game if the GHG was going to win the championship. Mattiello nearly did allowing only two hits as the Gashouse Gang cruised to a 5-2 win in a pressure-packed game in front of friends and family at Bertraum Field located under the Manhattan bridge.
“Were we the best team?” mused McCann as he thought about his team’s achievement, “I guess we were when we had to be but I do believe dusting off the name ‘Gashouse Gang’ certainly played a role in our ability to rise to the occasion.”

CSA at 14th Street Y starting up for the season

A few of the offerings through the volunteer-run CSA at the 14th Street Y

A few of the offerings through the volunteer-run CSA at the 14th Street Y

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The 14th Street Y and sustainability organization Just Food are again partnering with Mountain View Farms to bring locally grown, organic produce to CSA members every week from June to October.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership where community members purchase shares of the season’s harvest directly from the farmer and the 14th Street Y has been offering the program since 2008.
Frances Anderson, a member of the 14th Street Y, has been a volunteer organizer for the program since it began. The CSA originally partnered with a different farm located in upstate New York but Anderson said that Hurricane Irene devastated their farmland in 2011, bringing a sad end to the partnership.
“They weren’t able to continue doing CSAs in the city after that because their losses were so huge,” she said. “It wasn’t uncommon that year for a lot of farms in that corridor, unfortunately. The destruction of farmland was really quite significant. It was kind of a shock to us and we never really thought about what a catastrophic year would mean.”
Many of the farms upstate were scaling back after Irene but Just Food helped the CSA at the Y to connect with Mountain View Farm, which was a little more sheltered from flooding due to its location in Western Massachusetts, and so far the partnership has been working well. “We really appreciate the consistency in the quality and quantity of the vegetables we get from them, and because of the way in which they operate, with 90 percent of their clientele being CSAs as opposed to farmer’s markets, they just have a really consistent supply,” Anderson said.
While the 14th Street Y provides infrastructure support for the CSA, Anderson said that it’s primarily a volunteer-driven program. Some volunteers dedicate more time than others but anyone who signs up for a CSA membership is required to work one shift throughout the season. This just means helping out with distribution for a couple of hours and the policy isn’t particularly strict.
“People work crazy hours, so sometimes people need help from family because they can’t be there themselves and that’s fine,” Anderson said. “Teenagers have done shifts for their parents. It’s not onerous work; it’s just to help it run smoothly.”
Summer and fall shares include carrots, bok choy, lettuce, beets, cabbage, kohlrabi, spinach, fennel, Swiss chard, cantaloupe, a variety of squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, onions, scallions, eggplants, peppers and others. Mountain View Farm has partnered with nearby farms and orchards this year to add a fruit share, which will include strawberries, blueberries, apples and pears.
Full shares, $600, are available for weekly pick-up and and half shares, $310, are collected bi-weekly. The shares are available to pick up on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Y. A normal week’s share averages about $27. Anderson said that a full share every week is good for a family of four that eats a lot of vegetables.
“My family of three gets a weekly distribution but for some families that’s way too much,” she said.
She added that while half-shares come out every other week, it can involve a lot of planning to make sure certain things are eaten before they go bad and if there are individuals who want to participate, volunteers with the CSA can connect those people with each other to split a half share. Even with the most meticulous planning, CSA members are sometimes still overloaded with vegetables they are pressured to eat before they start rotting and Anderson said that they are hoping to offer some additional programming at the Y this year to help alleviate that problem.
“We’re trying to have a couple of canning demonstrations,” she said. “Learning how to can or how to pickle vegetables that you have in crazy abundance are great skills to learn and not ones that we tend to pick up when living in the city, so we want to teach people how to preserve their share for the rest of the season.”
Anderson noted that even though there are some vegetables that don’t get claimed every week, none of it goes to waste.
“Everything left over that isn’t picked up by CSA members gets donated to the Sirovich Center and they love it,” she said. “It adds fresh vegetables to what they make there. Nothing gets thrown wholesale into the compost.”
CSA membership is open to everyone, not just 14th Street Y members, and the deadline to register is May 30. For more information or to register, visit Mountain View Farm CSA’s website.

