411 from the Feline

New life for Life Cafe space: Well, the mystery about what’s happening with the former Life Cafe is over — partially. Ninth Street Espresso will be taking over the western half of Life’s former space at 10th St. and Avenue B. As this newspaper reported in September, the Life space was in the unusual situation of being split between two landlords who were unfortunately locked in a dispute over the cost of doing repairs on the building. As a result, a sidewalk shed hung over Life’s outdoor cafe for a year, putting a serious damper on the legendary spot’s business that ultimately proved fatal. Ken Nye runs Ninth Street Espresso’s small “annex” cafe, at 341 E. 10th St., next door to the Life space. When he heard a few weeks ago that plans were to chop the former Life into two halves and separate these by a wall, he reached out to Bob Perl, who owns the building’s western half. Perl is also Nye’s landlord at Ninth Street Espresso’s 10-year-old, flagship location, at Ninth St. and Avenue C. The annex on 10th St. opened about five years ago. “The store we rented on 10th St. is a little too small for us,” Nye told Scoopy last week. “The number one complaint we get there is that people want more space.” Moving one storefront to the east will almost double the cafe’s space, from 500 to 900 square feet. The new location, at 343 E. 10th St., is not only much wider, but will include Life’s former backyard garden, which Perl plans to enclose — though it will still have skylights — allowing year-round use. The new location should open in about four months. Nye, who lived in the East Village for 20 years, used to run 9th C Bar, but became a coffee fanatic, and opened Ninth Street Espresso, pioneering the specialty java market in New York City. His places are “part of the third wave of coffee,” he explained, “where coffee is treated as an artisanal product and the growers are well cared for.” His two local shops have very different clientele: The Ninth St. location is old-school East Village, while the 10th St. spot draws more people who are visiting the nabe. Ninth Street Espresso’s fame has blown up globally. “People make pilgrimages to us from far and wide,” Nye said. Perl said his understanding was the landlord for the building’s other half hasn’t leased his part of the former Life space yet.

Chupi watch: Westbeth photograph Toni Dalton continues to keep us posted on the goings-on at Julian Schnabel’s inscrutable Palazzo Chupi. Scaffolding went up around the pink-hued Palazzo several months ago, sparking speculation the retro W. 11th St. abode — whose paint job has seriously faded — was due for a fresh coat of Pompei Red. “As far as I can see they are still priming,” Dalton reported last week. “I saw one guy working on the third floor. I think they are waiting to paint in the spring, which is now arrived. We shall see.”

Sticky situation: It was really hard to leave the Billy’s Antiques & Props tent after last Friday night’s “wake”/blowout party — mainly because the floor was so sticky! It was like a human glue trap. Clearly, the ghosts of the Bowery were at work (or had spilled a copious amount of beer). … In his parting remarks between performances by rock bands, including the Virgins, Billy Leroy recalled some of the eerie events that occurred in the place. For instance, there was the time a guy dropped off a trunk he’d found on E. 12th St. that contained a dead person. Speaking of spirits, it’s unclear if the tent will have a reincarnation of its own as a space in a small, two-story building slated to be constructed on the E. Houston St. sliver lot by the Bowery. For more on Billy, see Clayton’s column in this week’s issue, on Page 6.

Don Hill’s lives again? We were walking in Hudson Square the other day and bumped into another Billy — Billy Evangelou — exiting the former Don Hill’s music club, at Greenwich and Spring Sts. A worker with the Pontes, the landlords, was showing him the space. Evangelou grew up across the street and his family once owned the property where Philip Johnson’s Urban Glass House now stands. He said he hopes to rent the Don Hill’s place and bring back live performances there. He’d also like to use it during the day as a music school for underprivileged youth. He said he’s looking for a partner in the scheme. The former club is no longer at risk of being developed into a hotel, Evangelou said, since that project is now being built a block to the north.

Street rumble: Community Board 2 last month voted to recommend denial for the Stonewall Veterans Association’s application for a permit for its annual Greenwich Avenue Festival, between Sixth and Seventh Aves., on June 16. C.B. 2’s resolution stated that the board’s Street Activity Permits Committee “continues to question the size and viability of this organization and the uses of the money raised by this fair.” Before last month’s vote, board members Steve Ashkinazy and Maria Passannante Derr both had some harsh words for S.V.A.’s Williamson Henderson. Two years ago, C.B. 2 voted to deny S.V.A.’s application but, in the end, Henderson, as usual, managed to obtain his permit anyway. Last year, Henderson noted, C.B. 2 voted to approve the street fair  — though perhaps the board just didn’t want to go through all the bother again, only to have the permit rubber-stamped by the city’s Street Activity Permits Office (SAPO). For his part, Henderson said he’s getting frustrated by all the back and forth by Board 2. “It’s obviously the work of someone who’s a hater or a liar,” he told us last week. “It’s political, exactly. We’re tired of this nonsense, especially after 43 years” — as in the number of years since the Stonewall riots ignited the gay civil rights movement. The S.V.A. honcho was displeased to hear Ashkinazy had badmouthed him. “Evidently, he will have to be sued to shut up his slanderous mouth,” Henderson hissed. For the record, there is no president of S.V.A., he noted. Henderson was the group’s director through last December, but now the organization is run by an executive committee of 12 members, according to him. Asked for comment on the semi-annual S.V.A. application brouhaha, Brad Hoylman, Board 2’s chairperson, said, “The bottom line is that the city should be doing a better job vetting organizations applying to hold street fairs. These are public spaces. The community boards do not have sufficient resources to fully understand whether the organizations that sponsor street fairs are credible or not. We do our best — but I think additional scrutiny would be a good thing.”

Feeling drained: Rumors that Aron Kay, a.k.a. “The Yippie Pie Man,” had open-heart surgery are greatly exaggerated. What did happen last week, according to Kay, is that doctors at Beth Israel Hospital “drained a liter of water” that had accumulated around his heart. The Pie Man said he was “very conscious” — painfully so — during the procedure, in which a drainage tube was poked into his chest while he was sedated with Lidocaine. “I felt it,” he said. “I did not want a general anesthetic — I was too paranoid for that.” After spending 10 days at Beth Israel, he’ll now rehab at a Rockaways facility. For amusement, he’s been watching “Law & Order” and shooting paper cups into the garbage can. He actually used to be a good hoops player. “That’s how I learned how to throw pies,” he quipped. A friend recently brought him his laptop so that Kay can continue to pitch virtual pies at what he called the “Repukelicans.” Feel better soon!

Island reader: Former Baruch Houses activist Israel Perez called last week and left a brief message. “I’m still reading The Villager,” he said. “I’m in Puerto Rico — I read it on the computer. That was a good story about Caballero.” Perez’s former foe, Robert Caballero was recently charged with stealing funds from the Lower East Side Housing Development Fund Corporation he was managing.

Mangia! Lanza’s Italian restaurant, at 168 First Ave. at 10th St., is celebrating its 108th anniversary with a rollback menu, every Monday through Thursday, 12 noon to 2:30 p.m., during March. Soup of the day is $1.75, and 12 entrees are being offered at discounted prices, including penne vodka, $3.25, and chicken marsala, $3.75. A glass of red or white house wine is $3.

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