Wednesday, January 17, 2018

M&H Deli


It's the little places that make a neighborhood function like a neighborhood. Bodegas and other small, affordable markets are vanishing fast across the city. Here's another.

Mike writes in: "I thought you might be interested in the closing of the M&H Deli (bodega) on Dekalb Ave and Saint Felix Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Closing after 35 years due to rising rent, per the sign. It was your pretty typical bodega serving the community and the Brooklyn Hospital across the street."

Once again, it's not due to lack of business. It's not the Internet. The sign makes the reason clear.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Broadway Restaurant


As New York City diners meet their collective demise (and then some), overwhelmingly due to skyrocketing rent and denied lease renewals, another one appears to have joined the list.

Christopher writes in to say that the Broadway Restaurant at 101st Street has shuttered. There's no sign to say goodbye, or give a reason why, but the shutters have been down for a week and the phone has been disconnected ("temporarily" says the recording--is there hope?).

photo from Christopher

Asks one Yelp reviewer (where the reviews are glowing), "could broadway restaurant be closed ?? -will be missed if true." Maybe they're just on vacation? Though it seems unlikely.

I went to the Broadway only once, happily stumbling upon it while I was wandering the neighborhood for reasons I can't remember. I loved it instantly.

I loved the sign outside with its "STEAKS CHOPS SEA FOOD," an indication of a certain vintage, and an increasingly rare sight.

I loved its interior with the U-shaped counter and the movie star posters. Brad Pitt appeared on the walls several times--maybe because he filmed there once.

I loved the hand-painted menu with its CORNED BEEF HASH and TASTY SANDWICHES.

The place was busy and beloved. If you know what happened here, please let us know.

*UPDATE: Harry points us to a recent article in West Side Rag, reporting that a fire closed the place on New Year's Day.

Hopefully, the 47-year-old diner will recover, but the damage looks bad.

photo via West Side Rag

Monday, January 15, 2018

Saving Coogan's

Yesterday, local politicians and community members gathered to rally for Coogan's Bar and Restaurant in Washington Heights. After hiking Coogan's rent by $40,000, the landlord, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, surrendered under public pressure this week and made a deal to keep Coogan's in place for the foreseeable future. (The details are being kept confidential.)

On the cold and sunny Sunday afternoon, in front of a large crowd, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, and City Comptroller Scott Stringer made celebratory speeches, calling Coogan's "the United Nations of Washington Heights" and a "civic center" for the neighborhood. They also promised to save small businesses across the five boroughs.

"We spoke with one voice," said Brewer. "We want to do the same thing for other mom and pops. This is just the beginning."

"Our work must continue," said James. "Small businesses are suffering and we need to come to a resolution to protect small businesses in the city."

"Coogan's," said Stringer, "is the line in the sand."

But what do they plan to do? After questions from the press, the discussion got around to solutions, specifically the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), a bill that many activists have been pushing for years (see flyer below).

"We need a hearing on the SBJSA," said James. "We're going to be urging the City Council and Corey Johnson to put it forward."

Currently, most City Council members support the SBJSA. To pass, the new Speaker must bring it to a vote. This is essential. Only a broad-reaching policy like the SBJSA--or the return of commercial rent control--will save our small businesses. Like Espaillat said to the crowd, handling the problem of evicted mom and pops one by one is not a solution. "We're going to lose a lot of them," he said, "and we need legislation. We're going to stop hyper-gentrification."

After the rally, inside Coogan's, I talked with Lena Melendez, a local social worker and organizer with RENA (Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association) and Dominicanos Pro Defensa Negocios Y Viviendas (DDNV).

Lena and I discussed hyper-gentrification in Washington Heights. "The landlords are being incentivized to push people out," she explained, pointing to the 20% vacancy bonus loophole in the rent regulation laws. "It's an erosion of the consumer base. And small businesses have no protections whatsoever."

Real-estate speculation has been pushed into overdrive by the city's rezoning of Inwood. Lena noted the spread of high-rent blight infecting upper Broadway, a rash of storefronts forcibly emptied and kept empty. "The landlords need to be punished," she said, with disincentives like a vacancy tax. But that won't fix every situation. "If a business is in a two-story building, they're a dead duck." With a demolition clause in the lease and no rent-regulated tenants to deal with, the developers can just kick out the business and demolish.

Why is this problem so hard to fight? "Because REBNY is so strong," Lena said, "and the politicians are like prostitutes being bought." She wants to see the neighborhood get organized. "The Latino community has to stand up. But they need to be informed. If this community knew what that rezoning will do to the neighborhood, they'd be marching in the streets."

"The politicians want us all to think the rezoning is a good thing." To that she says, "You're jerking me around. You're pissing on my head and calling it rain."

When we finished talking, Lena went back to gathering signatures on a petition to save Galicia, a restaurant just a few blocks up Broadway, getting forced out after 30 years in business.

flyer by Jenny Dubnau

Galicia Restaurant


At yesterday's rally for Coogan's, Congressman Espaillat pointed up Broadway and announced, "My next stop is Galicia restaurant." After 30 years in business, he explained, they're being denied a lease renewal by the Edelsteins of Edel Family Management, owners of several buildings in the area. "I spoke to the Edelsteins," Espaillat said, "and they seem to be over the top and heavy handed."

After the rally, I went for lunch at Galicia. The place is warm and welcoming--and busy. Customers converse from table to table. The counter fills up and empties, and then fills again. The food is good. So is the cafe con leche.

On my table I had the flyer announcing a rally to save Galicia, January 21 at 12:00 noon. A woman stopped to read it. She said, "I'll be there. Just because this neighborhood is changing, everybody has to get out? No. We've been here. This place is part of our community."

