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News from the Lower East Side
The “Chinatown Bus” Wars Come to Seward Park
Ed Litvak Editor-in-Chief Traven Rice General Manager/Arts Editor Jennifer Strom Associate Editor Tobi Elkin Copy Editor Kim Sillen Gledhill Art Director JP Bowersock Contributing Writer Giacinta Frisillo Contributing Writer Evan Forsch Cartoonist Jac Zagoory Account Executive Advertising inquiries: email@example.com Story tips: tips @ thelodownny.com Contact us: 646-861-1805
letter from the Editor:
in this issue
One of the first stories I covered shortly after
The Lo-Down is a publication of Lo-Down Productions LLC, © 2012.
the The Lo-Down launched three years ago was focused on a group of residents on Pike Street who’d had it with the “Chinatown buses” that had taken over their block. In the months that followed, the issue did not go away. There were crashes involving the discount bus lines, countless community meetings and a big push for state legislation to deal with the “Wild West” atmosphere surrounding the unregulated bus industry. Now there’s a new controversy — this one concerning a Greyhound bus stop on Essex Street. We have covered it extensively on the web site, and will continue to do so. But this month in the magazine, we turn back the clock and look at how the city and the Lower East Side community arrived at this point. Due to the new law, the city’s transportation department will be receiving numerous applications from discount bus lines eager to establish bus stops throughout the neighborhood. This is a topic that’s going to impact everyone who lives on the LES, so we thought it was well worth an in-depth look. Thanks for reading our October issue!
The Growing Battle Over “Chinatown Buses” on the LES
Cafe Katja Revamped The Leadbelly, Foley Gallery, 12 Corners Sheldon Silver Scrutinized, Orchard Street Death, Subway Fire The Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe Expands Inside Chinatown’s ‘Shift-Bed’ Apartments “Pickle Day,” “Graffiti/Post Graffiti,” “CMJ Music Festival” Celebrating Fall with Beer and Sausage
11 New Arrivals
12 Neighborhood News
14 Ar ts Watch
15 Your Day is My Night: Performing From 16 Calendar/Feat ured Events
J P’s Food Advent ures
18 My LES
A.J. Rourk of The New York Times Lower East Sideways
20 Car toon
Cover photo: The Lo-Down envisions a new bus stop at Seward Park, part of Greyhound’s new “YO! Bus” service.
From the countryside to the city: Greyhound releases a publicity photo of its new “YO! Bus,” which will be operating between New York and Philadelphia
By Ed Litvak
n the spring of 2009, Albert Chan decided the time had come to take his block back. Armed with video and still cameras, he began documenting the chaotic scene unfolding day and night on the street outside 1 Pike Street, between East Broadway and Division, his family’s home for 30 years. Two bus companies had taken over the curb, creating a makeshift depot for their booming business shuttling passengers from New York to Boston, Washington, D.C. and other destinations. Crowds swarmed on the sidewalk, sometimes after 3 o’clock in the morning. Exhaust from idling buses wafted up to Chan’s apartment. Ticket agents camped out on the front steps. Passengers even loitered in his lobby and left trash everywhere. After lobbying local elected officials and Community Board 3, Chan and his neighbors finally got the city to crack down. The buses did not disappear but at least it was no longer a free-for-all on Pike Street. Flash forward to this fall—more than three years later. A large, riled up crowd
came out in force to a community meeting, telling CB3 members in no uncertain terms, that they wouldn’t stand for another “Chinatown bus” operation near their homes, on another Lower East Side/Chinatown street corner. In the two weeks before the community board’s September transportation committee meeting, the group had launched a petition drive and media campaign to scuttle Greyhound/Peter Pan’s application for a bus stop adjacent to Seward Park, on Essex Street. A week later the city, in spite of the protests, went ahead and approved the permit anyway. (As this issue was being finalized, local elected officials asked the DOT to rescind the permit; visit The Lo-Down online for updates.) In some ways, it seems like not much has changed in the past three years. The Chinatown bus industry, while transforming, is still a phenomenon. Residents continue to push back against the curbside operations. And the city is still struggling to balance the demands of commerce vs. com-
munity. But there is a key difference. In the aftermath of deadly accidents and persistent complaints from constituents, local elected officials pushed through state legislation regulating the interstate buses. The end result? The “Wild West” atmosphere in which bus operators pulled up wherever they pleased is being replaced with a permit system, requiring buses to stop in assigned spaces. While the law has not yet gone into effect, some see the Greyhound application as an initial test of the new order. If the community meeting, in which board members urged the city to steer clear of Seward Park, is any indication, the transition seems likely to be a bumpy one. Discount bus lines started to make their presence known in Chinatown in 1997, primarily serving immigrants working in Chinese restaurants up and down the East Coast. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, when air travel became more difficult and more expensive, the industry began a period of rapid expansion to meet high demand. A 2009 survey by the Department of City Planning recorded around 250 daily arrivals and departures in Chinatown. More than 20 bus companies were operating curbside, on Allen Street, Chrystie Street, Canal and East Broadway.
