Post tagged with


Making It | Pam Pier’s Dinosaur Hill

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

DSC02399Photo courtesy Pam PierPam Pier, owner of Dinosaur Hill, listens to a yodelling pickle.

You don’t have to be a kid to be dazzled by the shop-o-tainment that Dinosaur Hill provides; you just might want to be a little tiny bit careful. “We’re just 450 square feet,” says owner Pam Pier. “So we try to cool excited kids down but just showing them how things work first. There’s a lot of laughter coming out of this place.”

Those who enter Dinosaur Hill, a masterfully curated toyshop at 306 E.9th Street are seeking something thoughtfully amazing; not the made in China big box Toys R Us experience. “That’s a meaningless place to me,” says Ms. Pier. “Small toys stores are so few and most have come and gone. I’m sticking around until they have to carry me away in a box!” We spoke with the “purveyor of fun and wonderments” about how she’s managed to hang in there all these years and keep the neighborhood playful purchasing.


How did Dinosaur Hill come to be?


I started Dinosaur Hill in March of 1983. It’s going to be 30 years in March. I was working at the crafts and art store that was here on 9th Street. It was called Muddy’s and the owners were divorcing so I was able to take over their lease. There was only about $600 in inventory left so it was easy for me to take over and start over. I changed the name to Dinosaur Hill.


Where does that name come from?


It’s named after a place in Rapid City in South Dakota where I’m from. It’s a mountain and they created Dinosaur Park where there are like [seven] life-size dinosaurs they made for tourists to visit and kids to enjoy. I had gone there a lot as a kid. Kids love dinosaurs.


Why a specialty toy store?


I used to be a pre-school teacher, and I also was a freelance artist who was making things that fell somewhere between art and craft, that I sold in Washington Square.


Have you always been here?


We’ve moved twice within the building. It’s a big building we share with Veselka restaurant, and people move in and out, and Veslka has taken more space, and I have moved around that.


The early 1980s was a rough and gritty time for the East Village. Was there much demand for a whimsical toy store?


I have a real loyal neighborhood base. When it started becoming a destination tourist place, I got more and more interesting items for the store. I am a little ambivalent about the changes in the neighborhood though.


In what way do you feel ambivalent?


The changes have helped the store, but it means the neighborhood seems a little less open than it used to be. The infusion on N.Y.U. students makes it more of a bedroom neighborhood than one with local people living and working in the neighborhood. I miss the good old neighborhood camaraderie.


Why do you think Dinosaur Hill keeps making it all these years?


There is a book I read when I was a little girl where there was a quote that stated, ‘I never worked and I never will.’ It’s because I love what I am doing. My work combines art and people. I’m trying to make things available to kids that promote ability. I want kids to become doers and makers and active people. I contribute with these toys that engage them. I think it’s all about my philosophy and enjoying what I’m doing. Also, I never cared much about money, although, I care more now. Money never becomes important until you don’t have any. Occasionally, I think “why didn’t I stay with teaching?” I would have pension now!


How do you go about selecting your merchandise?


I buy things that I like; things that amused me and still amuse me. I try not to think too much about what I need for this or that. I guess and entertain myself. Lately, I have been fighting harder to keep kids from being totally passive receivers of information. I really try to find an alternative to flat screen toys. I want to enhance hand-eye coordination and the ability to build and manipulate things three-dimensionally. I want people to be involved with real people, real time, and real space. Read more…

Sexton Responds to No-Confidence Vote Threat

N.Y.U. president John Sexton responded in writing yesterday to last week’s decision by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to hold a vote of no-confidence in his leadership. Faculty members are said to be unhappy with the university’s plans to expand in Greenwich Village in the face of local opposition, and aspects of its international outreach.

Silver TowersMichelle Rick

In a memorandum addressed to the faculty and distributed by email, Dr Sexton acknowledged that he takes the “vote, and the need to address constructively the concerns of faculty, very seriously.” Dr Sexton continued: “I have had no ambition or mission other than advancing NYU’s well-being, sustaining the trajectory established by my predecessors, and leaving a better university for my successors. Yet, it has become clear that my efforts have not been experienced in this way by some members of the FAS faculty.” He concludes by wishing faculty members and their families a happy holiday.

The vote is scheduled to take place in March, 2013.

Alec Baldwin Drops By to Cheer Up Displaced NYU Students

UntitledDaniel Maurer Baldwin leaves the building.

Displaced NYU students got an unexpected dinner guest today, as Alec Baldwin made a star appearance at the school’s student center.

