Friday, December 3, 2021

Marking the 1-year anniversary of the fire that destroyed Middle Collegiate Church

Photo from June by Stacie Joy 

On Dec. 5, 2020, a six-alarm fire destroyed the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street, including the sanctuary of the neighboring Middle Collegiate Church. 

Middle Collegiate will mark the first anniversary with a pilgrimage to the site on Sunday. 

Here are more details via church officials: 
The congregation will be making a pilgrimage from our temporary home at Calvary Episcopal Church at 21st Street and Park Avenue South to the ruins of our sanctuary on the one-year anniversary of the fire. We'll be starting the walk at 11:45 a.m. uptown, and should get to Middle Collegiate around 12:15. 

People are welcome to join us for that but for an easier way to show support, we're just inviting folks at any point during that day to stop by and leave an offering by the construction fence — a flower, a candle, an old photo of the building, whatever they’d like. 

We thought it would be beautiful if congregants saw other people's offerings when they arrived, and if we continued to collect expressions of love throughout the day.
The fire spared the steeple and its historic contents — the New York Liberty Bell, which dates to the early 1700s. The bell is for now housed at the New York Historical Society

The FDNY previously said that faulty wiring at 48 E. Seventh St. was to blame for the fire. An FDNY spokesperson told 1010 WINS that the fire had been deemed "non-suspicious." No. 48 was demolished. (More background here.) 

Middle Collegiate Church is currently raising funds to help rebuild the sanctuary (link here).

Previously on EV Grieve

Barnyard Cheese Shop making a return as Barnyard Express with weekend-only service

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

After an October closure, Beatriz Gutierrez is rebooting Barnyard Cheese Shop at 168 Avenue B. 

Starting today, Gutierrez will be operating Barnyard Express from the storefront between 10th Street and 11th Street.

Barnyard Express will have a limited menu featuring the six best-selling sandwiches from the original menu (including the Mexican-Cuban with slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss, avocado, pickled jalapenos, dill pickles and mayo, and the Barnyard Classic with eggs, thick-cut bacon and a farmhouse cheddar). There will also be two vegetarian options in the sandwich mix. 

Other items include soup and dessert. (There are rumors of the return of the crowd-pleasing lemon bars.) For now, there aren't any salads or sides. 

Also new: Online ordering. Starting today, patrons can order online and then come and pick it up. No delivery. (Will add the link when it's ready.)

Hours: Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the possibility of expanding as time goes on. 

Gutierrez said that so many people asked her to reopen, she decided to bring Barnyard back in a limited capacity. 

"I feel a huge responsibility ... Food is everything to me," she said. "I am excited, but this is daunting —will people come back?" 

She closed in October after being unable to find someone to helm her kitchen. Victor, her longtime cook, lost his brother during the pandemic. Victor returned home this fall to be with his family in Mexico.

So moving forward, Gutierrez will be doing the cooking. Her cousin and goddaughter, longtime counterperson Diana Chain (below left), will be working the front of the house...

Here's your Smoke City Exotics signage on Avenue B

Photos by Stacie Joy 

Here's an update on a post from Nov. 17. Signage went up yesterday for Smoke City Exotics at 166 Avenue B between 10th Street and 11th Street. 

The shop, selling various snacks and smoke accessories, has been open now for several weeks...
On Nov. 17, we incorrectly reported this was a new outpost of NYC Exotic Snax, specializing in rare imported snacks and sodas like Kellogg's Choco Krispies with M&Ms, Kit Kat Cinnabon and Lay's pickle-flavored super chips from the Netherlands. This is a different Exotic!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Meet The Acute

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

Partners in music and life, married couple Viveca Butler and Stephen Cacouris are The Acute, an East Village-based lo-fi duo. 

I recently spent a seasonably warm fall afternoon walking around the neighborhood with them, talking about bands and music, audio engineering, and what it’s like working, touring and living together.
What is the band’s origin story?

Cacouris: We initially met a while back at an MGMT show, but never again until 2017, when we began jamming in a Williamsburg music studio. We instantly began writing and thought of all the ways we could shape our sound that felt unique, relevant and organic.

Butler: It was a clear sign from the universe when we kept running into each other and shared similar opinions regarding music. I wrote bass parts originally before stepping into the drumming/songwriting realm. The first song we worked on together was “Database.” We would play each other songs we loved for hours; he turned me on to Can and The Fall, I showed him Killing Joke and The Adverts. 

What is some of the music that shaped your music life — or life in general?

Cacouris: We’re very attached to our rock and roll! From the 1960s through the 1980s, we are tuned into the bands that created this amazing genre, like The Kinks. Bands that shaped my life include The Velvet Underground, The Replacements, The Seeds…

Butler: Ultimately, I can say The Kinks brought us close together. Other than that, I have a passion for 1980s musicians such as Gary Numan, Siouxsie [Sioux], Pat Benatar, Roxy Music, Tears for Fears, Michael Jackson, etc. I also love funk from the 1970s, like Sly and the Family Stone, and reggae such as Steel Pulse.

Cacouris: Obviously, The Fall, we’re named after them. The Stooges’ Raw Power is awesome; we were just talking about it. I’m nuts about Gil Scott-Heron. We love 1980s music, though. The beats and development of rock into this big, booming genre was a real upheaval… And Viv has gotten me to listen to Genesis with a newfound appreciation — you learn something new every day.

How and why did you decide to call the East Village home?

Butler: I was always drawn to the East Village for the creative energy and the starting point of great bands such as the B-52’s, Dead Boys, Bad Brains, Redemption 87, The Heartbreakers, Blondie, Talking Heads, etc. My best friend when I moved here lived on Ninth Street and I would stay on her couch after long music-listening marathons; it was my second home. One of my first jobs was at a restaurant called Aquiloni that doesn’t exist anymore on Avenue A and 12th Street. After work, I would hang and skate in Tompkins. 

As for music, the best venues have always been here. I went to some all-ages punk shows at the Continental and ABC No Rio. I even managed to see the Cro-Mags and (part of) Bad Brains. I started out playing drums for open mics at the Bowery Poetry Club. Eventually, I joined bands that played Arlene’s Grocery, Piano’s, Rockwood Music Hall, Webster Hall, Mercury Lounge and more. I took lessons at the music studio on Rivington that is now closed. Iggy Pop and Joe Strummer were also my idols as a kid. We finally got to move here a year and a half ago, and I couldn’t be happier.

How has playing in Tompkins Square Park helped you grow as a band, especially during the pandemic?

Butler: It was no walk in the park! I commend musicians and bands that master the art of playing outdoors regularly. The acoustics are completely irrelevant to a studio or venue and adapting can be challenging yet rewarding. It has definitely been a growing experience and added another dimension to our music. 

Cacouris: Yeah, it’s really strange and fantastic. There’s a freedom that comes with playing to a crowd of passersby and music geeks such as ourselves. It brings out the inner life of shows on the Tompkins grounds. A really good thing for us to have done. And it always brings surprises!

You recorded and mixed the new album yourself. Why did you decide to do this and not seek any outside help?

Cacouris: It just felt like the right thing to do. We’ve been working for years at developing our skills in a limited capacity, but putting it all together was really amazing. We had dreamed of building a record from the initial sonic choices to the final cut, and it was an unforgettable experience!

Butler: We started recording last fall/winter, right during a new wave of the pandemic. Most engineers were unavailable due to social distancing, so even if we wanted to work with someone — and we did, our fantastic engineer friend Matt Vanek — it would have been tricky. We were both also interested in engineering something ourselves from the ground up. 

We mixed the Infinidy EP ourselves, but Matt recorded us in a very cool way, which inspired us. The studio we rent has engineering equipment and we decided to jump in and learn. There are so many things that go into a good recording, such as the type of mic, distance and feel/way to play that suits recorded music.
You live and work together, do the rigors of all this ever strain your relationship outside the band?

Butler: Our relationship outside of the band is actually not an issue. That would be the easy part, as we enjoy each other’s company. A band is a partnership that can go deeper than any other relationship. It is in itself a marriage based on trust and being your better self, or the opposite sometimes! I am not an easy person to work with, but I am learning how to let up on the material a little and really listen to Stephen’s suggestions. 

With music always comes self-criticism, so having a partner to help develop ideas is a great help but can sometimes lead to the old head-butt. It is a learning experience and we figure out what works best as we go. If I worked as a solo artist, I would not have to share everything creatively but would be extremely lonely and unfulfilled (I tried once). 

Cacouris: Me too, ha! Working together has been magical and, of course, at times stressful, but delegating tasks and enabling better communication are key.

What are your expectations with the new record? What’s next for The Acute? 

Butler: I hope the new record shows the core of who we are. After our first full length is released, we hope to do some touring and start the second album. We have enough material and even can picture the start of a third… 

Cacouris: We’re taking it one day at a time. These songs are near and dear to us, and we can’t wait to get the record out to you. Keep an eye out!

You can do just that here.

Check out their new single, "Alien Theatre," right here...


Grant Shaffer's NY SEE

Here's a new NY See panel, East Village-based illustrator Grant Shaffer's observational sketch diary of things he sees and hears around the neighborhood and NYC.

