Installation on Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza debuts for the holidays

On Monday night, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership (BID) celebrated the launch of “23 Nights of Flatiron Cheer,” an upcoming series of free events at the pedestrian plaza with the unveiling of “Flatiron Reflection,” an architectural installation. The installation was created by the firm Future Expansion, the winner of a design competition held by local nonprofit Van Alen. (Pictured L-R) Nicholas McDermott and Deirdre McDermott of Future Expansion; Jessica Lax, Van Alen Institute; Emily Colasacco, NYC DOT Art; Isabel Meisner, Van Alen Institute; Jennifer Brown, Flatiron BID; Jorge Parreira, New Motor; Kurt Cavanaugh, Flatiron BID; Amanda Eldridge, GMS; David Messineo and Stephanie Darna, New Motor

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The weather was appropriately windy and wintry for the kickoff of the Flatiron BID’s annual holiday festivities, known as the “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” on Monday.

The series, offering free performances, fitness sessions, prizes and hot beverage giveaways, officially begins on December 1, but the launch this week gave a preview of the offerings to come and also served as the debut of the newest art installation on the north Flatiron Plaza, “Flatiron Reflections.”

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The history of Rolf’s Christmas crowd pleaser

It’s almost impossible to get into Rolf’s German restaurant in Gramercy around holiday time unless you’ve made your reservation in October. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

It’s almost impossible to get into Rolf’s German restaurant in Gramercy around holiday time unless you’ve made your reservation in October. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Rolf’s, a German/Bavarian restaurant in Gramercy, has been known for years for its stunning display of antique dolls complemented with rows and rows of Christmas ornaments and lights strewn throughout the space during the holiday season.

But few know the history behind the tradition, which began 35 years ago and has since made the venue world-famous.

It was in 1981 when the original owner of the restaurant, Rolf Hoffman, died due to lung cancer at the age of 49.

Robert Maisano, who now owns the place, knew Hoffman and recalled how he very much wanted to keep the place a German restaurant, serving up heaping plates of schnitzel, sausages and potato pancakes.

Maisano hasn’t strayed from this mission, though the emphasis on transforming Rolf’s into a winter wonderland each year is his own.

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Stuy Town Christmas tree lighting

On Saturday, about 70 Stuy Town residents gathered at the Oval fountain for the annual Christmas tree lighting. Christmas Carolers kicked off the evening before the arrival of Santa Claus who led a countdown to the tree lighting with a “ho, ho, ho.”

Guests enjoyed free cookies and hot chocolate and cider and also picked up free necklaces and stuffed reindeer toys. Children got to take pictures on Santa’s lap nearby in the Oval Studio.

A Menorah lighting will take place on December 28.

Photos by Maya Rader

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Pictured:

Santa with Peter, a two-year-old resident

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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Great gifts at the Holiday Market

Stuyvesant Town resident and vendor Mick Joseph notes one of the recent changes to the yearly market at Union Square, which is the addition of sections like “Lil Brooklyn.” Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town resident and vendor Mick Joseph notes one of the recent changes to the yearly market at Union Square, which is the addition of sections like “Lil Brooklyn.” (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The Union Square Holiday Market, which, every year, takes over the south end of Union Square Park for the five weeks leading up to Christmas, has now been around for over two decades.

But UrbanSpace, the company behind the long-running event, has made some changes this year, including putting in two stages for performances, an area for children’s activities, and a new section called Urban Provisions for packaged food items. There’s also been an expansion to a recently introduced section called Little Brooklyn, with many additional booths run by craftspeople and merchants from that borough. Aesthetic changes include more lighting and tree branches fashioned into archways and logs placed here and there to give the market a more woodsy feel.

Taking a T&V reporter on a stroll through the market earlier this week to explore some of the new additions was Mick Joseph. Joseph, a resident of Stuyvesant Town, is a market veteran, having operated a booth for DezignMind, the company she runs with husband Claus Ronnex-Printz for the past 14 years.

For that company, the couple works with families in different countries, in particular Bali and Thailand, to produce items Joseph designs, from wooden percussion animals that make surprisingly accurate noises when brushed with a baton or used as a whistle to fragrant clove boxes and ornaments to decorative masks.

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THANK YOU: Readers donate hundreds of toys to T&V holiday drive

Bonnie Robbins, coordinator of children and family services at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, stands by some of the donated toys. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Bonnie Robbins, coordinator of children and family services at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, stands by some of the donated toys. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Each year during the holiday season, Town & Village holds a toy drive benefitting a local hospital and, thanks to our generous readers and other community members, hundreds of new toys were donated.

All of the toys (we stopped counting at 300 but there were plenty more) were brought to Mt. Sinai Beth Israel last Friday. As always, the toys are given to kids who are stuck spending their holidays in hospital rooms as well as the children of patients of the hospital’s outpatient programs and clinics. In many cases, those patients can’t afford for shop for presents for their kids.

For this drive, Town & Village partnered with Stuyvesant Town management, Waterside Plaza management and M&T Bank on First Avenue, who all provided convenient donation dropoff sites.

The drive, which began in mid-November, ended last Thursday. However, it was during the last week when many of the donations were made, including, in one case, an entire truck load at once. (This was after a Stuy Town family held a party at which guests were each asked to bring a donated gift.) The haul included Barbies, Lego sets, remote control operated helicopters, tricycles, sports equipment, jewelry making kits, board games, books, action figures, toy instruments and stuffed animals.

Bonnie Robbins, Ph.D., the coordinator of children and family services at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, noted that the variety of donated items means it’s that much easier for hospital staffers to match gifts to kids’ interests.

While sorting out the toys at her office, Robbins said, “This year the community has really outdone itself in terms of its generosity and words cannot express how appreciative we are.
“The toys,” she added, “really make a difference between our kids having a happy holiday or not. Sometimes the presents they get from the program are the only gifts they receive. When they see them, their faces just light up and we want to thank each and every person for their thoughtfulness and continued support of what we do.”

The staff of Town & Village would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our readers for their generosity as well as to CWCapital/CompassRock, Waterside and M&T Bank, for their participation.
We also wish all in the community a Happy New Year.

Great gifts available from local businesses

Thrift shops on East 23rd Street, like City Opera (pictured) are having holiday gift sales. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Thrift shops on East 23rd Street, like City Opera (pictured) are having holiday gift sales. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

While some may have gotten holiday shopping out of the way with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Town & Village has put together a guide for those who are looking to shop local for their gifts and offer some ideas for more unconventional presents.

Many neighborhood restaurants offer gift cards that provide more of an experience rather than a tangible present. First Avenue’s Petite Abeille offers gift certificates for $15 and $20 that can be combined. SPiN, the Susan Sarandon-owned bar on East 23rd Street, offers gift cards with any amount that can be used for food or drink, as well as for games of ping pong. Nearby wine shops include Cork and the newly-opened Rouge and Blanc, both on First Avenue. Both shops also have an extensive collection of wines from various regions as well as spirits.

Rouge and Blanc manager Dean Barak said that the shop will be having promotions on champagne, cava and prosecco in the weeks leading up to the New Year. The store, which offers free delivery, also offers a 10 percent discount for all Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents who show their ID. For all other customers, the wines are 10 percent off of four bottles, 15 percent off of eight bottles and 21 percent off of 12 bottles.

Jill Pratzon, a Stuyvesant Town resident and art restorer, also has a business that would not typically provide conventional holiday gifts, but she does have options for those who want to give the loved one a gift of renewing a damaged or aging painting. She said that while even smaller jobs take about a month to complete, meaning that a painting would not be ready for gifting before Christmas, she could provide free consultations and treatment proposals for art owners who can bring their paintings into her studio at 122 West 26th Street.

Other local businesses that offer experiences rather than new consumer goods are some of the yoga studios in the neighborhood. Kim Stetz, owner of Savasana Station on Avenue B, is having a December Special with “12 Days of Yoga,” offering gift certificates with 12 classes for $60. The certificate activates with the first class attended and it expires a year after purchase. They can be purchased at savasanastation.com/gift-certificates. Reflections Center for Conscious Living and Yoga at 227 East 24th Street offers flexible gift cards that can be purchased with a specific amount that can be applied as credit or to be used for specific classes or class packages. The studio offers various yoga classes to pick from, as well as stretching classes and meditation.

The Irish Repertory Theatre, temporarily putting on plays at the Daryl Roth Theatre, offers gift certificates for shows. (Photo courtesy of Irish Repertory Theatre)

The Irish Repertory Theatre, temporarily putting on plays at the Daryl Roth Theatre, offers gift certificates for shows. (Photo courtesy of Irish Repertory Theatre)

Gift givers looking for something to wrap up for theater-lovers can get gift certificates to a couple of different neighborhood institutions. The Irish Repertory Theatre, which is currently holding performances at the Daryl Roth 2 at 103 East 15th Street while its West 22nd Street location is renovated, offers gift certificates that are good for two tickets for any show. Because the holiday shows are popular, the certificates can’t be used to reserve tickets to a specific show at the time it is purchased, but can be used to purchase tickets for later shows, depending on availability. Gift certificates can be bought by going to irishrep.org and going to the tickets section. Memberships for the theater can also be gifted but those looking to gift a membership may want to call the theater to ask about it specifically rather than buying a gift certificate on the website.

Another nearby theater company with a slightly different focus is the Peoples Improv Theater, which offers classes and various improv shows. Gift certificates are available in any amount and can be purchased for a specific class or just as credit that can be used for any class. They don’t have gift certificates available that can be used for tickets to see shows but they have a handful of holiday-themed shows throughout the month, including “The PIT Factor New Years Eve Edition” on December 30, “Dean Martin Christmas Pitacular” on December 20 and “This is Why You’re Single” on December 9, 16 and 23.

For lovers of vintage and second-hand clothing, not to mention shoppers who love a bargain, East 23rd Street’s thrift shop row can be a goldmine of affordable gifts. Non-profit animal organization Cauz for Pawz is gearing up for the holidays with sales throughout the store every day this month. Owner Cathryn Duhigg said that the sales will vary from 10 to 20 percent off on different items, varying the sales every day. For example, winter coats were 30 percent off on Tuesday and gloves/hat sets might be on sale in the future.

“We try to do a lot of sales on winter clothing because it’s still very hard for a lot of people,” Duhigg said. “It’s time to help as many people as possible.”

Some of the weekend sales at the store will focus on the non-clothing items, with various stands featuring home goods and various accessories, including headphones, perfume sets and smartphone cases. The store’s basement also has complete dining sets and a rack towards the back of the store with featured holiday accessories, which Duhigg noticed was already disheveled from shoppers picking through for holiday bargains.

The nearby City Opera Thrift Store has antique furniture, as well as cheap books, glasses, plates, vases and other housewares. Manager Diego Medina said that some of their more popular items are the artwork and international items like textiles. As for their clothing, the store is having a “Black and White” event next Wednesday, December 10 from 3 to 7 p.m. where black and white clothing items will be featured for those looking for something to wear to this season’s holiday parties.

Flatiron and Union Square BIDs gear up for holiday season

A family poses for holiday portraits at Union Square Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

A family poses for holiday portraits at Union Square Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood groups have been kicking off the holiday season this past week with events aimed at promoting local businesses as shopping destinations as well as consumer safety during a busy time of year for crime. Department of Consumer Affairs commissioner Julie Menin was on the Flatiron’s south public plaza last Thursday to remind consumers to be vigilant while shopping during the holidays and the Union Square community kicked off the holiday shopping season with free professional portraits in the pavilion on the north plaza on Sunday.

Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, said that this year was the first time portraits were offered. “We’ve been doing some new community events but this one is really to kick off the holiday season,” she said. The schedule was booked for the day and Falk noted that people were having their photos taken with family and some people even brought their pets. “We’re excited that the community is coming out,” she said, adding that this is one of the new holidays programs the Partnership is adding this season.

The Association for the Help of Retarded Children (AHRC), based in Lower Manhattan, usually takes a weekly field trip to Union Square on Sundays. They meet at the Barnes and Noble across from the north plaza and were able to get a group photo because they happened to be in the area. Leroy Dyer, the program supervisor, takes the kids on recreational trips every weekend and he said that the kids were excited that the event happened to coincide with their weekly outing.

Meanwhile, Menin was at the Flatiron Plaza doling out tips on how New Yorkers can get the most for their money during the busy shopping season. She cited the list of “10 Things Every Consumer Should Know,” which is available on the city website at nyc.gov/consumers. The list includes tips about making a budget, being alert for holiday scams and being aware of consumer rights.

Jennifer Brown, Flatiron BID executive director, speaks at the Flatiron Plaza. (Photo by Cameron Blaylock, courtesy of Van Alen Institute)

Jennifer Brown, Flatiron BID executive director, speaks at the Flatiron Plaza. (Photo by Cameron Blaylock, courtesy of Van Alen Institute)

“We want to support small business and make sure that hardworking New Yorkers get the most for their money,” Menin said. She added that some of the important tips to keep in mind are to compare prices and be aware of stores’ refund policies. Parents should also be particularly aware of product recalls, which can be checked through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at cpsc.gov.

“We want residents to be aware of all the great small businesses that are here, regardless of the neighborhood, but we do have a lot of both independent and national businesses in the Flatiron District,” Flatiron BID executive director Jennifer Brown noted at the event. “There’s something for everyone here. We want to encourage people to shop local and help independent businesses thrive.”

Letters to the Editor, Dec. 27

I shot Santa Claus

By John Cappelletti

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And I went to my shrink.
He sat there, not stirring
And his eyes didn’t blink.

He said I was paranoid
To believe as I do,
That people might harm me,
Rob, mug and kill me too.

So I left. I was angry.
And soon began to run
Home to my collection
Of rifles and guns,

Which I keep for protection
From burglars and crooks
And others called “bad guys”
In movies and books.

The Second Amendment
Gives me the right
To shoot these intruders –
On sight!

Our founding fathers formed militias
To fight the red-coated British.
They didn’t have Semis or Glocks,
But you wouldn’t call them skittish.

