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Report: July 2021 CB2 SLA Licensing 1 Meeting

Little Italy
Little Italy, photo by Matej Sefcik on Unsplash

We must admit, going into our first SLA Licensing meeting, that we expected it to be mostly dull—maybe a resident or two speaking up here and there for or against a proposed bar in the area, but probably not since a serious thunderstorm was predicted for just after the meeting’s start time of 6:30 p.m. The church basement was cavernous and had just had over twenty people in it.

The first item on the agenda certainly seemed extremely straightforward: a simple corporate change in the ownership of Mulberry Street Bar, which had actually previously been approved by the board in 2019, except that the previous owner passed away before papers could be signed. One of the proposed new owners is his widow’s sister Vivian Catenaccio, who owns and operates both La Mela and Il Picolo Bufalo on the same block. She and her lawyer appear before the board and everything seemed to go perfectly well, just a regular nightlife stipulation to close down the sidewalk and post-Covid road bed dining by 10 p.m. Everyone’s getting along, this seems like a slam dunk—and then the board opens things up to public comments.

A Mulberry resident comes to the microphone; like us, it’s her first time at an SLA Licensing meeting, so she’s not sure how things work either, but she’s here to complain that Mulberry Street Bar has had karaoke past 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with speakers so loud that it can be heard in her apartment just like she’s out on the street. Not very much later, 11:15 at the latest, but it’s very loud and their attempts at reaching out haven’t gotten anywhere.

Catenaccio steps up to the microphone and says the resident is mistaken; Mulberry Street Bar has not in fact had karaoke in over two years. You can see the sudden WTF on the resident’s face; she clearly wants to go back to the microphone and protest that she’s not making things up. And then—and then!—Catenaccio proceeds to declare that the karaoke is not at Mulberry Street Bar at all, it’s actually in the middle of the road, arranged and paid for by Mulberry Street Bar, La Mela, and the other surrounding restaurants on the block. She clearly thinks this is a gotcha! moment, and she’s right.

Unfortunately this gotcha moment was very much an own goal, as the board informs her that actually no music is allowed outdoors at all, and certainly not amplified karaoke, as it’s very much a violation of current regulations. She protests that it’s something the restaurants are doing for the community, to help brighten spirits up during the pandemic, but the board reiterates that it’s a violation and advises she stop chipping in, at the very least. The board also advised the complaining resident to take her complaint directly to the SLA. We’ll walk down Mulberry the next few weeks and keep you posted!

Next up: the proposed restaurant at by James Wright at 59 Grand, a.k.a. the long-time home of the late, lamented Lucky Strike. He appears with two lawyers, one of whom steps to the microphone. This is a second attempt at board approval, as the previous one was turned down during pandemic Zoom meetings. Most of the discussion is about outdoor space; the board wants to know what Wright is planning to do with it, given that the location on Grand St has no space for legal sidewalk seating and a bus stop precludes road bed dining. They’re also concerned that Wright has no chef—he’s provided a menu, but no chef, so is this is a bait-and-switch where he’s selling a restaurant to the board to acquire a full liquor license when he’s really opening a bar?

Wright explains that the bistro concept and menu is his work, as he’s worked in the industry his entire life, so he’s looking for a chef that can execute his ideas. He and his lawyer reiterate that this will 100% be a restaurant and that the bistro meets the legal standard for a restaurant under ABC law; also that music will be background level only, not entertainment, and there’s not enough space in there for dancing. They agree to no events, no parties, no private events; no sidewalk or road bed.

Next up: Daniel Abrams, who would like a new license for the same spot at 79-91 MacDougal, where he has had a lease for fourteen years and operated Mermaid Oyster Bar until the pandemic. Abrams, who owns and operates three Mermaid Inn locations across the city, gave up the license at MacDougal to save money last year while his business was closed and would like it back, but will be opening a different business in the space: Mermaid Mexican. He’s never had sidewalk dining at this location before, but like his neighbors on the block now, he would like both sidewalk dining and road bed dining. He agrees to stipulate that the road bed dining will be temporary and subject to a follow-up review in the future after board members speak up about how tight MacDougal is with road bed dining on both sides of the street; one blames the structures for FDNY trucks having trouble getting to what turned out to be a four alarm fire.

