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.
The First Avenue shops were barricaded off as Con Ed continued to work at the scene last Thursday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Following the manhole fire under Stuyvesant Town that caused the evacuation of stores from 18th to 20th Streets on First Avenue, all but one of the businesses have reopened.
The one that didn’t, Ibiza Kidz, was hit the hardest in terms of smoke damage. While cleaning and airing out her shop and assessing damage last Thursday, owner Carole Husiak said she lost her almost all her inventory, including what was in the basement. Additionally, none of the clothing items could be restocked since they were ordered six months ago from wholesalers and are now out of stock.
Husiak said she’s since worked with vendors for new clothing to be brought in quickly. And the scooters and helmets previously in stock are still okay.
However, it isn’t clear yet when the store will reopen since the cleanup effort in coordination with her insurance companies, is ongoing.
I live in Kips Bay Court (29th Street between First and Second Avenues), not too far from Stuyvesant Town, so I read your article about your resident hawks with great interest.
Just exactly a year ago, a hawk took up residence on a lamppost outside my window, and stayed for several weeks.
He had a good spot to survey the area for “food” and must have been getting good meals because he kept coming back! Needless to say, during his residence there were no pigeons to be seen – they were scared away (except for one unfortunate pigeon I did see end up as dinner).
I named him Cooper because by researching websites I thought he might be a Cooper’s Hawk, but that was only a guess from the drawings on the sites.
I was very disappointed when he left for good. The pigeons eventually returned (not right away, it took them a while to be sure he wasn’t coming back) and everything outside my window has returned to normal, but I do miss seeing him there, so majestic and beautiful!
Co-owner Mike Wenzelberg at the new shop in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Carb fiends rejoice! Ess-a-Bagel’s new shop in Stuyvesant Town opened to a soft opening on Sunday, after multiple delays following an initially planned reopening date of February.
On Tuesday, following the Labor Day weekend, by noon, the line was already snaking around the back of the shop to 10 people and one of the owners, Mike Wenzelberg, reported business had so far been good.
Wenzelberg also sat down with a Town & Village reporter to discuss the reasons behind the delays, the controversial decision to install a toaster at the new shop and the company’s rabidly loyal fan base.
On Sunday, he recalled how a young woman outside, upon seeing Ess-a-Bagel was open, was “dancing and jumping.” Already, he’s seen quite a few regulars from the original location across First Avenue, which lost its lease nearly two years ago to Tal 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.”
Ess-a-Bagel at 324 First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Fans of Ess-a-Bagel will have to wait a little longer than they thought for their carb fix.
While earlier this year, the owners said they expected the new shop in Stuyvesant Town to open some time in February, that date has been moved back to May.
One of the owners, David Wilpon, said, “At first we thought it would be February, but there are always obstacles.”
While he declined to share what those were, he noted that construction has been underway at the 324 First Avenue space for the past couple of weeks and he’s been asked a lot about when the opening will be.
“All day when I’m there, they ask us.”
Meanwhile, the store’s sign went up last Monday. A permit for the sign’s installation was approved on March 1 by the city. “We’re plodding along,” Wilpon said.
This past week, a couple of residents of Stuyvesant Town told Town & Village they were concerned that Ess-a-Bagel, which recently inked a lease in the complex, wasn’t going to open or might be having some problems. This, they explained was due to the fact that no work appeared to be going on in the space, which is now marked by a “coming soon” banner in the window. This appeared to be in contrast with what an onsite worker told T&V two weeks ago, that the place could open “hopefully” by the end of January.
Meanwhile, according to one of the owners, Muriel Frost, things are proceeding at the new space, despite having to wait for some permits and other paperwork issues. The new location, she added, could be open by February 1. Or, she admitted, “it could be February 10.”
She’s been fielding plenty of questions on that subject at Ess-a-Bagel’s Third Avenue location, where some regulars of the old shop on First Avenue will sometimes travel for their bagels on weekends.
“Customers come up on Sundays and ask,” said Frost. “God willing everything will be okay.”
Market raters bash deal, ask for insider priority on affordable apts.,
Blackstone says students have been top complaint of residents
Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Following the news about a change in ownership just a few days earlier, over 500 Stuy Town residents showed up at a meeting on Saturday where a representative for the new landlord, Blackstone, answered questions.
