Waldorf Astoria room reservations to end in 2017

The iconic Manhattan hotel’s days are numbered.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

If you were thinking about spending a night at the Waldorf Astoria, book fast.

The iconic Manhattan hotel will stop taking reservations after Feb. 28, 2017, according to a spokesman. Last month, the landmarked building’s owner, the China-based Anbang Insurance Group, announced it would convert 1,000 of the rooms into luxury apartments.

A spokesman for the hotel said renovations would take place sometime in the spring, but didn’t have more immediate details.

“We have not finalized any plans in terms of the scope, nature and details of the renovation project or the exact timing and duration of the hotel’s closure,” the spokesman said in a statement.

The final booking date was first reported by Crain’s New York Business.

The hotel has been a Park Avenue staple since it opened 85 years ago and has had many famous guests including Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover.

Oculus mall gets ready for anticipated debut

After years of work, the biggest shopping center for downtown Manhattan is ready for business.

Stores prepare for the Oculus shopping mall's Aug. 16, 2016, grand opening at the World Trade Center. (Photo by Yeong-Ung Yang)
Stores prepare for the Oculus shopping mall’s Aug. 16, 2016, grand opening at the World Trade Center. (Photo by Yeong-Ung Yang)

(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira and Wendy Lu

Get ready, Manhattan shoppers and downtown commuters. After years of planning and work, your newest destination is open for business.

More than 100 retail stores, ranging from the Apple Store to Banana Republic and from Eataly to Fossil, will officially begin welcoming customers at the 350,000 square-foot World Trade Center shopping mall at the Oculus on Tuesday.

Residents and visitors alike are ready for the latest big addition to a flourishing downtown commercial scene.

“Anything that keeps improving the incorporation of the World Trade Center site into the community is welcomed,” said Catherine McVay-Hughes, former chair Manhattan Community Board 1 and longtime Downtown Manhattan resident.

The mall, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays, is designed for maximum ease of use for the hundreds of thousands of commuters who pass through the transit hub every day.

The area’s population has doubled since 2001, with nearly 60,000 residents, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York. There are 300,000 employees who work in the area daily and 17 million visitors annually.

That increase has spurred a commercial rebirth, from new mom-and-pops to big box stores like the Bed Bath & Beyond on Greenwich Street, and the upscale Brookfield Place shopping center.

Alliance president Jessica Lappin called the Westfield Corp.-operated mall, officially the Westfield World Trade Center, the pinnacle of the process and expects it to be a major attraction.

“It both complements and enhances what’s here, and we hope that it helps increase business traffic for everyone,” she said in a statement.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation agreed that the mall’s opening represents a landmark moment for the neighborhood.

“The grand opening of the Oculus retail mall is an important step forward as the City continues to build toward a 24/7 neighborhood in which New Yorkers can live, work and play,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Báez.

Of course, there are lots of shopping destinations across the city. They don’t have the benefit of the controversial $4 billion Oculus itself, though, with the distinct rib-like design by architect Santiago Calatrava.

“You can’t ignore that thing. It grabs your attention real easily,” said Luis Perdomo, 18, of the Lower East Side. “It’s good for business.”

With all of the extra attractions (including live performances like a secret concert on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the mall), however, some expressed worries about the addition of even more foot traffic on the overloaded downtown streets.

“The point is to draw people in, but with that comes congestion,” said Scott Miller, 27, of Westbury, who works in the area.

The Port Authority will mitigate that traffic when it opens the Oculus’s street level entrances at Greenwich and Church streets for the first time, allowing commuters to have more access to the 11 subway lines and PATH trains at the Fulton Center and World Trade Center hubs.

“Residents can have a seamless transition now,” McVay-Hughes said.

Here are some of the stores at the Oculus mall:

Apple Store: Main Level

Eataly: Level 3

Freedom Wine Cellar: Street Level

Lacoste: Main Level

M.A.C. Cosmetics: Main Level

Pandora: Main Level

Pulia: Balcony Level

Samsonite: Main Level

Shake Shack: Level 2

Victoria’s Secret: Main Level

‘New Brooklyn’ web comic series gives borough a starring role

A new comic book series explores the borough in a new light.

“The Purple Heart” is the latest series in the “New Brooklyn” universe. (Image courtesy Line Webtoon)

(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

When two German artists illegally posted a giant white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge in 2014, law enforcement officials were troubled. But inside the mind of comic book creator Dean Haspiel, a new world began to emerge.

The Carroll Gardens resident’s imaginings have resulted in “New Brooklyn,” a comic book that explores a world in which the borough breaks apart from the rest of New York City — and the United States of America.