T&V Synagogue leaders don’t want landmark status

Town & Village Synagogue on East 14th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Town & Village Synagogue on East 14th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Although Town & Village Synagogue on East 14th Street is currently being considered for landmarking by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the community most affected by the effort isn’t particularly enthusiastic about the prospect.

“We really don’t want the landmarking,” Synagogue President Marianna Mott Newirth said. “I’ll honor what their decision is but I don’t think the building merits landmarking. We take a position in preserving the community and we’ll have to go through all these hoops because of what they see from the street.”

Town & Village’s building has been on East 14th Street for 150 years, but the synagogue itself began elsewhere, so the physical manifestation for the congregation is not the most important aspect of the community for many of its members.

One such member, Peter Cooper Village resident Henry Condell, wrote a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, published in the May 8 issue of Town & Village, that urged the commission not to landmark the synagogue because many members believe that the continuation of their traditions are more important than the building where the traditions are practiced.

“Even without the threat of landmarking, making our building safe, accessible and adaptable to our needs has proved to be beyond our means,” Condell argued. “Moreover, the space, laid out almost 150 years ago, poses tremendous safety risks to our congregation. Despite our best efforts and consultations with several professionals, we have been unable to come up with a practical and affordable solution to making this antiquated building safe.”

Newirth noted that the landmarking effort has been going on for almost 40 years and even just being under consideration has affected the synagogue’s ability to make the necessary repairs on their building. “Even just being calendared, if there’s anything that affects the façade we need to go through the LPC,” Newirth said. “There’s work on the roof that can’t be done because we’re being considered for landmarking. Those onion domes, which are one of the main reasons for the landmarking, are exceedingly leaky and of course that’s what everyone sees. But that’s one of the parts that needs to be fixed yesterday. And even now, our hands our tied. That’s a prime example of how being landmarked would cause delays.”

As a compromise, both Newirth and Condell have said that if landmarking does go through, they want to make a distinction between the front part of the building, which includes the historic façade and the main sanctuary, and the back part of the building, which encompasses the kitchen and office spaces that get used for various programs not necessarily related to their religious services. Per this distinction, they are hoping that only the front part of the building be considered for landmarking.

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh submitted testimony in favor of the landmarking but also made the distinction between the two parts of the building, based on feedback from constituents who are members of the synagogue, and specified that only the front part of the building should be landmarked. He noted in his testimony that “the building in the back of the lot was not part of the original plan and serves various, newer purposes” and is not architecturally significant.

“We serve our membership but we also serve our greater community, people who are not Jewish,” Newirth said. “The people who were most vocal about landmarking our building have never stepped through our doors and never even knew there was a back building. I can completely understand (the architectural significance of the façade) and we’re not interested in ruining that but we are interested in enhancing what we have so our members can get the most out of our services.”

The LPC hosted a public hearing at the end of March about the proposed landmarking and kicked off a month of public feedback throughout April, but Newirth said that she isn’t sure how long they’ll be waiting for a response. She said that it might even be possible that they’ll have to go through the whole process again because, since the city’s administration has recently changed, a new chair of the commission was just appointed last week.

