ICYMI – Since last month was a busy one in NYC, this is our monthly recap of recent NYC news you might have missed during the last few weeks. Read this while you wait in line today to vote in the important Mid-Term Elections.
As usual, our list is heavy on real estate, gentrification, restaurant news, shopping, the sharing economy, and other tidbits. We identify our sources, too.
No fake news, white lies, spins or leaks on NYCOTC.
Greedy Landlords Do It Again – Once again, greedy landlords are shutting down a NYC icon. This time, it’s the Drama Book Shop, the 100-year-old bookstore that sells only plays, scrips, monologues and memorabilia about NYC theater and theater worldwide, including books that are almost impossible to find anywhere else on the planet. The Drama Book Shop’s vice president Allen Hubby told Crain’s New York that the closure was due to a recent, and steep, rent increase. The company has occupied its home at 250 West 40th Street for almost 20 years, and is due to close early in 2019.
The theatre community has already begun rallying in support of the store, echoing the community effort the shop saw after experiencing water damage in 2016, when it saw almost a third of its inventory wiped out due to a burst pipe within the building. Following the incident, Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote much of In the Heights in the bookstore’s basement) appealed to theatrer lovers to help the Drama Book Shop.
It’s absolutely shameful that such a resource for actors, producers and just plain theater buffs may disappear entirely, if it cannot find another affordable location elsewhere.
- Read the full story in Playbill.
Go Cry in Your Beer – WeWork is cutting back on the amount of free beer it offers its members at NYC locations as it battles a sexual assault lawsuit that hinges in part on alcohol consumption. Previously, WeWork NYC offered all its members unlimited beer. Now, its office dwellers will be limited to four 12 oz. beers daily, CNN reports. In order to get the brew, members will have to swipe their building key card on the so-called kegerator. When their daily limit is met, they’ll no longer be able to pour any more.
Tap access will also be limited. WeWork spaces will only allow beer to be poured between Noon and 8pm. After 30 to 90 days, the company will evaluate whether to continue the restrictions and whether it would like to add tap controls to keggers at other locations as well.
Check out Without Checking Out – Amazon announced its plans to open a new store in New York, the first of its kind on the East Coast, before opening nearly 3,000 more nationwide by 2021. It’s a new kind of retailing, with no check-out. The stores are void of cashiers, cash registers, and self-service checkout stands. You just walk in, take what you need, and leave. As you swing through the turnstiles on their way out, Amazon automatically bills your credit cards. Within minutes, a receipt is sent to the Amazon app, giving you a summary of what you bought, what youpaid, and the exact amount of time you spent in the store. There already are Amazon Go stores in Seattle and a few other cities. Still to come is the announcement of where this new store will be located.
L-Mageddon – Businesses already are going out of business about the Bedford Avenue stop of the L train. Although the shutdown for repairs from Superstorm Sandy doesn’t start until next spring, streets already are blocked off and heavy equipment already is in place for the prep work. And it will get worse before it gets better. Just ask all the business owners who lost their businesses during the years-long construction of the Second Avenue subway, because access to their shops and restaurants was closed off.
End of the Story – The iconic McNally Jackson bookstore is closing clothing the book on its Soho location after 14 years. Although the owners haven’t said so much publicly, the conventional wisdom is that they couldn’t afford the rent increase slapped on by the landlord, Winnick Realty, which is advertising that the space will be available after June 2019. Luckily for book lovers, McNally Jackson opened a location recently in Williamsburg.
- Read the full story in Bowery Boogie
Last Call – Videology Bar & Cinema, the popular Williamsburg hybrid watering hole and screening room featring weekly trivia nights, has closed after 15 years. Unlike most such closings in trendy neighborhoods where rising rents are to blame, the owners just decided to move on to other ventures. Too bad.
More popular restaurant closings in October, via EaterNY
Thirteen-year-old Austrian pub Blaue Gans closed, with chef Kurt Gutenbrunner paring down to focus on his other three restaurants.
Longtime Belgian restaurant Petite Abeille closed after 22 years in Gramercy. The restaurant cited rising operating costs as the reason for the closure in a statement sent to Eater and says a new location outside of NYC is possible. The venue once had multiple locations in NYC and played a big role in popularizing the European-style bistro in NYC.
Popular Jewish-Canadian deli Mile End closed its Noho location after six years in the neighborhood. The restaurant’s original Brooklyn location is still open and will soon expand.
Chelsea wine destination and Michelin-starred restaurant Rouge Tomate closed after a rocky few initial years and a move downtown. Owner Emmanuel Verstraeten has decided to take a pause on the Michelin-starred European restaurant to figure out what’s next.
Upper West Side neighborhood restaurant Henry’s shuttered after 19 years in business. It served bistro fare with global influences, like a grilled yellowfin with ginger-lime tamari, rice, and sesame seeds, and a vegetable curry as well as several pasta dishes. A seafood restaurant is planned for the space.
