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Video: Rats Again Run Rampant at Former Guggenheim Lab Site

About a dozen sightings in a little over two and a half minutes.

Cue “Return of the Rat” – the furry fiends are back on First Street.

Last summer when the BMW Guggenheim Lab took over an empty lot between East First and Houston Streets, near Second Avenue, even the project’s detractors begrudgingly gave it credit for cleaning up a longstanding rat infestation. Well, guess what? The rats are back.

A friend who lives a couple doors over from the lot, which is now a park hosting public programming, brought the rodent resurgence to our attention. (She didn’t want to be named lest she gain a reputation on the block as, well, a rat.) “They’ve steadily become more of a presence and now it’s threatening to be what it used to be,” she said, adding that she has started walking in the street again to avoid the stretch of sidewalk on the southern side of First Street, near Second Avenue, where the whiskered interlopers frolic.

Sure enough, minutes after The Local set up to film the rats on a recent evening, they were seen zig-zagging across the sidewalk every 20 seconds or so, scampering from underneath a set of trash containers to a pile of garbage bags across the way. Passersby shrieked at the site of the voluminous vermin. Before long, we bumped into Emily Armstrong, co-author of The Local’s Nightclubbing column and a longtime resident of the Lower East Side. “They’re back!” she exclaimed as she walked her dog on the block. Read more…

Soggy Kick-Off to First Park’s First Season

Photos: Lori Greenberg/Bergworks GBM (final photo courtesy Robert Sestok)

Yesterday’s rain washed out the dance performances and children’s events that were to kick off the inaugural season of programming at the former home of the BMW Guggenheim Museum. But that didn’t stop a few die-hard supporters of First Park from clustering around a newly installed sculpture by Robert Sestok.

The Detroit artist was in high spirits as he unveiled First Street Iron, a ten-foot-tall work of welded steel that he said was a “tribute to the city” he often visited. It will remain on display at the plaza between First and Houston Streets, near Second Avenue, until Oct. 22.

As The Local previously reported, Mr. Sestok first became aware of the restoration at 33 First Street well over two years ago because a close friend lived on the block. He was asked to create something for the park before the BMW Guggenheim opened in the once rat-infested lot. Read more…

The Day | Legal Observer Sues NYPD for Arrest on East 13th

Last day at Kate's JointSuzanne Rozdeba

Good morning, East Village.

The Local snapped the above shot a day before longstanding vegetarian spot Kate’s Joint was seized by its landlord yesterday, presumably due to the back rent it owed.

Gothamist reports that a National Lawyers Guild observer is suing the NYPD for wrongfully arresting him on Second Avenue between East 12th and 13th Streets during an Occupy Wall Street march back in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

A real estate broker tells The Voice that you can still get a deal in the East Village. “You could get a small, two-bedroom apartment [in a walk-up], with a kitchen you could cook in for $3,000 a month,” she says. “I’m not saying the rooms are going to be the size of Texas, but I think that’s a bargain. And you have fantastic restaurants.”
Read more…

With BMW Guggenheim Lab Gone, First Street Green Looks to Future

Screen shot 2011-12-13 at 2.46.17 PMNick DeSantis

The first event at the former site of the BMW Guggenheim Lab got off to an unlucky start on Saturday.

Volunteers from First Street Green – the neighborhood organization that helped transform the park from a rat haven to a community event space – put together their “visioning wall” in the shape of a tall arch. Shortly afterward, the afternoon breeze brought the colorful sculpture crashing to the ground in a heap of foam tiles.

Undeterred and in good spirits, the group broke the sculpture apart and continued with the real business of Saturday’s gathering: soliciting ideas from neighbors about the park’s future, which remains in question since the Guggenheim Lab’s departure.

John Bowman, a member of First Street Green, said the two biggest hurdles facing the group are logistics and funding. They plan to use the wintertime, when the park is dormant, to work out permitting and scheduling details. The installation of a sculpture garden has been delayed till spring. Read more…

Museum Helps Solve a Pesky Problem

DSC03576Crystal BellAfter years of complaining about the rat problem in this vacant lot on East First Street, residents will welcome the BMW Guggenheim Lab to the site this summer.

For Ann Shostrom, a local artist and resident of 35 East First Street, the constant screams and shrieks outside her window have become a nightly lullaby. No, her block isn’t particularly violent or dangerous, but it does have a huge problem, or more like thousands of little, scampering ones.

The residents on the block all seem to agree that the rat infestation on First Street between First and Second Avenues is the worst they have ever seen. And chances are if you’ve walked past the vacant lot located on 33 East First Street, then you probably feel the same way.

“I’m so acquainted with the rats now that I’m not afraid of them anymore,” said John Bowman, a professor at Pennsylvania State University and Ms. Shostrom’s husband. “We start to recognize some of them. There’s a big guy I call Bruno. But there are just so many of them. Kids on the block have had a rat safari. It’s dangerous.”

So Ms. Shostrom and her husband decided to take action and in 2008, created First Street Green, a grassroots organization dedicated to cleaning up the lot and turning into a community sculpture park. They raised funds through summer bake sales, art shows and benefits, but progress was slow. But their project received an unexpected boost last year, when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, decided that the block’s eyesore was the perfect place for their 5,000-square-foot traveling urban lab.

“They have money, and we need something done about the site,” said Ms. Shostrom. “With this economy, the city doesn’t have the money and the Parks Department certainly doesn’t have the money, so this was just perfect for the community.”
Read more…