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East Village Queer Film Festival Packs House, Pulls Heartstrings

Opening-night host Cecilia Gentili. (Photos: Mycah Hazel)

The East Village Queer Film Festival brought rebellious sons and snappy elders to the big screen for a packed opening on Monday night. Hosted by mixed-arts space the Wild Project, the weeklong festival features an array of short and full-length films, webisodes and music videos all focused on LGBTQ+ experiences.   More →

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LES Health Clinic Displaced By Essex Crossing Demands First Aid

Food stands aren’t the only things being bulldozed for Essex Crossing, the ever-growing Lower East Side development of housing, vendors and aerial vegetables. Community Healthcare Network, a medical mainstay since 1971, will be demolished in 2021 to make way for Site 10 of Essex Crossing. Now, the nonprofit health-care provider is calling for the city to provide financial support for their expensive move.  More →

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A Showdown Over a Controversial Gas Pipeline Has Taken a Bushwick Empanada Joint ‘Hostage’

Courtesy of Empanada City.

A disagreement over a proposed gas pipeline could keep Bushwick from some sweet and savory empanadas. Lefferts Gardens favorite Empanada City plans to open its second location at 321 Starr Street next month. However, the restaurant, along with any other businesses seeking gas service, is being denied gas from National Grid until the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) approves a National Grid-backed pipeline extension that would bring natural gas from New Jersey to New York City. The NYSDEC rejected the pipeline extension, citing water quality concerns, on May 15.  More →

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Essex Crossing’s Rooftop Farm Takes Fresh Produce to New Heights

urban farm and better view_optA new farm on the Lower East Side is proving that rooftops are for more than sunset cocktails and illegal barbecues. Essex Crossing Farm, which opened today at 125 Delancey Street, will grow fresh, affordable produce for local vendors and residents. It’s part of Essex Crossing, a mixed use series of buildings hosting market-rate and affordable housing as well as the sprawling Essex Street Market. At 10,000 sq. ft., Essex Crossing Farm will be the largest urban farm on the island of Manhattan.

“Food that’s grown right here and harvested is more nutritious and more tasty than any food you’re going to get anywhere else,” said Linda Bryant, founder of Project EATS, a main partner of the farm and the host of the opening. Bryant started Project EATS during the 2008 global food crisis, when food prices around the world hit a dramatic high.    

Essex Crossing Farm is located atop the Essex, an apartment building with 50 percent affordable apartments and market-rate studio apartments starting at a totally reasonable $3,492. The farm features rows of individual lots growing produce such as turnips, beets, radishes and spinach, and looks out over sweeping views south to the Lower East Side and north to Midtown. Project EATS plans to grow at least 10,000 pounds of produce at the farm each season, a quota set by another one of their farms, across from Marcus Garvey Apartments in Brownsville. The public can get Essex Crossing Farm’s produce at their “Farmacy,” currently located in Essex Crossing Park, at Broome Street between Clinton and Suffolk. 

urban farm better radishes_opt (1)

Despite the farm’s posh location, Project EATS says the goal is to get affordable-housing residents both fresh produce and leisurely activities a few steps from their home. Essex Crossing will have 561 affordable units total at its buildings. Affordable units open now include 11 condominiums at 242 Broome Street, 98 rentals at the Essex, 104 rentals at the Rollins, and 99 senior rentals at the Frances Goldin Senior Apartments. Under construction are 84 affordable studio rentals strictly for elderly residents in a new development at 140 Essex Street, and 121 affordable rentals at 180 Broome Street. In addition to giving affordable-housing residents cheap produce options, Project EATS plans on hosting rooftop events specifically for these residents, including free yoga, group farming sessions, and free Saturday breakfasts inspired by the Black Panthers’ “Free Breakfast Program,” which provided free breakfast to children before school.

“The ultimate goal of ours is to really help to support and strengthen the ties between residents,” said Bryant. “We see each other as a unit of people working to make the best possible place for us to live.”  

Bryant says events open to affordable-housing residents will begin towards the end of August, and others will be open to the general public. A collaboration with Seward Park Educational Campus will allow students to plant produce at the farm. 

Nonetheless, for all the bridges it is building with local schools and residents, Essex Crossing Farm still has work to do in bridging the divide between Essex Crossing and the public housing residents across the street. “When I first came down here, it seemed like the NYCHA residents were concerned about this as a development and how that was going to impact them,” said Bryant.

urban farm view photo_opt

The development at Essex Crossing did not come without skepticism from residents of the housing authority’s Seward Park Extension complex or from other Lower East Side activist groups. According to Bowery Boogie, new development at Essex Crossing sites cost the neighborhood 500 parking spaces. Essex Crossing has also been cited in broader arguments against high-rise developments that activist organizations such as the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors Coalition say are changing the architectural and neighborhood character of the Lower East Side. The Essex is 26 stories tall.

Still, Project EATS is confident this gap between NYCHA and Essex Crossing can be alleviated through complementary events and free vegetables. “That’s going to be a wonderful challenge,” said Linda. “We’re going to go across the street and say, ‘We want you to come over here and join us and we’re going to come over and join you.’ It’s about building bridges and community.”

Essex Crossing Farm was created in collaboration with partners including developers Delancey Street Associates and the nonprofit Project EATS, which already owns ten urban farms across the boroughs. The project’s primary goal is to provide produce that fits each community’s desires and price point. Farms in neighborhoods like Brownsville and East New York, for example, have offered produce like callaloo and okra to please their largely Caribbean populations. 

Essex Crossing Farm’s “Farmacy” is currently open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11am-4pm. It will move to a permanent location at Market Line, Essex Crossing’s bazaar-like food hall on Broome Street between Clinton and Essex, this fall.   

Correction, Aug. 1: This post was revised because it was imprecise about the number of affordable units at Essex Crossing.

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New CBD Bill Could Be Even More of a Buzzkill For Bodegas

CBD products at L Stop Gourmet

On the heels of the New York City health department’s ban on CBD-infused food and drink, the State Assembly wants to crack down on where bodegas and other mom-and-pop CBD stores are getting CBD from in the first place. A bill approved by the New York State Assembly and awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature is attempting to better regulate the industry by introducing licensing, lab testing and production requirements. The bill was spearheaded by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell, 123), who says that the CBD industry is seeing “increasing consumer demand and interest” and needs to be put under control. Still, for some bodegas, the measure is just another hit to a product that’s already been hard to get off shelves. More →

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51Fest Brings Humorous and Heavy-Hitting Women-Led Flicks to IFC

Still from A Girl from Mogadishu

There’s no stopping the calls for women behind and in front of the camera, and one film festival has a four-day long response: a women-centered film festival. Created by Women in the World and Independent Film Center, 51Fest will feature world and New York premieres of women-led films, documentaries and television shows, all followed by conversations with select actors, producers and directors. Guests will include Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever and writer/producer Cindy Chupack. The festival kicks off tonight with the world premiere of Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story, a documentary on how America’s most beloved (and hated) redhead faced social exile after a photo surfaced of her holding a bloodied Trump head. The screening will be followed by a conversation between Griffin and Women in the World founder Tina Brown.  More →

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‘Black Nerds’ Talk Horror, Time Travel, and Representation at Blerd City Con

(Photos: Mycah Hazel)

Black nerds united over the weekend for the third annual Blerd City Con, held at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. The convention is known for celebrating black lovers of sci-fi, superheroes, anime or any other art form that may have earned a black kid the side-eye growing up. This year’s theme was black horror, a fitting pick given the recent releases of the scarring (though sometimes hilarious) film Us and the cautionary tale Ma, with Octavia Spencer in the titular role. Black horror was discussed in various ways, from analyzing the cheesy greatness of 1970s films like Scream, Bacula, Scream to addressing the “horrors” of being black in modern-day America.    More →

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Cyclists Flood Washington Square Park For Die-In Against Rising Bike Deaths

(Photos and video: Mycah Hazel)

Cyclists filled Washington Square Park last night to protest an increasing number of bike deaths across the city. The protesters staged a die-in, laying on the ground for five minutes in silence while several riders held up signs with the names of bicyclists killed by drivers citywide this year. Hundreds of attendees filled an entire section of the park, from the arch to the fountain.         More →

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Lawsuit-Plagued, Hemp-Happy MAMACHA Cafe Closes Amidst CBD Crackdown

New Yorkers looking for pineapple and hemp lattes at MAMACHA Café will instead find paper-covered windows and locked doors. The Bowery café known for its CBD drinks and snacks closed amidst the city’s crackdown on CBD-infused edibles and beverages, and says it’s moving elsewhere. The café was co-owned by New York-based artist Eric Cahan as well as Nev Schulman and Laura Perlongo – best known for hunting down online lovers and liars on MTV’s Catfish. As for hunting down a new location for MAMACHA, its destination is still unknown.    More →