Thursday, November 16, 2023

Q&A with Colin Simpson, aka reggae artist Ras Redemption

Interview and photos by Stacie Joy 

I recently talked with Colin Simpson, an aspiring reggae artist who goes by Ras Redemption. He lives and works on the Lower East Side, overseeing maintenance as a superintendent for a residential management company. 

He told me about his recently released single, "Brethren," and how the neighborhood reminds him of his hometown in Guyana. 

Tell us about your journey to the Lower East Side.

I was born and raised in Georgetown, Guyana, and moved to the United States in 2007, living first in Brooklyn. I moved to the Lower East Side in 2011 for work and have lived here ever since. 

I have a video about my journey on YouTube if you want to check it out for more about me. 

How do you describe your music? 

My music is uplifting, redeeming, inspirational and universally friendly. Reggae is righteous music; it's about awakening and knowing yourself. It frees you from whatever tribulation is going on in life, and it's music to keep you grounded and focused. 

So, my music and lyrics mirror that — it mentally takes you to a different place.
You live and work on the Lower East Side, whose locales appear in your music videos. How has the neighborhood influenced your work? 

It has influenced me in a positive way. I come from a place where, from the moment you're awake to when you're out in the street, you greet everyone in a warm and friendly manner, and I get that same response from living in this neighborhood — it reminds me of home. 

Living on the Lower East Side inspires me to write positive music, making me want to extend/show that same kind of warmth and gratitude to the world. 

Where can people see and hear you perform? 

I’m in the studio working on my first EP and some new singles. So, for now, if people want to hear more of my music, I’m on all digital platforms and social media. 

You can find Colin's social media and videos at this link.

Demoliton of the fire-damaged Middle Church façade starts on Monday

Photo Tuesday by Steven 

On Monday, workers will begin to remove the remains of Middle Collegiate Church's fire-damaged façade at 112 Second Ave. between Sixth Street and Seventh Street.

Earlier this monthRev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church, told us this is expected to be a two-to-three-month job. Lewis also explained that it's a combination demolition-salvage operation. Workers will sift through the remains of the building, initially completed in 1892, to save any of the limestone and ironwork for use in the new sanctuary that will eventually rise on the property.

As previously reported, church leaders said they must remove what remains on the property within the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District. According to a report commissioned by the church, the culmination of an 18-month review, there was too much damage to the existing structure to integrate it into Middle Collegiate's new home, that it wouldn't withstand a full-scale rebuild on the property. 

On 3:30 Monday afternoon, church leaders and members of the Middle community "will gather to mourn the sanctuary it called home."

From an announcement about the start of the demoliton:
While this is a moment of communal grief, it will also clear the way for Middle to build a new sanctuary as the community continues to rise. The gathering will embody an ethos that has always defined New York: Resiliency that rebuilds from tragedy by reshaping the neighborhood in ways that honor the past but chart a bold new future. 
The church structure was destroyed during a six-alarm fire early morning on Dec. 5, 2020. The fire reportedly started inside 48 E. Seventh St., the five-story residential building that once stood on this corner. FDNY officials blamed faulty wiring at the under-renovation No. 48 and said the fire had been deemed "non-suspicious." 

By December 2024, officials hope to create a new worshiping space for up to 225 people in a two-story structure adjacent to the church and their property at 50 E. Seventh St.

Previously on EV Grieve:

Revisiting 305 E. 11th St. and 310 E. 12th St.

Photos by Choresh Wald

News arrived in August 2022 that Meadow Partners was the new owner of 305 E. 11th St. and 310 E. 12th St., adjacent multifamily residential buildings connected by a garden between First Avenue and Second Avenue. 

That same August, art critic and longtime building resident Charlie Finch jumped to his death.

Just five days before Finch jumped out of his window, he'd learned the building had been sold to a private-equity firm for $58 million. Finch, a rent-stabilized tenant of the same apartment for 45 years, was despondent and feared that he would soon be out of a home. 
Nine months later, some of Finch's biggest fears have come to pass. Dozens of market-rate tenants received notices from the new landlord ... stating that they must leave their apartments... Others have been offered lease renewals with rent increases in the thousands.

