Council candidate focused on housing, mental health services

Jasmin Sanchez (Photo courtesy of Jasmin Sanchez)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lifelong Lower East Side resident Jasmin Sanchez had already been working in public service for most of her career when she decided to try to transfer those skills to the City Council.

Sanchez, who still lives in LaGuardia Houses in the Lower East Side where she grew up, has experience in the nonprofit sector, working with community leaders at Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and in State Senator Daniel Squadron’s office, which is where she said she learned how to be a community advocate. She is running for the Council seat in District 2, with City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez being term-limited out next year.

A major focus of Sanchez’s campaign is mental health services, primarily because it’s an issue that ties into not only healthcare, but can affect housing and education as well, and has an impact on homelessness. She added that she feels having affordable housing can sometimes be the lynchpin for communities and families, and that it can be especially detrimental for students if they have a tenuous living situation.

“If you don’t have housing, you don’t focus as much on everything else and your performance suffers,” she said.

“It’s not a stable life for kids from shelters. It can be very stressful for them not to have a stable place to live. Schools have mental health services but they have to be holistic and make sure that families are receiving those services as well.”

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Teens wanted for string of electronic toothbrush thefts

Surveillance photos of suspects from the third incident in Murray Hill

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police are looking for a group of teenagers suspected of stealing thousands of dollars worth of electronic toothbrushes from Duane Reades throughout the city, including from a store in Gramercy. The four incidents all took place in April, although police only announced the pattern this week. The first theft took place inside the Duane Reade at 125 Third Avenue near East 14th Street on Sunday, April 9 at 9:18 p.m. when the suspects reportedly grabbed $1,264 worth of electronic toothbrushes from the shelves and fled.

The next two incidents took place two days later on April 11 in stores on the Upper East Side. Police said that the suspects entered a Duane Reade at 1091 Lexington Avenue at 5:07 p.m. and swiped $1,210 worth of electronic toothbrushes before fleeing, then stole $3,030 worth of electronic toothbrushes from a Duane Reade at 1352 First Avenue at 5:20 p.m.

The last known incident took place on Sunday, April 23 when the suspects made off with  $160 worth of electronic toothbrushes from a Duane Reade at 155 East 34th Street near Third Avenue.

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Hoylman takes aim at ‘high rent blight’

Various empty storefronts in State Senator Brad Hoylman’s District, the subject of his recent study, “Bleaker on Bleecker” (Photo collage courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, whose district includes Stuyvesant Town, Gramercy, Chelsea and Greenwich Village, recently conducted a study that found a high percentage of vacant storefronts in the district, with some retail corridors about 10 percent vacant and on Bleecker Street, a vacancy rate of 18.4 percent.

This is no breaking news to area residents of course; but the senator’s study “Bleaker on Bleecker,” which focuses on what’s been dubbed “high rent blight,” has led to his offering a few proposals to combat the problem.

In particular, the phenomenon of landlords of choosing to keep a space vacant “suggests waiting for Marc Jacobs instead of renting to Jane Jacobs,” the study quotes economist Tim Wu as saying.

The study also mentions the closure last year of the Chelsea Associated Supermarket, which had seen its $32,000 rent jump by $100,000. The now-shuttered store had the same owners as the Associated in Stuyvesant Town, the future of which is still murky.

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UPDATED: Eleven-year-old boy reported missing, last seen at School of the Future

Apr27 Campello

Marcus Campello

UPDATE at 10:26 a.m.: Police said Marcus Campello has been found safe although a spokesperson for the department didn’t have details.

 

An 11-year-old student at School of the Future was reported missing early Wednesday, with police saying he was last seen at the Gramercy school Tuesday afternoon.

Marcus Campello, who lives on East 41st Street, also went missing last week. Police issued a similar alert last Friday morning, although Campello was found later in the day.

One law enforcement source said he ran away from home.

School of the Future is located at 127 East 22nd Street and Lexington.

 

 

 

NY Kids Club to hold speed dating event to match nannies with families

Gramercy location of New York Kids Club (Photo courtesy of New York Kids Club)

By Sabina Mollot

New York Kids Club, the chain of kids’ learning and recreational centers that includes a location on East 22nd Street, might seem like an unlikely place to hold a speed dating event. However, attendees of this upcoming event won’t be there in search of romance. Instead, the kids club is aiming to play matchmaker for nannies and the families who need them.

