Flatiron gets in the holiday spirit with SantaCon

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SantaCon participants got creative with their costumes as usual, including a group with real pine trees in their backpacks. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Revelers donned their best Santa, elf and reindeer costumes for the annual SantaCon pub crawl last weekend, which started in the shadow of the Flatiron building this year. Neighborhood residents let their opposition be known when the Santas gathered on the plaza at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and while the NYPD said there was no record of an arrest, NBC News noted that a handful of the protesters were escorted out of the plaza by police.

The NYPD also noted that no drunk or fighting Santas were arrested as in previous years, and while many in the community were not convinced of their noble intentions, organizers seem to be attempting to clean up the event’s reputation. Organizers on the plaza this past Saturday could be seen picking up bits of trash while the crowd started clearing out by late morning and one Santa berated a photographer climbing onto a planter, yelling at her not to be disrespectful of public property.

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Divine signs of the times

Church uses humor to connect with community

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Gustavus Adolphus Pastor Christopher Mietlowski started the sign campaign seven years ago and has since seen an increase in church membership. (Photo collage by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

It’s not unusual for signs in front of churches to have uplifting messages. Often they’re lifted from biblical passages. Other times they’re behavioral suggestions, and if there’s room, there’ll be a bingo schedule included, too.

But in Gramercy, one church has managed to stand out from the parish pack for the messages on its signs, which have become so popular, they’ve actually boosted membership.

That church would be Gustavus Adolphus, a 150-year-old Lutheran church where a recent sign suggested: “Come, search for Pokemon — stay, find God’s grace.”

Another, inspired by pop song “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, read: “We’re all about dat grace, bout dat grace, no Devil!”

And another reminded passersby: “That love thy neighbor thing — I meant that — God.”

Last winter, during particularly frigid temperatures, a sign pointed out, “On the bright side, we haven’t seen a mosquito in months.”

The signs, which get changed around twice a month, are the brainchild of the church’s pastor, Christopher Mietlowski, better known to his flock as Pastor Chris.

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On 50th anniversary, FDNY remembers the 23rd Street fire

 

By Sabina Mollot

Fifty years ago on Monday, October 17, twelve firefighters lost their lives battling a blaze in Flatiron, making the date the deadliest the department would ever know until 9/11.

The fire, which was hidden at first due to illegal building alterations, had prevented firefighters from knowing just what a dangerous situation they were in for.

On Monday, dozens of fire officials and rank and file, along with family members of the fallen firemen, gathered at the Flatiron Plaza for a remembrance ceremony and then a wreath laying at the site of the fire at the corner of 23rd Street and Broadway. Today, it’s home to a high-rise residential building with a plaque alongside it memorializing the deceased firemen.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro spoke at the ceremony about how the 1966 fire is still a big part of training for firefighters today.

“Every probationary firefighter learns about this in the academy; 23rd Street has been the subject of countless drills,” the commissioner said. “This was the department’s darkest tragedy… and remained so until 9/11.”

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Police Watch: Man arrested for Lillian Wald Houses murder, Man busted for bank break-ins

MAN ARRESTED FOR GREAT-GRANDMOTHER’S MURDER
Police arrested 23-year-old Gary Biaz for the murder of 82-year-old Ella-Mae Biaz inside 711 FDR Drive at the Lillian Wald Houses last Friday. Police responded to a 911 call about two women assaulted around 5:35 p.m. and found the senior, who the New York Post reported was Biaz’s great-grandmother, with her wrists and ankles bound with tape.
A 39-year-old woman had also been tied up in the apartment and had managed to free herself and alert the police. The 82-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene and the second victim was brought to Bellevue Hospital for her injuries.
Biaz reportedly stole cash from his great-grandmother and drove off in a car belonging to the younger victim, the Post said. He was arrested later that night after being caught near Bedford Avenue and South Second Street in Williamsburg.
Biaz was charged with murder and attempted murder.

