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Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival Is Latest to Go Drive-In

Rooftop Films’ Brooklyn Drive-In

They closed down Lincoln Center and put up a parking lot.

The New York Film Festival is the latest to announce that it will screen movies a la drive-in. Film at Lincoln Center announced today that the 58th iteration of its annual festival will open with not one but three Steve McQueen premieres and will take place, in part, at the Queens and Brooklyn drive-ins that were set up by Rooftop Films earlier this summer. More →

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As the Pandemic Continues, Urban Gardening Is Growing on New Yorkers

Samuel’s Food Gardens (Photo courtesy of Samuel S. T. Pressman)

Samuel S. T. Pressman had wanted to build a food garden on the rooftop of his Clinton Hill apartment for years. The artist and sculptor had lived on a farm when he was younger and had studied Sustainable Environmental Systems at Pratt. But in a city with a “time is money” mentality, he never found the right moment to start his passion project. More →

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Covid-19 and Racial Justice Movements Show It’s Time for Black Food Sovereignty in Brooklyn

Sandy Nurse (via @SandyforCouncil/Twitter)

Black and brown communities in Brooklyn face an inordinate concentration of food deserts, where people lack access to healthy, affordable grocery stores and other nutritious options. And the number of Americans who experience food insecurity is only expected to grow in the coming months, with low-income people of color to be hit hardest.  More →

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FiDi Bars and Restaurants Are Still Getting Their Sea Legs

(Photo courtesy of Fresh Salt)

While many of the city’s bars and restaurants have sprung back to life– causing Mayor de Blasio to complain of “troubling overcrowding” on Monday– the state of drinking and dining in the Financial District is proof that it’s going to be a while before business gets back to normal.

Even with the possibility of outdoor dining, some FiDi establishments are still hesitant to reopen for customers. The two-story Irish bar Dead Rabbit—repeatedly named World’s Best Bar— closed its doors on March 16—one day before its biggest day of the year, St. Patrick’s Day– and has remained closed ever since.

The bar relies heavily on clients coming from the Wall Street and Battery Park area, as well as tourists. With offices still closed and tourists not looking to visit anytime soon, Dead Rabbit won’t reopen until after Labor Day, when business typically picks up after the slower summer months. “I think being in the Financial District makes our situation a little more unique than being maybe uptown, the Village or the Lower East Side [where] there’s a little bit more foot traffic,” said Jillian Vose, the bar’s beverage director and managing director. 

Since mid-March, foot traffic in the Financial District has sharply decreased, and there has been no sign of recovery as workers are still staying at home, according to a June 2020 report by location data company Unacast. Looking at mobility traffic of residents, locals, workers and out-of-town tourists, the report finds that visitation, such as use of public areas and parks, from all of these groups except for residents has remained near zero, despite the gradual reopening of the city.

Dead Rabbit has been using this time to consider its options, wait for more guidance from the city, and devise a longer term plan to reopen. “We are probably going to be doing to-go cocktails for longer than just [the] pandemic,” Vose said, adding that she hopes to keep serving them “hopefully a year and a half to two years while the government allows us to make it part of our business.” In September, the bar will add delivery to its revenue stream. 

While Dead Rabbit plans its return, longtime neighborhood fixtures China Chalet and Paris Cafe have shuttered permanently. A Chinese restaurant by day and scenester party spot by night, 45-year-old China Chalet was “one of the many businesses affected by the national lockdown,” the owner told WWD after rumors of its closure caused an outpouring of nostalgia on social media. The 147-year-old Paris Cafe, one of downtown’s oldest bars, announced its closure in May, via a Facebook post: “Through no fault of anyone but the outbreak of this virus we are unable to forge a way forward that makes economic sense,” the post read. “We had no option but to close our doors.” Both establishments had survived previous disasters that took a financial toll on the neighborhood, including 9/11, the Great Recession of 2007-2009, and Superstorm Sandy.

Around the corner from the Paris Cafe, on Beekman Street, the neighborhood bar Fresh Salt was closed until outdoor dining was allowed. “Even when they offered that you could reopen as an essential business selling food, I just didn’t feel safe and comfortable sending people on the train every day, come to work,” explained owner Sara WIlliams. “We stayed closed until mid-June, and applied for the PPP loan and other SBA loans.”

For the time being, Fresh Salt has limited hours on weekdays; it’s open from 4pm to 11pm, compared to the normal 11am to 4am. “Obviously that affects our sales, and we’re at a reduced capacity because people can only be outside and at the tables,” said Williams. “We’re down by like at least 50 to 60 percent.” While outdoor dining isn’t bringing in a lot of revenue, Williams said she would like the roadway dining order to be extended past its current expiration date of September 8. “I think they should continue it through October to keep people outside as long as possible, weather permitting,” she added.

Other bars in the area have also arranged their own outdoor seating, but Tellis Liberatos, the owner of Cedar Local, said it still wouldn’t be enough. “The weather in New York in the summertime is not really that friendly,” he said. “It’s hot, humid and rainy, so it’s not the best comfortable situation for people to sit outside, as opposed to being inside with AC in a nice bar.” Liberatos added that the customer experience wouldn’t be the same without the ambience and music inside the bar. 

To stay afloat, Cedar Local has opened up for delivery. Although the bar’s food and drinks weren’t originally formulated for delivery, Liberatos has adapted by pre-batching cocktails and  reducing prices to accommodate the reduced quality. Big bites that used to be around $16 are now $10 each, and most small bites are $4. “I’m just trying to look at both sides of the spectrum, on my end and also the customers, to make sure that, you know, they’re getting a value for the burger that’s not the same as it would have been with dining in.”

Even when the city has managed to flatten the curve, Financial District bars are reopening with a lot of caution. “Now we’re looking at New York [that] has really done a good job of keeping the numbers very low,” said Vose. “The last thing that we want to do is be part of the problem of a spike.”

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Rooftop Films Brings a Drive-In Movie Theater to Flushing Meadows Park

Last week we noted that several of the New York City area’s summer film festivals are– quite delightfully– taking the form of drive-in movie theaters. On Friday, Rooftop Films started its Brooklyn Drive-In with a screening of John Lewis: Good Trouble (eerily, news of the congressman’s death broke right after the documentary’s screening) and today the consummate curators have announced the details of their forthcoming Queens Drive-In. More →

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Suddenly, NYC Is a Drive-In Movie Mecca

(Photo: Rooftop Films)

When theaters went dark in March, film festivals quickly adapted by curating content online, but let’s face it, summer has come and you’re not about to watch a movie on your laptop, with a desk fan blasting torrents of sweat off your face. Luckily the organizers of the city’s great seasonal film festivals– including Tribeca Films, Rooftop Films, and the Greenpoint Film Festival– have risen to the occasion with pop-up drive-in movie theaters. More →

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New York City’s Spas Are Back, But Some Are Feeling a Little Stressed

After more than three months of lockdown, anxious New Yorkers are craving some self-care. With the city having entered phase 3 of its reopening on July 6, they can now go to the spa… but are they climbing back onto the massage table? And what sort of safety precautions are in place? 

“We’ve had an influx of people taking their appointments this week,” says Jack Sherman, the manager of Cynergy Spa. “It’s really positive for us.” More →