The 35-year-old West Village Mexican restaurant and party spot Tortilla Flats closed its doors for good. Celebrities like Andy Cohen and Sarah Jessica Parker were among the regulars eulogizing the long-running bar-restaurant.
- Thanks Craigslist – Craig Newmark, whose Craigslist decimated newspapers’ classified ad revenue and who in June donated $20 million to the City University of New York’s journalism school, has now given $2.5 million to New York Public Radio to expand its newsroom.
- Read the full story in the NY Times
10 Corso Como has opened on the ground floor of the historic Fulton Market Building. The first American outpost of this Milan fashion icon, the store is more than just a destination for clothes and accessories. As part of the company’s belief in “slow shopping,” the 28,000 square foot space will include an Italian cafe and restaurant, garden, and art gallery.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s SJP Collection opens. This represents her shoe line’s first dedicated store in New York City. Handcrafted in Italy, each pair of shoes is made by a third generation Tuscan shoemaker. Inspired by Parker’s memories of wearing grosgrain in her hair as a child, every product will feature a ribbon detail made of the fabric.
Cobble & Co. is open at 19 Fulton Street. The Seaport’s newest restaurant and bar is open for dinner and drinks and will soon begin serving lunch and brunch. The duplex’s gastropub menu includes some modern takes on classics like their Bahn Mi Gogi burger and the lobster corndog.
Go Amazon – Amazon plans to open a checkout-free Amazon Go store soon in New York City, though the location has not been determined. It would join three stores in Seattle and two planned for San Francisco and Chicago. The e-commerce giant is also looking for staff for the New York store, including a manager and an assistant manager.
- Read the full story in the New York Post
Go Google – Three years after trying to unload the space it had leased in Soho, the tech giant appears to be arranging instead to open an outpost at the location, 131 Greene St. It’s important, because tech competitors Apple, Microsoft and Samsung already have successful retail spaces around town, including nearby in Soho and Meapo.
- Read the full story in Crain’s.
Bye Bye Bendel – After more than a century in business, the conglomerate that also owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works is shutting down Henri Bendel. Bailing on Bendel’s means closing all 23 stores, including the iconic flagship Fifth Avenue store, a few blocks from Cartier, Bergdorf’s and Tiffany’s. Henri Bendel, a designer born in Lafayette, La., opened his first shop in 1895 in Greenwich Village,selling apparel, fragrances, cosmetics and handbags. L Brands bought the brand in 1985 and is burying it after the 2018 holiday shopping season. There’s no word yet what will happen to the historic Henri Bendel building.
- Read the rest of the story in the Wall St. Journal.
Toy Story – Iconic toy brand FAO Schwarz is opening a store in Rockefeller Plaza in time for holiday shopping this year, including the over-size piano made famous in the movie Big. FAO also is opening an outpost in LaGuardia Airport. The new store is about five blocks south of the old one, which closed in 2015. FAO is now owned by Threesixty Group, a product developer and distributor, which purchased the brand from Toys R Us in 2016, shortly before the international toy retailer went belly-up and closed down. The Rock Centr store will be experiential, featuring product demonstrations with employees, magicians, and employees dressed up as characters, such as toy soldiers, just like the original.
Governors Island Rezoning – NYC wants to spur the construction of 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development on the under-utilized southern portion of the island, and make it a new destination for tech and life-science firms, education institutions and dormitories, along with a convention center and hotel. The new development would be at the opposite end of Governor Island from the popular 43-acre There are two next steps – environmental impact studies, and figuring out how to get all those additional people to and from the island. That either means more ferries, or perhaps a tram, like the one connecting Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. It will be another year before the plan is finalized and the City Council can vote on it.
Storage Space – This is no ordinary storage locker. The booming art market has grown increasingly global, which is good news for the art storage business. The art storage company UOVO is building its second NYC facility in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to serve the growing market with 150,000 square feet of climate-controlled storage, plus private viewing rooms and a cafe for meeting with clients, 20-foot ceilings on all floors for Calder-sized artork, enclosed loading docks, and a digital inventory system.
Climbing the Walls – The Cliffs Climbing + Fitness is adding more NYC locations. Already open in DUMBO, Long Island City and a Westchester location, they are taking over 233 Nevins St. in Gowanus for 36,000 square feet of climbing terrain, including ropes courses, over two floors, plus outdoor climbing. There also will be fitness and yoga classes, a shop, and more. It’s scheduled to pen in 2020. They’re also on tap to open a location on 125th St. in Harlem.
Climbing the Tower – Got $24.5 Million? Then you can buy the duplex condo directly below Donald Trump’s opulent gilded Versailles-inspired triplex penthouse at Trump Tower.The 6,100-square-foot spread is currently owned by billionaire Jeff Records, chairman and CEO of MidFirst Bank. The huge spread, just half the size of the ginormous upstairs neighbor’s, is on the building’s 64th and 65th floors, with five “grand bedroom suites” including a master bedroom with dual master bathrooms and dressing rooms.