The buildings were also the site of a rally for tenant rights back in May

We have heard very little since then... and missed the news that the building was rebranded as Flora ... 
After a gut renovation and luxurification, a three-bedroom unit via Streeteasy now asks $8,995 (in 2013, the then-two-bedroom home was $4,400). Updated: A reader points out the prices on the Flora website, where three bedrooms are asking $9,750 and $10,100.

Filings at the Department of Buildings also show pending plans for a "vertical enlargement" (aka a sixth floor). 

Flora joins another large East Village residential property now owned by a private-equity firm, the recently christened Untitled at 58-72 Avenue A. You can read what's happening there at this link

The deal for the 89-unit buildings at 305 E. 11th St. and 310 E. 12th St., owned by the Chissick family since the late 1960s, was $58 million. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Wednesday's parting shot

Photo by Derek Berg 

Walk hard on Fourth Avenue and 12th Street today...

ICYMI: Flaco is backo on the Upper East Side

After nearly eight-plus days of a downtown sojourn, Flaco — the only Eurasian eagle owl in the wild in North America — has returned to his usual confines around Central Park. 

There were rumors of a Central Park return yesterday... and the @BirdCentralPark X account was able to confirm the sightings later.

Flaco was first spotted in the East Village on Nov. 6 at the Kenkeleba House Garden off Avenue B and Third Street. He was seen multiple times over the next few days here and on the Lower East Side... even inspiring some we've-been-there-too poetry.

H/T Steven

At long last the new location of El Rinconcito is ready to open this Friday

Photo from last fall by Stacie Joy 

The owners of El Rinconcito have announced a grand opening for Friday (Nov. 17) in their new home at 73-75 Avenue C.

The family-owned Latin American restaurant has been ready to open for the past year but apparently had Con Ed issues with the building here between Fifth Street and Sixth Street. 

From an Instagram post this week:
We will be FINALLY opening our doors for business after so many setbacks, but nothing will take us away from serving our community we love in the Lower East Side. It’s official: your favorites will be here on Friday, November 17 ... Huge thank you for all your patience and ongoing support; it gave us the push we needed when times were tough.
El Rinconcito will be open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The restaurant closed in the summer of 2021 at its home of 27 years at 408 E. 10th St. between Avenue C and Avenue D. (The building on 10th Street was undergoing a gut renovation.) 

El Rinconcito has been serving delicious and inexpensive food in the neighborhood since 1994.

Openings: Red Onion on 10th Street

Red Onion debuted at 277 E 10th St. between Avenue A and First Avenue last Thursday. 

A longtime EVG reader shared a quickie review about the Indian restaurant: "Very tasty — best I've had in some time." They have an extensive menu, which you can find here

Red Onion is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a 10:30 p.m. close on Friday and Saturday... for dining in or to go.

The previous two establishments here, Chichen Itzá and Tompkins Village Cafe, enjoyed a few weeks in service before quickly closing in late 2021. This address was previously home for 11 years to the Brindle Room, which moved to 11th Street.

Everything's gone Green

We are behind in noting all (and there are a lot) the recent comings and goings with smoke shops, like which ones closed, which ones closed and reopened, and which ones closed and reopened under a new name.

The smoke shop opened up next to Ray's Candy Store on Avenue A near Seventh Street nearly a month ago, though the signage for Green World only just arrived.

The sidewalk board (pic from Oct. 31, before the new signage but with festive balloonage) shows items for sale including flowers, edibles and pre-rolls...
The business was, until May, known as East Village New Deli ... then they returned in June without the deli counter... only to close again and reopen as another exotic snack shop/weed shop. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

This East Village lot is now home to this 60-foot-long photograph of a car cemetery in Ukraine

Photos by Steven

Photographer Phil Buehler created this 60-foot-long installation on display (as of Saturday) on the NW corner of Second Avenue and Second Street.

Here's more about the work that he created after a trip to Ukraine:
"Irpin Ukraine: Please Don't Forget Us" is a 60-foot-long photograph of the cemetery of civilian cars destroyed by Russian forces at the beginning of the war. Some were those of civilians shelled as they tried to flee the city in an attack the Human Rights Watch labeled a likely war crime.
Per Buehler's Modern Ruins website:
This installation is up-close and visceral. It serves as a witness to just some of the horror and destruction Ukraine has experienced, a memorial in life-sized detail. It was stitched together from over 30 high-resolution images
... and an up-close look at some of the sections...
The work will be here along this empty lot through Nov. 30. 

CB3 committee to hear presentation on the proposed 'City of Yes for Economic Opportunity' text amendment

Image via NYC Planning

Updated 11/18: You can watch a replay of the presentation on YouTube.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) evening, the Department of City Planning reps will present an informational presentation on the "City of Yes for Economic Opportunity" text amendment during Community Board 3's Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee. 

The amendment — revealed in June — is the second of three proposed zoning text amendments from Mayor Adams designed to address what his administration calls outdated zoning issues. (You can find an overview here... a video of the info session is here.) 

As CityLand noted... 
"The City of Yes for Economic Opportunity" amendment aims to support small business growth through four pillars: revitalizing commercial corridors, filling vacant storefronts, modernizing use regulations, and investments in key growth industries. The changes to the zoning text aim to remove obstacles that slow down or prevent the growth and development of small businesses. 
And from the Commercial Observer... 
"City of Yes" will also scrap the last piece of the city's cabaret law, which prohibits dancing in some bars and restaurants, depending on the underlying commercial zoning. It would also eliminate a two-year clock on vacancy for nonconforming retail in residential areas, which currently prohibits a storefront from being reoccupied as retail if it's been empty for more than two years. Businesses would also be allowed on the same floor as apartments and even allowed above them in some commercial areas, as long as there are separate entrances for apartment residents and retail tenants. 
Here's what the Cooper Square Committee had to say about it in a recent Instagram post:

Cooper Square Committee hasn't yet taken a position yet about the proposed changes, but we will be talking to [East Village Independent Merchants Association] members and other commercial tenants, as well as analyzing local retail data and trends to determine what position to take over the next month or two.

We encourage residents and small business owners to read up on the proposed changes to learn more about them ... 

The nine-month Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP!) started on Oct. 30 and will be heard at all 52 local community boards in the city. Then! It will then move to the borough presidents, City Planning and City Council, who are expected to vote on the final text amendment this spring.  

The Land Use Committee meeting (Nov. 15) starts at 6:30 p.m. You can watch via Zoom here. In Person: Community Board 3 office, 59 E. Fourth St. between Second Ave. and the Bowery. Limited seating is available to the first 15 people.

Cookie Walk is now side-of-church-signage official

Photo by Steven

ICYMI: The Cookie Walk, slated for Dec. 9 and 10, returns to the St. Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church on Avenue A and 10th Street ... the first one since 2019.

This will be the 12th edition of the walk, which serves as a fundraiser for the church. 

And on Sunday afternoon, church leaders-volunteers hung the CW signage. Find more info here.

You have 24 days to enjoy the holiday season before SantaCon

The clock is ticking on SantaCon, set for Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., when everyone quietly returns home. 

The SantaCon website lists Midtown as the starting point... and the "donation" for a ticket is $15. 

No word yet on the route, participating bars, etc. — all that will arrive in the days leading up to Dec. 9.

Five Guys coming to 12th and 2nd

Photo by EVG reader Joe

Signage arrived yesterday on the SE corner of Second Avenue and 12th Street (188 Second Ave.) for Five Guys. 

The burger chain, which started in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s, now has 1,700 outposts worldwide, including 30-plus locations around NYC.

Five Guys takes over the space from Strings Ramen, which closed in April 2022 after two years in business, opening just before the start of the pandemic. (Signage remained up for Strings, giving the impression they were still in business.)

As previously noted, the restaurants at 188 Second Ave. haven't fared well since old-timer Shima got rent-hiked out of here in January 2014. Lumos Kitchen lasted three months in 2018. Others to make quick departures in the past five years were Hot Pot CentralDumplingGuo and Dumpling Go.

Thank you to everyone who sent photos from yesterday, including Choresh Wald.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Report of an assault on 14th Street and Avenue B

Photos by Vinny & O 

There are reports of a mid-afternoon assault on 14th Street and Avenue B. 

Avenue B is currently blocked off between 13th Street and 14th Street, and police put up crime-scene tape...
There isn't much information available at the moment. The last update on the Citizen app, from 3:43 p.m., notes the following: "Officers advise both parties involved in this incident are at different area hospitals, thus why they do not yet know much more than that an assault occurred." 

We'll update when/if more information becomes available.

On the CB3-SLA docket: Applicants for the former Mermaid Inn and Cheese Grille spaces

Photo of the former Mermaid Inn by Steven 

Here's a look at a few of the many applicants who will appear before Community Board 3's SLA committee this evening. (See below for info on watching online — or in person.) 

