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

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Robber punches woman at Kips Bay spa

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Kips Bay robbery suspect (Photo via NYPD)

By Sabina Mollot
Cops are hunting a brute who robbed a 40-year-old woman, punched her multiple times and then demanded she strip.

Police said this happened on Wednesday, shortly before 1 p.m. at a Kips Bay acupuncture center/spa. The man strode into the business, Green Tea acupuncture wellness, at 240 East 28th Street, before demanding money from the cash register. He then punched a female employee repeatedly in the face and on her body. While grabbing her by the neck, he also told her to take off her clothes, police said. She didn’t although she did at that point give $500 to the man who fled in an unknown direction.

The woman was taken to a local hospital where she was treated and released.

The suspect is described as black-Hispanic, 6’2″ tall and 220 lbs., with blotchy skin, brown eyes and short curly black hair. He was last seen wearing a dark blue jacket, blue jeans, black sneakers and a multi-colored back pack.

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.

 

Carb Tease: Ess-a-Bagel says re-opening is next week

Sept8 Ess-A-Bagel bagels

Toasty (not toasted) Ess-a-Bagels (Photo by Danny Chin)

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday, Ess-a-Bagel announced via Facebook that the long delayed store opening in Stuyvesant Town would be some time early next week.

“Will post the exact date over the weekend. Happy Labor Day and look forward to seeing you all next week!!” read a post.

Owner David Wilpon didn’t return a call for comment but said previously that the delay in opening had to do with numerous permits.

Ess-a-Bagel at 324 First Avenue was originally supposed to open in February, nearly a year after the company lost its lease across the street to Tal Bagels.

Since then three permits have been approved by the city for work related to the new store’s renovation, for signage, sprinklers and floors.

By Wednesday, Town & Village reader Danny Chin alerted us that good news was in the air.

“I was lucky enough to get a photo of the 1st test batch of bagels from the new Ess-a-Bagel,” he said. “They were testing out their new oven as I was walking by this afternoon. The bagel was nicely blistered and crispy.”

Cops issue summonses for underage drinking at First Avenue lounge

Mar17 Visana

Visana, a pizzeria in front and cocktail lounge in back, on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Visana, the First Avenue speakeasy style cocktail lounge that’s previously drawn the ire of neighbors due to nighttime noise, had the 13th Precinct’s commanding officer seeing red recently after officers issued seven summonses for underage drinking.

Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney said the 13th Precinct will be taking a more active role with regards to disruptive patrons at Visana after those incidents, which occurred at the end of February.

“We’ve been on top of them lately but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Timoney said. “(Visana owner David Jaffee) was crying out in the street saying they didn’t want this to happen but they advertised a party that night. They knew this would happen when they packed the place.”

Jaffee and his partner Ross Rachlin have been at a number of meetings of the 13th Precinct Community Council in the last few months but were not present this Tuesday as Timoney addressed community members.

Area residents, who were at the meeting to find out if progress had been made in keeping the bar under control, praised the police officers who have responded to the scene in dealing with the drunken crowds.

Visana recently failed to get the support of a Community Board 6 committee in its hopes for renewal of its liquor license. The business has an upcoming hearing with the State Liquor Authority regarding charges on noise and license issues.

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Mumbles restaurant closes, La Follia will take over space

Jan28 Mumbles

Mumbles at Third Avenue and 17th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

Mumbles, a family-run restaurant that’s been in the Gramercy neighborhood for 22 years, closed its doors for good on Sunday.

The business has been sold to the owners of a nearby restaurant La Follia, who will be moving in February.

On Thursday, January 21, Mumbles’ owner, David Feldman threw a going away party at the restaurant, which he said was packed with family, friends and regulars.

Reached at the restaurant the next day as the city prepared for a blizzard, Feldman explained his reasons for closing the restaurant, which at one time had three Manhattan locations.

For one thing, his father, who started the business, died six years ago, leaving Feldman and his brother to run things. But then Feldman also lost his brother a year ago to cancer.

This left Feldman alone to run Mumbles as well as two other restaurants the family owned, Benjamin in Murray Hill, and East of Eighth in Chelsea, as well as a catering business. Those businesses will all remain open.

