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.

New website is inspired by Stuy Town flea market

Oct9 David Weiss

David Weiss founded Zip Code Flea with his wife Linda. (Photo courtesy of David Weiss)

By Sabina Mollot
Like most people who’ve lived in Stuyvesant Town long enough to remember the community’s annual, sprawling, outdoor flea markets, David Weiss and his wife Linda continued to miss it, over a decade after its being discontinued.
And, since they know many neighbors feel the same way, the couple decided to bring the event back the only way they could — online.

Three weeks ago, they launched a website called Zip Code Flea, on which anyone living in the zip codes of 10009 (Stuy Town) or 10010 (Peter Cooper, Waterside and Gramercy) can list items for sale, at a cost of $1 per listing.

Already, it’s seen a fair amount of activity with neighbors listing castaway goods that range from used children’s ice skates to Prada handbags to offers for services like tarot card readings. Users can also list items they’re giving away and a few freebies have made it onto the page already.

“We loved the flea market and everyone who remembers it says the same thing — how much they miss it,” said Weiss, a technology writer who runs a website called Sonic Scoop. “I kept saying, ‘we need to do something.’”

Having always been a reader of classified ads, he set up a site for classifieds, which Linda, an avid online shopper, helped design to make it look more like an online store. Initially, Weiss planned on calling the creation Stuy Town Flea. “Then I realized — these things are trademarked,” said Weiss. He then decided on Zip Code Flea, figuring that would also work if the service grows, as he hopes it will, beyond its hyper-local outreach.

“We really hope this can present people with an opportunity to be able to move their stuff,” said Weiss. “It also encourages people to reuse and recycle. Why get something new that has to be trucked in by UPS when there could be the same thing on sale in your building or next door?
“The other thing that’s really important,” he added, “is that people need money. This is a useful tool for raising a little cash.”

Oct9 flea market

The Stuy Town flea market (pictured) stopped taking place over a decade ago. (T&V file photo)

Currently, the most common items for sale are clothes for children and babies and the site is aimed at being as family-friendly as possible. (Residents hoping to make a few bucks off of their old Playboys will have to look elsewhere.) As for how buyers pay for the goods once an item is sold and how it gets delivered is up to the buyer and seller to work out. Zip Code Flea doesn’t have a function enabling online payments, with Weiss expecting that most people will opt for hand to hand transactions.

“Because of our local landmarks that exist, people are a lot more comfortable being able to say, ‘I’ll meet you at the fountain,’ for example,” said Weiss.

But of course, there’s always the likelihood that not everyone using the site will have neighborly intentions.
In the terms of use, users are advised to watch out for anything that seems scammy. They’re also still expected to use their own due diligence, said Weiss, “and be careful in their dealings and meet in public if you like. We don’t have the capacity to police users (but) I don’t think we’re any different than other classified ads websites.”
That said, Weiss said he hopes the hyper-local angle will make his site a safer alternative to the online listings giant Craigslist.

“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable using it because it casts too wide of a net,” said Weiss. “The inspiration (behind Zip Code Flea) is the Stuy Town flea market. It was such a great way for people to offload the things they didn’t need anymore and get something new and it allowed us to see each other in this concentrated, festive atmosphere. We’re sorry as anybody that it’s gone. It’s important to allow people to connect in this way.”

Cops looking for man who robbed 3 banks

Surveillance photos of bank robbery suspect, who police say passed notes demanding cash

Surveillance photos of bank robbery suspect, who police say passed notes demanding cash

A bank robber behind a recent heist at an East Village Chase Bank hit two more banks on Monday in Union Square, police said.

The robbery pattern began on Saturday when an unknown man handed a teller a note, demanding cash at the Chase bank on Second Avenue off St. Marks Place. The man claimed to have a gun, and the teller gave him $1,080.

Then on Monday, the same man is believed to have robbed two banks in the span of 41 minutes. At around 2:40 p.m. he went into the Citibank at 1107 Broadway (at 14th Street), and handed the teller a note demanding money. He got away with $600 in cash.

He then headed to a Chase at 835 Broadway (at 13th Street), did the same thing and fled with $4,740.

The suspect is described as white male, possibly albino, 5’10”, mid to late 20s, with light colored hair and a medium build. He was last seen wearing a black and grey jacket, dark rimmed glasses, black sneakers and a red bandana around his neck.

Anyone with information in regards to these incidents is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips by visiting http://www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.