And starting tomorrow (Dec. 3), his NY See panels will be featured on LinkNYC kiosks around the city. 

Happy birthday to the Tompkins Square Library branch!

The Tompkins Square Library branch — one of our favorite places in the neighborhood — celebrated its 117th birthday yesterday (Dec. 1) at 331 E. 10th St. between Avenue A and Avenue B. 

The library's Instagram account shared the top photo yesterday... showing an early look at the crowds gathered after the 1904 opening. 

Here's another early look at the building... 
Daytonian in Manhattan has an excellent history of the branch from earlier this year:
The library was instantly popular among the locals. Before the doors opened in the mornings lines would form down the block. Finding a chair in the reading rooms was often no easy task, and children and adults alike competed for popular books to read at home.

On October 21, 1911, for instance, The Sun noted, "In the Tompkins Square branch of the public library...there are twenty-five copies each of 'Oliver Twist' and 'David Copperfield' on the shelves. No, not on the shelves. For even with these twenty-five copies apiece it is almost impossible to keep one on hand."
The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building as an individual landmark on May 18, 1999. 

Meanwhile, the fifth annual East Village Arts Festival is taking place at the branch through Saturday. Find programming details here. And find more of the library's offerings at this link

Previously on EV Grieve:

Retail space comes into view at the former Hells Angels HQ

Been meaning to note the work in the new retail spaces at 77 E. Third St. between First Avenue and Second Avenue. (Thanks, Erin, for the photo!)

This is happening on the ground floor of the former Hells Angels HQ — where members had their clubhouse/bar. As we've been reporting, the 6-story building underwent a gut renovation in the past 18 months. In total, there are 22 units here. (The available apartments have a monthly ask in the $4k range — that's for a studio, per the listings at Better Living Properties.)

In June 2019, real-estate investor Nathan Blatter — the new owner of the building — had some ideas for the storefronts here. As he told the Post: "Blatter said he has been contacted by someone curating a Hells Angels museum, and another about a barbershop." He later flipped the building to Better Living Properties. No word on what might be in the mix now.

The last of the members and/or their entourage moved out of No. 77 at the end of March 2019 from the clubhouse that the Hells Angels had in their possession since 1969. They reportedly ended up in Throggs Neck, a neighborhood in the southeastern portion of the Bronx.

Previously on EV Grieve:

2 restaurants opened and closed in 6 weeks at this space on 10th Street

After less than a month in business, Tompkins Village Cafe has closed at 277 E. 10th St. between Avenue A and First Avenue. 

As this photo by EVG correspondent Steven shows, workers have cleared out the space...
The cafe opened at the start of November, taking over for Chichen Itzá, which, by our calculations, was open for 16 days. 

It wasn't immediately clear if the folks behind Chichen Itzá were also doing the new cafe concept ... or what made them initially pivot the business after two-plus weeks in existence here.

We didn't hear much, if anything, about either establishment from readers. Despite its short existence, Tompkins Square Cafe racked up 10 five-star reviews on Google.

This address was previously home for 11 years to the Brindle Room, whose closure was official in June.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Santa returns to Rite Aid this holiday season with head intact

After a year without a Santa Claus head at the Rite Aid on First Avenue and Fifth Street, jolly ol' St. Nick has all his body parts (as far as we can tell) this holiday season. 

EVG correspondent Stacie Joy noted Santa's masked presence in the greeting cards section...
Viewer discretion is now advised 

Last year, as EVG reader Daniel shared, Santa was on duty right near the depleted shelf of Entenmann's ... without a head. 

It was not immediately known what happened to it. (Stolen? Swallowed? Kicked?)

Gallery Watch: 'Night Moves' by Jacqueline Cedar at Shelter Gallery

 Text by Clare Gemima (photos courtesy of Shelter Gallery)

"Night Moves" by Jacqueline Cedar
Shelter Gallery, 179 East Broadway

"Night Moves" showcases a collection of recently created works by artist and arts educator Jacqueline Cedar for Shelter Gallery's final show of 2021.

After learning that Cedar constructs each of her paintings with somewhat of a theatrical sensibility, the 15 works in the gallery's space turn into a perfectly syncopated yet non-sequential storyboard. 

Through protagonists, situationships, and, at times, ominous interiors, "Night Moves" projects "acts" that have appeared for the artist during their time dreaming. 

Unrealistically recognizable characters can be seen drowning or wading ("The Plain and the Forest"), relaxing and decompressing ("We Will Touch Our Feet") or stuck in some sort of domestic consternation ("A Huge Crowd of Spectators"). 

