Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Wednesday's parting shot

Brisk business at Van Leeuwen on Seventh Street this evening... photo by Dave on 7th...

6 posts from June

A mini month in review... with a photo of a juvenile red-tailed hawk by Derek Berg...

• Mount Sinai Beth Israel decides against plans to relocate and downsize (June 21)

• At fire-damaged Middle Collegiate Church, it's moving day for the historic New York Liberty Bell (June 17

• RIP Hash Halper, aka New York Romantic (June 15

• Portraits from the Park Prom (June 9)

• RIP Penny Rand (June 2

• Tenants: Pigeons have made empty apartment a health hazard in this Steve Croman-owned building on 7th Street (June 1)

A case of mistaken rat identity on the lawn in Tompkins Square Park

Today's video short comes from the main lawn in Tompkins Square Park, where the other day a young woman chased a rat, thinking that it was hers ... only to (spoiler!) discover a case of mistaken identity: This actually wasn't her rat!

 Thanks to @arigold for this selection via Instagram...

C&B debuts expanded space on 7th Street

Photos by Stacie Joy

As we've been reporting, C&B chef-owner Ali Sahin is expanding his cafe into the vacant retail space — the former dry cleaners — next door here at 178 E. Seventh St. between Avenue A and Avenue B. 

And C&B recently debuted the new-look space, which includes the return of the record player (and records!) ... which had to go with the need for more storage in the spring of 2020 ... 
The expanded C&B doesn't include any indoor dining — just increased space for the staff to work as well as a longer to-go counter.

All this makes Ali pretty happy... or maybe it's just the heat!
C&B is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for breakfast, lunch and coffee.

[Updated] A red-tailed hawk rescue outside Whole Foods on East Houston

This past Thursday, East Village resident Helen Stratford, a.k.a. Helen the Accordion Lady, was walking on Houston Street near Whole Foods when she noticed a group of bystanders trying to help a bird in distress on the sidewalk.

Several people tried to assist what turned out to be a female juvenile red-tailed hawk. Whenever anyone got too close, the agitated young hawk tried to fly off, landing in the street where a car clipped her.

As EVG correspondent Steven reports, Stratford took charge of the situation, first going into Whole Foods at the Bowery and commandeering two shopping baskets to help corral the hawk. She also asked Whole Foods staffers to find a large cardboard box and punch holes in it. 

Stratford and a bystander successfully got the hawk into the makeshift basket cage, where she covered it with her shawl. Stratford and a tourist from Austin, Texas, then called a Lyft and transported their passenger to the Wild Bird Fund on the Upper West Side. 

In a follow-up on Twitter, the Wild Bird Fund reported that the young hawk, estimated to be about a year old, "got into a fight with another raptor," which led to the collision on the sidewalk and street. 

Fortunately, the Wild Bird Fund also reported that the hawk "is stunned but not badly injured." A volunteer said that they would eventually release the hawk back into the wild.

For now, the Wild Bird Fund has given the hawk the nickname "Helen." 

Updated 6 p.m. 

The Wild Bird Fund released the hawk this afternoon in Central Park... Stratford can be heard in the background calling out "we love you" as the hawk flies off...


Photo by Phyllis Tseng via Twitter

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Today in discarded mattresses

Punguin Classics "Animal Firm" and "Laid Miserables" as seen on Third Street at Avenue A ... courtesy of Planndalism...

Help wanted: East Village restaurants look for staff, find few options

 Article and photos by Stacie Joy

When Sidney’s Five was preparing to open this spring on First Avenue, the owners of the café placed ads for waitstaff and kitchen help on Craigslist. 

The job search yielded just one reply for the back-of-house positions as opposed to the hundreds of responses the hospitality veterans may have received pre-pandemic. Meanwhile, only one person showed up to interview for a front-of-house slot. 

As East Village bars and restaurants move on from pandemic-era closures and dining-room restrictions, owners continue to face a dearth of available employees — yet another challenge in a tumultuous 15-month-plus period that saw sales plunge before the more recent uptick in business. However, some restaurateurs are having trouble meeting the demands with the lack of workers.

Even in casual conversations with owners and managers, I have been hearing “do you know anyone who may be interested in working?” for weeks now.
A search on Craigslist finds thousands of requests for front-of-house and kitchen staff in the city, and you can’t walk more than a block or two without spotting handmade signs in restaurant windows. (And this is not a local challenge. As The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, restaurant and bar employment remains down by 1.5 million nationwide since the pandemic began.)

Several East Village hospitality business owners and hiring managers talked with me about their recent troubles finding staff, why they think there’s a problem, and their outlook on the future.

