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.
The news of the Grassroots Tavern calling it quits after 42 years struck a nerve among those familiar with the St. Marks refuge. Reactions to our post– shared more than 11,000 times, according to Facebook– demonstrate the sense of community that neighborhood bar-goers attached to the dive.
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.
It’s out with the old and in with the new, near Barclay’s Center. Just a couple of blocks away from where Hank’s Saloon will close, a gleaming new Apple store will open on Saturday. It’s the brand’s second Brooklyn store following last year’s expansion into Williamsburg.
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.
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.
Bedford + Bowery spoke with DelGaudio about the production, his collaborators and the problems with creating a show that’s so difficult to describe.
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?
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.
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?
[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)
Could you talk about each of the collaborators and how they got involved in the project?
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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.