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Rats Dig In at Sara D. Roosevelt Park

SAM_0215Lila Selim
SAM_0213Lila Selim Kathleen Webster.

Kathleen Webster has had enough of her unwelcome neighbors at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. She thinks the rat population has exploded since Hurricane Sandy, particularly around the Golden Age Center for senior citizens.

“I saw about forty of them crawling out of the garbage in back of the building,” she told Community Board 3’s parks committee last week.  Ms. Webster, a representative of the SDR Park Coalition, said the health department “hasn’t been as diligent as it needs to be” about the increased rat population and asked the board to press for action.

Phil Abramson, a spokesperson for the parks department, confirmed that there had been an uptick in rats in recent weeks. As a result, the parks department has upped the amount of bait it uses. In addition to collecting trash daily, employees routinely patrol Roosevelt Park looking for rat burrows, then bait and destroy them, Mr. Abramson said. Several dozen of the holes were visible in the park yesterday morning.
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Garbage Day | A Shutterbug Fights Litterbugs

Today, we tip our hat to a couple of locals who are making the East Village a greener, cleaner place.

Photos from “East River and the Sanctum we walk” by Alan Gastelum.

20120915_eastriver_0009Alan Gastelum Garbage collection this past weekend.

Some people go to the park to photograph birds, while others document trees. Alan Gastelum photographs garbage. This past weekend, he and 20 volunteers filled almost two dozen industrial-sized bags with trash gathered on the banks of the East River.

The cleanup effort at the East River Promenade was organized by the photographer along with Partnerships for Parks and the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

Almost two years ago, Mr. Gastelum, 31, an East Village resident who enjoyed relaxing in the park, began taking pictures of stray items that washed ashore: broken marine rope, dirty T-shirts, bottle caps, baseballs and toys. With every new tide, different items would wash onto the rocks, he said. Some of them, he kept: he has collected ceramic coffee mugs, wooden planks, single sneakers and plastic relics beaten smooth by the East River. Read more…

Standard East Village Briefly Evacuated After Fridge Freakout

standardDana Varinsky

An old refrigerator caused some trouble at the Standard East Village today. About a dozen fire department vehicles surrounded the hotel this afternoon. Fire Chief Michael Kendall said a leaky refrigeration unit in the basement had caused elevated levels of Freon and sulfur dioxide. The staff and guests from the first few floors evacuated the building for over an hour.

According to Chief Kendall, somebody from the building called the fire department to report the leak, and the first trucks arrived at 2:05 p.m. Firefighters removed the refrigerator and vented the building until the leak was dissipated. Crews searched for any other sources of gas and declared it safe to go back inside a little over an hour after they arrived.

Chief Kendall estimated the leaky fridge to be about 70 years old, making it 69 years older than the swanky new hotel it served until today. “It was an old unit,” he said, “it just broke.” The Standard’s management declined to comment.

For Underage Piercings On St. Marks Place, Days Are Numbered

photo(315)Daniel Maurer Browsers at 1 St. Marks Place

Nadia, a 16-year-old student from Manhattan, walked up to the hole-in-the-wall shop at 1 St. Marks Place, asked for a navel piercing and was promptly ushered in. She sat in a shabby black chair. Her belly button was cleaned, a needle pushed through, and jewelry stuck in. It happened quickly, and cost $20.

For young teenagers, St. Marks Place has long been synonymous with cheap grub and drug paraphernalia – and piercings without parental supervision. But that tradition will end in October, when a state law passed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will make it illegal for people under the age of 18 to get a piercing without the written consent of a parent.

“Body piercing can result in severe health risks and it is our obligation as New Yorkers and parents to make sure that our teens are taking every precaution to remain healthy and safe,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press release after the law was passed last month.

Nadia, who did not want her full name used for fear of repercussions from her employer, said piercings made sense at a younger age, and she wouldn’t have gotten hers if she was over 18. “I plan on taking them out [of] my navel as I get a little bit older because I think it wouldn’t be appropriate to have later on in life,” she said. Read more…

He’s Not a Doctor, But He Plays One On 14th Street

IMG_1491Vanessa Yurkevich

Amid the hustle and bustle of 14th Street, Bobby Byrd can be heard asking, “Can I take your blood pressure?” He’s no doctor but he has been asking that same question to passersby between First Avenue and Avenue A for 16 years. “I bring two chairs, a table and my voice,” said the 62-year-old.