MAN ARRESTED FOR FLATIRON BANK BREAK-INS
Police arrested 39-year-old Daniel Bertini for Flatiron bank burglaries that took place early Monday morning. The New York Daily News reported that Bertini was caught with $915 in stolen coins at 5:35 a.m. inside the Chase Bank at Sixth Avenue and West 18th Street. Police said that Bertini got cuts on his head when he resisted arrest and an officer hit him with a collapsible baton. He later told officers that he has a cocaine habit and had taken money from his mother. He allegedly burglarized that Chase branch, in addition to two other banks, to pay back his mother before she noticed that the money was missing. The Daily News reported that Bertini worked with a crowbar and a change of clothes and tried unsuccessfully to break into a Key Bank on East 22nd at 4:25 a.m. He allegedly managed to break into a Bank of America on Park Avenue South around 4:51 a.m. but didn’t take any money. Police said that Bertini, who lives with his mother in Chelsea, is also a suspect in eight bank jobs in Brooklyn, in addition to four thefts from a Manhattan bar and from a bodega.

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T&V’s search for the best burgers: The Tribeca Burger at New York Burger Co.

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By Sabina Mollot

Town & Village will present a series of reviews of burgers available at local restaurants. While there’s certainly no shortage of places that serve this American staple, the question is simply where to get the most bang for your (typically) eight to sixteen bucks.

For our first installment, we headed to the Flatiron location of New York Burger Co. (There’s another spot at 470 West 23rd Street in Chelsea.) The place has a menu with 12 specialty burgers and we quickly honed in on the Tribeca — an angus beef patty with bacon, avocado and bleu cheese. We asked for ours medium rare and are pleased to say they got it just right. Their burgers are not that big, but unless you’re really hungry you won’t even need fries (which are extra) due to all the filling accompaniments. This burger is one of the priciest on the menu at $10.50. Prices start at $7.50 for plain burgers.

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Homeless hogging Gramercy wi-fi kiosks, say business owners

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

When the new wi-fi towers on Third Avenue arrived at the beginning of this year to replace defunct payphones in the neighborhood, Orbit News manager Ali Siddiqui thought it would be helpful for the occasional tourist that came into his shop looking for a map. But he said that it didn’t take long for the spots to get taken over day and night by various homeless people.

When a reporter was in the neighborhood last Friday, there was a man with his own rolling desk chair hooked up to the kiosk in front of the newsstand on the east side of the Avenue near East 20th Street and Siddiqui said that he had been in the same spot for three straight days.

“He brought his own chair and he just stays there, sitting and eating,” Siddiqui said.

He added that there are occasionally multiple people at the kiosk at once, usually streaming content through YouTube, and the men occasionally get aggressive when the sidewalk gets more crowded.

“Tourists want to use it but no one can because the same people are always there,” he said. “Customers complain about this to me all the time. This is a good neighborhood but since this started, it’s a nuisance.”

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Editorial: Time to rein in sales people and promo events in Flatiron

At Times Square, grabby costumed characters are finally being kept under control to some degree thanks to the addition of commercial activity zones where Elmo and Minnie can still hassle tourists for tips as well as new pedestrian flow zones where they cannot go and passersby are to be left alone.

However, Times Square is hardly the only neighborhood that’s been overrun by mercenary individuals. These days, Flatiron also comes pretty close, at least at the pedestrian plazas. If the weather’s nice, you can pretty much guarantee that any attempt to head over to Madison Square Park or one of the umbrella-shaded seats on the plaza will be impeded by people asking you about your hair, whether you like comedy or if you’d like to try a sample of something from a booth. Or all of the above. If it’s at least the latter case, this is because the city’s rented out part of the plaza to a company for promotional purposes. In the other cases, it’s because sales people love to stand in high-traffic areas so they can accost people on their lunch breaks.

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Police Watch: Man arrested for trespassing in Stuy Town, Man busted for sex abuse in Union Square

MAN BUSTED FOR TRESPASSING IN STUY TOWN APARTMENT
Police arrested 24-year-old Bernadino Romero for trespassing inside 651 East 14th Street last Tuesday at 1 a.m. The victim told police that he went outside with his wife to walk his dog and returned to find Romero allegedly leaving his apartment. Police said that the victim held Romero there for public safety officers.
The District Attorney’s office said that Romero accepted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal with one day of community service on the day of his arraignment last Tuesday.
A spokesperson for StuyTown Property Services said that this was an isolated incident.
“We are pleased with the quick response by public safety and the NYPD whose strong partnership helps ensure the safety of our residents,” the representative said.

