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Thirteen Portals to Art

IMG_9110Dana VarinskyArtists Nicolina Johnson and Perola Bonfanti at “Portal 0”

Two abandoned doorways got a touch up this week, thanks to artists Nicolina Johnson and Perola Bonfanti.

The artists told The Local that the new installations at Avenue C and Seventh Street, and Second Ave and Third Street, are the first of a series of thirteen interactive “portals” that will be completed this summer. The portals will be numbered starting from zero, with each painted according to the numerology symbols associated with its number.

A QR code painted on the bottom of every portal directs the participant to the project’s website, which requires answers to riddles in order to move on to the next portal. The link for “Portal One” asks, “the more you look at me, the less you see. Who am I?”

IMG_9106Dana Varinsky“Portal 0”

“When you get through the final portal, the 13th portal, the mystery will be revealed,” Ms. Johnson said. “We think it will be well worth the effort.” Those without a smart phone will also be able to participate via the project’s website, which will be incorporated into the art in each panel.

Ms. Johnson is the creator of The Bean’s window art, so she said the location of “Portal 0” over an abandoned elevator shaft outside the café was an easy choice. The three panel doorway is painted with Babylonian images, and the circular zero figure represents a particle accelerator. “It mixes the newest science and the oldest civilizations,” Ms. Bonfanti explained. Read more…

A Smooth Start for Ruff Club

IMG_8689Laura Gurfein A four-legged friend gets his first look at Ruff Club.

“Come on in the back, where the magic happens!”

Alexia Simon Frost, a co-owner of Ruff Club, led a small group of people and their dogs into the large playroom with walls dotted with decals that look like supersized nail polish art, where more pets and humans were already congregating. For the first time on Saturday, Alexia and her husband, co-owner Danny Frost, along with six staff members donning matching dark gray zip-up hoodies with the company’s orange crossbones logo, welcomed the public into their East Village “dog-friendly social club” for an open house to recruit membership.

Though the doggy daycare and boarding center with its lounge for owners to work or socialize while enjoying complimentary coffee and WiFi doesn’t officially open until January 2, the newlywed couple greeted neighborhood pet enthusiasts this weekend for a tour of their 3,300 square-foot, two level space and invited them to fill out applications. The first-time business owners, both 29, were keen to present themselves to the neighborhood as an innovative enterprise that fills a void in the East Village. So intent, in fact, that Danny stood outside for a time to entice anyone walking a dog to step inside.

It’s easy to tell why they see an opportunity here. A stroll through the East Village is teeming with four-legged friends, and the Frosts figured it was only natural that dogs and humans alike were looking for a place to congregate. In fact, the New York City Economic Development Corporation estimated in September that there are approximately 600,000 dogs in New York City, and up to 55,000 dogs in the area that Ruff Club hopes to serve. Few stores and cafes in the neighborhood allow pets (The Bean, a small franchise with two neighborhood outposts, is an exception). As Danny puts it, the East Village community is “very eager for, essentially, urban living rooms, like a place to hang out, particularly with your dog.”

IMG_8690Laura Gurfein

Alexia and Danny inherited their attitudes towards dogs from their parents. The Simon family got a Keeshond, a large gray German spitz with a curlicue tail that looks like an oversized version of its Pomeranian cousin, when Alexia was eight years old. They named him Astro. “My dad had one when he was growing up. That’s how we ended up with one,” she explained of her first dog at her childhood home in Roseland, New Jersey. Danny’s parents, meanwhile, resorted to lying to keep furry nuisances out of their household.

“What was the story she told you?”

“I think my mom told us there was an allergy-type problem,” he replied. “It was just never even really a remote possibility, and probably as a kid, I just, you know…“

“You pick your battles,” Alexia chimed in.

“My mom, my parents, they hate animals. And my sister and I, therefore, always wanted pets,” Danny said of his childhood, split between Queen’s Bayside and Long Island’s Plainview. “Um, we ended up with fish.” Read more…

Alice Cooper Big Apple Dreamin’ in the Neighborhood

Speaking of rock and roll legends at local hangouts, City Room happened to strike up a conversation with Alice Cooper at the Broadway location of The Bean this morning. Later on Mr. Cooper made a stop at Trash and Vaudeville. Tonight the man behind “School’s Out” plays the Prudential Center in Newark.

