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MTA Releases L Train Shutdown Plan, and Electeds React

Yesterday, the MTA released the mitigation plan for the 15-month long closure of the L Train, set to start in April 2019, to mixed reactions.

The shutdown plan, developed after some 40 public meetings, includes additional subway service and capacity; more bike lanes and an increase in Citi Bike inventory; increased bus service along with vehicle restrictions on 14th Street and the Williamsburg Bridge; “major changes” to facilitate bus and bike travel on Grand Street in Brooklyn; and a new ferry route that will connect the Stuyvesant Cove in Manhattan with North 6th Street in Brooklyn.

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Grassroots Tavern Will Close Dec. 31, After 4 Decades On St. Marks

(Photo: Razi Syed)

The Grassroots Tavern, an East Village institution for some 42 years, will close on Dec. 31. The owner of a Murray Hill bar is set to take over its subterranean space on St. Marks Place.

James Stratton, who manages the tavern with his co-owner Douglas Bunton, said the rent had just become too high for a business like the Grassroots. “We were not forced out by any means, it would just have required a radical change for the business and the way we operate,” he told Bedford + Bowery. “We basically decided we had to throw in the towel.”

The owner of The Ginger Man, a Murray Hill bar that has been compared to “Euro Disney’s vision of the classic Irish watering hole,” is aiming for a liquor license at 20 St. Marks Place. 

“It’s heartbreaking,” said a Grassroots bartender when we visited the bar Thursday. 

(Photo: Ben Rosenzweig for NY Mag)

“All the sudden, overnight, the rent skyrocketed, so we were put out of business,” said another bartender, Lawrence Carter, who has worked at Grassroots Tavern for the past 10 years. “It’s inevitable, I guess.”

Carter spoke wistfully about the sense of community that will be gone with the closing of the tavern. “We had any- and everybody from the old East Village, when it was musicians, artists and writers– they would all congregate at the Grassroots.”

Since hearing that the tavern might close, people have been coming in to say goodbye to the bar and reminisce about past nights out, Carter said. “I’ve met parents who’ve brought their kids in because the husband and wife met at Grassroots,” Carter said. “Now, they have adult children who they’ve brought back to the bar. Now, that’s gone.”

Robert Precious, owner of The Ginger Man, submitted a liquor license questionnaire to Manhattan Community Board 3 last month. In contrast to the stale popcorn at Grassroots, he plans to offer “casual restaurant fare” at a yet-to-be-named 23-table establishment, according to the questionnaire. Live jazz performances are slated to continue. Precious also owned another midtown bar, Under the Volcano, which was sold in 2008.

Opened in 1975, Grassroots has been a fixture on best dive lists; Gothamist admired its “tin ceilings, dark lighting and tap beers served in heavy glass mugs,” Travel + Leisure nodded to its “cheap pints and lack of attitude.” It has even appeared on Esquire‘s list of Best Bars in America, thanks to its “beer, darts, conversation. And enough gloom to keep the NYU students from making it a ‘college bar.'”

Some grew concerned about the bar’s future when it was announced, early last year, that its building had been sold

The shuttering of Grassroots follows that of another St. Marks Place institution, Cafe Orlin, which closed after 36 years in October.

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Fear of Death? Psychedelics Can Help!

Tricia Eastman (Photo: Dana Jonas)

The answer to the universal fear of death, Tricia Eastman says, may be in using psychedelics to hold a mirror up to the inner psyche.

Eastman, a medicine woman trained in facilitating Iboga and DMT experiences, will give a talk tomorrow on death and psychedelics at East Village herb store The Alchemist’s Kitchen.

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Doc Holliday’s Sued By Comedian Alleging Wild West Behavior

(Photo: Shana Ravindra for NY Mag)

Doc Holliday’s is facing a lawsuit from a Los Angeles based-comedian who said he was attacked by a member of the staff late last year.

