Nearly 50 residents, small business owners, activists and crusties alike attended an anti-Starbucks rally Thursday evening in the East Village. The crowd gathered at St. Marks and Avenue A, where the chain plans to open a new store, to discuss what another Starbucks would mean for the community. Increased corporate presence, increased rents, increased tenant harassment, increased property taxes, increased vacant properties, decreased retail diversity, decreased community involvement– the list of fears went on.
The 65 Ainslie Street apartment “FREE COFFEE” sign from Union Ave. (Photo courtesy @chuckorcharlie)
Back in February, we noticed a FREE COFFEE sign hovering a few stories above the controversial Starbucks on Union Avenue and wondered if it was an olive branch to neighbors who were rankled by the corporate interloper’s bid for a liquor license. But a barista at the Starbucks told us there were no free Frappuccinos to be had, and it quickly became apparent that the glowing sign was either an art installation, an epic prank, or both. Curious to find out, we slipped a note under the door of one of the building’s top-floor apartments, requesting a word with the sign maker.
Last week, we finally got a text: “This is the guy behind the free coffee sign.”
This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.
The old Astor Place Opera House. (Public Domain)
In 2012, when attendees of an anarchist book fair scuffled with police and attempted to smash the windows of the Starbucks on Astor Place, the mayhem—far uptown from Occupy Wall Street’s demonstrations at Zuccotti Park— seemed to come out of nowhere. But it was hardly the first instance of unrest staged at the onetime site of the Astor Place Opera House. Opened in 1847, the opera house catered to the wealthy residents of the neighborhood, singing an aria of exclusivity that offended the general public. It later became the stage for the Astor Place Riot, a bloody clash born out of tension between the rich and the poor in the theater world that forced the Opera House to shutter its doors.
If you spotted Kim and Kanye, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Drake at Tumblr’s 2014 Year in Review party, you can stop spazzing — they were just celebrity impersonators. But Reggie Watts in the ball pit? That shiz was 100% real. More →
A couple of weeks ago operators of the Starbucks that’s set to open at 154 N 7th Street got an earful from Williamsburg residents at a community board meeting as they pled their case for selling beer and wine. According to Gothamist, the owners of a nearby coffee shop, The West, managed to wrangle 500 signatures in three days opposing the liquor license. But nevermind all that: the ‘bucks is determined to win the hearts and minds of Williamsburgers — via (what else?) yarn bombing. More →
Starbucks’ new Williamsburg outpost (Photo: Kirsten O’Regan)
In case you hadn’t heard, Williamsburg finally got itself a Starbucks location this morning—on Union Ave near the Lorimer/Metropolitan L and G station. The neighborhood is already in the throes of an identity crisis, what with the closure of old stalwarts and the imminent arrival of megaliths like J. Crew. While the Twitter-sphere at large explodes with consternation at this latest development (woeful declarations of the demise of the neighborhood abound), we hit the streets to find out what locals really think about their newest coffee purveyor. More →