Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Seems like old times: The post-prison life of Steve Croman

[60 Avenue B]

ICYMI: The Real Deal recently took a deep dive on the post-prison business life of landlord Steve Croman.

Croman was released from the Manhattan Correctional Facility on June 1, 2018 after serving eight months of a one-year jail sentence and paid a $5 million tax settlement following separate criminal charges brought by the AG's office for fraudulent refinancing of loans and tax fraud. In a separate civil case, Croman agreed to pay $8 million to the tenants he was accused of bullying out of their rent-regulated apartments.

A supposed independent management company is now overseeing Croman's residential properties — including 47 buildings with 617 units in the East Village — for the next five years.

However, per TRD, it's pretty much business as usual for Croman. The piece starts with an anecdote about three NYU students getting the boot from the Croman-owned 60 Avenue B.

To some excerpts:

Croman’s prison stint was widely seen as a turning point in how New York pursues criminal and civil cases against alleged predatory landlords. Since his release, though, little seems to have changed for Croman. The landlord remains a regular presence at his properties, sources say, and is facing a fresh crop of lawsuits accusing him of violating New York rent laws and backing out of deals, among other claims.

As part of a settlement with the state attorney general’s office, he gave temporary control of more than 100 buildings to Michael Besen’s New York City Management last year, and the firm took over the East Village property this past July.

But while Besen’s firm was picked to oversee Croman’s properties until 2023, it’s far from a victory for tenants. In some cases, the properties are managed by former employees of Croman’s 9300 Realty, who jumped over to NYC Management soon after the deal with prosecutors was announced.

“You have individuals who worked in a corrupt culture,” said Sean Madden, the father of one of the NYU students [at 60 Avenue B]. “All they did was trade their business cards … but the business practices didn’t change at all.”


According to a TRD analysis of city records, Croman’s Manhattan properties raked in an estimated $47.5 million in 2018.

The landlord also continues to visit his buildings, giving orders to supers and porters, essentially ignoring the state’s five-year ban on managing his properties, said Cynthia Chaffee, a founder of the Stop Croman Coalition who lives in one of his buildings on East 18th Street.

A spokesperson for New York AG Letitia James told TRD that Croman is allowed to visit the properties but should have “minimal, if any, contact with tenants.”

But Chaffee said tenants have already started meeting with James’ office about the time he spends at his buildings.

“We’ve been stuck with the same property managers and supers that worked for Croman, and then they were hired by NYC Management,” Chaffee said. “We have to deal with these abusive people all the time.”


“He’s ferocious. Nothing has changed,” said one broker who has worked with Croman on deals. “He’s buying [properties] left and right, and it’s not like he’s using a shill or a fake name. His name is right on the contract. This guy isn’t afraid of anything.”

Read the full article here.

Here then, the Lower East Side Quality of Life Improvement Plan

[The Mayor at Max Fish via @NYCMayorsOffice]

The city yesterday unveiled a new etiquette campaign aimed to douse the flames of the hellish nightlife inferno that engulfs the Lower East Side on weekends.

Here's the release on the pilot program via the city:

The Lower East Side Quality of Life Improvement Plan is a multiagency plan to improve quality of life for New Yorkers living in one of the city’s densest nightlife districts. The plan is focused on 6 blocks of Orchard and Ludlow Streets between Houston and Delancey on the Lower East Side.

Improvements will reduce traffic and pedestrian congestion on the street and make garbage sweeping routes more effective. Nightlife patrons will also see a new etiquette campaign encouraging them to be more respectful aware of their surroundings.

Residents and businesses often complain of late-night horn honking and loud voices as traffic stops due to double-parked cars dropping off and collecting passengers on narrow streets.

The plan addresses residents' and businesses’ concerns and make their neighborhood more livable, and was designed with the support and input of the community and businesses and has the buy-in of residents, business owners, workers, and local officials.

The components of this plan include:

New parking regulations to ease traffic congestion, reduce noise

• DOT implementing “No Standing” rules overnight: from midnight to 6am on the west sides of Ludlow and Orchard streets, and 7 pm to 7 am on the east sides, seven days a week.
• Removing parked cars overnight eases congestion, honking and other noise.

Sanitation sweeper schedule coordinated with bar closing times for greater effectiveness

• Street sweepers will now operate between 3 am and 6 am, to better capture all the litter dropped by late-night patrons of bars and restaurants.
• The old schedule from midnight to 3 am was less efficient, because many streets were swept before closing time, leaving hours for patrons to drop litter.

Increased enforcement of for-hire vehicles

• TLC will increase enforcement patrols to clamp down on unlicensed for-hire vehicles double parking and making unauthorized pickups.
• A 10-person squad of TLC officers and supervisors will conduct random patrols between 11pm and 3am at least once every Friday and Saturday night.

"Night Owl" etiquette campaign urging patrons to be more considerate

• Office of Nightlife [Night Mayor!] and NYPD creating and distributing signs to bars and clubs with tips for theft prevention and other helpful tips.

Here are two of the "Night Owl" signs that will appear on LinkNYC kiosks ...

"The world loves New York nightlife, but we also have to take care of the New Yorkers who live where others play," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. "We are creating cleaner, quieter streets to improve quality of life while ensuring bars, restaurants and clubs can thrive."

You can watch a recap of the press conference here...

So that is the plan... now the reaction...

Updated 9 a.m.

Speaking of reaction...

Afandi Grill is closing on 1st Avenue

[EVG photo from September 2018]

After nearly 13 months in business, Kamola Akhmedova, the owner of Afandi Grill at 149 First Ave., has announced the closure of her restaurant between Ninth Street and 10th Street.

Here's part of her farewell via Instagram:

[W]e would like to announce that we are closing our physical location permanently. No, Afandi is not going anywhere. We will continue as a #catering brand.

We enjoyed this period that we were in #eastvillage 💕 This neighborhood became our home.

Tomorrow (Oct. 24) is the last day. The restaurant opened in the late summer of 2018, serving creative cuisine via Central Asia.

You can check out the Afandi Grill website for catering info.

H/T EVG reader Jason!

Old Fashioned Pizza debuts on 13th Street

[Photo by EVG reader Annabelle]

Haven't had a chance to stop by Old Fashioned Pizza, which opened earlier this month at 244 E. 13th St. between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.

We're told the owners here are also behind Uncle Paul's Pizza up by Grand Central.

The shop is open Sunday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. ... and until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. You can find their Instagram account here for a look at their pies.

The space previously housed Thaimee Box.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Old Fashioned Pizza coming to 13th Street

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Will the new Avenue A L-train entrances open soon?

From the Grain of Salt Department over at 14th Street and Avenue A, where the MTA is putting in new L-train entrances with elevators.

An MTA worker told EVG regular Greg Masters that the south side of the Avenue A entrance to the L train (Brooklyn bound) may be open in a "few weeks," and then the north side (Eighth Avenue bound) a few weeks after that.

Backing that up, the entrances look to be in near game-time shape, as these photos from Greg show...

The work on the new entrances — to help relieve congestion at the First Avenue station a block away — started in July 2017.

Meanwhile, the L-train slowdown, which began on April 26, is now expected to be finished within a year — reportedly several months ahead of schedule.

Previously on EV Grieve:
To L and back: Reactions and questions over Gov. Cuomo's surprise subway announcement

Report: MTA commits to a shorter work day for the 14th Street L-train rehab

Nightmare scenario for residents who learn that 14th Street and Avenue A will be the main staging area for the L-train reconstruction

Looking at the Book Club signage on 3rd Street

Several EVG readers have noted the recent arrival of the Book Club signage over at 197 E. Third St. just west of Avenue B.

As first reported on July 15, two East Village residents are behind this project — an independent bookstore featuring a cafe.

Erin Neary, who's operating the space with her fiance, Nat Esten, told me previously that the book portion of the storefront will carry a broad selection of adult fiction, non-fiction and a children's section ... they'll also offer a variety of greeting cards and gifts. As for the cafe section, they'll be serving MUD coffee, among other items.

No word on an opening date. You can follow their Instagram account for updates.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Book Club — an independent bookstore with cafe — coming to 3rd Street

Stormproofing watch: Haven Plaza

Two years have passed since our last look at the natural disaster-resistant infrastructure to protect Haven Plaza here on Avenue C at 12th Street... here's how the project is shaping up...

The project was announced in the summer of 2017 for the affordable-housing complex.

Here's is a recap via the media advisory:

This new two-story structure plus basement and the upgrades throughout the complex are in direct response to 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, when the nearby East River overflowed its banks, the Con Edison East River Generating Station adjacent to Haven Plaza exploded, and, as a result, Haven Plaza lost all electricity and steam for heat. Residents – many elderly – were trapped without elevator service, electricity, heat or water. Men and women of the National Guard shared their field rations with residents until the power returned.

The $9.89-million project, which received funding through the New York City Build It Back program, was expected to be complete in August 2018, per the plywood signage. Obviously that deadline was missed.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Protection for Haven Plaza on Avenue C in case of another hurricane like Sandy

Hold the phone: An AT&T store is coming to this corner of 14th Street and 1st Avenue

An AT&T store will be the new retail tenant for the southwest corner of 14th Street and First Avenue (237 First Ave.), per data from The Real Deal.

The lease for the 1,500-square-foot space was recorded on Oct. 10. No word on the rent or a possible opening date.

With this arrival, two of businesses at this intersection will be phone stores. There's a T-Mobile on the southeast corner.

The previous tenant at No. 237, Vitamin Shoppe, closed last November after nine years on this SW corner.

[Photo from November 2018]

H/T Upper West Sider!

Monday, October 21, 2019

At the 29th annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade

The 29th annual edition of the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade returned to the East River Park Amphitheater yesterday.

Despite the rain, there was a big crowd, who brought umbrellas...