Julian McCullough – who has appeared as a guest comic on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Late Show with James Corden – filed suit in October in New York Supreme Court against Wishbone Productions, which owns the East Village dive, along with an unnamed employee of the bar. McCullough contends that on Dec. 18, 2016, the employee physically battered and assaulted him without any warning.

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Legendary Naples Pizzeria Sorbillo Opens On the Bowery

(Photo: Liz Clayman)

A legendary Italian pizzaiolo has opened an East Village offshoot of his flagship parlor.

Gino Sorbillo’s eponymous pizzeria in Naples is so popular there’s often a two-hour wait. Munchies called it the town’s “best and most famous pizza hub,” and has credited its owner with “changing the perception of the pizzaiolo from a second-rate cook into a deeply-respected position.” Add to which, he undertook to drive Mafia-linked food suppliers out of the city. His pizzeria is known for its oversized, soft-crust and extremely light Neapolitan pies using high-quality ingredients, said a spokesperson for the Bowery location.

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For His Next Trick, Magician Derek DelGaudio Will Free Your Mind

Derek DelGaudio in “In & Of Itself.” (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

In his Off-Broadway show In & Of Itself, magician Derek DelGaudio has no interest in pulling rabbits out of top hats or turning wands into bouquets. His show, which is directed by puppeteer and filmmaker Frank Oz and produced by actor Neil Patrick Harris, tackles the subject of identity and the artificial limits that are set when someone or something is labeled.

DelGaudio, a specialist in sleight of hand, is widely regarded as one of the most talented magicians and was named this year’s Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts. He’s capable of performing magic so compelling that audience members are left in disbelief. But in In & of Itself, the magic that’s present serves only as a backdrop to DelGaudio’s storytelling and larger points about identity and how illusory identity may be.

The show, which earned a rave reviews from late night host Stephen Colbert and magician Penn Jillette, among others, will be at the Daryl Roth Theatre until May 6.

Bedford + Bowery spoke with DelGaudio about the production, his collaborators and the problems with creating a show that’s so difficult to describe.

BB_Q(1) The show is quite unique – it’s not quite a magic show nor a one-man play. Can you tell me about the conceptual development of how from inception to finished play?

BB_A(1) I initially knew I wanted to make a show about the duality of identity and what it means to be and be seen by others. I also knew that in order to illustrate that idea the show needed to have its own identity and kind of embody the complexity and the paradox of the idea I was trying to express. I knew the show couldn’t be easily defined, in other words. The show needed to be an example of the point I was trying to make. That’s where I started.

I knew what I didn’t want it to be, which is I didn’t want it to be a traditional theater show. I didn’t want it to be a magic show, I didn’t want it to be a one-man show. I wanted it to be something that hadn’t existed yet. I started there and slowly built the pieces.

BB_Q(1) When people enter the theater, the first thing they see is the wall of cards, each with a label that begins “I am ___”; they’re asked to pick between options like “a teacher,” “an immigrant,” “a failure.” Can you talk about the idea behind having the cards be the first thing an audience member is confronted with?

BB_A(1) [I did that] in order to start the dialogue before people even sit in their chairs, and get people in the headspace of thinking about what it means to be labeled, to choose a label for yourself or have labels forced on you. I wanted people to have those thoughts in their heads before they take their seats. And also, to not just have thought about it but to be confronted with that choice and forced to make that decision and think about that decision. That confrontation can spark a real crisis in people, like: “Who am I? Who do people think I am? Who do I want to be in this world?”

Derek DelGaudio in “In & Of Itself” (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

BB_Q(1) Could you talk about each of the collaborators and how they got involved in the project?

