The Denizen Bushwick, an eight-story luxury rental building on the site of the former Rheingold Brewery, has finally opened one of its buildings, consisting of 444 units ranging from $2,000 studios to two-bedrooms exceeding $4,000. The inspiration for the controversial project reportedly stemmed from the idea of a European village, but in reality, the Denizen Bushwick resembles more of a glitzy, almost overwhelming megalopolis that is unlike anything else in the neighborhood.
Longtime East Village photographers James and Karla Murray installed a structure in Seward Park recreating the Lower East Side’s Cup and Saucer, which closed after more than 70 years in business. Now, they’ve set up a gallery show featuring photographs from their “Store Front” books just a few blocks away at The Storefront Project (70 Orchard Street). The exhibit, “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York,” pays homage to the mom-and-pop shops of the Lower East Side and will remain open through August 12. Bedford + Bowery chatted with Karla Murray about her hopes and thoughts on the changing neighborhood. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
I hope the opening reception went well.
We got a lot of love and support from our friends and store owners as well. The granddaughter of Moe Albanese [of] Albanese Meats & Poultry on Elizabeth [Street]. Really the last butcher in Nolita. A neon sign fabricator who created the sign for Trash & Vaudeville and refurbished the Russ & Daughter’s sign was in attendance as well.
Tell me about your hopes for the Orchard Street exhibit.
The majority of the photos relate to the Lower East Side. You know, to relate back to the neighborhood that the gallery is in. We also have a smattering from our so-called other “favorite” ones, mostly departed stores like Zig Zag Records and the Ralph’s that you saw in the window. We included some others but concentrated on the Lower East Side because we wanted to continue our story. ‘Cuz certainly the Lower East Side has changed a lot with gentrification and different people moving in. Unfortunately, a lot of mom-and-pop stores have closed. Buildings have been knocked down—it’s not only the stores. They’ve destroyed a lot of old tenement buildings [that] have been replaced with newer developments. When that happens, what replaces them on the ground floor as far as retail [goes] is a massive space that usually doesn’t lend to a mom-and-pop store leasing it because it’s just too expensive.
Are you mainly trying to preserve the legacy of these buildings or do you think there is some hope for activists to see your work and get inspired?
Oh, of course. The way we’ve always thought of it is a celebration of the businesses that are still around. We always photograph vibrant, lively businesses. That’s why we always put the address with the cross street because we want people to be able to go to the stores and shop at them. That’s really the key to their survival, [which] is that they need customers.
And how many businesses did you end up photographing as part of this project?
It’s countless. Thousands of photos. There’s over 325 stores just in our first book. And we have three books on the subject. Too many to count and interviews with the store owners as well. It’s over twenty years now [that] we’ve been documenting these mom-and-pop stores.
You [and James] have been East Village residents for how many years now?
We’ve lived in the same apartment for 22 years now. So it’s been a long time. It’s changed a lot in the time that we’ve been there. To be honest: we wish we had photographed more. There’s many, many small businesses that we remember fondly, but frankly we didn’t ever take a photo of [them] because we didn’t think they would ever close. And then it was too late. It’s always been a race against time to document them because they seem to be closing almost on a daily basis. For the most part, if they don’t own the building they’re located in, with the cost of new real estate going up, the landlord will triple, quadruple [the rent]. One business, they increased the rent 15 times. I mean, no small business can absorb that kind of rent increase, so then they’re forced to close.
So how do you feel about new developments like the Target in the East Village? Do you feel that kind of bodes ill for the mom-and-pop businesses?
We live on that street.That was all mom-and-pop stores. We documented them on film in the ‘90s. There was a pizzeria. There was a Permacut [Beauty Salon]. There was an old dive bar. Blarney Cove. There was a little bodega. There was a 99 cent [store]. There was a whole strip of store after store after store. Mom-and-pop places. They knocked all that down and built that development. I mean, you can go anywhere and shop in Target. You don’t have to be in New York City. That doesn’t make a neighborhood. To us, it’s the mom-and-pop stores that define a community. The very reason we moved to the East Village years ago [was] that we thought it was fun and funky and had a lot of cool and interesting shops. When those types of stores close, the fabric of the neighborhood suffers.
James and Karla Murray will lead a walking tour from their Seward Park installation to the Orchard Street exhibit on Saturday, August 4th from 1-3 p.m. Check their Instagram and Facebook for further details coming soon.