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Editorial: SBJSA could be the only hope for saving mom-and-pop shops

Council Member Annabel Palma, prime sponsor of the SBJSA City Council photo)

Council Member Annabel Palma, prime sponsor of the SBJSA City Council photo)

The Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, which had been languishing in the City Council for 30 years up until a recent organized push helped get 27 Council members to indicate their support for it, has been blasted by critics as being unconstitutional. What’s interesting though is that no one, not even its stiffest opponents, are giving any reasons why this is the case.

We won’t pretend to be legal experts but what we know is this. Owners of small businesses in this city are in desperate need of some bargaining power because right now they have none. At any time, any business that is doing well and meeting the needs of the community it serves could still disappear overnight, whether it’s due to an obscenely high rent hike or a refusal from a speculative landlord to even offer a renewal at any price.

We appreciate the effort being made by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on a bill that would at least force property owners to negotiate in good faith with a tenant. However, with the only sure thing in that scenario being a one-year lease extension for a business at a 15 percent rent hike, it just won’t be enough to stem the tide of mom-and-pops being forced out by chains and banks.

The SBJSA, however, if passed, would give an existing tenant another 10 years. This would actually make a huge dent in bringing back the stability the city’s retail landscape hasn’t known in many years.

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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.

Ess-a-Bagel will reopen in Stuy Town

Ess-a-Bagel is coming to Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Muriel Frost)

Ess-a-Bagel is coming to Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Melanie Frost)

By Sabina Mollot

Over half a year after closing its longtime home on First Avenue, Ess-a-Bagel will be reopening nearby — in Stuyvesant Town.

The new location is also on First Avenue at 19th Street.

One of the owners, David Wilpon, had previously told Town & Village (off the record) that he was working on a deal but the final papers hadn’t been signed as of last week. Talks had been going on for at least a couple of months though. On Friday, however, a banner was spotted in the store’s window at 324 First Avenue, and residents have already been cheering the news on Facebook and on local blog EVGrieve.

Another owner, Muriel Frost, told T&V on Friday the lease had been signed on Thursday. The new location will be bigger, which will allow the bagel shop to do things that couldn’t be done at the old shop.

“We will do catering and also delivery, which we were not physically equipped to do before,” Frost said.

Frost also said management at Stuyvesant Town had so far been very accommodating whenever Ess-A-Bagel had a request.

“They are very congenial; I really must praise them,” she said.

Meanwhile, Frost said she’s not worried about the new bagel shop in town, Tal Bagels, which got Ess-A-Bagel’s old space at the corner of 21st Street, since Ess-A-Bagel is well known. “We don’t see them as a threat,” she said. “With God’s help and everyone’s good wishes, we will open and we will have a ready audience.”

What took so long in reopening was that other places they’d looked at didn’t end up working out. One landlord on First Avenue, she recalled, changed his mind.

As for when the new location will open, Frost isn’t sure, because it has to be renovated first.

As Town & Village first reported in January, Ess-A-Bagel lost its lease, as did its neighbor, the now-closed Rose restaurant, and Grill 21, another neighboring eatery’s space, was also put on the market. Grill 21 is still open there though on a month-to-month lease. The landlord, an LLC owned by L&M Development head Ron Moelis and others, said it tried to make a deal but Ess-A-Bagel wouldn’t budge when given a rent increase. Ess-A-Bagel’s owners, however, said they were in the midst of negotiations when the landlord told them they were taking too long to sign on the dotted line.

Back in May, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager, David Sorise, said in an interview that Ess-A-Bagel would be “a great tenant to have,” and that tenants often request food-based businesses for the property’s retail spaces.

“It’s not just about which person’s going to pay the most rent,” Sorise said at the time.

Tal Bagels opened in Ess-a-Bagel’s old space on September 25, with a Bank of America soon to open next door.

Having two bagel joints so close to one another may not be the undoing of either company since further south on First Avenue, opposite Stuy Town, sit two other bagel restaurants, David’s and Bagel Boss.

Robber pulls knife on Kips Bay 7-Eleven worker, cops say

Oct22 7-Eleven suspect2

7-Eleven robbery suspect (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

Police are looking for a man who allegedly robbed a 7-Eleven store in Kips Bay after pulling a knife on an employee.

Cops say the holdup happened on Wednesday, October 14 at 478 Third Avenue (between East 32nd and 33rd Streets) at 10 p.m.

The suspect walked in, pulled out a knife and demanded money, police said. He then fled after an employee handed him $50. The suspect is described as being white, in his 30s, 5’10” tall, 185 lbs., and has a beard.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers’ website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577.