New Liquor License Applications 

 • Wonderland (Feichangchengong Inc), 96 2nd Ave. (op) 

Wonderland is the proposed restaurant offering an "Asian fusion menu" at the former Mermaid Inn space on Second Avenue between Fifth Street and Sixth Street. 

The proprietors also operate Chili, a Sichuan restaurant on East 37th Street. You can find their CB3 questionnaire here, which includes a sample menu and proposed hours of operation (indoors, 4 p.m. to midnight daily). 

The Mermaid Inn arrived in the East Village in 2003, with several outposts to follow... they closed here during the pandemic, only to reopen then close again in the fall of 2022 after just seven weeks. 

• Sunflower East Village (RJM Hospitality LLC), 88 2nd Ave (op) 

This is a holdover from last month... we previously noted that the NE corner of Second Avenue and Fifth Street will be home to another location of Sunflower, a cafe serving breakfast-brunch on Third Avenue between 25th Street and 26th Street. 

The EV location looks to have the same menu/vibe, though with dinner service. Find the questionnaire here

Sunflower is owned and operated by the same folks as the previous tenant here, Eros, the Greek restaurant that quietly closed in August 2022 when a "temporarily closed" sign arrived on the front door. Eros took over for their diner concept, The Kitchen Sink, in September 2021.
• Idleflora LLC, 188 Allen St (op) 

Idleflora is the name of the proposed "plant-based tea shop and tapas bistro" at 188 Allen St. between Stanton and Houston. 

According to the questionnaire on the CB3 website, the space will also include a retail flower shop. The proprietors operate several East Village restaurants, including Shinn East and Thirteen Water on Seventh Street and Appas Pizza on First Avenue. 

This long, narrow storefront was previously home to Cheese Grille for nearly 10 years

• Made in Houston Inc, 205 Allen St (wb) 

The owners of C as in Charlie on Bleecker Street are behind this new restaurant serving Korean cuisine from the SW corner of Allen Street and Houston. You can find the questionnaire here, which includes a sample menu and other details. 

The arrival of the unnamed new restaurant means the end of Mi Salsa Kitchen, the Cuban eatery, at this location. (We contacted Mi Salsa for info about a possible relocation.)

Items not heard at Committee
• MT 121 St Marks LLC, 123 St Marks Pl (wb) 

This applicant will not be heard this evening — they've already received conditional approval for a beer-wine license based on their method of operation, hours (11 a.m. to midnight daily), etc. 

The owners of Chicago's Moody Tongue Brewing Company are behind this venture, a still unnamed Japanese restaurant that will serve a variety of sushi platters and entrees. You can find more details and a sample menu here

The team opened Moody Tongue Sushi on West 10th Street earlier this year. The Dining Room at Moody Tongue in Chicago boasts two Michelin stars. 

This space on St. Mark's Place just west of Avenue A last housed Pop's Eat-Rite, the veggie burger joint.


Tonight's meeting starts at 6:30. Find the Zoom link here. This is a hybrid meeting, and there is limited seating available for the public — the first 15 people who show up at the Community Board 3 Office, 59 E. Fourth St. between Second Avenue and the Bowery.  

Community members speak out against a tactical gear pop-up shop on 9th Street

Photos from Saturday by Eden 

On Saturday afternoon, a group of community members came together to speak out against a tactical gear pop-up shop on Ninth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C.

OneTigris, a China-based company has an online business offering military-grade lifestyle tactical gear, opened on the block on Sept. 10. (Images below via the OneTigris website)
On a block that has seen a handful of pop-up shops through the years, OneTigris, which sells a variety of bags and outdoor gear, didn't attract much attention until an Instagram promo arrived in early November for a giveaway set for Saturday...
Per the promo: 
On 11/11, join us in the heart of NYC's East Village, 618 e 9 st for a special event that's all about giving back. 🌆🦃 We're spreading gratitude just in time for Thanksgiving, with an incredible giveaway! 🍂🎁 

50 goodie bags and refreshing drinks are on us to show our appreciation for this amazing city. 🗽🎉 Our gifts are limited, so come early to make sure you don't miss out! 🕊️💨 Stay updated and be a part of this heartwarming event by registering with your email... Let's celebrate gratitude and give back to the incredible community we call home! 
Members of the community group, representing educators, faith-based groups, small business owners and anti-violence organizations, said they met with store management last Wednesday along with a member of the 9th Precinct's community relations team. 