MAN BUSTED FOR SEX ABUSE NEAR UNION SQUARE WENDY’S
Police arrested 39-year-old David Coleman for sexual abuse in front of 1 Union Square West after he allegedly smacked a woman’s buttocks.
It was Friday at around 9 p.m. when the victim said she was standing on the corner and felt someone hit her hard on the buttocks, causing her pain and alarm. She then saw Coleman walk past her with no one else in the immediate area. Multiple witnesses said that they saw him do it before he strolled into Wendy’s at 20 East 14th Street. Police soon positively identified the man at the restaurant, but when they ordered him to put his hands behind his back, he allegedly tensed his body and refused to be handcuffed.
Police noted that the suspect spontaneously said, “Yeah, I bumped her yo.” Coleman was also charged with resisting arrest.

MAN ‘PULLED KNIFE, MADE THREATS’ AT SECOND AND EAST 14TH
Police arrested 49-year-old Angel Ortiz at the corner of Second Avenue and East 14th Street last Tuesday at 10:50 p.m. after allegedly threatening people on the sidewalk. Police said that Ortiz was walking east on East 14th Street while wielding a knife and he allegedly refused orders from police to drop the knife while he was walking towards pedestrians.
Ortiz was charged with resisting arrest, menacing, reckless endangerment, weapons possession, harassment and disorderly conduct. Police said that Ortiz also entered a nearby store and stole property. He was charged with petit larceny and possession of stolen property in connection with that incident.

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CB5 divided over landmarking of Flatiron buildings

One of the buildings up for landmarking debate, 16 West 18th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

One of the buildings up for landmarking debate, 16 West 18th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A developer’s plan to demolish two buildings near Union Square and replace them with towers was recently shot down by Community Board 5. However, the board’s landmarks committee was split on whether or not the two buildings are historically significant enough to be protected under preservation laws. The committee discussed the plan at a meeting on May 31 to a packed room of community members and business owners who wanted to learn more about the proposal to demolish the two small buildings at 16 West 18th Street and 21 West 17th Street and replace them with apartment towers.

Real estate developer C.A. White has plans to tear down the two buildings and build 11- and 13-story buildings in their place. In comparison to the current buildings, the proposed apartment towers are much taller but the project’s architect Morris Adjmi said at the meeting that the firm didn’t max out the space allowed, keeping the proposed buildings level with those around them. The community board’s role in the process is only advisory and the Landmarks Preservation Commission will make the final decision on whether or not the buildings can be demolished.

Residents and committee members who opposed the demolition pointed to the overall character of the neighborhood as one of the main reasons to preserve the building, especially related to the “saw tooth” nature of the structures, because the current buildings are shorter than those around them and the developer’s proposal would mean leveling the buildings out.

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Landmarked Flatiron church gutted by fire

Police at the scene of the fire at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava closed off the block in case the destroyed church on West 25th Street collapsed. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Police at the scene of the fire at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava closed off the block in case the destroyed church on West 25th Street collapsed. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A four-alarm fire gutted a Serbian Orthodox church at 24 West 25th Street on Sunday evening, following services earlier that day that took place for Orthodox Easter. Because the services ended earlier in the afternoon, no one was inside the church at the time the fire broke out around 6:50 p.m. but the blaze left the interior of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in shambles, burning the roof off of the landmarked structure that has been in the neighborhood since 1855. FDNY said that one civilian and four firefighters were taken to Bellevue Hospital for smoke inhalation and no other injuries were reported.

Police at the scene on Monday morning said that the street would be closed until investigators could determine that the remaining part of the building still standing was structurally sound and wouldn’t collapse. The officer noted that a collapse was unlikely but the street remained closed as a precaution. Only employees working at buildings on the street were allowed past the police barricades. FDNY noted on Wednesday morning that the cause is still under investigation but the fire is considered non-suspicious.

