Street in Flatiron redesigned for safety

The newly-paved Broadway looking north (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A block on Broadway between West 24th and 25th Streets adjacent to Madison Square Park has been redesigned, with the aim of making the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Department of Transportation piloted a similar “Shared Streets” model in Lower Manhattan for a single Saturday last August and decided to implement the model in the Flatiron District permanently. The city made this one permanent because pedestrians outnumber vehicles on this particular block of Broadway by an 18:1 margin during peak evening hours.

The DOT has been working with the Flatiron BID and the Madison Square Park Conservancy on clarifying the often-chaotic intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue and made the adjustments by instituting a new five-mile-per-hour speed limit, changing the color of the asphalt and adding crosswalks and protected bike lanes.

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Cops looking for man who’s been robbing cabbies in Manhattan

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are looking for a man who’s spent his summer robbing cab drivers in Flatiron, Greenwich Village and midtown Manhattan.

The man apparently rides up to the taxis on his bike and snatches cash from the drivers’ shirt pockets after reaching through their windows. In one recent incident, the mugger also punched a 46-year-old cabbie before snatching $200 from him. This was on Thursday, July 27 at Waverly Place and Christopher Street, where police found a stolen bike he left behind.

A few days later, on Monday, July 31 at 6:30 p.m., police said the man swiped $70 from a 66-year-old cabbie at East 21st Street and Park Avenue South. He then fled on his bike.

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Man gropes woman inside East 24th Street building

Mar30 groperCops are on the lookout for a man who followed a woman into her building on East 24th Street and Lexington Avenue and groped her before taking off.

According to police on Monday, March 20 at around 6 a.m., the suspect followed the woman into the building and into the elevator. Once inside he grabbed her breasts over and under her shirt. The victim managed to push him off though, and he ran out of the building, heading east on 24th Street.

The victim, 54, wasn’t injured.

The suspect is described as black, 45 to 50 years old and 5’6″ to 5’7″ tall. He last seen wearing a green hat, a green jacket, black and white sweatpants and black and white sneakers.

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 www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

Police arrest subway groping suspect

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Groping suspect, identified as David Cruz

By Sabina Mollot

A homeless man was arrested Wednesday night for allegedly groping two women on the subway in Flatiron.

The man, identified as 33-year-old David Cruz, wore a Santa hat and rose colored glasses during the incidents, which both took place around the same time.

Cops say Cruz has a lengthy rap sheet with 17 arrests, running from minor crimes like turnstile hopping and petty larceny to more serious ones like assault, burglary, sale of marijuana and tampering with evidence.

On the evening of February 8, police said Cruz grabbed a 32-year-old woman’s butt as she waited on the platform at the 23rd Street R/W station. Then he allegedly hung around before doing the same thing to a 34-year-old woman on his way up the stairs to the street. The victims reported the incidents separately at later times.

Cruz has been charged with two counts of forcible touching.

Flatiron gets in the holiday spirit with SantaCon

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SantaCon participants got creative with their costumes as usual, including a group with real pine trees in their backpacks. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Revelers donned their best Santa, elf and reindeer costumes for the annual SantaCon pub crawl last weekend, which started in the shadow of the Flatiron building this year. Neighborhood residents let their opposition be known when the Santas gathered on the plaza at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and while the NYPD said there was no record of an arrest, NBC News noted that a handful of the protesters were escorted out of the plaza by police.

The NYPD also noted that no drunk or fighting Santas were arrested as in previous years, and while many in the community were not convinced of their noble intentions, organizers seem to be attempting to clean up the event’s reputation. Organizers on the plaza this past Saturday could be seen picking up bits of trash while the crowd started clearing out by late morning and one Santa berated a photographer climbing onto a planter, yelling at her not to be disrespectful of public property.

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Divine signs of the times

Church uses humor to connect with community

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Gustavus Adolphus Pastor Christopher Mietlowski started the sign campaign seven years ago and has since seen an increase in church membership. (Photo collage by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

It’s not unusual for signs in front of churches to have uplifting messages. Often they’re lifted from biblical passages. Other times they’re behavioral suggestions, and if there’s room, there’ll be a bingo schedule included, too.

