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

Advertisements

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

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading