Tuesday, November 20, 2018

RIP Jimi Zhivago

[Image by James Lanning via Facebook]

Jimi Zhivago, a musician, producer and composer who lived in the East Village since the early 1980s, died on Nov. 8 after a short illness*. He was 67.

Born James Daley on Aug. 1, 1951, in Brooklyn, Zhivago "had been a musical legend and force around NYC and beyond," his friend and collaborator Chris Riffle said.

Zhivago moved to Chelsea in the mid-1970s and later to the East Village where he lived on Fifth Street since 1982. He was a regular on many scenes, including at Max’s Kansas City where he performed with Klaus Nomi and Wayne County, then later at Sin-é on St. Mark's Place.

He had many varied credits to his name. He played with Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and Glen Hansard, among many others. He had a major label solo record released in the late 1970s and was a founding member of Ollabelle. Zhivago played electric sitar on the Neptunes' remix of "Sympathy for the Devil" in 2015 and produced the SiriusXM show "Live at the Living Room" for 10 years, broadcasting performers like Norah Jones, Jason Isbell and Madeleine Peyroux.

"He was an integral part of so many careers," said Riffle, a singer-songwriter who recently toured with Zhivago. "From producing albums to playing live, Jimi was a huge part of the East Village and will be sorely missed by many."

There will be a musical remembrance and celebration of his life on Dec. 3 at Drom, 85 Avenue A, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

* Updated
Zhivago died from liver failure from a reaction to a drug taken for prostate cancer.

Dua Kafe, serving Albanian-American cuisine, now open on 14th Street

Dua Kafe is now up and running at 520 E. 14th St. between Avenue A and Avenue B ... bringing a little homespun warmth to a block dominated by the impersonal chill of the EVGB retail-residential complex on either side of the address...

The menu, per the cafe's Instagram account, features Albanian-American cuisine with a variety of egg dishes and paninis ...

The hours don't appear to be set as the cafe remains in soft-open mode ... though regardless of the time, breakfast is served all day.

Despite its mediocre food, Panna II is a line-waiting smash thanks to Instagram and those twinkling lights

[EVG file photo]

Rachel Pelz files a long read at Thrillist on the growing appeal of Panna II Garden, the parlor-floor Indian restaurant at 93 First Ave. near Sixth Street, in a piece titled "One of NYC’s Worst-Reviewed Restaurants Is Also the Hottest Table in Town."

The place has been around for 30-plus years, and is mostly known for BYOB and a room full of twinkling lights that New York magazine once likened to eating inside a Christmas tree ... not to mention its competitive stair greeters battling neighbors Milon, Spice Wala and Royal Bangladesh.

However reasonably priced the menu items, the food is wholly mediocre at Panna II, as New York notes.

There are so many better places to eat. Still, of late, the lines seems to be getting longer outside.

To the article...

So why are tourists and New Yorkers beating down the door to get into a spot with middling food and coarse service? Because its luminous, rainbow-hued interior looks incredible on Instagram. The decor doesn’t just make up for the food; it justifies its existence.

Apparently singer-actress Vanessa Hudgens helped start the Instagram craze with a four-photo post to her 30.4 million followers last December.

View this post on Instagram

Just a normal Thursday night 💁🏻

A post shared by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Soon, Instagram exploded with #pannaii pictures of influencers and wannabe-influencers lit red and gold and green. The hashtag, which now has more than 2,000 posts, is an endless scroll of colorful lights with hardly a samosa in sight.

The owner's take...

"A lot of people are coming in and taking pictures. In '17, it got popular on Instagram, and it still is today. It’s still famous. You get all these international people who come because of Instagram," says Boshir Khan, Panna II Garden’s 44-year-old current owner.

And a discerning patron...

Alexandra Lacorne, who’s been waiting an hour to celebrate her 27th birthday with a group of girlfriends ... can’t wait to get inside. “It’s my first time at Panna,” she says. “I don’t care about the food. I’m in it for the lights and the drinks and that’s it.”

Oh, and how's that food?

Panna II’s late in life, juggernaut success makes it vulnerable to the internet’s seemingly unending supply of armchair reviewers. A search of its 902 Yelp reviews offers 66 results for “terrible,” 37 results for “horrible,” 110 results for “bad,” 76 for “worst,” and, blessedly, only one result for “diarrhea.”

Monday, November 19, 2018

What lies beneath 9th Street and 3rd Avenue?

An EVG reader shared these photos of some type of underground brick vaults that a construction crew unearthed earlier today while doing road work... taken on the northeast corner of Ninth Street and Third Avenue.

