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Happening Now: TOWN Sidewalk Fest at Astor

Stephen Rex Brown

If photos of the anti-Republican fervor that overcame much of the city in 2004 didn’t make you feel patriotic, perhaps this footage of the TOWN Sidewalk Festival at 26 Astor Place will. Yoga demonstrations, the Standard East Village’s ice cream, and a food truck displaying art were all on hand — set to the soundtrack of Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.” The event continues for another half hour.

Action Near Astor: As Building Goes Up, Another Business Bites the Dust

IMG_0080Melvin Felix New signage at the site of 51 Astor Place.

A little over two weeks ago The Local gave an overhaul update on the many changes underway at Astor Place and Cooper Square. It’s already time to check in again.

Norman's Sound & Vision closedMelvin Felix Another record store has shuttered.

A spokesman for Edward J. Minskoff Equities, the developer of 51 Astor Place, said that an announcement regarding tenants in the 12-story office building will be made within the next 45 days. The spokesman also confirmed that “a significant portion” of companies considering moving into the building are in the technology industry, as has been previously reported. The black glass tower is expected to open in spring of next year, as new signage at the construction site indicates. Read more…

Astor Vendor Back at Work


Mohammed Rahman, the Bangladeshi man clocked in the face and threatened by a pair of troublemakers, was back at work today at Astor Place serving lamb gyros, chicken over rice and the like. So, did the police get that guy who threw the punch? “It’s foolishness,” Mr. Rahman said. “I told the police, ‘He’s right there!’ One block away. They’re slow. They said call 911 if he comes back.” Since the incident on Thursday, which was followed by a threat to burn his food cart to the ground, Mr. Rahman has seen his attacker around. Fortunately, it seemed the man had cooled off.

Vendor Punched, Menaced: ‘I’ll Burn Your Stand Down’

IMG_1165Stephen Rex Brown Mohammed Rahman, moments after being punched.

It was a hellacious start to the day for Mohammed Rahman, a Bangladeshi man who serves gyros, lamb over rice and the like from his cart at Astor Place.

At around 12:15 p.m. a shoeless woman flipped out at him, yelling that Mr. Rahman was “making me wait so long for my damn food.” She then tossed a handful of the cart’s water bottles behind her, nearly striking a man in a suit walking by the Chase Bank. “Whoa! Take it easy!” he said.

The woman, who looked to be in her early 20s, walked off toward St. Marks Place. But the trouble was only beginning.

Three other men, who were apparently with the woman, were still lingering around the food cart, berating Mr. Rahman. The vendor, who has been in the U.S. for two and a half years, stepped out of his cart to call the police. While he spoke on the phone, one of the men, wearing all black and carrying a backpack, clocked Mr. Rahman in the jaw. Read more…

Overhaul Update: The Latest on the Transformation of Astor and Cooper Square

IMG_0003Sarah Darville Water main construction at Cooper Square.

The steel beams of 51 Astor Place now loom over the entrance to the 6 train. High school students will soon be attending class at Cooper Square. And city contractors are still tearing up asphalt to repair a vital water main.

Here’s a roundup of the latest news on four projects that will transform the gateway to the neighborhood.

New 51 Astor Place BuildingCourtesy of Sciame Construction Corp A rendering of 51 Astor.

51 Astor Place

In May, Commercial Observer reported that Hult International Business School was negotiating to take the second floor at the black-glass tower being built at the corner of St. Marks Place and Fourth Avenue. But William Lyman, Vice President of Global Development at the school says it is no longer pursuing the space. That deal would have satisfied a requirement that the building host at least one educational institution. Who will occupy the rest of the space remains a mystery. Microsoft and IBM have previously been rumored to be interested in moving in. Read more…

Bike Rack Extraction at Astor Only Temporary


Concerned cyclists can breathe easy: the two bike racks being removed from the west side of the cube at Astor Place tomorrow will be reinstalled after August 18, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation. The racks are not going to be replaced by a bike share station, as some commenters had speculated on EV Grieve. Rather, they’re being taken out to make way for Summer Streets, the annual event that closes roads to cars on the first three weekends in August and includes a stage at Astor Place. (So no need to go claiming one of the remaining racks as private). If you’re looking for the zip line that the city set up in Union Square last month as a teaser for Summer Streets, though, you’ll have to head south to Foley Square near City Hall.

Video: On First Day of Summer, Joe’s Pub Takes It to the Street

The sixth annual Make Music festival celebrated the first day of summer with free concerts around the city yesterday. Here in the East Village, Joe’s Pub took its programming out to Astor Place. Watch our video to see the harmonicas, banjos, and gospel choirs in action, and hear more about the festival from the director of Joe’s Pub, Shanta Thake.

Astor Newsstand Operator Suffers Supreme Setback, Stars in Documentary

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court has affirmed the city’s decision to evict the longtime operator of a newsstand at Astor Place — though a strongly-worded dissenting opinion has given the Greek immigrant a glimmer of hope.

