Lorcan Otway, owner of Theatre 80 St. Marks Place holds up a poster of the play " Your're a Good Man Charlie Brown," which put the theatre on the map in 1965.

Nonprofit and for profit theaters have played a tremendous role in New York City’s vibrant history, but small theaters are struggling to stay open.

In 2010 alone, The Ohio Theatre and The Cherry Lane Theater closed.  Because of the low rents by The Ohio Theatre renters and the residential tenants, the landlord could not afford to make structural improvements that the building needed.  The Cherry Lane theater company acquired a deficit due to drops in foundation, corporate and individual funding.  In December 2010, The Cherry Lane Theater closed.

“It’s sad but the building where The Ohio Theatre once was will probably end up being another high-end apartment complex with a Banana Republic in it,” said Ginny Louloudes, executive director for the Alliance of Resident Theatres, an organization representing New York Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway theaters.

Off Broadway theater owners and companies are trying anything to stay open.  Theatre 80 St. Marks, on St. Mark’s place in the East Village, has been in the Otway family for more than 44 years.  The owner, Lorcan Otway inherited the theater from his father Howard, in 2009.

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Little Italy with Few Italians

Posted: February 9, 2011 by jfrankel247 in Uncategorized

By Jasmin Frankel

The three-block strip on Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy is lined with men who stand outside of the restaurants they also work in. Calling on potential customers with sweet lines, hoping to entice their appetites, these men call themselves “fishermen” because they throw out a line and hope to hook the common street tourist with the bait.

Each line is carefully tailored to each potential customer.

“It can get very competitive,” said “fisherman” Angelo Totev. Sometimes, he said, the fishermen get into fights.

The recession has hurt business, especially during these off-peak months when few tourists come. Popular times are summer months and Christmas.

When all is said and done, these barkers are able to get some customers inside for a meal. That is how Luka Tremblay and Marlene Joseph-Blais, tourists from Montreal, chose to eat at Paesano.

“There is a really nice guy in front of the door,” Joseph-Blais said. He showed the pair the Paesano menu.  Then, she said, he asked, “Do you want to come in? We have fresh pasta.” Those few lines were enough. The friends were hooked.

Tourists who are not from Italy, and locals who don’t have an Italian background, might be surprised to learn that these Mulberry Street restaurants rarely employ Italians these days. Few of the fisherman are Italian. That goes for some of the owners and chefs as well. Read the rest of this entry »

NYC’s First Youth Bike Summit

Posted: February 9, 2011 by jfrankel247 in Uncategorized

By Jasmin Frankel

Pop music created by bicycle bells and drumsticks, block parties started with a “sound bike,” 12-inch minibikes –these were some of the things that participants found at the first-ever Youth Bike Summit at The New School in lower Manhattan in January.

A grown man tries a bike built for children at New York City’s first Youth Bike Summit in January 2011.

Photo credit: Jasmin Frankel

The summit, hosted by a 16-year-old bike advocacy group called Recycle-A-Bicycle, was intended to educate young people about bicycling and the environment. Though the group targets youth, the summit welcomed anyone. Many of the 202 people who attended were teenagers, young adults and teachers.

Planning for the bike summit began with two 17-year-old interns at Recycle-A-Bicycle, according to Pasqualina Azzarello, executive director of the program and coordinator of the summit. Back in March 2010, the interns went with Recycle-A-Bicycle to the national summit in Washington, a grand meet-and-greet at which cyclists  lobby officials for improvements for the bike community. The two interns realized they were the only two people under 30 of the 700 who attended.

After that event, the interns thought, why not educate and include younger people by having a local summit of their own? The group carefully planned the summit for January, during the slowest biking season, so everyone could attend, even bike shop owners. Read the rest of this entry »

The Shops of Times Square

Posted: February 7, 2011 by ppaultre247 in Manhattan

The Phantom of Broadway gift shop in Times Square

By Paloma Paultre

For nine years Anwar has been managing the “Phantom of Broadway” gift shop. He is a brown skinned, middle aged, balding man from Bangladesh. His accent is heavy but his diction is clear and concise. He has been in this country for 19 years. By a good stroke of luck, he had won the lottery back home in Bangladesh, and was able to obtain a visa to America. He packed up his things and his family and moved to New York City where he started working in the retail business. He had studied economics in college and had a good grasp of how to manage a store. Today he owns three stores, along Broadway, each store identical in the setup and the type of merchandise sold. Most of his employees are from Bangladesh or the Middle East, and are either supporting families or working their way through higher education.

Inside, a friendly employee greets you at the door with an eager smile “ Good afternoon, is there anything you are looking for?” and proceeds to draw you in with a list “good buys” and tempting sales. The displays and shelves are immaculate. A temple to the god of retail. Each mug and Statue of Liberty is stacked neatly in perfect rows. Modern pop music can be heard playing in the background. “I Love New York” t-shirts and sweaters in every color and design imaginable fill the shelves, and magnets in every shape in size hang from rotating stands placed strategically all over the store. It is a tourist’s dream. Foreigners carefully assess each item, while bargaining with the salespeople in halting English. They pick something up, weigh it in their hands, and bring it to the light, making sure they are getting the best deal possible.