Mayor Bill de Blasio popped by for a bit and spoke, as did U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, but the real star of the show wound up being Nadeem Meghji, senior managing director for Blackstone. Meghji started off by telling tenants at Baruch College’s auditorium that their various concerns, brought up in the days following the sale, were being taken “very seriously.” He indicated CompassRock would not continue to manage the complex, but then later said there isn’t a timeline for any change in management teams. Meghji, who was in charge of the Stuy Town deal, frequently elicited applause when responding to tenants’ questions although he admitted he didn’t yet have enough information to answer them all. He told tenants, in response to questions about student apartments, that Blackstone had been hearing about this issue more than any other.
He added that Blackstone would be seeking further tenant feedback via focus groups and a hotline.
“We know that we are going to need to earn your trust,” he said.
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.
J’s 99 Cents & Up has opened up in a First Avenue Space where the owners of Tal Bagels had previously hoped to put a smoked fish shop. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Though the summer is typically a slow period for business, a dollar (and up) store has opened on First Avenue, in the location that was last occupied by kiddie hair salon Beehives & Buzzcuts. Last week, the store, J’s 99 Cents and Up, featuring houseware items and other tsotchkes, opened.
Stanley Huang, whose family owns the store, said this is the fourth store of this type the family’s opened in Manhattan. At least half of the merchandise will actually cost a dollar a piece, he added, with the store mainly offering kids’ toys and balloons, houseware like kitchen items and hardware. Huang said the shop has a 15-year lease.
Petite Abeille co-owner Yves Jadot (pictured in 2011) said the tax break, if passed, would help at a larger restaurant he owns in midtown. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
In an effort to help Manhattan’s mom-and-pop shops, Council Members Dan Garodnick and Helen Rosenthal have introduced legislation to relieve many small businesses of their commercial rent tax.
Since 1963, any business in Manhattan below 96th Street paying over $250,000 a year in rent (or nearly $21,000 a month) has been made to pay the tax, which is a 3.9 percent surcharge on the rent. The legislation, introduced last Wednesday, would make the tax applicable only to businesses paying $500,000 or more. To make up for the loss in city revenue, businesses paying over $3 million would get a small increase. That increase would rise slowly as businesses pay more in rent, but at its highest would be an additional one third of one percent on businesses paying over $4 million.
While the mayor has not made his point of view known on the bill, Garodnick said his colleagues in the Council have been fully in support of it with the entire Manhattan delegation having signed on as co-sponsors.
“This bill is motivated by a desire to cut a break to small businesses who are getting hit in every direction,” said Garodnick. “This is a way to grant them some relief.”
He noted that while business owners haven’t told him that the taxes alone are killing them, the cost, he said, adds up for small retailers and restaurants, who’ve faced the citywide problem of getting booted out in favor of banks and other chains.
A sign above the former Ess-a-Bagel shop announces that the Grill 21 space and others are available. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Back in January, Town & Village reported that three neighboring restaurants, Ess-a-Bagel, Grill 21 and Rose restaurant, had lost their leases. Then a couple of weeks ago, a sign went up over the former Ess-a-Bagel space (soon to be home to Tal Bagels) saying the spaces around the corner were also now on the market. Grill 21 is still there as is the shoe repair shop next door as is a small storefront that’s vacant and had been used for storage by Ess-a-Bagel.
The real estate firm listing the spaces is Walker Malloy and according to the exclusive broker for those listings, Eric Fisher, the owner of the building is looking for anything “neighborhood service related” to fill the space.
Additionally, while all three storefronts are being listed, Fisher said that “ideally,” the shoe repair shop can remain.
“We have allegiance to the cobbler,” he said, although the owner would be willing to relocate the shop somehow. The listing notes that parcels of the property can be combined, and the now vacant storage space could be used as traditional retail. The storefronts have actually been getting marketed “very softly” for the past few months, said Fisher, but that changed earlier this month with the sign going up. The only type of retail Fisher could think of that the landlord, an LLC owned by L&M Development CEO Ron Moelis and others, doesn’t want, is a liquor store. The listing described the space, on East 21st Street west of First Avenue, as “ideal for a wine bar or a commissary kitchen.”
Prices also have been made available with the vacant space at 380 square feet going for $4,750. The 415-square-foot shoe repair shop is listed as $5,190 a month and the 715-square-foot Grill 21 is listed as being $8,940.
Ess-a-Bagel as it looked last Monday (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
One of the members of the family that owns Ess-a-Bagel was taken to the hospital last Monday after he was hit by a car on the street outside the now closed bagel shop.
The accident occurred close to 11 a.m., according to the FDNY, and the victim, Michael Wenzelberg, was taken to Mt. Sinai Beth Israel.
According to another owner, David Wilpon, Wenzelberg, who’s in his early 50s and is Wilpon’s brother-in-law, suffered a broken rib and some bruising and sprains. “But,” he added, “It could have been worse” as there was no internal bleeding.
