Halloween: Do It Safely

While Halloween definitely was not the same as it historically has been, that did not stop downtown New Yorkers from celebrating the event.  True, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade – that has been happening for close to five decades – got cancelled but there were still many cool and scary activities for people to enjoy, in a socially distanced way.

So what was on offer?  There was the virtual miniature puppet parade; the New York Public Library’s Virtual Dance Party; Halloween Water Towers – an interactive kids event learning how to build their very own water tower; the Halloween Spooky Singalong for 4-11 year old which also had a fancy dress competition.

Outdoor parties – in small numbers – were still permitted, but indoor events were cancelled.  But what was cool this year was how the Empire State Building became a (Hasbro’s) Simon Memory Game, in a giant version, available to anyone with a view of the building or a weblink!

Yes, it’s hard and yes things are different but the creative genius that New Yorkers (and others around the world thanks to technology) are privy to encounter is just wonderful!

Out and About in SoHo

While the coronavirus is indeed preventing so much of our everyday lives from  happening as it used to, the innovation of policymakers, entrepreneurs and the guy who lives next door is very encouraging.  Here, we take a brief look at some of what is happening in and around the SoHo neighborhood.

First, there was the launch of the Open Restaurants Program, which gives local restaurateurs the opportunity to serve customers outside by having seating in the streets and sidewalks.  Thanks to the Mayor, this has become a permanent measure and will mean that people will still be able to enjoy eating out in a safe environment.

What’s also nice about it is that it has given other individuals – who ordinarily might not have offered food choices – to open up pop-ups.  Plus, as the city hopefully reopens, indoor dining capacity could go up to as much as 50 percent as we move into winter. However, in the meantime, there are ways to make the outdoor areas not so cold – such as electrical heaters – under guidelines De Blasio outlined at the end of September. Any propane used will require a New York City Fire Department permit. All of these measures have enabled over 10,000 to reopen across the city with the help of architectural innovations and local governmental support.

For those who want to try one of these corona-safe eateries, one example is the Vestry.  The new restaurant was opened by Shaun Hergatt in spite of coronavirus.  He explained:

“It’s about time people celebrate and look for something positive. I want to have an outlet where you can go away from the craziness and get back to some normality for a while.”

Using locally-sourced fresh fish, Hergatt focuses on the simple approach which he learned growing up in Australia.  As a boy he would go fishing with his grandparents and then grill the catch!  Likewise at Vestry he uses binchotan charcoal giving the fresh fish a smoky flavor.  Other items on the menu include chicken, beef, caramelized onion rice and more.

Bumping up Local Retail

While there is a lot of local quiet, retail and entertainment are not completely dead. Yes, many businesses have been shuttered for a long time with no end in sight and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs.  But all is not lost.

One example is Arias, the contemporary women’s fashion label launched by Nina Sarin Arias.  Famous consumers of the brand include: Priyanka Chopra and Gigi Hadid among others.  Her first store was recently opened at Manhattan’s 466 Broome Street. Spanning 1,500 square feet, Arias founded her label initially back in 2017 as direct-to-consumer.  She explained:

“It’s always been a dream to open a store and it means even more to me to do so in this unprecedented time. I chose to open our doors and show support for the city as our collections are made in New York.  It’s an important moment in my brand’s development and I couldn’t think of a better location than in SoHo, which is an intersection of fashion and art. The Arias woman has always shopped our brand online and attended our trunk shows. I am now able to share the world of Arias with my clients — an experience she has been waiting for.”

Other encouraging news are the government initiatives that have been put in place to help the local consumer.  One of these is the new parking regulations which make things a bit easier.  According to Executive Director of the Downtown Manhattan Beach Business and Professionals Association, Jill Lamkin:

“Parking has always been one of the most difficult hurdles for businesses in Downtown Manhattan Beach and it’s further complicated by COVID. Our restaurants cannot welcome guests indoors and are surviving by serving outside. Locals embraced outdoor dining with overwhelming enthusiasm, and we are thankful! It does, however, further reduce our precious parking. Add beach-goers to that, and retailers and service providers are left with very little parking for the customers they so desperately need to survive. lease also help us by preserving parking for those who truly need it and we will save more of our businesses by allowing people to quickly drop into their favorite store, salon or grab a to-go meal. If you can walk or bike, please do. We know the shortened parking isn’t convenient, but we’re in survival mode and we hope you’ll support us in our efforts.”

Cycling Around Post-COVID-19

So much is currently up in the air in our newly-normalized coronavirus environment.   One thing that has been positive is the increase of bike use around lower Manhattan. This of course is good for so many reasons: environmental, health and fitness, etc.  Indeed, a recent  report  found that this could possibly become the new way of commuting to work for those in the region.

In part, this new trend has been made possible by increased accessibility for cyclists through the bike lane network that currently stands at close to 2.5 miles and is due for further expansion. As well there are more Citi Bike stations.

Given that so many individuals are concerned about exposure to coronavirus through public transport, bike commuters are likely to increase.  In related news, the South Bronx – E. 160th Street and Tinton Avenue – was the location of the 1,000th docking station installed by Citi Bike within the five boroughs.  According to Ruben Diaz Jr., President of Bronx Borough:

“This is a huge milestone for New York City’s Department of Transportation, Lyft, Citi Bike and The Bronx, opening the city’s 1,000th Citi Bike station in our great borough. Considering how important the Citi Bike program has become to the city’s transportation grid, especially helping our essential workers and healthcare workers get around during this pandemic crisis, I look forward to working on helping this program continue its expansion into The Bronx and throughout New York City. Micromobility is New York’s transportation future, so I’m glad to see Citi Bike’s 1000th station in the Bronx. We need affordable, green and accessible transit options, especially in areas underserved by public transit. The Bronx has waited a long time for Citi Bike to expand into our neighborhoods and I’m looking forward to further expansion into my district and other Bronx communities.”

Manhattan and Below: What to Do, What to See, What’s New

On August 27th those in the Long Island neighborhood can get out and enjoy some Italian fare.  Piccola Bussola is offering delicious Italian food while having comedians entertain its patrons at 159 Jericho Tpke., Mineola.

Movie lovers can still enjoy film festivals thanks to the Tribeca Film Festival that is thinking out of the box and hosting the event through a drive-in outlet in lower Manhattan.  And then of course there is the Skyline DriveIn that is offering a host of movie choices as well as mini golfing!

More is happening in the area too.  New to NYC’s SoHo neighborhood is the opening of Aritzia – a women’s fashion retailer – which will be strictly following coronavirus guidelines and only have 50% occupancy and require face coverings for patrons.

Another recent opening is Kenzo  also in SoHo, on the corner of Mercer and Grand.  Featuring top to bottom mirrors, leather chairs in 1970s draped style, painted metal scaffolding and more, the fashion retailer has French origins and offers clothes and accessories for both men and women.

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.