Haspiel, 49, and his co-creators decided to tell the borough’s tale through the eyes of Brooklynites who live as superheroes on this newly emerged island. And, as in real life, the characters have to deal with a changing world.

“I talk about what is happening [in real life] and where Brooklyn has gone with the story,” the veteran comic book artist and writer told amNewYork.

Haspiel said he and fellow comic book writer Seth Kushner, who passed away last year, came up with the idea for the series in 2014, after the white flag incident on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“I [imagined] that Brooklyn decided that it was finished with this self-entitled, apathetic world we live in,” he explained. In the comic storyline, that white flag acts as the first sign of the borough’s seccession. After that, it floated just far enough away from the city to become a sovereign entity.

Once separated, society changes and artwork becomes currency.

New on the “New Brooklyn” scene is “The Purple Heart,” the second series in the universe, joining “The Red Hook,” which launched in April, both on the free platform LINE webtoons.

“The Purple Heart” launched three weeks ago and features a black Navy veteran who returned to Brooklyn during the separation from the city.

Isaiah “Zeke” Nelson is transformed into a living purple flame, the de facto protector of the new island.

Vito Delsante, who co-created “The Purple Heart” with Haspiel and Ricardo Venâncio, said he wanted his stories to represent the borough’s diversity.

“He could have been white but there is something about making him an African American, being a veteran, and coming from the public houses that gives him more dimension,” said Delsante, a Staten Island native.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Schumer fight online ticket bot scams

The Hamilton creator wants to even the playing field for theater goers.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

“Hamilton” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda urged Congress Sunday to pass legislation that would ensure that ticket goers across the nation will have their shot at seeing some of the best Broadway shows.

The mastermind behind the Tony-Award winning hit joined U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and the Broadway League to discuss the ongoing problem of cyber scalpers, or bots, that jack up the price of shows that cost $189 to as much as $2,000 a piece on the resale market.

“My concern is that the show is about the founding of our country, and if bots are buying up all of the tickets and charging this insane secondary price, most of the country can’t see it.” Miranda said. “The goal is to just level the playing field.”

Schumer said the scalpers have become more sophisticated in their scams and now have programs that can buy hundreds of tickets in seconds with the touch of a button.

The increased resale value hurts the theater owners, musicians and other show business employees, just as much as it does to the public, according to the senator.

“Everyone is complaining about these bots,” he said.

Schumer said he and other senators from across the aisle will introduce the “Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016,” or BOTS Act, which would track down the scalpers and hit them with a $16,000 fine.

“The good news if we were to pass this law they could find these guys and put them out of business,” he said.

New York has a similar law in effect but it can only fine bot sales that take place in the state. Miranda said the New York law has helped to crack down on the online scams and hoped Congress can bring that help to theaters across the nation.

“You shouldn’t have to fight robots to go see a famous play,” he said.

Captain America statue makes Prospect Park debut

The Marvel superhero drew in huge crowds in Brooklyn.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira and Wendy Lu

The Star Spangled Avenger got a warm welcome from his fans Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, as they gathered in Prospect Park to mark his 75th anniversary.

A 13-foot bronze statue of the Marvel superhero Captain America, or Cap as he is known, made its debut in the Childrens Corner of the park, right in front of the carousel.

Those who came to the unveiling, many decked out in Captain America related costumes and apparel, say it was a fitting location because he represented the city’s spirit whether he was fighting Nazis or evil aliens.

“He’s a hometown guy,” said Adrian Velez, 40, of the Lower East Side, who came with a homemade Captain America shield and helmet. “He grew up living in the streets like everyone in New York trying to be someone.”

Despite a heavy shower, fans kept lining up to get a picture with the statue and celebrate the hero’s seven decades of adventures.

“Putting the statue in the middle of Brooklyn . . . it gives people hope,” said Nick Terhune, 24, who came from upstate Nyack, in a Cap T-shirt and matching socks. “I can do something incredible too.”

Among the revelers was the family of Joe Simon, the character’s co-creator.

The hero, aka Steve Rogers, was a skinny weakling who changed into a man in peak human condition after he volunteered to take a formula during World War II. An accident kept him frozen in ice until he was thawed in present day.

Fans like Priya Mishrua, 18, of Deer Park on Long Island, said that his values were always humble.

“What’s so amazing about him and what I love about him is how he keeps his values even after he gets so big and strong, you know. I love skinny Steve as much as I love Captain America Steve.