Next up: Brenna Gilbert, a SoHo resident and luxury retail marketing veteran, applying for a new beer and wine license at the corner of Broome and Crosby for Champers Social Club. This application could not possibly been even more appealing than it was: she and her team stood outside the space for three days to talk to block residents and garner signatures in support of the project, along with garnering approval from the building co-op board, as well as prominent local activist Lora Tenenbaum, who sent her notes directly to the SLA board. It will be a small restaurant with a retail component, focused on making it easy for people to throw parties; they will have limited sidewalk seating on Crosby, and private wine tasting and floral arrangement classes in the basement. Honestly, this presentation went so smoothly from our point of view that the only remotely controversial part of it was the use of the phrase “custom ballonniere”.

Note to readers applying for your first ever license like Gilbert: the lawyer she worked also presented for another client later on in the West Village and their application was equally well-prepared. We didn’t manage to catch her name or that of her firm but were very impressed.

Last but not least: Ariel Arce, the Champagne Empress of the West Village, applying for full liquor at three stories of 357 West Broadway for The Residence + Cavi-AIR Cafe: the concept is approachable luxury caviar retail on the first floor, an alimentari on the second, and traditional caviar service on the third, with champagne and cocktails. She’s withdrawing the terrace portion of her application after talking to the West Broadway block association, and agrees no one will be allowed out there, staff included, unless it’s to water plants. Most of the discussion centers around road side dining and what her options are for it, given that we don’t know if, how, or when it will be made permanent, and that her opening date if approved will be months from now; Arce decides to apply for a license without it, stipulating that she can and likely will apply later on once the situation is clearer.

Just when we think all is good and done, a board member speaks up to ask her about her other places on MacDougal—why should the board ever take her word for anything when she agreed to not have advertised live music in the basement or anything other than a guitar there, and he knows that hasn’t been true? She replies that she’s never had so much as a noise complaint, and that even Patti Smith lives next door and has never said anything. Détante!

N.B. Chobani was a no-show for their full liquor/sidewalk cafe application at 152 Prince. In the West Village: Michael Azzolina, whom many of you may know from his tenure as the maître d’ at Raoul’s, is applying for full liquor for West 13th at the former home of Café Loup, to be called Cecchi’s; and Sam Milliken of the classic event space Manhattan Penthouse on Fifth is applying for full liquor for a new space called Sassy’s at 28 Seventh Ave South.

Tuesday Dispatch: NYC’s Favorite Dog, Tonight’s CB2 SLA Licensing

Cockapoo, by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Rover recently announced the results of their America’s Most Popular Dog Breeds 2021 survey and while mixed breed dogs came out on top nationally, New York City’s most popular dog is the Cockapoo, a medium-sized cross between Cocker Spaniels and Poodles that retains the friendliness and intelligence of both breeds. NYC’s runner-up breeds are Havanese, French Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and the American Pit Bull Terrier; pit bulls are the only one of our city’s top five to place in national rankings, coming in at ninth most popular across the country.

Reminder: there are two different Community Board 2 meetings scheduled for tonight: the first is the Quality of Life meeting from 6:30 to 8:30, which should be approving the permit for this year’s San Gennaro Festival, and the second is the SLA Licensing 1 meeting, from 6:30 to 9:30. See you at the latter!

Two recent, quiet closures we’re very sad about, both run by immigrants and easily among the best of the best in the city: Greecologies, the cafe at 379 Broome that served super fresh authentic Greek yogurt made on site (and supplied to many Greek restaurants in the city); and Unico, the Sicilian pastry shop and gelateria at 156 Sullivan.

If one of the things you’ve been missing during the pandemic is the opera, the Metropolitan Opera is streaming a different Richard Strauss production for free every night this week—including three that have never been streamed before!

New York EMTs will be boycotting tomorrow’s Hometown Heroes parade, which is Mayor Bill De Blasio‘s way of honoring Covid first responders and other essential workers; the only EMS workers there will be ones assigned and paid to work the event. EMS unions have been trying to negotiate a new contract with the city for over three years; meanwhile their workers worked mandatory 12-hour shifts during the pandemic, which had them working record-breaking days that saw well over 5,000 calls, and with neither raises nor hazard pay in the last year. Their starting salary is an appalling $35k! (NY Daily News)

The NYPL Is Finally Reopen!

Rose Reading Room
Rose Main Reading Room, ? by Monika Kozub on Unsplash

As of today, July 6th, the New York Public Library is back—all branch locations, except those undergoing improvement or being used by the city, are open again. Our own Mulberry Street Library is now “nearly full service, including general library use and seating, unlimited browsing, computer access, and more. In-person programs and classes will return over the coming months.”

Bonus: for those of you that have read Aaron Shkuda‘s The Lofts of SoHo: Gentrification, Art, and Industry in New York, Mulberry Street will be hosting an online discussion of the book (with a special appearance by the author!) tomorrow, July 7 from 6 to 7 p.m. The event is free, but you must register online first!

