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51 Astor Update

New 51 Astor Place Building

Echoing what The Local reported back in June, Edward Minskoff, the developer of the office building set to go up at 51 Astor Place, tells Real Estate Weekly that the Cooper Union Engineering Building will be demolished by the end of the year so that his futuristic Fumihiko Maki-designed office tower can be built by the end of 2013.

St. Mark’s Bookshop Pushes Cooper Union For Lower Rent

IMG_0008Khristopher J. Brooks St. Mark’s Bookshop at 31 Third Avenue.

The co-owners of one of the neighborhood’s most popular bookstores pleaded to members of Community Board 3 last night for help as they struggle to stay in business.

The causes of the St. Mark’s Bookshop’s financial woes (a book industry in free-fall amid the rise of e-readers and online retailers) have been well documented. Things became so dire that the owners even posted an ominous note in the store entrance, saying “Find it here, buy it here, keep us here.”

Now, the store’s owners are pressing their landlord, Cooper Union, to reduce the $20,000-per-month rent for the space in the base of the dormitory building at Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street. Read more…

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 | Stuy Town Is in the East Village? Really?

Late Night EatsRachel Citron

Good morning, East Village.

The weekend is almost here, so why not start partying a little early? Cure Thrift Shop is celebrating its 3rd birthday today with a party at 111 East 12 Street. Proceeds from the $5 admission fee go toward diabetes research and get you access to snacks, drinks, and a raffle, as well as live music from Roosevelt Dime.

In entertainment news, DNAinfo reports that the production staff of the USA Network show “White Collar” disguised Cooper Union’s Foundation Hall as a hotel for a recent scene shoot.

Speaking of cable television, the Post gets inside the East Village walk-up that Constance Zimmer of “Entourage” shares with her husband, commercial director Russ Lamoureux. Fun fact: She went to school with Benicio del Toro. Read more…

Felipe Baeza: An Artist and Activist Living Without Papers

In the bars and restaurants of the East Village, immigrant workers, many undocumented, toil behind the scenes cooking food, waiting tables, and doing whatever else they can to keep the nightlife abuzz. Felipe Baeza is one of them. He serves food and drinks in a hopping East Village restaurant. For Mr. Baeza, 24, the job was to be a mere stepping stone into an exciting art career, which was to begin three years ago when he graduated with a degree in art from The Cooper Union.

But Mr. Baeza, who as a young boy left Mexico for the United States, doesn’t have a work visa or Social Security number, so he cannot legally work in the U.S. Under current federal law, the jobs he studied to perform are not available to him because of his status.

As Mr. Baeza looks from beyond a bar lined with moist beer bottles and cocktail glasses, he sees his classmates finding success in the art world, at home and abroad. In a word, he is frustrated.

“My options are very limited,” he said. “I couldn’t work in a print shop. I couldn’t even assist an artist.”
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St. Mark’s Bookshop Fights for Life

IMG_0008Khristopher J. BrooksSt. Mark’s Bookshop, 31 Third Avenue.

News that an old friend is seriously ill is sure to darken the day. Concern and sympathy are mingled with hopes for recovery as well as thoughts of one’s own precarious grasp on life. Those of us who love books to the point of distraction grapple with a similar set of emotions when a fondly visited bookstore shows signs of slipping away.

It can’t happen; it shouldn’t be allowed; and what about me? Where else can I go?

Robert Contant who, with partner Terence McCoy, is co-owner of St. Mark’s Bookshop on the corner of Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street, blames his customers somewhat for the store’s current frailty. He has seen them browse through the store, then scan the barcode of a likely purchase with their smartphone only to discover they can order it more cheaply from, or from other online vendors which don’t bear the real estate and staff costs of running a brick and mortar store in a well-trafficked city neighborhood.

Mr. Contant hastens to explain that he speaks in sorrow, not in anger. “It’s hard to tell people not to save money,” he says, especially these days. “We’re not blaming them. We’re not trying to be punitive.” Nevertheless, anyone who has seen a book on the shelves of St. Mark’s, then purchased it online, should feel a pang of guilt reading the notice recently posted in the store window: “Find it here, buy it here, keep us here.”
Read more…

The Day | On the Open Road

Phillip Kalantzis Cope

Good morning, East Village.

Local skaters can rejoice because Open Road Park officially reopens today. The park closed recently amid reports of drug dealing. The closing forced East Village skaters to go elsewhere to ride, hang out and practice kick-flips. East Side Community High School Principal Mark Federman, who held a public meeting earlier this week about the park’s closing, said he hopes to increase the park’s hours of operation next month.