But in Gramercy, one church has managed to stand out from the parish pack for the messages on its signs, which have become so popular, they’ve actually boosted membership.

That church would be Gustavus Adolphus, a 150-year-old Lutheran church where a recent sign suggested: “Come, search for Pokemon — stay, find God’s grace.”

Another, inspired by pop song “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, read: “We’re all about dat grace, bout dat grace, no Devil!”

And another reminded passersby: “That love thy neighbor thing — I meant that — God.”

Last winter, during particularly frigid temperatures, a sign pointed out, “On the bright side, we haven’t seen a mosquito in months.”

The signs, which get changed around twice a month, are the brainchild of the church’s pastor, Christopher Mietlowski, better known to his flock as Pastor Chris.

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On 50th anniversary, FDNY remembers the 23rd Street fire

 

By Sabina Mollot

Fifty years ago on Monday, October 17, twelve firefighters lost their lives battling a blaze in Flatiron, making the date the deadliest the department would ever know until 9/11.

The fire, which was hidden at first due to illegal building alterations, had prevented firefighters from knowing just what a dangerous situation they were in for.

On Monday, dozens of fire officials and rank and file, along with family members of the fallen firemen, gathered at the Flatiron Plaza for a remembrance ceremony and then a wreath laying at the site of the fire at the corner of 23rd Street and Broadway. Today, it’s home to a high-rise residential building with a plaque alongside it memorializing the deceased firemen.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro spoke at the ceremony about how the 1966 fire is still a big part of training for firefighters today.

“Every probationary firefighter learns about this in the academy; 23rd Street has been the subject of countless drills,” the commissioner said. “This was the department’s darkest tragedy… and remained so until 9/11.”

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Gramercy Tavern chef puts spotlight on vegetables in new cookbook

Michael Anthony, chef and partner at three restaurants in the Danny Meyer empire, at home (Photo by Maura McEvoy)

Michael Anthony, chef and partner at three restaurants in the Danny Meyer empire, at home (Photo by Maura McEvoy)

By Sabina Mollot
The executive chef as well as a partner at three Danny Meyer-owned restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, has just released a cookbook devoted to the art of cooking vegetable-based dishes.

For Michael Anthony, this book, V is for Vegetables: Inspired Recipes & Techniques for Home Cooks from Artichokes to Zucchini ($25 at bn.com, hardcover), is his second. The first, published in 2012, was The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook.

This time, Anthony said he wanted to focus on dishes that, while not necessarily vegetarian, are cooked around vegetables, instead of relegating them to sides. Both he and Meyer will be discussing the so-called “vegetable forward” concept, now a norm at two of Meyer’s restaurants, at an event at Barnes & Noble on November 30.

Anthony also discussed the concept with Town & Village this week, saying the idea of the book was to make veggies enticing — and easy — for anyone to cook at home.

“V is for Vegetables is not about restaurant cooking,” said Anthony. “We all lead busy lives. It’s hard to work a full schedule and then have to get to a cutting board and cook for a hungry family. I have three kids and if it’s not done in 25 minutes, everyone’s upset.”
Additionally, he said, “Cleanup shouldn’t take more time than it took to cook the dinner.”
V is for Vegetables is not however, a vegetarian cookbook.

“Meat and fish are in some of the recipes to show it’s not a style of cooking that involves any deprivation,” he said. “It’s about pleasure, but vegetables dominate the idea.”
For Anthony, the effort to highlight vegetables came from wanting to prepare foods that were distinctly New York.

“For the last nine years at Gramercy Tavern we’ve been challenging ourselves to cook vegetables, which we consider a direct gateway to looking at how distinct eating can be in New York and in our region,” he said. “What’s different about eating in this city compared to all the other wonderful places we’ve eaten? How do we create lasting memories? At Gramercy Tavern, we do this in the main dining room menu using vegetables that are seasonal, not necessarily vegetarian but expressing our feelings of what it is distinct of here at this time and in this place. It’s not just an option out for people who don’t eat other stuff. If we talk about vegetarian, we’re talking about excluding some things we love to eat.”

