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Mano a Mano, La Sirena Preparing For Day of the Dead

Day Of The Dead StatuesNicole Guzzardi Day of the Dead figurines at La Sirena.
Day Of The Dead StatuesNicole Guzzardi

La Sirena, the Mexican memorabilia shop that got news of a whopping rent hike in July, will live to see another Day of the Dead.

Despite earlier indications that she planned to close her store at 27 East Third Street, Dina Leor now says she won’t give up (or pack up) until she receives written documentation from Tower Brokerage that her rent will increase by 42 percent.

Asked about her future plans, she told The Local, “I don’t know yet because it’s not clear yet what we’re negotiating. They told me 42 percent but I said I want it in writing.” She said she made the request about a month ago.

While she continues to pay rent on a month-by-month basis, Ms. Leor is having merchandise shipped in from Mexican artisans, in hopes that Day of the Dead will mean killer business. “I really need stuff to get sold because I don’t want to move all this when I move, but also I need the money,” she said. Read more…

Weldon Kees, The Elusive Bard of East Tenth Street

Screen shot 2011-10-20 at 11.09.34 AM

A cultural oddity of the East Village is that it has more often been a home to poets than novelists. Some of the poets (Allen Ginsberg, W.H. Auden) are about as famous as poets get. Others (Edwin Denby, Bernadette Mayer) are known to only a few. The vast majority, as you would expect, are almost completely unknown.

Weldon Kees, who lived at 129 E. 10th Street (the apartment building directly next to St. Mark’s Church) from October 1943 until November 1945, and later rented a loft at 179 Stanton Street in the Lower East Side, is an exception. As a cult figure with an ardent following, he’s certainly known to some people –  but his connection to the East Village has been all but forgotten. Perhaps that’s appropriate: An absence as much as a presence, a shadow where a human should be, Kees is the Harry Lime of modern American poetry, as in the character played by Orson Welles in “The Third Man”: Now you see him, now you don’t. Read more…

St. Mark’s Food Pantry Reopens

St. Mark's Food PantryMeghan Keneally The food pantry has reopened.

St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery started its annual food pantry last week, providing much needed food options for homeless and hungry in the East Village.

While there are two existing soup kitchens that provide hot meal options throughout the week, St. Mark’s is the only food pantry that is open mid week, allowing visitors to bring home fresh produce and non perishables so their supplies last till the weekend.

“There just aren’t enough services in this area, and people slip through the cracks,” said the Rev. Winnie Varghese of St. Mark’s.

After a previous relationship with Trader Joe’s ended in late 2009 due to rising costs on the supermarket’s side, Ms. Varghese partnered up with GreenMarket last year and they agreed to donate any remaining produce from the farmer’s market that they hold in the church square on Tuesdays. The food pantry at St. Mark’s will run every Wednesday at 6 p.m. and they hope to continue it through the winter if funding allows.
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Moves to Protect the East Village

Community SynagogueGrace MaaloufThe Community Synagogue on East 6th Street is one of the significant buildings to be included in the proposed new historic district.

As gentrification continues to alter the East Village landscape, attempts are afoot to have sections of the neighborhood designated a historic district, helping to preserve their architecture and character.

Following extensive surveying and examining the neighborhood, The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission recommended at an April 26 meeting that two areas of the East Village be designated historic districts. This is a preliminary step in the process, with a follow-up public presentation and hearing before the Landmarks Subcommittee of Community Board 3 on Thursday this week.

The two areas slated to constitute this historic district include approximately 300 buildings. One section is the north side of East 10th Street between Avenues A and B, opposite the northern boundary of Tompkins Square Park. This block includes a mix of stately 19th century brownstones along with tenement buildings.

The second area is from East 2nd Street to East 7th Streets, between the Bowery and Avenue A. Read more…

Looking Back | St. Mark’s Church

Tim Schreier on the cultural and historical significance of St. Mark’s Church.


“I had always known about St. Mark’s Church from the perspective of its involvement in racial harmony, anti-Vietnam War, poetry, dance and the arts in general. Having spent some time with Roger Walters, the history curator of the church was an eye-opening experience. I learned so much from Roger about St. Mark’s role in the community, its deep-rooted history, the cause and effect elements of decisions made at the church about invoking the arts into the practice of worship. Some of the things we New Yorkers take for granted or go unnoticed are actually quite remarkable in a historical perspective.”
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Dance Without Walls at St. Mark’s

Danspace Rachel Ohm Dancers rehearse for this weekend’s continuation of “Body Madness” at Danspace in St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery.

As a warm-up, Mariangela Lopez instructs her dancers to walk across the hardwood floor of St. Mark’s Church without music. They begin slowly and as they progress to the opposite end of the room their movements become more pronounced. They stretch and contort their bodies, reaching to the sky and crawling on the floor, moving around and with each other.

When the music finally comes on, they are scattered to different parts of St. Mark’s. One dancer is in the upstairs vestibule, another in the risers on the side, and some are on the floor.

They are preparing for their next performance with the Danspace Project, a contemporary dance studio that has been performing in St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery since 1974, in a space that is also home to poetry and theater projects while still being a practicing Episcopal Church.

Last year Danspace executive director Judy Hussie-Taylor started the Choreographic Center Without Walls, an effort to bring dance curators, choreographers and artists together for a series of performances she calls “platforms”. One year later and the project has become an important part of what Danspace is all about.
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The Day | A Look Back

TowerRachel Wise

Hello, East Village.

We begin this morning with a look back.

On Friday, we wrote about the neighborhood’s history as a former enclave for German immigrants. One reader, Steve, reminds us that we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge one of the saddest chapters in neighborhood history – the fire aboard the General Slocum ferry, which killed more than 1,000 people on June 15, 1904.

The disaster, which was the deadliest in New York City until 9/11, is a well-known and heart-breaking part of neighborhood lore: members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church boarded the steamship for a run up the East River to a church outing. A fire broke out. Many of the victims, particularly women and children, did not know how to swim. And many of the life jackets and lifeboats were ineffective.

Days after the blaze, The New York Tribune reported on the first bulletins it received about the fire. “The steamer General Slocum, carrying a Sunday school excursion from the East Side, is on fire in the East River opposite One-hundred-and-thirty-eighth-st. Women and children are jumping into the water, some with their clothing on fire.”

General Slocum MemorialSophie Hoeller The memorial to the victims of the General Slocum disaster in Tompkins Square Park.

Although determining the precise number of the dead proved elusive, it is generally agreed that 1,021 of the 1,342 of those aboard perished. A memorial to those who were lost stands in Tompkins Square Park.

In 2004, the last survivor of the disaster, 100-year-old Adella Wotherspoon, died at a New Jersey convalescent home. Mrs. Wotherspoon offered her own explanation for why the General Slocum might not be as widely remembered as other maritime disasters such as the sinking of the The Titanic, in which about 1,500 died. “The Titanic had a great many famous people on it,” she said. ”This was just a family picnic.”

In the East Village, though, the General Slocum will always sadly be remembered as so much more.
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