Local police precincts would, on occasion, conduct “enforcement actions,” ticketing drivers for parking buses during layovers or for idling too long. Police and bus drivers played a frustrating game of “cat and mouse,” in which officers chased them away from one spot only to find buses popping up somewhere else. Police and Department of Transportation (DOT) officials agreed there was only so much they could do, since federal interstate commerce laws protected the bus companies’ right to operate. Other cities, Boston among them, forced the interstate operators into bus terminals, but since the Port Authority (the world’s busiest bus station) was already seriously overtaxed, this was not an option in New York. Three years ago, a report prepared by the city’s Planning Department concluded, “A Chinatown bus terminal is essential to the economic growth of Chinatown and safety for patrons, pedestrians and residents.” But Luis Sanchez, the DOT’s Lower Manhattan commissioner, told CB3 at a meeting in December of 2009 that an exhaustive search for a downtown location had been unsuccessful. He even suggested, perhaps jokingly, that the city had considered putting the buses on a barge and sending them to New Jersey. The DOT had studwww.thelodownny.com
ied using Pier 42 at Montgomery St. as a bus bany announced they had worked out their layover lot. But community groups, which differences, agreeing upon compromise legwaged a long battle to reclaim the pier for a islation all parties could accept. At a news new park, were opposed, and officials conference in Speaker Silver’s Lower Mandropped the idea. hattan office, the city’s transportation comDuring that meeting, Sanchez advocat- missioner, Janette Sadek-Khan, endorsed ed a temporary solution: a mandatory per- the permit system. “Neighborhood streets mit system for interstate bus operators that should not be turned into de-facto bus dewould allow the city to designate passen- pots” by inter-city bus operators,” she said. ger loading areas Giant blow-ups and to ensure of those photos that companies taken by Pike adhered to safety Street resident standards. A couAlbert Chan ple of months three years earlater, State Senalier were promtor Daniel Squadinently disron and Assembly played during Speaker Sheldon the press event. Silver announced By mid-August, state legislation both houses had that, if approved, passed the bus Deadly Bronx bus crash; March 2011 would authorize bill and Goverthe DOT to put a permit system in place. The nor Cuomo signed it into law. proposal languished in Albany for more All of these events set the stage for the than a year, blocked by Senate Republicans boisterous community board meeting conand Mayor Bloomberg, who objected to pro- cerning Greyhound’s Seward Park applicavisions giving the City Council a role in the tion last month. The city is just beginning to process. set up procedures for the permit system and Then in March of 2011, tragedy struck public hearings will be held once it comes in the Bronx, when a bus run by World up with a plan. But the Greyhound/Peter Wide Tours crashed on its way back from a Pan proposal and another application for a casino trip, killing 15 Chinatown residents. stop across from Sara D. Roosevelt Park, on Federal investigators found the driver, an Chrystie Street, offered early opportunities ex-con with a spotty driving record, was to see how the new framework, which respeeding and fatigued. The horrific accident quires community board consultations, and several other deadly crashes created might play out. new urgency in Albany. Meanwhile, govChristian DiPalermo, a consultant hired ernment regulators began an investigation, by Greyhound, said the company was partcurbing numerous buses during spot in- nering with Peter Pan for a new venture spections and, ultimately, shutting down called “YO! Bus,” with a ticket office on East 26 bus companies in Chinatown serving up Broadway and its first bus stop on Essex to 2,000 daily customers. U.S. Transporta- Street and Canal. A pamphlet handed out tion Secretary Ray LaHood stood on a China- at the meeting called YO! “a specialty targettown street corner May 31 of this year and ed intercity bus service to directly serve the proclaimed, “shutting down (these opera- residents, students and workers of Chinators) will save lives.” town by offering safe, reliable and affordA few weeks earlier, lawmakers in Al- able non-stop service between New York
and Philadelphia.” The two companies had hinted it might be prudent to put certain realready found success with another joint strictions on the Greyhound permit, rather operation intended to compete with the than rejecting it outright. David Crane, the discount bus industry. But the service, Bolt- chairman of the panel, said the communiBus, picked up passengers from the streets ty board enjoyed only limited inf luence around Penn Station and a few other areas, with the city. It was possible, he warned, rather than operating in Chinatown and that the DOT would approve the applicathe Lower East Side. Now Greyhound, the tion without any restrictions if CB3 adopted country’s largest an uncompromisinterstate bus oping position. erator, was signalOne speaker, ing its determinWellington Chen ation to seize the of the Chinatown opportunity crePartnership (a ated by the federal small business adcrackdown in Chivocacy group), arnatown. gued in favor of So far, however, the application, YO! Bus is not resaying the disceiving a very count bus industry warm welcome. is the “lifeblood Many residents of Chinatown.” say they support Shop owners and A bus approaches a stop in Chinatown. the new permit restaurant operasystem and acknowledge the value of the dis- tors, he explained, had been hit hard by the count bus business in Chinatown. But at the federal shutdown, deprived of a steady f low meeting, numerous speakers denounced the of out-of-state customers. “Do