Per the reader: "Would imagine they have something to do with structures originally along Stuyvesant Street, which means they could be very old. Not an expert on dating cellar construction."

EVG Underground Brick Vault correspondent Steven took these pics...

Perhaps we can find out what this was part of... maybe something to do with the elevated train that ran north-south along Third Avenue ... or the trolley system near here.

Anyway! Here are some photos of the area via the NYPL Digital Collections ... this is described as "Third Avenue, looking North from the 9th Street station of the Third Avenue L" from October 1927...

... a similar view, but from 1880 (and an early Instagram daredevil on the tracks)...

... and "27-29 Third Avenue, at and adjoining the S.E. corner of Stuyvesant Street. May 18, 1934." (Basically where the Bean is today...)

Updated 11/20
See the comments for more possible explanations of what these bricks might be part of... ———>

Previously on EV Grieve:
Reader report: Workers dig up streetcar tracks on 3rd Avenue

New building permits pre-filed for the (slightly larger) tech hub on Union Square

The first permit was filed last Thursday for the new building that will house the Union Square Tech Training Center (aka the tech hub and 14th @ Irving).

Renderings for the tech hub arrived at the former P.C. Richard & Son property on 14th Street at Irving Place earlier this month. Previous reports on the building, including the city's own news release, listed the 258,000 square-foot project at 21 floors.

However, the permit on file with the DOB lists 22 floors and 309,000 square feet...

Not sure what accounts for the discrepancy. The Schedule A on the permit shows that the 22nd floor is for elevator machinery rooms, the boiler room and the generator switchboard room.

Meanwhile, there's nothing on file yet with the DOB about demolishing the existing building.

As previously reported, the project is being developed jointly by the city’s Economic Development Corp. and developer RAL Development Service. The building includes Civic Hall, which will offer tech training for low-income residents, as well as market-rate retail, office space and a food hall.

[Image via Davis Brody Bond]

The hub, initially announced in early 2017, passed through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) earlier this year, capped off by a unanimous City Council vote in August. A rezoning was required to build the the 2122-story structure, which is larger than what current commercial zoning allows.

For months, some residents, activists, small-business owners and community groups expressed concern that the rezoning necessary for the project would spur out-of-scale development on surrounding blocks. (You can read more about what transpired in the links below.)

The 14th @ Irving website states that construction will start in the first quarter of 2019, with the building opening in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Construction on an already-congested thoroughfare will coincide with the L-train closure starting in April 2019, when 14th Street is expected to serve as a (mostly) car free busway for displaced subway commuters.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Behold Civic Hall, the high-tech future of Union Square — and NYC

Speaking out against a 'Silicon Alley' in this neighborhood

P.C. Richard puts up the moving signs on 14th Street; more Tech Hub debate to come

Preservationists: City schedules next public hearing on tech hub without any public notice

City Council's lone public hearing on the 14th Street tech hub is tomorrow

City Council unanimously approves tech hub; some disappointment in lack of zoning protections

The conversation continues on the now-approved tech hub for 14th Street

1st signs for the future tech hub arrive on 14th Street; more details emerge about 14th @ Irving

A concept revamp for the Cienfuegos space on Avenue A

Ravi DeRossi is changing concepts at Cienfuegos, his Cuban-inspired rum bar-restaurant upstairs that opened nine-plus years ago at 95 Avenue A and Sixth Street.

The new space will be Honeybee's, specializing in plant-based Texas BBQ and bourbon and rye.

"It's been almost 10 years since I opened Cienfuegos," DeRossi said in an email. "It's still one of my favorite places, but it's time for a revamp. I was either going to update the decor, menu, etc., or completely change the concept. In the end I decided it would be a lot more fun to change the concept."

Like his other restaurants — LadyBird and Avant Garden, among them — the menu will be all vegan. He's still finalizing the food-and-drinks lineup and design.

Honeybee's is named after his dog, whom DeRossi said was a big influence on him removing the meat and dairy items from the menus in his establishments. (DeRossi started going meat free in early 2016 and launched BEAST Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to ending animal cruelty.)

The change from Cienfuegos to Honeybee's is on the agenda at tonight's CB3-SLA meeting. You can find a PDF of the application at the CB3 website.

The corner space on Avenue A and Sixth Street also houses two other DeRossi operations — Mother of Pearl and Amor y Amargo.

Ichibantei vying for 20 St. Mark's Place, and an update on the former Grassroots Tavern space

Applicants for Ichibantei are on tonight's CB3-SLA agenda for a liquor license for a new restaurant in the former Sounds space at 20 St Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.

The questionnaire (find the PDF at this link) for the Japanese restaurant shows 28 tables seating 56 guests as well as a bar for eight. The proposed hours are 11:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, with a 2 a.m. closure on Friday and Saturday.