Multitasking to make do

At Sidney’s Five, the four partners — Kai Woo, Walker Chambliss, Edie Ugot and David Lowenstein — find themselves multitasking. Due to the staffing shortage, they are responsible for every job: washing dishes, bussing and cleaning tables, cooking meals — even snaking gutters.
The café is offering a scaled-back menu until they can fully staff the kitchen. The people they might usually hire, actors and performers earning extra money as waitstaff, left town when theater venues shut down, the owners said. Some other longtime bartenders and cooks opted for different careers during the hospitality downturn of 2020.

“Much of the industry staffing left New York during the pandemic, and it will take time for everyone to return,” Lowenstein said. “In addition, there may be another group who are still here but are afraid to return to work because they live with relatives who are vulnerable to COVID. This group may be waiting until there is a higher vaccination rate in the city.”

“And there is another group who can collect sufficient unemployment benefits until September ... so returning to work doesn't make financial sense," he continued. "Finally, workers who remained in their roles and are likely happy with their workplace and compensation because of how desperate employers are to staff up.”

Lowenstein wonders if some kind of government cash bonus or tax benefit would encourage people to return to work.

“I don’t support removing/reducing the unemployment benefits early, the way many governors are doing across the country,” he said. “I would support some positive encouragement, though. It might also help the situation if state or local government-subsidized wages for new hires to offer a competitive rate. As a new restaurant, it is more difficult for us to offer $25/hour to a line cook when we aren’t even taking wages ourselves yet.”

At Van Da, chef-owner Yen Ngo talked to me after a long night of cooking and running her well-regarded Vietnamese restaurant on Fourth Street. 

Ngo’s executive chef is pregnant, and she and her partner (who also worked as a Van Da chef) have left to stay with family. 

Since Ngo cannot find someone who specializes in Vietnamese cooking, she’s behind the burners whenever the space is open — five nights per week.
Ngo cited several reasons for the shortage of restaurant employees. 

“When the pandemic hit, most restaurant workers were laid off, some moved out of the city. Some have had the time to reflect at home and want a career change,” she said. 

At Van Da, 20 percent of the staff went back to school, while another 30 percent moved out of the city. 

“Restaurant work is hard and often unappreciated. It is easier to find front of the house now since the jobs are easier, and the pay is better than being cooks or preps,” Ngo said. “I wish all workers would get paid according to their skills rather than [relying on] tips. It’s complicated. Most people do not understand how broken the system is if they don't run or own restaurants.”

Ngo and other restaurant owners have experienced other shortages, including supplies, as well as higher costs. 

“Finding good products [is difficult]. There are shortages of good beef and pork, not to mention the huge increase in cost,” Ngo said. “Our beef and pork prices more than doubled.” 

Julio Peña, an owner of the Italian wine bar and restaurant Il Posto Accanto on Second Street, said they have always relied on word-of-mouth for waitstaff. For kitchen crews and bussers, they have used employment agencies. Neither source is turning up many candidates these days.

Between unemployment benefits and career changes (he said that many back-of-the-house workers are now in construction), Peña is left with few options. 

“There’s not much you can do…trim your hours of operation, ask customers to be patient, serve fewer people, and hope it works out,” he said.

Receiving fewer applicants

Ike Escava operates three outposts of The Bean in the neighborhood. At the coffee shop’s Third Avenue location, Escava talked about his experiences in barista pandemic staffing.
“It’s been a [hiring] challenge, although better lately. It was tough to find people who want to work. We have signs on the doors of all of our restaurants, advertisements on, and people can apply on our website,” Escava said. “We are getting fewer applicants…people don’t want to work if they are getting, say, $700 a week from the government not to work.”

In his opinion, the government should offer the $300/week PUA Cares Act to everyone, including those who have re-entered the workforce. 

“It would be an incentive to return to the workplace, and people would still get their extra $300 weekly,” he said.

A hiring manager at an upscale health-conscious restaurant, who wasn't authorized to speak on the record, discussed his difficulties finding staff.

“The most common statement I’ve heard over the past few months is ‘it’s because people are still receiving unemployment benefits.’ I do feel this is a factor. It is also a simplification of reality,” the hiring manager said. “The reality is that these industries, as rewarding as they can be, are not easy places to work. Folks who have spent their careers serving others have often felt underappreciated. What this past year has offered was a glimpse into what it would be like to pursue other desires and skills while maintaining a healthier work/life balance.” 

Being based in NYC, the hiring manager said we had the unique experience of the mass migration out of the city. 

“This is something we are seeing that’s changing,” he said. “It seems like every week there are more and more people moving back or to the city for the first time.”

And as for finding and hiring candidates, “We have started casting a much larger net. The first thing we did was to diversify where we are looking for candidates. I believe we have job postings on four or five sites currently. We have also adjusted experience requirements, job history, etc., which is tricky because we also want to maintain our level of service and experience.”