The Bean Now Brewing On First Avenue, and Still Fighting Starbucks

The BeanDaniel Maurer

The Bean finally opened its outpost at First Avenue and Ninth Street this morning. When The Local stopped in, manager Guy Puglia was busy setting up the WiFi and co-owner Ike Escava was anticipating a shipment of outdoor benches.

the bean 5Daniel Maurer James Wechsler’s art.

The coffee spot’s third location (and its last one for now, said Mr. Escava) is the same size as the Second Avenue cafe that opened in December, though it has 10 more seats (60 in all). It’s offering the same array of muffins, danishes, espresso drinks, smoothies, and – oh, yes! – frozen hot chocolate, but won’t be in the beer and wine business anytime soon: the owners decided not to go for a license after neighbors voiced opposition.

Despite the lack of that particular competitive edge, Mr. Escava said he wasn’t concerned that a Starbucks is opening just a few blocks up First Avenue. Read more…

Cheesy Art: East Village Pizza Gets Piece of the Pie

109Tim Schreier

Hermann the German isn’t the only pizza-parlor painter in the neighborhood. After doing the wall of The Bean’s forthcoming location (with an assist from Mosaic Man), Walker Fee scored a gig across the street. This past weekend, we spotted the muralist painting the facade of East Village Pizza. The owners, we were told, wanted to bring balance to the block. And apparently, Mr. Fee will bring still another mural to the block after this one.

Meanwhile, a block away on St. Marks Place, there’s a newish mural of “Mister Shoetree” on the side of Foot Gear Plus. The artist, Robert Gardner (a.k.a. Robare), brought it to our attention in the comments of our “Making It” interview with shopkeeper Linda Scifo-Young.

The Day | Gun Bust at Union Square and 13 Other Morning Reads

Found kittenSuzanne Rozdeba
Lost dogSuzanne Rozdeba

Good morning, East Village.

Take note, pet owners: the flyer above and another at right went up around the neighborhood recently.

The Post reports that Kenneth Moreno, the former police officer who was acquitted of raping a woman on duty but fired after being found guilty of official misconduct, is thinking about suing the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for allegedly planting incriminating evidence.

You’ll recall baggies of heroin were found in Mr. Moreno’s locker, and woes at the stationhouse continue: The Post hears from a source that the last of four 9mm pistols stolen from the locker room was swiped after officers were assigned to patrol the room.

Speaking of guns, The Daily News reports that two teens were arrested at the Union Square station when police officers who stopped them for evading the fare found a pair of guns and two bulletproof vests on them. Read more…

Second Avenue Starbucks Closed for ‘Operating Illegally’ [Updated]

IMG_0006Stephen Rex Brown The sign on the door of the Starbucks at 145 Second Avenue.

The Starbucks at Second Avenue and Ninth Street has been closed by the Department of Consumer Affairs for “operating illegally,” according to a sticker on its darkened window.

When a tipster sent word earlier today, we wondered if it was a hoax, since Starbucks became a target of neighborhood scorn after it replaced the Bean at 49 1/2 First Avenue in February. But a walk past the Second Avenue location confirms that it was indeed shuttered by the D.C.A. We’re waiting to hear back from the agency about the circumstances of what will likely be a temporary closure, and will post any updates as we get them.

Update | 2:57 p.m. Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson explained that the coffee shop failed to renew its sidewalk cafe permit. Read more…

Kids Make Mugs for The Bean, and Money for Their School Library

The Neighborhood School libraryThe Neighborhood School The library in the Neighborhood School.

A local school’s library narrowly avoided the chopping block this year, and now The Bean is hosting a fundraiser to help get a head start on the next inevitable fight to keep it open.

On May 23 students from the Neighborhood School will sell raffle tickets, art and lemonade at the coffee shop on Second Avenue to benefit the library and its librarian. Cafe customers who buy travel mugs with art designed by students will get free coffee refills for a week, and The Bean will match the money raised by the students by up to $1,000.

“It’s been great to see community businesses jump on board and say it’s something they want to support,” said Amy Richards, a parent at the Neighborhood School with kids in kindergarten and the third grade. Read more…

Side-by-Side, East Village Chain Stores Would Span 16 City Blocks (Plus: Map)

textchains2Illustration: Lauren Carol Smith
chainsfinal CLICK TO ENLARGE

There’s been much ado about chain stores lately: last month, anarchists targeted a new 7-Eleven; earlier this week, Community Board 3 continued its discussion on retail diversity; and now a petition calls for a halt to the perceived chain invasion in the East Village. But just how many chains are in the neighborhood, anyway? The Local pounded the pavement to find out.