Note that masks are required to enter all libraries, the Midtown flagship’s Rose Main Reading Room is open to read in and work from again, and while some of its divisions are open at an appointment-only basis,  NYPL’s research services will continue to serve most patrons online with at-home access to many databases. There will be no overdue fines accrued until September 30th, and the library will be temporarily removing fine-based blocks on accounts.

Under $10: Banh Mì Saigon, On Grand

#1 Sandwich at Bánh Mì Saigon
#1 Sandwich at Bánh Mì Saigon, ? by Robert Sietsema
New York City has a reputation for being expensive but there are still great bargains to be had all over the place, if you know where to look or whom to ask. Under $10 is a column dedicated to finding extremely good deals at small businesses in our area and sharing them with you.

For the longest time, the easiest way to tell your friends how to get the best sandwich deal downtown was to tell them to walk down Mott from Grand St and look for the people coming out with paper-wrapped sandwiches from what looked like a shop selling jade. That was the first incarnation of Bánh Mì Saigon, unassumingly tucked away in the back of a jade shop, which rather pleasingly also made the move along with it to its current location mere feet away at 198 Grand.

Their prices have gone up a lot over the years—our favorite sandwich, the #1 (barbecue pork) went from $4.50 in recent years to $7.50 right now—but every single sandwich is under $10 and still very much a steal. A demi-baguette stuffed with the topping of your choice, plus chopped carrots, daikon, and cucumbers, a slathering of mayo, a bit of cilantro, and as few or many jalapeños as you can take is easily a meal for one or a snack for two. The classic order is the #3 (Vietnamese ham & paté), but you can’t go wrong with the #5 (meatball) or #9 (curry chicken). There are pescatarian and vegetarian options, but we’ve never tried them!

Monday Dispatch: Zombie Village Voice, Well-Being Insurance For Seniors Legislation

Flushing Meadows Corona Park Mist Garden
Flushing Meadows Corona Park Mist Garden

If, like us, you’re still a little traumatized from last week’s heat wave, perhaps you should consider a visit to Flushing Meadows Corona Park‘s newly-restored mist garden, an original feature from the 1964 World’s Fair. (6sqft)

The Village Voice is simultaneously both dead and alive at the moment—a real Schrodinger’s cat of a publication—but appears to be moving towards life with the recent announcement of Dan McKenna as its new Chief Revenue Officer. McKenna is perhaps best known as the previous publisher & CEO of the Hamptons publication Dan’s Papers. We have to admit it’s rather hard to be excited about a Voice comeback considering a) its new owner Brian Calle‘s awful history with LA Weekly, and b) that they’re announcing revenue before even attempting to hire interesting writers that know the city.

If you or anyone you know is currently suffering from food insecurity, New York City is providing free grab & go meals as well as take home & cook options this summer for any residents that need them, all over the city and with no registration, documentation, or identification required. They will be providing vegetarian options at all locations; kosher and halal options at some. Our local site is P.S. 130 Hernando De Soto (143 Baxter Street, entrance on Hester). Three meals a day are provided from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday; this location offers a halal option for those who require it. (If you or anyone you know has difficulty cooking or shopping, or is living or recovering from an illness, our wonderful neighbor God’s Love We Deliver is currently accepting applications for their free meal delivery service.)

Our area has a higher share of senior citizens than most in the city (let alone the rest of the country), so we’re very interested in Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Long Island, Queens)’s latest bill called the Well-Being Insurance for Seniors to be at Home Act, or WISH. All four of Suozzi’s grandparents were cared for in his childhood home, with his mother their chief caretaker; Suozzi says the WISH Act is meant to “save the Medicaid program and millions of Americans from financial ruin, would allow people to age at home with dignity, and would create millions of good-paying, middle-class jobs in the home health care industry.” (Politics NY)

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that 13-time champ Joey Chestnut was going to not only win but set a new record at yesterday’s annual Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, and he did: Chestnut ate 76 buns in ten minutes for his 14th title in fifteen years, breaking his own record from last year and beating the second place contest by 26 buns. Honestly, we were more excited about their inaugural Lemonade Chug Contest, which was both faster and disturbingly riveting even though it was obvious from the beginning that Eric “Badlands” Booker was going to win:

Friday Dispatch: Best NYC Sushi, New Subway Cars

Sushi Ikumi
Sushi Ikumi

Eater just named their picks for NYC’s best sushi restaurants and we technically have two out of the 31; technically because one of the restaurants named is Sugarfish, though they listed the Flatiron branch of this Los Angeles-based chain instead of the SoHo location at 202 Spring St (corner Sullivan). We’ll take it anyway! Their other pick is the impeccable Sushi Izumi at 135 Sullivan (just above Prince), which is a perfect ten counter seat jewel box of an omakase restaurant, owned by the chef and sake sommelier Hirohisa Hayashi, whose namesake restaurant Hirohisa just a few feet away at 73 Thompson is also a delight and quite honestly deserved to be on Eater’s list too. (Eater)

This Curbed piece about the twilight of the 79th Street Boat Basin‘s liveaboard community, which will be evicted and may never return after the imminent multi-year renovations is quite moving; most residents are senior citizens who have been there for at least two decades, many have raised children there, and may have to leave the Upper West Side altogether. (New York Magazine)

Gothamist has a pretty comprehensive look at the MTA’s new R211 subway cars from Kawasaki Rail Car Inc, which should all arrive and hopefully up and running in about a year. The R211s will have wider doors for faster boarding, improved interior signage and lighting, and new signal technology that should mean faster times between stations. (Gothamist)

The Atlantic‘s recent Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Ed Yong explains three simple variables to understand how the vaccines and the Covid-19’s new super-transmissible variants interact. It’s an easy read, despite the technical topic but the TL;DR is: the vaccines are working but we’re probably going to need boosters, the variants are pummeling the unvaccinated, and our long term safety requires vaccinating more people.

Finally, congratulations to our neighbors down in Tribeca who rallied, sent letters, made calls, and even slept in tents in Rockefeller Park during the heat wave—the state has relented and will relocate the planned essential worker monument elsewhere. (Tribeca Citizen)

Best Places To See 2021 East River Fireworks

4th of July, East River
4th of July, East River ? by the duckmanz

Obviously we’re going to have to leave our neighborhood if we want to see the Fourth of July fireworks over the East River, but the real question is: where to go? There are designated public viewing places in three boroughs: Manhattan‘s is FDR Drive from 14th to 51s, with entry points at 23rd, 31st, 34th and 48th; Brooklyn‘s are Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Grand Ferry Park, Domino Park, Bushwick Inlet Park, East River State Park, and Transmitter Park; and Queens has both Gantry Plaza State Park and Hunter’s Point South Park in Long Island City. The latter two are our pick of best designated viewing places, even though they’re a bit of a schlep!

That said, our top picks for public non-designated viewing places are both in Manhattan and within walkable distance: the most obvious one is the South Street Seaport, but our favorite is the semi-secret Elevated Acre Park at 55 Water Street. We’re willing to share it with you but don’t tell anyone else.

If you’d rather make dinner and/or drinks reservation somewhere with guaranteed space, Thrillist has a fantastic list, but call NOW as all these places are probably very close to booking up, if they aren’t already.

Note that the fireworks start at 9:25 and all public viewing areas will likely be even more packed than previous years (and they’ve always been packed, even in bad weather), so to be safe you should probably pack a picnic dinner and show up at least four hours early. If you’re planning on watching it on tv, the show starts at 8 and there will be a LOT of musical numbers.

Last but not least: if you’re new to pet ownership because of the pandemic, please note that fireworks are terrifying for many dogs and cats. Here’s what the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals has to say about animal safety on the 4th of July:

  • Take your dog for a walk before fireworks begin to tire him/her out and keep him/her calm when the explosions begin.
  • Keep pets indoors when fireworks are underway. Close windows and curtains and run the air conditioner and television to block out noise and light flashes.
  • Do not leave your pets home alone. Be there to comfort them. Create a comforting place for them — a box, crate, or cozy place to curl up.
  •  If you decide to go to an outdoor fireworks display, do not bring pets! They will be frightened by the noise and crowds, and they may escape and become lost.
  • No matter what time of year, make sure your dogs and cats are microchipped, and that your dogs are licensed and wearing ID tags.
  • If your pet becomes lost, immediately file a Lost Pet Report with Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC): http://bit.ly/ACCLostFound

Have a fun and safe 4th!

The Feast of San Gennaro Is Back In 2021!

Sausages at San Gennaro
Sausages at San Gennaro, ? by Jazz Guy

The San Gennaro Festival was obviously a n0-go last year because of the pandemic, but they’ve just announced that they’re making a comeback—this year’s festival, their 95th, will be from September 16th till the 26th. We’re so excited about it that we can’t decide whether to enter the cannoli eating contest or the meatball eating contest, or this year’s addition, the zeppole eating contest.