Jessica Wolf, the company’s director of business development and marketing, explained that for some time now, she’s been a member of numerous Facebook groups for parents as well as some for nannies. Parents will frequently ask on their respective groups if anyone knows a good nanny while the nannies will also be in search of work in their own networks. But, since the groups are separate, there wind up being many missed opportunities for connections.

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Man gropes woman inside East 24th Street building

Mar30 groperCops are on the lookout for a man who followed a woman into her building on East 24th Street and Lexington Avenue and groped her before taking off.

According to police on Monday, March 20 at around 6 a.m., the suspect followed the woman into the building and into the elevator. Once inside he grabbed her breasts over and under her shirt. The victim managed to push him off though, and he ran out of the building, heading east on 24th Street.

The victim, 54, wasn’t injured.

The suspect is described as black, 45 to 50 years old and 5’6″ to 5’7″ tall. He last seen wearing a green hat, a green jacket, black and white sweatpants and black and white sneakers.

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. All calls are strictly confidential.

Cops looking for man stealing from lockers at New York Sports Club gyms

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Gym locker theft suspect

 By Sabina Mollot

Cops are on the lookout for a thief who’s been raiding lockers at Manhattan gyms for cash, clothes, laptops and other electronics since last September.

Police are currently aware of 14 thefts downtown, midtown and in Murray Hill and Chelsea as well as one incident in Gramercy, all at different locations of the New York Sports Club.

In the Gramercy incident, on October 13, the thief stole a 22-year-old man’s credit cards and keys from an unlocked locker at the New York Sports Club at 113 East 23rd Street near Park Avenue South. Based on surveillance photos, the white, very short-haired suspect is easily able to blend in, arriving to each place in workout gear or in casual clothing.

The first gym hit was the NYSC at 1221 Avenue of the Americas and 43rd Street, where the man made off with a backpack from an unlocked locker. He also took the victim’s shoes, headphones, credit cards and clothing.

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Police say he stole 14 times from different Manhattan locations of the gym.

Back in October, the commanding officer of the 13th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney warned the community at a meeting about a rash of gym locker thefts. New York Sports Club, he noted, was an especially popular target. He recommended that gym users get master locks that require keys.

Anyone with information about the gym thefts 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 or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

Naked men removed from Gramercy storefront

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Workers remove a statue from 281 Park Avenue South. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last summer, the installation of nine anatomically correct male statues into a storefront in Gramercy raised a few eyebrows, with neighborhood residents wondering if it was an art exhibit or a marketing gimmick. It didn’t help anyone’s confusion that there was a neon sign in the window indicating the space was for rent.

As it turns out, the answer is it was a bit of both. On Monday afternoon, workers emerged from the storefront at 281 Park Avenue South and 22nd Street, moving out the larger-than-life-size sculptures. Asked where they were going, a worker at the scene said the naked men were headed to storage, since the ground floor space had been leased to a restaurant. However, Dan Turkewitz, one of the brokers marketing the space, later said nothing was finalized, so he wasn’t sure why the statues were being evicted. “We’re talking to a lot of different people,” he said.

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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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Gramercy author’s new thriller inspired by Son of Sam murders

Dick Belsky, who writes under the name R.G. Belsky, is releasing the fourth in a series of novels written from the perspective of an investigative reporter. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Dick Belsky, who writes under the name R.G. Belsky, is releasing the fourth in a series of novels written from the perspective of an investigative reporter. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Gramercy resident and novelist Dick Belsky, who’s written three books about an investigative reporter named Gil Malloy, has just completed the fourth in the series.

The novel, scheduled to be released (by Simon & Schuster, $16) on October 18, is called Blonde Ice.
Like the previous books, the story revolves around the disgraced but still ambitious Daily News reporter, who this time, is trying to uncover the identity of a female serial killer.

The killer, a sexy blonde, picks men up at New York City bars and clubs, and then brutally murders them.

Belsky, who up until recently, spent his career as a journalist, said his inspiration for the character came from the Son of Sam. Having lived in New York and worked in newspapers at that time, he remembered the way the strings of shootings paralyzed the city. Bars were empty and women dyed their hair blonde since the killer, David Berkowitz, targeted brunettes.

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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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Ess-a-Bagel finally reopens

Owners plan to offer outdoor seating

Co-owner Mike Wenzelberg at the new shop in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

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.

