Volume 81, Number 11 | August 11 - 17, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Photo by Scoopy
L.E.S. Jewels reading his anti-gentrification poem in Tompkins Square Park.
Lease falls to pieces:
After an epic approval process that saw Community Board 2’s S.L.A. Licensing Committee first reject a liquor license application for Pieces for its planned new location at 61 W. Eighth St., only to be overturned by C.B. 2’s full board, which O.K.’d the application, it looked like smooth sailing for the 18-year-old Village gay bar’s relocation from Christopher St. near Sixth Ave. However, on Mon., Aug. 1, as the bar’s owner, Eric Einstein, was literally stepping out the door on his way to seal the deal for the new space, he was notified that it was off. “They called me less than 40 minutes before I was going to sign the lease,” he told us, “after six weeks negotiating the lease, and $10,000 in fees for lawyers to work on its language. I had bank checks made out to them.” He said he hears the landlords have rented the space to a sushi place instead — and suspects that all along they were negotiating leases with two separate parties simultaneously, which he called not kosher. “I had a handshake deal with them,” he said. Einstein said it’s clear that the landlords, Jane and Allan Goldman, children of late real estate magnate Sol Goldman, buckled to pressure from neighbors who vehemently opposed a gay bar on their block in the spot next to Gray’s Papaya. “Neighbors made a stink about noise, but many never walked the 325 feet to check out Pieces for themselves and see what it’s really like,” Einstein said. He added that neighbors, in general, are opposed to bars, but even more so to gay bars. “The attitude is, ‘We don’t want it on our block — it’s fine if it’s a couple of blocks over,’” he said. “In this case, having it be a gay bar only heightens that. They think it’s going to be a bunch of hairy-chested guys with leather harnesses and caps. Pieces is pretty much the Cheers of the gay Village. It’s a place where you can get a $3 vodka and soda at happy hour. It’s a place you would bring your mother if you were going to bring your mother to a gay bar. Actually, somebody on Board 2, Steve Ashkinazy, said at the meeting, ‘Why are you going after Pieces? It’s like the gay nerd bar.’” Einstein’s lease is up on Christopher St. in the spring, when the owner plans to empty the entire building and do a much-needed, major structural overhaul. Einstein said he’ll look for a new place, but that the last Board 2 process was draining. “I need a few mental health days and then I’ll see what’s out there,” he said. Ideally, he’d like to stay between Sixth and Seventh Aves. and W. 10th St. and Waverly Place. Pieces isn’t a destination bar, he said, but benefits from the “network effect” of being near spots like the Duplex, the Monster and the Stonewall Inn. “People like to bar hop,” he said. “They don’t like to stay in one place all night.” And yes, Einstein is a “very distant” relative of the great theoretical physicist.
Bob Cohen memorial:
In an intimate gathering of family and friends last week, a bench in Washington Square Park was dedicated to the late, longtime N.Y.U. community liaison Bob Cohen. Fittingly, given Cohen’s deft diplomatic skills and talent for bringing people together, the bench is located just behind the statue of Garibaldi, the great Italian unifier.
Turning over a new leaf:
We bumped into L.E.S. Jewels in Tompkins Square Park Monday night where he was on his 14th day of sobriety. He was, of course, the star of last Saturday night’s anti-gentrification protest that hit both the Economakis “mass-eviction mansion” at 47 E. Third St. and the new temporary BMW Guggenheim Lab at East Houston St. and Second Ave. After keeping the BMW gate open so everyone could get in before the place could lock them out, protest leader John Penley asked Jewels (real name Joel Pakela) to read a poem aloud. So the veteran Tompkins Square Park “gutter pirate” quickly jotted down something on the spot. On Monday night, he whipped the piece of paper out of his pocket and laid it on us. His longest stint sober was 45 days three years ago. He said when he went off booze two weeks ago, it was hard to even get water down the first day. His usual regimen had been three pints of vodka by noon — and that was just for starters. As for now, he’s just drinking his Arizona iced teas. He doesn’t smoke pot, but admitted he might pop an occasional Klonopin. But it’s not easy trying to go on the wagon in the park, since, he noted, “Everyone keeps offering me drinks.” He said he’s really been enjoying the free Thursday night movies in Tompkins, especially last week’s “Arthur,” whose comedy and uplifting message came at just the right time for him as he’s trying to make a change in his life. “I can’t believe you’ve never seen ‘Arthur,’” he chided us. Asked where he’d be sleeping that night, a faraway look came into his eye for a minute, then he said, maybe Seventh or 10th Sts. outside the park, or nearby at his squatter friend Dibbs’s place.
Where are the repairs?!
Correspondent Gerard Flynn reports that the situation at Bar on A is not good. This past weekend, he said, Annie, the place’s owner, seemed determined to speak out. It’s said that landlord Ben Shaoul may be dragging his feet on repairs. To recap, a Friday evening monsoon brought a huge mess 10 days ago, including falling debris from the ceiling, which could have skulled patrons, emptying the bar, as well as bringing a flood of fire trucks and police. Some of the bartenders that night were nervously expecting their pink slips when the N.Y.P.D. pulled in, but they had the place back up and running within a few hours. Still, Femme, who has been featured in The New York Times as part of the bar’s celebrated Sunday burlesque evenings, had to move her birthday party to another venue. She wasn’t happy. Bar On A is located in one of the 200-plus rent-stabilized properties Shaoul/Westbrook/Normandy bought roughly four years ago — part of a so-called “private equity” pattern; some notorious management companies had been teaming up with private equity firms, scooping up rent-stabilized apartments citywide. A tenant from another building who Flynn interviewed said repairs in her bathroom haven’t been done in more than 18 months. She has repeatedly made requests to no avail.