Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village.

By James Maher
Name: Karen Fleisch
Occupation: Clothing Designers, Artist, Door Girl at Delancey
Location: 14th Street and 1st Avenue
Time: 3:30pm on Thursday, April 24

I’m originally from North Jersey, so I used to take the bus over from the time I was a teenager. I would go shopping and go to CBGB on the weekends. I moved to the Lower East Side around 1997.

I design clothing and I also design for theatre, I do styling, and I’m an artist. I work with film and often end up often doing set design and background acting. Throw me in and I’ll do it. For my art, I do illustration and I to create these mirror collages that are kind of fairly land based. That I do for me. I’ve never really shown my art.

Originally, I lived down on Grand and I’ve lived in the same area of the Lower East Side ever since. I remember coming to my friends up here on 10th Street and hanging out, getting drunk, going home, and as soon as I would get to Houston Street, I’d have my keys through my fingers. I was suddenly aware of everything and no longer as drunk as I was. There were no beat cops and hardly any streetlights. You still had the shops on Orchard Street, but they were the stores that had been there forever.

Within around five years it changed immensely. Now it’s designer shops and chic restaurants and there are now beat cops. There are cops out on their horses at night. I find it funny, walking down the Bowery late at night, how you have all these kids running around and these girls in their six-inch heels running around, ready to fall over. Granted, I used to do the same thing, but the Bowery was different. We’d go to CBGB and the whole vibe was different. You were on the Bowery and you were aware that you were on the Bowery. Now the Bowery still has a lot of that element there, but no one pays attention to it in the same way.

It’s going to be like the Meatpacking District. On one hand, it’s New York City and it’s supposed to change. It’s supposed to keep moving forward. I’m all for that. My only problem is that you don’t really have these funky neighborhoods anymore with people that have been there forever. Fifteen years ago there were a lot more artists and musicians. I have artist friends who’ve all moved out because they can’t afford the rent anymore.

That’s the whole reason that most people come here, I think, because there is this creative energy. You can be a misfit. I’ve always called it the island of misfit artists. You can be a misfit here and it’s okay, no matter what you’re into or what your sexual preferences are. No matter what, you will find your niche here. I find that most people that do get messed with here are getting messed with by people who don’t live here. It’s like they come in to go to the zoo and they’re looking for misfits to make fun of. Which, again, is something that’s always happened, but I’ve noticed it more. There’s more of a dividing line now, whereas before it was not as much.

I’m also the door girl at the Delancey on Friday and Saturday nights, which are the nights where it’s more of a dance party kind of thing. I’ve been there for a year, you know, just a way to make some extra money for groceries and things. I’ve had more jobs than… everything and anything.

Funny thing, doing one of my art projects six weeks ago, I recently sliced the top of my thumb off with an Exacto knife. It was hardcore. I went to the emergency room and they wanted me to do all this follow-up stuff, and at the time I had no kind of insurance. So I’m like, ‘How the hell am I going to do this?’ I can’t afford to go to all of these specialist doctors. Of course, as I’m working the door, everybody that’s coming in is asking what happened to my thumb, and then, all of a sudden this one guy comes up to me and he’s like, ‘Oh do you need to see an orthopedic doctor?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah as a matter of fact I do.’ He was one, so he gave me an appointment immediately to go to Columbia Presbyterian. It’s a walk-in clinic, but he told me to just mention his name, no problem. So I did and they took care of me. It was totally awesome. The perks of being a door girl. You never know.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.

Continued development concerns at 243-245 E. Second St.

[243-245 E. Second St. today]

From the EVG inbox...

For more than 30 years, the residents of 245 East 2nd Street have overcome many obstacles to rightfully occupy and inhabit their home. They are not only witnesses, but founders and contributors to a downtown art scene based on community action, political protest, and tenant’s rights.

With the recent purchase of their building, and the continuing gentrification of the surrounding neighborhood, these residents are facing increasing pressures in the neighborhood they have fought for decades to transform.

Artists Peter Cramer, Carl George, Kembra Pfahler, and Jack Waters have lived at 245 East 2nd Street since 1984. David Orama, a community youth organizer, has lived in the building since childhood where his family moved in the early '70s. In 2010, their building was sold commencing a construction nightmare that has lasted for more than two years.