Heart of Chelsea Veterinary Group served as the sponsor (part of the $17,500 sponsorship goes to the year-round maintenance of the Tompkins Square Dog Run) ... while 1010 WINS Midday Anchor Susan Richard served as the emcee.

EVG correspondent Stacie Joy was there to snap photos of the canine competitors, dressed as everything from ramen noodles to a box of White Claw Hard Seltzer. Movies were again a prime source of costume inspiration. Films spotted included "Midsommar," "The Wizard of Oz," "The Exorcist," "Alien" and "Star Wars."

[Global Warning, a runner-up]

[Midsommar, a runner up]


[Trump Unraveling, an honorable mention]

And the best in show — Lincoln the Yorkshire Terrier as “Snoopy & the Red Baron” ...

After 10 years, Luke's Lobster is closing its East Village outpost on Oct. 31

After 10 years of operating in the East Village, Luke’s Lobster is closing their original operation at 93 E. Seventh St. between Avenue A and First Avenue at the end of this month.

While business is strong for the ever-expanding brand, the small space on Seventh Street no longer fits the company's vision for a Luke's dining experience.

Founders Luke Holden and Ben Conniff discuss the impending closure and share the story of their origins here via a blog post at the Luke's Lobster website.

It's hard to believe it's been over 10 years since we first walked into the space formerly known as "Sousa's Closet," a recently closed consignment shop at 93 E. 7th Street. It wasn't exactly what we would have envisioned for a lobster shack — just 225 square feet in one little room, with a tiny bathroom in the back corner that also served as an office. The walls and ceiling were painted an inexplicable combination of dark brown and light blue.

The space was cooled by an old window AC unit, and there was about enough electricity to power that and the overhead lights, and that's about it. But with the shoestring budget we had, this little shoebox was the biggest and best space we could find to launch Luke's Lobster.

In just 30 days, we and our friends and family did the best we could to turn that closet into an approximation of a lobster shack. We painted the walls a (slightly) better yellow, decorated with Luke's actual lobster buoys and traps from his time on the water, and added the basic mechanics: a dish sink, some electrical power, fridges, and a toaster. On day one we were slammed, and the seed for a growing business was planted.

It's been amazing and humbling to celebrate our 10th Anniversary this month. But there is one accompanying bit of sad news that we have yet to share, and that is the closing of our original location at 93 E. 7th Street at the end of this month.

Our 10 year lease is up, and we have had to think carefully about the space's future. As we've grown in New York, we've focused on building unique shacks that truly evoke the feeling of Maine, and with each one we've made changes that make our guests happier, including more space to sit and enjoy your meal. And over time, our guests have increasingly chosen those other Luke's locations to share their everyday celebrations with family and friends.

It would have been easy to just sign a lease renewal and keep our pocket of nostalgia going on 7th Street. But our responsibility to provide the best possible experience for all our guests and make the right decision on behalf of those 600 teammates and lobstermen partners outweighs that nostalgia (rest assured the whole 7th Street team has jobs at our other locations).

We hope that all our friends in the neighborhood will continue to visit us just a short walk away at our Union Square location [University Place between 13th Street and 14th Street] after we close on Oct. 31. We'll never lose the memories that our 7th Street location afforded us over the last 10 years, but we're lucky to still have the core of that day one team working with us toward the same mission today, and to have lasting friendships with those who have moved on. It's time for 93 E. 7th Street to help launch someone else's dream, and we can't wait to visit and support it.

Today, Luke’s Lobster has more than 30 locations across nine U.S. cities and internationally in Japan and Taiwan.

Here's a look back at our first EVG post on Luke's when the homemade coming-soon signage arrived in August 2009...

Pols: Fence at Joseph C. Sauer Park on 12th Street will remain at 8 feet

[Photo by Steven]

When renovations are complete at the Joseph C. Sauer Park on 12th Street later next year, the fence outside the property will remain the same height.

As previously reported, while the $4 million redesign of the Park was welcome, local residents were unhappy with the Parks Department's plan to install a 4-foot fence here between Avenue A and Avenue B. According to a petition that was in circulation, the shorter fence would "make the park less secure and an unsafe place for children to use."

However, on Friday, local Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera announced a deal with the city that would keep the fence at 8 feet.

In a joint statement, they said:

"We are proud to stand with the community and parks advocates who persisted in asking that the Parks Department recognize the safety needs at Joseph Sauer Playground. We are excited to announce that because of this collective effort, the Parks Department has agreed to keep the playground’s fencing at its current 8-foot height as part of the upcoming renovation. The voices of New Yorkers who use local parks every day must be heard when we decide how our capital dollars are spent, and we want to thank Commissioner Mitchell Silver and the Parks team for listening and addressing those concerns in this instance."

The renovations — part of Mayor de Blasio’s Community Parks Initiative — are expected to start this month, with a completion date in October 2020.

Here's a look the renovations to come...

Previously on EV Grieve:
A petition to keep the 8-foot fence at Joseph C. Sauer Park on 12th Street

Year-long renovations expected soon at Joseph C. Sauer Park on 12th Street; locals want fence to remain at 8 feet