[Click on image for more detail]

An application for the space from the same principal(s) has been on the CB3-SLA agenda several times dating to 2017, though it has been withdrawn in each instance for unspecified reasons. The questionnaire on file at the CB3 website does not mention if this would be a second outpost for Ichibantei, the eight-year-old Japanese comfort-food spot on 13th Street between Avenue A and First Avenue, or a spin-off location.

Sounds closed in October 2015 after 36 years in business selling records, tapes and CDs.

Tonight's CB3-SLA committee meeting starts at 6:30 in the Public Hotel, 17th Floor, Sophia Room, 215 Chrystie St. between Houston and Stanton.


While on the topic of 20 St. Mark's Place... in August, I exchanged emails with Bob Precious, who's planning on opening a bar in this semi-subterranean space with a working title of Subterranean. (Precious operates the mini chain of Irish-style pubs called the Ginger Man, including the one on 36th Street. CB3 OK'd his new liquor license back in December.)

In August, he hoped to be up and running this fall. He noted at the time that the bar space was in bad shape — including structural damage — when he received the keys. The newish landlord needed to get the approvals for the renovations in this landmarked building. This process has proven to be slow going.

I asked Precious for an update last week. He said that the landlord claims to be starting their structural work "soon."

"If so, we'll finally be able to start our work ... and could have an early spring opening," he said in an email. "That would be about 15 months since we took over; ridiculous and frustrating, since we're not really doing that much."

For comparison, the 36th Street outpost of the Ginger Man, which is 2.5 times as big as the No. 20 space, was built from scratch in six months before it opened early 1996, he said.

The Grassroots Tavern closed after service on New Year's Eve after 42 years here.

Jim Stratton, the longtime principal owner, decided to sell the business last year. In January 2016, Stratton sold the building to Klosed Properties for a reported $5.6 million.

20 St. Mark's Place, known as the Daniel LeRoy House, was built in 1832. It received landmark status in 1971, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Previously on EV Grieve:
New owner lined up for the Grassroots Tavern on St. Mark's Place

20 St. Mark's Place, home of the Grassroots Tavern, has been sold

Your chance to live in this historic home above the Grassroots Tavern on St. Mark's Place

Last call at the Grassroots Tavern

This is what's happening with the former Grassroots Tavern space on St. Mark's Place

New ventures proposed for 85 Avenue A, 50 Avenue B

[EVG file photo of the downstairs space at 85 Avenue A]

In August, applicants who are family members of the previous Webster Hall ownership were to appear before CB3's SLA committee for a new liquor license for 50 Avenue B and 238 E. Fourth St., the former spaces of Lovecraft and Johnny Favorite's pizzeria.

However, the applicants, including Stephen and Adam Ballinger, ended up not leasing the space. Now, the same group is eyeing the downstairs storefront at 85 Avenue A between Fifth Street and Sixth Street, which last housed Elvis Guesthouse.

The questionnaire on file at the CB3 website doesn't have a lot of details, such as the proposed name of the establishment. The paperwork shows that the unnamed restaurant will be serving "American comfort tapas" with daily hours of 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Elvis Guesthouse opened in early 2015 with a slate of bands and DJs ... and by November 2015 had drawn complaints from neighbors who say the owners didn't do enough to mitigate the noise from the space. At that time they were said to cut back on the number of shows in the space. Elvis left the building at the end of 2016.

[EVG file photo of 50 Avenue B]

Meanwhile, the space that the Ballingers passed on at 50 Avenue B and 238 E. Fourth St. has a new suitor. The applicants of the unnamed operation are seeking to open a bar-lounge serving "American fare and pizza," with proposed hours of 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends.

The questionnaire (PDF at this link) also notes that "there will be monthly performances, such as music, art, poetry."

Lovecraft, which was inspired by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, closed in early 2018 after three-and-a-half years in business. Johnny Favorite's shuttered in August 2017 after debuting in April 2015.

CB3's SLA committee meeting starts at 6:30 tonight at the Public Hotel, 17th Floor, Sophia Room, 215 Chrystie St. between Houston and Stanton.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Elvis Guesthouse officially ready for occupancy tonight

Report: Live music ends for now at Elvis Underground

Elvis Guesthouse space for rent at 85 Avenue A

Webster Hall alum proposing new venture for former Lovecraft space on Avenue B

Space Mabi closes 1 year in on 1st Avenue

That's apparently it for Space Mabi on First Avenue at Fourth Street... the Korean cafe-restaurant quietly closed earlier this month. There isn't any message on their social media properties about a closure, though Google and Yelp both list it as permanently closed. The signs have been removed and paper covers the windows.