Although the comic book incarnation grew up on the Lower East Side, the movie version, played by Chris Evans, proudly proclaims that he’s “just a kid from Brooklyn,” and that message is displayed on the statue’s pedestal. Marvel editor-in-chief, Axel Alonso, who lives in Brooklyn, called the Captain the quintessential New Yorker.

“What Cap stands for is as important and relevant now as it was in the ’40s,” he said.

The statue will spend a month in the park then move to the Barclays Center and finally go to Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Sunset Park in October. Although there were a few criticisms from Brooklynites over the statue’s relevancy to the borough’s history, the sculptor, Dave Cortes, called the jeers “silly.”

“I see their point, but it’s not a permanent thing,” he said.

High Line spurs jump in nearby home prices: StreetEasy

The West Side’s elevated greenspace created a halo effect around the neighborhood.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

The High Line has already added greenery to the West Side since it first opened seven years ago, and a new study found that it’s adding a different kind of green when it comes to nearby real estate: plenty of cash.

A report released Monday by StreetEasy chronicles a “halo effect” for building prices surrounding the elevated park, soaring as high as 20% above the area just two blocks east of it.

The median sales prices for buildings near the first and second sections of the park, between 10th and 11th avenues and Gansevoort and West 30th Street, were roughly $4.4 million and $6 million in May.

Two to three blocks east, however, the median price was $1.93 million.

“The impact and how it redefined luxury in the neighborhood made it unique,” StreetEasy economist Krishna Rao said of the High Line. “This was a risk that New York City took and it’s a risk that succeeded exponentially. ”

The high prices won’t abate any time soon, according to the trends. Since 2011, prices have increased by 50.6% near section one and 48.2% near section 2 while the rest of the neighborhood saw increases of 31.4%.

StreetEasy said even buildings pre-dating the High Line and surrounding the park demand higher prices than newer developments outside the immediate area.

For example, the residential building at 456 West 19th Street opened in 2008 and has a median sponsor sales price of nearly $2 million. The Avant Chelsea condos, which are two blocks away and opened in the same year, have a median sponsor sales price of $1.5 million.

StreetEasy attributed the surge to zoning changes allowing for higher-end developments around the elevated track.

Serge Reda, a real estate professor at Fordham University who lives near the High Line, said the park’s one-of-a kind placement made the nearby buildings a hotter commodity than the other new buildings in the area.

“You have a green space and it’s not an eyesore,” he said.

Robert Hammond, the executive director of Friends of the High Line, the non profit that runs the park, said it saw 7.6 million visitors in 2015. Two million New Yorkers visit the park each year and that number is rising.

Rao noted that the High Line’s real estate ripple effect doesn’t appear to be fading anytime soon, even while the rest of the city’s luxury market has seen declines recently, according to StreetEasy data.

“It keeps people optimistic about the area,” he said of the park.

New York State Pavilion redesign contest winners revealed

The people have spoken and given their pics for the possible design of the Flushing Meadows structure.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

The votes are in and the best idea for the future of one of Queens’ iconic structures is more green than cheese.

People for the Pavilion, the nonprofit group that’s trying to preserve and restore the New York State Pavilion, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, announced the winners of its design competitionThursday.

Over 250 ideas were submitted to the contest, which ranged from a complete restoration of the 226-foot-high steel structure’s original look from the 1964-1965 World’s Fair to a cheeseburger museum where each of the Pavilion’s towers were replaced with buns.

Ultimately, a more practical plan won: “Hanging Meadows,” which proposed a large-scale, enclosed garden that’s located on top of the “Tent of Tomorrow.”

Although the garden is far from becoming a reality, Salmaan Khan, co-founder of People for the Pavilion, said it has sparked a new interest in reinvigorating the structure from people around the world

“These winning submissions represent just a few of the infinite possible futures of the New York State Pavilion,” he said in a statement.

Second place went to “Civic Hub,” which re-imagined the Pavilion as a multiuse public space, and third place went to “Pavilion for the Community,” which featured a market, solar glass roof and a greenspace. The winning fan favorite submission, “Tent of the Future,” also had a solar glass roof and art installations.

All three winners, who were judged by a panel of design, cultural and architectural experts, were awarded cash prizes, and all of the entrants’ proposals will be on display at an exhibit at the Queens Museum from Friday to Aug. 28.

The city closed the Pavilion to the public in 1974 and it has been deteriorating for decades, despite its iconic place in the park.

Recently, efforts to restore the structure from preservationists, elected officials and Queens residents have been fruitful, including a $13 million allocation from the office of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

“We thank everyone for participating in this fun, interactive campaign, part of the overall efforts to restore this national treasure into a visible icon befitting the ‘World’s Borough’ for generations of families and visitors to enjoy,” Katz said in a statement.

