Lower Manhattan Getting Back on Track!

So many people and businesses have suffered terribly because of the coronavirus pandemic.  The leisure, hospitality and entertainment sector in particular have really had a rough run.  But now it seems that people are slowly returning to the office and thus need their daily lunches and morning coffees. 

Indeed, lots more money has been changing hands at New York Pret A. Manger Ltd. Stores, indicating that Wall Street, Tribeca and surrounding area offices are being filled once again.  According to Bloomberg’s Pret Index, “Sales are almost halfway back to where they were before Covid-19 struck.”

This has likely been helped by the requirement of Bank of America and Citigroup to their employees to return to work after Labor Day. In addition, criticism has been lauded on staff members at JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs who are still working at home since it disrupts and weakens company cultures.

And given that Google just announced it is to be buying a Manhattan office on the Hudson waterfront for $2.1bn, this is definitely further indication that people are going back to work from the office. 

Re-Openings!

It’s been a tough year and a half for everyone.  Slowly things may be getting to a place of normalcy as we see  more places re-open. One example of this is the Paris Theater (Manhattan’s only single screen movie theater) During the pandemic the venue – which first opened its doors back in 1948 – underwent  renovation and to mark its reopening, it will be screening ’40 Year Old Version,’ which premiered at Sundance. Movie critic David Edelstein explained:

“Here is this place adjacent to the Plaza Hotel, with that plaza imprimatur, New York City, Manhattan. It gives a kind of luster to it, a kind of romance to it.”

Check out the preview of New York City’s CowParade art exhibition, due to return to New York after an absence spanning two decades.  The preview – hosted by the charity God’s Love We Deliver – opened on August 18 and will close at the end of September.

At the preview, viewers will be able to actually see 78 of the cows in one location – unprecedented – before they are sent to New York’s other boroughs.

Mixing it Up in the Marketplace

Lower East Side’s Market Line has re-opened (since the pandemic closed and shuttered many activities) and is offering some fabulous locally-sourced food including seafood, fresh produce and more. 

It’s also very nice that around three-quarters of the businesses are owned by minority groups, immigrants, or women and this accurately reflects the general ambience in this community. Expansions are planned and there will soon be two more blocks of space that can fit 70 vendors by 2023.

In other news, local chefs Samuel Clonts and Raymond Trinh will be opening up their own Lower East Side restaurant where Speedy Romeo once was.  Benefitting from that restaurant’s wood-fired grill, the front area is decorated with white marble, an open kitchen and a chef’s counter for 10.

Other new local openings include: Buddha-Bar Restaurant New York, Breslin Burger, Bronson’s Burgers, Gia, Saint Theo’s, Sexy Taco, Somewhere in NoLita, Baba Cool and more.

Summer in Manhattan

Summer in Manhattan – and indeed throughout New York – can be so much fun. And especially now, following the coronavirus pandemic with stay-at-home orders and entertainment industries all but completely shut down, people need to have a great summer in New York City.

In fact, it’s almost like the late writer Dorothy Parker had just come out of the pandemic herself when she said in the 19th century: “London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.” And if there’s even been more of an apt time for hope then it’s now.

Which is why it’s so wonderful to see that there is excitement in Lower Manhattan with the changes being made to the waterfront areas.  The Bungalow is a new outdoor area offering food, entertainment and more.  While it acts as one of the city’s best ice skating rinks in winter, in the summer from now it will become a beachy oasis, inspired by Montauk retreats.

Brookfield Properties’ Senior Marketing VP, Sara Fay explained:

“We created The Bungalow to serve as a retreat for those seeking a public space in the city to relax and enjoy being around one another after so much time apart. The concept was inspired by the atmosphere of a summer day in Montauk, spent under the sun with a refreshing cocktail and delicious food. The Bungalow celebrates life in the city and creates a welcoming and fun experience for office workers returning to Lower Manhattan, tourists exploring the waterfront and everyday New Yorkers seeking out a new adventure.”

In related news, Summer Streets will be returning to NYC next month.  The event has been taking place for 13 years (apart from last year when it had to cancel due to coronavirus restrictions). All the fun activities (in Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Park Avenue, Lafayette Street, Center streets) will be free for New Yorkers and appropriate for all ages and abilities.

The event runs from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, along Park Avenue and Lafayette and Center streets. The fun begins Saturday, Aug. 7 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will also be held the following Saturday. The activities for the 2021 event have yet to be announced, but all will be free for New Yorkers and “designed for people of all ages and ability levels to share the streets respectfully.”

In years past, Summer Streets activities have included mini golf, an obstacle course and even a zip line.

Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan

“Take a walk on the wild side” or just enjoy this virtual tour of your New York.  Lou Reed’s song from the 1970s was quite risqué but today the lyrics could easily describe just another day in NYC!

Lower Manhattan north of Canal Street provides a paradise for local shoppers. Enjoy boutique stores, galleries, designer clothing sales and a wide array of restaurants.  In 2019, New York City was rated by Timeout Magazine as the best city in the world to visit.