In keeping with eating locally, shopping for groceries at greenmarkets or through a CSA is something Anthony recommends, adding that this can be done affordably with some planning.

“For less money than it takes to go to the supermarket, you can actually cook for your family using fresh food from the greenmarket,” he said. “People leave (the greenmarket) with a big heavy bag of vegetables. How do you then turn it into three meals instead of one recipe from a cookbook? We need to look at food not as a collection of recipes, but a continuation, a constant. That allows us to eat economically and healthily. There should be a continuation from the last meal. Re-purposing and preparing foods that make the next meal easier and faster.”

Anthony also delved into the subject of organic vs. inorganic vegetables and whether it really makes a difference.

“It’s a question I get all the time,” he said, adding that while “it is a big deal,” he feels buying locally grown produce is more important than whether an item is organic.

“The organic movement historically has always deserved our attention,” he said. “But we’ve been cheated as consumers. The American organic label has been so watered down, so twisted, it’s no longer a source of confidence. What I tend to do is encourage people to eat real food from close to home. If you buy at a farmer’s market you can ask questions and decide for yourself if you like how it’s grown without pesticides. It’s very expensive (for farmers to get organic certification) so I do not use the organic label as a reference point for making my decisions. The story of what it is to eat in the northeast is much more important to me than what its carbon footprint is or what its label is.”

Anthony is also a fan of CSAs (Community Sponsored Agriculture) and gets a box of produce from a CSA he belongs to every Friday.

Nov26 V is for VegetablesIn V is for Vegetables, he included recipes based on some of those items.

“People pull vegetables out of their CSA box and say what is this?,” he said. “I’m not sure everyone’s familiar with a Jerusalem artichoke or a kohlrabi.”

As for the latter vegetable, “Not only is it grown all over the northeast, it’s one of the most delicious things you can eat because it’s super crunchy and mouth watering, kind of like water chestnuts,” said Anthony. “You can throw it into a stir fry or cut it into wedges and roast it. Just the way a potato is irresistible when you take it out of the oven, kohlrabi is, and it’s not as starchy.”

He hasn’t forgotten about more traditional foods though. The book includes a recipe for coleslaw, which is actually inspired by a recipe from his wife’s grandmother.

“I make big batches of coleslaw so it’s easy to pull out for a quick lunch or a side dish with dinner. It’s a very practical dish.”

He couldn’t choose a favorite recipe but noted that in cookbooks the recipes that tend to get duplicated the most are soups. His favorite in that category is a soup made from carrots “with coconut and radish to make it zippy and exciting.”

Anthony is hoping that the ease of the recipes will help home cooks resist the urge to cater to picky eaters by making different things for different members of the family, or just giving up and ordering out.

He cited statistics that show Americans today eat more out of their kitchen than they do in their kitchen.

“We go to restaurants or order out more than we cook our own meals.” The veteran chef added that he recognizes that for many, himself included, “It takes courage to cook.

“If you’re the one to cook and put your ideas out there for your friends and family, you’re up for all kinds of criticism. I have three daughters and my white chef’s hat doesn’t mean a thing to them. We need people to be encouraged and confident so they’ll do it more often.”

In V is for Vegetables, over 140 recipes are laid out from A to Z, and also include colorful illustrations painted by Anthony’s wife, Mindy Dubin.

Dubin, Anthony and their children live in midtown Manhattan. When not there or at Gramercy Tavern, Anthony can also be found at Untitled, a new Danny Meyer restaurant at the Whitney Museum, as well as another less formal eatery in the same building, Studio Café.

Anthony will be discussing and signing copies of his book and speaking with Meyer at the Union Square Barnes & Noble, 33 East 17th Street, on Monday, November 30 at 7 p.m.