I had been caught in the pouring rain without an umbrella, and my shirt was soaked through like a wet dog on the night of the East Village Target’s soft opening. “This is a bad omen,” I muttered, the weather not improving my already lukewarm attitude toward the behemoth chain store right across from my home in the East Village. As a resident of 14th Street, I had walked by the 27,000-square-foot, two-floor Target at 500 East 14th Street nearly every day for the past year, spanning its early construction all the way up to its glitzy opening day. To confess: until yesterday, I– like many East Villagers— found the Target to be a mostly unwelcome eyesore and a reflection of the hyper-gentrification of the neighborhood. It didn’t help that one of my go-to Chinese food joints had been shuttered in 2017 in the same location. Sitting atop the Target are luxurious, $3,695-per-month apartment units.
As I peered into the store’s open windows and looked at the svelte mannequins sporting trendy summer dresses, I thought that it resembled something more akin to a Saks Off Fifth than the decidedly un-hip Targets of my suburban California childhood. But by the end of the store’s opening that night, I’d become mostly convinced that if a megastore must take over a corner of the East Village, it might as well be Target.
How did they convince me? Target plans to open up a new store on the Lower East Side in August and is coming to Kips Bay and Hell’s Kitchen next year. Part of the brand’s commercial success in metro New York may lie in its distinct appeal to the communities it serves. That’s evident from the moment you walk in the store and spot the pastel-pink mural designed by Vault49, which spans the length of the checkout area and references Avenue A and the Nuyorican community of the Village and LES. Or the kombucha in the grocery aisles and the sliced toasted coconut chips hanging near checkout, perhaps catering to the area’s millennial population.
“When we think about going into a community, we spend a lot of time talking to guests and understanding what they would be looking for from Target,” said Target spokesperson Erin Conroy. “Making sure the store fits the flavor not just from an assortment perspective but from an aesthetic perspective as well.”
The East Village store’s team leader, Steve Dyba, echoed comments along a similar line. “I think we really have an opportunity to become the neighborhood store.”
I spoke with both Stetzer and Alysha Lewis-Coleman, chair of Community Board 3, near the first-floor produce section. Both were generally pleased with the new Target, which they said had been consulting with the community board prior to the store’s opening to hire local employees.
“Jobs are so needed and so scarce right now. I’m just happy they created another job source for families and young people in this area,” said Coleman. She added, “They wanted to do right by the community.”
Over the course of the night, I did, however, learn that not all store employees were from the area. Not including senior Target team leaders or communications officials, I spoke to two of the store’s 110 employees. Neither of them lived in the East Village. Many employees who were not from the area seemed to be part of the extended Target family, such as Teresa G., a lively young woman who had been promoted from her previous station in Queens to oversee home goods and other items here in the East Village.
The star of last night’s show was the iconic English bull terrier and Target mascot Bullseye. I wondered how they had managed to paint the Target emblem—a bullseye, of course—around the pooch’s eye. I then decided better of it. Attendees gleefully posed for photos with the terrier, who was perched atop his own pedestal.
Following that, attendees sipped red wine, chowed down on mini Korean BBQ tacos being passed around by servers, and explored the store’s wares, which included an array of women’s wear and reasonably-priced produce on the first floor, as well as apparel and home goods—including a Target-owned men’s clothing brand and candles affixed with the image of Jesus Christ—on the lower level. The odd, but somehow fitting assortment of items made me think that while this Target would never become a beloved neighborhood fixture, it was going to do just fine. Maybe I would even stop by and pick up some of their $2.99 mini watermelons to make a summer slushie. But as I left, I frowned, asking myself, “Am I a sellout? Or just adjusting to the changing reality of the East Village?”
The East Village Target is located at 500 E 14th St. The store launched for its soft opening yesterday. Its grand opening will take place on July 21.
A parking lot at the Cooper Park Houses is set to be replaced by a high-rise building, and residents of the East Williamsburg housing development aren’t happy about it. Several dozen people showed up to express their outrage Tuesday at a meeting where the New York City Housing Authority unveiled its plans.
The 5 Pointz building was a world-famous haven for spray-paint artists, until it was whitewashed in 2013 and then torn down to make way for luxury apartments. Now the owner of the Long Island City property is in court defending himself against artists who say the demolition destroyed their property.
“The art has to be recognized as of value,” said Judge Frederic Block, explaining the central legal point to the jury. “You are going to hear experts testify, and they are not going to agree with each other.”
