Historic park fence finally repaired

A section of fence gets lifted into the park late last month. (Photo by Mark Thompson)

By Sabina Mollot

After years of delays due to budget and contractor related issues, work finally began to complete the restoration of the historic cast iron fence that surrounds Stuyvesant Square Park’s east section.

Starting late last month, large sections of the landmarked fence were hoisted in via crane as were the fence posts, which were placed temporarily on the lawn.

At some point in the coming months there will be a ribbon cutting, but in the meantime, the construction itself is something to celebrate for community activists who’ve been pushing for this project’s completion for 20 years.

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Marco’s now a Chinese restaurant with new owners and same name

Owner Aidi Xu and chef Feng Hui, who’s also her business partner, are hoping to change people’s perceptions of Chinese restaurants as fast food places. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Owner Aidi Xu and chef Feng Hui, who’s also her business partner, are hoping to change people’s perceptions of Chinese restaurants as fast food places. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents familiar with a restaurant called Marco’s on Second Avenue near East 23rd Street might know the business name but might be surprised that the spot now serves Chinese food instead of Italian tapas. Owner Aidi Xu opened the new restaurant in mid-August under the same name as the space’s previous occupant, even though the two restaurants offer two completely different kinds of cuisine.

One thing the two spots do have in common is the bar, which Xu said she wanted to use as a connection from the old iteration of Marco’s (which also added “A Taste of China” to the name) to the new one.

“People wouldn’t normally come to a Chinese restaurant for drinks so we’re trying to utilize that,” she said.

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Teen busted for snatching phones in Gramercy

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a teenager for multiple phone snatchings last Wednesday just before 5 p.m. The teen snatched a man’s cell phone on East 19th Street and fled, then grabbed a woman’s cell phone on East 18th Street, shortly after which he was grabbed by witnesses and detained until police arrived.

One of the victims said he was standing in front of ABC Cocina at 38 East 19th Street about to make a call on his phone when a black man who was about 5’11” with dark hair, a white tank top, dark shorts and a black backpack snatched his phone from his hand and ran east on East 19th Street toward Park Avenue South.

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Opinion: In praise of Jim Hayes

Epiphany principal James Hayes (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Epiphany principal James Hayes (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

In just a few short weeks the new school year begins. Kids will have new books, software and other educational tools. Some may have a new outfit to wear on the first day of school.

But what the students lucky enough to attend Epiphany will not have this year is Jim Hayes as their principal.

For nearly four decades Jim has been the heart and soul of one of the most successful grade schools in the city… parochial or public. Jim would undoubtedly attribute all the credit to his dedicated teachers, both secular and religious, and he would laud his students and their families, but much of the credit belongs to Jim.

You would see him standing outside the school building on 22nd Street near Second Avenue as the kids arrived each and every day, and then again at the end of the day when they departed. His watchful eye could always spot trouble before it occurred or notice one of his students in distress. Jim made sure that they arrived safely, prepared to learn, and left safely as well. He knew his students by name and most of their parents.

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Man ‘steals’ taxi in Gramercy, then crashes it, injuring four

Ilir Kuka was arrested in February after allegedly driving off in the cab he’d been riding in, going the wrong direction and hitting a minivan. (Pictured) Emergency responders at the scene (Photo by Steve Kaufman)

Ilir Kuka was arrested in February after allegedly driving off in the cab he’d been riding in, going the wrong direction and hitting a minivan. (Pictured) Emergency responders at the scene (Photo by Steve Kaufman)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a 26-year-old man early Sunday morning after he reportedly went on a joyride in a cab he stole in Gramercy, resulting in the hospitalization of four people.

The trouble started when a cab driver picked up Miguel Batiz and his coworker near East 21st Street and Second Avenue at 5:30 a.m. They got into the cab, and the driver said that Batiz told him to take them to the Bronx. When the driver asked what the exact address was for where they wanted to go, he said that Batiz began giving him directions that would not take them to the Bronx. The driver said that Batiz started to get agitated, then opened the partition between the front and backseat of the cab. The suspect then allegedly grabbed the driver by his collar, pushed him and said, “drive me where I tell you to go.”

At this point, the driver got nervous so he pulled the cab over and turned on his emergency light. Police said that Batiz then got out of the cab, opened the front passenger door and started punching the driver. He then allegedly grabbed the driver by the head and told him that if he didn’t drive him where he wanted to go, he would cut him.

The driver said that Batiz grabbed at his waistline, where the victim believed he had a knife, although the driver said he did not see a weapon. Batiz allegedly put the victim in a headlock and said, “If you won’t drive, I will.”

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One year after explosion, bills aim to prevent similar tragedies

Local elected officials including Council Member Rosie Mendez, Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman stand at the explosion site on Saturday with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Local elected officials including Council Member Rosie Mendez, Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman stand at the explosion site on Saturday with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Local politicians, East Village residents and former tenants of the collapsed buildings commemorated the first anniversary of the gas explosion on Second Avenue killed two people this past Saturday. The building collapse of 119, 121 and 123 Second Avenue and Seventh Street also resulted in the loss of 30 apartments, many of them rent-regulated.