ST/PCV undergoing landscape renovation

Chuck Hartsell, director of horticulture and landscape for ST/PCV, standing by the cherry trees in Peter Cooper Village, said more sustainability and visibility are the goals of ongoing landscaping work. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Chuck Hartsell, director of horticulture and landscape for ST/PCV, standing by the cherry trees in Peter Cooper Village, said more sustainability and visibility are the goals of ongoing landscaping work. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Following one of the more brutal winters New Yorkers have seen in recent memory, spring has finally sprung and in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, this, as always, means there’s a major landscaping project in the works.
Those who’ve strolled around the complex over the past week may have noticed trees blossoming and some colorful new flowerbeds, as well as some contrasting lawn areas that still appear to be bare dirt or partially bare.
However, they won’t be that way for long, according to Chuck Hartsell, the property’s director of horticulture and landscape.
While on a brisk walk through the grounds of Peter Cooper as well as Stuy Town, Hartsell explained that at this point every garden area has been tended to and planted with flowers or grass. It’s just that certain types of plantings take longer than others to spring up, and there are some areas that will still need to be revisited.
The planting was all part of a renovation that began shortly after CWCapital took over the property in 2010. At that time the grounds were overplanted and the Oval, which had drainage issues and swells and dips, was in a condition that could be described as fair to poor.
Since then, close to 1,000 trees have been removed with most being donated to local nonprofits devoted to greening the city while around 100 of the trees that were in poor condition were mulched.
But these days the Oval is doing much better, far better in fact than expected.
“We thought we’d have to empty it and start from scratch,” said Hartsell of the Oval, while walking by its south end, which will be used again for greenmarkets starting this Sunday. The east end of the Oval meanwhile has seen some activity this past year in terms of having some older shade trees chopped down. Not surprisingly, this thinning out of the landscape was met with some community outrage, with residents blasting the move as arborcide.

The Oval lawn will be open soon to sunbathers and starting this weekend, to the Sunday greenmarket.

The Oval lawn will be open soon to sunbathers and starting this weekend, to the Sunday greenmarket.

But, insisted Hartsell, removing every other tree in that section was necessary.
“They were growing into each other,” said Hartsell, who’s worked in ST/PCV for the past two years. He’s had the title of horticulture and landscape director since the week of Hurricane Sandy, which also made significant restoration work of the property’s gardens and courtyards required.
As for the Oval trees, Hartsell called the decision to chop them “very painful,” but said it was done only after consulting with experts. “We had three arborists come in and give opinions.” Ultimately, they figured the trees would have eventually all killed each other if a few of trees, all yellowwoods, weren’t sacrificed. “It was either make the move or in 10-15 years, they all come down.”
Additionally, some shrubs were recently removed for better visibility of the Oval fountain. Better visibility was actually one of the goals of the ongoing landscape renovation, partially due to safety concerns.
Previously, Hartsell observed, everything “was planted so densely, you couldn’t see.”
Overgrown trees is always a concern though, and to prevent incidents of residents getting clobbered by low-hanging or heavy tree branches, one staffer has the task of walking through the whole complex on a bi-weekly basis to check where pruning may be needed.
“We’re always looking up,” said Hartsell.”

Chuck Hartsell, in Peter Cooper, said temporary fencing around lawns will soon be moved inward.

Chuck Hartsell, in Peter Cooper, said temporary fencing around lawns will soon be moved inward.

Another goal of the renovation is to create a more sustainable environment.
After Sandy, more plantings were brought in that could handle damage from salt, either salt used to melt snow in the winter or from flooded river water.
“Not that they could survive being submerged for hours on end, but they can handle a little damage,” said Hartsell.
To prevent waste of plants, the grounds crew has begun planting more annuals, which get more mileage than perennials. Also in abundance on site are shrubs (currently 13 or 14 varieties), cherry trees in Peter Cooper in more than one variety (with light and dark pink blossoms) and all around, oaks in four different varieties.
Being acorn producers, the oaks, which make up 30 percent of the trees in ST/PCV, are what feed the squirrel population. That is, when the squirrels aren’t being fed nuts by residents. Despite efforts by some to be discreet, the evidence of this is often uncovered by the gardeners.
“One of the most common weeds we pull is the peanut plant,” noted Hartsell.
While squirrels can do some damage to trees, Hartsell said it doesn’t tend to be too noticeable as they make their nests in tree parts that are already decaying. A bigger challenge is presented by dogs when owners allow them to do their business in the gardens. But for the most part, he said, owners have been respectful and the temporary fencing around lawns to prevent wear and tear by pedestrians of both the human and canine variety should be moved inward soon, closer to buildings.

