No Comments

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 →

No Comments

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.

No Comments

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 →

No Comments

The Band That ‘Saved Summer’ Returns to Tompkins With a New Song

Last summer, when the city was sweltering, New Yorkers sought refuge from their apartments, and each other, in COVID-safe public spaces. Many lugged themselves to Tompkins Square Park, in the East Village, where, every Saturday, the self-proclaimed “imaginary band,” Pinc Louds, would play a rollicking, effervescent set. Reflecting on their impact, one commentator summarized the public consensus: “Pinc Louds saved the summer.” More →

No Comments

As Schools Reopen, the Lower Eastside Girls Club Prepares For a Return to Semi-Normality

(Photos courtesy of Lower Eastside Girls Club)

Thousands of New York City high schoolers returned to in-person classes on March 22, nearly a month after middle schoolers did the same. As classrooms reopen, high school sports are finally resuming this month, and after-school programs that transitioned to online learning last year — or that went dark entirely — are also  reevaluating their services. One of those programs, the Lower Eastside Girls Club, began a new session of online classes last month. Now, it plans to resume limited in-person classes in May and full in-person activities by the summer. It will be a return to semi-normality after a year of constant adaptation. More →

1 Comment

Tony Chung Splits Med School With Keeping His Family’s Chinatown Restaurant Alive

Tony Chung outside of Pasteur Grill and Noodles. (Photo: Paul Kim)

Behind every great Asian restaurant are the owner’s children doing their homework nearby, or so the joke goes. Whenever Tony Chung sees those memes in the Facebook group “subtle asian traits,” he can’t help but laugh. He was one of those restaurant children. “There was this corner table, number one, at the restaurant where we would always sit and just do our homework while people were eating,” recalls Chung, now a 23-year-old Biomedical Science Master’s student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. More →

No Comments

The ‘Magician’ Who Makes Art Appear On East Village Walls

Art by BKFoxx, Katie Reidy (@RARiGRAFiX), and Urban Russian Doll. (Photo courtesy of East Village Walls)

Dive bars, vintage boutiques, and locally owned restaurants have long occupied the East Village’s streets, but one feature of the neighborhood stands out – the art up on its walls. A highland cow for the Year of the Ox and two purple faces fashioned into the likeness of Kobe and Gianna are only some of the images painted on a variety of buildings, with new murals replacing them every few months. More →