Stringer looks for savings to pay for virus impact on city

City Comptroller Scott Stringer

By Sabina Mollot

With Big Apple restaurants and bars now relying on takeout and delivery only and Broadway having gone dark, the city will lose $3.2 billion in taxes over the next six months, Comptroller Scott Stringer said today. In order to protect vital services, Stronger said the city must figure out ways to save money and then set aside four percent of current agency spending, which would amount to roughly $1.43 billion. Social service agencies like the Department of Health and the city’s public hospital network, NYC H+H, would be exempt from the budget siphoning. The savings would then be included in the mayor’s executive budget due later next month if needed.

Meanwhile, Stringer is also calling for additional city, state and federal measures to help businesses that are suffering the most as the virus spreads and the city is further shut down.

His suggestions include:

• Having the state defer sales tax payments that are due for March 20 for hotels, restaurants and small storefront retail

• Extending the city’s assistance program announced last week by the Department of Small Business Services to non-profits

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Where to order in during the coronavirus scare

Ess-A-Bagel, pictured here in 2016 before they opened in Stuy Town, is still offering pick-up and delivery. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on Tuesday limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to take-out and delivery orders only as a precaution against coronavirus, also ordering nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses and concert venues to close. 

“Our lives are all changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago,” the mayor said. “We are taking a series of actions that we never would have taken otherwise in an effort to save the lives of loved ones and our neighbors. Now it is time to take yet another drastic step. The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle.”

While many non-food related businesses have temporarily closed, some restaurants have also opted to close while the city fights the pandemic. 

The Union Square Hospitality Group announced on Friday that all of their restaurants would be closing temporarily. The list includes Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Union Square Cafe, Daily Provisions and others, although Shake Shack locations will remain open and will shift to a “to-go” only operating model. The company said on Tuesday that they would be setting up an employee relief fund to support the team members affected. Through March 24, when patrons purchase a gift card, 100% of the sales will go towards the employee relief fund. The gift card purchases can be redeemed at any of the restaurants, bars and cafes in New York or Washington DC. 

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Openings and closings in the neighborhood

The Trader Joe’s on East 14th Street across from Stuyvesant Town has opened. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Business activity in Kips Bay and Gramercy in the last month has been strangely representative of trends throughout the city, at least regarding grocery stores: following a little bit of a “will they/won’t they” melodrama, longtime New York chain Fairway announced that it would be closing a number of their stores while Trader Joe’s, one of the chains blamed for Fairway’s demise, has finally opened across from Stuyvesant Town.

Recently opened 

Trader Joe’s, 436 East 14th Street, between First Avenue and Avenue A, traderjoes.com

The aforementioned Trader Joe’s officially opened across from Stuyvesant Town at the beginning of the year. Local blog EV Grieve reported that the grand opening was on January 6. The location features local artwork and is managed by a “store captain” who has been with the company for 14 years. Rumors of the new store on East 14th were first reported in 2017, in the years following the demolition of the building that once contained the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office. The store is in the retail space of an eight-story luxury rental building called EVE. 

The Dip, 58 St. Marks Place, between First and Second Avenues, (646) 559-9050,  thedipnyc.com

Gothamist reported at the end of December that a new sandwich spot had opened on St. Mark’s Place. The shop primarily offers sandwiches and focuses on the French Dip, a kind of hot sandwich made of thinly sliced roast beef with cheese that is served with a container of beef broth. In addition to a French Dip sandwich, the spot offers a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, grilled cheese, corned beef and other options. The restaurant, which occupies a narrow space with about six stools along an eating counter, is open Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. The spot is closed on Mondays.

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One arrested as e-bike thefts increase

One of the suspects in multiple recent e-bike thefts

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police have arrested a 24-year-old man in connection with the theft of an e-bike from a restaurant on East 14th Street over the weekend.

