Thursday, March 30, 2023

There she goes again: Tammy Faye Starlite returns as Nico at Joe's Pub

Text and photos by Daniel Efram

This past Friday, Tammy Faye Starlite and her accomplished group of musicians brought her portrayal of Nico to life once again at Joe's Pub
Nico, whose real name was Christine Paffagen, gained fame as the lead vocalist for the Velvet Underground's first album and struggled with drug addiction and other personal demons throughout her life as she tried to establish herself as a solo artist. (She also once lived at 101 Avenue A.) 

In this reprise performance, "Nico: Underground," Starlite reimagines a pivotal interview that Nico gave in 1986, just two years before her death. Starlite embodied the complex and enigmatic character of Nico, shedding new light on the legacy of this remarkable artist, along with interviewer Jeff Ward, Keith Hartel on bass and acoustic guitar, David Nagler on keyboards, Eszter Balint on violin, Richard Feridun on electric guitar, Ron Metz on drums, and Craig Hoek on sax and on the story's pivotal flute. 

Her Nico performance started in 2010 at Joe's Pub, before the Duplex in the West Village, then The Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. The official run at Theater For the New City began in 2014. 

"I love pretending to be her — her innate contradictions, the dialectic within, her inherent nihilism, her somewhat subversive nature, are all so fascinating to me," Tammy Lang, known on stage as Tammy Faye Starlite, told me. Cafe Carlyle would be lucky to have this production. 

"Nico: Underground" returns to Joe’s Pub on July 24. Find tickets here.

Thanks to Rihanna, this East Village deli has become a go-to spot for streetwear events

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy

Last Tuesday, Star Food Mart & Deli on Avenue C and Fourth Street — going for the day as the Corteiz Mart & Deli — was the scene of a highly anticipated drop for the Corteiz x Nike Air Max 95 collab

The event, driven by social media, drew a big crowd of sneaker fans/collectors/sellers — as well as the NYPD.

Of all the corner delis citywide, how did this "bubbling British streetwear label Corteiz" (per Complex) end up here, even prompting a visit by in-demand founder Clint 419?


You have to go back six years for the answer. 

Current Star Food Mart management said the previous business owner here (when it was Alphabet City Deli) was somehow tangentially known to someone on Rihanna's team. She chose that spot for a 2017 photoshoot for Paper

Since then, the employees explained, they have been on "a list" for photoshoots.

People pre-paid to buy a pair of the collectible sneakers, which later fetched as much as $5,000 online, were instructed to go to 34th Street and Seventh Avenue at 12:05 p.m., where this East Village location was announced on a billboard. 

The Nike team was onsite on Avenue C before this, providing security for the arriving fans. (Still, there were reports of some altercations among a few people in the crowd, prompting the NYPD visit. No arrests were made.) 

Shoppers with the designated wristband were allowed inside one at a time and given a "true deli experience" by getting to nab their sneakers through the plexiglass window...
The Star Food Mart employees worked at Corteiz Mart & Deli until 5:30 p.m., when the last sneakers were dispensed.

Tompkins Square Bagels debuts on Union Square

The Union Square outpost of Tompkins Square Bagels is now open at 23 E. 17th St.

Last May, we broke the news about this expansion. This is the third location after the original (2011) at 165 Avenue A and (2016) at 184 Second Ave.

The 1,500-square-foot storefront with 22-foot ceilings was previously part of the Paragon Sports footprint. 

Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Wednesday's parting shot

Side view early this evening outside St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery on 10th Street at Second Avenue...

Board report: Former Dallas BBQ prepped for renovations

Workers today were wrapping up surrounding the former Dallas BBQ in plywood on the NE corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark's Place. (Thanks to Steven for the photo!)

The interior gutting commenced earlier this month.

Last June, hospitality vet Curt Huegel, whose portfolio includes concepts such as Bill's Townhouse, Campagnola and Printers Alley, received Community Board approval for the unnamed establishment. There was some debate over closing time, and the committee wouldn't approve a 4 a.m. close. Huegel did not respond to previous emails about whether he was still taking the prime space.

Dallas BBQ closed this past December after anchoring the corner since the mid-1980s. According to staff, the building's landlord would not renew the chainlet's lease and opted to rent the space to another business.    

RIP Joseph Bellaflores

An East Village man is remembered as a hard-working, devoted father after being killed riding an electric scooter to work early Saturday morning. 

According to the Daily News, Joseph Bellaflores, 43, was going west on Houston Street and was struck by a truck making a left onto Lafayette from the eastbound lane. (Police said he fell and slid under the passenger side of the Ford E350 van truck. The driver remained on the scene and was not charged. As Streetsblog pointed out, the police typically blame the victim in such deadly collisions.) 