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Sex offender busted at 30th St. shelter, man stopped from stealing ice cream bites into officer

SEX OFFENDER BUSTED AT SHELTER

FOR NOT REGISTERING ADDRESS CHANGE

Police arrested 25-year-old Dashawn Johnson inside the 30th Street Men’s Shelter at 400 East 30th Street last Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. for an unclassified felony after he failed to register a change of address with the sex offender monitoring unit. Police said that Johnson is a level 2 sex offender after being convicted of sexual abuse in the first degree on March 6, 2007. After he was notified of his duties in 2010 and 2015, he allegedly failed to notify authorities of a change of address within 10 days as required by law. Police said that Johnson has a previous conviction for failure to register on April 25, 2016 in Kings County.

MAN WAVES KNIFE AT STRAPHANGERS

ON Q TRAIN NEAR UNION SQUARE

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Q train suspect

Police are looking for a man who allegedly pulled a knife on fellow straphangers on the Q train and waved it around in a threatening manner last Thursday. A 49-year-old woman told police that while she was riding a downtown Q from Union Square at 9:05 a.m. when she saw the man waving a knife and making threats to passengers. The man left the train at Canal Street and fled in an unknown direction. The suspect is described as a 30-year-old black man, 6’0″ tall, 180 lbs. with a bald head and dark complexion. He was last seen wearing a red shirt, gray jogging pants and black sneakers.

 

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or for Spanish 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are kept strictly confidential.

MAN STOPPED FROM STEALING ICE CREAM BITES INTO OFFICER INSTEAD

Thirty-year-old Thomas McKnight was arrested for robbery last Friday after trying to make off with some ice cream from the Duane Reade at 777 Sixth Avenue. Police said that McKnight took ice cream out of the freezer and put it into his shorts without paying for it. When he passed the register and attempted to leave the store, a loss prevention officer attempted to stop him, at which point McKnight allegedly punched the officer in the face, causing swelling and a scratch to his cheek. Police said that McKnight also bit the officer on the arm, causing a red mark, and allegedly stomped on the officer’s cell phone, causing it to break. McKnight was also charged with petit larceny, criminal mischief and possession of stolen property.

MAN ARRESTED AFTER FIREWORKS

HIT PEDESTRIAN ON FIRST AVENUE

Police arrested 32-year-old Joshua Hernandez for reckless endangerment and possession of fireworks on Independence Day last Monday at 10:05 p.m. inside 275 First Avenue. Police were conducting a floor-by-floor search at the building across from Stuyvesant Town because lit fireworks had been thrown onto the street and in one instance hit a passerby. Hernandez was allegedly on the building’s rooftop with a belt of fireworks and a green torch lighter. Police said he was also allegedly in possession of additional fireworks that were in his pants pocket and a transparent bag containing additional fireworks was found behind him.

PAIR ARRESTED FOR CAR BREAK-INS

Police arrested 22-year-old Shaquille King and a teenager for petit larceny in front of the Senton Hotel at 39 West 27th Street on Independence Day last Monday at 6:26 a.m. King and the teen allegedly entered the front passenger’s side and on the back driver’s side of a car. Police said that the car was unlocked but the doors were closed. The victim said he wasn’t sure if property was taken from the car, but King and the teen allegedly went into another car on the driver’s side and passenger’s side. Police said that a witness has video of the incident and saw the car break-in happen. King and the teen allegedly fled east on 27th Street before they were arrested. The teen’s name is being withheld due to his age.

CABBIE ARRESTED FOR HIT-AND-RUN

Police arrested 26-year-old Jonathan Kwok inside the 13th Precinct last Tuesday at 10:45 a.m. for leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury. Police said that Kwok hit the victim with his cab at West 21st and Sixth Avenue on May 21, causing pain to the victim’s hip and leg. Kwok allegedly drove off before police arrived at the scene.

DUANE READE EMPLOYEE BUSTED FOR THEFT

Police arrested 41-year-old Valencia Parrish for petit larceny inside the Duane Reade at 401 Park Avenue South last Wednesday at 11:07 a.m. The store manager told police that he noticed Parrish’s cash register was short on June 15 at the end of her shift and subsequently realized that her register had been short on other shifts of hers as well. He started watching her on video surveillance last Tuesday. Around 8:44 a.m. that day, he saw Parrish receive payment for store items and she allegedly kept the cash in her right hand while giving the customer change. After the customer left the store, Parrish allegedly put the money inside her shirt near her neck. The manager said that Parrish could be seen on video surveillance taking cash on a number of different occasions.

