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Fischer Will Transform Townhouse

According to a real estate listing picked up by Curbed, Karl Fischer, the architect that just last week unveiled his plans for a building on East 12th Street, is now designing a 33-unit building to replace an East Third Street townhouse dating back to 1900.

The Art of the Bookstore

Browsers at Mast BooksBrendan BernhardBrowsers at Mast Books.

On May 8, Mast Books, which takes up about 450 square feet at 66 Avenue A, sailed into its second year as a viable new business in the East Village. Why “Mast”? Is Bryan Leitgeb, who owns the store together with his wife, James McKee, a secret fan of Patrick O’Brian, C.S. Forester, and other icons of nautical literature? Smiling at this idea, Mr. Leitgeb shakes his head but says he prefers not to reveal why his store should have such a singular name.

Mr. Leitgeb, 37, who came to New York from Flint, Mich., is already a veteran of the city’s used-books business. (He spent seven years at Mercer Books alone.) He is also confident that he has hit upon the right business formula in the right place at the right time. Unlike East Village Books, long a fixture at 99 St. Marks Place, Mast has the air of a used book store acutely aware it is in the midst of an intellectual revolution that has raised the image far above the word.

This knowledge is Mast’s secret. With its polished wood floors, white walls, track lighting, and eye-catching display tables, it doesn’t look “used” or “second-hand” in the slightest. On the contrary, it is designed to evoke a small art gallery and to attract similarly chic crowds, although its strong neighborhood ethos prevents it from feeling in any way exclusionary. Mr. Leitgeb, whose blue eyes are alternately melancholy and highly focused, does his part to make non-hipsters feel at home by going unshaven, wearing non-designer glasses, and a brown cap unlikely to be featured in the next edition of Vogue. More importantly, he’s also unsnobbish, helpful, and friendly.
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Multiple Directions for a New City

Festival of Ideas (21 of 56)
Phoenix Eisenberg

The range of life forms seen around the East Village and Lower East Side this past weekend was pretty astonishing, when you think about it: all the way from top-rank architects, artists, and scholars to bees and worms.

The Festival of Ideas for the New City hosted over 100 events, from small gallery projects to expensive international design competitions, and put a spotlight on this neighborhood’s enduring artiness, earthiness, and connectedness. Organized by the New Museum of Contemporary Art and ten other partners (listed at the festival website), the Festival was part multimedia art show, part kid-friendly community fair, part academic conference, part urban design charrette, and part intellectual pub crawl.

It’s easy to tire of the kind of NYC booster who constantly tells out-of-towners “you name it, we’ve got it here,” but during the Festival, particularly the Streetfest component last Saturday, the well-worn phrase really did apply. Humongous translucent bubble full of urban-design visionaries, some adrenalined-up enough to leap onto chairs and quote poetry? Check. Pop-up buildings resembling worms? Check. Person dressed as enormous yellow worm, hugging passersby at the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s table while her colleague Kaity Tsui, winner of the first-ever “Greenest New Yorker” award from the state’s “I Love NY” campaign in 2010, hands out “Hug a Worm” buttons and promotes home composting? Check. Eighteen-foot “Girlzilla” robot built by kids at the Lower East Side Girls’ Club? Check. Read more…

Imagining the Future of a Vacant Lot

Community GardensDesign by Andrew and Nicholas Hunt The Local asked neighborhood designers for their vision of how a vacant lot of East 13th Street (below) might be transformed. Above is the design by architects Andrew and Nicholas Hunt, whose plan includes a farmers market, community garden space, a restaurant and residential units.
lot 3Rachel Trobman

Over the past 40 years, the lot on 13th Street east of Third Avenue has been many things: a home for stray animals, a showcase for street artists, a resting place for the homeless, a dumping ground for clothes.

But one thing it has never been is developed.

And, according to land owner Builtgross Associates, a subsidiary of Milstein Properties, that’s not going to change in the near future as no solid plans are in the works.

“We’re examining several alternatives but haven’t formalized anything yet,” said Anthony Bergamo, vice chairman of executive planning for Milstein Properties. “We’re looking for something that would be good for the community and area businesses.”

For many years, the massive, 23,000-square-foot site, which stretches to 14th Street and is formally known to the city as Lot 15 on Block 469, did serve the community. It was once B.F. Keith’s vaudeville theater and then, later, a single-screen movie called the RKO Jefferson. While it closed in the 1970s, the building’s shell was not demolished until late 1999. It has remained vacant ever since.
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