Distorted journeys occur for all of Cedar's actors, frozen in their missions of transporting, gardening or just convincing themselves they are more than somebody's dreams. 

Cedar's mostly acrylic works have been realized through a psychologically intuitive process, leading the viewer through a survey of the artist's formalized dreams. By filtering and gathering source inspiration, the artist's discovery is a before and after success and mess. 

Is this a 15-part dream or one long, drawn-out nightmare? The satisfaction here is that neither her audience nor the artist herself will ever know the honest answer, simply because these paintings were pre-conceived while unconscious. 

Connections in colors, compositions and in some instances a recurring lampshade motif ("Led Me Out and Not Saying So") become more apparent by accident after spending more time with each work. Because all of the paintings in "Night Moves" have been made in the last two months, the audience is spoiled by the vulnerability of Cedar's expression and by the show's fortuitous and "last-minute" cohesion. 

By depicting gangly, bendy, and long-limbed figures that stretch, lay or grab under the constraints of her luminous and tiny wood panels, Cedar invites us to indulgently and awkwardly invade her private bubble. 

"Night Moves" runs until Dec 22 at Shelter Gallery, 179 East Broadway. Gallery hours: Tuesday-Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

Clare Gemima is a visual artist and arts writer from New Zealand, now based in the East Village of New York. You can find her work here:

Report: Advocates lose appeal to halt East River Park demolition; temporary restraining order lifted

Demolition can start up again in East River Park after the Appellate Division yesterday upheld a lower court's decision from August 2020 trying to halt the $1.45-billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR) from moving forward.

On Nov. 2, Justice Judith J. Gische of the Appellate Division granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the demolition work in East River Park — Project Area 1 — that started on Nov. 1 below Houston Street at the Brian Watkins Tennis Center. (Read more about East River Action's TRO and Parkland Alienation appeal here.)

According to the Post:
 ... the Appellate Division, First Department upheld a lower court's decision to toss the suit, finding that the City Council — which approved the project in November 2019 — didn't need additional approval from the state.

"We do not discount petitioner's concerns that this project will impose a burden on the surrounding community that houses tens of thousands of residents," Tuesday's decision read.


"The city expects that any burden caused by the project will be rewarded with a rejuvenated East River Park that is well protected from future storm surges, allowing the park to fulfill its role as a recreational area for many years and future generations," the ruling continued.
Arthur Schwartz, one of the lawyers for the petitioners, told the Post that he disagreed with the ruling and  planned to appeal. Said Schwartz: "We think that the Court of Appeals will be interested in reviewing it and we will be going there."

While work can start up again, other legal action is pending with the ESCR. A nonprofit sued the city for allegedly not including enough minority- and women-owned businesses in the construction contract for the ESCR.

A third lawsuit (dating to the spring) was brought against the city by The Tully Group, a large contractor that issued one of the two bids for the ESCR. 

East River Park Action and other advocates say there are alternatives to preserve the park and provide flood protection, such as the one mapped out in the years after Sandy. In late 2018, the city surprised community stakeholders by announcing a complete overhaul of a plan discussed over four years of local meetings.

The current plans call for gutting East River Park — burying the existing 57.5-acre park under fill and elevating it by 8-to-10 feet above sea level while also cutting down 1,000 mature trees.

Work is expected to be complete by the end of 2026. The city has said they will maintain public access to a minimum of 42 percent of the park throughout construction.

Cutlets Sandwich Co. debuts on 3rd Avenue

Cutlets Sandwich Co. is now open at 99 Third Ave. between 12th Street and 13th Street. (Thanks to Steven for these photos yesterday.)

Richard Zaro of Zaro's Family Bakery is behind this quick-serve deli concept that touts "quality sandwiches made with premium ingredients."
Cutlets first launched as a delivery-only business in July 2020, expanding into a Flatiron District pop-up in late 2020 ... before opening a flagship location on West 35th Street this past June. (An outpost is planned next in Williamsburg.)

You can find the Cutlets menu here. The EV outpost is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Oh, and to celebrate the EV opening, Cutlets is offering $6 subs all day today (Dec. 1).

Previously on EV Grieve:

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

[UPDATED] Tuesday's parting shot

As seen on Sixth Street today... photo by Derek Berg... 

Updated 12/1 

Derek reports the headless skeleton found some friends on Avenue A...

6 posts from November

A mini month in review... 