According to the group, the shop agreed to cancel the giveaway in light of community concerns. However, by the next day, the group members said the shop had "broken that agreement, mysteriously rebranding themselves as gun-safety educators." 

This prompted Saturday's speak-out. Here's a copy of the flyer that circulated on social media...
Per a press alert that the group distributed: 
Posing as a harmless community sports equipment store for the paintball and outdoor set, their website tells a different story — with hundreds of product photos and videos of men and women holding assault-style weapons. 
One concerned resident shared this screengrab for the brand's Instagram account:
The shop remained closed during its posted hours of operation on Saturday. A handful of people spoke out against the shop, citing statistics showing that guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States.
The shop's original timeline shows it will be open here from Sept. 10 to Nov. 23. We contacted the store's management for comment.

Bench mark: A throwback to 1939 arrives on the Tompkins Square Park multipurpose courts

Photos by Steven 

One of the new amenities has arrived at the multipurpose courts in Tompkins Square Park — your 1939 World's Fair-style benches...
Work started on this space along Avenue A and 10th Street on Oct. 16, first with ripping up the asphalt that hasn't been repaired since the mid-1990s. (And then the arrival of new asphalt.)

Still to come: the outline for a kickball court, a high-low fountain that kids and adults can use simultaneously, and three new basketball backstops at the eastern end.

Posted signs say that the $1.4 million project will be completed by Dec. 1.

Signage alert: Crêpe Master on 7th Street

Signage recently arrived for Crêpe Master, which is expected to open soon (Google lists tomorrow) at 123 E. Seventh St. between Avenue A and First Avenue. 

This will be the second outpost for the Japanese Harajuku-style gluten-free crêpe shop that launched several years back on 116th Street in Harlem. 

Per Manhattan Sideways: "Unlike French crêpes, the Japanese version is traditionally served in a cone — and a classic street food dish in populous cities throughout the country." 

The crêpes take over for cupcakes here... Butter Lane decamped from the storefront for space at the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, N.J., during the summer.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Week in Grieview

Posts this past week included (with a photo on Union Square by Derek Berg)...

• A primer on Community Board 3's role in the permit process for legal cannabis shops (Tuesday

• A new era begins for Downtown Burritos Cocina Mexicana on 1st Avenue (Monday

• The St. Nicholas Cookie Walk returns for the 1st time since 2019 (Thursday

• A look at the fresh asphalt on the under-renovation multipurpose courts in Tompkins Square Park (Tuesday)

• Stoned Gourmet Cannabis Pizza's Chris Barrett is opening a slice joint on 4th near B (Wednesday

• The return of Rakka! (Monday)

• No more Funzi at Funzi's Pizzeria on St. Mark's Place (Friday

• Kotobuki is moving to a new East Village location (Monday

• Report: Just 1 bid for the former P.S. 64 during its bankruptcy auction (Friday)

• Flaco continues East Village tour (Saturday) ... From Tompkins Square Park: Christo in Don't You (Forget About Me) (Friday

• Signage alert: Gemina Coffee Shop on 14th Street (Wednesday

• Openings: Pawffice on St. Mark's Place (Tuesday ... Glizzy's on St. Mark's Place (Monday) ... Matto Espresso on 3rd Avenue (Monday

• Hey Bay: Con Ed preps for more transformer work at the Avenue A substation (Friday

• A little piece of Paradise on 11th and B (Tuesday)

And here's an updated look at the space ... now with the food offerings on the storefront...
• The great photo uploading glitch of Nov. 9, 2023 (Thursday

... and there will be Poland Spring under the Christmas trees this year... as seen at the USA Super Store on Third Avenue and 10th Street...
Follow EVG on Instagram or Twitter for more frequent updates and pics.

In Freemans Alley with Michael Alan Alien

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy 

Last weekend I had the chance to watch local artist Michael Alan — aka Michael Alan Alien — create a new mural in Freemans Alley...
The NYC native took a break and talked about the piece.

"It's a style I started in the early 1990s that I have tweaked over time. A piece that speaks to old NY and painting now," he said. "NYC till death do us part."
Joining him there was his life partner and muse The Living Installation, aka Jadda Cat...