The petition claims that “zip code 10003, which we all know as the East Village, now has the most national retail stores of any zip code in NYC (except for one that has a huge shopping mall).” Not exactly true: a recent study by the Center for an Urban Future found 169 chain retailers in the zip code, actually the third-most in the city. Since the 10003 zip includes parts of the Flatiron District and Gramercy (and only part of the East Village), the question remains: how much of the East Village do chain stores own?

Here’s what we found: if one were to place every national chain store, bank, restaurant, and movie theater in the East Village side-by-side, they would span 16 city blocks, and that’s with stores on both sides of the street. Read more…

The Day | What’s the Anarchist-Occupy Connection?

IMG_3229Stephen Rex Brown Scaffolding went up at Second Avenue and Sixth Street yesterday.

Good morning, East Village.

If you missed our coverage earlier this morning of Community Board 3’s S.L.A. committee meeting last night, well then here it is. The Standard East Village didn’t show up to pitch its dining overhaul, but a couple of iconic bars, Joe’s and Nice Guy Eddie’s, got nods of approval for new ownership.

The Mosaic Man tipped us off to his latest work outside of the Bean on Second Avenue. This one is a tribute to the building’s notorious “crazy landlord.”

While organizers of the Anarchist Book Fair disavowed Satuday’s violenceSalon tackled the question of just how much the mayhem had to do with Occupy Wall Street. Natasha Lennard witnessed the impromptu march: “It was rowdy, energetic and fast. Barricades and trash cans were dragged into the street to stop traffic and impede the police cars that eventually arrived on the scene. At one point, two young women watching the surge of people winding through stalled traffic asked me whether this was an ‘Occupy thing.’ I answered ‘yes.’ But, as I soon appreciated, it’s more complicated than that.” Meanwhile, the Daily News digs in to one suspect’s arrest record.  Read more…

Starbucks v. The Bean: Who’s Doing Better Business?

Bean v. StarbucksKathryn Doyle Eric Borg and his dog Sam enjoyed coffee in front of The Bean last week.

Now that Starbucks and The Bean are squaring off on either end of their block on East Third Street, you might be wondering: which is doing swifter business? Are The Bean’s loyal customers walking that extra block to avoid the corporate coffeehouse? Or has the demure signage of the “neighborhood Starbucks” managed to win folks over?

To answer those questions, The Local stationed a reporter outside of the Starbucks on First Avenue, and another outside of The Bean on Second Avenue. They counted customers from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. last Wednesday, and here’s what they found.

29 people walked into Starbucks.

43 people – and over a dozen dogs – walked into The Bean.

Siobhan Quinn said she chose The Bean partly because it accommodates Seamus, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel. “I like the owner, and it’s more neighborhoody,” she added. “There’s more of a community feel.”
Read more…

The Bean Reopens One Avenue Over: How It’s Looking, What It’s Cooking

Photos: Noah Fecks

And here you have it: After closing its First Avenue digs back in September, the Bean reopened today at 54 Second Avenue, on the corner of Third Street – down the block from its original home, where a Starbucks is still under construction. The Local showed you Jim Power’s sign going up last week; now click through our slideshow to see how the long vacant “Crazy Landlord” space was looking this morning. Not bad. The Bean will be open from 7 a.m. till 11 p.m. daily; the menu remains the same, as you can see below. And don’t forget: A location at First Avenue and Ninth Street is also in the works. The Local spotted work going on there over the weekend. Read more…

Mosaic Man Installs Sign at The Bean, Opening Monday

IMG_0543Stephen Rex Brown Mosaic Man’s “fellow conspirator,” Al Bonsignore, sports the signage.
IMG_0544Stephen Rex Brown Jim Power supervises the installation of the new sign.

The Mosaic Man Jim Power is currently presiding over the installation of the new signage for The Bean cafe at Second Avenue and Third Street.

The letters, along with an abstract tiling, look to be one of the larger works Mr. Power has done recently.

“Man, we’ve been working round the clock for days,” said Mr. Power, who showed no signs of exhaustion, as usual. “We had tiles coming in from Texas!”

