St. Pat’s on tap – Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, a tradition started years and years ago, has been carried on by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Her annual Leadership Breakfast welcomes the spectrum of city leadership. Politicos. Public servants. Community leaders. Community activists. Candidates. And this year, her new West Side constituents as a result of redistricting. From 8 in the early morning until maybe/almost noon, Sojourn restaurant on East 79th was the place to be. Food. Fun. Catching up. Gossip. Everybody happy to finally see each other face to face, mostly unmasked. A real crowd pleaser was the troupe of female Irish Dancers who stepped to it throughout the morning.
In the joy of it all and not forgetting Ukraine, Maloney, along with a promise of support for the beleaguered country, presented a plaque to Andrij Dobriansky on behalf of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America for its work on behalf of Ukraine. Dobriansky is member of the Committee’s Executive Board. After the presentation, Russell Squire, CB 8 Chair and candidate for Assembly in the 73rd AD, stepped up to the mic saying that he would be putting together a fundraiser to benefit Ukraine. Followed by Alex Bores, who is also seeking the 73rd AD seat being vacated by current Assembly Member Dan Quart, promised to do the same. Sounds like the potential Primary opponents can agree on supporting the beleaguered Ukraine.
Watch Out – East 90th St, at least on the southwest side between Second and Third Aves, is becoming a foodie destination. For the last several years, San Matteo, one of several San Matteos on the UES, with an entrance on 2nd avenue and a shed structure on 90th, was the only restaurant on the street. On 90th, there was, at one time or another, a laundry, a massage spa Now there will be the Wristwatch Cafe in one storefront, and the Kosher Food Connection in another. Word on the street is that the kosher space will be for outgoing catering and online ordering and/or as a butcher. It’s a small space. Interesting if the Wristwatch Cafe turns out to be kosher and making sure that the Kosher Food Connection shuts down at the right time on shabbos. By looking at their wristwatch, of course.
It’s more than COVID – Everyone’s bemoaning the empty storefronts across the city. Looks like there’s no end in sight. And it won’t be from COVID. It will be from real estate interests. And from landlords who are demanding unreasonable and in some instances unconscionable increases as leases expire. Recently, I heard from locals that Forever Simon, a local jewelry store on Third Ave between 91st and 92nd St., was in danger of losing his lease because of the exorbitant rent increase the landlord was demanding. The present rent for the small space, I was told, is like $6,000 a month. Several storefronts alongside Forever Simon have been empty for years. Once, it was a lively avenue of small businesses, but the emptying started before the pandemic. There was a Starbucks on the corner. Midblock, a Korean restaurant. A beauty salon. And others. Too too many now gone and forever empty.
Obviously, the landlord can afford not to collect rent. But if he’s going to get rent he wants to gouge and make it impossible for a small business to exist. Maybe the Forever Simon’s landlord is trying to assemble the block for a high rise. Maybe there’s some other financial benefit. Don’t know. What I do know is that Forever Simon has been in the Yorkville neighborhood for almost 20 years. First in a storefront on Third below 96th when he had to move as small businesses were displaced with a high rise. Forever Simon wanted to stay in the neighborhood and moved to the present location. He’s now in danger of having to move again, or go out of business because the landlord is able to price him out of renewing a lease. Seems to me that our public officials could be working with landlords and real estate interests to keep existing businesses in business. COVID’s not the only plague.