The “30 Rock” star stopped into Kimmel Center, off of Washington Square Park, around 7 p.m. tonight. “I’m an alum and John Sexton asked me to come and talk to the students, thank them for their patience,” he told The Local as he left the building, politely breaking free from a dozen students that swarmed him at the elevator.

NYU relocated about 6,000 students earlier today after back-up power ran out at their dorms, according to an e-mail from Jules Martin, the school’s Vice President for Global Security and Crisis Management. Around midday, the generator at 3rd North residence ran out of fuel, creating a “temporary smoke condition,” but power was expected to be restored this evening, the e-mail said. Displaced students are currently showering at the school’s two sports complexes.

Mr. Baldwin, who lives near Kimmel on East 10th Street, has also been displaced by the storm: he told The Local that he and his wife had moved to a friend’s hotel because his elevator was out and taking their two dogs up and down several flights of stairs “wasn’t working.” He was also out of work for two days: “the show I do,” he said, referring modestly to “30 Rock,” suspended filming on Monday and Tuesday because team members couldn’t make it to Silvercup Studios in Queens.

As soon as Mr. Baldwin made his appearance alongside school president John Sexton in the cafeteria, students charging their phones, pecking at laptops, and dining at Kimmel sent out word via Twitter.

“Alec Baldwin just came to Kimmel and told us to stay safe #YesSir,” wrote @Glenneth_Coco.

“You know those weird moments when you’re temporarily living in Kimmel and you run into Alec Baldwin?” wrote @taylorsprow.

“Thats cool Alec Baldwin came to NYU to chill, but uhh.. can you take us home with you so we can shower n sleep in your probably fancy bed?” tweeted @CinemaBite.

Man Shot in Alphabet City Hours After Gunshots Heard on Third Avenue

photo(360)Daniel Maurer Police vehicles at the corner of Avenue C and East 12th.

A man was shot in the leg around 12:20 a.m. this morning near the corner of East 11th Street and Avenue C, the police said. He was taken to Beth Israel Hospital in stable condition and was not thought likely to die.

The police couldn’t confirm the victim’s age or the circumstances of the shooting, and said that no arrests were made.

Though a police spokesperson said the shooting occurred near East 11th Street, investigators were seen early this morning at the corner of East 12th Street and Avenue C, outside of Campos Plaza I. A section of the public housing complex’s courtyard was taped off.

The shooting came a few hours after police received a report of shots fired at 115 East Ninth Street, near Third Avenue. Read more…

All Krohn Up | Welcome to New York, Now Live

krohn2Dana Varinsky It was either this or a shot of him spinning the cube.

The college kids are back – in droves. Maybe you remember what it was like to be an innocent in the East Village. If not, meet Jonathan Krohn, a member of N.Y.U.’s class of 2016. Actually, you may already know him: he was a “Time 100” finalist at the age of 14, and just two years later wrote his second book, “Defining Conservatism.” His thinking has evolved since then, but like any freshman he’s still got a lot to learn. And you, oh jaded Villager, could learn a thing or two from him. Hence, his weekly column about life as a neighborhood newbie.

“Welcome to the East Village.” Something no one said to me when I first arrived here.

My first night in the East Village went a little something like this: About thirty minutes after I left my dorm on Third Avenue a balding, stocky middle-aged man attempted to get me to hold his keys, wallet, license, and wedding band in exchange for me paying him gas money. I ran off. An hour later I encountered a scantily clad woman (I was told she was a prostitute) who was very high. She rolled around on the ground, screaming that someone was coming for her, and threw her backpack into the little pond in the center of Washington Square Park. I left the park with some nice jazz musicians from Brooklyn who took me up MacDougal Street, where I was then hit on by a transsexual. I screamed at some point around there. We don’t have these things in the suburbs of Atlanta. Or at least, we don’t have all of them in one neat little area. Read more…

The Freshmen Are Coming and N.Y.U. Says, ‘Park It On Us’

If you thought three days of “Eleanor Rigby” have been a parking hassle, wait till N.Y.U.’s freshman class moves in this Sunday.

But wait! If you live in the shaded area above, which includes the East Village from Second Avenue eastward, the school will reimburse you for a 24-hour stay in a parking garage. Ikea’d you not!

The school’s announcement, intended to “help alleviate potential difficulties,” invites non-students who park in a garage this Saturday night or Sunday to bring a receipt and proof of residency to its Office of Government and Community Affairs, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more details, contact the office at (212) 998-2400.

Nine-Story Dorm Bound for 35 Cooper, But Whose Is It?

35 Cooper Square From Feb. 2011 to May 2011Claire Glass and Stephen Rex Brown The demolition of 35 Cooper last year.

So, what university is behind the dormitory planned for 35 Cooper Square?

