Local synagogues packed after Pittsburgh massacre

Nov15 Brotherhood Synagogue

The Brotherhood Synagogue in Gramercy Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While it happened many miles away from New York City, for Jewish New Yorkers, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting massacre on October 27 hit way too close to home, especially since locally, in the days following, there were reports of anti-Semitic graffiti and other types of vandalism at Jewish houses of worship in Brooklyn.

Many attended a vigil for the victims in Pittsburgh in Union Square shortly after the incident. Others jammed their temples for special Sabbath services that Friday night. Town & Village’s own associate editor, Maria Rocha-Buschel, found herself attending services for the first time in — she admitted — years, and reported that The Brotherhood Synagogue in Gramercy Park was completely packed. Much of the evening’s service was focused on the shootings and Rabbi Daniel Alder read a letter from a congregant who’d grown up near the Tree of Life Synagogue where eleven people were murdered, and knew two of the victims.

East End Temple in Stuyvesant Square Park was also crowded “beyond capacity,” noted a congregant there, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein. “There was a lot of unity in difficult times,” he added.

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Robber threatens First Avenue CVS employee with needle

Robbery suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for a man who, when caught shoplifting at the CVS store across from Stuyvesant Town, threatened an employee with a hypodermic needle.

The man strolled into the store, located at 253 First Avenue, on Wednesday, November 14 at 8 p.m. and began throwing items from the shelves into a garbage bag. When an employee confronted him in the aisle, the man pulled out the needle and told the worker to “step back.”

The man then fled with about $170 in merchandise.

The suspect, who is being sought for robbery, is described as black, in his 30s, about 5 ft. 8 ins. and 180 lbs. At the time of the incident, he was wearing a white sweatshirt, a black jogging jacket, a black skull cap and black sneakers.

LOCAL HISTORIC PROFILE: Harry Burleigh, singer, composer

Aug2 burleigh

By Sabina Mollot

Henry “Harry” Thacker Burleigh was a baritone singer, composer and arranger who worked for over half a century at St. George’s Parish in Stuyvesant Square as a soloist. He also sang for 25 years at another Manhattan religious institution, Temple Emanu-El, and at both institutions, he was the first black singer to be hired.

Burleigh (December 2, 1866-September 12, 1949, pronounced “burly”) received his earliest musical training from his mother, according to a Library of Congress profile, while a Wikipedia bio also notes he learned about spirituals and slave songs from his grandfather, Hamilton Waters, who’d bought his way out of slavery in 1835. Burleigh’s father, Henry Thacker Burleigh, Sr., a naval veteran in the Civil War, was the first black juror in Erie County in 1871.

As for the younger Burleigh, called Harry, even without formal training, he was able to find employment as a soloist in several churches and synagogues in his native Erie, Pennsylvania. When he came to New York, he sang with Free African Church of St. Philip’s on West 25th Street, the first black congregation of Protestant Episcopalians in the city, according to the Dvořák American Heritage Association. Burleigh then became situated in part of a large black community there that established itself around St. Philip’s.

At the age of 26, Burleigh was accepted, with a scholarship, to the National Conservatory of Music in New York City at the age of 26. The conservatory was then run out of two homes where the Washington Irving High School campus currently exists today.

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NY Infirmary for Women and Children founder honored with plaque

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, speaks at the plaque unveiling. (Photo by Harry Bubbins)

On Monday, Elizabeth Blackwell, who founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first hospital to be run by and for women, was commemorated with the unveiling of a historic plaque at 58 Bleecker Street. Blackwell was also the first woman doctor in America.

The Greenwich Village address was chosen because it was the original site of the infirmary, which was later moved to East 15th Street in Stuyvesant Square. The infirmary in more recent years was incorporated into New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. The infirmary had originally operated out of a house that’s still standing, though it was originally numbered 64 Bleecker Street.