He and his long-time girlfriend, Jacqueline Roman, have two sons, ages 12 and 7. 

"He was caring. He was protective. Just so much love. He was honest, he was true. Everything about him was real and genuine," she told the paper. "It's a big loss for anybody that knew him ... He was everything to us." 

Bellaflores was a staff member at 184 Thompson, a 140-unit residential building near Washington Square Park. 

Tenants there started a crowdfunding campaign to help his loved ones pay for expenses. 

Per the GiveSendGo page: "His positive attitude was infectious, and he will be terribly missed by all who ever had the pleasure of meeting him. The world lost a wonderful person in Joseph."

Village Works is moving to St. Mark's Place

EVG file photo

Village Works, the gallery, bookstore and artist space, has a new East Village home. 

Founder Joseph Sheridan had been looking for a new storefront after his lease at 90 E. Third St., just west of First Avenue, was set to expire — this after an unsustainable rent increase. 

Later this spring, Village Works will debut at 12 St. Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue. 

With the additional space, Sheridan will also be able to offer café service 

Here's more via an Instagram post yesterday: 
We found a new space and want to thank everyone for their support! This is what can happen when a forward-thinking landlord, a community and a small independent business work together to make sure storefronts continue to flourish in NYC. Small businesses keep our streets vibrant and safe and are the reflection of individual dreams, instead of corporate needs. 

Appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve our community, while continuing our dream of a space reflecting NYC culture on the best street ever for that, St. Mark's Place! Thank you so much and may everyone else never give up and fulfill their own visions for themselves and their community. 
The landmarked building was the first home of the German-American Shooting Society Clubhouse in the 1880s. 

More recently, St. Mark's Bookshop was here, moving around the corner to Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street in 1994... and in the past few years, the space has been a variety of concepts, some more forgettable than others.

Meanwhile, Village Works continues to crowdfund to help make the move. 

Kinka bringing art, food and plants to 7th Street

Photos by Steven

Kinka is opening a boutique on Saturday (April 1) at 63 E. Seventh St. between First Avenue and Second Avenue ... relocating here from West 19th Street. 

Co-founders EunYoung Sebazco and Tom Sebazco (above) were spotted at the space yesterday.

The official description of the business:
Kinka enhances diverse cultures through art, food & plants. Kinka aspires to build a bridge to connect offering a space to share. Kinka offers botanical programs year-round, exhibits artwork, conducts workshops & celebrates the changing of the seasons.
Aside from selling plants and artwork, Kinka offers a variety of events-classes, including "The Floral Art of Tea Ceremony" and "Learn to make your own Japanese Floating Garden." 

You can follow Kinka on Instagram here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

'East New York' coming to the East Village

"East New York" is the latest series to film along Avenue A and various side streets.

Crews will be setting up around 5 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday!) on both sides of Second Street between Avenue A and First Avenue... Avenue A between First Street and Fifth Street ... and the east side of First Avenue between First Street and Third Street. 

The CBS crime drama, which debuted in the fall to solid reviews, stars Amanda Warren, Jimmy Smits and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. 

Back on Friday, the Hulu series "Life & Beth" with Amy Schumer and Michael Cera filmed scenes on 12th Street and 13th Street near First Avenue (with production trucks along Avenue A).

Costume drama: About a rally at City Hall to help save Theatre 80, facing foreclosure on April 5

Lorcan and Genie Otway have been battling in recent years to save Theatre 80, the historic East Village property that houses a performance space, the William Barnacle Tavern and the Museum of the American Gangster at 78-80 St. Mark's Place between First and Second Avenue. 

On Thursday, March 30, from noon to 2 p.m., there's a rally at City Hall. 

Here's more via the media advisory:
Following the pandemic, Theatre 80, one of NYC's truly great Off-Broadway Theaters, is headed for foreclosure on April 5 by a predatory lender who bought their mortgage. (Maverick Real Estate was recently foiled in their attempt to dispossess a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, as The Real Deal reported.)

Organizers ask attendees to "come dressed as your favorite character from a great drama."

They hope to raise awareness of the situation and ask the city's assistance in gaining time for Theatre 80 to become a non-profit. 

The rally takes place on the east side of City Hall Park.

Here's some background on the situation via a 2022 story at The New York Times. Lorcan said that the theater, museum and tavern were in good financial health until March 2020, when, like other businesses, they were forced to shutter during NY State's PAUSE.

More background from the Times:
Shortly before then, he had taken out a $6.1 million mortgage against the properties to settle an inheritance dispute, pay legal fees and finance needed renovations.