not cut our chosen location, which is directly in front of a lifeline,” he pleaded. But others have arplayground. Rima Strauss, a resident of The gued that Greyhound’s entry into the marForward Building, just across the way from ket could f inish off the small, Chinese-run the planned stop, said she cherishes her days bus companies still doing business in the in Seward Park taking part in Chinese dance neighborhood. In recent years, Greyhound and worries that the “gentle character of the and the American Bus Association went on neighborhood is threatened” by Greyhound’s a lobbying offensive in Washington, D.C., proposal. Approving the location, she said, pressing for greater scrutiny of the Chinawould be a vote against “families, kids, the town bus industry. The springtime crackelderly and the Chinese community.” down did not target a single member of the In response to the opposition, Grey- trade association. The way some of the little hound reduced its daily arrivals and depar- guys see it, Greyhound set out to crush entretures from 28 to 16, and promised to put preneurship when it failed to compete stringent crowd control measures in place against more nimble upstarts. alongside Seward Park. But locals were City DOT officials did not take part in clearly dissatisfied. DiPalermo was jeered last month’s community board meeting, after refusing to delay the application and but on Sept. 19 they sent word to the comdeclining to conduct air quality tests on munity board and local elected officials that Essex Street. “We will let the process un- the permit would be approved; it will be refold,” he insisted. Members of the commu- evaluated after six months. YO! service was nity board were heckled as well, when they (Continued on Page 10)
Café Katja Reopens With More Space, Broader Menu and Lunch
By Jennifer Strom
“Basically, it’s going to be the same, but with more seats, another bathroom and windows that open,” Chase said late last month, as workers put the finishing touches on the new floor. “Also, we have a real working kitchen now.” The new Katja, which is expected to open any day now at 77-79 Orchard Sreet, will accommodate more than twice as many diners, with 54 seats. Its new kitchen, which runs across the rear wall and is somewhat open to the dining room, will be much more functional, with a large gas range replacing the two tiny electric burners that used to serve for the whole menu. “The reason the old Katja worked so well was because the menu was heavily edited,” Chase said. “We knew exactly what we could do — and what we couldn’t.” For example, Schrottner said, the switch from electric to gas will enable the partners to offer weiner schnitzel, a traditional staple of Austrian fare their old kitchen wasn’t capable of producing. Additional storage, including a second walk-in refrigerator installed in the now much larger basement, will allow for a broader menu, including the addition of more vegetarian and lighter-fare options that Chase and Schrottner hope will combat the stereotype that Austrian cuisine is heavy, cold-weather-only food. “If you visited Austria, you would see that there is actually a lot of healthy, lighter food there,” says Schrottner, who emigrated from there as a young man. House favorites include spaetzle, meatballs and several varieties of sausages, but there are also salad and sandwich options that will be expanded now that there is room to store a wider range of provisions in the basement coolers. (See J.P.’s Food Adventures on page 17 for more on Katja’s sausages.) The larger kitchen also allowed for the addition of one large appliance whose appearance will be welcomed by many patrons: an espresso machine. Other than that, the beverage options will remain the same, with six beers on draft, a respectable wine list and signature cocktails. (continued on page 20)
Inside the new Cafe Katja A year ago, Erwin Schrottner and Andrew Chase, the proprietors of tiny Café Katja, could not have been happier with their four-year-old restaurant, except for one thing: they needed more space. Their loyal patrons regularly overflowed the two dozen seats, forcing them to turn business away, particularly on weekends, when crowds spilled out onto Orchard Street as the waitstaff squeezed and bustled among hungry diners waiting along a wall. But last fall, an unexpected opportunity dropped in their laps. A store next to them shuttered; they pounced. Using their combined experience in a variety of restaurants they’d worked in before opening Katja, as well as years of planning about how they would expand if they could, the partners designed a bigger, more functional restaurant that still retains Katja’s homey, intimate feel. They removed a 25-inch-thick brick wall, unifying the old storefront with the new, installing a much larger U-shaped slate bar, reclaimed-wood plank floors and custom metalwork that includes tall streetside windows they can fling open in nice weather. 8
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(Continued from Page 7) scheduled to begin Sept. 27. In the long-run, the city must grapple with a difficult reality: no one wants a new bus stop anywhere near their own home. Yet in the months ahead, the DOT will be receiving a large number of permit applications from bus companies seeking a foothold in Chinatown. There will likely be a dozen or more stops scattered throughout this neighborhood alone. Under withering questioning from residents, Greyhound acknowledged it had proposed two other locations on the Lower East Side, one of them at 3 Pike Street, where Albert Chan and other beleaguered residents beat back the discount bus onslaught three years ago. Evidently the DOT has no enthusiasm for a new Pike Street bus stop — the block is a future BikeShare location. But the buses are obviously going somewhere, which means we can all look forward to a lot more battles in the months and years to come.