Elmhurst Dairy to close after over 80 years of service

A nearly century old Queens staple is calling it quits after a rise in costs.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

The city’s last milk plant will shut its doors this fall.

Elmhurst Dairy, which has been processing dairy products for more than 80 years, announced Tuesday that it will close its Jamaica plant on Oct. 30.

The closure, which will affect 273 employees, didn’t come easy, according to its CEO Henry Schwartz, because of the high costs of running the 15-acre facility.

“My family was dedicated to trying to keep the plant open long past the years that it was economically viable because it was the wishes of its founder, Max Schwartz, that future generations of the family continue the business,” he said in a statement.

The plant produced more than 5.6 million quarts of milk a week and distributed to a market of 11 million people at its peak, according to the company. It supplied 8,300 independent grocers and 1,400 public schools.

Employees will be laid off in phases over the next few months but the company said it “is committed to a re-use of the site that will be beneficial to the Jamaica community.”

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, said she would work with the mayor’s office to make sure any “void in jobs is restored either at the site or in the community.”

“Elmhurst Dairy has been a household name and a Queens institution, and the borough is sad to see them go,” she said in a statement.

NYC groups head to Cleveland, Philly to give voice at conventions

Some of the city’s most active non-profits will be loud at both conventions to keep the candidates in check.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

Among the loud voices, you’ll hear at the Republican and Democratic national conventions will be New Yorkers from different protest groups that hope that their big-city energy will make a difference in the election.

Whether it’s fighting for equal rights among minorities or pushing for a platform to fight poverty, the local groups who are going to Cleveland and Philly say their protests will counter the rhetoric of the speakers and hold both parties to a high standard.

Sahar Alsahlani, who is heading to both conventions as part of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said having New Yorkers on the ground is key because the city’s diversity reflects all walks of life across the nation.

“We’re showing this is the real America you’re going to have to contend with if you get elected,” she said.

Donald Trump’s controversial comments and policy proposals, including building a wall on the Mexican border and banning Muslims from entering the country, have made him a bigger focus among the protesters.

They plan to take part of several demonstrations this week including a march for economic justice Monday and a human wall that will surround the Quicken Loans Area Wednesday.

“When we hear rhetoric from Trump that tries to divide up the country, naturally all of the movements are going to come together to help each other,” Alsahlani said.

Alexander McCoy, 28, who helped organize the anti-Trump vets group, #vetsvshate, agreed.

He is heading to Cleveland with up to 50 other New York vets to join up with other former military members to denounce Trump at protests between Monday and Wednesday.

McCoy, who served as a sergeant in the Marines and is now studying at Columbia University, organized anti-Trump protests in the spring after the candidate failed to give donated money to vet groups. “He is a New Yorker and has a long history of treating New York veterans badly,” McCoy said. “This is not an act to take advantage of angry voters, this is what the man is really about.”

Although Hillary Clinton hasn’t been as divisive as her opponent during the campaign, the same New Yorkers who are in Cleveland said they will be just as loud when they head to Philly to demonstrate at the DNC.

Alsahlani said she and other New York Muslims will push Clinton to focus less on military presence in the Middle East and more on education and diplomacy. McCoy said his group will push DNC members to improve transgender and women’s rights in the military.

“It’s important that both parties establish in their platform that we are an inclusive society that draws strength from its diversity,” McCoy said.

Larry Cox, the co-director of the Manhattan-based Kairos: The Center on Religions, Rights and Social Justice who is helping to organize the Cleveland anti-poverty march, said it was important to hold Clinton responsible because advocacy groups have seen that a “better” candidate in the White House doesn’t always mean the groups get what they want.

“A lot of people thought electing Obama would solve all the problems and what we saw … was that it wasn’t enough,” he said.

Cox added that New York’s influence is more important than everbecause it’s the first time that both major candidates have roots in New York and city voters have a responsibility to hold their feet to the fire.

“We need to make it clear if they want to represent New York, they need to represent our deepest moral values,” he said. “We need to make it clear that no one is allowed to say they are a New Yorker and not say or do what is morally right.”

Lowline, underground park in NYC, gets first OK from the city

The newest park to come to New York cleared its first hurdle.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

The city’s first underground park passed its first major hurdle Thursday after the city gave permission to start planning the Lowline on the Lower East Side.

