East Village

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Michael Jackson Mural Hits East Village as Spike Lee Preps MJ Block Party

(Photo: Tara Yarlagadda)

At the corner of First Avenue and East 11th Street, tourists and residents alike stopped in their tracks, stunned by the mural in front of them. It was a very familiar visage split straight down the middle. The right half of the face depicted an image of a young boy with a relaxed smile, round cheeks and a discernible afro on a white backdrop. The left half, by contrast, showed an older, gaunt face with straight hair and alert eyes on a black backdrop. The faces were further bifurcated into crisp diamonds in all the colors of the rainbow, standing out from the neighboring red brick facades. The face was none other than the late king of pop: Michael Jackson.

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Once-Trendy Cupcakes Replace Trendy Poke Bowls on East 8th Street

(Photo: Daniel Maurer)

If you’re wondering whether we’ll ever see the end of the poke bowl trend, here’s food for thought. RAW MKT, the poke spot on East 8th Street, closed just a year after opening in the NYU area. Its replacement? A cupcake shop.

Wait, wasn’t the cupcake trend declared dead after Crumbs crumbled?

Don’t tell that to Buttercup Bake Shop. Signage for the mini chain has gone up in the window of the narrow storefront at  61 East 8th St., near Broadway. It declares the bake shop is “opening soon…like, real soon,” and an employee at the shop’s 2nd Avenue location tells us it should be doling out sweet treats in about two weeks.

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Art This Week: Beach Bodies, Paintings, and Who Gets To Play

Nate Lewis (image via Fridman Gallery / Facebook)

Strange Beach
Opening Tuesday, July 24 at Fridman Gallery, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through August 31.

Summertime is a time for going to the beach, but that’s not what this group exhibition at Fridman Gallery is about, despite the name. Rather, it’s a “metaphor for the body,” framing one’s physical form as a vessel of sorts that can advance, retreat, swallow up others, be intruded upon, amass debris and valuable items alike over time. Three artists comprise Strange Beach: Arghavan Khosravi, Nate Lewis, and Tajh Rust, who incorporate themes of race, social history, portraiture, and the marginalized retaking their own narratives, whether this be through drawing on photographs to create something celestial or painting portraits of people using their own skin tones to inform the color palette. More →

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Chicago Artist Embeds Trump in East Village, Gets the ‘Welcome to NY, Now Leave’ Treatment

(@jimbachor on Instagram)

In his hometown of Chicago, artist Jim Bachor is known for covering up unsightly potholes with mosaics depicting things people actually like: ice cream cones, flowers, donuts. So what was he doing in an East Village roadway on Friday afternoon, installing a marble-and-glass portrait of Donald Trump?

Rest assured, this was no respectful tribute. Bachor traveled to New York to do a Kickstarter-funded series entitled “Vermin of New York,” and Trump was the third installation right after a dead pigeon in Prospect Heights and a dead rat in Fort Greene.

“I say it’s less than two hours before someone puts a duce on it,” wrote one commenter after the work was unveiled on Instagram.

“I hate his face but at least cars are driving over it repeatedly,” wrote another.

Others predicted the piece would be destroyed by a Trump hater, but it seems to have met an altogether different fate. Earlier today when we looked for it on East 2nd Street, between First and A, the work had already disappeared, with just some tiny white shards left behind in the pothole it had covered. Another mosaic in the series– a cockroach on Bleecker Street– was also extracted, per an Instagram photo. 

Had the city made good on its promise to the New York Post that it would pave over the art? Asked whether the Department of Transportation had indeed covered up Trump’s mug, a DOT spokesperson gave a Huckabee-Sanders-esque response and told us, vaguely, that they anticipated repaving over the mosaics.

Bachor at work on the Trump mosaic (courtesy of the artist).

Bachor, who is now back in Chicago, says he has never gotten the bum rush like this in his hometown, where Chicagoist and Timeout have included his work on their lists of the city’s best public art. He claims he’s never received significant flack from cops or city workers. He did, however, get some gruff from a local doorman a little over a year ago, when he donned his trademark orange safety vest and, near Chicago’s Trump International Hotel & Tower, installed a gold-trimmed Russian flag bearing the word “LIAR.” Someone ended up blacking out the piece, but Bachor was able to restore it with some scraping.

That particular stunt cost Bachor some Instagram followers, but he wasn’t about to let that stop him from dissing Trump on his home turf. “I can’t believe this clown is leading the country,” he told us. “I can’t believe so many people are duped into buying his bullshit.”

Whatever the artist’s intentions, not everyone in the East Village was psyched about having Trump’s mug literally set in concrete. Bachor says that as he was installing the work over the course of about eight hours, one passerby “thought it was a pro-Trump thing and he was like, ‘Aw, you’re wasting your art on that guy.’”

The artist, who also sells in galleries, estimates his “Vermin of New York” pieces would go for about $1,200 a pop there. “I think removing them is just a little mean-spirited,” he told us.

Perhaps downright Trumpian?

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New Target Desperately Tries to Fit Into the East Village: Does It Hit the Mark?

(Photos: Tara Yarlagadda)

I had been caught in the pouring rain without an umbrella, and my shirt was soaked through like a wet dog on the night of the East Village Target’s soft opening. “This is a bad omen,” I muttered, the weather not improving my already lukewarm attitude toward the behemoth chain store right across from my home in the East Village. As a resident of 14th Street, I had walked by the 27,000-square-foot, two-floor Target at 500 East 14th Street nearly every day for the past year, spanning its early construction all the way up to its glitzy opening day. To confess: until yesterday, I– like many East Villagers— found the Target to be a mostly unwelcome eyesore and a reflection of the hyper-gentrification of the neighborhood. It didn’t help that one of my go-to Chinese food joints had been shuttered in 2017 in the same location. Sitting atop the Target are luxurious, $3,695-per-month apartment units.