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(205 Chrystie St., cocktailbodega. com) is the newest project from Sons of Essex proprietor Matt Levine. Levine’s latest offering to the LES nightlife scene specializes in liquor-blended smoothies and spiked fruit juice that combine healthy ingredients with booze. Cocktails include gingersnap ginseng gin and a wheatgrass Jim Beam. Also on the menu is “creCocktail Bodega ative street food” from chef Roble Ali such as jerk chicken satay and a kimchee ruben sandwich. The FOLEY GALLERY (97 Allen St., foleygallery.com) relocated ground floor space is bright and to the LES last month after eight years in Chelsea. It specializes in diner-like in its decor; downstairs, drawing, cut paper, painting and works of photography. Owner the Cocktail Bodega Underground, Michael Foley, a member of the faculty at the School of Visual Arts, or CBU, is furnished in a subway debuted his new space with the gallery’s fourth solo show by book and graffiti theme. artist Thomas Allen, “Beautiful Evidence,” which is on view until Oct. 14. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
12 CORNERS (155 East Broadway) coffee shop serves java
and pastries in a casual atmosphere near the corner of Rutgers Street. The coffee comes from Kobrick’s, the nearly century-old NYC roaster; the baked goods are brought in from from Park Slope’s Blue Sky Bakery. There are a few tables and a sidewalkfacing bar, along with free Wi-Fi.
THE FALAFEL SHOP
“We know the neighborhood”
STATION INDEPENDENT PROJECTS (164 Suffolk St.,
stationindependent.com) finally has a place to call its own, after a decade of organizing exhibitions in and around New York in collaboration with other galleries, art fairs and non-profits. Under Director Leah Oates, a stable of 12 artists will exhibit in the new gallery, starting with photographic works by Rob Carter, which runs through Oct. 7. The gallery, which specializes in “discovering new, emerging and mid-career artists,” is open Thursday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. and by appointment.
Erin Rodriguez firstname.lastname@example.org Real Estate Salesperson, REALTOR® 419 Park Avenue South New York, NY 10016 www.FenwickKeats.com
(127 Rivington St., thefalafelshop.com) brings another affordable vegetarian option to the LES, with a Mediterranean menu of falafel, hummus and sabich. Other specialities include a “Popeye” omelette featuring spinach and herbs and a “bureka treat” made with farmer cheese puff pastry, tahini, tomato and hard-boiled eggs. Fresh-squeezed juices and house-made baklava round out the menu.
(14 Orchard St., theleadbelly.com), a new venture from the folks behind the Fat Radish just across the street, joins a growing trend of Lower East Side oyster bars and seafood joints. The menu features East and West Coast oysters, and plates such as grilled peaches and beet tarte tatin. The hand-crafted cocktails include the “Spicy Pineapple” (rum, lime and chile) and “Dirty Lemonade” (with jalapenos). There’s also a built-in piano for live music and a lovely copper bar. Dinner and late-night eats run from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Sheldon Silver speaks with the press.
A 29-year-old woman fell to her death on a flight of marble stairs at 191 Orchard Street on Aug. 27. Carlisle Brigham was staying temporarily with a friend who lived there, and apparently lost her balance while descending, carrying heavy bags and wearing high heels. The gruesome incident was initially investigated as a crime scene, after neighbors discovered Brigham lying in a pool of blood on a landing with such severe injuries that it appeared she’d been attacked. Police officers and the medical examiner eventually ruled out foul play and declared Brigham’s death accidental, saying she’d died from “blunt impact trauma to her neck” in her fall, which occurred after a night of heavy drinking. Brigham had worked at the Museum of Natural History until this spring. She was the daughter of James R. Brigham Jr., a prominent St. Louis banker who served as New York City’s budget director in the 1970s and ’80s and also served as chair of the NYC Public Development Corp.