EV Grieve first spotted the plans, filed with the Department of Buildings yesterday, which call for over 30,000 square feet of student housing.

But which students will stay there?

“Not N.Y.U.’s,” wrote university spokesman John Beckman of the dorm.

“We already have a dorm on Third Avenue,” said Jolene Travis, spokeswoman for Cooper Union.

“We’re already building a dorm on Fifth Avenue,” said Sam Biederman, a spokesman for The New School. Read more…

N.Y.U. Strikes Deal Preserving Affordable Housing at 505 LaGuardia

mitchellMelvin Felix 505 LaGuardia

New York University has reached an agreement with the co-op board at 505 LaGuardia that will prevent dramatic rent hikes at the building. The new agreement extends the current lease in perpetuity, as long as the building remains part of the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program.

The building’s previous lease was due to expire in 2014 after standing for 50 years. Terms of the new lease became a sticking point in the negotiations surrounding the university’s expansion, even though the building itself would not be affected. Politicians including Borough President Scott Stringer, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and State Senator Thomas Duane had repeatedly called for the university to come to an agreement with 505 LaGuardia that would avoid rent hikes at the 30-story towers designed by James Freed and I.M. Pei.

Today, N.Y.U. described the agreement, the specific terms of which were not released, as a reflection of the university’s commitment to affordable housing. Read more…

Lawsuit Against N.Y.U. 2031 Likely on the Horizon

NYU Core Aerial Rendering July 24Courtesy of N.Y.U. A rendering of N.Y.U.’s plans for two blocks south of Washington Square Park that features the newly reduced buildings.

Opponents of N.Y.U.’s expansion are hinting that they will announce new legal maneuvers to derail the project should it be approved the City Council tomorrow as expected.

An e-mail from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation notes that lawyers representing faculty opposed to the plan will speak tomorrow after the vote at City Hill “regarding their next steps.” Those opponents have long spoken about the possibility of challenging the land-use review process in court.

NYU 2031 RevisionN.Y.U. A slide depicting the reduction of building’s in
the proposed project footprint.

The executive director of the Greenwich Village Society, Andrew Berman, would not comment on the organization’s specific legal plans until tomorrow, but added, “Should they vote to approve this plan, we and our partners on the N.Y.U. faculty will be working closely with our counsel, Gibson Dunn, to look at every remedy available to right this wrong.” Read more…

C.B. 2 to Mendez and Chin: City Council Too Soft on N.Y.U. 2031

N.Y.U. 2031 reductionN.Y.U. Red lines indicate the reduction of the boomerang
buildings on the northern block.

At a meeting attended by Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin last night, members of Community Board 2 spoke out against the scaled-back version of N.Y.U.’s controversial expansion plan that the two City Council members supported earlier this week.

Ms. Chin said she wanted to explain the “compromise” she helped work out, which she said reduced above-ground space associated with N.Y.U. 2031 by an additional 17.4 percent, or 212,000 square feet.

The modified plan would cut the Mercer Street building from 11 stories to four, and shrink the height of towers in the Zipper Building. Over all, according to Ms. Chin’s newsletter for her district, it represents a reduction of 26 percent or 352,000 square feet from the original proposal that was certified in January.

Residents last night were clearly disappointed that the City Council’s land use committee had approved the plan by a vote of 19-1, with the Council’s subcommittee on zoning also voting in favor of it. “I know people aren’t happy,” Ms. Chin said, to sardonic laughter. “It’s a compromise. But I want you to look at what we’ve been able to achieve with density and open space, because the City Council will vote on this issue.” Read more…

Council Committee Approves N.Y.U. 2031, With More Concessions

N.Y.U. 2031 reductionN.Y.U. Red lines indicate the reduction of the boomerang buildings on the northern block.

A City Council committee voted in favor of New York University’s expansion plan on Tuesday following last minute negotiations that yielded several significant reductions of the project.

The land use committee’s 19-1 vote sends the plan, dubbed N.Y.U. 2031, to the full City Council, which will vote on the plans later this month. Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a member of the committee who represents Greenwich Village, took the lead in negotiations with the university and strongly urged other council members to support the modified plan.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this proposal will allow N.Y.U.’s growth in the Village to occur at a sustainable pace, and that it will not overwhelm the wider Village community,” Ms. Chin said. “Over the past few months, I have heard a litany of N.Y.U.’s broken promises from Village residents. It is time to start a new chapter.” Read more…

Ferris Bueller and Other Villagers Take Day Off for Final N.Y.U. 2031 Hearing

broderickSarah Darville Matthew Broderick, in glasses.