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Stuy Town author delves into history of Gramercy Park and Union Square

 

Alfred Pommer in Gramercy Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Alfred Pommer in Gramercy Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town resident Alfred Pommer, who’s been leading historical walking tours of various Manhattan neighborhoods for over 25 years, has released a new book about two neighborhoods with particularly rich but different histories — Gramercy Park and Union Square. Pommer’s wife Joyce is the co-author of the book, Exploring Gramercy Park and Union Square ($22, paperpack, The History Press), which was released on October 26.

Together, the couple has also written another book, Exploring Manhattan’s Murray Hill, and Pommer has previously written two other neighborhood history books, Exploring New York’s SoHo and Exploring the Original West Village.

On his latest venture, Pommer said he had initially pitched the idea to his publisher of writing only about Gramercy Park, but was then asked to throw the adjacent neighborhood into the mix.

“I said sure,” said Pommer, who was intrigued by the idea of side-by-side profiles of a neighborhood known for its exclusivity as well as one known for being the pulpit of the masses.

“You have two different neighborhoods in Manhattan that have distinctively different heritages,” he said. “Union Square represents the working class, the common people, while Gramercy Park is much more elite and wealthy, and like many neighborhoods in Manhattan, they’re a block apart.”

The book delves into the past of each community, with Gramercy Park always having been known for its wealthy residents but also those who were creatively gifted.

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Police make arrest in Flatiron shooting

Instagram photo of victim Walikque Faussett with suspected shooter Dalone Jamison

Instagram photo of victim Walikque Faussett with suspected shooter Dalone Jamison

Police have arrested a man who allegedly shot three women outside a Flatiron club early Monday, including one fatally. The shooting suspect has been identified by police as Dalone Jamison, a 26-year-old Bronx man who has a lengthy rap sheet, and according to reports in the Post and Daily News, had recently befriended the deceased victim, Walikque Faussett.

The 24-year-old who was killed outside of Motivo at Broadway and 21st Street was a Bronx resident and a mom of a three-year-old son.

The Post noted Jamison even drove Faussett to the club for her birthday, where he reportedly got thrown out by a bouncer after getting into an argument with someone. He allegedly vowed to come back with a gun and then made good on his threat. He’d been aiming for the bouncers when he opened fire, a law enforcement source told the New York Times.

The Daily News reported Jamison posted on Instagram after the incident, saying he hoped his “lil sis” was okay. “I would loose it if not,” he wrote as a caption underneath a photo of himself with Faussett.

Police said that at 4 a.m., the victims were found in front of Motivo. Faussett, who’d been shot in the back, was later pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital. A 30-year-old woman was shot in the shoulder and a 25-year-old woman had been shot on the hip and foot.

The Post article also noted that Jamison has been arrested 12 times, and has six convictions, with one case involving a woman he allegedly assaulted and then videotaped as other women continued beating her. The News reported that according to court papers, he choked the woman, pulled her to the ground and then slammed her head on the concrete.

Jamison, who is believed to be a member of the Dymes R Us gang, according to reports, was arrested in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn at around 11 a.m., Tuesday, the Post reported.

Police have since charged him with murder, two counts of assault and three counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

Three women shot, one fatally, outside Flatiron club

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Detectives outside Motivo on Monday morning (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

A 24-year-old woman was shot and killed outside of a nightclub in the Flatiron District early on Monday morning, and two other women were also shot and now in stable condition.

Police said that at 4 a.m., the victims were found in front of the club, Motivo at 915 Broadway and 21st Street. The 24-year-old woman who was later pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital had been shot in the back. A 30-year-old woman was shot in the shoulder and a 25-year-old woman had been shot on the hip and foot.

Police officers keep the street in front of Motivo blocked off. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Police officers keep the street in front of Motivo blocked off. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing. Police are withholding the name of the woman who was killed pending family notification.

The Post reported the victims were not likely the intended targets and that the suspect is believed to be in his 20s and was last seen wearing a red and black hoodie, according to cops.