Space Mabi opened on Nov. 3, 2017, with a shifting focus depending on the time of day. Per their Facebook description:

Space Mabi is a new gastropub with cozy atmosphere in East Village that specializes in New Korean cuisine, plus creative Korean alcoholic beverages.

Under the sun, we operate as ‘Cafe Space Mabi,’ under the moon, we serve as ‘Restaurant Space Mabi’, and under the stars, we turn into ‘Bar Space Mabi’.

[Photo from November 2017]

They eventually discontinued the daytime service, opening then at 5:30 p.m.

The space was previously Guayoyo, the low-key, family-owned Venezuelan restaurant, which never reopened after a basement fire in the Icon Realty-owned building in January 2015.

This marks the second self-described gastropub to close within two blocks this month on First Avenue.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Guayoyo has been closed now for 1 year

Gastropub — 'Your new playground' — slated for former Guayoyo space on 1st Avenue

Biga NYC debuts on Clinton and Houston

Several EVG readers passed along word that a new pizzeria/Italian restaurant called Biga NYC opened last week on the southwest corner of Clinton and Houston. (H/T Stacie Joy and Nick!)

I don't recall seeing this address (293 E. Houston St.) on any recent CB3-SLA committee dockets for a new liquor license ... and the sidewalk signage currently notes BYOB...

Don't know too much about the operators at the moment ... they have an Instagram account, where you can see their style of pies...

Until early this year the space was home — since 2014 — to Ariel’s Latin Bistro.

Three Seat Espresso increases the seats for espresso on Avenue A

After two-plus years of life as a cafe-barber combo at 137 Avenue A between St. Mark's Place and Ninth Street, Three Seat Espresso [and previously & Barber] has expanded its seating for food and drinks and discontinued the hair cuts.

This is their message via Instagram:

Three Seat Espresso is expanding the cafe in place of the barber. Thank you to those who have come in for a chop over the last two years. Please bare with us through the brief refurb. We are super excited to offer more cafe seating, plus more, starting Monday Nov. 19.

The barber shop was in the back in a separate area away from the food and beverage operation. Aside from Australian-style coffee drinks and tea, Three Seat serves several varieties and bagels and light breakfast fare.

Ummburger has closed on 1st Avenue

After a little more than a year in business at 99 First Ave. at Sixth Street, Ummburger has closed... the gates had been down of late during announced business hours... then a for rent sign arrived late last week...

Ummburger seemed doomed from the get-go, to be honest, with cutesy names for their burgers (the Good Morning Vietnam, for instance) ... and, well, the name for the restaurant. The drinks menu included the "Ummazing Chalices," 38-ounce fish bowl cocktails on dry ice for $25.

NYU's Washington Square News featured Ummburger in an article from February on restaurants suffering from a drop in business after the New Year.

[Co-owner Salil Mathew] put out a 40 percent discount coupon for students in Campus Clipper magazine after the holidays, aiming to attract local college students in the hope they would return later, paying full price.

Because of the dip, Mathew has been forced to lay off employees, and by his estimation, has had to cut work hours by as much as 50 percent. Balancing a new restaurant, a second job as a nurse manager and a family, Mathew hopes his steep discounts will bring him a much-needed break.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Ummburger makes it official on 1st Avenue

Ummburger vying for the Mancora space on 1st Avenue

Sunday, November 18, 2018

At Leah Tinari's book signing for 'Limitless' at an.mé on 9th Street

East Village-based artist Leah Tinari signed copies of her new illustrated book, "Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts," this afternoon at an.mé on Ninth Street.

EVG contributor Stacie Joy stopped by and shared these photos of Tinari...

... shown here with the owners of the boutique for kids and families here between First Avenue and Second Avenue... Melissa Scott (left) and Annie Ju (right)...


Week in Grieview

Stories posted on EVG this past week included...

That 40s show: Get lost in the NYC Municipal Archives's online collection (Monday)

Prime cut: Documentary offers a day in the life of Michael Saviello, longtime manager of the iconic Astor Place Hairstylists (Wednesday)

A visit to Bali Kitchen on 4th Street (Friday)

What's next for 131 1st Ave., the former Foot Gear Plus space? (Thursday)

The boutique office building replacing the Sunshine Cinema will be 'unbounded by walls' with an outdoor space called Houston Alley (Thursday)

The 30th annual New York Cares coat drive is underway (Friday)

[Photo Thursday night by Derek Berg]

It snowed (Thursday) ... and there were many downed limbs (Thursday ... Friday)

More signs of the 14th Street SBS lanes (Tuesday)