The City Council hearing on New York University’s controversial expansion plan got a star cameo today, as Greenwich Village native Matthew Broderick argued that N.Y.U. 2031 would further strip the neighborhood of of its character. He was one of about 250 people who spoke out during the packed nine-hour meeting, with about 60 percent opposing the plan and 40 percent voicing their support.

Six hours before the actor testified, N.Y.U.’s president, John Sexton, started the hearing (which The Local liveblogged earlier today) by vigorously defending the project and the university’s need to expand. “This is not a development project. This is an academic project,” he said, explaining that more space was needed to recruit top-quality faculty and students.

Asked why N.Y.U. couldn’t look to other parts of the city, Mr. Sexton told council member Leroy Comrie that further dissipation of N.Y.U.’s activities across the city would amplify the perception that it doesn’t have a traditional campus “or a big football stadium where we gather,” turning off potential students.

“This is the most enlightened way to do this,” said Mr. Sexton, who also used his presentation to announce that a “huge initiative” for financial aid would be coming soon. Read more…

State Senate Candidate Brad Hoylman On Nightlife, Landmarking, Bad Landlords, and NYU

hoylman 2Courtesy Brad Hoylman

Soon after Thomas K. Duane announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, the state senator all but endorsed Community Board 2 Chair Brad Hoylman, who has worked with him on many East Village issues. Over a plate of eggs over-easy, Mr. Hoylman told The Local the senator’s is “a huge legacy to live up to,” and that he considers it a “solemn responsibility to do so.” He also got specific on how he’ll carry the torch should he win in November, talking tenants’ rights, transgender equality and the new ideas that are at the top of his to-do list.


What parts of the Duane legacy do you plan to carry forward?


Tom’s advocacy on tenant rights is something that I feel very strongly about. I have some background myself, in the area, not only working with Senator Duane over the years in that realm, but also as a former board member of Tenants & Neighbors, the tenants rights group. And I, as Community Board 2 chair, just launched an initiative where the board will now have a tenants clinic for the first time in cooperation with MFY Legal Services: tenants who meet income level requirements in the CB 2 area will be able to come to our tenants’ clinic and get free legal representation from MFY.  So that’s the kind of tenant outreach that I want to do, and continue to do to build on Tom’s legacy.

Read more…

Nightclubbing | A Night at CBGBs

The Local is pleased to launch a regular column in which Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong sift through their voluminous archive of punk-era concert footage as it becomes part of the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library. They’ll share their favorite stories and clips along the way.

nightclubbingCourtesy Nightclubbing The Nightclubbing archive.

Pat: On a hot sticky night in July, 1975, I began videotaping punk bands at CBGBs. It was during the CBGB Rock Festival of Unrecorded Bands, with 40 groups that formed the core of the nascent music scene downtown. I was part of Metropolis Video, a video collective of eight, most of whom worked at MCTV’s public access department. That first night, we shot Blondie (still doing some covers, like the Velvets, Femme Fatale), the Talking Heads on their third or fourth gig out of RISD, and the Heartbreakers, a downtown super group with Richard Hell, who had just left Television, and Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan of the Dolls. It was their first Manhattan date. It was exciting and we shot now and then for about a year but the center would not hold and the collective dissolved.

cbgb 1

Luckily, I met Emily Armstrong and after a night seeing Patti Smith at CBs, she agreed to work with me and a new partnership was formed. Our first band was the Dead Boys in 1977 and we continued for the next four years, often at CBs but also at other clubs like Max’s, Hurrah’s, Mudd Club, and Danceteria.

Emily: Now 32 years later, N.Y.U.’s Fales Library is making everything new again. The Downtown Collection is preserving and restoring the Nightclubbing archive of nearly 100 musical performances, 20-plus interviews, video art projects and more. It will be available for scholars (yes!) to rifle through and enjoy. I hope they do – I know I did. Read more…

Flea Market Vendor Sues N.Y.U. Student for Filming and Running

alfaPhilip Ross Alfa Diallo at the Dias Y Flores Community Garden

A vendor at the flea market at Avenue A and 11th Street is suing a former N.Y.U. Tisch School of the Arts student who disappeared after filming a short documentary about him. The t-shirt designer, Alfa Diallo, is demanding $5,000 in small claims court.

Mr. Diallo said that he agreed to show Matthew Swenson his t-shirt making process after Craig Atkinson, who is also named in the suit, approached his booth last summer and asked if he would participate in his friend’s graduate thesis project.

Mr. Diallo, a relaxed and amicable 60-year-old who was born in Senegal and educated in France, handcrafts the t-shirt designs using a French curve, a tool that creates curly, looped, and elliptical patterns. Mr. Swenson filmed him for two days, said Mr. Diallo – one day at the flea market and another at his apartment on 13th Street and Avenue A.