The latest blow to Jerry Delakas’s livelihood comes as the result of an arrangement made in 1987 with his friend, Katherine Ashley. Ms. Ashley was the owner of the license for the newsstand, and Mr. Delakas paid her $75 a week to work there. When Ms. Ashley died in 2006, she wrote in her will that Mr. Delakas should inherit the license. It subsequently passed to other family members while Mr. Delakas continued to operate the stand. Last year, the Department of Consumer Affairs refused to let Ms. Ashley’s estate and then Mr. Delakas renew the license on the grounds that the deal was illegal.

The appellate division of the State Supreme Court concurred with that argument in a ruling filed late last month. Mr. Delakas “had to be aware of the illicit, under the table arrangement he facilitated by his payments to three separate owners beginning as far back as 1987,” reads the ruling, which is below. Read more…

Longhorned Beetle Hunters Scour Astor

IMG_1056Stephen Rex Brown The arborists prepare to climb trees at Astor Place.

Tree-climbers are searching for the dreaded Asian longhorned beetle at Astor Place today. An arborist at the scene said that no beetles had recently been spotted, but that the area was contaminated about four years ago, so investigators are being “extra careful.”

The climbers typically look for circular, pencil-diameter holes in the trees, the signature of the Chinese beetle that first appeared in the city — and in the U.S. — in 1996. When a beetle is found, it spells the destruction of the infested tree and usually many of the other trees nearby in an attempt to quarantine the insect.

The tree-climbers are a fairly common sight in the neighborhood. Late last year they were spotted on Avenue A.

The Day | Gun Bust at Union Square and 13 Other Morning Reads

Found kittenSuzanne Rozdeba
Lost dogSuzanne Rozdeba

Good morning, East Village.

Take note, pet owners: the flyer above and another at right went up around the neighborhood recently.

The Post reports that Kenneth Moreno, the former police officer who was acquitted of raping a woman on duty but fired after being found guilty of official misconduct, is thinking about suing the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for allegedly planting incriminating evidence.

You’ll recall baggies of heroin were found in Mr. Moreno’s locker, and woes at the stationhouse continue: The Post hears from a source that the last of four 9mm pistols stolen from the locker room was swiped after officers were assigned to patrol the room.

Speaking of guns, The Daily News reports that two teens were arrested at the Union Square station when police officers who stopped them for evading the fare found a pair of guns and two bulletproof vests on them. Read more…

Suggestions for Bike-Share Locations Just Keep Rolling In

CB3 community planning bike shareKathryn Doyle

At a planning workshop on Monday night, the Department of Transportation asked residents of the East Village and Lower East Side to help it pare down a glut of suggestions about where it should place bicycles when it debuts its bike-share program this summer – but by the end of the session, its map had only grown denser with recommendations.

At the workshop, sponsored in part by the program’s operator, Alta Bicycle Share – which has launched similar programs in Boston, Montreal, and Washington, D.C. – the department unveiled a map in which its own preferences for kiosk locations were marked in blue and the suggestions of local business owners were marked in purple. The department had divided the map into 1,000-square-foot quadrants. By May, it hopes to decide where each kiosk will be placed – about one per every quadrant, or roughly one every four blocks.

With a multitude of suggested locations and just 600 stations planned in an area that includes Manhattan south of 79th Street and parts of Brooklyn plus satellite locations in the Bronx and Staten Island, the department asked residents to help it identify the worthiest locations and eliminate others. But the workshop’s couple dozen participants didn’t do much to narrow things down. Read more…

Pedestrian Struck at Astor Place

Stephen Rex Brown Astor Place, minutes after a pedestrian had been taken away in an ambulance.

A pedestrian was hit by a car at Astor Place at around 2:30 p.m. today.

A fire department spokesman said the accident, which happened at Fourth Avenue and East Eighth Street, left the victim with “serious injuries.” No further information was available, though an NYPD spokesman said no criminality was involved in the collision. Last month, a pedestrian was hit by a cyclist at the same intersection.

Did you see the accident? Let us know in the comments.

The Day | If You Want to Destroy The Cube’s Sweater…

Olek does the AlamoScott Lynch

Good morning, East Village.

Sure enough, the Astor cube got stripped of its sweater yesterday. Luckily its installation was videotaped for posterity so we can remember the Alamo in crocheted form – Bowery Boogie has the footage.

On Untapped New York, “Downtown Doodler” Bernadette Moke goes on an Urban Design Week tour of the Bowery and offers up a history of the buildings complete with sketches.

Elsewhere on the Bowery, EV Grieve finds an online listing of crooner John Legend’s apartment at East Fourth Street. Amenities include a “landscaped building entrance, parking garage, roof deck and an exterior spa-swimming pool.” Read more…

Pedestrian Struck By Cyclist at Astor Place

photo 5Lauren Carol Smith The aftermath of a collision between a cyclist and pedestrian at Astor Place.