Business after the holidays is slow. The tourists who usually flock Manhattan during the holidays and the summer months are less inclined to walk through the streets of Manhattan in the bitter cold and snow. “It is bad now.” Said Anwar. “January is the worst month. The tourists don’t like to travel during this time.”
The recent recession is also a contributing factor to the slowed business. “This recession does not just affect us.” Said Anwar, gesturing around the shop. “But the people, who come here from other places, have less money to spend on travel and shopping. So they don’t buy as much. It is bad for business Read the rest of this entry »

By Amra Radoncic

New York City’s fashion district—once the home of a blooming manufacturing industry—is fading, slowly but surely. Some wholesale owners and retailers say the fashion district is no longer what it used to be.

“I remember when this whole area was manufacturers,” said Sid Schwartz, a worker at Steinlauf & Stoller, Inc., which was established in 1947 and located on 39th Street. “No manufacturers left here.” The manufacturing comes “from Haiti and God knows where.”

Schwartz, who stands five feet and two inches tall with a very deep voice and salt and pepper hair which was visible underneath his black suede yarmulke, was working alone in the store, cutting yards of fabrics ranging from muslin to foam. At one point, he was holding two phones against his ears, taking an order for zippers. “It’s busy today,” Schwartz said.

Steinlauf & Stoller distributes threads, notions, cotton goods, shoulder pads, zippers and even fabric made entirely of 100 percent horsehair. The 65-year-old business is one of the few stores left that sells to the sewing industry as well as retailers.

The Garment District is a critical part of New York City’s fashion identity. Its borders are generally considered to be between fifth and ninth avenues, from 34th to 42nd Street. New York City is known as the fashion capital of the world, a title some storeowners, including Schwartz, feel will not be appropriate in a few years. Read the rest of this entry »

New York Homelessness Increase is an Alarming Trend

Posted: January 31, 2011 by Amir Khan in Uncategorized

By Amir Khan

With snow lightly starting to fall, J.D. tightens the scarf around his neck and gears up for another long, cold night.  He is dressed in several layers – a large, dingy jacket with several holes on top of three sweatshirts.  His pants, all three layers of them, are tucked into the heavy boots he is wearing, though the bottom is coming apart. He also has on 2 hats and a pair of gloves, and yet, it’s not enough. “I need to find a heating grate,” he says.

J.D., 25, sits on the corner of Fulton and Cliff Street begging to try to raise enough money to get to Point Pleasant, NJ where, he said, he has friends he can stay with.

J.D., 25, is unfortunately not unique. He is one of the estimated 3,111 homeless people living in New York City, and has been so for the last eight months. For the last three months he has been on the corner of Fulton and Cliff Street, where, he said, he is often given food from the numerous fast food restaurants nearby.

“My mother suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder,” J.D. said, “I was the first of her kids to be disowned.” As he writes out a sign asking people for money, he mentions that he’s trying to get to Point Pleasant, NJ. “I have friends there willing to help,” he says. “They have no idea the situation I’m in though.”

Between the years of 2005 and 2009, homelessness in the city was in a steady decline. The New York City Department of Homeless Services counted 4,395 unsheltered homeless in 2005 and 2,328 in 2009, which is a decrease of 47%. However, in 2010, the city census estimated that the number increased by 33%, up to 3,111.

Many of those living on the streets actively seek out shelters as the thermometer dips below freezing.  When the temperature drops under 32 degrees, New York City enacts the emergency procedure titled Code Blue. Read the rest of this entry »

Walking in to This Little Piggy, the first thing you notice is the smell. The aroma of roast beef fills your nostrils, and instantly, you begin to salivate. The spartan menu shows a mere four sandwiches, three featuring roast beef, and one made with pastrami.

The space is small. There are no chairs and very little standing room. The restaurant is wood paneled, though it is impossible to tell with the hundreds upon hundreds of signed dollar bills plastered across the walls, covering every inch of space.

The “This Way” sandwich, the most popular, is a mound of roast beef, slathered in melted cheez wiz and dipped in au jus. Add in fries and a Coke, and, at $13.50, it is a slim price for the volume and quality of food. The first bite was heavenly – hot, crusty bread and the salty, gooey cheese all mixed with tender, moist roast beef.

“It’s a family recipe,” said Will Gallagher, part owner and chef at This Little Piggy.

The Doughnut Plant, 379 Grand Street, cranks out fresh housemade doughnuts in a variety of flavors.

Gallagher said that he decided to open the restaurant after realizing he hated his old corporate job. “ I always loved cooking, and so I decided to open up a place with my friend Francis a year ago.”

Gallagher’s restaurant is not unique. In a city filled with restaurants, there has been a plethora of niche restaurants opening, basing their entire business on a signature dish. Around the corner is another such restaurant, this one specializing in macaroni and cheese.

Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese, or S’mac, located on East 12th Street between First and Second Avenue, has been open since 2006, and while it wasn’t an immediate success, the business is now flourishing.  “We thought we were going to have to close after our first six months,” said Sarita Ekya, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Caesar. “We carried on, though, and we eventually built a following. Now we almost constantly have a line out the door.”