The arrest comes after the New York Times reported last Friday that at least 24 e-bikes have been reported stolen throughout the city since last September. The NYPD told the Times that nearly two dozen delivery workers have been attacked and their e-bikes have been stolen by the same two men, who police said ambushed the riders with pepper spray or at knife point. The bikes stolen from the workers can cost as much as $2,000.

Although not an e-bike, Peter Cooper Village resident Adriana Hammonds also reported the theft of her new cargo bike just after Christmas. The family had taken out a loan to pay for the $3,000 bike and it was stolen the first day they took it out for a ride. The bike was meant for Hammonds to use to bring her 6-year-old son Sebastian to school and after assembling it right after the holiday, she and her son took it to visit a friend and locked the bike on East 18th Street and Irving Place. When they returned two hours later, the bike had been stolen.

The Bronx resident who was arrested for the recent e-bike theft was caught at the corner of Second Avenue and East 15th Street on Sunday, January 5 at 7:53 p.m. after a witness chased him from the restaurant where he took the bike.

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Town & Village holiday gift guide

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The holiday season is well underway and while more and more people do their gift shopping online lately, Town & Village has compiled a guide for local residents who want to support local businesses when picking up what they need for family members and friends.

For the kiddos

Pillows at Ibiza Kidz (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Kids of all ages can find something to cure their boredom at Ibiza Kidz at 340 First Avenue in Stuyvesant Town. Owner and Stuy Town resident Carole Husiak said that some of her most popular items for kids and even adults are the squishable pillows depicting cutesy anthropomorphic food characters. Available characters include a dog/hot dog, pizza, ice cream and others, but Husiak said that the stuffed avocado is the most popular.

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Owner of Rosemary’s opening spot in Peter Cooper

Rosemary’s owner Carlos Suarez announced the new restaurant last week. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The owner of popular West Village restaurant Rosemary’s will be opening a fifth location, this time on the East Side, taking over the space that was formerly occupied by Petite Abeille and Vamos! at the corner of First Avenue and East 20th Street. The new spot, which will include a space for private events, a vegetable garden just outside the restaurant, a sidewalk cafe and a dedicated space for takeout orders, is expected to open by next spring.

Carlos Suarez’s Casa Nela restaurant group owns Rosemary’s and until now, the most recent addition to their roster was Roey’s on Perry Street in the West Village in 2018, which originally opened as Rosemary’s Pizza, Eater reported at the time.

Suarez said during the announcement of the new restaurant on Tuesday night at Resident Services in Stuy Town that Rosemary’s was created with the intention of giving the neighborhood a space to feel comfortable.

“I named my restaurant Rosemary’s after my mother because I felt that the West Village needed a place to take care of the neighborhood, open all the time, offering a wide variety of delicious food that’s healthy and homemade, all at a reasonable price point,” he said. “I wanted to create the kind of place that would be welcoming to a diverse audience from students and young adults and seniors alike. So the name, the concept and the vision of the original Rosemary’s, and now Roey’s, my mom’s nickname, were all decided with the intention of making our West Village neighborhood a better place to live, to work and to visit.”

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AR Workshop offers crafty options for Gramercy

AR Workshop owner Jill Zadie opened up in Gramercy on Third Avenue in March. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Heads up, crafters: there’s a new workshop space in town. A new location for national company AR Workshop has opened on Third Avenue and is offering DIY classes for projects in the retail space formerly occupied by clothing shop, Second Time Around.

The new spot in Gramercy that opened this past March is run by Murray Hill resident Jill Zadie, who has been living in the neighborhood for the last eight years and is originally from New Jersey. Her store on Third Avenue is the first location in Manhattan for AR Workshop and it was actually when she was visiting friends back in New Jersey that she first attended a class in one of the locations there.

“I just fell in love with it, and I said I wish they had this in Manhattan,” she said. “Then the owner of that workshop told me they’re a brand new company that is not in Manhattan yet and you should look into it. So I looked into it.”

Zadie, who is a corporate attorney by trade, said that she was drawn to the company because of their commitment to empowering women, giving back to the community and having a space for families to spend time together.