A cyclist ran into a pedestrian at Lafayette and Eighth Streets yesterday at around 6:30 p.m., a fire department spokesman said.

The 30-year-old woman, who was conscious and not bleeding, was treated at Bellevue Hospital, the spokesman added. The cyclist was not hauled to the hospital.

A bystander on the scene told the Local that the woman had stepped into the path of the cyclist, though that could not be confirmed.

Moving His 9/11 Art West, Mosaic Man is Now ‘Spread Over Both Villages’

IMG_2821Stephen Rex Brown Jim Power’s planter honoring the 9/11 first responders at its new home on Seventh Avenue.

A 9/11 memorial in the West Village got a surprise addition to its collection on Saturday. In a frenzied mix of patriotism and general disgust with the state of Astor Place, “Mosaic Man” Jim Power decided to move his planter dedicated to first responders from its original spot.

Mr. Power said the decision came to him after learning that the Walk of Remembrance honoring Rev. Mychal Judge, a firefighter who died while giving last rites to a comrade at the World Trade Center, would pass by the Tiles For America memorial at Seventh Avenue and 11th Street.
Read more…

Astor’s New Hero?

Now that Ryan Gosling has left town, Astor Place needs a new viral-video vigilante, and rapper Kid Lucky might just be him. Check out Daily News footage of the street performer meting justice out to a man who tried to swipe his donation box.

The Day | The Man Behind ‘The Rats of Tompkins Square Park’

Funky KarateSusan Keyloun

WPIX interviews Aaron Goldblum, the Fordham Law student behind the “Rats of Tompkins Square Park” trailer, and gets still more footage of rodents chasing squirrels and pigeons. A resident says dogs are getting rat-borne illnesses at the park. Meanwhile EV Grieve notices some new “Feed a pigeon, Breed a rat” signs.

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York musters an overview of “the battle for Astor Place— and how Cooper Union helped hatch the plan to turn Astor Place into a suburban office campus.”

EV Grieve points to a trove of photos of the neighborhood from the seventies and eighties taken by East Village resident Michael Sean Edwards.

What goes with a pair of John Varvatos Bowery Jeans? A Marc Jacobs Bowery Satchel, of course! Chicology loves it, and it’s only $1,195.

The Day | Tompkins Square Rats, Coming to a Theater Near You

Good morning, East Village.

A reader points out a movie trailer that puts a cinematic spin on the Tompkins Square Park rat infestation. Or is it an invasion? Watch the video above. Meanwhile, rats aren’t the only nuisances in the park. Neither More Nor Less has photos of a Friday afternoon arrest.

According to The Post, an appeals court has given Jerry Delakas, operator of the endangered Astor Place newsstand, until at least November.

The Times profiles Paul Marino, a manager at Hearth and half of the duo Popeye & Cloudy. They perform Shakespeare scenes and Abbot and Costello bits on the subway.

New York Magazine sits down with actor, director, and former St. Marks resident Vera Farmiga at her beloved Ukranian East Village Restaurant. “Farmiga mentions, without disapproval, that it smells like an old gymnasium.” Read more…

Street Art: “Walk Man” is Toppled, But Flaming Cacti Stand Tall

untitled.jpg One Animus Arts Collective artist constructs a Flaming Cactus Saturday night

The “WALK MAN” that was erected in Tompkins Square Park over the weekend has already been vandalized (DNA Info has the story), but another art installation is still standing. Over the weekend, a group of roughly ten artists calling themselves the Animus Arts Collective transformed fourteen East Village lampposts into “Flaming Cactus” displays.

You may have seen some of the lampposts at Astor Place; four similar lampposts, festooned with fluorescent cables to resemble cacti, are located on Governor’s Island.

Officials with the New York City Department of Transportation commissioned the project in order to mark the route of the D.O.T.’s fourth annual Summer Streets program. Read more…

Board Opposes Plaza for 51 Astor

Astor PlaceMeghan Keneally Thomas Balsley at Monday’s meeting.

Members of Community Board 3 voted unanimously Monday night to oppose plans for an outdoor plaza at the new 51 Astor Place because of questions about whether the design provides enough space for the public and fits aesthetically with the surrounding neighborhood.

The board’s Planning and Land Use committee said that it will not endorse the plaza project unless changes are made that take into account the historic nature of the area around 51 Astor and other design issues, including the placement of benches.

Work is set to begin in the next few days, and the construction of the mixed-use commercial tower is set to last for 17 months.

After listening to a presentation by Thomas Balsley, the designer in charge of planning the outdoor space that will accompany the new building on Astor Place, members of the public were given a chance to address the board.

Speakers, many of whom were opposed to the design, raised a range of issues about the project from its look and aesthetics to what some said was its failure to account for the historic nature of the district.

“It’s like it’s from some other city,” said Marilyn Appleberg, who was a part of the group that discussed the initial plans for the building when they were approved in 2002. “I was really disappointed.”

A final discussion on the plaza project will occur at the full community board meeting on July 26.