Oscar Mejia, 27, said he eats at S’mac at least once a week. “I get cravings,” said Mejia in between bites. “I trekked all the way from the Upper East Side just to get some.”

“I think it’s great that specialty restaurants are becoming so popular,” Sarita said. “I don’t feel any competition with them. They’re doing what they do best, and I’m sure as hell doing what I do best.”

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By Vasili Sushko

Not to say you couldn’t buy a Grade A porterhouse steak in the meatpacking district today; it would just be more likely ordered off a menu in a restaurant rather than bought from an actual meatpacker.

The New York City meatpacking district, located in the triangle formed by West 14th Street, Gansevoort Street, and the West Side Highway, has been turned into a historic district, which seemed unlikely in the mid 1980s when the area was flooded with sex clubs and prostitution.

Photo by Vasili Sushko

Today it is home to some of New York’s trendiest clubs, stores, and restaurants, and demand for property is higher than ever on those brick-paved streets. Just ask Alan Weisman, a property manager for Grubb and Ellis, a large property management firm that has been around since the changes began.

“Properties that were going for $ 21 a foot 10 years ago are now going for about $ 250 a foot,” Weisman said.

On West 14th Street stood many meatpacking facilities and warehouses, along with the original Nabisco headquarters, which moved to a new facility in East Hanover, N.J.. This giant warehouse, which was left vacant, was bought by Saks 5th Avenue to use as its own warehouse. The surrounding warehouses, which were mostly occupied by meat distributers, became vacant after a gradual transition to Hunts Point, where the city allotted space for such industries.

“The city wanted these businesses out of there,” Weisman said. “They were causing a lot of traffic in the area, and Hunt’s Point seemed like a better alternative for many of these businesses because it was easier for trucks to get to.”

Grubb and Ellis was hired to rent properties in many of these warehouses in the meatpacking district, and this is when Weisman stumbled upon Jeffrey. That’s Jeffrey Kalinsky, the owner of a high-end shoe boutique with locations in New York and Atlanta.

“I thought he was crazy,” said Weisman, after Kalinksky decided to rent an enormous property on 12th avenue, right in the middle of this heavy commercial neighborhood. “I was happy to make that deal. I made a lot of commission. He had some sort of a vision, and no one really believed in it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Jazz, Yesterday and Today.

Posted: January 30, 2011 by Amra Radoncic in Manhattan
Tags: , , , ,

By Amra Radoncic

In Harlem, jazz continues to be a core in defining this historic strip of Upper Manhattan.  Jazz has been a cornerstone of Harlem’s cultural identity, and according to some musicians, it won’t fade anytime soon.

On a recent Saturday night, Baba Raymond performed at St. Nick’s Pub, a bar that offers jazz every night of the week. St. Nick’s is located on St. Nicholas Avenue between 148th and 149th streets. The bar’s bright red awning is visible from blocks away. The black letters that read “St. Nick’s Pub” are fading, and the old wooden double door squeaks as customers squeeze through. The weekly “Saturday African Night”  was about to begin, and this small bar, without the usual full stock of grand liqueurs, was crowded with youngsters, with the older customers standing around and sitting by the bar.

The crowd was a mix of white college students and black locals who go to St. Nick’s for a drink or two and take in the free jazz played seven nights a week.

“We show love when you come to St. Nick’s. You feel like you’re going home,” said James Delanore Glover, the chef. “I came here one time, six years ago, never left.” Read the rest of this entry »

Party, Eat, Buy Meat… Now Skate?

Posted: January 30, 2011 by vasili247 in Manhattan

by Vasili Sushko

The trendy meat-packing district on Manhattan’s West Side just got a little cooler with the addition of the area’s first ice skating rink.

The Standard Hotel Ice Skating Rink

The ice skating rink located right below the high line in the center of the Meat Packing district.

Located at the The Standard Hotel, built in 2008, on the corner of West 13th and Washington streets, right underneath the High Line Elevated Park, is a portion of ice no bigger than about half a basketball court.  It is open to the public.

“It’s a cute little spot,” said Dora Chomiak, a local West Side resident. “If I have an hour, why not? It’s right around the corner.”

Don’t let its small size fool you, either. This small rink has many of the perks as some of the major rinks in Manhattan, including skate rentals and lessons for children, adults, individuals and groups.

At a small office on Washington Street, customers can rent skates and purchase all-day rink access. “The skates here are really nice,” said Chelsea Sheets, an employee of the rink for a little under two weeks. “You go to a rink like the one at Bryant Park, and they’ll give you these plastic skates. They’re really uncomfortable.”

Sheets is a college student who says she “enjoys coming to work.” Despite the cold weather, Sheets comes bundled up in a hat and gloves and spends most of her time talking to customers and handing out skate rentals.  In addition to managing the register, she also gives children’s lessons. “I really like ice skating,” Sheets said, “I thought it was really cool to teach ice skating.” Read the rest of this entry »