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The Matchmaking Service That Pairs Visionary Designers With Covid Conundrums

Forsyth Plaza, future home of Chinatown’s night market. (Photo Edward Cheng)

Growing up, Fernando Ortiz used to travel from his home in the South Bronx to his parents’ bodega in Harlem. His native borough is bordered by highways that create an urban heat island: the nonstop, circling traffic traps hot, smoggy air in the community. The environment causes health issues for the borough, like asthma and skin irritations. To reach Harlem, Ortiz would traverse mostly-treeless sidewalks to then cross a bridge: “And I remember [being] like, ‘Oh, my God—there’s a river so close to me!’ I had never seen it, and I couldn’t even get to it,” he recalled. More →

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After an Odd Year, Oddfellows Opens a New Shop

Oddfellows Williamsburg, at 40 River St. (Photos: James Pothen)

Here’s a scoop: Oddfellows is open again in Williamsburg. 

“We’re right on Domino Park this time,” said Andy Mullins. “I’m staring at the Empire State building.” The new shop is a few blocks south of the original, at the intersection of Grand Street and River Street. Like before, patrons can sit by the window and take in the Manhattan skyline. And instead of tables and chairs there are now booths opposite the L-shaped counter for groups. More →

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Crashing the Sausage Party: A Pizzaiola Rises Among the Pie Guys

(Photo courtesy of Miriam Weiskind)

New York City’s local pizzaiolos (Italian for “dude who slings pizzas”) have a lot in common. Although they each have their own recipes and twists, they’re all on a mission to source the freshest ingredients and make their pie stand out among the rest, a somewhat difficult task when working with the same simple ingredients. Another stark similarity: they’re almost all men.  More →

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Could COVID Derail Tani the Refugee Chess Prodigy?

The Adewumi family. From left: Oluwatoyin, Adesina, Tanitoluwa, and Kayode. (Photo by James Pothen).

“I need 400 points more,” says the small boy on the couch. “And I need to go to more tournaments.” 

The strange thing is, everyone is taking Tanitoluwa (“Tani”) Adewumi seriously. He’s not talking about beating his friends at Fortnite or becoming a state sports champion. This 10-year-old is inches away from becoming the youngest chess Grandmaster in history.  More →

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Making the Vest of a Bad Situation: Knitting and Tufting Booms During Covid

Paige Parkin (courtesy of @knitdiaries)

There have been a few trends on social media since quarantine began: banana bread. Whipped coffee. Tie-dye sweatsuits. One that you can’t escape on any Explore page recently? Knitting and tufting. Knitting is more commonly known, but tufting is a more artisanal craft; it’s the art of creating rugs with a tufting gun. And it’s suddenly huge, with a hashtag that has over 206.5 million views on TikTok. 

Leti Ruiz, who has worked at Downtown Yarns for 10 years, says last year was unprecedented. “It’s always up and down, especially because it’s seasonal,” she said of business at the East Village textiles shop. “2020 was kind of unique because that’s when people were knitting the most, all year. There’s always been an interest in knitting and crochet, but I feel like what I saw this year was interest in other crafts, like weaving, tufting, or embroidery.”  More →

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Can Williamsburg’s Record Stores Get Back Into the Groove?

Rough Trade NYC. (Photo: David Hilowitz via Wiki Commons)

Like the plague victim in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, “I’m not dead yet!” is the obstinate cry of independent record stores coping with lockdowns and reduced foot traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic. In Brooklyn’s northwest corner, two Williamsburg record stores have announced the closing of their brick-and-mortar locations, leaving a temporary void of arts and culture in a neighborhood already disappearing under commercial chain stores and high-rise apartments. Rough Trade NYC and Human Head Records both say they have plans to reopen in new locations later in the year, but their vague announcements made me nervous. More →