A recently planted area in Stuyvesant Town

A recently planted area in Stuyvesant Town

“We’re in the process of moving the fences right now,” said Hartsell. Meanwhile during the course of the interview, one fence around a courtyard in Peter Cooper was spotted with a section that had been completely pried open — and not by a gardener.
As for the gardeners who maintain the 80-acre property, the crew now consists of six full-time staffers and 10 seasonal contractors. This is up from just the six full-timers last year.
Though it doesn’t sound like much for such a large workspace, Hartsell said it’s been enough.
On May 10, the grounds crew will work with Apple Seeds, the company that runs Oval Kids, to present a gardening workshop open to all children in the community.
Also in May, the Oval lawn will be open for use of sunbathers and others, ideally by the first week of the month.

Tailor on East 14th to close after 50 years

Gino DiGiroloamo, owner of the Royal Tailor shop on East 14th Street, said he’s leaving the business due to a rent increase. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Gino DiGiroloamo, owner of the Royal Tailor shop on East 14th Street, said he’s leaving the business due to a rent increase. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
In what some of his patrons are calling an end of an era, Gino DiGirolamo, the man behind the sewing machine at Royal Tailor for the past 50 years is hanging up his cloth measuring tape and retiring.
At least, that’s what he said he’ll be doing if he can’t find another shop nearby his current business on East 14th Street that’s affordable.
The reason DiGirolamo is closing that shop, a sliver of a space between Avenues A and B, is that his rent recently increased from $3,000 to $4,000.
This is not an increase the 75-year-old tailor, who’s known for his low prices as well as his skill with a needle and thread, said he can afford.
The store is scheduled to close at the end of the month and while DiGirolamo said he would consider just moving, he probably won’t.
“If I find something on Avenue B, I’ll see, but if it’s a lot of money, it don’t pay,” he said.
He’s been at his current space a few years. Prior to that he’d been around the corner on Avenue A, which is where he bought the business decades ago from his then-employer for $1,000. This was in 1963 and the shop’s owner had decided to return to Italy, where he was from. At the time, DiGirolamo, who’s from Palermo, Sicily, was hesitant. He spoke just a few words of English. However, he ended up changing his mind when a local woman offered to work for him as a translator.
Though she has since died (in 2012) at the age of 95, Mary Pupillo ended up working with him for years and her photo still hangs on his wall. There’s also a picture of DiGirolamo’s wife of 50 years, Adriana. A fixture at his shop, Adriana, a schoolteacher, died last October due to a heart problem.
“She was with me always,” said DiGirolamo.
Still, despite his loss, DiGirolamo said he’s never missed a day of work, and his typical workweek is around 80 hours.
“I work day and night, no vacations,” he said.
A resident of Ozone Park in Queens, DiGirolamo’s commute to his workspace is about an hour each way. His hours aren’t always exactly the same but he can often be found working throughout the night, finishing at 10 or 11 in the morning after a 12-hour shift. After work his son Vito will usually give him a ride home.
Working nights instead of days has made him more productive, he said, since at night “Nobody bothers me.”
Though customers still pop in fairly regularly, when they don’t, for company while he works, DiGirolamo’s radio is always on. There’s also a television, though that’s never on except during the occasional soccer game.
There’s also always a pile of clothes on the counter that he’s working on at any given time. The tailor said he doesn’t specialize in any particular type of clothing. “I’ll do anything,” he said. He’s been in the trade since he was around 19, after studying tailoring in Palermo. He’d had a shop there for a while but decided to leave for the U.S. after finding the locals’ attitude a little too laid back. Customers there, he said, would drop off a suit, and then not return to pick it up until months later.
When he moved to the United States, he tried to get his parents to come over, too. He wasn’t successful, but after getting work as a tailor, he’d send checks home to them. This he did regularly for over 30 years. “I took care of them 110 percent,” he said.
His generosity has also extended outside the family. One example of this is at his own home, a two-family house he owns and has a tenant living in one of the apartments. His previous tenant was an older woman who’d become ill and then didn’t pay her rent for a year before she died. “People said, ‘You should take her to court.’ I’m not going to take an old woman to court,” said DiGirolamo. He now rents the place to someone else and hasn’t ever increased the rent. “That’s me,” he said. “I don’t take from nobody.”
Meanwhile, customers have already been mourning the loss of their talented tailor.
“He’s like an icon of the neighborhood,” said Jack Goldfarb, a longtime customer from Peter Cooper Village. Despite the shop always being a jumble, “He was always in demand because he did excellent work and charged very little. He was beloved by everybody.”
While at the shop, another customer, Pascal Blake, said he thought the building’s owner was wrong to raise DiGirolamo’s rent.
“It’s a lot of money for a small shop,” said Blake, who works in real estate. “He should pay $2,000.” To DiGirolamo, Blake added, “You can find something else.”
But in response, the veteran tradesman didn’t agree or disagree. His mind may already be elsewhere, as he’s now considering spending his retirement as a volunteer at his church. “I want to help people. I’ll do anything,” he said.