See more photos below:

Oct22 7-Eleven suspect4 Oct22 7-Eleven suspect3

7-Eleven robbery suspect (Surveillance photo via NYPD)

7-Eleven robbery suspect (Surveillance photos via NYPD)

Adriatic closes, space to become pizzeria/lounge

Adriatic has closed after over 25 years on First Avenue. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Adriatic has closed after over 25 years on First Avenue. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, Adriatic pizzeria and restaurant, which had been across First Avenue from Stuyvesant Town for over a quarter century, closed, to the surprise of the community.

A board member of the ST-PCV Tenants Association learned about the imminent closure in the morning when she went to check out a Tenants Association dropbox that was at the location.

Town & Village attempted to reach the owner at around 2 p.m. but it was too late, with no one picking up the phone. A visit there shortly afterwards also produced no luck with a metal grate closed around the restaurant, located at 321 First Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets.

The restaurant switched ownership three years ago and also renovated the space. Like many businesses along First Avenue near the VA Medical Center, owner Nino Geni told T&V in the months after Hurricane Sandy, there had been a drop in business. Customers said recently the place never seemed busy.

Susan Steinberg, the chair of the Tenants Association as well as a member of Community Board 6, said she’d first gotten wind of the closure last December when another company tried to get the board’s blessing for a liquor license at the address. The new business was to be a pizzeria and lounge.

However, Steinberg said when the owners of Adriatic were asked about it, they denied that they were closing.

“All the small retailers are disappearing; the bagel shop, the (Cooper) laundromat,” said Steinberg. “They’re falling one by one.”

On the upside, Steinberg noted, “At least it’s not another bank or a pharmacy.”

Reached on the phone on Monday, David Jaffee, the co-owner of the new pizzeria/lounge, said it will be called Visana.

The front will be a pizzeria with both regular and gluten-free options, separated in order to avoid cross-contamination. The back area will be a bar and lounge with a focus on after work cocktails and events. The problem at Adriatic, Jaffee added, was that the owners “couldn’t make money on the restaurant portion.”

The menu at Visana will feature organic spirits and ingredients as much as possible, but not exclusively.

“It’s a balance between cost, reasonable selling price to our customers, spoilage,” explained Jaffee. “Some fruits and vegetables don’t need to be organic because they have a low pesticide load or are protected by their coverings, such as pineapple. Others should always be organic, such as strawberries and blueberries.”

Jaffee, who moved to Stuyvesant Town three months ago, added that he is “very committed to the community and I hope they will embrace us.” This is the first business venture for him as well as his partner Ross Rachlin. There is no set date for the opening since there is going to be some renovation work needed first. However, a note that’s been taped to the door does state the place will open at some point in August.

When going before CB6’s Business Affairs and Streets Activities Committee, Jaffee and Rachlin of Pure Hospitality LLC had pitched a pizza restaurant/lounge that would focus on organic food and beverages. The owners had hoped to stay open until 4 a.m., but CB6 prefers establishments to commit to closing at 2 a.m. In January, CB6 authored a resolution opposing the application, citing concerns from neighbors about a growing nightlife scene in the district and concerns from the Gramercy Park Block Association over having a lounge open until 4 a.m.

Jaffee said the board told him it would have no problem with his concept if he agreed to close at 2 a.m. for the first year. However, he didn’t want to commit to that time frame.

“We didn’t sign their stipulation because we felt confident that we could do better at the SLA level, which we did,” he said.

Last week, he got the business’s liquor license approved and liquor can be served until 3 a.m. for the first six months. Then after that he’s allowed to return and request permission to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. He’d requested permission to remain open until 4 a.m. but the SLA cited the community board’s concerns and the fact that Jaffee is a first-time operator as reason for the one less hour when he can serve alcohol. He doesn’t have to close at 3 a.m. though so from 3-4 a.m., Jaffee told Town & Village the plan is to make this a “detox hour,” when coconut water and healthy juices are served.

Police arrest suspect in string of armed robberies

Kenneth Nottage as he appears in a police wanted poster

Kenneth Nottage as he appears in a police wanted poster

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, police arrested a man they believ to behind a string of armed heists at businesses near Stuyvesant Town and in the East Village as well as in another neighborhoods.