In another installment of “the rent is too damn high,” Two Bridges residents are demanding that the city increase its oversight of the mega-towers coming to the Lower East Side waterfront, which are set to add thousands of luxury units to the lower-income and working-class community.
Does government surveillance really get your goat? (To be honest I have never really understood that expression but I am just going to run with it.) Is your ideal evening spent watching documentaries on the deep state? If so, then you’re in luck.
In a new film fest running today through Aug. 5 — ominously titled “Spy vs. Us” — the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) in the East Village takes on national security and the surveillance state. Even better, like last year’s MoRUS-sponsored film and theater festivals, this year’s festival screenings will occur in the lovely environs of several community gardens. Tonight’s opening screening takes place in the roof garden of Alphabet City’s fabled Umbrella House.
In his first book, Making Rent in Bed-Stuy (HarperCollins, 2017), New York-based writer and filmmaker Brandon Harris uses his memoir of “trying to make it in New York City” as the starting point for a complex, multi-layered discussion of race, class, and gentrification.
New Yorkers today learned some shocking news: beloved Cajun/Creole restaurant Great Jones Cafe will close tonight and may or may not reopen. Tipsters told EV Grieve that tonight would be the last night, but there’s reason to hope rumors of the 34-year-old Basquiat hangout’s death are greatly exaggerated. This evening, an employee at the Jones told Bedford + Bowery that it’s closing for a week; after that it will reopen — or not. More likely not, she said.
Messages left for owner James Moffett have not yet been returned. In April, the restaurant’s longtime GM, Bill Judkins, told EV Grieve that he was forced out when he couldn’t see eye to eye with his two partners, who “feel that the Jones needs to be changed into something more contemporary to appeal to the ‘new’ neighborhood.” The restaurant’s famous jukebox had been turned off, Judkins told Grieve.
In January of 2015, Judkins told Eater that the restaurant’s landlord was “a nice, old school guy,” and that there were still “a few years” left on the lease. Eater wrote that Judkins “doesn’t see things changing anytime soon, although he does admit to some ‘concern’ about what will happen in the future.”
We’re hoping the Noho fixture rises Lazarus-like from the dead. (I mean, where else can you get a proper oyster po boy around here? Served up by Pavement bassist Mark Ibold, no less.) But many are operating on the assumption that the restaurant won’t be coming back. They filed onto social media to pay their respects:
I’ve run the numbers and I’ve had 3 significant, 5 moderately significant and 10 uneventful nights at Great Jones Cafe. RIP pie & catfish.
— Sloane Crosley (@askanyone) July 26, 2017
R.I.P. Great Jones Cafè – I remember being served drinks by Pavement bassist Mark Ibold back in the day: https://t.co/c1DQpHxnJl
— Patrick Keane (@phkeane) July 26, 2017
I went to Great Jones Cafe the first week I moved to NYC because somebody told me Mark Ibold from Pavement bartended there.
— Jason Diamond (@imjasondiamond) July 26, 2017
— michael arthur (@inklines) July 26, 2017
Just found out that Great Jones Cafe AND the Village French Roast are closing so why even bother going to NYC anymore
— nicole steinberg (@nicolebrett) July 26, 2017
French Roast, Great Jones Cafe, & Republic are all closing. Soon NYC restaurants will be like flying – you’re either in 1st class or coach
— Christopher Shinn (@chris_shinn) July 26, 2017
Following on the heels of Whole Foods, Equinox, Flywheel, and other aspirational bourgeois health brands that have planted their flags in once-edgy Williamsburg, Lululemon today unveiled its first North Brooklyn location.
Last week we reported that LES/Chinatown stalwart Cup & Saucer — one of the last of the New York luncheonette old guard — is closing after more than three quarters of a century, thanks to a rent hike on its Canal Street location.
Although Bowery Boogie reported that today would be Cup & Saucer’s last day of operation, it already, as of this morning, appears to be closed forever. Phone calls to Cup & Saucer are going unanswered, and sources tell us the diner is dark.
People paid their respects on Instagram.
The owners told the New York Times that their rent was set to nearly double and that they may look for another space.
Cup & Saucer, a throwback luncheonette that has occupied the same quiet spot on Canal Street for more than 75 years, is likely closing, Bedford + Bowery has learned. The small but much-loved diner — whose iconic Coca-Cola sign and faded retro aesthetic hearken to an older era — is a staple of the Lower East Side/Chinatown neighborhood.