LES representative and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver continues to face criticism of his handling of sexual harassment allegations brought against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a powerful Brooklyn Democrat and longtime Silver ally. When the charges against Lopez surfaced this summer, along with reports that Silver had authorized the use of public money as a settlement, the Assembly Speaker issued an unprecedented public mea culpa for his role. In early September, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics announced it would investigate Silver’s decision to pay $103,000 from state coffers to two of Lopez’s accusers. During brief remarks to reporters at an unrelated event in Chinatown on Sept. 10, Silver faced a large press pool grilling him for a reaction to the investigation. He told reporters: “We believe a full investigation will show that we acted in good faith, pursuant to law, in what we believed was the best interests of the women.”
The “Pink Building,” site of the former Ridley & Sons Department store, once the largest store in the city, is soon be a landmark. Chinatown real estate
An underground fire between Essex Street and the Bowery disrupted the afternoon rush hour for thousands of commuters on the J, M and Z lines Sept. 7. About 500 people were evacuated beginning shortly before 3 p.m., including riders on a train that had to be rolled backward to the Essex Street station so that passengers could disembark. A second group of passengers was evacuated from a train that had just arrived at Essex Street from Brooklyn. A local television station quoted sources saying the fire was sparked when wires were dropped across the tracks by thieves stealing copper wire from inside a subway tunnel, which may be part of a large, ongoing theft operation.
For daily news updates visit The Lo-Down online at: thelodownny.com.
Residents of 11 Allen Street are waging a legal battle with their landlord, real estate investor Fei Wang, to remain in the building many of them have called home for two decades. According to residents, Wang began attempting to charge much higher rents soon after buying the building last year, and is now trying to evict them altogether. Before the building changed hands, tenants paid affordable rents according to written and verbal agreements rather than formal leases. After purchasing the five-story building for $2.3 million, according to the tenants, Wang insisted that rents increase by as much as 100% immediately, telling them they could leave if they were unable to afford the new rate. But soon after, he began disputing the legality of tenants’ residence in the building at all: 11 Allen is technically zoned as a commercial building, not for residential use. The resulting case, now in housing court, has rallied the families, who are fighting to preserve a small but close-knit community. They have enlisted the help of CAAAV-Organizing Asian Communities, a local organization that serves low-income Asian Americans immigrants in New York City, as well as the Urban Justice Center, which is representing the tenants pro bono. CAAAV and the tenants are pushing hard to settle the case out of court, so that they can negotiate for the building to become permanent affordable housing in a neighborhood where rents are rising fast. CAAAV has been in contact with local non-profits about the possibility of purchasing the property from Fei Wang for that purpose, but no plans have solidified yet.
There’s new activity at two historic buildings on the Lower East Side this fall. As the new owners of the Jarmulowsky Bank building at 54 Canal Street move forward with plans to convert it into a boutique hotel, they are seeking permission to renovate the landmarked 1912 structure to bring it up to modern code and adapt it for its new future. At a hearing before Community Board 3’s landmarks subcommittee in September, architect Ron Castellano (The Forward Building, Hester Street Fair, etc.) gained the advisory board’s support for an application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The LPC, whose approval is a necessary step anytime changes are proposed to a New York City landmark, is expected to take up the matter in the weeks ahead. Proposed changes include: Installing new balconies at the rear of the building (replacing existing fire escapes); raising the parapet; installing new mechanical equipment; and creating “occupiable space” on the roof where old mechanical equipment is now located. Another LES building that’s been winding its way through the LPC for three years was officially landmarked last month. The 125-year-old Ridley & Sons Department Store at 319-321 Grand Street, a quirky pink cast-iron building at the corner of Grand and Orchard streets, was built in 1886, but its namesake tenant closed in 1901. The commissioners decided not to protect a newer portion of the building, 59 Orchard Street, that was added in the 1930s. The LPC staff report noted that Ridley & Sons was once the largest department store in New York City.