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Associated closing in Stuyvesant Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town on East 14th Street will likely be closing by the end of this year, StuyTown general manager Rick Hayduk announced in an email to residents last Friday afternoon.

Hayduk noted in the message that management has been working with the store in an attempt to keep the market open through the holiday season, including by offering free rent, but the store reportedly still would not be able to guarantee that it could stay open through the end of the year.

The owners told management that the competitive environment for supermarkets, both locally and due to online ordering, led them to the decision to close.

Norman Quintanilla, who has been the manager at the store for the last 16 years, told Town & Village on Tuesday that they have notified employees that the last day would be December 10, but the store will likely end up closing by the end of November.

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Non-profit offers singing opportunities for seniors at Third Street

Third Street Music School (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Gramercy resident Loretta Marion rediscovered choral singing after her husband died almost a decade ago but has found community in a group of older adults who perform with a non-profit with origins in Annapolis that has organized in New York for the last couple of years.

The organization, called Encore, provides adults age 55 and over with singing opportunities, and the New York chapter began its new season at a new, local location for its fall season earlier this month. Encore Rocks, a rock & roll chorus that covers hits from the 50s to the 80s, and Encore Chorale, which is a choral group singing arrangements from classical and Broadway, both have a new home at Third Street Music School Settlement on East 11th Street.

Marion, 80, has lived on Third Avenue between East 18th and 19th Streets since she got married in 1968 and before that, lived in a studio apartment on East 22nd Street at Second Avenue.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood for a long time,” she said. This year, she will be a volunteer chorale master for Encore Chorale.

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Gristedes across from Peter Cooper Village to become D’Agostino

The store is expected to have an official grand re-opening next Friday, September 20.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Gristedes at 355 First Avenue across from Peter Cooper Village will be converted into a D’Agostino, owner John Catsimatidis confirmed last week.

Catsimatidis told Real Estate Weekly last week that the change was at the request of neighbors, since there was D’Agostino east of First Avenue in Stuyvesant Town for over 50 years. That store lost its lease over a decade ago and was replaced with a new gym. Catsimatidis said that there are no plans right now to re-brand at other Gristedes locations.

Neighbors notified Town & Village at the beginning of this month that a sign announcing the change was posted in the window and the Gristedes sign had been removed by September 3.

Signage outside the store had already changed over to D’Agostino by this past Tuesday and renovations were ongoing in the store at the time. Construction workers outside the store on Tuesday said that the store will be staying open during the renovations and the grand re-opening is scheduled for next Friday, September 20.

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Mahjong with a side of shmear

Stuy Town resident Susie Fasbinder has started teaching mahjong classes at the Ess-a-Bagel in Stuyvesant Town on First Avenue. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town resident Susie Fasbinder wants to bring an old game to a younger generation—over a classic New York meal. Fasbinder approached Ess-a-Bagel owner Beverly Wilpon about hosting small games at the shop on First Avenue and Wilpon was open to it, thus “mahjong and a shmear” was born.

Fasbinder, who is also a children’s book author, learned how to play the game as a teenager and picked it up again in her 50s but began teaching classes because she was having trouble finding games locally. She started listing classes through Facebook groups and said that she taught about 30 people how to play over the last six to eight months before starting the classes in the Stuyvesant Town Ess-a-Bagel at 324 First Avenue.

Those initial lessons were private classes but she got the idea to open it up to the public when walking by the bagel shop, which also offers space to a knitting group on Tuesday nights. Classes started out on Monday nights but Fasbinder said that she’s adding a class on Wednesdays as well due to their popularity. Wilpon said that they already have classes scheduled through September and was surprised at how popular they ended up being.

Banu Chediek, a Long Island City resident, found the class after hearing about it from the knitting group that Ess-a-Bagel hosts on Tuesday nights and attended one of Fasbinder’s mahjong classes last month. Another student who attended last month, Lee Murphy, used to live in Stuy Town and Katie Ward, who lives in the East Village, also attended.

