City offering free legal help to mom-and-pops signing leases

Huascar Aquino, a winner of “Cupcake Wars,” in front of his Hell’s Kitchen bakery with Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The city is throwing a legal lifeline to mom-and-pops by offering free legal help to some small businesses to help them negotiate leases.

On Tuesday, Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop, along with Council Member Robert Cornegy, announced the program, which will receive $2.4 million in funding over the next two years.

The program is expected to help 400 small business owners a year who couldn’t otherwise afford attorneys, but Bishop said it can grow if the demand for free legal help is higher than expected. Attorneys, who belong to organizations like the Urban Justice Center and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, will be assigned to individual businesses to help them resolve disputes before they end up in court. However, the attorneys, who are expected to provide an average of 40 hours of services per client, will not represent businesses in disputes that do end up in court.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Barfly owners: Kit Harington is welcome back here any time

Kit Harington (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The owners of Barfly want Game of Thrones fans to know that despite a viral video of actor Kit Harington supposedly acting “disorderly” in the Gramercy bar last Friday night, Jon Snow was actually a perfect, if intoxicated, gentleman.

Video posted on TMZ on Saturday showed Harington getting into an argument over a game of pool and being escorted from the bar shortly after, but owners Aldo Parisi and Krystyn Shari said there was actually more to the story. When reached for comment, a bartender told T&V that Parisi and Shari had clarified the incident in a statement to the press on Tuesday, first reported by Entertainment Tonight.

The owners explained that Harington was already intoxicated and had been over-served elsewhere when he went into Barfly on Friday night and was only there for about half an hour, during which he bought a drink for himself and his friend, as well as a round of drinks for all the other customers in the bar.

Continue reading

City admits it has no way to track storefront vacancies

Council Member Dan Garodnick chairs the hearing on retail vacancy. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City agencies currently have no way of measuring the rate of storefront vacancies in the city, representatives have admitted.

The representatives, who were from the Department of Small Business Services, discussed the matter at a City Council hearing earlier this month led by Council Member Dan Garodnick, chair of the Economic Development Committee. At the hearing, Garodnick had been pressing the agency on its apparent lack of strategies to come up with solutions to address retail blight.

“This hearing is about the economic impact of vacant storefronts and what I heard in the testimony was mostly a variety of things SBS has done to help businesses over time, but I didn’t really hear any urgency about the problem,” Garodnick said.

Continue reading

East Side Diner closes 16 months after opening

East Side Diner pictured on a recent night (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

East Side Diner, which opened at the corner of First Avenue and East 23rd Street on Labor Day of 2016, suddenly closed last Wednesday.

Owner Nick Kaloudis, who opened the business in a space that had previously been home to another diner, the East Side Café, told Town & Village he decided to cut his losses due to a few factors.

Reached on the phone, Kaloudis said the main issue is that he recently learned he was on the hook for about $50,000 in back taxes that were owed by the prior diner. He said he fought the landlord, Magnum Real Estate Group, over this in court and lost, and is now attempting to get out of his lease five years early. Other reasons for his deciding to close are a rent hike and the raising of the minimum wage.

Continue reading

Stuyvesant Town store selling dolls made by Syrian refugee women to benefit their creators

The dolls come in sets of three: a father, a mother and a child, and each set tells the true story of a different family. (Photos by John King)

By Sabina Mollot

This holiday season, Stuyvesant Town boutique Ibiza Kidz is hoping to spread some cheer to Syrian women refugees, by selling dolls they’ve made with 100 percent of the money from the sales going towards helping them and others who are in the same position.

The elaborately embroidered dolls, which have just made their debut in the United States, arrived at the kids’ clothing shop last Friday. They come in sets of three (a mother, a father and child) and are meant to tell the stories of real refugee families.

Each one comes with a story parents are encouraged to read to their children that Ibiza Kidz owner Carole Husiak describes as “reality in a meaningful, kid-friendly way.

“It demystifies and explains the concept of people starting a new home, not to frighten children but explain what some families go through,” she said.

Continue reading

A passion for travel and collecting evolves into Gramercy boutique

Boyar Gifts co-owners Tali Alexander (left) and her sister Michelle (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

When Boyar Gifts owner Tali Alexander bought a 100-year-old stove that weighed a ton at an auction, her husband expressed disbelief that she would have room to put it somewhere, but Alexander wasn’t worried. And the timing ultimately worked out because she was able to have it brought directly from the auction to where it now sits in the front display window of the new store on Second Avenue between East 22nd and 23rd Streets.

“In the process of building out the space, I realized it would fit right in,” she said. “It became almost the mascot of the store and it really worked because I wanted to bring a homey element to this place.”

This habit of collecting items she doesn’t necessarily have a place for during her travels, a habit that both she and her sister share, was one of the main motivations for opening the gift shop, Alexander said.

Continue reading

Culinary couple opens cafe on East 14th St.

Björn and CJ Holm in front of Fat Cat Kitchen (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Officially opened in May by married chefs CJ and Björn Holm in a space formerly occupied by a palm reader, new café Fat Cat Kitchen on East 14th Street is looking to become a neighborhood mainstay.

“Even after being open for only a month, we already got a lot of repeat customers,” CJ said of the recent opening. “People who are trying our food are coming back.”

CJ said that she and her husband, who previously ran a catering company together, were actively looking for a space to open their restaurant.

“It’s a lot of work in the food industry, working so hard for someone else,” she said. “When you’re working that hard, you want to work for yourself.”

Continue reading

Embattled First Ave. speakeasy, Visana, closes

Visana/Pisa pizzeria (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

Visana, the speakeasy style cocktail lounge that operated behind a pizzeria across from Stuyvesant Town, has closed.

Opened two summers ago at 321 First Avenue, serving gluten free pizza in the front and cocktails with organic spirits in the back, business was rocky from nearly the start due to quality of life complaints from neighbors over noise. Police were also called to the scene over an incident of underage drinking in 2016.

In January, the business lost its liquor license, according to a document from the State Liquor Authority. The SLA cited several reasons, in a decision that was issued last November. Reasons included allowing the business to become noisy and “disorderly” enough to attract police attention, allowing dancing without a cabaret license and not conforming with regulations regarding the employment of security guards.

Meanwhile, according to David Jaffee, Visana’s owner, the business is now sold. Reached via email on Monday, he said he closed the lounge due to problems he was having with neighbors. He said he thought Visana might have succeeded elsewhere but said two neighbors in particular “made it their mission to always call police.”

Continue reading

Associated will get a lease extension, how long unclear

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

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket will be getting a lease extension, the property’s management said on Friday, although it isn’t clear how long this arrangement will last.

Associated’s owners have hoped to remain open once the 14th street store’s lease expires at the end of the year, even with a Trader Joe’s expected to move across the street.

“We are reassured by this agreement that the residents of PCVST will have uninterrupted access to a grocer as the retail food landscape is expected to change on 14th Street,” said Rick Hayduk, CEO and general manager of StuyTown Property Services. “The owners of Associated have been long-term partners of the community and we’re grateful for their cooperation through this process,” he added.

Continue reading

Letters to the Editor

June8 Toon Mr Met

Save our supermarket

The following is an open letter to Stuyvesant Town Property Services CEO/Stuy Town General Manager Rick Hayduk,

As a 41-year long resident of Stuyvesant Town, I am writing to ask you to reconsider Blackstone’s determination to raise the rent against the Associated Supermarket on 14 th Street, causing them to leave our neighborhood.

It is most distressing that almighty profit once again outweighs the value that that market has had in our neighborhood for 25 years.

When I first learned that the store would open there, I was dubious. However, they have been able to run the store and the multiple complications connected with that with a minimum of disruption to us… despite the load in of product, the removal of garbage and the acceptance of bottles from street collectors.

The store’s employees are like family to us… we have seen them get their first job, pay for college, get married, take maternity leave and return, and have a decent job for these many years.

That has been an invaluable commitment on the store owners’ parts, creating a special feeling for those of us who have shopped there.

I know this letter won’t change your mind or the direction your negotiations take.

But I hope it makes you a little less able to look yourself in the mirror.

Sincerely, 

Lynne Hayden-Findlay, ST

Continue reading

Tenants Association asks Blackstone to keep Associated in Stuy Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the future of Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket once again up in the air, following Morton Williams’ decision not to sign a lease for the space, the ST-PCV Tenants Association has asked Blackstone to let the Associated stay.

The request was made over the Tenants Association’s concern that with a Trader Joe’s store as well as a Target eventually moving across the street from Stuyvesant Town, Blackstone would no longer feel obligated to keep an affordable supermarket in the complex, as the owner had committed to previously. But, the TA is arguing, Trader Joe’s, with its unusual and somewhat curated range of products, doesn’t offer a “complete grocery experience.”

The plea was made via a letter from Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg to Stuyvesant Town’s General Manager Rick Hayduk on Monday.

Continue reading

Brewer: Retail blight ‘worse than I thought’

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (pictured at a recent press conference on the Commercial Rent Tax reform bill) conducted a foot patrol study of vacant storefronts along Broadway. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Two Sundays ago, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, with the help of nearly three dozen volunteers, walked along the length of Broadway in Manhattan, taking note of every vacant storefront they passed. The exercise was for a study on retail blight conducted by Brewer’s office, the results of which were not pretty.

In fact, said Brewer, who strolled a strip from the 60s to the 70s, “It was worse than I thought.”

Along her way, she observed five empty storefronts in a two block radius. “I don’t know how long they’ve been empty,” she said.

She chose Broadway as the street to monitor due to it being a part of so many different neighborhoods. Additionally, from what she’s seen the problem doesn’t appear to be more prolific in some neighborhoods than others.

“In Manhattan, it’s everywhere,” she said.

Continue reading

Morton Williams reportedly won’t sign lease after learning Trader Joe’s will open across from Stuy Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

That was fast.

A mere few days after employees at Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket were warned that their new employer (for at least a 90-day trial period) would be Morton Williams, the latter supermarket company decided it would not be signing a lease for the space, said Joseph Falzon, one of four owners of the Associated.

Morton Williams apparently decided to pull the plug after hearing that a Trader Joe’s would be moving across the street from Stuyvesant Town in the site that was formerly home to the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office.

The developers behind that under-construction residential building, Mack Real Estate Group and Benenson Capital Partners, declined to comment through a spokesperson. A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s did not yet respond to a request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for Morton Williams.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading