Hoylman: Restaurants are taking the heat for delayed gas service

Frank’s Trattoria went without gas for eight weeks earlier this year following a gas leak at a nearby building. It is still in business, though others that have gone through lengthy periods without gas were less fortunate. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this year, Frank’s Trattoria, a pizzeria and restaurant across from Peter Cooper Village, went eight weeks without gas to cook with following a gas leak at a neighboring building. The roughly two months spent without gas was due to delays in getting inspections from Con Ed as well as getting all the necessary paperwork from Department of Buildings. The owners at the time told Town & Village they were trying to stay afloat by cooking what menu items they could using electric stoves they purchased. However, they still lost a lot of business since they couldn’t make pizza that way and because the portable stoves took longer to cook with, some customers would choose not to wait.

The owners told us they didn’t even know how much they lost, but it’s possible the amount was $140,000.

Apparently, this is the average loss to Manhattan businesses that had the same problem in recent years, who also had an average wait of 68 days for the gas to go back on. Those figures are the result of a study conducted by the office of state Senator Brad Hoylman, with owners of businesses being interviewed through a survey.

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Letters to the Editor

June8 Toon Mr Met

Save our supermarket

The following is an open letter to Stuyvesant Town Property Services CEO/Stuy Town General Manager Rick Hayduk,

As a 41-year long resident of Stuyvesant Town, I am writing to ask you to reconsider Blackstone’s determination to raise the rent against the Associated Supermarket on 14 th Street, causing them to leave our neighborhood.

It is most distressing that almighty profit once again outweighs the value that that market has had in our neighborhood for 25 years.

When I first learned that the store would open there, I was dubious. However, they have been able to run the store and the multiple complications connected with that with a minimum of disruption to us… despite the load in of product, the removal of garbage and the acceptance of bottles from street collectors.

The store’s employees are like family to us… we have seen them get their first job, pay for college, get married, take maternity leave and return, and have a decent job for these many years.

That has been an invaluable commitment on the store owners’ parts, creating a special feeling for those of us who have shopped there.

I know this letter won’t change your mind or the direction your negotiations take.

But I hope it makes you a little less able to look yourself in the mirror.

Sincerely, 

Lynne Hayden-Findlay, ST

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Editorial: Small businesses need pols’ help and ours

City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Helen Rosenthal have been doggedly pushing a bill that if passed would give some relief to many of the Manhattan retailers who are forced to pay Commercial Rent Tax. The tax, they’ve argued, is discriminatory as it punishes retailers and restaurants for the crime of doing business below 96th Street and above Chambers. We have to say, we agree it’s obviously unfair, and we hope the legislation doesn’t face any obstacles in getting signed.

However, as any Manhattan storefronter can attest to, taxes are just the tip of the iceberg. Amazon is an ever-present competitor and the rent is too damn high with commercial tenants not having much in the way of bargaining power when it’s lease renewal time.

Rosenthal, following the press conference that was held for the CRT bill, said the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which is aimed at giving business owners an automatic ten-year lease renewal, is being looked at by the council’s counsel. The legislation has been languishing for decades though recently it has gained steam as neighbors have grown weary of seeing their local small businesses get pushed out by chains.

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Exhibit taking residents back in time

Hours of the exhibition, taking place at Oval Studio, have been extended. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, StuyTown Property Services turned Oval Studio into a gallery space celebrating the community’s 70th anniversary.

The exhibition features various mementos from the property’s past, mostly on loan from residents. Items run from artwork showcasing the complex’s landscaping to photos of local businesses from days gone by to letters showing interaction between tenants and management. In one stern, type-written letter, a resident is informed that his child’s use of water gun on the grounds is a no-no.

The exhibition mostly steered clear of the property’s past major controversies, though, focusing on nostalgia, with a few exceptions. One could be the first year’s issues of this newspaper, which was displayed in a bound volume. (In the early years, an ongoing story involved Met Life’s policy of barring black residents.) There was also some other Stuy Town-focused reading material included.

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Civic groups oppose city proposal for half of street fair vendors to be community-based

Carol Schachter, vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, pictured at right at a recent street fair that the Community Council sponsored, with a member, Pat Sallin, and its president, Frank Scala (Photo by Mary Mahoney)

Carol Schachter, vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, pictured at right at a recent street fair that the Community Council sponsored, with a member, Pat Sallin, and its president, Frank Scala (Photo by Mary Mahoney)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community organizers are worried that proposed new rules requiring participation from local businesses in street festivals will affect their revenue because they feel there won’t be enough participation from neighborhood vendors.

The Mayor’s Office of Citywide Events Coordination and Management (OCECM), which oversees the Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO), proposed new rules for street festivals, including a requirement that 50 percent of participating vendors have a business or local presence within the same community board as the festival, as well as a limit on how many are allowed per community board every year, decreasing the number from 18 to 10.

Carol Schachter, who’s the vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, said that a number of groups depend on revenue from local street fairs to fund programming for the neighborhood. Schachter attempted to provide testimony about the issue at the public hearing held last Thursday but noted that the hearing was held in a small room without enough space to accommodate all those who wanted to speak.

“Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association hosts events like tangos in the park. They rely on street fair revenue,” she said. “We don’t have money as community organizations to pay for these things otherwise. We need that money for National Night Out: the giveaways, ice cream truck, they all have to be paid for and it’s paid for by revenue from street fairs.”

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Carb Tease: Ess-a-Bagel says re-opening is next week

Sept8 Ess-A-Bagel 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.”

Owner of Sigfrido’s retiring after nearly 50 years on First Ave.

Andy Evangelista will retire at the end of this month, after working at his family’s barbershop for almost half a century. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Andy Evangelista will retire at the end of this month, after working at his family’s barbershop for almost half a century. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

It’s the end of an era for Sigfrido’s Barbershop on First Avenue with the retirement of barber and co-owner Andy Evangelista after almost 50 years, but he likes to think of it as a sort of beginning.

“It’s sad in a way to leave but I’m happy to start a new adventure with my family,” he said, explaining that he and his wife have a number of trips planned following his departure from the shop after the end of this month.

Ruben Aronov, who’s been working at the business for the past 11 years, has taken over Evangelista’s stake in the business. There’s also another owner named Sam Sagykov.

Evangelista has been working at the shop since 1968 when he was 19 years old. One of his brothers is the shop’s namesake, Sigfrido, who started the business seven years earlier with his brother-in-law, Nunzio.

Sigfrido came to the United States in 1959 and helped take care of the paperwork so that his other brothers could come to New York as well.

Evangelista said that he was meant to make the trip in 1963 but was delayed because of President John Kennedy’s assassination and he ultimately made the trip five years later.

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Mariella Pizza closes doors after 37 years

Mariella Pizza closed due to a gas issue in January, then never reopened. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Mariella Pizza closed due to a gas issue in January, then never reopened. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Mariella Pizza, which had slung slices for 37 years on Third Avenue before closing in January due to a gas issue, has gone for good.

On Monday, April 4, the pizzeria held a public auction to clear out its equipment before closing its doors once again.

One of the owners, who introduced himself as Tony but didn’t want his last name mentioned, said he would have stayed had he been offered a “fair lease,” but also indicated there were other factors like a vent that wasn’t up to building code, which he said the landlord had concerns about. However, on the latter issue, Tony said he couldn’t have it fixed. “If it was something simple, we would have addressed it,” he said.

Tony isn’t currently planning to reopen Mariella’s at another location.

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Mumbles restaurant closes, La Follia will take over space

Jan28 Mumbles

Mumbles at Third Avenue and 17th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

Mumbles, a family-run restaurant that’s been in the Gramercy neighborhood for 22 years, closed its doors for good on Sunday.

The business has been sold to the owners of a nearby restaurant La Follia, who will be moving in February.

On Thursday, January 21, Mumbles’ owner, David Feldman threw a going away party at the restaurant, which he said was packed with family, friends and regulars.

Reached at the restaurant the next day as the city prepared for a blizzard, Feldman explained his reasons for closing the restaurant, which at one time had three Manhattan locations.

For one thing, his father, who started the business, died six years ago, leaving Feldman and his brother to run things. But then Feldman also lost his brother a year ago to cancer.

This left Feldman alone to run Mumbles as well as two other restaurants the family owned, Benjamin in Murray Hill, and East of Eighth in Chelsea, as well as a catering business. Those businesses will all remain open.

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Paddy Maguire’s bar turning 20

Patrick Maguire inside his horse racing themed bar in Gramercy (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Patrick Maguire inside his horse racing themed bar in Gramercy (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

When Paddy Maguire’s owner Patrick Maguire originally came to New York when he was 21 it was only supposed to be for three weeks, but he liked it so much he ended up staying. Since then, Maguire opened up the bar at 237 Third Avenue and the spot is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend.

Although he did have prior bartending experience before opening Paddy Maguire’s Ale House at the Water Club, his career change was more drastic than that of most bar owners.

“I was an apprentice jockey for about five years,” he said, explaining that he moved from his native Kilmallock, Ireland to England for the experience. “But I started growing my legs and soon they were three feet longer than they should’ve been, so I said the hell with it. You can only be so tall as a jockey. You either hurt yourself trying or you get out.”

Out of his 12 other siblings, it had been Maguire whose father singled out as the one son who would be involved in horses. But it wasn’t pushed on him. Maguire said that he genuinely enjoyed the experience.

“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “And it was good discipline. They were very strict. It was like being in a convent, to be honest.”

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Flatiron BID to hold free tech workshops, other events

General Assembly will once again present tech workshops at the Flatiron South Plaza. (Pictured) A workshop held last year (Photo courtesy of Flatiron/23rd Street BID)

General Assembly will once again present tech workshops at the Flatiron South Plaza. (Pictured) A workshop held last year (Photo courtesy of Flatiron/23rd Street BID)

By Sabina Mollot
In recent years, summertime in the city has become synonymous with concerts and other events at parks and neighborhood spaces, and the Flatiron District is no exception.
However along with traditional events like fitness classes and outdoor theater, both of which are being offered in the Flatiron pedestrian plazas, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership (BID) is also bringing back another popular activity: tech workshops.
For the past two summers, the Partnership has partnered with local company General Assembly to give classes on a variety of tech and business topics outside on the south plaza.
The first workshop in a three part series took place on Tuesday, July 8 and the remaining classes will take place on July 15 and 22 at the south plaza, located on Broadway between 22nd and 23rd Streets. On Tuesday, July 15 at 6 p.m., “Rules of Engagement: Moving Consumers from Awareness to Advocacy” is the scheduled class aimed at teaching social marketing strategy. On Tuesday, July 22 at 6 p.m. “Inbound Marketing Solutions: Marketing on a Budget” will focus on how to generate leads and improve traffic with a limited marketing budget.
Jennifer Brown, the BID’s executive director, said the tech workshops were part of the organization’s mission of helping the local business community, which really got underway after the recession. So far the events have been a hit locally with around 30 to 40 attending when the weather is favorable. Sometimes people register in advance, but other attendees just happen to be walking by and sit down once they see what’s going on.
“The topics are interesting for people across different industries, like marketing,” said Brown. “Last summer they did a workshop on perfecting your pitch. That’s helpful no matter what your profession is.”
General Assembly, like the other groups and businesses the Partnership is working with on the programming, is donating its services, and classes are free for those who attend. The company also offers classes at its two locations, but, noted Brown, “People typically have to pay for them.”
As for the other programs, on Wednesdays, instructors from Flatiron fitness studios will be teaching exercise and yoga classes, sponsored by Athleta, on the south plaza. Upcoming fitness classes are: “Barreless Core Fusion” with Exhale on Wednesday, July 16 at 6 p.m. and “Shanti Flow with Yoga Shanti” on Wednesday, July 23 at 6 p.m.
On Thursdays, the Peoples Improv Theater (The PIT) will take the stage at the north plaza, on the west of Madison Square Park. House teams will perform a brand-new musical made up on the spot on July July 17 and July 24 at 6 p.m. each evening. PIT performers have worked the Flatiron plaza crowd before for holiday programs in December.
Brown said the decision to offer fitness classes was inspired by similar seasonal programs now running at Union Square and Bryant Parks as well as the fact that the Flatiron neighborhood has become home to many fitness and yoga studios.
“We’ve been talking about working with them for years now,” she said.

New recycling bins with solar-powered trash compactors have been installed in the Flatiron pedestrian plaza. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

New recycling bins with solar-powered trash compactors have been installed in the Flatiron pedestrian plaza. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The BID pays for its programming as well as its other projects like maintenance of the pedestrian plazas and beautification of the neighborhood. Tree pit guards were recently implemented throughout the district and three new recycling bins with solar-powered trash compactors were installed in the plazas, paid for out of a $350,000 annual budget as well as other revenue. The BID gets some income from two food kiosks on the plazas and also gets a fee, along with the city, when the plazas are used by companies for promotional events. If there’s a movie shoot, the BID will usually get some sort of voluntary monetary contribution. Most of the years since its creation though, the expenses have been more than what the budget allows for.
“The revenue has varied over the years,” added Brown. “We had a small surplus a couple of years ago.”
But the expenses have also changed. Initially, the BID arranged for plantings twice a year. These days, it’s four times a year. Maintenance of the BID, handled by its own sanitation, public safety and gardening crews, is done throughout the BID district, the borders of which are 21st and 23rd Streets and Third and Sixth Avenues.
The exception is Madison Square Park, since it’s maintained by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. Brown said the BID’s programming also tries to complement and not duplicate that of the conservancy, which is now running a summer concert series as well as events for children in the park. (See Town & Village’s Around & About section for details.)
For more information about the Flatiron Partnership’s events, visit http://www.discoverflatiron.org.

Editorial: Rent hikes aren’t just bad news for tenants

In a recent Town & Village editorial, the topic was how the mid-lease rent hikes given to 1,300 residents was bad business. The reason was that it would cause hundreds of vacancies and end up replacing more stable residents like families with less stable ones like students and others living in roommate situations.

However, there is another reason why we think the mid-lease increases (which have been as high as over $2,000) are bad business and bad for the community.

The other reason is that an exodus of tenants means a sharp drop in business for local retailers, many of whom have already been hurting since Sandy and the temporary closure of the VA Medical Center. Obviously, eventually new tenants will replace the departing ones as customers of local shops, but with a large chunk of apartments being vacated, this is a process that’s going to take some time. Meanwhile, since apartment buildings around here for years now have had revolving doors due to steadily increasing rents, the challenge of regularly trying to attract – and to keep – clients is one that local businesses have already, on a gradual level, been struggling with.

But don’t take our word for it. Hear what a couple of merchants had to say.
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Letters to the Editor, Feb. 14

Barriers blocked access on East 20th Street

To the Editor:

On the fifteenth of January when I went downstairs to find my car, parked in its usual place, the loading zone in front of 430 and 440 East 20th Street with my handicapped permit prominently displayed, it was all alone in the always full area and adorned with a notice giving the usual threats, towing etc. Large wooden blocks had been placed along with metal gates the whole length of the area from the parking garage to the corner Loop exit.

Since I am in my eighties and use a walker, having my car so available is extremely important for the conduct of my life. The barriers have forced me to park at some distance and to struggle along, sometimes with a shopping bag to get into my building.

Finally, since no sort of work is being visibly conducted I called the management office and was told that something or other will be done to my building at some future date. The supervisor I spoke to seemed rather confused about the project. I asked why they have taken the space two weeks ahead of the actual work, causing myself and other residents, some in wheelchairs, extraordinary problems. The five or six doctors’ offices in my building are surely receiving complaints from patients keeping their appointments while family members wait in cars. As for the delivery trucks, including the USPS one can easily imagine a lot of strong language in reaction to the loss of loading zone.

How long will this outrage go on until it gets worse?

H. Zwerling, ST

This letter was forwarded by T&V to a rep for management last Tuesday and the author said work began on 440 E. 20th later that day. CWCapital spokesperson Kara Krippen said the work was being done on the 20th Street Loop to stay in compliance with Local Law 11, which relates to facade inspections.

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