She went on to her table and I enjoyed my chicken, beans and rice, and plantains.

I got into a conversation with another woman, Mrs. Doris Giordano, who was born and raised in Washington Heights. She rescues cats and has been coming to Galicia since it opened.

She showed me a handful of family photographs--her father with his friends on the stoop, her mother on the rooftop they called Tar Beach.

"Tiny Tim was born in Washington Heights," she told me. "Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers came from here. Lewis Lymon and the Teenchords, too. George Raft was from here. My grandmother had a crush on him. They went to school together."

"It's heartbreaking," she said about the demise of small businesses in the neighborhood. "And it's all to do with real estate and landlords." We talked about the closure of the Reme diner and the high-rent blight that is sweeping upper Broadway. "It's like a ghost town. To see stores that've been here since I was a kid, all gone. It's heartbreaking."

She doesn't want to see Galicia go. "Everybody's like family here. I'm not Spanish, but I've been eating here for so long. People say hello. It's safe. You get homemade meals. They have the best coffee and it only costs a dollar-fifty." A rent-controlled tenant on a fixed income, she can't afford Starbucks.

"They're building upscale gourmet places," she said. "The bodega where I got my Italian bread? It's gone and now they're upscale. They cater to the wealthy now. The rent is outrageous all over New York City and people are being relocated. They're moving out all the people who were born and raised here."

We talked about the upcoming rally and the promises of the politicians. Mrs. Giordano shook her head. She said, "I'm not trusting the politicians anymore. They tell you one thing, but nothing's being done. They talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk."

Want to help? Sign the petition to save Galicia. And go to the rally on Sunday, January 21, at 12:00 noon, 4083 Broadway near 172nd St.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Save Coogan's

Earlier this week, the Times reported that Coogan's bar and restaurant will be forced to close at the end of May after being in business since 1985. The closure will happen, wrote Jim Dwyer, "for the usual horrible reasons, the end of a lease and impossible rent demands for a new one."

Coogan's space, at 169th and Broadway, is owned by New York-Presbyterian Hospital. “They want about $40,000 a month more,” said one of Coogan's partners. That's a lot of beer.

This loss is hitting home with many New Yorkers, including Broadway luminary and Inwood native Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted the announcement, saying "My stomach hurts from this news":

Graham Ciraulo, an organizer with the Northern Manhattan Is Not For Sale coalition, started a petition to Save Coogan's. Over 10,000 have signed so far.

And there's a rally at Coogan's this Sunday, January 14, at 12:00 noon, organized by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, and other community leaders.

Whether you know Coogan's or you don't know Coogan's, you know it's another brick in the wall of the sterilized, de-urbanized, hyper-gentrified zone that New York is becoming thanks to unregulated landlord greed.

If you're sick and tired of that, then be there. And tell our city's leaders to make a real change -- pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and let's talk about bringing back commercial rent control. It's time to #SaveNYC.

*UPDATE: Coogan's has been saved!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Nick's Barber Shop

Last week I wrote about the sudden vanishing of John's Barber Shop under Port Authority. I mentioned that his brother, Nick, is still going strong in his own little shop on West 44th St. If you want a good, old-school barber shop experience, go see Nick.

Now that John's is gone, along with the great Mayfair, he may be the last of his kind in that area. And you never know how long a place like this will be around.

It's a little spot down a set of stairs at 351 West 44th. The signs just say "Barber Shop," but the official name of the place is the Times One Barber Shop.

If you bend down from the sidewalk, you can see Nick at work. There's always someone sitting in his chair.

You take a seat and hang up your coat. The walls are covered with Broadway posters, many of them autographed by Nick's customers. Along a ceiling pipe hang New Year's Eve sunglasses. There are mementos from Greece, Nick's home country.

If you ask him about the old shop, the one he worked with his brother under 42nd Street in the subway arcade, he might take out some photographs--one of the corner where the shop used to be, and one of himself, a young barber with thick black hair, in the Times Square of the past.

He'll do a decent and quick job on your hair. The price will be cheap--12 bucks. And, like the sheet metal barber poles in the window say, you'll LOOK BETTER and FEEL BETTER.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas Update

The online petition to save Lincoln Plaza Cinemas now has over 11,000 signatures. Paper petitions are also circulating and gathering names. Every day, customers ask what they can do to protest the closure. But the closure is coming--in just a couple of weeks. Milstein Properties has not offered a new lease.

Before the new year, Dan Talbot passed away. He'd been running Lincoln Plaza with his wife, Toby, since 1981.

This week, West Side Rag talked with Toby. As it stands, she will not be part of Howard Milstein's plans for the site, which reportedly include upgrades and a new movie theater, possibly something run by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Possibly not.

On her wish to keep the theater going, Toby said:

“Of course I would like to continue running it. And one of the things that grieves me — grieves is hardly even a strong enough word — is that the people who’ve been working with us — and I say not ‘for’ us, but ‘with’ us, some for 35 years — are so devoted, I just hate to think of them suddenly being out of jobs. The people on our staff come from all over the globe. It’s a United Nations down there. It’s a harmonious place, run with a very hands-on perspective. I’ve been the one who has chosen everything at the confection stand. Almost every pastry comes from a different place.”

And on the chance of saving it?

“The only thing that could possibly be done,” Toby said, “is if significant political pressure is exerted by our elected officials, saying this isn’t a matter of just economics, but of a cinema culture that has been established for three-and-a-half decades in that spot, with people who are very bereft to be deprived of it.”

photo via West Side Rag

Please sign the petition and write to your local politicians, asking them to get involved. City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried recently sent this letter to Milstein:

click to enlarge