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The East Village: A City of Touch

Okay, so we were a little surprised to hear that Beyoncé gets her nails done in the East Village, but Brendan Bernhard might not have been. In his latest essay, he points out that ours is a neighborhood that caters to the body.

 touch - Susan Nail Ave ASusan Keyloun The nail paint at Susan Nail & Spa at 149 Avenue A.

It’s one of the things I love about the East Village (and miss when I’m gone): the amount of attention to which your body can be paid (if you’re willing to pay for it) on almost any street.

Take the venerable Russian & Turkish Baths on East Tenth Street between First Avenue and Avenue A (forever and ever the hottest place in the neighborhood in the literal sense), where in under twenty minutes, a lifetime’s worth of clogged pores can be brutalized into unleashing rivers of salt.

touch - baths IMG_0511Susan Keyloun

On weekdays after work the place can be as packed as a subway car, filled with the Ordinary and the Beautiful. You see boxers and dancers and models and performance artists and India-rubber yogis and other aristocrats of the physique, not excluding exhibitionists, dowsing themselves with ice-cold water in rooms ramped up to temperatures Satan would balk at. There are people who spend hours there almost every day of the year; after a decade or so, they start to look like steamed fish. In the afternoon it can be quite empty: I once shared the “Turkish Room” with a heat-loving rat. Read more…

At the 10th St. Baths, a Rodent Problem

Outside Russian and Turkish BathsIan Duncan Patrons sit on the steps of the Russian and Turkish Baths. Its kitchen was recently closed after failing a health inspection.

Citing the presence of vermin and flies, the Health Department shut down the kitchen of the Russian and Turkish Baths on East 10th Street during the last week of May. The baths was again permitted to serve food on Friday, but will be subject to monthly inspections until its cleanliness improves.

A health department spokeswoman told The Local that the kitchen was closed for “extensive evidence of vermin conditions and conditions that supported their existence” and the department’s Web site lists other violations, including failure to keep food hot. The kitchen was initially closed on May 25; it was allowed to reopen June 1 after a follow-up inspection.

In the Kitchen at Russian and Turkish BathsIan Duncan

Since July 2010, the city has graded restaurants’ hygiene on an A to C scale, and owners are required to display their most recent grade to the public. Individual violations incur points, and anything above 28 points equals a grade C and means an establishment will be subject to monthly checkups by the health department. During the May 25 inspection, the Russian and Turkish Baths scored 55 points. The health department spokeswoman confirmed another inspection will take place in the next few weeks.

Currently, a “grade pending” poster is on display at the Russian and Turkish Baths, meaning the venue is contesting the results of the inspection. Speaking with The Local today, the manager of the Baths, Dimitri Shapiro, played down the results of the inspection. “We have an exterminator but we never saw any mouse. It was mostly paperwork issues that stopped it getting done,” he said, referring to the kitchen reopening.

Mr. Shapiro added that during the second inspection on June 1 the kitchen got “a clean bill of health.”

The baths serve traditional Russian food, as well as all-day breakfast. The baths have occupied their site on East 10th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A since 1892.