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Watch the Demolition of a Historic Movie Theater Turned Church

Here’s video of workers demolishing the building on the corner of Avenue B and East 12th Street that held the Elim Pentecostal Church and before that, a theater that was a locus of 1960s counterculture.

A 40-unit, seven-story condo will be built at 193 Avenue B, with the church returning to the ground floor and basement. Earlier today, the walls of the Bijou (later the Charles) Theater were being demolished brick by brick.

The Bijou was opened in 1926 by Charles Steiner, a “pioneer motion picture exhibitor” who opened his first theater in 1906 (when “motion pictures were scarce,” per the Times obit) and died in 1946. According to the book “Selling The Lower East Side,” the Charles (as it was renamed) showed underground and experimental movies in the 1950s (think Edward G. Ulmer) and then became a “favored site for the nascent hippie community” in the early ’60s. Read more…

One Injured After Ceiling Collapses at Mars Bar Building

Stephen Rex Brown Shots from the scene of the accident and photos of the demolition taken from an adjacent rooftop.

One construction worker suffered a leg injury after an accident on the third floor of the Mars Bar building at around 1:45 p.m.

A battalion chief with the Fire Department, Bob Sputch, said that the worker was removing a piece of ceiling when a beam collapsed, possibly breaking the worker’s leg. Several witnesses at the corner of Second Avenue and First Street said that the injury did not appear to be serious.

“If you’d heard the bang, you would have thought it was something serious. But I think he’s alright,” said Malik Johnson, a construction worker at the site. Read more…

A Glimpse of Mars Bar Before the Fall

marsconstructionDaniel Maurer

Demolition work continues at 25 East First Street. Today, protective netting shrouded the scaffolding that The Local spotted yesterday, and a gap in the construction barrier offered a glimpse of the bygone dive known and loved as Mars Bar. On Second Avenue, a dumpster was being filled with debris, and the storefront next to Mars Bar was a gaping hole. Asked when demolition of the bar itself would occur, a construction worker said in about a week.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 23, 2011

An earlier version of this article misidentified the avenue where the construction dumpster was located.

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.

Area Bartenders Reflect on a Rival

Mars BarRoey Ahram

Area bartenders discuss the closing of Mars Bar and the question of commercialization versus preservation.

Mark Trzupek, manager of Life Café, 343 East 10th Street

“I don’t have any respect for landlords who come in and try to make money off people who have been here for 30 years and who took a risk in coming down here in the first place. Evolution always comes but at what cost? It’s changing the look of the neighborhood.”

Pepe Zwaryczuk, bartender at McSorley’s Old Ale House, 15 East Seventh Street

“Isn’t it a natural progression of life? It’s like how when Henry Hudson went up the river, the Indians looked over and said ‘There goes the neighborhood!’”

Randy Weinberg, manager of The Boiler Room, 86 East Fourth Street

“I’m absolutely 100 percent for it” — closing. “It’s all criminal to me, that they make their money off all the people that other bars throw out. It’s a real seedy crowd with a lot of drunks, a lot of druggies, and a lot of pickpockets. It’s not that they’re our competition because they take everyone we throw out because they’re bad. It’s a bad scene. It’s a part of the old East Village but really it’s time for it to go.”
Read more…

As 51 Astor Falls, A Cafe Will Close

New York Film Academy Cafe at 51 Astor PlaceStephen Rex Brown The New York Film Academy Cafe is expected to close as developers begin demolition work on 51 Astor Place (below) in July.
51 Astor PlaceMeghan Keneally

Last night we told you that the demolition of 51 Astor Place would begin next month. Today, we confirmed what some have speculated: the destruction of the site will require the closure of one of the neighborhood’s only cafes with a large outdoor space.

The New York Film Academy Café at the corner of Astor Place and Third Avenue will be used as a staging ground for workers tearing down the six-story building next door, meaning the business will serve its last cup of coffee on June 30.

“A lot of our customers are really bummed,” said Jennifer Lee, 33, a cook at the café. “It’s a good spot. It’s rare to have a patio where people can lounge outdoors.”

Lee added that the majority of the six or seven employees still on the payroll were planning to go on unemployment.

But she bore her bosses no ill will. In fact, employees were told when the café replaced the Starbucks at that location last year that the job would be short-lived.

“They knew this was going to happen. They told us before the place was open,” Ms. Lee said.

A regular at the café, Lou Stoltz, said that he would miss the space.

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

“It’s a great place to have my coffee, read my paper, do my Sudoku and just keep cool — like I’m doing now,” said Mr. Stolz, who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years. “There’s an outdoor and an indoor space, even a smoking area. No one rushes you out. I hope they find a comparable location nearby.”

Mr. Stolz, who lives nearby at 10th and Stuyvesant Streets, added that he would even miss the building at 51 Astor Place.

“I’ll miss it, it’s been here since the 1950’s,” he said.

“I wish they’d build something here more along those lines,” Mr. Stolz added, gesturing toward the Cooper Union building. “Something more in keeping with the neighborhood.”

July Demolition Set for 51 Astor

New 51 Astor Place BuildingCourtesy Sciame Construction Corp.An artists conception of how 51 Astor Place will look once development is completed. Demolition of the current site, below, will begin in July.
51 Astor PlaceMeghan Keneally

Construction officials announced tonight that they will begin demolishing the former Cooper Union Engineering Building July 1.

Representatives from Sciame Construction Corp. hosted a public hearing about the demolition of the building at 51 Astor Place, located between Eighth and Ninth Streets. They expect the entire construction process to take 17 months, finishing by December 2012.

Because the building was constructed in the 1950’s, there will be an initial 40-day abatement period where specialists will secure any hazardous materials, like asbestos which covers some pipes in the building. Then, following city demolition procedures, there will be a two week period before any actual demolition of the existing building occurs, meaning that the existing structure will not begin to be taken down until approximately the third week of August.

About 50 people who live near the site attended the meeting, and their biggest complaint was about the city-designated hours of construction which begin at 7 a.m.

Steven Colletta, vice president of Sciame, said that because of the city regulations and workers union hours, construction will generally occur between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and, as of right now, there are no plans to build on weekends, though permits for weekend work may be applied for if needed on a week to week basis.

The plan for the new building, which includes retail space, commercial offices, and a portion dedicated to education use, was completed and approved in 2002, leaving the design of a public outdoor area as the only issue up for debate.

Sciame repMeghan Keneally Construction officials at tonight’s meeting.

The new building, designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, will be multi-tiered with the highest point reaching 12 stories, and the lowest being dedicated to retail space and standing 4 stories. The plan for the outdoor space includes benches and area for flower arrangements. The plan will be finalized at an as-yet-undetermined Community Board 3 Land Use meeting in mid-July.

Workers Dismantling 35 Cooper

Ian Duncan Men at work on the roof of 35 Cooper Square. Below: Views from inside the building show holes in the roof above a stairwell (top), and daylight pouring into the ground floor.
The stairwell of 35 Cooper Square open to the sky
Daylight pours into the first story of 35 Cooper Square

Update | 3:30 p.m. A team of three men was at work apparently tearing down the roof of 35 Cooper Square by hand this afternoon.

Behind its unlocked front door, the building had been completely stripped and holes knocked through the floors of the second and third stories. Workers threw bits of other wood and other debris down to the first floor. No power tools were heard to be in use, but a buzz saw lay idle on the roof. From across the street, workers appeared to be using hand saws on the building’s masonry.

The building’s stairs are intact, illuminated by a string of bulbs on a yellow wire, which snaked its way up to the roof.

At the unenclosed entrance to the roof, a worker in a flourescent yellow safety vest told The Local the site was off-limits.