TRESPASSER ARRESTED IN

VACANT APARTMENT IN GRAMERCY

Police arrested 32-year-old Brian Miller for criminal mischief and criminal trespass in front of 15 East 21st Street last Wednesday at 2:28 p.m. The building manager of 15 East 21st Street told police that he went to check on an apartment in the building that is currently vacant and Miller was allegedly inside the apartment without permission. Police said that Miller fled out of an apartment window down the fire escape and was stopped down the block. The building manager said that there was also damage to a ladder that was inside the apartment.

L&W OYSTER CO. EMPLOYEE

ARRESTED AFTER THEFTS

Police arrested 35-year-old Dustin Robinson inside L&W Oyster Co. at 254 Fifth Avenue last Tuesday at 5:07 p.m. for petit larceny and possession of stolen property. Robinson allegedly took money from the victim’s bag that was inside the location. The victim said that he put a camera in the office because money had gone missing after Robinson was hired the previous Saturday.

WOMAN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT

IN UNION SQUARE

Police arrested 23-year-old Ayanna Hull for assault and harassment at the corner of Union Square East and East 14th Street last Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Hull allegedly punched and scratched the victim, causing bruising and cuts to her neck and chest. Police said that the argument was the result of a dispute over a backpack.

MAN BUSTED FOR THEFT AT WEWORK

Police arrested 37-year-old Nathan Pickett for allegedly swiping multiple paintings from the WeWork office at 115 West 18th Street. Police said that Pickett entered the location last Thursday at 10:03 a.m. using his passcard on his day off.

Former Gramercy police precinct to be auctioned off

June30 21st Precinct

327 East 22nd Street, originally home to the 21st Precinct (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Two years ago, a Gramercy building that was once home to the NYPD’s 21st Precinct was sold to developer Sam Suzuki, who planned to convert the building to luxury condos.

However, the building, located at 327 East 22nd Street, is now scheduled to be sold at a public auction on Thursday, June 30 at 11 a.m. The upcoming sale, which was mentioned in a public notice in the New York Times, will take place at the New York County Courthouse and is being facilitated by Mission Capital Advisors. In the notice, the property is referred to as “SCPD Gramercy 1 LLC.”

In April, 2014, Suzuki bought the four-story building between First and Second Avenues for $11.5 million, securing an $18 million mortgage. As a condition of the sale, Suzuki also got 7,000 square feet of air rights. In February of 2015 the owner got a permit to demolish the property. However, today it still sits — at least the outside of it — boarded up and covered by a scaffolding. The permit to fully demolish the building expired this February, and the owner hasn’t since filed for a new one.

Prior to this, the building was used as a home for LGBT young people, and run by Green Chimneys, a nonprofit based in Brewster, New York, that owned the building.

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Veterinary hospital to open on 1st Ave.

The future home of Whole Health features an animal mural by street artist Vince. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The future home of Whole Health features an animal mural by street artist Vince. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Gramercy resident and veterinarian Timothy Mann, who used to own a practice in Brooklyn, will be bringing his skills closer to home on Valentine’s Day, when he’ll be opening Whole Health, a holistic veterinary hospital and dental clinic on First Avenue.

The animal hospital is opening at 335 First Avenue, opposite Stuyvesant Town, which was last home to the French Cleaners dry-cleaning shop. Already the space has been rebuilt, complete with a mural of pets on the storefront’s grates, painted by street artist Vince.

This week, Mann spoke with Town & Village about what pet owners can expect at Whole Health and what it means to offer holistic health services to pets.

Mainly, Mann said he wanted to offer a more personal approach to care, from trying alternative treatments like herbal medication or acupuncture to encouraging alternatives to vaccination.

In particular with older dogs, Mann said that idea is to first see if there are other forms of treatment available that don’t run the risks of side effects. This would be checked with tests to see how the dog would respond to vaccines before they actually go through getting one.

“We vaccinate as a knee-jerk reaction,” said Mann. “Vaccines can save lives but they can also cause side effects.” The precautionary lab work, however, he said, “is cheaper than a vaccine, so you save money and do better for your pet.”

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