Mr. Byrd was raised by his aunt in Brooklyn. “She wanted me to be the best,” he said. “Instead of watching TV, she would say, ‘Get a book.’” He said he had worked for the IRS, for the city and state. But it was as an asbestos abatement supervisor that he learned to perform CPR and take blood pressure readings.

After he was laid off from that job, a friend suggested he start taking strangers’ blood pressure. Soon he was doing so in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. “It gives me freedom to go where I want to go, gets me income to do what I want to do, and I get to go around and see the city,” he said. Read more…

Video: Rats Again Run Rampant at Former Guggenheim Lab Site

About a dozen sightings in a little over two and a half minutes.

Cue “Return of the Rat” – the furry fiends are back on First Street.

Last summer when the BMW Guggenheim Lab took over an empty lot between East First and Houston Streets, near Second Avenue, even the project’s detractors begrudgingly gave it credit for cleaning up a longstanding rat infestation. Well, guess what? The rats are back.

A friend who lives a couple doors over from the lot, which is now a park hosting public programming, brought the rodent resurgence to our attention. (She didn’t want to be named lest she gain a reputation on the block as, well, a rat.) “They’ve steadily become more of a presence and now it’s threatening to be what it used to be,” she said, adding that she has started walking in the street again to avoid the stretch of sidewalk on the southern side of First Street, near Second Avenue, where the whiskered interlopers frolic.

Sure enough, minutes after The Local set up to film the rats on a recent evening, they were seen zig-zagging across the sidewalk every 20 seconds or so, scampering from underneath a set of trash containers to a pile of garbage bags across the way. Passersby shrieked at the site of the voluminous vermin. Before long, we bumped into Emily Armstrong, co-author of The Local’s Nightclubbing column and a longtime resident of the Lower East Side. “They’re back!” she exclaimed as she walked her dog on the block. Read more…

Swimming Pools in the East River? Maybe. But First, Marshes

UntitledKathryn Doyle A beach under the Brooklyn Bridge is
inundated with sewage waste and runoff
from South Street in rainy weather

Swimming pools in the East River? Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer floated the idea in a video introduction to the Blueway, a project that would revitalize a stretch of the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge to Midtown East. And it’s not as farfetched as you’d think: the historically polluted waterway is perfectly swimmable by Environmental Protection Agency standards. There’s just one problem: sewage overflows.

Dan Tainow, education director at the Lower East Side Ecology Center, explained the issue to local residents yesterday during a tour of the East River that doubled as a discussion of the Blueway project. Due to the age of New York City’s sewer system, he said, wastewater from household sinks, showers and toilets shares the same set of pipes as runoff from city streets.

Most of Lower Manhattan’s wastewater travels through this pipe system to the Newtown Creek plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where it is cleaned, filtered and released into the East River. But during the fifty to sixty rainy days per year when gushes of street water could overwhelm the pipe system and force sewage back up into homes, the sewage is diverted directly into the East River by Combined Sewage Outflows, or CSOs. Read more…

Posing a Question: Can Yoga Be Owned?

In September, Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, filed a $1 million lawsuit against his former student Greg Gumucio, founder of the wildly popular Yoga to the People chain. Mr. Choudhury copyrighted his series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises in 2002, and he’s been known to sue people who infringe on it. The Bikram guru has said the poses were designed in a series for health benefits, and to effectively teach the courses, instructors must become certified, which costs $10,000. The million-dollar question: Can yoga be owned?

A Street Workout for Spring

Human FlagThe author executes a human flag pose on a signpost. Warmer weather provides new opportunities to workout on scaffolding and other public spaces.

The East Village has so many great places to work out for free – you just have to be creative. For those of you who have a hard time fitting exercise into your day, remember that fitness and life are one in the same. You don’t need a gym to work out when the whole world is a playground.

I’ve got nothing against working out in a gym, but with spring finally blooming after a long, snowy winter, my brother Danny and I couldn’t wait to venture back out to the streets of Manhattan to do another scaffolding workout.