The construction continues at 245 East 2nd Street and in the adjoining building to the west, 243 East 2nd Street — both buildings purchased in tandem for $1.6 million dollars by partners Jon Ostrow and David Stein of JD 245 LLC and JD 243 LLC.

For more than two years the new owners have embarked upon non-stop construction, sometimes six or seven days a week, violating court ordered stipulations as to how and when the work should be done, compromising tenant’s health and quality of life to such a degree as to cause tenants to feel like they are being harassed.

Cramer and Waters are filmmakers and a performing duo that manage Allied Productions, Inc, a non-profit arts service organization, and Le Petit Versailles, a community art space and NYC GreenThumb garden. George is an artist and curator, and the creator of "DHPG Mon Amour," a pivotal film short about AIDS. Pfahler, a painter and performance artist, heads the rock band The Voluptuous Horror Of Karen Black.

[Jack Waters by Alice O'Malley]

[Peter Cramer by Alice O'Malley]

In 1984, Cramer, George, and Waters toured for three months in Europe with their performance/dance company P.O.O.L., only to discover upon returning that in a few, short months, rents had risen to impossible heights and were still escalating. Costs were so prohibitive the only place they could afford to live was a warehoused tenement building in the LES — the epicenter of the drug trade at the peak of the global heroin epidemic.

As residents of 245 East 2nd Street, they collectively rehabilitated their individual apartments and the tenement building, which at the time they moved in was on track to be emptied by intentional negligence and violent harassment of the occupants of two of the units — both Puerto Rican families.

Hoping to make one last bit of coin before allowing the building to deteriorate further, the then owner permitted the artists to move in and renovate their crumbling units in the all but abandoned building with no front door, no heat or hot water, and a constant flow of drug traffic to the notorious heroin shooting gallery that occupied the top floor. The artists united with the remaining two families in the building to form a tenant's association.

[The former exterior of No. 245]

From that point on and for the past 30 years the residents of 245 East 2nd Street maintained the building and worked to improve living conditions on the block through sweat equity, community organizing and upholding their rights in housing court against negligent owners.

Next door to the east of 245 is Le Petit Versailles (“LPV”), the operation GreenThumb garden started by the artists in cooperation with neighborhood residents. They created LPV as a defense against the vandalism attracted by the drug dealing and auto theft for which the previously abandoned empty lot had become a fortress.

The 2nd Street artists' collaborative work was galvanized by their performing in the club circuit of the '80s typified by the Pyramid Club on Avenue A, Danceteria on 21st Street, Club Armageddon at the Jane West Hotel, and other nightspots around the city where they performed and organized art events.

[The former exterior of No. 245]

The artists knew each other from ABC No Rio, the alternative community center they ran and organized shows for on Rivington Street.

No Rio is a socially progressive cultural center founded in 1981 by the artist organization Collaborative Projects, Inc. (CoLab). CoLab is famous for The Times Square Show that brought attention to the sprawling midtown urban blight of its day. CoLab followed up with The Real Estate Show, the inaugural show at ABC No Rio which highlighted the corruption and blatant collusion of the Koch government with real estate speculators in Lower East Side and East Village neighborhoods — eerily similar to the Bloomberg administration’s 12-year mandate to facilitate and tax abate luxury real estate developers and push working class and poor New Yorkers out of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs.


There is a press conference/celebration tomorrow morning at 11 at Le Petit Versailles on East Second Street near Avenue C ... the event is titled "Residents And Urban Gardeners Resist Gentrification." Find all the details about the speakers here.

Previously on EV Grieve:
On Second Street, the 'Milky Way Dragon' disappears

Renovations, penthouse in the works for 243 E. Second St.

Here comes a 15-story retail-residential complex for East 14th Street and Avenue C

[EVG file photo]

The large development that everyone has been waiting for (or not) is finally coming to the southeast corner of East 14th Street and Avenue C... where the R&S Strauss auto parts store here closed in the spring of 2009.

Last June, Billy Gray reported at the Commercial Observer that Avison Young was exclusively marketing 644 E. 14th St. "And a near-absence of height restrictions has brokers dangling the possibility of a tower on a site with 65,689 square feet of development rights."