So if you can’t quite make it there now, go there online!

Host a Movie Night Featuring Some of Director Peter Farrelly’s Films

Now that things are starting to get back to normal in the New York area, optimism for entertainment is ripe.  People are approaching the long summer months with far more joy than they did in both 2019 and 2020.  The time has thus arrived for some good old-fashioned fun.

For those who are still reluctant to leave their homes though, they could host a movie night.  As director Peter Farrelly gets ready to start on his new movie, ‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship Loyalty and War,’ it’s time to take a look at his previous box office hits.

One of the more popular movies from director Peter Farrelly was produced in 2018.  Garnering a box office domestic gross of $85 million, ‘The Green Book’ was classed as 8.2 (out of 10) from IMDB and a 78% positive feedback from RT Tomatometer.  Featuring Maharshala Ali, Linda Cardellini and Viggo Mortensen, it was recently featured on ‘The 7 Best New Movies to Watch HBO Max in May 2021.’

Another classic from director Peter Farrelly that will certainly be a crowd pleaser is the 1994 movie ‘Dumb and Dumber.’  The movie – which has become somewhat of a household name over the last two+ decades – is often referred to in conversations and has even been the subject of a new book ‘Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio Ruined New York.’

Whatever movies you choose to show from director Peter Farrelly’s selection, you probably won’t be disappointed.  Just use the opportunity to start hanging out with friends again.

Lights Shining Bright

Let There Be Neon – a store opened back on 451 West Broadway in 1990 owned by Jeff Friedman – makes quite a few things shine bright. Originally opened by Rudy Stern, a painter, docu-filmmaker and artist in 1972, two years later it was recognized as “the first ever gallery dedicated to neon,” and was the first to install a neon environment for a disco. Its history tells much more of a tale, but today it offers works of art via animation, graphic design, pieces for residential areas, film, TV and other media and more.

What is the beauty and excitement behind this?  Friedman believes that:

“Neon is red when it’s lit, the pure color of neon. But we also use argon, which is blue, and by combining the different gases with different glass colors or phosphorus inside the tube, that’s how we get all the different colors.”

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, “Let There Be Neon” was still shining bright, at least in all its neon glory, was store after store was shuttered following stay at home orders.

Now that things are somewhat getting back to normal, the SoHo region is boasting its offerings.  From galleries to architecture, boutique and unique stores, this move is being bolstered by a rezoning proposal put forward by Bill de Blasio, NYC Mayor.  If accepted, this would add a substantial amount of apartments to the area – 3,200 – 800 of which would be priced lower than the market rate.

While this would indeed help tackle the homeless crisis, the question has to be asked as to what it would do the city’s culture?  Plus there is the environmental concern.  Nonetheless, Will Thomas who sits on the Open New York board believes it would actually create an “historic opportunity, claiming:

“This would really change the unspoken rules around development in New York City. Breaking down the exclusionary barriers of SoHo is a matter of racial justice, is a matter of housing justice, and especially right now during a pandemic, affordable housing is more needed than ever.”

Whatever transpires and however it impacts the environment and the region’s culture,  ‘Let There Be Neon’ shined bright it will continue to illuminate its environs.

Up and Coming Local Performances

Entertainment is slowly coming back to our neighborhoods.  New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that from April 2nd, venues can reopen, following certain regulations such as only filling to 33 percent capacity and no more than 100 people indoors, 200 outdoors.  In cases where they take a negative test before entering the numbers can increase to 150 and 500 respectively. 

This, in addition to the NY PopUps that the Governor launched toward the end of February. These free events were established to “revitalize the spirit and emotional well-being of New York citizens with the energy of live performance while jumpstarting New York’s struggling live entertainment sector, is a private/public partnership overseen by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development.”

The Pop-Up system was created as a pilot program in an attempt to see how live performances can return to the stage in a safe manner. Zack Winokur worked with a council of artistic advisors in the region to engineer the festival.

The Return of Le Figaro Café

While so many small businesses (which include local coffee stores and eateries) have been shuttered due to the local ‘safer at home’ order, there is one café that is actually making a comeback. 

Le Figaro Café had its time in Greenwich Village way back in the 1960s and boy did it enjoy the good times.  Patronized by famous people including Lou Reed and Sam Shepard, it was heralded as the place to be for beatniks in the area. It stayed opened for a while but in 2008 closed.  Backed by some investors, it is now set for a simplified relaunch, ditching the Le, under the name Figaro Café by partners Mario Skaric and Florence Zabokritsky.

Just before the pandemic hit the partners found a space to house the once much-loved café.  Now that they have returned to check it out they have been offered a great deal for the next two years.

With the culture of the sixties returning thanks to shows like The Queen’s Gambit and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, what better time to get back to that day with a renovated café that will still have its cultural ties in the 1960s.