Being kind and understanding

At the Korean-American restaurant Nowon on Sixth Street, chef Jae Lee expounded on the difficulties in hiring.

“It’s a very touchy subject to point out the reason why but let's speak about what the operators noticed. When unemployment benefits were to end last year, we saw an uptick on many back-of-house and front-of-house professionals applying for positions,” Lee said. “When the unemployment benefits continued, the applicants were no longer there. Every operator says the same thing; they are short-staffed, and it feels almost impossible to hire anyone.”

Regarding candidates, “We have posted ads on culinary agents and have boosted posts, which honestly did nothing to bring in more applicants. We also tried to hire through word-of-mouth, which didn’t work either.”

“We were able to hire two new front-of-house support staff who are college students,” he continued. “We are hiring green candidates who we can mold rather than hiring experienced professionals who don’t need much training.”

Lee closed our conversation with a sentiment I’ve heard from almost everyone interviewed for this story.

“Please be kind and understanding while restaurants and bars are trying their absolute best to make it work,” he said. “Please be nice to the staff who chose to come into work to serve and cook for you. We know we have work to do, and we are diligently working hard to get there.” 

The ridiculously narrow pedestrian passage at the NE corner of St. Mark's Place and 3rd Avenue

Over at the northeast corner of St. Mark's Place and Third Avenue, EVG reader Perry K. notes a troubling trend.
The barricades by this construction site keep getting narrower and narrower. I'd say it’s in the range of less than a foot wide now. Totally nuts with how many people get stuck in there trying to pass each other. It seems like a safety hazard. I have reported this twice to 311, and it was briefly fixed but is now worse than ever.
And that is about a foot (Perry's foot) ...  
Not sure at the moment who's responsible for narrowing this pedestrian corridor. There hasn't been much if any, construction activity behind the plywood fence of late.

As previously reported, a 10-story office building is going in at 3 St. Mark's Place at Third Avenue. 

This past Octoberthe City Council's Zoning Subcommittee voted down the application by developer Real Estate Equities Corporation (REEC) seeking to transfer air rights from the landmarked 4 St. Marks Place to the new building across the street.

With the air-rights transfer, REEC would have been allowed to build 8,386 square feet larger than the current zoning allows on the northeast corner.

Regardless of an extra 8,000 square feet, construction will still happen. The project's architect, Morris Adjmi, has said a building of a similar height size would be built as of right.

REEC picked up the 99-year leasehold for the properties here for nearly $150 million in November 2017. 

Previously on EV Grieve:
• New building plans revealed for 3rd Avenue and St. Mark's Place

• Concern over potential air-rights transfer for new office building on St. Mark's Place and 3rd Avenue   

A plant-based community fridge arrives outside Essex Market

A new plant-based community fridge opened this past weekend outside Essex Market on Broome Street between Essex and Norfolk.
Here's some info via the EVG inbox: It is run by Artist Athletes Activists, an organization founded by Power Malu (pictured above in the light-blue shirt). You can find information about volunteering or making donations to the fridge at this link

This is the second plant-based community fridge for the neighborhood ... joining the one that arrived in February outside Overthrow Boxing Club at 9 Bleecker St. just west of the Bowery. 

Both of the fridges are accessible 24/7. 

Top photo by George Grullon; second photo by Gary Dean Clarke

Monday, June 28, 2021

If this AC could talk

A discarded air conditioner as seen on Ninth Street... with an attached note sounding like a brutally honest online dating profile ...

I'm noisy,
  I'm heavy, 
  but I work.
Take me home someone.
Thanks to Steven for the photos ... (and the AC is gone from this spot)...

Days and nights of Pride

In recent days, EVG contributor Stacie Joy attended several Pride-related events, including the Every Woman Biennial, Dyke March, PrideFest and the Queer Liberation March/Reclaim Pride. (As Gothamist reported, there were arrests in Washington Square Park following the Queer Liberation March.) 

What follows is a selection of her photos (check out her Drag March pics here)...

How you can help The Bowery Mission protect New Yorkers from summer heat

Article by Mackenna Caughron
Photos by Gabe Desanti

While residents are turning on their air conditioners and sharpening their social skills this summer, the season presents challenging circumstances for a subset of our population: New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. 

In the past year, we have gained a newfound appreciation for social interaction, yearning for in-person experiences. But we may have underappreciated another basic resource — hygiene care.

For New Yorkers living on the streets, summer represents equal or greater health risks than chilling winter, a dangerous counterpart that may come as a surprise. 

In cooler months, trips outside immediately elicit thoughts of those shivering without a proper jacket. But summer is the season where the absence of a cool space, a bathroom, a shower can chip away at a person's humanity — or even lead to a health emergency.