As New York Yimby pointed out yesterday, the developers have filed permits for the space ... and none other than Karl Fischer is the architect of record. To NYY for some project details:

Permits indicate that 644 East 14th Street will total 61,789 square feet, including 8,578 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. The remainder of the first five stories will host a ‘community facility,’ which will span 18,937 square feet, and apartments will sit above; the structure will stand 15 stories tall, with 34,274 square feet of residential space divided between 50 units. At only 120 feet to its roof, ceilings heights will apparently be crypt-like.

No word just yet if there will be an extra charge for units with Con Ed plant views.

So, doing a little math ... there will be 150 residential units one block to the west with the additions of the two 7-floor buildings at No. 500 and N0. 524.

In total that is 200 new residences from Avenue A east to Avenue C. Perhaps it's time for another L stop ... or at least a grocery store?

Previously on EV Grieve:
Development back in play for East 14th Street and Avenue C

More details on the sale of 644 E. 14th St.

Longtime Second Avenue Launderette will close this summer

The longtime laundromat here on Second Avenue between East Sixth Street and East Fifth Street is closing... some time in August, most likely.

EVG regular peter radley shares these photos... and the sign on the front window goes into great detail about the situation here...

[Click on image to enlarge]

Douglas Pratt, president of the Launderette, discusses how his family operated this laundromat since the early 1970s ... that they were "forced" into buying the building a short time later or face losing the lease. However, more recently, the family had to sell the building here at 97 Second Ave. "for a host of personal and business reasons."

According to the letter, the new owners are courting a variety of tenants — restaurants, convenience stores and laundromats. As of now, Pratt doesn't believe a new tenant has signed a lease.

Aug. 15 is the tentative closing date.

Calliope has closed; new venture coming very soon

[File photo]

Calliope, the nearly two-year-old French bistro at 84 E. Fourth St. and Second Avenue from alums of Prune and the Waverly Inn, has closed.

However, a new venture is in the works for a seemingly speedy turnaround. Per the Calliope website:

It's one of those good news/bad news things. The bad news first: Calliope has closed. It's sad to see something that meant so much to all of us and to you come to its end... but we're putting together a new project right here in the same space. That's the good news... starting this weekend, you can come into dinner at Contrada! Full details coming soon!

Probably not a big surprise. Grub Street reported back in January that chefs Ginevra Iverson and Eric Korsh split with Calliope's financial partner, Eric Anderson, and were no longer running the restaurant.

As for Contrada... sounds like Italian is on the way. (Maybe?)

Brian Van, who passed along this tip, also notes that the now-former Calliope interior is undergoing a minor rehab. The tables and chairs are all stacked but intact.

[Photo by Brian Van]

The space here was previously home to Belcourt, which, like Calliope, we never tried.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

33 ways Buzzfeed's East Village feature may depress you

Buzzfeed unleashed a post late yesterday afternoon titled "33 Ways Manhattan’s East Village Has Changed In Only 7 Years."

Using Google's new "time travel tool," Buzzfeed rounded up a whole lot of then (2007) and nows... such as!


Head on over to Buzzfeed for 31 more! It's rather a lot to take in one viewing, so be warned...

20 years of Flower Power in the East Village

Photos and story by EVG contributor Stacie Joy

Last month, Flower Power Herbs & Roots, Inc. celebrated its 20th anniversary in the East Village.

The shop has had two storefronts in the neighborhood, beginning with East First Street between Avenue A and First Avenue, and now at its current location, 406 E. Ninth St. between between Avenue A and First Avenue.

Flower Power, which bills itself as "an indispensable resource to superlative organically cultivated herbs, roots, flowers, leaves and seeds," provides herbalist education (they do not diagnose or prescribe) on working in accordance with nature.

As Lata Chettri-Kennedy, the shop's founder and owner said, "It's not a religion or creed, it's a way of life, incorporating Earth-awareness and integrity; using local, organic, wild and well-sourced material."

The shop has more than 300 plants for sale, all stored in glass jars (the shop encourages avoiding plastic).

I asked her what has changed about the area since she first opened her doors. She recounted tales of drugs and cash stored under loose wooden planks in the floor and shooting galleries on the block.

As for who shops at Flower Power today, Chettri-Kennedy offered a lengthy list: Midwives, peace corps officers, musicians, wise women, witches, artists, herbalists, families and neighbors, visitors from all over the world.

The shop's staff, all educated herbalists, discuss teas, infusions, tinctures, salves and baths with the customers. The day I dropped by, I was greeted with a cup of garcinia cambogia antioxidant infusion (it was tart, like rose hips tea, but with a less astringent aftertaste) as Chettri-Kennedy sewed lavender and herb dream pillows and talked about green witchcraft and traditional herbalism.

The shop is open every day from noon until 7 p.m. Workshop and education, as well as internship info and schedules can be found here.

Writer Greg Masters revisits the 1980s East Village gallery scene

[Artist Larry Rivers in his 14th Street loft. Photo by Barry Kornbluh, from the book "For the Artists"]

Longtime East Village resident Greg Masters recently compiled the book "For the Artists: Critical Writing, Volume 1," which chronicles the neighborhood's burgeoning gallery scene in the 1980s. At the time, Masters was writing for a number of publications. This collection includes interviews with Rudy Burckhardt, Sandy Skoglund and Larry Rivers, among others, as well as reviews of museum and gallery shows from that time period.

We asked Masters a few questions about the project as well as his feelings about the East Village of 2014.


How did you go about selecting the essays/interviews for Volume I? Were you looking for a common thread among the subjects?

This first volume of my critical writing focuses on visual art on display in Manhattan in the 1980s. For ARTS Magazine I made the rounds of the galleries on 57th Street primarily showing established artists. For Cover magazine, I wrote reviews and artist profiles covering the East Village scene – when 70 or so galleries suddenly sprung up in this neighborhood.

I enjoyed responding to the mix of recognized artists uptown and then also championing the work of less-established artists downtown whose work I felt was deserving of public recognition. The range of work was disparate – money and class uptown, plus the fervent energy of dedicated practitioners of the arts here below 14th Street – but a sense of community united it all, a clubhouse for those possessed of a proclivity for the creative.

I have a Volume 2 in manuscript that gathers my essays on books and music – from extended essays on Miles Davis, William Wordsworth and William Carlos Williams to interviews with Richard Hell – written over the past 25 or so years for various publications and websites. I plan to issue that soon.

Anything in particular surprise you about the materials when you went back to revisit the work for the book?

Not really. I believe the writing holds up. I'd been mainly a poet and short-story writer when I began writing art criticism. There was a precedent of poets doing this going back at least as far as Baudelaire. More recent precedents for me were Ted Berrigan and John Ashbery, though it was poet Edwin Denby's dance criticism and the painter Fairfield Porter's art criticism that were my real models. It was a way to reach a broader audience than the 20 or so friends who showed up for poetry readings. It also gave me an entrance into journalism.

Has this project made you nostalgic for this particular time and place?

Maybe a bit of nostalgia for my youth. It certainly documents an era when it was cheap enough to live in Manhattan that artists of all sorts could devote more time to their work, and we were all young enough to spend a lot of time together – showing up at each other's art openings, readings, performances, beds. The East Village was especially vibrant.

[Photo of East 7th Street by Cactusbones via Flickr]

Between the burnt-out buildings, oppressive political environment and the winters in tenements with no heat and hot water there was a lot of collaboration and support and socializing among the painters, sculptors, filmmakers, poets, dancers, writers, musicians and unclassifiable creative types.

You've been on the LES since 1975. Obviously there have been enormous changes... what, however, remains the same about the East Village in your estimation?

Well, physically the scale is still charming. It still has the feel of a village. It's still enjoyable to walk around here. There are not a lot of buildings higher than five or six stories and there's still remnants of the ethnic diversity that so enlivened the experience of living here. Certainly the nature of the shops and the demographic has changed. It's safer. I'm still getting acclimated to the idea that when walking down the block I don't have to look over my shoulder.

Meanwhile, on Avenue A...

EVG reader RJ shares this Urban Etiquette Sign from inside an apartment building on Avenue A.

Some context.

So apparently a few newer residents in this building are upset with a longtime resident smoking with his door open. And the two sides took to signs to hash it out.

The response from the longtime tenant is quite something ...