A sign on the window of the cafe says it is opening on Monday. Read more…

The Bean Will Get The Mosaic Man Treatment

The Bean's new locationStephen Rex Brown The future location of The Bean, in the former “crazy landlord” building.

Add The Bean to the list of East Village businesses that will feature Jim Power’s signature artwork. The Mosaic Man told The Local last night that he had just signed on to do his colorful tile work at the upcoming location of the cafe at Second Avenue and East Third Street. The Bean is the latest addition to the Mosaic Man’s portfolio, which also includes — in addition to numerous light-poles — Porchetta, Tompkins Square Bagels, and Exit 9. Mr. Power said that the management of The Bean had been very generous to him and his dog through the years, and he was happy to be working for them alongside several other collaborators. After a quick chat, the Mosaic Man had to get back to work. “Not bad, huh? I was homeless six months ago,” he said.

As City Marshal Visits Shuttered Storefront, The Bean Revs Up a Truck

cupcakeDaniel Maurer “Mosaic Man” Jim Power visits the Bean’s new truck.

About an hour ago this morning, a city marshal entered the storefront that until yesterday was home to The Bean. It will soon be occupied by a Starbucks. Across the way, on Third Street near First Avenue, the Bean’s manager Guy Puglia was selling drip coffee out of a rented cupcake truck that had been found on Craigslist. Mr. Puglia said the truck will stay here, or at least nearby (“it’s hard getting a parking spot in the same place every day in this neighborhood”) from about 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. daily, until the Bean’s new store opens a block south in about a month.

“We’re not doing this to make money,” said Mr. Puglia. “We’re getting killed.” Mr. Puglia would not disclose the price of the truck rental, but indicated it was “a good amount of money.” Still, by moving four wooden benches across the street and eventually setting up a wireless hotspot, he and owners Ike Escava and Sammy Cohen hope to remind customers that they’re still in the espresso business. Read more…

The Bean Transforms Into Truck

DNAinfo reports from the scene of the Bean, where after ten years on First Avenue, owners Ike Escava and Sammy Cohen were packing up this morning to make way for a Starbucks. While the shop prepares to reopen a block south, it’s launching a food truck, according to its Twitter feed: “Starting Tuesday, the EV Bean food truck will be parked at 49 1/2 1st Ave. instead of the storefront being open. Check us out!”

The Day | The East Village’s New ‘It’ Girl

9th street community gardenAlice Gao 9th Street Community Garden

Good morning, East Village.

On the heels of her Times profile, Budd Mishkin visits the apartment of Vashtie Kola, the “East Village ‘it’ girl” (look out, Chloe Sevigny) who directs music videos, plans parties, blogs about fashion, and is “the first woman to design an Air Jordan sneaker.”

The Lo-Down has posted the September agenda for Community Board 3’s SLA & DCA Licensing Committee. Ichibantei is applying for wine and beer and Heathers is seeking to renew its license despite a complaint history.

Neither More Nor Less spotted workers cleaning up trees in Tompkins Square Park yesterday.

According to EV Grieve, the Ave. A Mini Market stayed open during Irene but is now mysteriously closed and empty. Read more…

The Day | Irene Approaches, And Charlie Parker Festival is Swept Away

Astor PlaceScott Lynch

According to DNAinfo and other sites, including’s slow-moving Office of Emergency Management page, parts of the East Village are among the “Zone A” areas most at risk should Hurricane Irene strike Manhattan: “In the East Village, Zone A extends to Avenue D from East 4th Street to East 8th Street. From there, it extends to Avenue B up to 14th Street.” If evacuations are called for, shelters opening at 4 pm on  Friday include Seward Park High School (350 Grand Street) and Baruch College (East 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue). Hurricane or no hurricane, the Tompkins Square Park leg of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, on Sunday, has been canceled, according to a press release picked up by Brooklyn Vegan.

Both the Villager and EV Grieve have the latest on what the Parks Department is doing to fight the Tompkins Square Park rats. NY1 also ran a story, and shortly before 11 p.m. last night, The Local spotted “Inside Edition” filming a segment that a crewperson said would air in about two or three weeks. Neither More Nor Less has photos.

Amidst worries that the Free Willie Nelson has been parking in Park Slope lately, The Daily News profiles the iconic RV and its owner Ron Britt, who says he wanted the vehicle’s interior to feel “a little like a Texas whorehouse.” Read more…