In an effort to prevent similar disasters in the future, the City Council introduced legislation on February 24 through nine different bills. Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who was at Saturday’s event at the explosion site, is the lead sponsor of a bill that requires gas providers to notify the Department of Buildings within 24 hours of a gas shut off. This is in order to create transparency and hold city agencies accountable.

“A year after the East Village explosion, all that remains is three empty lots as a constant reminder of an avoidable tragic event that took the lives of two young men, rendered dozens of residents homeless, temporarily displaced hundreds of others from their homes and interrupted the livelihood of small business owners for weeks and in some cases months,” Mendez said. “We can never forget the tragedies that were avoidable and we vow to work to ensure that no one else has to suffer and endure what the families and our communities have.”

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Police Watch: M&M ‘thief’ busted, ‘Drunk’ driver arrested

DRIVER WITH SICK DOG ARRESTED AFTER HITTING TWO MEN AT CONSTRUCTION SITE
Police arrested Jair Freire, 53, for leaving the scene of an accident in front of 38 East 22nd Street last Thursday at 10:06 a.m. Freire was rushing to the veterinary hospital with his sick dog and while stopped in traffic on East 22nd Street, he approached the men doing construction on the street and requested that he be allowed to go through due to an emergency. When they refused, Freire allegedly proceeded anyway and in the process, struck one of them with the passenger’s side of his vehicle, knocking him to the ground and causing a back and neck injury.
Police said that Freire also struck another man at the construction site with the driver’s side of the vehicle, knocking him to the ground and causing a scrape on his right elbow. He allegedly fled the scene of the accident and was later found at the veterinary hospital at 1 West 15th Street.

M&M ‘THIEF’ BUSTED AT BELLEVUE SOUTH PARK
Police arrested 54-year-old Bernard Santiago for robbery inside the 7-Eleven at 395 Third Avenue last Saturday at 8:20 p.m. The victim told police that Santiago went into the store, grabbed 19 bags of M&Ms candy bags and walked out without paying.
Store employees ran after Santiago and brought him into the back office, telling him that they were going to call the police. Santiago then allegedly took out a sharp object, which the victim said was a knife, and slashed her on the hand, causing a cut. Police said that Santiago then fled the store.
After canvassing Bellevue South Park, police found Santiago, who matched the employees’ description. One of the employees positively identified him and he was arrested. Police said that no knife was found on him.

MAN ARRESTED FOR ‘DRUNK’ DRIVING AFTER ACCIDENT
Police arrested 26-year-old Christoph Dumont for intoxicated driving on East 14th Street and the FDR last Saturday at 6:28 a.m. Dumont, who was driving on the FDR, was in a car accident that only involved him and his passengers. Police said that the accident occurred on the FDR service road on the jogging path.
Upon further investigation, police found that Dumont was allegedly under the influence of alcohol. Police said that he had the scent of alcohol on his breath and seemed very excited. He was given a Breathalyzer at the scene and allegedly tested a BAC of .159. When he was arrested, police found that he was also in possession of alleged marijuana, and he was charged for that as well.
Three of the passengers in the vehicle were taken to Bellevue Hospital with minor injuries.

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Pols lead East Village shopping crawl to support businesses impacted by fire

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at a stop along the Follow Me Friday shopping crawl

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at a stop along the Follow Me Friday shopping crawl (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

In a bid to help the businesses in the East Village that that been destroyed or damaged by the gas explosion at the end of March that killed two, a few elected officials led neighborhood residents on a small business crawl last Friday.

The event was part of an initiative known as Follow Me Friday, which was launched by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in 2014 and which the speaker uses as a way to communicate directly with constituents. She worked with Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s office for the East Village crawl in order to bring attention to the businesses on Second Avenue.

“Despite the horrible tragedy that occurred in this neighborhood recently, the East Village remains a vibrant and lively destination in New York City,” Mark-Viverito said. “The whole Council stands with the residents and business owners of this community in encouraging all New Yorkers to visit and enjoy all that the East Village has to offer.”

Businesses along the route included Moishe’s Bake Shop, New Yorker Market, Café Mocha, Bar Virage, Himalayan Vision, Enz’s and Jimmy’s No. 43.
Mariann Marlow, the owner of the clothing store Enz’s, said that it’s been hard since the store was closed for two months after the explosion to do repairs and restock the inventory, most of which was destroyed, but since reopening, hasn’t had any problems getting business.

“People couldn’t wait for me to reopen,” she said after multiple prospective customers came into the store within five minutes of each other, looking for items she used to have in stock before they were temporarily closed.

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East Village recovering from explosion, DA starts investigation

Firefighters work to put out last Thursday’s deadly fire. (Photo by Robert Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)

Firefighters work to put out last Thursday’s deadly fire. (Photo by Robert Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

One week ago on Thursday, three buildings on Second Avenue near East 7th Street collapsed due to an explosion and fire last Thursday that killed two people. The first two buildings to collapse were 121 and 123 Second Avenue on Thursday afternoon and the fire that followed the explosion largely gutted the third building involved, 119 Second Avenue. Firefighters at the scene demolished the parts of the building’s façade that remained standing with water on Thursday evening, The New York Times reported.

