Below 14th Street: What’s New?

With all the lockdowns and businesses closing due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s extremely heart-warming to hear of companies that are trying to start offering services to the public.  Here we take a brief glance at what has been happening recently.

First, a couple of weeks ago, Locanda Verde opened.  Chef Andrew Carmellini opened up this Italian restaurant in the heart of TriBeca offering New Yorkers a real taste of rustic, simple, Italian fare with homegrown US produce.  Featuring Deborah Racicot as the pastry chef, the menu is small but classic and satisfying.

Then there is the opening of the Shibui Spa, located at the brand new Greenwich Hotel.  The general manager pointed out that it was on the understanding that it will start slow due to the pandemic but that they are still happy to be re-opening.

While this is not new, the Tribeca Grill should also be included in our optimistic heart-warming local business stories.  They are marking 30 years since they first opened in 1990.  Way back then it was an abandoned coffee factory that Robert De Niro, Drew Nieporent and Marty Shapiro had the foresight to re-purpose as a restaurant and film center.

These are tough times without a doubt.  But somehow, someway, New Yorkers are rising to the challenge.   We wish – everyone – the very best of success!

The Evolution of New York Graffiti Artists

When graffiti first started becoming a public thing, back in the 80s, it was undertaken in a sly way in the deep of night so to avoid being caught and fined.  That’s what it was in New York way back then.  But these days some of it has become quite the reputable artwork.

Some New York City artists’ work is today being displayed in France…at the Chateau de Forbin mansion in Marseille.  Specifically, Dondi White and Futura whose works are being displayed in a room with hanging chandeliers to intentionally sharpen the contrast.  The new permanent exhibition has been co- curated by Caroline Pozzo di Borgo who said:

“People think the meeting of a French aristocratic family and American graffiti is impossible. And yet, this place allows them to meet. We want a place of sharing. Marseille has always welcomed artists and had links with the United States. We’re presenting the post-graffiti movement and the East Village scene in New York, focusing on the 1980s. They’re the masters of graffiti and the majority of the work that you will see here have been created by aerosol, without being pre-drawn.”

Meanwhile, florist and guerilla artist Lewis Miller of Lewis Miller Designs created a stunning heart on a black background…a huge orange six by four foot heart amid a white crosswalk lines and a ‘No Turns’ sign.  Added to that was a classic Martin Luther King Jr. quote: — “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Penned just a few weeks ago right in the middle of the pandemic this – as well as his other creations during this time – has been met with much enthusiasm.  He has been the recipient of fan mail and Instagram fame, most notably from Bette Midler.

Yes, graffiti has come an extremely long way over the last few decades.

Helping in Times of Crisis…Countering COVID-19

It has affected everyone.  The Alliance for Downtown New York’s President, Jessica Lapin recently articulated this sentiment when she said:

“There is not one storefront business in New York City that has been spared by COVID-19. Every one of them is struggling. We are stepping up to do what we can to help our stores keep their lights on.”

The Downtown Alliance was set up in 1995 in an attempt to “enhance the quality of life in Lower Manhattan.”  This is exactly the time it is probably needed the most.

Now, the organization is working on a program that will help storefront businesses in Lower Manhattan.  Through this it will offer grants worth up to $800,000.  Known as the Small Business Rental Assistance Grant this will help shops that have been providing essential services to local residents and workers, it has been funded with significant contributions from: Brookfield Properties, the Howard Hughes Corporation and Silverstein Properties. The Downtown Alliance has also given a contribution of $250,000.

Jayme Albin: Working with an Infant Daughter at Home During COVID-19

Clinical Psychologist Jayme Albin, PhD is a holistic therapist with a background in psychology, banking and finance. Today Jayme Albin offers her clients a holistic approach to complete wellness. Experience in all of these areas over the years has enabled her to offer support to clients in her Manhattan clinic dealing with the repercussions of the novel coronavirus.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many people have not been able to visit their therapists. But they are learning to see their practitioners online.  However, another issue has been that many parents have been forced to set up their work station at home, rather than their office.  This has ruined their routine and has undoubtedly led to additional psychological problems.  Plus, many have lost childcare options so are having to navigate their work tasks while playing “peekaboo” with their baby daughter or son!

In a recent article published by Thrive Global, Jayme Albin offered the following five point advice for dealing with the current situation. We asked her a few questions about the topics she covered:

1.    How important is stick to a schedule?

Jayme Albin: Sticking to a Schedule can be abolustly key to navigating a healthy and succesful lockdown with your infant

2.     How important is seting up your space?

Jayme Albin: Having a clearly defined space for you to do work is a crucial step to being productive at home.