Since this is a condo, there’s isn’t the same vetting process for buyers as for a co-op, so security experts are concerned that the Russians or Chinese could buy the place through a shell LLC and drill spy holes through the ceiling, or worse.
- Read the full story on Page Six of the New York Post
Banned in Brooklyn – Barclays Center is getting rid of plastic straws by the end of this year, making it NYC’s first sports and entertainment venue to make such a commitment. BSE Global, which operates the 18,000-seat home of the NBA’s Nets and NHL’s Islanders, said the ban would divert 3.75 million plastic straws a year from dumps.
- Read more in the New York Post.
- Disney theme parks, the Nassau Coliseum, American Airlines, Marriott hotels and Starbucks also are dumping single-serve plastic straws, by the end of 2018 or 2019, keeping more than 13 million of them a year out of landfills.
Sayonara, Styrofoam – A ban on foam in New York City goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. The ban means local stores and food service establishments cannot pack your take-out or eggs in those ubiquitous polystyrene clamshells, or your take-out coffee cups, in anything which cannot be recycled.
The Styrofoam ban also includes “packing peanuts” — those white, popcorn-like nuisances that make messes of hallways and building trash rooms — for shipping. Between now and then, the city’s health and consumer affairs departments will educate New Yorkers on the ban and on Styrofoam alternatives. Once the ban goes into effect, there will be a six-month grace period before penalties can be imposed.
- NYC joins more than 70 other cities which already have banned foam, and the announcement comes on the heels of proposals to outlaw plastic straws at eateries across the boroughs, ban single-use plastic bags statewide, and prevent the sale of disposable plastic bottles in city parks.
- Full details on the official NYC website
- SEE ALSO United Airlines is first airline to ban styrofoam in flight
Qatar Buys Iconic Hotel Plaza – Katara Holdings, a Qatari-owned hospitality fund, has bought the Hotel Plaza for $600 Million from Sahara India Pariwar, an Indian business group that was the majority owner. It’s just the latest change of ownership for the world-famous property, once owned by Donald Trump.
He bought it in 1988 for $350 Million, but was forced to sell it to group of investors, including Saudi Arabia’s Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, as part of bankruptcy proceedings. There’s no word yet on whether the Qataris will make any changes to what now is part hotel, part condos.
- Full details on New York Business Journal
- A real estate investment firm related to Qatar also is in line to buy a majority interest in 666 Fifth Ave., owned by the family real estate company of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Sky High Prices – Two penthouses are poised to set sales records for Manhattan homes below 14th Street. Michael Rubin, owner of sports retailer Fanatics and co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, is buying a unit at 160 Leroy St. for just under $50 million, and an unidentified buyer is in contract for a penthouse at 70 Vestry St. listed for $65 million.
- Full details in The Wall Street Journal
Empty Pot – The iconic Coffee Shop bar in Union Square is closing up in October after three decades, driven out by rising rents in the neighborhood they helped make safe and trendy. It is one of the last mom&pop businesses left in Union Square and they can’t afford the rent anymore, plus the popular stop for coffee, cake and Brazilian food and drink anchors an old building ripe that you know Big Real Estate is eyeing to knock down and replace with a ritzy high rise.
- Full details on Grubstreet
It’s a Wrap – The famed Magno Screening Rooms has shut its doors after nearly 70 years, another victim of rising rents in Midtown. Unless you are “in the biz’, you probably never heard of Magno, despite its importance. Tucked inside a office building at 729 7th Ave. (near the corner of W. 49th St.), it screened previews for distributors, reviewers and other insiders.
Word is the closing will hit Indie filmmakers the hardest, because there is now one less place for them to get traction for their work. It’s the end of an era.
- Read the full story in Variety.
Sheer Poetry – Activists and fans are attempting to get landmark status for 99 Ryerson St., where Walt Whitman lived and wrote some of his best work. An effort last year failed, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission determined alterations to the property, including the application of aluminum siding, had altered it too much from Whitman’s time there in the late 1800s.
- Read the full story in The New York Times
Food for Thought – Hoboken, N.J.-based Jet.com plans to open a distribution center in a Bronx warehouse this fall. The move is part of the e-retailer’s effort to expedite delivery of merchandise and food to New York City customers. Jet.com parent Walmart has said it wants to offer same-day grocery dropoffs in 100 cities by 2019.
- Read the full story in Crain’s
More Food for Thought – The NYC Health Department wants to add location-tracking devices to mobile food carts, facilitate inspections. Inspectors do not regularly check one-fifth of New York’s 5,500 licensed food trucks because they cannot find them, the agency said. Critics say such GPS tracking could create potential immigration-status problems for some vendors.
Red the full story in the New York Post