"Yeah, all right. Guess what? You uptight whiney little punk. Instead of my cigarettes I'm going back (exclusively) to my old favorite — cigars. Just to piss you off! I suggest you either relax yourself and chill out or move back in with your parents (who are probably paying your rent anyway)

Ya' punk!"

Your move, newer resident.

Construction watch: 415 E. Sixth St.

[Photo by Bobby Williams]

We haven't spotted much activity of late over at 415 E. Sixth St., where there's a condo conversion in the works for the Congregation Mezritch Synagogue. A sign out front notes that the project is expected to be completed by the winter of 2015…

The city approved the plans back on Dec. 27 … Workers will be rehabbing the building and adding two floors here at an estimated cost of $520,000, per DOB documents.

As previously noted, the landmarked building was in disrepair and the congregation's population had dwindled. Synagogue leaders signed a 99-year lease with East River Partners worth some $1.2 million. The renovations include a penthouse addition and an elevator. The synagogue will reportedly retain space on the ground floor and basement for their use.

DOB records show the project is still waiting approval on several fronts, including new sprinkler heads and "installation of manual and automatic heat detection system."

In 2008, Kushner Companies was reportedly close to purchasing the building. However, the deal to demolish it and replace it with condos fell through.

Eastern European immigrants founded the synagogue in 1892.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Plan to add condos to historic East Sixth Street synagogue back on

Play spot the potential penthouse atop the East Village synagogue

A final look inside the Anshei Meseritz synagogue on East Sixth Street

Monday, April 28, 2014

Reader report: Car slams into Saifee Hardware

Wow. Close call on the southeast corner of First Avenue and East Seventh Street just after 4.

Per @wlodarczyk: Watched this happen from across the street. No bystanders hit, amazingly.

Here's another photo via Bill the Libertarian Anarchist...

... and a few more shots via EVG reader Dillon Krug showing the emergency response...

So far, there haven't been any reports of injuries...

Updated 5:05 p.m.
This is Bill the Libertarian Anarchist's report of the collision:

"At 4 pm a car traveling north on 1st Ave. (supposedly at a high rate of speed) rammed into a van (not pictured) then spun over and hit the front of the flower-hardware store on the southeast corner of 7th St. and 1st Ave ... Just before I took [the above photo], the paramedics placed the driver (then on a stretcher) into an ambulance. He was mumbling incoherently."

Updated 5:49
This photo via EVG Facebook friend Michael Hirsch shows passersby attending to the driver (in the tank top) ...

Updated 6:41

NBC New York reports that "one person was taken to Bellevue Hospital in serious but stable condition" ... no mention if this was the driver or a pedestrian...

Updated 10

The Post reports that the BMW, which was heading north up First Avenue, "crashed into a parked van and then careened into" the store.

Saifee executive manager Mike Taheraly said that the plants out front "took most of the impact," and that the accident destroyed some $15,000 in merchandise.

As for the driver: "Witnesses claimed the BMW was speeding, but authorities said there was no criminality in the smash-up."

'Serendipity' has left Tompkins Square Park

[File photo via EV Grieve]

EVG note: We accidentally posted the draft version of this earlier! Which made no sense! Oops!

"Serendipity,", the life-sized sculpture of Christopher Gamble's silhouette arrived in Tompkins Square Park last June.

Fanny Allié's creation was expected to be in the Park through November... then she received an extension through April 25.

On Saturday morning, Allié removed "Serendipity."

[Photo Saturday by Bobby Williams]

"I wish it could have stayed in the Park," she told us.

In June, the piece will head to Miami for a stay in the summer house of a current East Village resident.

The silhouette is in honor of Gamble, a former Park regular who was homeless for nearly 28 years. Gamble now lives in an apartment run by the Bowery Residents' Committee.

[Last June]

Previously on EV Grieve:
The street-smart style of Serendipity in Tompkins Square Park

Serendipity to remain in Tompkins Square Park through April

Filmmakers will recreate the Tompkins Square Park Riot of 1988 this Thursday night

[Photo by Dave on 7th]

The low-budget adaption of the Eleanor Henderson novel "Ten Thousand Saints" started principal photography in the East Village back in January. To date, the filmmakers have turned part of First Avenue into Avenue D and recreated part of tent city in Tompkins Square Park to tell this straight-edge coming-of-age story set in the 1980s East Village.