Wilpon didn’t see the accident, but said his wife did and there is video footage. He added that Wenzelberg had been in the crosswalk at the time. It wasn’t a hit-and-run and the driver was female, though Wilpon didn’t know anything about her beyond that.
This happened as Wilpon and others were clearing things out of the shop, which closed that day. Word of the accident soon spread on the ST-PCV Tenants Association Facebook page.
Ess-a-Bagel’s corner location is going to become home to a Bank of America and another bagel restaurant. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Over the weekend, loyal fans of Ess-a-Bagel were saddened to see a sign on the shop’s door stating that March 23 would be its last day in business at First Avenue and 21st Street. In the meantime, customers were urged to visit the bagel joint’s midtown location. The sign promised that the business would remain in the neighborhood although no hints were given as to where that would be.
As Town & Village first reported in January, Ess-a-Bagel had lost its lease after 40 years, with the owner, David Wilpon, saying the family-run business would be moving close by. Other neighboring businesses located at the same building, the restaurants Grill 21, and Rose restaurant opted to close rather than move. Grill 21’s owner had said he wasn’t given the option of renewing. Grill 21, a Filipino restaurant, is still open as of this week, but Rose, a chicken restaurant, which the landlord said was seven months arrears in its rent, has closed already. Another business in the same building, a shoe repair shop, is still open, and on Monday, the owner said there were no plans to close the business. Both Ess-a-Bagel and Grill 21 had originally expected to close at the end of January but had their leases temporarily extended.
In January, Wilpon said Ess-a-Bagel’s move was due to the owner telling him, after negotiations, that he was taking too long to sign on the dotted line. Wilpon explained the delay as being due to the death of his aunt, Florence Wilpon, who’d founded the business. However, according to a rep for the landlord, Wilpon had simply refused to budge when his rent was to be upped to “market rate.” The spokesperson for the landlord, an LLC owned by L&M Development head Ron Moelis and others, said she did not have information as to what the new market rate rent was. Meanwhile, Ess-a-Bagel was to be replaced with a Bank of America and another bagel joint called Tal Bagels.
As for Ess-a-Bagel’s future home, not long after T&V’s story, which was picked up by a number of other news outlets, ran, Ess-a-Bagel tweeted that customers shouldn’t worry as it was just moving down the block.
However, last week, when Town & Village called Wilpon to ask if the new location was official yet, he answered that there were a couple of possibilities, but declined to elaborate, citing confidentiality agreements. This Monday, an employee at the shop said even he didn’t know where the business was moving or when it would reopen.
Previously, after hearing a rumor that the bagel shop was headed for a vacant space on First Avenue last inhabited by The Frenchmen, we asked that building’s owner if this was the case. However, Glenn Koniuk, the son of The Frenchmen’s owner Bill Koniuk who owns the First Avenue building, denied this. He said his place was too small for a bagel restaurant and also said he didn’t want a tenant who had a food operation. The younger Koniuk now runs The Frenchmen, an air conditioner and electronics business, out of a warehouse in Brooklyn.
The next door over, another vacant space, formerly occupied by the French Cleaner dry cleaning shop, also apparently isn’t a future bagel restaurant.
The owner of the building, whose attempting to sell the place, said on Monday that no one from Ess-a-Bagel had contacted him, and the ground floor is still very much available.
T&V also called the owner of another nearby First Avenue building with a vacant storefront, last occupied by the Beehives & Buzzcuts kiddie salon. The owner, Rafael Sassouni, wasn’t around, but an employee said that space had not yet been rented. While there are a number of construction related permits tacked onto the storefront, which is covered by a wooden barrier, the employee guessed any work being done inside was just for the owner’s benefit.
UPDATE: Cooper Laundromat, at 363 First Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Streets, is another space that could potentially become a bagel shop. The laundromat is closing and its last day of business will be Friday, March 20, one of the owners said. He also said Ess-a-Bagel has expressed interest in moving in. Over the phone on Thursday, the part-owner said the laundromat was not being forced out by the landlord, who he called “a decent guy,” but there were other issues, and the decision to close is “a done thing.”
Word began to spread about the closure on Wednesday on the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Facebook page.
Meanwhile, a local real estate broker commented that he thought a move might be a blessing in disguise for Ess-a-Bagel. Despite being a loyal fan, he explained that on weekend mornings, lines out of the corner shop snake out the door with customers sometimes waiting 20-25 minutes to get inside. “They need a new space — they’ve outgrown it,” he said.
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.