With the pandemic lockdown and a precipitous decline in revenue, that loan went into default and was purchased by Maverick Real Estate Partners about a year ago. The firm, according to court documents, has closed over 130 distressed debt transactions, with a total value of over $300 million.
The Times reported that the original lender later sold the debt to Maverick without Lorcan's knowledge.
Maverick, Otway said, then raised the interest rate to 24 percent, from 10 percent, bringing the roughly $6 million debt to about $8 million.
Here's more from September 2022 from Gothamist.

More about the return of Bereket to the Lower East Side

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy 

Yesterday we had the scoop about the opening of Ankara Turkish Restaurant on Houston and Orchard ... from the owner of longtime LES favorite Bereket Turkish Kebab House.

After 19 years in service, Bereket was forced to close in June 2014 to make way for the new luxury condo via Ben Shaoul on the block. The property housed a single row of storefronts, including Bereket, Ray's Pizza and Lobster Joint — all demolished. (As Shaoul told the Times back in 2017, the small businesses that closed were "part of evolution ... You call it gentrification, I call it 'cleaning it up.'") 

EVG contributor Stacie Joy returned to the quick-serve restaurant, which debuted last week...
... and met with Ramazan Turgut, who owned Bereket and now Ankara Turkish Restaurant, which has two outposts in Brooklyn...
... and manager Aydın Günaydın...
Ramazan said that he always wanted to return to this neighborhood and that it wasn't his choice to leave. In the interim, he opened the two restaurants in Brooklyn under the Ankara name. When Bereket closed, he said he didn’t want to open a Brooklyn restaurant with the same name because it was special, and the name belonged to this area. 

He signed a lease when this space at 183 Houston St. (the former Dr Smood) became available directly across the street from the previous outpost. 

Since there are two other Ankara Turkish Restaurants, he decided to keep the name for continuity. Still, he wants people to know it's still Bereket (hence the "Bereket is Back" banners on the storefront). 

The menu items remain unchanged — including the famed vegetarian red lentil soup...
... and the variety of gyros (the chicken gyro option is new)...
There are also a variety of Turkish beverages (no alcohol!) ...
Ramazan said several former customers have come in and confessed how much they missed Bereket. One customer even started crying, which prompted tears from the staff too. 

During this soft-opening mode, the hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, with plans to expand to 4 a.m. soon.

What's up with Two Hands?

Photos by Steven

The Two Hands outpost on Avenue A between Ninth Street and 10th Street has been closed for the past week-plus.

A sign on the front window of the Korean corn dog specialists states "a technical issue" is behind the closure.. and go to the location on Mott Street...
The windows were later papered up... and it appears the interior has mostly been packed up...
Google lists the business as permanently closed. We reached out to learn more about the status of the Avenue A shop, which opened here in April 2021 as part of the L.A.-based chain's U.S. expansion. 

Tough times for Korean-style street food here. Oh K-Dog & Egg Toast closed its doors earlier this month at 36 St. Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.

Monday, March 27, 2023

The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black headlines celebration for the East Village Eye

Photos by Stacie Joy

On Thursday night, the Bowery Electric hosted a special performance for East Village Eye and the New York Public Library. 

Last month, it was announced that the archives of the East Village Eye, the legendary magazine published from 1979 to 1987 that covered the neighborhood's arts, politics and social currents at the time, will have a new home at the New York Public Library. 

A full house was on hand for a slate of spoken-word artists, Nathan Ross, Ira Abramowitz, Kathe Burkhart and Bob Holman...
Here's editor-publisher Leonard Abrams...
And headliners the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, the glam-punk performance legends led by East Village-based artist Kembra Pfahler...
...with Samoa Moriki...
... and Chase Noelle of cumgirl8 sitting in on the drums...
It's always a pleasure to see the VHoKB... and congratulations to the East Village Eye on the acquisition. (Read more about it at The New Yorker here.)

You can vote on what neighborhood projects receive capital funding from City Council

Participatory Budgeting Vote Week is underway in NYC.

Per the city:
New Yorkers can vote online or in person all week to decide how nearly $30 million in capital funding will be spent in the Fiscal Year 2024 city budget to improve neighborhood schools, parks, libraries, and local infrastructure. 
City Councilmember Carlina Rivera's District 2, which includes the East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, the Lower East Side and Murray Hill, has $1 million in funds available ... and 11 projects up for a vote.

Per Rivera in a statement:
"The projects on our ballots range from improving safety in public housing, enhancing public parks and green infrastructure, adding new recreation spaces, and upgrading technology in our educational and cultural institutions. Our neighbors as young as 11 years old and older can vote, regardless of citizenship status, which makes PB one of the most inclusive ways to participate in local government. I encourage everyone to vote for their favorite projects."
And the 11 items open for a vote (residents may choose up to five):

• Community Garden Resiliency 
Gardens between Avenue A and Avenue D 
Permeable pavers and water access in community gardens 

• Library Technology Upgrades 
Computers and Laptops for Kips Bay, Epiphany, Ottendorfer and Tompkins Square Public Libraries

• Improvements at Merchant's House Museum 
29 E. Fourth St.

