Morton Williams expected to take over Stuy Town Associated’s space

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, employees of the Stuyvesant Town Associated Supermarket, where the owners had been negotiating to keep the store’s lease, all got letters informing them that Morton Williams is going to be taking over the space.

According to one employee, the letter says workers, who are unionized, will get to keep their jobs for at least three months and at that point will be evaluated.

“They have a big company and room to grow,” the worker said the letter from Morton Williams informed them.

Meanwhile, one of the store’s owners, Joseph Falzon, had told Town & Village last month he was almost certain his lease would not be getting renewed. Though a lease has yet to be signed with Morton Williams, Falzon said he suspects a new tenant would have to pay double the rent Associated is paying, which is now $60,000 a month.

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Gramercy restaurant Sal Anthony’s returns after closing a decade ago

Anthony Macagnone’s (center, outside his restaurant) with his wife Cynthia Graham and Macagnone’s son, who is also named Anthony (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Ten years after Sal Anthony’s closed on Irving Place, the Italian restaurant has come back to the neighborhood, although owner Anthony Macagnone insists he hasn’t really been gone this whole time. Aside from living adjacent to the old restaurant on East 17th Street, Macagnone and his wife, Cynthia Graham, have been running a movement studio on Third Avenue for the last 18 years, but the new space on Third Avenue at East 19th Street marks the first Sal Anthony’s restaurant in the immediate Gramercy Park area in a decade.

The spot on Irving Place expanded over the 40 years the restaurant was open and although the new space on Third Avenue is only a fraction of the size, Macagnone said that he has a much better relationship with his current landlord than with the owner of the building on Irving Place.

Macagnone was forced to close the previous restaurant due to a long court battle over rent but he said that he has been drawn to this neighborhood because of a sense of community.

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Garodnick: Commercial Rent Tax bill would hardly cost city anything

Council Member Dan Garodnick, pictured with Borough President Gale Brewer and local business owners outside Whisk in Flatiron (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A day after Mayor de Blasio released his executive budget, a handful of local elected officials took the opportunity to push for legislation that would eliminate the Commercial Rent Tax for about 3,400 small business owners in Manhattan.

The bill, which is sponsored by Council Members Dan Garodnick and Helen Rosenthal, was first announced in 2015, and at this point has 35 co-sponsors in the Council.

If passed it would raise the threshold of rent retailers who must pay the tax from those paying $250,000 a year to $500,000 year. The tax, which was first implemented in 1963, only applies to Manhattan businesses between Chambers Street and 96th Street. Garodnick has said raising the rent threshold would help 40 percent of the businesses owners now paying the tax while only costing the city six percent of the revenue the tax brings in, about $4.5 million.

Natasha Amott, the owner of Whisk, a kitchen related goods shop in Flatiron, where the announcement on the bill was made last Thursday, said her CRT costs her $15,000 a year. This is on top of the $315,000 she pays in rent each year and another standard corporate tax.

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Hotel 17 has closed down

Hotel 17 at 225 East 17th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

City says SRO building is running illegal hotel, but owner, fighting closure, says business is legit

By Sabina Mollot

Hotel 17, a budget hotel located in Stuyvesant Square, has stopped taking reservations and has been cleared of guests.

According to the general property manager of the business, Eyal Siri, this is not due to lack of business but due to the city’s crackdown on illegal hotels, which Siri said he’s been unfairly ensnared in.

Siri, whose family has leased and operated the hotel since the 1970s, admitted the business was never actually certified as a hotel, even though it has served that purpose openly for decades. According to the certificate of occupancy from 1943, it’s a Class A multi-dwelling/single room occupancy/old law tenement. In recent years, the city has had a task force investigate illegal hotels, which are usually residential buildings where rooms or apartments have been rented to people for under 30 days.

As of Monday, on the hotel’s website, a notice on the home page indicates the business is closed.

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Stuyvesant Town Associated is still waiting for answer on lease renewal

Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, following an op-ed being published in the newspaper The Villager in support of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, many Stuyvesant Town residents became alarmed after reading a sentence that mentioned the owner of the complex’s Associated supermarket was told he would not get a lease renewal.

Town & Village since reached out to Blackstone, and a spokesperson for the landlord, Paula Chirhart, said a final decision on whether to renew or not has not yet been made. Joseph Falzon, a co-owner of The Associated, confirmed this when we called although he added he wasn’t feeling confident that he’d get a renewal. He added that he was “99 percent sure” he wouldn’t.

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Stuy Town shop a hub for clothing drive for Syrian refugees

Amber Lewis, founder of Greater NYC Families for Syria, and Pratima Vijayakumar, donations leader, stand by a stuffed mini-van. (Photo by Maya Rader)

By Maya Rader

To a casual observer, two parked mini-vans on First Avenue on Saturday morning might have appeared to be owned by a hoarder, considering they were jam packed with bags of clothing, piled high against windows and ceilings.

The clothes, however, were all donated items and on Saturday, they were sent to the nonprofit NuDay Syria, which ships it into Syria and Beirut for Syrian refugees.

The donations (three van-loads in total) were collected, mostly from Stuyvesant Town families, as a partnership between Greater NYC Families for Syria and Stuy Town children’s clothing store Ibiza Kidz. Greater NYC Families for Syria is a group of mostly parents that collects clothing donations for Syrian refugees.

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Help for mom and pop lies in pending legislation

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Robert Cornegy, pictured last year while introducing a bill that a rep for Cornegy recently insisted isn’t dead (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Robert Cornegy, pictured last year while introducing a bill that a rep for Cornegy recently insisted isn’t dead (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Recently, a couple of City Council members proposed ideas on ways to combat “high rent blight” and promote retail diversity, or at least, keep the city from completely getting overtaken by chains.

This was at a hearing where the council members’ ideas, such as putting legislative restrictions on chain stores and imposing penalties on landlords who warehouse storefronts, were shot down by city planners.

According to the planners, as Town & Village previously reported, many stores that appear to be chains are actually individually owned franchises and as for lengthy retail vacancies, sometimes, the planners argued, they are not necessarily intentional on the part of property owners.

Meanwhile, a few legislators, including Council Member Robert Cornegy, the small business committee chair who’d chaired the aforementioned hearing on September 30, have come up with some legislative ideas to deal with the problem already.

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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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Diner quickly reopens on 23rd St. for blind customers

Malibu Diner customer Barbara Police urged Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to let the diner reopen. Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Malibu Diner customer Barbara Police urged Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to let the diner reopen. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Although the street was closed to foot and car traffic until Monday night due to the explosion, the owners of one business on West 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue felt the need to reopen as quickly as possible.

The Malibu Diner has a close relationship with the residents of Selis Manor, a residence and social service agency for the blind farther east on the block, and diner owner Alex Grimpas said that it was important for nearby residents that they reopened quickly.

“We wanted to be open as soon as possible so (Selis Manor residents) know they’re not by themselves,” Grimpas said. “It wasn’t about making money but it was to help the community.”

Malibu has been in Chelsea for the last 40 years and Grimpas said that his staff is trained to serve the residents of Selis Manor, making sure their food is cut up and that they get discounted meals.

The diner started a program a few years ago with Selis Manor that uses a voucher system to provide at-cost breakfasts for residents, and they wanted to continue the relationship with the residents.

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This restaurant flipper says he’ll be keeping the East Side Diner

Nick Kaloudis comes from a family in the restaurant business. His cousin is the owner of Tivoli. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Nick Kaloudis comes from a family in the restaurant business. His cousin is the owner of Tivoli. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

After nearly four decades, the East Side Café on East 23rd Street, west of First Avenue, closed earlier this summer. However, unlike so many Manhattan businesses that have been shutting their doors for good, this was just temporary, with the place sold, renovated and then re-branded as the East Side Diner. Technically, the place had always been a diner, so the name change was simply a matter of hammering home what the places does, according to the new owner, Nick Kaloudis.

Kaloudis, 38, comes from a family long ensconced in the diner biz; his cousin Gus Kassimis is the owner of the soon-to-be-opened Tivoli at the former Lyric Diner space on Third Avenue.

Together, Kaloudis and other family members have purchased 17 diners around the city, and whenever possible the properties they’re in. However, Kaloudis flips the businesses rather than run them. The East Side Diner, however, will be different. This is the first time he’s purchased a business on his own due to the former owner, Spiros Mouzakitis, wanting to retire.

“He’s been on the same block for 38 years,” explained Kaloudis. “After a while you’re tired of 15-16 hour shifts.”

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Homeless hogging Gramercy wi-fi kiosks, say business owners

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

When the new wi-fi towers on Third Avenue arrived at the beginning of this year to replace defunct payphones in the neighborhood, Orbit News manager Ali Siddiqui thought it would be helpful for the occasional tourist that came into his shop looking for a map. But he said that it didn’t take long for the spots to get taken over day and night by various homeless people.

When a reporter was in the neighborhood last Friday, there was a man with his own rolling desk chair hooked up to the kiosk in front of the newsstand on the east side of the Avenue near East 20th Street and Siddiqui said that he had been in the same spot for three straight days.

“He brought his own chair and he just stays there, sitting and eating,” Siddiqui said.

He added that there are occasionally multiple people at the kiosk at once, usually streaming content through YouTube, and the men occasionally get aggressive when the sidewalk gets more crowded.

“Tourists want to use it but no one can because the same people are always there,” he said. “Customers complain about this to me all the time. This is a good neighborhood but since this started, it’s a nuisance.”

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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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Owner of Sigfrido’s retiring after nearly 50 years on First Ave.

Andy Evangelista will retire at the end of this month, after working at his family’s barbershop for almost half a century. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Andy Evangelista will retire at the end of this month, after working at his family’s barbershop for almost half a century. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

It’s the end of an era for Sigfrido’s Barbershop on First Avenue with the retirement of barber and co-owner Andy Evangelista after almost 50 years, but he likes to think of it as a sort of beginning.

“It’s sad in a way to leave but I’m happy to start a new adventure with my family,” he said, explaining that he and his wife have a number of trips planned following his departure from the shop after the end of this month.

Ruben Aronov, who’s been working at the business for the past 11 years, has taken over Evangelista’s stake in the business. There’s also another owner named Sam Sagykov.

Evangelista has been working at the shop since 1968 when he was 19 years old. One of his brothers is the shop’s namesake, Sigfrido, who started the business seven years earlier with his brother-in-law, Nunzio.

Sigfrido came to the United States in 1959 and helped take care of the paperwork so that his other brothers could come to New York as well.

Evangelista said that he was meant to make the trip in 1963 but was delayed because of President John Kennedy’s assassination and he ultimately made the trip five years later.

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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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Domino’s order dooms Pure Food owner

Sarma Melngailis

Sarma Melngailis

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police in Sevierville, Tennessee arrested former Pure Food and Wine owner Sarma Melngailis, 43, and her husband, Anthony Strangis, 35, on charges of grand larceny, wage theft, tax fraud and labor law violations on May 10. Gothamist reported that the pair was busted because of a Domino’s delivery order, a surprising meal choice for the former owner of a high-end vegan restaurant, although Melngailis has since said, in a “jailhouse interview” with the Post, that the pizza was actually for her husband.

The couple was incarcerated at Rikers Island on Wednesday, May 18 after being extradited from Tennessee. Melngailis made bail the following Tuesday on a $250,000 bond, while Strangis is still at Rikers on a $300,000 bond.

Melngailis and Strangis had been on the run since last July, when workers walked out of the restaurant on Irving Place because they hadn’t been paid for weeks, forcing the business to close for good last summer. This was following a prior closure at the beginning of last year, also due to workers reportedly not being paid.

Although Pure Food and Wine and the One Lucky Duck juice bar were located in Manhattan, the Brooklyn District Attorney is prosecuting the pair because Melngailis ran the companies from an office in Bedford-Stuyvesant as one interconnected enterprise.

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