Built in 1822-1823, the Federal style house was erected for James Roosevelt, the great-grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who lived there until his death just ten years before Blackwell embarked on her groundbreaking effort. Blackwell’s hospital opened on May 12, 1857, the 37th birthday of Florence Nightingale, whom Blackwell had befriended earlier in her career. The hospital was open seven days a week and provided medical care for needy women and children free of charge.

Monday’s plaque unveiling, which took place almost 161 years to the day after the infirmary opened, was organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

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City holding dog run town halls

The series of events are for dog owners with questions or concerns about their local dog runs. (Pictured) Dogs and an owner at the Bellevue South Park Dog Run (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Got a question or concern about Fido’s dog run? The New York City Parks Department is holding a series of four dog run town halls with the next one scheduled in Manhattan on April 14 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The series, according to a spokesperson for the department Meghan Lalor, was inspired by similar public dog forums the department held in 2007 while finalizing an off-leash policy as well as a forum in 2010 when Assistant Commissioner Michael Dockett was named the agency’s “dog czar.”

Now, the department is “refreshing” the concept with the hopes of getting dog owners more involved in their local runs and to inform them about available resources. The first in the series on dog runs took place in Queens last weekend without about 40 people in attendance. The Manhattan venue will be the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center at 3 Clarkson Street, and dog owners should note that the event is for humans only.

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Hotel 17 reopens with ‘extended stay’ model

Hotel 17 shut down regular hotel operations to comply with the Illegal Hotels Law. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Hotel 17, the Stuyvesant Square budget hotel that closed in April due to zoning issues, has recently reinvented itself as an extended stay hotel.

The 160-room hotel, which is located at 225 East 17th Street, notes on its website in several places that it’s now “extended stay,” meaning guests must book a room for 30 days or longer.

Doing this keeps the building, which was never actually zoned as a hotel, in compliance with the city’s Illegal Hotels Law. The law forbids buildings that are zoned as residential from renting units for under 30 days. Hotel 17 operated openly as a hotel for decades but a few years ago found itself in trouble with the city upon a crackdown on short-term rentals.

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Statues coming to life at parks

Historical figures will speak through technology

July13 Statue Peter Stuyvesant

Statue of Peter Stuyvesant in Stuyvesant Square Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

Most of the time, the monuments built to honor historical figures go unnoticed by New Yorkers. Up on their pedestals, how could they even hope to compete with whatever is below, flashing on park goers’ cell phones? Fortunately for our forefathers, a history-loving Dane has found a way to get the stories behind the statues told today in a modern way.

David Peter Fox, a TV producer and documentary maker from Copenhagen, has for the past 18 months been organizing installations in different cities where statues speak to park goers via their smartphones. The project began in Denmark, then later went on to London and then the Unites States in San Diego and Chicago. Then on Wednesday, July 12, Talking Statues came to New York.

“I got the idea in 2013,” said Fox, reached on the phone this week. “I was curious about the stories that are behind statues.”

To make the project a reality, Fox and others fundraised to be able to hire a team of actors, one to play the part of each statue, and writers to come up with the material. To hear any of the 35 city monuments’ stories, participants just approach a statue, and scan a code on a sign. They will need a wi-fi connection and a QR scanner or scanning app on their phones to do this or they can type the web address they see on the sign. After that, the individual will be contacted from the great beyond.

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Hotel 17 has closed down

Hotel 17 at 225 East 17th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

City says SRO building is running illegal hotel, but owner, fighting closure, says business is legit

By Sabina Mollot

Hotel 17, a budget hotel located in Stuyvesant Square, has stopped taking reservations and has been cleared of guests.

According to the general property manager of the business, Eyal Siri, this is not due to lack of business but due to the city’s crackdown on illegal hotels, which Siri said he’s been unfairly ensnared in.