Kenneth Nottage, 47, who police said lives in Gramercy at 347 East 18th Street, was apprehended in the 19th Precinct, which covers the Upper East Side.

Over the weekend, police had circulated a wanted poster for Nottage, at the time listing his last known address in Staten Island.

Nottage was collared after allegedly hitting a dozen stores in nine days, in each case either pulling a knife or simulating a gun while demanding cash. One shop employee told Town & Village last week he’d worn a stocking over his face.

Police said he is facing four counts of robbery for the third, seventh, ninth and 12th incidents, while the others are still being investigated by the Central Robbery Division. He’s also facing burglary charges.

In just one of the incidents, despite an alleged threat to shoot an employee, Nottage left the store empty-handed, after an employee gave him a shove.
This was at East Village Fruit and Vegetable at 229 Avenue B at 1:45 a.m. on Tuesday, April 7. At that time, Nottage allegedly placed on object onto an employee’s back, stating, in substance, “Don’t move or I’m going to shoot you!”

He then allegedly demanded that the cashier, another employee, open the register and give him cash. The workers refused and one shoved Nottage, who then ran out of the deli.

A spokesperson for the NYPD and the D.A. did not have additional information as to how Nottage was apprehended.

He has three prior arrests although no information was available as to those incidents, and his next court appearance is scheduled for April 17.

Nottage’s Legal Aid attorney, Richard Charney, declined to comment on the charges.

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Brewer throws lifeline to mom-and-pop shops

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer discusses her legislation at the Upper West Side location of Halal Guys. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer discusses her legislation at the Upper West Side location of Halal Guys. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Legislation would make it mandatory for landlords to negotiate with retail tenants

By Sabina Mollot

New legislation could curb a trend of mom-and-pop businesses being replaced by banks and chain stores.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she’s drafting legislation that would make it mandatory for a building’s owner to at least allow a retail tenant a chance to negotiate to keep his or her space.

“The future of street level retail stores and restaurants — I call them storefronters — has begun to look murky,” Brewer said on Monday. “Every day, the press has another story about a kids’ clothing store or a shoe repair shop closing to make room for a chain or a bank.”

The bill, which is being sponsored by the City Council’s Small Business Committee Chair Robert Cornegy at Brewer’s request, along with giving tenants a chance to negotiate, would also give the tenant the option of a one-year lease extension with a maximum rent increase of 15 percent. Additionally, a building owner, if planning on evicting the tenant, would have to give the tenant notice of that intention 180 days before the end of a lease. “So businesses will have enough time to find new space and make a transition, hopefully in the same neighborhood,” said Brewer.

Brewer also said she wanted to help business owners threatened by rent increases the option of purchasing the storefront through “condo-ization.”

“Many of the long-standing small businesses that are here today are only here because they had an opportunity to buy the building,” she said. “There was a time where you could buy a building, but that opportunity today is dim.”

While this is technically already possible under current law, Brewer said there are ways the city could be helping the process along. It may be possible, she added, to create a condo if the business portion of the building is split from the residential portion. Additionally, if 51 percent of the property or more is occupied by the business, it could qualify for a federal Small Business Association loan of up to $5 million.

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Stuy Town resident-owned gallery showing rare works by Dr. Seuss

Jeff Jaffe, who owns Pop International with wife Nanette, stands by one of the pieces in the exhibit. (Photo by Frances Sinkowitsch)

Jeff Jaffe, who owns Pop International with wife Nanette, stands by one of the pieces in the exhibit. (Photo by Frances Sinkowitsch)

By Sabina Mollot

When people think of Dr. Seuss, detailed oil paintings and taxidermy-inspired sculptures aren’t necessarily what come to mind. But the world-famous children’s book author and illustrator known for his whimsical creatures like Cat in the Hat and the Grinch did create other types of art, which he called his “midnight art.” And a number of those midnight art pieces are now part of an exhibit at a gallery in midtown owned by a Stuyvesant Town couple. The husband and wife team, Jeff Jaffe and Nanette Ross, own Pop International Galleries, which has two locations, the flagship in SoHo, and another in midtown’s Citicorp Building. The latter venue will be the site of the Seuss exhibit, called “The Cat Behind the Hat,” which will also feature some of the more well-known images from the artist’s beloved books.

Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, enjoyed a nearly seven-decade-long career and his midnight art, along with the other pieces, are being made available courtesy of his widow Audrey. This was in accordance with Seuss’s wishes that his secret works be shared with the public after his death. No originals will be available for sale but limited edition prints and artist proofs, which are museum quality, will be. Prices on the works range from $500-$35,000 depending on their rarity, and Jaffe, who spoke with Town & Village on Monday afternoon, said five pieces had already been sold that morning alone.

The exhibit, which opens today, Thursday, February 12, will run through the end of the month. It’s timed to coincide with Seuss’s birthday and the 25th anniversary of his last book, Oh the Places You’ll Go.

For Jaffe, the best part of the exhibit is the midnight art, since it shows a side of the artist that most of his fans have never seen.

“What’s great about his personal art is that he loved to do it more than anything,” Jaffe said. However, this is not to say Seuss didn’t enjoy the work he did for his children’s books. Rather than feel stifled as an artist by the illustrative style he was best known for, “he was quite humble that his books had such a profound effect.”

As for how he came to be known as Dr. Seuss, this was his mother’s maiden name “and she always wanted him to become a doctor,” said Jaffe. “That’s how he was. He had a diabolical sense of humor.”

Seuss’s style and the kinds of art he did evolved over the years. He did graphic art and advertising design in his early years and later on children’s books. He also did what he called “unorthodox taxidermy” pieces throughout his career though mostly early on, and ten of them will be on view at Pop International. Jaffe noted how the sculptures, in materials like resin, were fashioned from real bird bills and other parts from animals that had died that Seuss would get from his father who worked at a zoo. No actual animal parts are in the final art pieces, which have the artist’s distinctive style through details like googly eyes on a walrus. “They’re absolutely hilarious,” said Jaffe.

So far, the reaction to the exhibition has been, as expected, huge.

“We get avid, avid art collectors and we have people who just love Dr. Seuss,” said Jaffe. One illustration that’s been especially popular is “Kid, You’ll Move Mountains,” which is from the book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

“It’s the sort of thing you’d buy for a graduation,” said Jaffe. “It’s been really quite amazing to see the reaction and emotion.”

As the gallery’s name suggests, Pop International features works by pop artists from newcomers to the most well known like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. A show coming up at the SoHo location in March will feature five street artists with the focus on the Brazilian female artist Panmela Castro. Much of her work has had the theme of awareness of violence against women. Her works will be joined by works by four male artists in an exhibition titled, “We’ve Got Your Back, Girl.” The other artists are Dom, Pattinson, Chris Stain and Joe Ivato, and the show will be done in association with Creative Arts Works.

The Dr. Seuss exhibition will have its official opening at Pop International, 153 East 53rd Street (Citicorp building Atrium), with a reception taking place on February 12 from 5-8 p.m. To RSVP (required), call (917) 302-8404. A catalogue with prices can be requested online at popinternational.com.

Jaffe and Ross have owned the midtown gallery for two and a half years and the SoHo one at 473 West Broadway for 18 years. They’ve lived in Stuyvesant Town, where they’ve raised two children, for 25 years.

UPDATED: Grill 21, Rose closing, Ess-A-Bagel moving

Grill 21 restaurant

Grill 21 restaurant

By Sabina Mollot

Three restaurants that are located at the corner of East 21st Street and First Avenue, Ess-A-Bagel, Grill 21 and Rose Restaurant, won’t be getting their leases renewed, T&V has learned.

Henry Beck, a Stuyvesant Town resident who owns Grill 21 with wife Marissa, said their business will likely close at the end of the month. He’s not sure if they’ll move it elsewhere. According to Beck, both his business and Ess-A-Bagel have been denied lease renewals and new businesses are already lined up to move in.

Those businesses are Bank of America and Tal Bagels.

David Wilpon, the owner of Ess-A-Bagel said the longtime bagel joint may be moving somewhere close by but it’s nowhere near a done deal. “There’s a lot that’s up in the air,” he said, adding that he’s still holding out some hope of staying put. He’s also requesting a holdover and is in the midst of negotiations. Meanwhile, the company also has a second location on Third Avenue in midtown.

Wilpon said the trouble with his lease started when his aunt, Florence Wilpon, who’d founded the businesses in 1976, died. This was in September, 2013 during the midst of negotiations for a renewal. After that, while the family was dealing with the will and related issues, “They claimed we weren’t getting back to them in a timely fashion.”