• Girls Locker Room Upgrade — School of the Future 
127 E. 22nd St. 

• Upgrade for the shared library for PS 64, Tompkins Square Middle School and the Earth School  
600 E. Sixth St. 

• Bathroom Renovations — East Side Community School, P.S. 15, P.S. 63  

• Riis Houses Pathway Lighting 
Avenue D and 10th Street 

• LES II Basketball Court Upgrades (photo above via a reader)
750 E. Sixth St. 

• Meltzer Towers Safety Improvements 
94 E. First St. 

• Peter's Field Basketball Courts Reconstruction 
2nd Avenue and 20th Street

• Union Square Park Fences and Landscape Initial Funding

Residents age 11 and older may vote (once!) online here until Sunday, April 2. Or! You can vote in person (once!) at the following locations...

The 2nd Avenue gas explosion — 8 years later

Yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of the deadly Second Avenue gas explosion.

Yesterday was about remembering the victims. Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locón died on March 26, 2015. Figueroa, 23, who had recently graduated from SUNY Buffalo State, was at Sushi Park, 121 Second Ave. between Seventh Street and St. Mark's Place and the site of the fatal blast, dining with a co-worker. Locón, 27, worked at Sushi Park.

The explosion injured over 20 others and leveled 119, 121 and 123 Second Ave. A condominium complex at 45 E. Seventh St. (above) sits on two of these three lots.

Here's some background about what was happened to date.

In November 2019, a jury found landlord Maria Hrynenko, who took over ownership of the buildings after her husband Michael died in 2004, contractor Dilber Kukic and unlicensed plumber Jerry Ioannidis were found guilty of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and related offenses for their role in the explosion.

Prosecutors said that Hrynenko, driven by greed, and her cohorts rigged an illegal system to funnel gas from 119 Second Ave. to 121 Second Ave. to save money.

In January 2020, they were each sentenced to four to 12 years in prison. Hrynenko remained out on bail for two more years as she awaited an appeal of the case. 

During the sentencing, where defendants faced a maximum of five to 15 years each, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus told the courtroom, "What the defendants did, in a matter of speaking, was roll the dice with the lives of many people. The results, as we know, are catastrophic."

However, Obus said he gave the defendants a break on their prison time because they were older and "did not intend to blow up the building." 

"It's not enough. It’s a joke," Nixon Figueroa, father of Nicholas, told reporters afterward. "What kind of justice did you give us? You didn't give us no justice. It's a slap in my son’s face."

As of February 2022, Hrynenko, 63, has been at the Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford, N.Y. According to public records, she is eligible for parole in November 2025. Her conditional release date is November 2029, and the maximum date is November 2033.  
Kukic, 47, has been at the Wallkill Correctional Facility since his sentencing in early 2020. He is eligible for parole in January. Ioannidis, 66, who's at the Adirondack Correctional Facility in Essex County, N.Y., is also eligible for parole in January.

Michael A. Hrynenko, Jr., Maria's son and a key figure in the gas explosion investigation, died on Aug. 25, 2017. He was 31, according to an obituary posted on the Pizzi Funeral Home website. A cause of death was not disclosed.

On Houston, Bereket returns in the form of Ankara Turkish Restaurant

Top photo from Thursday by EVG; other photos yesterday by Stacie Joy

3/28: Updated here.

Ankara Turkish Restaurant debuted last week on the southwest corner of Houston and Orchard. 

This is the first Manhattan outpost for the quick-serve restaurant with two Brooklyn locations. Their menu shows a variety of gyros and skewers combos... and sides like baba ganoush and grape leaves. 

In an exciting development, over the weekend, a "Bereket Is Back" banner arrived in the window (thanks for the tip, Seth!) ...
As you may recall, Bereket Turkish Kebab House anchored the opposite corner of Orchard and Houston for 19 years until its closure in June 2014 to make way for Ben Shaoul's gold-dusted condoplex at 196 Orchard St.  
The loss of the 24/7 Bereket with its legendary red lentil soup was tough. There were rumors Bereket would relocate nearby, but it never actually did.

Until now?!

Workers confirmed that the owner of Ankara was also the owner of Bereket. Unfortunately, we just missed him at the restaurant yesterday. So more on this later. 3/28: We talked with owner Ramazan Turgut here.

Ankara is currently open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.