UPDATE: The Daily News reported that the shooter had been kicked out of the club, and then vowed to get his gun before retrieving it from his vehicle. The woman who died was identified as Walikque Faussett, a Bronx resident and mother to a three-year-old son named Alex. The News also reported that the suspected shooter is also from the Bronx and believed to be a member of the “DYMES R US” gang, according to police.

Cops seeking bike riding robber who hit banks near Stuy Town and in Flatiron

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for a very determined man who robbed one bank near Stuy Town, the Ponce de Leon branch on First Avenue, and attempted to rob two other banks, all in the same day. In each incident, the man arrived on his bike and then strolled into the bank where he handed a note to a teller demanding cash.

Cops say the pattern is as follows.

On Thursday, September 10 at approximately 9:37 a.m., the man walked into a Chase Bank, located at 225 Fifth Avenue and 27th Street, but fled empty handed.

Three minutes later, he tried his luck at the Chase Bank at 386 Park Avenue South and 27th Street, but again left without any money.

Then at 10:03 a.m., he walked into the Ponce De Leon Bank, located at 319 First Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets, and got away with $1,000 in cash.

The suspect is described as light-skinned, approximately 5’7″ tall with thin build, in his mid 30s, and has a pointy nose. He also has a tattoo on his left ankle and on his right calf. A video showing some of the bank footage shows the suspect wearing a baseball cap, a bright red jacket and short pants.

Anyone with information in regards to these incidents is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). 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. All calls are strictly confidential.

The news of this pattern comes on the heels of police announcing that they are looking for two additional bank robbers hitting the 13th Precinct.

On the usually high amount of bank robberies in the area, a spokesperson for the NYPD told Town & Village, “We are actively conducting investigations in regards to the bank robberies and the bank robbery patterns.” He said he couldn’t answer a question asking if this meant there were more police officers patrolling the area.

UPDATE:

Police also said the man continued his robbery attempts (key word being attempts) the following day at three more banks further north.

On Friday, September 11 at 9:08 a.m., he allegedly walked into the Apple Bank at 371 Seventh Avenue at West 33rd Street, but left empty-handed.

Then at 9:18 a.m., he headed to Valley National Bank at the Textile Building, 295 Fifth Avenue and 30th Street, but left without any loot.

By 10:03 a.m., he was at the Capital One Bank located at 991 Third Avenue and 59th street, but also left that branch without anything to show for his efforts.

Police looking for two men behind separate patterns of bank robberies

HSBC and Apple Bank robbery suspect

HSBC and Apple Bank robbery suspect

Police are on the lookout for two bank robbers believed to be responsible for different heists in Union Square, Flatiron and other neighborhoods.

With regards to the first suspect, on Wednesday, September 9 around 2:10 p.m., a man walked into the HSBC Bank located at 80 Eighth Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets in Chelsea, approached a teller and demanded money. However, the teller refused and the man fled empty handed.

At 2:35 p.m., the same man walked into the Union Square Apple Bank located at 4 Irving Place and East 14th Street, approached a teller and demanded money. This time the teller complied and the suspect fled with an undetermined amount of cash.

The suspect has been described as a thin black male, 30 to 40 years old and 6’2″ tall.

Chase and HSBC Bank robbery suspect

Chase and HSBC Bank robbery suspect

Police are also looking for another man they believe to be behind three separate bank robberies, in Times Square, Chelsea and most recently, the Flatiron District.

The pattern is as follows:

On Friday, September 4, at around 12:40 p.m., the suspect walked into a Chase Bank at 615 8th Avenue and 40th Street, approached a teller and passed a note demanding cash. He then fled with $2,850.

On Tuesday, September 8 at approximately 5:10 p.m., the same man walked into a different Chase Bank at 475 West 23rd Street and 10th Avenue and slipped the teller another demand note. This time he fled empty-handed.

The next day, on Wednesday, September 9 at around 2:15 p.m., the suspect was back at it, at an HSBC Bank at 145 5th Avenue and West 21st Street. After handing a teller a demand note, he got away with $1,992.

The suspect is described as Hispanic, approximately 5’3″ tall, 195 lbs. and in his 30s.

Anyone with information about any of these incidents is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at http://www.crimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.