Siri, whose family has leased and operated the hotel since the 1970s, admitted the business was never actually certified as a hotel, even though it has served that purpose openly for decades. According to the certificate of occupancy from 1943, it’s a Class A multi-dwelling/single room occupancy/old law tenement. In recent years, the city has had a task force investigate illegal hotels, which are usually residential buildings where rooms or apartments have been rented to people for under 30 days.

As of Monday, on the hotel’s website, a notice on the home page indicates the business is closed.

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Pigeon-napper strikes again, says PCV woman

Pigeons like these have been getting sold for target practice. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Pigeons like these have been getting sold for target practice. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last month, Town & Village reported that a ring of bird-nappers have been seen trapping and then selling local pigeons to customers out of state who then use them for target practice. While they have yet to be arrested, one bird-napper was caught last year on Stuyvesant Town’s surveillance cameras as he worked to catch birds on East 14th Street and First Avenue.

And now, he’s back, according to a woman who said she watched in horror as a man caught pigeons in a net in Peter Cooper Village on Saturday.

The witness, a resident of Peter Cooper who asked that her name not be published, said it happened in broad daylight at around 12:10 p.m. on First Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets.

She said she watched as he put out some seed, and following a few birds’ immediate interest, quickly scooped them up. He didn’t get more than those few, however, since the woman said she screamed at him to stop.

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Man tries to lure girl at school fair

By Sabina Mollot
A man attempted to lure a girl at a street fair that was held by the Jack and Jill School two Saturdays ago, Town & Village has learned.

According to a spokesperson for the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, an unknown man approached a six-year-old girl at the event, and asked where her dad was. He then told her she should go with him because he was her uncle, police said.

The school event was held on a public street.

The school event was held on a public street.

Mary Carroll French, the director at the school, told Town & Village that while she wasn’t a witness to the incident, she heard after the fact how a man had approached a former student who was at the event and spoke to her.

“It was what the NYPD would call attempted luring,” said Carroll French. But, she added, the girl didn’t respond to him. Additionally, the girl’s father was nearby as was another father and a sexton at the school.

“The sexton had his eye on him and was watching him,” she said. The sexton, then realizing the man was a stranger, shooed the man away and he left with his bike, although Carroll French said she didn’t know if he was riding it.

She noted that since the fair was held on a public street, East 16th Street between Rutherford Place and Third Avenue, anyone could walk through. The event was held from noon to 4 p.m. and Carroll French said she believed the man strode through later in the event. She added that parents at the school, which is for kids ages 2-5, have been alerted.

Police described the man as being black or Hispanic, approximately 6 ft. 1 in. and has curly or wavy hair.

The man’s actions were also mentioned in an email blast to neighbors from the Gramercy Park Block Association this past Tuesday. The email quotes a brief letter sent to parents from another local school that referred to the incident as an attempted kidnapping.

Last weekend, when another local school had a street fair, a couple of police officers were stationed nearby and this time there were no incidents, police said.

Gunman ties up Third Avenue Starbucks workers during robbery

Photos of robbery suspect

Photos of robbery suspect

Police are on the lookout for a robber who held up two workers at gunpoint at a Third Avenue Starbucks.

The robber, police said, entered the coffee joint at 145 Third Avenue and 15th Street on Thursday, January 16 at around 9:30 p.m. He then allegedly pulled a gun and demanded cash from the two baristas who were working. The two employees, a 21-year-old woman, the other a 22-year-old man, were ordered to lie down on the floor, where he tied their hands with zip ties. He then swiped about $3,000 in cash from the register and fled.

The victims were not hurt, police said.

The gunman is described as Hispanic, 35-40 years old, 5 ft. 7 ins.-5 ft. 9 ins. and 200 lbs., with a light colored complexion and facial hair. He was last seen wearing square framed eyeglasses, a dark colored sweatshirt with an “ecko” logo on the front, a black nylon jacket over the sweatshirt and black gloves.

Anyone with information in regards to this suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimestoppers.com or texting  tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. All call are strictly confidential.