The Nuyorican Embarks on a New Era
Your Day is My Night:
An Inside Look at New York’s “Shift-Bed” Residents
By Giacinta Frisillo
Stills from Your Day is My Night courtesy of Lynne Sachs
Photo courtesy of Nuyorican Poets Cafe
By Traven Rice
At a time in which many downtown performance venues are closing, it’s refreshing to see one of the neighborhood’s most-loved establishments, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, actually f lourishing. After recently being awarded $1 million from the city, the organization is embarking on the much needed renovation of its building on East 3rd Street The project, which is expected to cost around $7 million, coincides with the Nuyorican’s 40th anniversary this spring. “[The renovation] is probably going to go forward in stages because, as anyone trying to raise money for a capital project can tell you, it’s not easy to bring in $7 million dollars at one time,” Executive Director Daniel Gallant said, “but we have managed to accrue [enough] from the city to start the process of renovation and move forward.” Started in Miguel Algarin’s living room in 1973 by a group of like-minded writers and poets, the cafe became famous for its popular evenings of spoken word, poetry slams and early hiphop freestyle battles. The programming grew to include theater, live music, comedy, video and visual arts, and always sought to support underrepresented artists. Such talents as Miguel 14
Piñero, Ntozake Shange, Sarah Jones, Rosie Perez and Rosario Dawson have graced its stage. The building was purchased in 1981 for $8,000. “Back then, that was a lot of money to buy an abandoned tenement around here,” Gallant said. Not much has been done since then; there was no certificate of occupancy for the upper f loors, where Gallant said, there are some structural hazards. Gallant came to the Nuyorican four years ago, when the Board of Directors decided it was time to bring someone in who could focus, full-time, on helping the organization expand. Until then, the cafe was operated by a team of volunteers, who balanced other day jobs with their passion for keeping the Nuyorican going. Galant galvanized the cafe’s youthful audience base through social media, building on the popular Friday Night Poetry Slam. The Nuyorican has since doubled the number of shows it holds each year. Online ticket sales are up and web traffic has increased greatly. Gallant says the Nuyorican’s programs are at capacity, unable to answer the demand from (continued on Page 19)
They are living right here on the Lower East Side but most of us are oblivious to the existence, let alone the daily travails, of New York’s “shiftbed” residents. A hybrid documentary/live performance, Your Day is My Night, is coming to University Settlement next month, offering a rare glimpse into their hidden world. Of the innovative production based on the lives of Chinese immigrants compelled to rent beds in 12-hour increments, director Lynn Sachs says: “This shared domestic space becomes a…canvas on which lives are recounted and revealed.” Referring to her “new friends,” she explains, “We are making something together that we believe in, that expresses something about living in New York that perhaps has not been revealed before.” Alison Fleminger, curator of University Settlement’s “Performance Project” was immediately drawn to the production. “Our aim is to encourage greater participation in the live arts and to help cultivate diverse creative communities on the Lower East Side.” All of the performers are artists who have some kind of background in dance, tai chi or qigong. They are, she notes, “artists who are conscious of the multi-layered communities that co-exist in New York City.” One of the most compelling characters is a
man named Yun Xiu Huang. He is a popular Fujianese wedding singer, “with a powerhouse operatic voice” says Sachs. He arrived in New York around 1990 to fulfill the American Dream, or at least leave behind the difficulties in his homeland. He has grown children in China who he hasn’t seen in years and who he may not see for many more. When asked if he’d try to bring his family to the U.S., he answered, “look at us. We’re adults living in shift beds. Our children wouldn’t want to come here.” Sean Hanley, cinematographer and editor, observes, “the pain they experienced in China and the difficulty they’ve had living in the U.S. is something they never have a chance to talk about, because everyone they know has been through it.” The project artfully weaves a visual and oral history of lives you never knew existed. And now it’s opening up new possibilities for creative expression. In conjunction with the production, The Tenement Museum is working on a Chinese immigration exhibition and the Museum of Chinese in America is planning to present a special focus on Yun Xiu Huang. Performances run Thursday, Nov. 1st through Saturday, Nov. 3rd at 7:30 p.m. at University Settlement. For tickets, visit: universitysettlement.org.
what to do in
jp’s food adventures
In Search of Savory Sausage
by J.P. Bowersock
Visit our CALENDAR online at www.thelodownny.com/calendar for more details and to add your own events.
Graffiti/Post Graffiti Screening and Panel Discussion at the New Museum: The 1984 video documents the early graffiti artists who made the first transition to gallery artists. The panel includes Patti Astor and Fab Five Freddy, participants in Graffiti/Post Graffiti, as well as Marc H. Miller and Paul Tschinkel, co-directors of the video. 7:00 p.m., 235 Bowery, $8, newmuseum.org. 10th Annual OpenhouseNewYork Weekend: America’s largest architecture and design event offers up free tours and access to some of the city’s most intriguing private residences and historic landmarks. Highlights in the neighborhood include tours of the Henry Street Settlement’s historic headquarters and the Eldridge Street Synagogue. Visit ohny.org for participating sites. Pascal Rambert’s Love’s End at Abrons Arts Center: Performers Kate Moran and Jim Fletcher portray a couple in the grips of a broken relationship, following a script that Rambert has tailored specifically for the two performers. English-language premiere, runs through Oct. 13. 8 p.m., 466 Grand St., $20 advance, $30 day of, abronsartscenter.org.
