Wednesday, May 27, 2015

East Village Cheese Update

Reader and local comic Ben Asher writes in with an update on the future of East Village Cheese:

"I spoke with East Village Cheese today. They said they found a new place on E. 7th st, b/w 1st and 2nd Ave. South side of the block. They expect to move in June."

photo: Kate Puls for #SaveNYC

As E.V. Grieve first reported, the Duane Reade on the corner of 10th and 3rd is expanding, and so three small businesses have gotten the boot: the cheese shop, along with a newsstand and the Excel framing shop.

Ben also notes "that not all of the businesses on the block are being kicked out to make way for the expanded Duane Reade." The UPS store and the Organic Avenue, both chains, will stay. Said Ben, "The woman who worked at E.vil cheese thought that was pretty lousy, considering E.vil Cheese has been there over 30 years and the framing store over 25 years."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eagle Provisions


After more than 75 years in Greenwood Heights, the Polish grocery store Eagle Provisions closed last week.

One More Folded Sunset was there and took a look inside.

photo: One More Folded Sunset

The Brooklyn blogger writes of the emptied space: "Pope John Paul II remains on the wall, a benevolent presence above the deli counter, and a single, skinny, length of kabanos hangs alone amidst Christmas tinsel. Farther along the wall, you can still see the portrait of John, Richard & patriarch Szczepan Zawisny, taken in earlier years, which shows them surrounded by the fruits of their labor - a glorious bounty of sausage and ham."

This time, it wasn't about rising rent. It was about people getting tired, and struggling to keep pace with a changing neighborhood.

“We’ve adapted as much as we could,” co-owner John Zawisny told Brooklyn Paper last year. “But there’s only so much you can do.”

In a Times story yesterday, Vivian Yee wrote about Eagle Provisions and other Brooklyn businesses "calling it quits" in the changing city: "After decades of anchoring their neighborhoods, these business owners have found that they no longer quite belong."


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pisacane Seafood

Reader Jean-Luc tells us that the Pisacane fish market on 1st Avenue between 52nd and 51st street is shutting its doors tomorrow--"A huge loss for the neighborhood and city."

Last summer, another reader told me this closure would be coming down the pike. The owners had listed the building for sale, at $6,800,000, to be "delivered vacant."

At the time, I went in for a visit. I was told they were not closing, and had another 10 years. This now seems not to be the case, though I have not confirmed it.

I was also told that the business is 160 years old--with 60 years in one location and 100 years in this one. Or maybe vice versa. In any case, the place has been around a long time.

What I hear from both readers is that the small business has been struggling with inflated property taxes and utility bills -- both of which can kill a mom and pop, even when they own the building.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tony's Park Barber Shop

Now and then, when I get the chance, I like to visit old barber shops in other neighborhoods and get my hair cut.

Tony's Park Barber Shop, on Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, has been here "over 100 years," according to owner Tony Garofalo, who has been with the shop for just over 50 of those years.

The place is beautiful, in the way that old places are beautiful, filled with antiques and souvenirs.

It's painted robin's egg blue and topped with an extravagantly detailed pressed-tin ceiling. The ancient green barber chairs match the cabinetry, where windows read: "Sterilizer."

A busted wooden cash register sits unused next to a Yankees cap, under a note for "No Refunds."

On one wall, above the chairs for waiting customers, a faded sign reads, "Please control your children."

Simon Doolittle at The Brooklyn Paper did a nice piece on Tony and his shop back in 2008:

"Tony 'Felice' Garofalo has done well for himself. He left Italy after World War II and stayed in Switzerland until he was 26, emigrating to Brooklyn in 1964.

Within a week of his arriving, Garofalo got a job in what is now his barbershop, located on Fifth Avenue between 44th and 45th streets. He bought it less than a year later, for $1,800, from another Italian immigrant.

Working a second job loading beer trucks, he bought the building several years later for $35,000. He now owns the salon and the seven apartments above it. Garofalo’s English today bears the imprint of both Italy and Brooklyn. Speaking of his customers who return for haircuts, he said, 'They still-a come here — from Staten Island, from New Joisey.'"

A haircut here still costs just $10. For that price, you get the feeling of being cast back in time.

Monday, May 18, 2015


We've visited Margon before, but now with Cafe Edison gone, it may the only affordable, authentic, local restaurant left in Times Square. It's certainly worth visiting again--and again.

Margon is an old-school Cuban restaurant, and you can find it at 136 W. 46th St.

Back in 2008, Getty Rivas told me how his father came from the Dominican Republic and first worked in the restaurant as a dishwasher. In 1987, after Margon had moved into its current spot, a former go-go bar, Mr. Rivas took over.

The hopping little place continues to be managed and staffed completely by the Rivas family--"aunts, uncles, cousins..."--17 family members in total. They have since added their own Dominican flavors to the Cuban dishes.

You can sit at the small lunch counter at the front, or head to the steam tables in back. Take an orange tray and the server fills your plates with beans, rice, plantains, roast chicken, beef stew.

They also make Cubano sandwiches and a deliciously frothy morir sonando, which tastes like a creamsicle and means "to die dreaming."

Margon is located in one of a cluster of small buildings that hark back to an older Times Square and an older city. They look out of place, just a block off the tourist-clogged corpo-Disneyland of glass towers and Brobdingnagian TV screens. It is a relief to arrive here. It feels like an oasis.

It's a place of second-story businesses. I am partial to the jumble of signage outside the barber shop. You can also sell your gold and diamonds.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

La Taza de Oro

I've been avoiding this one, because I can't bear to face the possibility that we will lose La Taza de Oro, a warm and lovely Puerto Rican restaurant and last vestige of old Chelsea on 8th Avenue. It's been shuttered for over a month now.

Recently, someone posted a sign to the shutter that says "We Miss You."

Back on April 4, NY1 reported that some bricks fell from the neighboring facade, no one was hurt, but Con Ed turned off the gas in the restaurant's building. Scaffolding went up, one of the metal poles piercing the restaurant's awning.

And then these vacate notices appeared on the door of the building:

#SaveNYC group member Trina Rodriguez checked it out. She wrote in to say:

"I spoke to the owner and they're waiting to sign a contract/get a permit to separate their facade from the building next door--the one causing all the problems. She hopes that when that happens they'll be able to move back in relatively quickly."

Of course, once that happens, they'll need to get Con Ed to turn the gas back on. And we know how hard that can be.

Lately, it seems like the city is waging war on our oldest, most vulnerable, and beloved businesses.

Inspections ramp up. Violations are handed out. Gas goes off. It goes on and on. They shuttered La Taza de Oro last fall, too. Coincidence? With the High Line nearby, Google across the street, and Chelsea being called the new Upper East Side, these are now golden properties that plenty of developers would love to demolish and replace with a glass box and a bank.

See more about La Taza de Oro and its history on Neighborhood Slice. Join #SaveNYC to stop the insanity.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

#SaveNYC Mixer

#SaveNYC is having a meet and greet tomorrow, Wednesday night from 6:00 - 10:00 p.m., at the new Subway Inn, 1140 Second Ave.

You're invited to mix and mingle with New Yorkers who are working hard to raise awareness and protect small businesses and cultural institutions in the city. Share ideas. Drink. Make new friends. 

T-shirts will be available for purchase at $10 (which just covers the cost of making them).

Plus: In addition to our main site, #SaveNYC now has a new action blog: "Action City." It's packed with info about what we're doing, what we've done, and ways you can get involved. Check it out.

-View the mixer invite on Facebook
-Come to the #SaveNYC concert June 6 at Hank's Saloon