The festival, named after the patron saint of the Neapolitan immigrants that settled on Mulberry Street, was founded in 1926 and traditionally takes over eleven neighborhood blocks over eleven days . Those days are traditionally the biggest moneymakers all year for many restaurants and other businesses in Little Italy and Nolita, but they also raise money for charities, schools, and local churches—the festival has donated over two million dollars since 1996!

Thursday Dispatch: Election Still Undecided, E-Bikes Are Good For You

SoHo Lion
SoHo Lion, ? by Peter Burka

The Carnegie Corporation celebrates the Fourth of July by honoring naturalized citizens that make America better and they’ve just announced their 2021 Great Immigrants, which includes a few pretty great New Yorkers: Peter Carey, an Australian-born novelist and professor at Hunter College; Millicent Comrie, a Jamaica-born OB-GYN, director of the Brooklyn Heights Women’s Health Center, Maimonides Medical Center;  and John Oliver, UK-born comedian and host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. Congratulations to them and all other immigrants!

We still don’t know who our next mayor is going to be: the Board of Elections has to do a recount plus count all the absentee votes, Eric Adams still has a small lead over Kathryn Garcia, and it turns out Maya Wiley might still be in the running. And the comptroller race is still undecided, as Brad Lander is losing ground to Corey Johnson and it’s still too close to call. (The City)

Three years of work plus a grand jury indictment later, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has finally filed criminal charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allan Weiselberg, who surrendered himself early this morning. The 73yo Weiselberg, who has worked for the Trump family for over half a century, says he intends to plead not guilty. (Gothamist)

Regardless of how you personally feel about deliveristas on e-bikes, a recent study has found that for most people—even those new to cycling—get meaningful exercise from commuting on a e-bike. So if work is making you go back to the office and the Delta variant has you side-eyeing the subway, perhaps you should consider riding to work! Bonus: here’s a solid list of best pants to bike to work in, courtesy of GQ; we are quite partial from Brooklyn’s own Outlier, founded by a friend of ours. (Cycling Industry News)

Last but not least, here’s some sunshine for on this rainy day. If you commute on the F train or used to go to yoga at the sorely-missed Yogaworks on Broadway & Grand, you’re probably familiar with the Green Lady of Brooklyn, who has got to be one of the most adorable New Yorkers of all-time. She certainly has a very cute laugh:


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Wednesday Dispatch: Election Mess, Changing Rents

NYC Election Signage
NYC Election Signage, ? by Billie Grace Ward

The jury’s still out on ranked choice voting but what we know for certain is that the NYC Board of Elections really screwed up—they announced the results of the Democratic Primary’s first ranked tally on Tuesday, only to have to then walk that back last night because they accidentally included test ballot results. Plus they haven’t even tallied absentee votes yet, which count for 13% of all votes cast. As of now, Maya Wiley is officially out and Eric Adams has a small lead over Kathryn Garcia.

God’s Love We Deliver, one of the best charities in the entire country as well as our neighbor at Spring and Sixth Ave, urgently needs more volunteers—can you help? They’ve introduced four new kitchen prep shifts on Friday (1-4 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.) and Saturday (10a-1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.), and are also looking for people to ride as passengers in our delivery van and assist their staff in delivering meals.

Governor Cuomo‘s office recently announced that trees in Tribeca’s Rockefeller Park will be cut down and 3,000 sfq of lawn will be removed in order to build a monument to essential workers, and our neighbors down there are in full revolt: they built a tent city and slept there overnight—in this heat!—to keep construction workers from taking the trees down. They’re also throwing a block party there today from 2 to 6.

Brick Underground reports that not only are rents finally rising again, but that there are now actually bidding wars in the most popular neighborhoods, including ours. This mess is partly due to people returning to the city post-pandemic (and hopefully post-vaccination)—some of them families so desperate to be in the same good school district that they’re signing leases now and paying for apartments they won’t even occupy till September when school starts. We stayed put and are still traumatized by the tale of the Upper West Sider who gave up her rent-stabilized apartment right after lockdown and moved to Vermont, only to start looking for an apartment in her old neighborhood after just a month of rural life.

Last but not least: if you grew up playing with Lego or have kids that love it, not only did Lego finally open their Legoland New York Resort in Goshen last month just 60 miles from NYC, making it the first new major theme park in the entire Northeast in over forty years, but they also just opened their new two story flagship store at Rockefeller Center, with twice the space and even more attractions than their Flatiron store. It’s a straight shot on the B train!