Police looking for deaf, mute senior from Flatiron

Margarito Cruz (Photo via NYPD)

Margarito Cruz (Photo via NYPD)

Police are asking for the public’s assistance in finding an 87-year-old man who has been missing since Saturday, August 1.

Margarito Cruz, of 172 5th Avenue, was last seen at 4 p.m. on Saturday in front of 174 5th Avenue (at 23rd Street) wearing a blue Con Edison tee shirt. He is 5’6″ tall, weighs 200 pounds and is deaf and mute.

 Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.

The public can also submit their tips by logging onto http://www.crimestoppers.com or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

 

Man on bike snatching phones and bags from women in Gramercy and Flatiron

Phone and bag snatching suspect

Phone and bag snatching suspect

Police are looking for a man who’s stolen from at least eleven women throughout the Gramercy and Flatiron neighborhoods while riding a bike. Cops say the man has been riding up to women and then snatches their phones or their purses before pedaling away on either a Citi Bike or a bike with a basket.

The 13th Precinct’s new commanding officer, Captain Brendan Timoney, had warned the community about a cyclist stealing phones out of women’s hands while they’re distracted at the last Community Council meeting, but details on the crimes weren’t released by police until Wednesday night.

Cops say the larceny pattern, which began in February, is as follows:

On Monday, February 2 at around 11:30 p.m., the man snatched an iPhone from a a 32-year-old woman who was walking on 6th Avenue.

On Tuesday, February 3 at around 10:30 p.m., he grabbed an iPhone from a a 34-year-old woman walking on West 19th Street near 5th Avenue.

On Saturday, February 28 at 9 p.m., the man stole a phone from a 21-year-old woman walking on East 20th Street at Second Avenue.

On Saturday, March 7 at 11:30 p.m. the man snatched a purse from a 34-year-old woman as she walked along East 27th Street, in the vicinity of Third Avenue.

On Sunday, March 15 at 2:20 a.m., the man swiped a purse from a 29-year-old woman who was in front of 100 West 21st Street.

On Sunday, March 15 at 10:40 p.m., the man grabbed a phone out of a 22-year-old woman’s hand as she was walking along East 22nd Street.

On Tuesday, March 31 at 1 a.m., he grabbed a phone from a 24-year-old woman who was walking on East 21st Street near Park Avenue South.

On Saturday, April 4 at 6 a.m. he stole a phone from a 21-year-old woman who was standing in front of 32 East 32nd Street.

On Monday, April 20 at midnight, the man took a phone from a 27-year-old woman walking on 6th Avenue, in the vicinity of West 16th Street.

On Tuesday, April 28 at 1 a.m., he stole a purse from a 23-year-old woman in front of 544 6th Avenue.

On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, at 10:30 p.m., he grabbed a purse from a 42-year-old woman who was in front of 135 East 17th Street.

There were no injuries reported in any of the incidents and police say the the serial cyclist thief is a black man with a beard.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or submit tips by logging onto www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Moms protest ‘toxic’ toys

Moms gather by a “toxic” toy bin on Broadway and 25th Street to protest an industry lawsuit. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Moms gather by a “toxic” toy bin on Broadway and 25th Street to protest an industry lawsuit. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A coalition of moms protesting hazardous chemicals and metals used in toys descended upon the headquarters of the Toy Industry Association on Tuesday morning, toting with them a collection of “toxic toys.”

Toys these days, they said, can include chemicals like benzene, cadmium and even formaldehyde. They gave an example in two of the toys that were on display in a trash bin, a soccer ball and a padded mat, which they said had lead. Two of the moms added they’ve even tested toys themselves and found chemicals in them.

One of them was Tenye Steele, who has two daughters. “I am always having to tell them, ‘Please take that out of your mouth’, ‘please don’t chew on that,’” she said. “I used to work with chemicals so I understand that chemicals are needed to make things, but it doesn’t take a physical scientist to understand that toxic chemicals should not be in children’s toys. It could be one less thing I have to worry about.”