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Local writers wanted for monthly meetups

East Village Wordsmiths has been hosted at Ciao for Now on East 12th Street for the last year.

By Sabina Mollot and Maria Rocha-Buschel

For the past year, a group of writers led by Stuyvesant Town resident Leigh Anne O’Connor have been meeting monthly at East Village restaurant Ciao for Now where they take turns reading from new works.

In recent months the writing workshop, dubbed the East Village Wordsmiths, has grown in numbers, though O’Connor said there is still plenty of room for more.

“It would be great to have a steady group of performers,” she said. “Sometimes we’re there and we have an hour and 20 minutes but sometimes we’re done inside an hour. I want it to expand into having a solid show.”

O’Connor, who works as a lactation consultant for breastfeeding mothers, says she had been doing writing on the breastfeeding and other issues that involved raising children. One of her motivations for starting the group, though, came from a writing class that she took at the Tribeca 92nd Street Y where she got the opportunity to perform some of her work.

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City: Don’t just blame high rent

Study reveals variety of reasons for retail vacancies

The city described vacancy rates as “volatile,” varying widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While too-high rents and competition from Amazon are often blamed for the state of the city’s struggling retail sector, when there’s a high vacancy rate in a particular neighborhood, it can’t necessarily be pinned down to one specific obstacle.

At least, that’s the conclusion drawn by the Department of City Planning (DCP), which has released a study of the city’s retail storefronts to determine vacancy rates and the possible reasons for them.

The report was done after assessing 10,000 storefronts in 24 retail corridors around the boroughs using data from a tech platform put out by the company Live XYZ as well as on the ground surveys. Looking at trends from late 2017 through Fall 2018, the study also used demographic, land use and real estate data, and input from local business associations. The survey defined a vacant space as vacant and available. Those not included in stats were vacant spaces with active construction or known redevelopment plans as well as empty stores with signage announcing a future tenant. Occupied stores with a “for lease” sign were also excluded from the vacancy figures.

Overall the study found, when comparing similar data from a decade ago, vacancy has increased from 7.6-9 percent over the studied neighborhoods.

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Co-owner of The Stand killed

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested 27-year-old Joseph Porter for the murder of 40-year-old David Kimowitz, co-owner of The Stand comedy club in Union Square, and his live-in au pair, 26-year-old Karen Bermudez-Rodriguez early Saturday morning on August 3.

The New York Times reported that Porter was the boyfriend of Bermudez-Rodriguez and he was charged with two counts of murder, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal restraint.

The Times reported that police responded to a 911 call to the Maplewood, NJ home around sunrise reporting that a woman was being assaulted, and when police arrived, they found Bermudez-Rodriguez lying in the street, critically injured. She was transported to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, where she later died.

According to the criminal complaint, Bermudez-Rodriguez and Porter had communicated via text on the night of the murders and Bermudez-Rodriguez had written that she wanted to break up with Porter, who then responded that he was upset with her because she was trying to end the relationship.

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Rivera announces tools for small businesses

Councilmember Carlina Rivera announced the new tools for small businesses in front of vacant storefronts on East 9th Street last week. (Photos courtesy of Councilmember Rivera’s office)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City Councilmember Carlina Rivera joined neighborhood organizations outside vacant storefronts on East 9th Street on Tuesday, July 30 to announce new initiatives to help small businesses in the East Village, including an app that connects residents to local businesses in the neighborhood.

Renaissance EDC, Asian Americans for Equality, Village Alliance, Cooper Square Committee, East Village Community Coalition and the East Village Independent Merchants Association joined Rivera for the announcement that the East Village Revitalization Loan Fund will be offering East Village business owners the opportunity to borrow up to $50,000 with fixed interest rates lower than what small business owners would be able to secure through a normal loan provider. Renaissance EDC is an affiliate of Asian Americans for Equality.

The loans can be used for restocking inventory, purchasing new equipment or furniture, payroll, storefront improvements or renovations, marketing and other typical high-cost capital needs.

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