• Best wishes to the owners of the March Hare on the shop's 1-year anniversary (Nov. 26

• There are 8 million stories in the naked city... and this is one of them on 2nd Avenue (Nov. 24

• Breaking the internet (and Instagram) with cumgirl8 (Nov. 18

• Superiority Burger's original 9th Street space closes ahead of move to new home on Avenue A (Nov. 15

• City removes tent encampment from 7th Street outside Tompkins Square Park (Nov. 11

• A look at 302 E. 2nd St., where a housing lottery is underway (Nov. 3)

Photo of Tompkins Square Park from Nov. 24

Local students distribute pre-Thanksgiving meals in Tompkins Square Park

Last Tuesday, a group of first and second graders from the New Amsterdam School on Avenue B prepared lunches for people in Tompkins Square Park who may need a meal. 

The students started by picking up granola bars, apples and other items from East Village Organic on First Avenue...
Ali Sahin, the owner of C&B cafe on Seventh Street, donated the bread and other sandwich supplies. He also came to the school on the corner of Fifth Street to help the students assemble the sandwiches and create the meals to distribute...
In total, the students created and distributed 50 meals to unhoused people in the Park with the assistance of the school staff...
Thank you to Owen Schiller for the photos.

Details on the 5th annual East Village Arts Festival at the Tompkins Square Library branch

This week, the fifth annual East Village Arts Festival returns to the Tompkins Square Library branch with a handful of free in-person programs starting tomorrow afternoon. 

Highlights include (via the EVG inbox)

Join us in our main reading room as the Rocco John Quartet plays adventurous jazz standards

East Village Arts Festival Bonanza!  
We are happy to have local writers and artists showing their work in our library. Featuring B Scene Zine, Carpo, Delphine Le Goff, Eve Packer, Frank New, Greg Masters, Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes, Ron Kolm, Ruth and Valery Oisteanu, and Sara Ann Rutherford. 

Clayton: Godfather of Lower East Side Documentary: A Graphic Novel.  
For the first time, photographer and videographer Clayton Patterson ... is the subject of a biographical graphic novel anthology. Patterson will discuss the graphic novel with author Julian Voloj.

Visit this link for all the programs. 

The library is at 331 E. 10th St. between Avenue A and Avenue B.

Openings: 75 Degrees Cafe & Bakery

75 Degrees Cafe & Bakery opened earlier this month at 93 1/2 E. Seventh St. just east of First Avenue. 

The business, described as a "modern Japanese-inspired cafe," offers baked goods and coffee daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

The staff/ownership here includes Jojo, the pastry chef, Jade, the head barista, and Ashe, the business manager. The cafe's Instagram account has details (and photos!) of some of the featured desserts, including matcha tiramisu and chocolate brownie chiffon cake. 

This retail space has been vacant since a fire shuttered Caracas Arepa Bar in September 2016. 

Mug & Cup in soft-open mode on Avenue C

Mug & Cup, a coffee and juice shop, is in a soft opening here at 115 Avenue C between Seventh Street and Eighth Street. (Signage arrival first reported on Aug. 4.) 

This is the second outpost for Mug & Cup, which got its start in East Flatbush. 

You can find their extensive menu of juices, smoothies, coffee drinks, waffles, pastries, etc., at this link

The posted hours are listed online as 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., though it's not clear if these times apply during the soft opening too. 

No. 115 has been vacant for the past few years as the building was sold and gut-renovated. The retail space has been empty since Le Jardin Bistro closed in June 2015. Previous ventures here include Apartment 13 and The Porch.

The VNYL has not been open in a long time

Yesterday we mentioned that Bar None is currently closed at 98 Third Ave. between 12th Street and 13th Street for nonpayment of New York State taxes. 

Several readers noted that its neighbor on the block, The VNYL, has not been open this year. One reader, who shared the top photo, said that the space "looked trashed" inside. Google lists the space as "temporarily closed." The last Facebook post is from July 2020.

The club's website lists that they are "closed for the rest of the winter due to COVID-19." That's likely last winter. One reader recalls them being open in the fall of 2020 for outdoor drinks-and-taco service.

The four-level, 7,000-square-foot space with a 1970s theme opened in the fall of 2016. Nightlife vets, led by James Morrissey (The Late Late on East Houston), were behind this venture, which reportedly included actor Adrian Grenier as a partner. (New York magazine noted that he curated the short-lived record store in the lobby.)

According to a preview piece at the Daily News, the VNYL was "designed to attract patrons of music, fashion and art." They also featured Long Island Iced Teas on tap and menu items such as candied-bacon quinoa sushi.

Sports bar Nevada Smiths was the first tenant of this renovated building from April 2013 to September 2015.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monday's parting shot

Preliminary work taking place today for a new tree well (and tree!) on Seventh Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue ... photo by Derek Berg...