The FDNY had gotten the emergency call from 125 Second Avenue at 3:17 p.m. and while that building did not collapse, it was heavily fire damaged, although additional information about the conditions was not immediately available.

The mayor confirmed last Thursday evening that the explosion was caused by plumbing and gas work that was going on in 121 Second Avenue and Con Edison said on Thursday that the building had failed an inspection earlier that day.

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Major explosion causes building collapse, fire on Second Ave. at East 7th

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By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A building on Second Avenue near East 7th Street has collapsed due to an explosion and fire earlier this afternoon, the FDNY confirmed. The collapse occurred at 123 Second Avenue and  FDNY said that 121 Second Avenue had also partially collapsed, but it was unclear whether this was a direct result of the explosion or occurred later. Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference on Thursday evening that 119 and 125 Second Avenue have also been affected, and FDNY said that the emergency call came from 125 Second Avenue at 3:17 p.m. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that the area around 119 Second Avenue was vacated because of a possible collapse of that building as well, as a result of the fire that extended there following the explosion.

The FDNY does not know the cause of the incident yet but police at the scene said that it was consistent with a gas explosion. The mayor confirmed that explosion appears to have been caused by plumbing and gas work that was going on in 121 Second Avenue, but the investigation is still ongoing. The mayor added that the FDNY is dealing with a seven-alarm incident and have contained fires in all four of the buildings so far. 

Second Avenue was closed from East 14th Street to Houston after the explosion. The affected buildings included a number of apartments as well as restaurants Sushi Park at 121 Second Ave. and Pommes Frites at 123 Second Ave.

Notify NYC reported that the New York City Unified Victim Identification System (UVIS) was activated in response to the fire. Anyone concerned about the welfare of someone who may have been affected by the collapse and are unable to contact them should call 311. From outside of NYC, relatives and friends can call (212) 639-9675. The American Red Cross has also opened a reception center at P.S. 63 at 121 East 3rd Street in Manhattan.

“Today our community’s heart is breaking,” Council Member Rosie Mendez said in response to the tragedy. “My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragedy. I am working closely with emergency services, my colleagues in government and with community leaders to respond to this horrible event. I thank the people of New York for the outpouring of concern and support. We pray for the victims and their families.”

On Thursday evening, Con Ed also issued a statement, noting the building had failed an inspection.

“Con Edison is working with fire officials and other agencies at the scene of today’s explosion and building collapse on 2nd Avenue near 7th Street in the East Village neighborhood in Manhattan,” the utility said.

“Earlier today, Con Edison personnel were at the location to evaluate work the building plumber was doing inside 121 2nd Ave. in connection with a gas service upgrade. The work failed our inspection for several reasons, including insufficient spacing for the installation of the meter in the basement.

“We had no reports of gas odors in the area prior to the fire and explosion. A survey conducted yesterday of the gas mains on the block found no leaks. We continue to work with all agencies on the investigation into the cause, and we are praying for the recovery of all the injured.”

Letters to the Editor, Oct. 16

Mayor’s actions aren’t measuring up

Re: “The Soapbox: Why the mayor won’t support a conversion,” T&V, Oct. 9

To the Editor:

Iggy Reilly argues that the mayor won’t support a conversion because it would reduce the number of affordable housing units; since the mayor supports “affordable housing,” whatever that means, he can’t appear to contradict himself by advocating both.

This argument assumes that the mayor really supports affordable housing because he has said so. But his actions say otherwise. He has followed in the footsteps of Bloomberg and Giuliani and appointed a Rent Guidelines Board that has just increased rents again. If the mayor is not aware of the obvious, let me point out that increasing rents more and more every year results in less and less apartments that could be, at least “considered,” affordable.

But in truth with rent hikes every year for the past 20 years and more and more MCIs, affordable rents are approaching levels that could change a stabilized apartment to one subject to the free market. Affordability is a joke.

When I was working as a New York City teacher, my rent ate just 16 percent of my salary. Now retired, my “affordable” rent devours 47 percent of my pension, so I have less money to pay more rent. So I doubt the mayor is interested in affordable housing, at least not in Stuy Town where he undermined the efforts of our tenant-friendly neighbor and councilman, Dan Garodnick. Seems the mayor didn’t want a tenant advocate to head the City Council.

We live in a city, state and country where Greed is God, er, good. So if conversion is the goal, it will be necessary to stuff the ravenous jaws of that obese monster Greed with more green stuff than the other guy. Or, if the other guy has more cash (most likely), tenant groups around the city could wage a city-wide education campaign to inform millions of tenants that their rent hikes are the result of the mayor’s actions and urge them to write so many letters to the mayor that all the offices at City Hall will be stuffed.

The mayor must be made to realize that he will not be re-elected unless he reduces rents, not allow them to continuing increasing like the monster Greed.

John Cappelletti, ST

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