In other neighborhood news, NY1 reports that the demolition of 51 Astor Place will begin in a few days. Later this year, construction is scheduled to begin on a 13-story, mixed-use office tower; that work is expected to take about 17 months.

The folks at EV Grieve have photos this morning showing that the Yippie Museum Cafe is closed temporarily for renovations. Along with the Chickpea location on 14th Street, many East Village business owners are closing for a few weeks in order to spruce up the interior of their shop. EV Grieve also has photos of boxing promoter Don King smoking a cigar in Tompkins Square Park during the premiere of the free, summer-long film series there. The Local’s Joshua Davis will have a full report on the series later today.

Rent Board Approves Increases

IMG_0483Khristopher J. Brooks Demonstrators calling for a freeze on rent increases this year gathered outside Cooper Union before tonight’s vote.

Rent prices across the city will increase 3.75 percent for tenants signing a one-year lease and 7.25 percent for tenants signing a two-year lease.

Members of the Rent Guidelines Board passed the increases by a vote of 5-4 Monday night during a meeting in Cooper Union’s Great Hall. The vote came at the conclusion of a raucous meeting during which dozens of demonstrators — many of whom chanted and held placards — called for a freeze on increases this year.

The increases, which apply only to rent stabilized apartments and lofts, take effect Oct. 1 and last until Sept. 30, 2012.

Based on the $1,700 a month average for studio apartments in the East Village, the increases approved by the board tonight translate into an average of $63.75 for one-year leases and $123.25 for two year leases. For tenants living in a one-bedroom, where the East Village averages $2,500 a month in rent, the average increases are $93.75 for one-year leases and $181.25 for two-year leases. Housing activists said after the vote that the negotiations preceding tonight’s meeting were slanted in favor of landlords.

An hour before the vote, scores of people gathered outside the Great Hall. Many of those in attendance had taken part in a rally organized by Tenants and Neighbors earlier in the afternoon.
Read more…

Marchers Rally Against Rent Increases

Dozens of chanting New Yorkers marched through the East Village Monday afternoon trying to gather more voices to oppose anticipated rent increases in New York City.

The march — which started at the corner of 14th Street and First Avenue, snaked through the neighborhood and ended at Cooper Union’s Great Hall — took place as the Rent Guidelines Board was receiving an earful of public testimonies. Board members will decide next Monday if, or how much, rent prices will be increased starting Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2012. The decision will affect tenants in rent stabilized apartments and lofts.

As the marchers turned corners and crossed streets, participants waved makeshift signs, pumped their fists and yelled, “The tenants, united, will never be defeated!”

After the march, city council members Daniel R. Garodnick and Rosie Mendez chanted with the crowd and urged the marchers to go inside Cooper Union and testify about why the guidelines board should not increase rent prices.

Local Legends | Abe at Cooper Union

Lincoln-Cooper_UnionAbraham Lincoln, in a portrait by Matthew Brady taken only hours before his famous Cooper Union address, given 151 years ago last week. Insert: a contemporary view of Cooper Union, from an engraving in Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 1883.
Great_Hall_todayTim MilkThe Great Hall today.

It’s a common trope around these parts, and a friend of mine says it all the time. “Huh? What? I mean, come on, I don’t know about that.” It’s almost palpable as you cross from Broadway west to east, this game of contention.

Socially, politically, it’s been a longstanding history, going back to the 1850’s, when the urbanity of lower Manhattan began to seep like an aroma into the enclave we now call “The East Village.” But more than that, it was almost as if a lens had been held up to catch the lunar rays, and send them down here, right here, a place like nowhere else, where skeptics and firebrands, bohemians and bon vivants converge to strike their poses. One might wonder where all this contention had its start, yet I believe it was never more apparent than when Abraham Lincoln came here to speak.

On Feb. 22, 1860, on the eve of the great Civil War and before his nomination as Presidential candidate seemed possible, Lincoln boarded a train that drew him some 1,800 miles eastward, all six feet five inches of him, folded like a jackknife into a second-class seat. He had a speaking engagement scheduled in New York, and that alone was worth the trip. Originally, he was set to speak in Brooklyn, but a change of venue brought the affair to Cooper Union, a recently established learning center designed to draw thinkers and dreamers to an area that had become, well, just a bit slummy.

Our “Prairie Orator” arrived in New York on Feb. 26, dressed in a brand new suit. It was, however, criss-crossed with razor-sharp creases, having come all the way from Illinois in a very small handbag. He looked grotesque, one man said, as he shambled along, exhausted and rumpled, in the cruelest new shoes known to mankind. Once he had booked a room downtown for the night, he sat up late, refining his speech.
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