CMJ Music Marathon 2012 Kicks Off: Music fans and industry insiders descend on downtown venues in hopes of discovering new music, with more than 1,300 up-and-comers given a chance to showcase their talents. The festival runs through Oct. 20. Visit cmj.com for artist and venue details. A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman at Tenement Talks: Tenement Museum President Morris Vogel hosts historian Alice Kessler-Harris in a conversation on the controversial woman and successful playwright who straddled political and cultural fault lines. 6:30 p.m., 103 Orchard St., free, tenement.org.
Lost and Found Music Series at the Museum at Eldridge: The Joey Weisenberg Ensemble brings “Transformation of a Nigun” to this month’s concert, blending Balkan, soul and bluegrass with traditional Jewish melodies. 3:00 p.m., 12 Eldridge St., $20 adults; $15 student/seniors; $50 for 3 Lost & Found Concerts, eldridgestreet.org.
Charles Dennis Short Films at Dixon Place: Choreographer/videographer & P.S.122 co-founder Charles Dennis shares the collection of short films he has produced since the 1980’s. 7:30 p.m., 161A Chrystie St., free, dixonplace.org.
11th Annual Pickle Day: As part of the Lower East Side BID’s new DayLife series, pickle vendors and pickle fans come out to celebrate the rich history of pickles on the Lower East Side. Orchard St. between Delancey and Houston, noon to 5 p.m., free, lowereastsideny.com.
When the air turns crisp I pine for pork sausages. Could it be ancestral memories of pig slaughtering time? How could Oktoberfest be happening without me? Or maybe it’s an instinctive drive to eat a little heavier now that cold nights are drawing near? I have no idea, but when the calendar turns I want some sausages. And fortunately, good examples are easy to find on the LES. A personal favorite is the Emmentaler wurst at Café Katja (79 Orchard Street; see page 8)—a large pork sausage filled with Emmental cheese, served with Savoy cabbage braised with bacon and quark dumplings in a white pepper scented cream sauce. Not everyday fare, to be sure, but a lovely indulgence and one I’ve been going without while Katja has been closed for renovation. (It reopens any day now.) I’m looking forward to having this dish again soon. It’s about as elegant a plate as one could make from a pork sausage and cabbage. Needing somewhere else to scratch the itch for Germanic sausage sent me north to Wechsler’s Currywurst & Bratwurst (120 1st Ave. www.currywurstnyc.com). Their signature dish—bratwurst and fries smothered in curry-flavored ketchup— may be a bit on the lowbrow side, but it’s delicious along with the German beers they have on tap. It’s a taste of Berlin close to home. Toulouse has a great take on fresh pork sausage as well, which is featured in the classic dish cassoulet. This is the French taking the pork and beans theme to what may be its highest level. Once the weather gets cold it pops up on the menu at Zucco le French Diner (188 Orchard Street). If you’re any-
thing of a Francophile this place is worth a trip, but be forewarned: It’s a very small restaurant—a party of four is a big crowd here. For an Italian take on pork sausage I like the house-made example at Sauce (78 Rivington Street www.saucerestaurant.com). In the old days (last year), one wouldn’t think of buying Italian sausages anywhere but a proper Italian pork store, where they made their own. But the versions at Sauce are the real deal. Home cooks appreciate that this place sells them by the pound at the butcher counter. Home cooks would also do well to check out the sausage offerings at the Essex Street Market. Formaggio Essex (www.formaggioessex. com) sells its own line of fresh pork sausages, including chorizo, brats, rosemary garlic and fresh kielbasa. Each one I’ve tried has been excellent. Not to be outdone, Heritage Meats (heritagefoodsusa.com), also in the Essex Street Market, is making sausages in store. The selection changes weekly, and ranges from the familiar to the fanciful—all of it delicious. It’s always worth swinging by to see what they’re featuring. There are some of my favorite fall eats around the neighborhood. If pork sausage is your thing, you’ll likely find them enjoyable. If not, all of these worthy establishments offer non-porcine options. Check them out.
J.P. Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is also a wine consultant and a serious home cook who scours the Lower East Side for frugal food finds in his free time.
