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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…

Owner of La Sirena Shares Her Encounter With Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

IMG_2995Stephen Rex Brown Dina Leor holds a statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe.

As devoted Catholics all over the world celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe, one local has a unique reason to rejoice. Dina Leor, the owner of the Mexican memorabilia store La Sirena, had a religious experience with the icon 19 years ago while traveling in Mexico City.

IMG_2998Stephen Rex Brown One of the many images of La Virgen inside La Sirena.

“I still feel the same connection that I did in Mexico City,” said Ms. Leor. “I’m getting goose bumps now telling it.”

It all began when Ms. Leor decided to drop into a church in the capital city. While sitting in the pews, a light at the end of a nearby hallway caught her eye. She followed it, and at the end of the hallway was a painting of La Virgen de Guadalupe. The rays of light around the figure began to radiate and then emerged from the picture to surround Ms. Leor. The experience happened in a flash, but it has never left her.
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A Day to Honor the Departed

Dia de Los Muertos from The Local East Village on Vimeo.

For Dina Leor, this is the busiest week of the year.

Customers visit Ms. Leor’s Mexican folk art shop, La Sirena, to prepare for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, on Nov. 2.

Ms. Leor has owned La Sirena for 11 years, and travels throughout Mexico to collect art. Although Ms. Leor is of Argentine descent, she says that she has a “Mexican heart,” which is clear to anyone entering her Third Street shop.

NYU Journalism’s Meredith Hoffman talks with Ms. Leor about the holiday and its spiritual and cultural significance.