BB_A(1) When I was thinking, who could direct it, it was a very delicate, fragile show and I thought Frank would be perfect because when everyone thinks of Frank Oz, everyone thinks of a different thing. Some people think of Yoda, some people think of The Muppets, some people think of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, some people think of What About Bob? Everyone kind of thinks of something different and the only way to really describe Frank is to say his name. So I asked him and he said he might be able to help. So I flew out to New York, I walked him through what I thought the show could be, and he understood it. And he was there from the beginning and he helped shape it, make it legible, make it accessible – because a lot of the ideas are really abstract and conceptual.

I worked with Glenn Kaino, an artist in LA. He helped shape the show and the aesthetics of it – he made sure it was beautiful and poetic. Mark Mothersbaugh [former frontman of Devo] did the music, which was great. He was amazing and he’s super talented. When we were moving the show from Los Angeles to New York is when Neil [Patrick Harris] came on and he helped us navigate the theater landscape out here and figure out where we should put the show and putting a team out here together, and all that stuff.

Neil Patrick Harris, Derek DelGaudio and Frank Oz (Photo: Glenn Kaino)

BB_Q(1) One thing that’s quite difficult is describing the show. Most magic shows have some element of storytelling, but this show takes it to the point where it stops really being a magic show – I’m curious, how do you personally describe the show?

BB_A(1) I describe it as a theatrical existential crisis, and a shared one. But the idea behind the show is to acknowledge a thing– whether that be a thing or person– and not have to categorize it, to not have to label it. To just let it exist. I mean, we have to, for communication, but my hope is that we can see things for what they are rather than try to force a label on it.

It’s not commercially very wise to have a show that’s difficult to describe but conceptually, it’s what it needs to be.

BB_Q(1) From a commercial standpoint, it’s not a show you could even do in a large theater – it needs a small, intimate theater for the show to work.

BB_A(1) Yeah, that’s right. Which is why everyone who is involved in the show, from the top, down. Starting with me, and the producers and the director, needed to believe in the show and now just want it for commercial reasons. Everyone believed it should exist and that’s what was needed for it to exist.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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Don’t Let the East Village Become ‘Silicon Alley,’ Say High-Rise Haters

(Photos: Razi Syed)

East Village residents and activists want to keep their neighborhood from becoming “Silicon Alley.”

Around 50 people gathered yesterday evening across from the site of a “boutique office building” that will replace Continental Bar, Papaya King (which has already closed), and other businesses on the corner of St. Marks Place and Third Avenue. Elected officials and preservationists called for Mayor Bill de Blasio to take action to rezone a small stretch of the East Village.

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Thank You, Come Again? Hari Kondabolu Explores ‘The Problem With Apu’

(Photo: truTV)

In the upcoming documentary The Problem with Apu, Brooklyn-based comic Hari Kondabolu explores what happens when a beloved cartoon character is also an offensive caricature for millions of people. The effect of the The Simpsons’ Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – voiced by Hank Azaria – was an ever-present reminder for many South Asians growing up in the United States of the lack of representation and power they held in the entertainment industry and popular media, Kondabolu says in the documentary he hosts and produced for truTV. Without other Indian characters with depth and substance in the media to challenge the stereotype, Apu’s distinct accent and best known line – “Thank you, come again” – became the basis of South Asian characters in American media for years afterwards.

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Russ & Daughters Shows Off Its Future Brooklyn Outpost, Opening Early Next Year

The Russ & Daughters space. (Photo: Razi Syed)

Back in February, Russ & Daughters announced that it was opening a multipurpose space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in a World War II-era building that’s undergoing a $185 million renovation. Today, we got to tour the construction site with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Niki Russ Federman, a fourth generation co-owner of the beloved Lower East Side appetizing shop.

“Russ & Daughters has been an anchor on the Lower East Side of New York for 100 years,” said Russ Federman, “where my great-grandfather stood on the streets of the Lower East Side with a barrel of herring so he could eventually open up a store. So we’ve been fully meshed in the Lower East Side and the Navy Yard feels like another amazing community that we’re going to be a part of. There’s this incredible synergy of food-makers, designers, furniture craftsman, roboticists.”

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