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With Rent Hikes Looming, Cooper Square Tenants Worry They’ll Be Kicked While Down

cooper squareSarah Darville Postal and other businesses on East Fourth.

Store owners already struggling to get by are worried about a significant rent increase planned by their landlord, the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association.

The Local spoke to about a half dozen shopkeepers on Third and Fourth Streets, between Bowery and Second Avenue, who said they were grappling with a sluggish economy as well as challenges unique to their blocks. Some worried they would follow in the footsteps of La Sirena, which earlier this week announced that it would be closing, should they too face rent hikes of what is expected to be around 30 percent.

At Postal, a packing and shipping store on Fourth Street, owner Gary Patick said he alternates between busy days and days when “nothing happens,” and doubted he’d have any room to negotiate when his lease expires in two years. He described his profits, which in 2010 and 2011 were their lowest in a decade, as “a real roller coaster” and said that one-third of them go toward rent payments.  Read more…

Low-Income Housing Association Plans Major Rent Hikes, La Sirena May Close

IMG_2995Stephen Rex Brown Dina Leor’s Mexican memorabilia store, La Sirena, may have to move due to a 30-percent rent increase.

A low-income housing association in the East Village is planning substantial rent hikes for its commercial tenants — a move that has already forced the Mexican trinket shop La Sirena to notify its customers that it will close.

Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association’s executive director Val Orselli explained that the rent increases will pay for $400,000-worth of renovations to some of its 25 buildings over the next couple of years. The Association’s tenants include familiar names like the 4th Street Food Co-op, East Village Music Store, Rivington Guitars, Bond Street Chocolate, and FAB Café. As many as 24 will face rent hikes once their leases expire.

“We tried as much as possible to use our reserve funds, instead of increasing the rents of the tenants through big increases that tenants cannot afford,” said Mr. Orselli. “So either the cost has to be borne by residential tenants, who are very low-income, or the commercial tenants.”

“We don’t have a choice,” he added.

The owner of La Sirena, Dina Leor, faces a rent increase of around 30 percent, according to Tower Brokerage president Bob Perl, who will be negotiating the new lease. “Their mission is to have affordable housing,” he said of the Association. “The board has decided to make good use of the retail values in the area.” Read more…

Making It | Shirley and Rebecca Solomon of Pageant Print Shop

For every East Village business that’s opening or closing, dozens are quietly making it. Here’s one of them: Pageant Print Shop.

pageantLauren Carol SmithRebecca Solomon

It’s been nearly two decades since Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey perused the Pageant Book Shop for a copy of E. E. Cummings in “Hannah and her Sisters,” but the store’s history goes back farther than that. In 1946, Sidney B. Solomon and Henry “Chip” Chafetz joined the ranks of Book Row, a stretch of mom-and-pop bookshops along Fourth Avenue from St. Marks Place to 14th Street. One of Mr. Solomon’s two daughters, Shirley, took over after her father died and then moved the store to West Houston Street after a rent hike in the 1990s.

Pageant became an online-only enterprise in 1999, only to reopen at 69 East Fourth Street after Shirley’s sister Rebecca moved back to the city. Nearly seven years later, the siblings are still selling hard-to-find items, though now maps and prints rather than rare books. “Some are old, some are very old, some are very, very old,” said Shirley during a recent conversation with The Local.


How does a shop that sells old maps stay in business?


Shirley: I focus on the unique and affordable. I have things from $1 to $100, to $1,000. There’s an original David Roberts lithograph that is $3,000 framed. We get lots of foot traffic and sell a lot of things in the $1 to $4 range, which adds up. Read more…

Aromatherapy Shop Moving To Fourth Street; Porsena May Move In

IMG_0708Stephen Rex Brown Owner Lalita Kumut, along with her friend Daphne Blake (left) and her cousin, Maka Inthraphuvasak, pack up the Aromatherapy store on East Seventh Street.

After 20 years, a fragrance shop on East Seventh Street is moving three blocks south, and the owner of Porsena is considering expanding into the vacated space.

Lalita Kumut, the owner of Aromatherapy Bath and Body Oils, said that her lease had expired in December, but that she’d been holding out for a new location. “My customers told me to wait until another lease came up — I’m a good tenant,” Ms. Kumut said. “Finally, I found something nice.” Read more…

Sara’s Jewelry On East Fourth Street Closes Amidst Eviction

IMG_0395Stephen Rex Brown The shuttered store at 64 East Fourth Street.

Sara’s Vintage and Handmade Jewelry on East Fourth Street closed over the weekend, and the landlord says it is being evicted.

The store, which opened in 2008, sold vintage and antique jewelry as well as handmade jewelry by local designers, according to Yelp.

The store’s landlord said that it was far from an ideal tenant.

“They didn’t pay the rent for roughly the last six months,” said Valerio Orselli, the executive director of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association. “They are being evicted.”
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Plan Would Add Low Income Housing

9-17 Second AvenueStephanie Butnick The buildings at 9, and 11-17 Second Avenue, which will be renovated as part a new development featuring low-income apartments that would be available for as little as $1.

Developers are expected to seek Community Board approval Wednesday for a plan to renovate a row of properties along Second Avenue, and sell some of the apartments to low-income families for as little as $1.

The mostly low-income families who currently live in the two buildings at 9 and 11-17 Second Avenue are guaranteed units in the proposed development, which would combine the two structures into one larger building.

The project, run by development firm BFC Partners, is operating under the Department of City Planning’s 2009 amendment to the inclusionary housing program, which creates permanently affordable housing, now with the option to buy. According to Juan Barahona of the development firm, tenants will be able to buy the new apartments for between $1 and $10.

The project will also take advantage of new zoning laws that allow developers to build more square footage on a lot, provided they allocate 20 percent of the building’s total area to affordable housing.

In this case, the 12-story, 4,000 sq. ft. building will house approximately 12 low-income units (available to those making 80 percent or less of the area’s median income ̶ approximately $63,000), dispersed throughout the complex, and about 48 market rate units. The development’s market-rate units, which make up the majority of the building, will offset costs.
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