We all have the opportunity to better our bodies every single day. Instead of sitting around waiting for things in your life to magically fall into place, go out and make opportunities for yourself. Learn to improvise with whatever’s in front of you – it’s a helpful skill in the world of fitness, but it’s an even greater asset in everyday life.

Al Kavadlo is a personal trainer, freelance writer and author of the book, “We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness” (Muscle-up Publications, 2010). For more information visit

A Spring Scaffolding Workout

A Pollution Concern from Heating Oils

East Village Air MapCourtesy of dirtybuildings.orgA screenshot of a Web site that details the buildings in Manhattan that use No. 4 or No. 6 heating oil. Environmentalists say that the buildings produce more air pollution than all of the city’s cars and trucks combined.

Last month’s anti-smoking legislation may have irritated some Local readers, but environmentalists say that another pollutant continues to fill the air.

An interactive map of New York City’s “dirty buildings” on the Environmental Defense Fund Web site shows over 9,000 red and yellow dots spanning Manhattan, charting real locations of the city’s sludge-burning buildings.

Buildings utilizing No. 4 and 6 heating oil produce more soot pollution than any number of cigarettes could – more than all of New York City’s cars and trucks combined, according to Isabelle Silverman, attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, a national advocacy group.

Environmentalists say that the buildings’ output of particulate matter can aggravate asthma, increase risk for heart and lung disease, and have other consequences. In two weeks, the Department of Environmental Protection will review a rule to gradually phase out the permits of such structures; so how many of them are in the East Village?

According to the map, the East Village has about 20 buildings burning No. 4 oil and about 20 burning No. 6, which Ms. Silverman said is attributable to the East Village’s relatively smaller apartment complexes and commercial structures. But while other high-density buildings north and west of the village continue to cough up dirty matter, all of Manhattan – which still fails federal health standards – remains susceptible.
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Getting Older, But It’s Yoga, Not Bingo

DSC_0169Meredith HoffmanA new series of programs offered by the Educational Alliance for those 55 and older include lessons in ballroom dancing, tai chi and yoga. Here, Marcy Simon, who directs the program, leads a class.

There were lessons in zumba, ballroom dancing, karaoke, ceramics, and tap dance. Some people were learning tai chi and yoga. Others were taking part in poetry readings or Chinese dance sessions.

Many might assume that a place offering those programs was some ultramodern studio targeting this year’s crop of college students. In fact, these are just some of the new programs being offered by the Educational Alliance’s specifically for older adults. And no, they do not offer bingo.

The East Village Center for Balanced Living is located in the Sirovich Center on 12th Street between First and Second Avenues (similar programs are also available at the Whittaker Center on East Broadway). The center believes that just because people qualify for the breakfast special, this doesn’t mean that their health and wellness shouldn’t remain a vital aspect of their day. “It is about finding ways to challenge people as they get older, not feeding into it,” said Marcy Simon, the director and founder of the center.
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A Few Tips for Flu Season

Flu shotMariya Abedi An all-in-one flu shot protects against the traditional flu as well as the H1N1 virus.

Last year everyone was talking about the swine flu but modern medicine has made some changes to make your life a little easier and less painful. Now an all-in-one flu shot is widely available, so you don’t have to get injected twice.

While flu shots were offered for free to all public school students last year, including schools in the East Village, the vaccines won’t be available in schools this year.

The Department of Health still recommends every New Yorker older than six months get a shot or nasal spray but check with your doctor.

While you can get a flu shot at your doctor’s office, some pharmacies in the East Village will carry the vaccine starting this month, including the New York City Pharmacy, 206 First Avenue,
 and Avenue C Pharmacy & Surgical, 
178 Avenue C. CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid pharmacies will also carries the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens are also providing the shot to those who are uninsured and hold special vouchers. Unfortunately, the closest place to get vouchers is at the Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center on 650 Fulton Street, near the Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street subway stop. Without the voucher, the shot costs around $30.

Senior citizens are able to get free flu vaccinations at the Chelsea Health Clinic at 303 Ninth Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets. It’s the closest location to the East Village where the Bureau of Immunization is holding clinics. The walk-in clinic is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Call them at 917-438-9780 an hour before you plan to arrive.

For more information about the flu vaccine, visit and