Ave. C dance studio presents ‘Nutcracker’ set in neighborhood

Sarah Macken and Afinatou Thiam in "The Shell-Shocked Nut," to be performed by the East Village Dance Studio (Photo by High Burckhardt)

Sarah Macken and Afinatou Thiam in “The Shell-Shocked Nut,” to be performed by the East Village Dance Studio (Photo by Hugh Burckhardt)

By Sabina Mollot

When Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on Manhattan’s East Side, a three-year-old dance studio on Avenue C was largely spared. The place wasn’t flooded like many of the other businesses along the avenue, but like every other place south of 39th Street, there was no power for a week. Heat wouldn’t return for several weeks. But even without it, Martha Tornay, artistic director at the East Village Dance Project, was determined to reopen, investing in space heaters and letting students who were aged 10 and older know they could return to class. (Most students at the East Village Dance Project are between the ages of 4 and 19, but Tornay said she didn’t want the littlest ones around the space heaters.)

Since most of the students live nearby in the East Village as well as Stuyvesant Town, it was upon their return that Tornay learned their superstorm-related stories. Some of the students had lost their apartments. Others were displaced from their schools or learning in the hallways. One, student, meanwhile, seemed happy about the blackout.

“One kid said how cool it was to be eating dinner by candlelight every night,” said Tornay.

But not everyone had been enjoying the effects of the storm and one of the teenagers asked Tornay if they could learn a number from “The Nutcracker,” saying it would cheer them up. So, Tornay had the students dance to the one of the songs in the score, “Waltz of the Flowers,” “and the room just lit up,” she said.

Naturally, the students went on to perform in a production of “The Nutcracker” that season. It was a 35-minute version, though, featuring 80 kids and was put on a few times just for parents. It was also modernized somewhat, with Tornay, who’s the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and has a sister who’s an Iraqi vet, changing one of the characters, the magical Drosselmeyer, to a female vet. Though Tchaikovsky’s score was used, the plot line changed and dealt with issues like post traumatic stress syndrome, since that’s what some of the students were experiencing as a result of Sandy.

Fast forward a year later, and the East Village Dance Studio, along with LaMama ETC and GOH Productions, are reviving the show, this time with even more modern updates, including music by a contemporary composer.

This time the show, called “The Shell-Shocked Nut,” is full-length at 70 minutes and will feature a cast of 25 students as well as 25 professionals including performers, choreographers and composers. It will also be performed for the public from January 3-5, 2014 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre.

Students from the East Village Dance Project in "The Shell-Shocked Nut" from left to right: Franky Kramer-John, Lydia Antoinette Niall, Safouane Chestnut and Piper Morrison (Photo by Hugh Burckhardt)

Students from the East Village Dance Project in “The Shell-Shocked Nut” from left to right: Franky Kramer-John, Lydia Antoinette Niall, Safouane Chestnut and Piper Morrison (Photo by Hugh Burckhardt)

In this version, the East Village is featured prominently in the storyline with the veteran character taking the

lead character, a young girl to a local community garden as well to see a show at LaMaMa theater. The characters travel via a hot air balloon from one act to another and end up meeting all kinds of local characters.

“It’s quite powerful,” said Tornay, adding that the neighborhood elements were also inspired by Sandy, since it was a time when people were simply forced to focus on their surroundings.

“You’re not just in work mode,” she said. “I really opened my eyes more to the community, so even though it was work, it was still about being a community project.”

