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‘Downtown Live’ Brings Free Outdoor Performances to an Altered Landscape

From left: Katie Madison, Meghan Finn, Eisa Davis, Debora Balardini, Andressa Furletti, and Kaaron Briscoe. (Photo: Maria Baranova)

Anne Hamburger, the founder and artistic director of NYC-based theater company En Garde Arts, began envisioning the return of live performances one month into the pandemic. Over a year later, Downtown Live, the product of that planning, will take place over the course of two weekends this May. The free performing arts festival is sponsored by the Downtown Alliance for New York, and produced in collaboration with another nonprofit arts organization, The Tank. More →

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No, Comedian Natalie Cuomo Couldn’t Pull Any Strings During the Pandemic

(Photo: Tim O’Keefe)

When opening New York shows, stand-up comedian Natalie Cuomo often cracks a one-liner in reference to her recognizable surname. “The only thing I have in common with the governor of New York is my last name and my body piercings,” she smirks, igniting the audience with laughter. 

A professionally trained actress who passionately leaped into stand-up three years ago, the 25-year-old comedian carries herself with an unapologetic authenticity that can even be felt through a Zoom screen. Her sharp-winged eyeliner, extensive tattoo collection, and brunette hair serve as decoration to what she holds within: a killer work ethic, pure talent, and a desire for authentic, intimate human connection through her comedy. More →

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‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Designer Casey Caldwell On Dressing Protesters and Masking Nurses

(Photos courtesy of Casey Caldwell)

RuPaul’s Drag Race, the Hunger Games film franchise, Lady Gaga, and Blue Ivy. What do all of these things have in common? Boundary-pushing and outrageous style and design. They also have something else in common: Casey Caldwell. In the last 10 years, Caldwell worked with all of the aforementioned brands and styling teams, and he’s on a mission to continue to push the limits in the fashion industry. More →

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Holistic Pet Shops Ride the Pandemic-Pet Gravy Train

Tazz Latifi of Petropolis.

Last February, when the city shut down, Tazz Latifi chose to close her natural pet supply store in the Financial District. With Petropolis’ doors shut, Latifi, like many New York City small business owners, contemplated the future of her retail space. “I didn’t know if I could do retail, and my lease was coming up. At that moment, I thought, Okay, perfect time, I could just shut it all down,” she told me over the phone. “Then I started getting email, after email, after email from clients.”  More →

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A Bushwick Cabbie Turned Playwright Offers a Ride Through Gentrification

Modesto Flako Jimenez (Courtesy of Taxilandia)

Walking through Bushwick for the first time, I don’t feel lost. Modesto Flako Jimenez, a Bushwick-raised actor, playwright, poet and educator, is my guide through the neighborhood as he sees it, text by text. He sends me photos of his friends hanging out on the corner, and of the way the storefronts used to look. He encourages me to stop walking, to slow down, to look at the outsides of homes and buildings. This narrated-by-text guided walk is just one part of his community-based, multimedia magnum opus on gentrification, Taxilandia. “This is literally like, let’s have a conversation,” he tells me from his car, in his non-stop, rapid-fire style, before I set out. “I am giving you an experience of engagement, and how to properly visit a neighborhood without feeling like your footprints don’t matter here. They do.”  More →

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New Yorkers Celebrating the First Legal 420 Tell Us How They Roll

Aaron in Washington Square Park (Photos: Daniel Karel)

As you can probably smell, New York State recently legalized recreational marijuana use. The legislation was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 31, mere weeks before the annual stoner holiday on April 20. Yesterday, throughout the five boroughs, New Yorkers celebrated their new freedoms by bringing their biggest and most outrageous smoking devices to public spaces. Unsurprisingly, by midday, Washington Square Park looked like someone had plugged in a fog machine.  More →

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As Sports Bars Close, Transplanted Fans Lose Their Home Away From Home

Finnerty’s, a long-time San Francisco Bay Area bar in Manhattan has closed. (Photos: Meg Duff)

Between 2010 and 2018, the Major League Baseball World Series trophy visited New York’s Second Avenue five times: twice for Boston Red Sox wins and three times for the San Francisco Giants. For about a decade, Bay Area bar Finnerty’s and Boston bar Professor Thom’s (“Behind enemy lines since 2005”) stood next to each other on Second Avenue and East 14th. 