As I peered into the store’s open windows and looked at the svelte mannequins sporting trendy summer dresses, I thought that it resembled something more akin to a Saks Off Fifth than the decidedly un-hip Targets of my suburban California childhood. But by the end of the store’s opening that night, I’d become mostly convinced that if a megastore must take over a corner of the East Village, it might as well be Target.

How did they convince me? Target plans to open up a new store on the Lower East Side in August and is coming to Kips Bay and Hell’s Kitchen next year. Part of the brand’s commercial success in metro New York may lie in its distinct appeal to the communities it serves. That’s evident from the moment you walk in the store and spot the pastel-pink mural designed by Vault49, which spans the length of the checkout area and references Avenue A and the Nuyorican community of the Village and LES. Or the kombucha in the grocery aisles and the sliced toasted coconut chips hanging near checkout, perhaps catering to the area’s millennial population.

A mural in homage to the East Village behind the Target checkout counter.

“When we think about going into a community, we spend a lot of time talking to guests and understanding what they would be looking for from Target,” said Target spokesperson Erin Conroy. “Making sure the store fits the flavor not just from an assortment perspective but from an aesthetic perspective as well.”

The East Village store’s team leader, Steve Dyba, echoed comments along a similar line. “I think we really have an opportunity to become the neighborhood store.”

Some might balk at the idea of Target becoming the “neighborhood” store in the once-burgeoning artists’ community. But gesturing towards a toy set which she intended to purchase for her grandchildren, Susan Stetzer, district manager for Community Board 3, said, “Where could I buy Harry Potter LEGO in our community? I can’t. I can’t. So I think people are excited about buying things that are no longer available in our community.”

I spoke with both Stetzer and Alysha Lewis-Coleman, chair of Community Board 3, near the first-floor produce section. Both were generally pleased with the new Target, which they said had been consulting with the community board prior to the store’s opening to hire local employees.

“Jobs are so needed and so scarce right now. I’m just happy they created another job source for families and young people in this area,” said Coleman. She added, “They wanted to do right by the community.”

A Target employee adjusts an item of clothing.

Over the course of the night, I did, however, learn that not all store employees were from the area. Not including senior Target team leaders or communications officials, I spoke to two of the store’s 110 employees. Neither of them lived in the East Village. Many employees who were not from the area seemed to be part of the extended Target family, such as Teresa G., a lively young woman who had been promoted from her previous station in Queens to oversee home goods and other items here in the East Village.

The star of last night’s show was the iconic English bull terrier and Target mascot Bullseye. I wondered how they had managed to paint the Target emblem—a bullseye, of course—around the pooch’s eye. I then decided better of it. Attendees gleefully posed for photos with the terrier, who was perched atop his own pedestal.

Employees pose for a picture with the Target mascot.

Following that, attendees sipped red wine, chowed down on mini Korean BBQ tacos being passed around by servers, and explored the store’s wares, which included an array of women’s wear and reasonably-priced produce on the first floor, as well as apparel and home goods—including a Target-owned men’s clothing brand and candles affixed with the image of Jesus Christ—on the lower level. The odd, but somehow fitting assortment of items made me think that while this Target would never become a beloved neighborhood fixture, it was going to do just fine. Maybe I would even stop by and pick up some of their $2.99 mini watermelons to make a summer slushie. But as I left, I frowned, asking myself, “Am I a sellout? Or just adjusting to the changing reality of the East Village?”

The East Village Target is located at 500 E 14th St.  The store launched for its soft opening yesterday. Its grand opening will take place on July 21.

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East Village Thai Has Closed After Two Decades

(Photo: Daniel Maurer)

Pour out some milky, sweet iced tea for East Village Thai, a tiny, beloved neighborhood fixture.

The East 7th Street hole-in-the-wall has been known to take summer breaks, maybe because the small, open kitchen behind the takeout counter kicked up so much heat. But this time the four-seat restaurant won’t be back. A sign on the shutter thanks customers and says “It has been a true privilege to serve you for these past decades.” Facebook postings from the cheap-eats go-to indicate it is “closed permanently” as of this week. 

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Detroit-Inspired Pizza, Coney Dogs, and More New Restaurants

(Image courtesy Paradise Lounge via Instagram)

Between a bizarre amount of Detroit-inspired greasy goods and fish-shaped ice cream delights, we’ve compiled a lineup of new openings to keep you stuffed this entire weekend.

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Patti Smith Mural Pays Tribute to Punk Icon’s East Village Roots

(Photo courtesy of @walkinggirlnyc)

“P U N K is back in the East Village,” reads the Instagram comment from neighborhood street-art curators East Village Walls.

That might be a stretch, but this imposing portrait of Patti Smith just went up on East Second Street, near First Avenue. It’s by Huetek, the Brooklyn-born artist who has previously dedicated walls to Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Cobain, and Mike Tyson.

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Beloved Korean Chicken Joint Mono + Mono Returns Five Years After Fire

(Photos: Tara Yarlagadda)

After a five-year-plus hiatus, Mono + Mono is officially back in business starting tomorrow, July 10. The much-loved Korean fried chicken joint known for playing classic jazz closed down after a fire blazed though the building in 2013. There were a few times over the years when it seemed like it would re-emerge, only to no avail. But now it’s finally up and running, and has returned to occupy its old haunt on East 4th Street. More →