With the streets of the Lower East Side reshaping themselves faster than any of us can keep track, it’s easy to become a wistful piner for the “good old days,” when a storied building with a 100-year-old storefront was your neighbor instead of all these fresh new high rises. (A teaser site for the Essex Crossing condo building on Broome Street was just released today; the first of its 10 buildings is expected to be finished in the fall.) One longtime resident, Clayton Dean Smith, decided to channel that urge to preserve the neighborhood into an artistic outlet. Maybe he couldn’t save all the buildings he’d come to love over his 16 years in the area, but he could use some of them for the backdrop of a short film that serves as a living time capsule of the neighborhood as it currently exists (or existed, only a year and half ago).
Housing + Development
You gotta give it to the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and their friends–they are persistent AF, despite long odds. In their eight-year quest to pass the Chinatown Working Group rezoning proposal, a plan that would create a new special district with more height restrictions and protections to fend off sky-high luxury towers, they’ve kept up a steady stream of rallies against new developments, marches in support of tenants, held town halls (trying to invite the mayor), and even hand-delivered a “gift” to Gracie Mansion.
In New York dingy, overpriced studio apartments manage to command bidding wars, while longtime city-dwellers with sweet rent-regulated deals have come to expect landlord harassment. Meanwhile, archaic affordable-housing lotteries regularly have something like 56,000 people fighting over a handful of slots. We’ve all hear these stories (many times) before– but this city is so wildly unequal that it sometimes feels like we’re all living in separate bubbles, ones that are often completely different from the ones where our neighbors dwell.
But what if you could actually step into the shoes of (or slide into bed with) a New Yorker on the other side of the tracks, so to speak, for a few nights?
This morning, real-estate brokerage firm Eastern Consolidated announced that the retail condo at 17 Orchard Street– otherwise known as homebase of The Fat Radish– was sold. The 2,500 square-foot space was snatched up for $2.5 million by Elijah Equities (a real-estate company that recently made headlines for leasing their 5th avenue storefront to a Chinese burger chain, Uncle Sam Fast Food).
Some people can work wonders in small quarters. (Remember that beautifully organized, itty-bitty kitchen-shower apartment?) I am not one of those people. I’ve lived in a 350-square-foot Lower East Side apartment with my husband for four years, and during that time I’ve managed to keep it in an almost uninterrupted state of mess (except when guests come to stay).
It was a year and a half ago that the Astor cube got boxed up and carted away, and the city hasn’t been the same since. I’m neither a psychologist nor a geologist, but I’m willing to bet that the removal of the Alamo took the very earth off of its axis, causing the mass imbalance of brain chemistry that led to the imminent nomination of Donald J. Trump.
While low-income tenants at 83-85 Bowery have been fighting tooth and nail to stay put in their rent-stabilized tenements, just up the street it’s easy to see why pressure to evict them is at a fever pitch.
Landlords are on notice–yesterday Steve Croman was charged with 20 felony counts and using illegal tactics to push tenants out of his buildings. Today Public Advocate Letitia James and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez kept up the heat, using their clout to influence the outcome of a prominent tenant-landlord dispute in Chinatown. Standing outside the state supreme courthouse, the two railed against landlord Joseph Betesh (also owner of the Dr. Jays streetwear brand), accusing him of using “illegal practices” to evict 27 families at 83 and 85 Bowery.
Just a month ago we followed faith leaders and tenants as they tried to meet their landlord, Steve Croman of 9300 Realty (and honoree on The Village Voice‘s New York City’s 10 worst landlords list twice–once in 1998 and again in 2014). They wanted to deliver letters from 32 different religious figures, decrying Croman’s alleged tenant harassment tactics, such as cutting gas and heat, dangerous construction, low buyouts, and threatening frivolous lawsuits.
Aby J. Rosen, owner of the gloriously graffitied Germania Bank building at 190 Bowery (soon to be outfitted as a high-end office building for fashion agencies and archives) is in the news today for something other than his disruptive real estate moves on landmarked buildings (in case you forgot, he also pissed off preservationists two years ago, when he displaced The Four Seasons restaurant and its Picasso curtain painting from the Seagram Building).
Couldn’t get enough of Los Sures, the time capsule documentary of life in Puerto Rican Williamsburg back in 1984? You weren’t alone. The film, originally slated to run a week at Metrograph, the Lower East Side’s new arthouse film mecca, grossed $25,000 its first week and was extended for a second week. Playing mostly full houses, it eventually netted a holy-moly $60,000.
As he rang in 2015, Fabrice Grinda, a 41-year-old tech entrepreneur from France, took stock of his life. He’d been living out of suitcases for the past four years, globetrotting and swinging between upscale hotels and top-notch Airbnbs. He decided it was time to “partially re-materialize.” Not settle down with a white picket fence (horrors!) — nothing drastic — but simply find a simple New York landing pad he could call his own.