In the middle of a city that somehow still prefers the Yankees, Finnerty’s and Professor Thom’s served as unofficial embassies, defending pockets of Red Sox and Giants turf for diehard fans.

“We loved every minute of it: every late night watching West Coast games and every terrible pickleback shot,” said Ryan Kelly-Reno, an account manager. “We’d get to Finnerty’s four hours before coverage started just to get ‘our’ seats at the bar.” 

“I always loved that the [staff] there would play hyphy music during commercials to hype the crowd up,” said marketer and Giants fan Victoria Kwan. “No other bar loved E-40 as much.” 

Now, both Finnerty’s and Professor Thom’s are closed. 

A man in a Yankee’s hat walks by Finnerty’s, a shuttered San Francisco Giant’s bar. Boston bar Professor Thom’s, which was next door, also closed during the pandemic.

The pandemic has been hard for many sports bars, which depend on large crowds for their raison d’être. Out-of-towner bars also had a shrinking audience to contend with. “You’re in a city of transplants,” said Finnerty’s owner Dieter Seelig, “and in the pandemic you had a diaspora of people going back where they came from.” 

Mostly, though, the demise of Finnerty’s was simple math. “We just didn’t see any financial way to reopen without saddling ourselves with a quarter million to a half million in debt,” Seelig said. Their rent burden was too high; many small landlords didn’t have the wiggle room to cut deals. Professor Thom’s did not respond to requests for comment.

Some of the Finnerty’s bar staff and patrons migrated to Pug Uglies, another bar Seelig owns. It was able to host a few socially-distanced gatherings during March Madness, but during baseball season, Giants fans are out of luck. Social distancing guidelines mean fewer patrons. In addition, even with new midnight hours in effect, nearly half of the team’s games this season will end after bars close. Seelig couldn’t justify the baseball cable package subscription. 

Giants fans and Red Sox fans are not the only ones to lose their go-to bars this year. Foley’s, a bar popular with St. Louis Cardinals fans, also went under. Los Angeles Dodgers fans used to meet up to watch games at Taqueria St. Marks Place, which is currently closed. 

Of the Major League Baseball teams with active fan groups in New York, the Cleveland Indians may be having the best 2021: their longtime bar The Liberty NYC is still open for watch parties.

Most out-of-towner bars are only incidentally out-of-towner. They hang out flags for teams depending on which fans gravitate their way. Eventually, some build up well-known identities: the Overlook, for example, bills itself as the NYC home for the Chicago Bears, the St. Louis Blues, and Texas A&M. Professor Thom’s was a University of Michigan bar on the side, thanks to the loyalties of one of its co-founders. Finnerty’s was unique: it repped the Bay Area all the time.

“The best part was just being able to come in on a random Tuesday afternoon and know there would always be someone to watch a game with,” said Ryan Neal, a reporter and Giant’s fan who met his former girlfriend at Finnerty’s. 

Seelig, a lifelong New Yorker and a lifelong 49ers fan, opened Finnerty’s in 2009. He initially poached Bay Area sports devotees from a bar on 28th Street. He pointed out that he had more space and offered to play the sound on all the Bay Area games. 

He suspects that the next few years will bring a similar shuffling of loyalties. This baseball season, though, most out-of-state fans will have to root against the Yankees from home. 

Editor’s Note: A line about the number of times the World Series trophy has visited First Avenue was revised to provide more context.

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Artist Thomas Manco Is Getting New Yorkers to Confess Their Most Foolish Moments

(Photos: Daniel Karel)

Thomas Manco, an artist from the East Village, commercial painter, and muralist with work at The New York Aquarium and elsewhere, didn’t expect his latest public sculpture to strike a nerve. The piece, a shoulder-high, foil-covered cardboard structure spelling out “FOOL,” asked passersby to attach a Post-It note, copping to a private blunder. Within days, hundreds of replies were stuck to the artwork. They ranged from silly (“‘Sure, I’ll help you move!’”) to sincere (“Moving into an apartment without seeing it in person”) to sorrowful (“Loved someone who never loved me back”). More →