The East Village Dance Project, which has been in business for 17 years, has been in its current studio space for three years between Fourth and Fifth Streets. Before that it didn’t have a permanent home, operating nomad-style. Having its own space has made a huge difference in what kind of productions it can take on, said Tornay.

Performances of “The Shell-Shocked Nut” will take place on Friday, January 3 at 7 p.m. and January 4 and 5 at 3 p.m. at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street between Second Avenue and the Bowery. Tickets ($20, $15 seniors, students and children 12 and under) are available by calling (212) 475-7710 or by visiting lamama.org.

Dangerously low branch cut from tree at Stuyvesant Square Park

A tree branch that at its lowest point hovered six feet away from the ground was cut off on Tuesday, following a tragedy earlier in the week when a woman was killed by a falling tree in a Queens park. The left circle shows a weakness in the branch while the right one is the tree's lowest point. Photo by Michael Alcamo

A tree branch that at its lowest point hovered six feet away from the ground was cut off on Tuesday, following a tragedy earlier in the week when a woman was killed by a falling tree in a Queens park. The left circle shows a weakness in the branch while the right one is the tree’s lowest point.
Photo by Michael Alcamo

By Sabina Mollot

Following a horrific incident of a tree falling over in a park in Queens, killing a pregnant woman last Sunday night, on Tuesday, the Parks Department cut down a large branch on a tree in Stuyvesant Square Park that had been hanging dangerously low since the winter.

It was local tree advocate Michael Alcamo who’d noticed that the branch, which was around 30 feet long and on a tree that’s located near one of the park’s east side entrances, was becoming a potential hazard.

Two weeks ago, Alcamo, a resident of Stuyvesant Town, reported the problem to the Parks Department, where a rep thanked him for the heads up and said the alert had been sent to a forestry director. However, as of Monday, the park branch remained hanging lower than ever, Alcamo said.

After being contacted by Town & Village for comment, a rep for the department, Philip Abramson, responded the following day to say that the tree limb had been removed. Abramson added that some other pruning work was also done in the park.

Meanwhile, Alcamo, who’s convinced the city to plant over 300 street trees around the Stuyvesant Town and Stuyvesant Square areas in recent years, has also always been vigilant about checking on the status of street and park trees, seeing if they need water or attention for other reasons like pedestrian safety.

In his letter to Parks Borough Commissioner Bill Castro, dated July 25, Alcamo made mention of the fact that an incident not too dissimilar from the tragedy in Queens had also occurred in Stuyvesant Square Park. It was six years ago, he noted, when social worker Alexis Handwerker, who’d been sitting in the park, was badly injured when an oversized tree branch came crashing down on her. After five years of litigation, in February, 2012, Handwerker finally reached a settlement with the city for $4.1 million.

“We ask the city to dedicate only a small portion of the amount it paid in that settlement to tree care and preventive maintenance in Stuyvesant Square Park,” said Alcamo. “We must do everything we can to prevent accidents, and make the park safe and enjoyable for all patrons.”

As for the tree in Queens’ Kissena Park, when it came down, it almost immediately killed 30-year-old Chinese emigrant Yingyi Li. In a New York Post article on her death, park goers and State Senator Tony Avella put the blame on a lack of maintenance for the park’s trees.

Alcamo suggested that Parks employees make it a monthly task to check which park trees could use pruning, specifically for safety reasons. In response, Abramson told T&V that the park is inspected “regularly for any potential tree concerns.” There was no response to a question of how the tree ended up falling in Kissena Park.

Alcamo said he believes the tree in question at Stuyvesant Square, an American elm labeled number 162, was weakened over the winter due to having snow and ice pile onto the branches. The low hanging branch was not far from the entrance that’s close to the emergency room at Beth Israel. It’s heavily used by hospital employees as well as parents walking their kids to the nearby Jack & Jill nursery school.

Stuyvesant Square Park, located between 15th and 17th Streets and separated into two sections by Second Avenue, is maintained by the Parks Department. The Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association members as well as other volunteers also help oversee the park. Recently, Alcamo founded a group he calls Friends of Stuyvesant Square Park, and said he plans to recognize groups and businesses that support the park along with other local efforts.