Now, on Thursday, crews will be filming scenes depicting the Tompkins Square Park Riots of 1988… these carefully worded letters recently arrived on East Seventh Street and around the Park …

Crews will be filming from roughly 2 p.m. … till 3 a.m. Per the sign: "Given the sensitivity of filming late hours in a residential community, we are making our best efforts to film quietly after 10 p.m on Thursday, May 1 into Friday May 2."

Wow, a quiet riot. (Sorry.)

The husband-wife team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini direct. They directed the 2003 Harvey Pekar film "American Splendor" with Paul Giamatti.

More about the closure of Kim's: 'We are NOT closing because record stores are dying'

[Photo from last Monday by Williams Klayer]

As we first reported last Monday, Kim's Video and Music is closing soon at 124 First Ave. The following email went out this past weekend to the Kim's faithful…

If you haven't heard already, earlier this week we announced that Kim's Video & Music, here on 1st Ave, will be closing its doors this July. Business here has been steady and our Record Store Day last Saturday was easily the best yet with new and old customers flooding the store for 200+ exclusive releases. The point is, and you should be aware, that we are NOT closing because record stores are dying, business is bad, it's not like it used to be and oh terrible world. Not at all. The actual reason for our closing is that the lease is up in July and the rent is being raised to an amount we simply can't work with. It's an unfortunate situation and we really, really appreciate all the positive vibes and eulogizing that has been sent our way this week. We are hopeful that a new Kim's can be erected this summer, (likely at a smaller location), and we are in the process of exploring that possibility. Until then, please stop in at 124 1st Ave (between St. Marks/7th) to say hi and take advantage of our closing sale. ALL Music & Video is 30% off.

This will be the last New Music Newsletter until the foreseeable future. Kim's WILL be stocking New Releases as they come out until we close ... Other than that, thank you for your continuing support and business over the years and hopefully we'll see you at a new (and improved) Kim's later this year.

Previously on EV Grieve:
[Updated] A really bad sign outside Kim's Video & Music on First Avenue (31 comments)

Source: Kim's staff looking for ways to save their store

Work on Educational Alliance extension, the former 'mosquito hazard,' resumes on Avenue D

[July 2012]

Back in the summer of 2012, the Orchard Alley community garden on East Fourth Street closed due to a "mosquito hazard" coming from the long-stalled site at 27 Avenue D, where the Educational Alliance planned to add an extension to their existing building. (NY1 covered the story here.)

There's plenty of progress to report here now … as the city has signed off on all the necessary permits.

The work continues…

The rendering on the plywood shows a building looking like…

… this.

After digging the foundation for the extension, the site sat dormant, collecting water and reportedly breeding mosquitos, dating back to 2008.

The Educational Alliance location at 25 Avenue D is a co-ed facility "for adults struggling with chemical dependencies." The extension will reportedly offer housing for its residents. DOB permits put the cost estimate for the new building at $4.9 million.

Here comes the protected 4th Avenue bike lane

On Friday, workers started putting down the green for the new protected bike lane…

… that will stretch from Lafayette and Prince Street up Fourth Avenue to East 12th Street.

And here is a look at the lane on Lafayette at Bond…

The new bike path will not remove any car lanes, but instead narrows them on Fourth/Lafayette.

Previously on EV Grieve:
[Updated] Looking at the First Avenue's new bike lane and 'floating lane' (64 comments)

Protest planned for reconfigured Avenues (153 comments)

Report: More support for protected bike lane on Lafayette Street/Fourth Avenue

Full reveal at 227 E. Seventh St.

[Photo from February by Dave on 7th]

The plywood covering the entrance to the all-new 227 E. Seventh St. came down on Dave on 7th discovered...

The classic-brick building here (that people seem to like) just west of Avenue C will feature "classic full floor condominium residences" with either two or three bedrooms. Still waiting for pricing via the 227 teaser site.

For now, let's just admire the front door and window.

[Photo by EVG reader Greg]

Also, the rusty look is apparently in on East 7th Street, as Dave on 7th notes...

Previously on EV Grieve:
Asbestos abatement on East Seventh Street, then a new 6-story building

New building at 227 E. Seventh St. — revealed