“They did all this shooting without me being able to see anything,” he said. “Matt said to me, ‘I’ll send you things by e-mail, you should be able to open it and see.’ But I was not able to see it.” Read more…

After 25 Years, Met Foods Changes Name, Brings Back a Piece of Ratner’s

metfoods2Daniel Maurer Original tilework from Ratner’s

The Met Foods on Second Avenue will soon be reborn as Metropolitan Citymarket, complete with photo murals paying tribute to Ratner’s and the Fillmore East. The new signage has already been installed, but it’s covered by a gigantic plastic tarp and won’t be unveiled until fall. That’s because N.Y.U., the building’s owner, is about to cast the store in the shadow of its scaffolding. But there’s something you can feast your eyes on in the meantime: original tilework from Ratner’s restaurant.

Michael Schumacher, who owns and manages the store with his brother Steven (their father, Sam, took it over in 1986), said the supermarket’s overhaul was long overdue. In 2004, he explained, he was told by N.Y.U. that the store’s lease wouldn’t be renewed, and its appearance went into decline. “They told us four years prior that we weren’t getting a lease in 2008, so it was the nail in the coffin,” he said.

But as stories in The Villager recounted, N.Y.U. eventually renewed the lease for 15 years after much public outcry and intervention from public officials (Mr. Schumacher said his rent was raised by 20 percent). That left the grocers free to revamp. In gutting the store, they found remnants of Ratner’s, the 24-hour dairy restaurant that once occupied the space. Its original tilework now gleams on either side of the front entrance. Read more…

Summer Academy: Learn the Nitty-Gritty of Reporting the City


Earlier this week, students from across the country arrived at 20 Cooper Square for the first of two six-week sessions of The Local East Village’s Hyperlocal Newsroom Summer Academy, a program that gives college and high school students at all levels – from rank beginners to seasoned reporters and multimedia producers – an immersive journalism learning experience for college credit from NYU and the opportunity to get published on The Local.

The first session is underway but there are still places for session two, which begins July 2. See the Hyperlocal Newsroom site for specific details and the NYU summer site for how to apply and register.

Vegan ‘Funyons,’ Anyone? Raw-Food Truck Hits Avenue A

Squeeze Truck 1Emily J. Hara The Squeeze truck.

A new food truck will hit the streets of the East Village next week. According to its creator, The Squeeze will be the only bio-diesel-fueled, pressed juice truck in the city. It’ll certainly be the only one selling vegan “Funyons.”

When Karliin Brooks turned vegan at the age of 16, she craved more than just granola bars. She went on to graduate from N.Y.U. with a degree in Nutrition and Broadcast Journalism and then attended the The Natural Gourmet Institute. Now the 38-year-old caterer has reconditioned a onetime UPS truck and will use it to serve buckwheat popcorn and “Twix” bars made with dates and soybean in lieu of caramel.

“We are food alchemists,” said Ms. Brooks, whose partner in The Squeeze is Jen Gatien, producer of “Limelight.” “We convert high-energy raw food into something that people can recognize and would consume.” Read more…

In Tompkins, a ‘Rolling Rabbi’ Against Men With Sticks

Sitting on their couch one Saturday night while in college, Roni Jesselson and his roommate Mike Dabah started talking about how much they missed hockey. They had played in Jewish youth leagues, and discussion soon turned to how they could re-connect with the game they loved. They decided to organize a casual pick-up hockey league at Tompkins Square Park.

“We were like, ‘We have to do this’,” said Mr. Jesselson, 26, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Greenwich Village. “And from there it bloomed.”

At first, they used garbage cans instead of a net and goalie. Mr. Jesselson and Mr. Dabah would call friends late into the night trying to scrap together enough players for a game of three-on-three. But gradually, the scrimmages increased in organization, and in popularity. Today, five years later, the league’s mailing list boasts 45 people from as far as Queens or New Jersey.

The players are an “eclectic mix” of Jews (both religious and non-practicing, Mr. Jesselson said) and the game takes on a uniquely Jewish twist. Read more…

N.Y.U. 2031 Bashed, Cooper Union Petitioned

The conflicts over the future of two of the city’s most revered academic institutions rage on. Over in Greenwich Village, add Bloomberg’s architecture critic to the list of people not fond of N.Y.U.’s expansion plans. “For a while I thought these expressionless shapes were simply cartoon placeholders for real buildings that could be developed with a great deal more sensitivity,” reads the hard-hitting review. And over at Cooper Union, students have begun a petition drive in support of an alternative plan, dubbed “The Way Forward,” that suggests ways to raise revenue without charging students tuition.