They had muskets and loaded each shot
To fire. These were the “arms,”
They insisted was their “right
To bear” as a militia to keep us from harm’s

Way; today the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines,
Homeland Security and the local police,
FBI, CIA and Special Operations Forces
Comprise our militia to keep the peace.

We now have pros to protect us.
Militias are a thing of the past.
There’s really no need to bear arms anymore
So the NRA should give it a rest.

These truths should be self evident,
Keeping guns in the home doesn’t work.
And, as we’ve seen, it makes no sense,
Because somebody might go berserk.

But back to my story
Lest these facts put you to sleep:
I was home, feeling angry.
It was quiet… not a peep.

Then I heard the floor creaking,
A shadow stalked the walls
And the flames in the fireplace
Fell on someone decking the halls.

The chiaroscuro hindered my view.
So it might have been a mirage.
But I heard some foreigner singing,
“Fah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah.”

Then I grabbed my trusty Semi,
Aimed it at the intruder’s head.
But I had never fired a weapon before
So I sprayed his big belly instead.

“Oh, oh, oh,” he cried,
This riddled man with a white beard.
He gasped and mumbled, “Merry mishmash,”
And then he just disappeared.

Well, I know now it was Santa.
I’m sorry. I think he’s dead.
But when I shot at Santa that night,
I felt threatened and I was seeing red.

From now on at Christmas time,
There won’t be joy for anyone.
But that’s the price we all must pay
When one of us shoots a gun.
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Letters to the Editor, Dec. 20

Adventure in Peter Cooper, step by step

Gentlepersons,

I’m an 83-year-old wheelchair-bound amputee with serious chronic medical conditions. My domestic partner and I have lived in a seventh-floor apartment before, during and since hurricane Sandy, with the exception of a week right afterward.

All PCV personnel were immensely helpful throughout the storm and its aftermath. My personal unsung heroes are Security Officers Royster and Jean-Pierre (first names unknown). I hope they the recognition they deserve. Here’s the saga:

After two days and a night with Sandy sans lights, phones, power, water, heat or a working elevator and only one other family left on our floor, and a few others anywhere in the building, it seemed time to leave. When my daughter-in-law and nine-year-old granddaughter appeared unannounced after traipsing up the seven flights to the apartment invited us to share their family retreat two hours upstate, I was grateful and overjoyed to accept – but unfortunately gave little thought to the logistics that would be involved in getting there.

Miraculously, our car was bone dry on First Avenue even though the cross streets had been a wind-driven flood the night before. In preparation, my partner, in her sixties, walked down and then up the seven flights many times to load up the car with necessities, including my heavy medical paraphernalia—for the trip and our projected stay of uncertain duration.

Then it was my turn. Security at the gate said that two officers would be dispatched to get us out of the apartment and the building. Shortly these gentlemen — the said Officers Royster and Jean-Pierre — arrived, having climbed the entry stairs and the six remaining flights to our doorway, one a young beanpole, the other fifty-ish and husky, a single narrow-beam LED torch between them. They were, and remained, pleasant, polite, all-business and, considering their mission, in remarkably good humor.

First, they rolled me in my wheelchair out of the apartment to the pitch-dark stairwell. After some consultation about which of them would hold the chair high with me aboard, while walking backward down the stairs (Royster started and a flight or two later they switched positions), we began the tediously slow descent. To keep synchronized, they chanted “step” before moving down each step, then paused a few seconds to rest before the next.

Perched aloft, feeling very unstable with every wobble and tremble of the chair, worrying about my elevated center of gravity, and constantly in fear of plummeting headlong down the black concrete abyss, I clenched the wheelchair arms tightly but somehow also managed to swing the feeble light with which I’d been entrusted up, down and from side to side like a spastic night watchman. But from them there was never a complaint or grumble, nor an expressed doubt about getting me down safely. On each landing we paused about two minutes to regain strength, breath and faith.

During one such pause, we heard footsteps descending from above. Seconds later out of the blackness appeared a couple well-known in the building. I asked whimsically as they rounded the corner, “Why didn’t you take the elevator?” The beam accidentally and momentarily crossed the man’s face. “Why don’t you just get that damned light out of my eyes,” he answered mirthlessly, moving around and on down past us. With them presumably out of earshot, my partner turned to the officers and explained, “You’ve just met the building A-hole.” They nodded and we resumed the trek.

Our procession continued in fits and starts. The heavier officer started sweating profusely even with my partner now carrying his uniform coat. We continued inching tediously and perilously to the main floor and then down the entryway stairs, finally reaching terra firma and facing the soggy outside.

After those 20 minutes or so (that for me seemed like at least a couple of hours) of being terror-stricken, I exhaled, never more relieved and grateful. Of course, they wouldn’t accept any material token of my thanks, politely demurring with “Just our job,” and initially were even reluctant to part with their names.

My everlasting thanks, guys. You are the best.

Joe Lobenthal, PCV

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