delicious sandwiches and even some gluten-free baked goods. Favorite cheap eats in the neighborhood? Dim Sum Go Go is definitely a good spot for the dim sum experience. If I’m in the mood for noodles, I head to Xi’an Famous Foods. Where do you take your visitors when they’re here? I enjoy taking people on the walk along the East River down to the Seaport, to Katz’s Delicatessen, BabyCakes and Les Enfants Terribles. And if they have a sweet tooth, we pop over to Blue Man Group’s lobby for “The World’s Best Double Chocolate Brownie.” It’s not the LES, but it’s only a hop, skip and jump away, and totally worth it for the best brownie experience! Favorite dive/locals bar in the hood? Fontana’s is an old favorite of mine, as well as 151 Bar on Rivington Street. But I have to admit that my all-time favorite local bar is Bar 169 on East Broadway. It’s always packed with fun characters and the frozen margaritas pack a mean punch. The food at 169 is great too—bbq pork, mac & cheese, dumplings and succulent chicken thighs—I could go on. For a bar, the quality of food is way above par. How has the neighborhood changed in the last few years? Over the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed seeing new businesses popping up all over the place and giving life to the neighborhood. But our work is not done here. It seems to me that most establishments, at least near me, close shop at 8 p.m. Luckily if you’re hungry, you can now grab a slice at Cowboy Pizza since it’s open until 11 p.m. My two wishes for the LES are that it gets more healthy food options and a clean dog park. Favorite LES memory? One of my favorite memories would be running into Patricia Fields at Rite Aid on Grand and Clinton a couple of weeks ago and seeing Colin Farrell filming a movie just a couple of blocks from my apartment. But what I really love is how friendly our neighborhood is for the most part. Walking my dog Buttercup has also become a treat because you never know who you’ll run into, see or meet. I also enjoy the guys in Seward Park who play the Chinese flute.
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(cont’d. from page 15) performers and audiences alike, particularly now that the Bowery Poetry Club has closed. As the cafe continues to raise money, the plan is to transform at least one f loor into a second stage, or black box theater, within the next two years. “Having the additional performance space is the most important immediate goal—it will boost everything we do,” Gallant said. So far, the funds raised have come from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the City Council. Gallant said he’s hoping corporate funders and private foundations will begin to chip in, as well. “We received our first NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) grant ever, about a year and a half ago, and we received [New York State] support for the first time in years, just this past year, so we’re getting there. As for the future, Gallant is extremely optimistic. “So far we feel good about the progress we’ve made and the renovations, as well as the additional programming that we’ve done recently,” he said. “People really want to see the organization grow and succeed and flourish.”
For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with A.J. Rourk who works at The New York Times Culture Desk. What do you do? I work at the Culture Desk at the New York Times. I first came to the company as an intern in 2000 after being awarded a New York Times College Scholarship. I was very fortunate to intern all throughout college and then returned as a fulltime employee in 2006. How long have you lived on the LES? I moved back to N.Y. from Atlanta in early 2006 after not being fully satisfied by the pace of life there. After a couple stops in Chelsea, two years in the Masaryk Towers on the LES, and then Jersey City’s Journal Square, I finally returned to the LES in June 2010. 18
Favorite block in the hood? I’d have to say that my favorite block would be all along Ludlow Street. I like Cake Shop and Pianos and other places on Ludlow. Favorite date spot in the hood? A couple of months ago, when I tried to get a table at The Meatball Shop but shied away from the one hour-plus wait, I discovered Bruschetteria over on Rivington Street and have been in love ever since. It’s a perfect place for a date—small and intimate with minimalist décor, and an amazing $19.95 three course pre-fix dinner menu. The food is insanely delicious, especially the smoked salmon and goat cheese wrapped in zucchini. Favorite coffee in the hood? Pushcart Coffee has my vote. It serves Stumptown Coffee and the staff is super friendly. Besides being near my apartment, it’s always a delight to stop in for a quick chat and grab a coffee. They also have
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(Continued from Page 8) larger number of tables and provide backup for Chef James Fry, who would turn out plates of appetizers, entrees and desserts in a mad rush without moving his feet an inch in the old oneperson kitchen. The upfit will also enable an expansion of hours: After the new space is up and running smoothly, weekday lunch and weekend brunches will be offered six days a week. The lunch menu will feature salads and sandwiches, including quick take-out options for local workers on their lunch break. “Being here, on Orchard Street during the daytime every day, it became clear to us that there was room for a lunch place,” Chase said. Schrottner and Chase, who lives in the East River Co-op on Grand Street, put in plenty of their own elbow grease on the renovations, designing and adjusting the floorplan using a cardboard cut-out of the bar as a model, and even doing a lot of the painting themselves. In addition to the slate bar, the dining room includes several banquettes along the exposed-brick walls, wooden tables with metalwork bases that Chase and Schrottner acquired from Metrazur, a restaurant in Grand Central Station that closed, and more slate counters for stand-up space adjacent to the bar.
Downstairs, there’s a new second bathroom, a changing room for the staff and a new office cubby for Schrottner. Down the road, the partners envision opening a second restaurant, a different concept than Katja, with a garden or other outdoor space. That project went on the back burner for a bit this summer. “We were very close to getting a second space when boom, out of the blue, this space became available,” Schrottner said.
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Cafe Katja owners: Andrew Chase and Erwin Schrottner
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