In New York City, public bathrooms are scarce and have limited operating hours. To address this problem affecting thousands, funding requires specific authorization. The limits and scarcity of our bathrooms represent a tangled problem experienced by thousands of New Yorkers, who face an increased risk of dehydration, heatstroke, rashes, infections, blisters and respiratory stress as temperatures rise. 

Thankfully, local organizations like The Bowery Mission serve our New York neighbors most impacted by the heat and hygiene crisis. The Bowery Mission offers hand-washing stations, cold water, public restrooms, and cool indoor seating across two campuses in lower Manhattan. 

At the Mission's Bowery Campus at 227 Bowery, a full shower and clothing program is available on Tuesdays (for men and women), Wednesdays (men) and Fridays (men), with sign-up taking place at 6:45 a.m. on the day of the program. Each person receives hygiene items and a full set of clean clothing.

The Mission and its agency partners rely on community support to provide these services. Donated hygiene care items — such as body wash, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, nail clippers and mouthwash — are needed in copious quantities and are often under-donated (see a full list of needed items here). 

The Mission also needs volunteers to help organize the clothing room (sign up here), which now requires new men's underwear and undershirts.
Action begins with awareness, even as New York City headlines center on re-openings and political races. Noticing the impact of scorching heat on our neighbors and the anonymity and dehumanization it may bring begins with empathy. If a person appears to be suffering, then the offer of a cool water bottle can go a long way. 

Mackenna Caughron works as a consultant, though her passions include writing, photography, and advocacy. You can find more of her writing on and reach her at

Previously on EV Grieve:

Community Board 3 returns to in-person meetings starting in July

After nearly 15 months of virtual gatherings, Community Board 3 announced the return of in-person meetings starting in July.

Here's part of CB3's email from late last week:
The Executive Order allowing remote meetings has expired and the Governor is not renewing the order. The state Open Government law does not allow us to continue remote meetings after [June 25]. Meetings must be fully in-person; teleconferencing is not allowed. There cannot be "hybrid" meetings.

There has been and will continue to be lobbying to have the state legislature pass legislation to allow hybrid meetings, but this will not happen soon. We are working on finding locations for in-person meetings starting with the first July meeting.
You can find the list of July meetings here. The previous CB3 meetings, both full board and committee, are archived on YouTube here.  

Openings: Toasted Deli on 9th Street

Toasted Deli is now open at 105 E. Ninth St. between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue. (As mentioned previously, like here and here.)

They're offering a pretty wide variety of sandwiches and wraps, and it looks like you can get out of there with two eggs on a roll ($2.99) and a coffee ($1.75) for less than $5. You can explore the menu options here.

TD is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

And before Toasted Deli: Yuba, the 9-year-old Japanese restaurant, closed here last summer as business dwindled during the pandemic.

Doc Holliday's serves again on Avenue A

Doc Holliday's returned to service Friday on Avenue A at Ninth Street for the first time since March 2020. (There was a "private opening" during the day with the doors to the bar opening to everyone at 10 p.m.) 

Here's part of their reopening message on Instagram:
After the shutdown ... we waited, and waited and waited. No we weren't going to do "to-go" drinks, no to those hideous sidewalk build outs, no to being the mask police, no to keeping people 6 feet apart. No to risking our health and yours. But now, we say YES!
With this, the ownership group's EV bars are all back open ... joining Milano's, the Library and d.b.a. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Grant Shaffer's NY See — Pride edition

Here's a special Pride edition of NY See courtesy of  East Village-based illustrator Grant Shaffer ... 

At the 27th annual Drag March

Photos by Stacie Joy

A larger and more festive Drag March took place this past Friday evening... as participants gathered in Tompkins Square Park before making the nearly hour-long walk to Sheridan Square and then the Stonewall Inn.

Last year's edition was a much smaller, and more organic gathering during the throes of the pandemic.

The 27th annual Drag March was an aptly joyous start to Pride Weekend...
... and as the march got underway along Ninth Street ...
The Drag March got its start during the Stonewall 25th anniversary celebrations in 1994.

Here's a HuffPost piece from 2018 with more history:
Brian Griffin, aka Harmonie Moore Must Die, was a member of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP and Women’s Health Action and Mobilization (WHAM) in the mid-1990s, an activist who saw the power of drag to confront intolerance and practice civil disobedience in a way that also celebrated queerness. But at planning meetings for the Stonewall 25th anniversary celebrations, Griffin told HuffPost, the committee made it clear that it was only interested in presenting a somewhat sanitized version of LGBTQ activism.

"The committee for Stonewall 25 had actually asked — and it still seems quite unbelievable — that they didn't want anyone to show up in leather or drag. It still, 25 years later, blows my mind," Griffin said. "They wanted to normalize the image of gay America for a mass audience. They wanted to present a palatable image of gay men and women, men and women who were normal."