This week's NY See panel (Friday)

False alarms: A moment of panic yesterday afternoon on 3rd Avenue (Monday)

Ray gets to see Ray's Candy Store on 'Parts Unknown' (Monday)

That's a wrap for Yonekichi's rice burger spot on 9th Street (Wednesday)

The Wineshop is closing on 9th Street (Wednesday)

Coming soon: Mi Casa Latina on 14th Street (Tuesday)

20 Avenue A is now 3 storefronts (Tuesday)

Future You Café debuts on 7th Street (Thursday)

Jump drama on 9th Street (Monday)

Empire Gyro announces itself on Allen and Houston (Tuesday)

56 E. 1st St. is for sale (Thursday)

Greekito tragedy: The back rent is due at this 12th Street cafe (Wednesday)

A full First Lamb Shabu reveal (Tuesday)

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota resigns; Twitter responds (Monday)

So long to the 13th Step signage (Friday)

... and disposing a refrigerator on St. Mark's Place is always a good idea...


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Off-season training

This morning at the Tompkins Square Park mini pool...

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday's parting shot

Photo on 10th Street via EVG regular Lola Sáenz...

A celebration of women tomorrow with Leah Tinari at an.mé on 9th Street

East Village resident and artist Leah Tinari has a new illustrated book out titled "Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts."

Here's more about it via publisher Simon & Schuster:

In the spirit of She Persisted, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, and Rad American A-Z, acclaimed artist Leah Tinari offers a spectacular collection of portraits, celebrating iconic, inspirational, and groundbreaking American women.

Fine artist Leah Tinari’s stunning, spellbinding portraits honor the groundbreaking achievements and indelible impact of twenty-four extraordinary American women. These women’s dreams were without boundaries; their accomplishments limitless in their reach and lasting power.

Tinari’s list is comprised of trailblazers, whose vision, grit, and guts paved the way not only for the generations to come, but for Tinari’s own artistic journey. These women include Louisa May Alcott, Rachel Carson, Julia Child, Shirley Chisholm, Ellen Degeneres, Ray Eames, Eve Ensler, Carrie Fisher, Dian Fossey, Aretha Franklin, Betsey Johnson, Carol Kaye, Yuri Kochiyama, Liz Lambert, Lozen, Shirley Muldowney, Tracey Norman, Annie Oakley, Georgia O’Keefe, Dolly Parton, Kimberly Pierce, Gilda Radner, Sojourner Truth, and Abby Wambach.

Tomorrow, Tinari is signing copies at an.mé, the boutique for kids and families at 328 E. Ninth St. (between First Avenue and Second Avenue) from noon to 5 p.m.

Undercover of the sidewalk bridge

Spotted the other day on Second Street... teasing an imminent announcement of a Rolling Stones U.S. tour, reportedly including a June 2019 stop at MetLife Stadium...

[Updated] The First & First Finest Deli is no longer called that

I don't know when this signage switcheroo happened... in any event, the MTA-stop-friendly First & First Finest Deli at 18 First Ave. between First Street and Second Street is now a very noticeable...

...Food U Desiere 3. (Not sure if this is supposed to be Food U Desire 3. There are other Food U Desire locations in NYC, as the 3 would suggest.)

Anyway, if anyone has any Food U Desiere 3 inside information, please leave a detailed comment. (Same phone number, same employees.)

The space was Roger's Garden, which was rehabbed back in 2011...

Updated 11/19

The sign now reads Food U Desire 3... got rid of that extra e

Friday, November 16, 2018

Consumer affairs

#FlashbackFriday with X-Ray Spex doing "Art-I-Ficial" from 1978... the band's debut album, Germfree Adolescents, was released this week in 1978.

Grant Shaffer's NY See

[Click on image for more detail]

Here's this week's NY See, East Village-based illustrator Grant Shaffer's comic series — an observational sketch diary of things that he sees and hears around the neighborhood.

A morning look at the tree damage; 'the East Fifth St. Tree Committee is devastated'

[Photo from 6th and B via @artisanmatters]

Here's a Snowvember-morning-after look at some of the downed limbs and trees that remain on East Village streets... yesterday's wet, heavy snow proved too much for the trees that still had leaves intact...

12th Street west of Second Avenue (thanks Laura)...

St. Mark's Place near Third Avenue (thanks Lola Sáenz) ...

Fifth Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue suffered considered limb losses... the East Fifth St. Tree Committee took stock of the damage...

In total on the block, four trees lost limbs. "The East Fifth St. Tree Committee is devastated," a committee member said via email.

Previously on EV Grieve:
[Updating] Snowvember pain: Multiple reports of trees down