He said he heard that both the bank and the bagel restaurant will be moving into the Ess-A-Bagel space, which is technically two spaces that were divided prior to his restaurant’s opening.

Wilpon chalked up the impending closure as part of the pattern of the city’s landlords preferring to oust mom-and-pops in the hopes of getting a corporation that can pay more.

“It’s endemic of the city; they’re pushing out independent businesses,” he said.

Beck said the owner of the building is L&M Development Partners, and that the owner has already taken away Grill 21’s storage space. Grill 21, a Filipino restaurant, opened in 2005.

A principal at L&M, Ron Moelis, didn’t return a request for comment on the owner’s plans for the property or at least the storefronts. The company develops properties, including affordable housing, and also handles commercial leasing.

(UPDATE: See response from a rep for the owner, an LLC called East 21 Retail, below the article.)

Another restaurant that will be closing is Rose Restaurant, which an employee said will be happening “as soon as possible. The landlord wanted too much money.”
The owners may reopen a restaurant in the Bronx “but not yet and not Manhattan,” he said.

Ess-A-Bagel and Grill 21 expect to have their last days at the end of the month.

A shoe repair shop in the same property is also expected to be given the boot soon.

The owner of Frank’s Shoe Repair said he was unsure of what was happening with his business, as he’s been hearing different stories from neighbors and customers. However, before hanging up his phone, he added that he didn’t see the point of discussing it, anyway.

“It’s nothing to do with you,” he said. “You can’t help us. It’s called business. The big fish eats the small fish.”

Meanwhile, another nearby restaurant/bakery owned by the Becks on East 21st Street and Second Avenue, Pan de Sal, has also closed. The closure of the eatery happened about a month ago due to business being terrible, Beck said. The fact that the storefront was partially obscured by scaffolding since it opened in 2011 “didn’t help.

“The owner told me it was coming down in July; he didn’t say which year. It was a beautiful thing and we had a lot of fun times there,” added Beck, who’s also an associate broker with the Corcoran Group, “but of course you have to make a decision.”

UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for the owner contacted us and said L&M is not the owner of the building; East 21 Retail LLC is.

When informed of this, T&V spoke with Beck and Wilpon who said they’d believed they were dealing with L&M and affiliated partners.

Beck said, “The people we talk to are still the same. Christina Warner (of L&M) is a part owner. My feeling is they’re still part owners.”

When called for comment, Warner said due to company policy any comment would have to come from East 21’s spokesperson who contacted us.

Wilpon told T&V, “I always thought they (L&M) were (the owner) and we paid to their partnerships.”

We then asked the East 21 Retail LLC spokesperson who owned the LLC, and she admitted that there was some overlap between the two entities, with Ron Moelis, CEO at L&M, being a part owner.

As far as Ess-A-Bagel’s moving out is concerned, the owner issued the following statement:

“When we purchased the property, our main priority was to keep Ess-A-Bagel as a tenant. Ess-A-Bagel is a tradition in this city and we had no desire to see them leave. In the three years since, we’ve bent over backwards to come to a mutually fair agreement with Ess-A-Bagel’s owners. Our offer would have allowed Ess-A-Bagel to remain — and even gave them the option to expand — in the space they are in currently. Unfortunately, it takes two sides to make a deal, and Ess-A-Bagel’s owners repeatedly refused to meet us between their below-market rent and current market value. We regret that Ess-A-Bagel chose to misrepresent our intentions in the press. We take our responsibility as landlords very seriously and worked diligently to keep Ess-A-Bagel as a tenant. At a meeting in September, Ess-A-Bagel confirmed they were actively negotiating a lease at a new location. We wish them the best of luck in all their future endeavors.”

Regarding the neighboring restaurants, the spokesperson said Grill 21 was on a month-to-month lease and made a decision to close, while Rose Restaurant was seven months behind in rent.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Tal Bagels as Tower.

PCV dog trainer denies competing with Happy Dogs, poaching clients

Peter Cooper resident Blake Rodriguez of DCTK9, with other dog walkers, walks a dog close to home in August. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Peter Cooper resident Blake Rodriguez of DCTK9, with other dog walkers, walks a dog close to home in August. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In September, new doggie daycare center Happy Dogs, which is located on First Avenue north of 23rd Street, sued a former trainer the company had worked with, accusing Blake Rodriguez, a Peter Cooper resident, of poaching customers and starting a competing business, Dream Come True K9 (DCTK9).