The group held its press conference across the street from the Toy Industry Association’s building on 25th Street and Broadway, after being shooed away from the front of the building by an employee there. The location was chosen as a response to a federal lawsuit filed in Albany by a group of toy manufacturers fighting a local law that sets which levels of chemicals in products are acceptable. The suit is fighting it by arguing that there’s already a similar federal law and sufficient safety provisions in place.

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Glowing globes of tech debris lighting up Madison Square Park

One of the globes lit up in the park at dusk (Photo by Yasunori Matsui)

One of the globes lit up in the park at dusk (Photo by Yasunori Matsui)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Madison Square Park Conservancy will be debuting sparkling transparent glass globes filled with discarded bits of technology in its next public art installation, opening in the park today. The sculptures come from artist Paula Hayes in her first outdoor exhibition, which will be on view in the southwest gravel area through April 19.

“Gazing Globes” features 18 transparent spheres filled with various media debris, including old radio parts, discarded computer parts, glass vacuum tubes, micro glass beads and shredded rubber tires, all covered in shimmering dust from pulverized CDs.

The Conservancy said that the spheres, which are 16, 18 and 24 inches in diameter, will be on fiberglass pedestals ranging from 24 to 47 inches off the ground and the globes will be lit from within.

Hayes, an American visual artist based in New York who has also worked as a landscape designer, usually works with plants and has previously created terrariums. The installation in Madison Square Park looks like a collection of traditional terrariums on first glance but Hayes made a crucial switch with the project.

“The sculptures are being installed during the winter and they’re in a park surrounded by a city, so I thought of the park itself as the terrarium,” she said.

“It’s like I turned it inside out and I thought of these bubbles as the world outside the plants so it was kind of an inverse approach.”

She added that she was also mindful of the wintry conditions, so the lighting from the shining up from bottom of the globes is an attempt to brighten up the park during the dreary weather.

“The illumination was important,” she said. “This is very much a nighttime experience. In the darkness of winter, it becomes very enchanted. So instead of only the sun, the light is shining up from below.”

Hayes was pleased that she was able to work in Madison Square Park for her first foray into public art.

“It’s one of the premiere and beautiful parks in the city and it has a very Victorian feeling. It’s laid out extremely beautifully,” she said. “I really appreciate the amount of liveliness it has and the programming they do. It’s one of the great hearts of the city. It’s a great, lively place to engage with the public.”

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CB5 hopes to curtail promotional events on plazas

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Since the city’s pedestrian plazas made their debut in 2009, along with being a peaceful destination for those seeking a place to sit outside – albeit inches from traffic — they’ve also become big business for companies looking to hawk products to passersby.

That ongoing commercialization of the public spaces is the source of some contention for representatives of Community Board 5, who, after hearing about a concert planned for the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza that’s expected to draw a crowd of 10,000, made their displeasure known to the mayor.

The event is planned for February 12 at the north plaza and will require setup for three days prior to it taking place.

This was the topic of discussion held at a CB5 Parks Committee meeting last Monday, according to Jack Taylor, a member of the committee who attended and said he was against it, and that the rest of his fellow members spoke against it as well.

“It stunned everybody,” said Taylor. “They are planning for an audience of 10,000 people largely in but overflowing from the pedestrian plaza on the west side of Madison Square Park. It’s very alarming and massive and if it’s as described or proposed, it’s going to be very hard for pedestrians and drivers and just about anyone in the district.”

Exactly a week after the meeting, CB5’s chair, Vikki Barbero, along with Clayton Smith, chair of the Parks and Public Spaces Committee, penned a letter to the mayor to ask why community boards don’t get any say in the arranging of such commercial events. Meanwhile the city’s Street Activity and Permit Office apparently has sole discretion.

“The Department of Transportation created the pedestrian plaza network and is the city agency responsible for their oversight,” wrote Barbero and Smith. “The area BIDs were chosen to activate, administer and protect these plazas. Why, then, has the Street Activity Permit Office been given the sole discretion to make final determinations of what special events are appropriate for these public spaces?”

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