3.     How important is it to fit in fitness?

Jayme Albin: Many of us have just been trying to survive during this period. However, without leaving our house, the lack of exercise can lead to feeling lathargic and harm productivity substantially. Make sure to fit in at least 30 minutes of physical work a day.

4.     How important is it to build in Breaks throughout your day?

Jayme Albin: Setting up scheduled breaks will allow you to seperate your work and home time, as well as give you scheduled time to give attention to your infant daughter or son.

5.     Should one be mindful of their daily meals?

Jayme Albin: This is another area where we often neglact structure and eat when we are hungry. Maintaining a strcutred day is crucial for both you and your infant. My infant daughter and I have quality time together over my scheduled meal breaks – at least 3 a day.

Over the years, Dr. Albin has been using CBT methods to help her clients with weight loss and maintenance, nutrition, anxiety and phobias.  Now more than ever, these are exactly the issues that New Yorkers are encountering as they learn to navigate their new – and very different – reality. 

Learning Kindnesses

School is mandatory for so many reasons but if graduates come out knowing how to be kind that is an added bonus. One Manhattan teacher – Christine Drago – has been using the coronavirus pandemic to work just that. The PS 20 Anna Silver School Phys. Ed. Teacher who has been teaching at the school for the last eight years explained:

“You’re a teacher, you’re a coach. Sometimes you’re a guidance counselor. You are listening to problems they have. You are a friend. You play a lot of different roles.”

Drago has seen many different needs emerge during this time from this underserved community. Her response has been to approach local organizations and formulate regional partnerships. This has resulted in food distribution to the needy including roasted chickens, produce, eggs, and grains which are being delivered every Friday. As for her students Drago has been putting out workout videos for them that they can do with their entire families to get them up and move. One example of this was when she made a Tic-Tac-Toe tutorial and her students sent back videos of their whole families engaging in it.

Other people also seem to be naturally moving toward acts of kindness as Amanda Hess wrote last month in The New York Times with the “clapping” that has been taking place in different neighborhoods in thanks to healthcare workers. She explained:

“It’s a cliché to describe a performance as “life-affirming,” but here the description feels true. I like it for smaller reasons, though. Like many New Yorkers, I don’t know most of my neighbors, and I’ve found myself using these few minutes every night to gather clues to their domestic lives. I notice who emerges from sprawling multistory brownstones and who from apartment buildings. One night the man with the pot was joined by a companion banging her own kitchenware. Another time, the spaniel failed to appear, and I reveled in my exaggerated disappointment. Did the dog have a previous engagement?”

Earlier on in the COVID-19 crisis an Associated Press meeting led to photojournalist Sally Stapleton’s promotion of a story of a Norwegian homebound woman who had used her Facebook page to ask for birthday greetings for her children. The response worldwide was incredible. And then there was the case of the New York college student who had to go home once classes were suspended and ended up organizing 1,300 volunteers in three days to help with deliveries for shut-ins.

Over this time, Fox News has assembled 700+ web- and TV-based stories under its ‘America Together’ banner.

SoHo’s Service in the Time of COVID-19

During this challenging time for many, there has simultaneously been a great deal of kindness and goodwill.  At the end of last month, local eatery Chobani Café followed suit.

Offering healthy fare of sandwiches, nutritious yogurts, fresh produce and more, the Café has now become a temporary food pantry for the entire community.  Anyone in the neighborhood is welcome to come and enjoy free food during this hard time.  They are “here to help.”

Following the social distancing guidelines and safety in order to beat COVID-19 the restaurant is open twice a week to hand out free products and support families and workers.  It is now staffed by both volunteers from #BeAShepherd and its regular employees.  The idea right now is to “give back to [the] local neighborhood and donate nutritious food to those in need.”

Opening a Restaurant During These Times

It wouldn’t be the best time to open a restaurant.  When most have closed and only a handful remain for deliveries, the industry has been one of the most hard hit with COVID-19.  But just a couple of weeks ago that’s exactly what Adam Leonti and Paul Shaked did in Little Italy, New York.

Sofia’s Panificio e Vino has opened yes, but not under its original planning.  However, the restaurateur (Shaked) and chef (Leonti) have adapted to the current COVID-19 inflicted circumstances.  They set up a deliver and to-go menu.

Situated on Mulberry Street (where Sofia’s of Little Italy once was – a business run by Shaked’s family) Shaked explained how Little Italy may sometimes “feel like this forgotten corner of Manhattan [but that opening his restaurant there has been “a way to reinvigorate and highlight what is a culturally rich and historic neighborhood.”

Chef Leonti is famous for Leonti in the Upper West Side that closed a few months ago and for the establishment of the Brooklyn Bread Lab.