The problem, said Ien and Jennifer Cheng, who own Happy Dogs, was that during the course of their working relationship, Rodriguez said he wanted to open his own rehabilitation center for dogs with behavioral issues. Though they knew this, they became concerned that despite his having signed an agreement not to compete, his center, located a mile and half downtown of Happy Dogs in Manhattan, would do just that by offering overnight boarding as Happy Dogs also does.

The contract called for him not to start a competing business within three miles of of Happy Dogs after the working relationship had ended. Happy Dogs also accused Rodriguez of illegally boarding dogs in his apartment.

A month after the suit was filed, last Thursday, a judge at a city Civil Court heard arguments from both sides and while he didn’t come to any decision, indicated he didn’t think Rodriguez’s dog walking and training company posed much of a threat to Happy Dogs. Noting that DCTK9 is a startup while Happy Dogs has two locations (one in Kips Bay and another in McCarren Park in Brooklyn), Judge Robert Reed said, “It’s like a gnat causing annoyance to an elephant.”

Reed brought up how many dogs there were in the city, saying that just that morning he’d been emailed an ad for a doggie daycare service “and I don’t have a dog.” He added that he wondered why Happy Dogs was so worried about losing clients when “there’s a lot more people with dogs within that three mile radius” of Manhattan.

Happy Dogs owner Jennifer Cheng at the First  Avenue facility in 2013 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Happy Dogs owner Jennifer Cheng at the First Avenue facility in 2013 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

In response, attorney Robert Landy, who was representing Happy Dogs, said that while Happy Dogs didn’t consider itself unique, it was trying to keep its clients from being poached by Rodriguez. The lawsuit had stated that the Chengs had seen testimonials on DCTK9’s website from former clients of Happy Dogs. In response to Reed’s earlier comparison of the two businesses, the attorney said that he “wouldn’t consider Happy Dogs a giant elephant,” but agreed that Happy Dogs was a bigger operation. He said the company recently expanded so that there are now 30 employees.

Landy added that Rodriguez and the Chengs had worked on the group training sessions held at Happy Dogs together and as a result Rodriguez got confidential information about the company’s clients and their dogs’ needs. He also said that during a time after the working relationship had ended but when the Chengs and Rodriguez were still trying to renew it, there was a lot of back and forth on what Rodriguez was going to do with his company, with boarding being a murky subject.

Rodriguez’s website, he added, initially described DCTK9 as a one-stop shop for various dog-related services. But DCTK9, in a written response to the lawsuit, had said Rodriguez had been unaware of this at first since he hadn’t been the one to designed his recently revamped website. The website also utilized SEO services aimed at bringing more traffic to the site. This, Rodriguez’s counter-complaint explained, was the reason for the “one-stop shop” wording. In court, Landy said he found that difficult to believe.

“The defendant will say what’s most useful for himself and then back away from it,” said Landy.

Reed, however, said he was concerned that “stopping (Rodriguez) from being able to go off on a new venture, I don’t know if that’s in keeping with public policy.” He also said he thought the two businesses’ neighborhoods’, DCTK9’s on the Lower East Side vs. Happy Dogs near Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper and Gramercy Park were different in the latter ones “have a bit more money.”

In arguing for DCTK9, attorney Aglaia Davis said Rodriguez doesn’t advertise or solicit clients, and when he gets calls, refers the caller to his website to make sure what the person is looking for is training or walking as part of a training program, rather than daycare. “If someone was to say, ‘I don’t want to be with Happy Dogs, anymore. I’m looking for somewhere to drop off my dog and pick it up at 5,” DCTK9 wouldn’t be able to offer the service, she said. “Their businesses are not competing.”

At this point, Reed said he couldn’t even understand why there was a dispute.

Following the arguments, Rodriguez who’d been present at court, said he thought “this whole thing is silly.” He said the only dogs he offers boarding to are the ones participating in his training program or that have used the training program in the past.

“We do make an expectation for dogs we’ve trained,” he said. “It’s not for everybody. It’s not daycare.”

He also denied boarding dogs in his apartment in Peter Cooper Village.

“I have a center. That’s where I live. I have a dog,” he said.

The Chengs weren’t present at the court appearance, and Landy declined to make any further comment. A spokesperson for CW declined to comment on whether or not Rodriguez has boarded dogs at his home.