If constructed, the one acre greenspace will replace the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal on Delancey Street between Clinton and Norfolk streets and use cutting-edge solar technology to bring natural light underground.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation chose the project for its plans to lease out the terminal space and said the idea would be a great draw for the community.

“The Lowline represents an incredible fusion of technology and public space,” Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen said in a statement.

Utilizing street-level glass shields that attract sunlight, the Lowline will provide natural light to the grass, trees and people below ground.

Dan Barasch, co-founder and executive director of the Lowline plans on adding art installations, seats and holding educational programing to the park.

“We know with input from the community and the city, we can make the Lowline a unique, inspiring space that everyone can enjoy,” he said in a statement.

In order to move forward with the project, the city requested the organizers meet three requirements: They must create a community engagement plan that includes five to 10 “ public design charrettes” and community meetings. They must raise at least $10 million and also complete design documents for approval in the next 12 months.

LIC Pepsi sign becomes official NYC landmark

After years of waiting, western Queens’s most iconic structure is an official landmark.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

Long Island City’s most iconic sign is now an official city landmark.

The City Council voted 43-0 Thursday to give the Pepsi-Cola sign at Gantry Plaza State Park the designation, making it the first piece of advertising to be landmarked in the city.

The 60-feet-high by 120-feet-long neon fixture was installed in 1936, and was first submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1988, but the application remained in limbo until this year.

“Today, after long last, we’ve officially made the sign a New York City landmark, and this staggering piece of pop art will now shine forever across the East River,” City Councilman Jimmy van Bramer, who fought for the landmarking, said in a statement.

The LPC took a new look at the request in February along with 29 of other backlogged items and put it on the fast track.

‘Pokémon Go’ app downloaded by millions; New Yorkers join craze

The viral game is taking New York by storm.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

“Pokémon,” the beloved Nintendo franchise that implored youths of the ’90s and ’00s to “catch ’em all,” evolved into a more viral incarnation over the weekend.

It’s been approximately three days since the release of “Pokémon Go,” the mobile version of the 20-year-old institution that gave us Pikachu, Jigglypuff and Charmander, and the world has seen an influx of people walking around, glued to their phones.

Millions of smartphone users have downloaded the game and wacky stories have emerged, from finding a dead body in Wyoming to a robbery of a group of players in Missouri.

Here in New York, things have been calmer, all things considered. The NYPD didn’t respond to questions about Pokémon-related complaints, and local players say the game has given them a new appreciation for the city.

“It’s more of a challenge because you have to physically go out and get them. Walking to the Empire State Building to catch an extremely rare Pokémon is fun,” said Amber Discko, 26, of East Williamsburg.

“Pokémon Go” players can find one of 250 creatures in specific, real-life locations using their phone’s GPS and camera, in what amounts to a virtual scavenger hunt. Users can also head to certain spots to pick up items for catching Pokémon, or “Pokémon Gyms” where they can duke it out with computer-controlled opponents.

“It requires some imagination or suspension of disbelief, but it makes you believe there are Pokémon in the real world,” said Justin Hemenway, 31, of Carroll Gardens.

Discko said the communal aspect of the game makes it a unique force in a city like New York, as crowds gather on a search for the same Pokémon.

“My roommate and I are taking a walk tonight for the sole purpose of playing Pokémon Go,” she said.

Although it’s too early to tell if the game is a fad or here to stay, New Yorkers are organizing gatherings to join the hunt.

Rick Bross, a game designer from Prospect Heights, has scheduled a Pokémon Go Meetup Event for Saturday and expects more than 150 people to show up.

“I think New York will be a hub for Pokémon trainers,” he said.

Captain America statue coming to Prospect Park

The First Avenger will have a place to shine in his native borough.

A sketch of the Captain America statue that is coming to Brooklyn. (image courtesy Marvel)
A sketch of the Captain America statue that is coming to Brooklyn. (image courtesy Marvel)

(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

Philly has Rocky, D.C. has Abraham Lincoln and now Brooklyn has Captain America.

Marvel announced Tuesday that it will be honoring The First Avenger’s heritage in the borough and 75th anniversary with a 13-foot tall bronze statue in Prospect Park.

The statue depicts the hero, aka Steve Rogers, heroically raising with his trademark star and stripes shield on top of a pedestal that has a quote from his 2011 movie, “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.”

The statue will first make its debut at the San Diego Comic-Con between July 20 and 24 before making its way to the park for a dedication ceremony on Aug. 10. Details about the event, including the exact location where the statue will be placed, will be revealed in the next few weeks.

Marvel worked with Borough President Eric Adams’ office to secure the memorial and he was thrilled that the comic book company recognized the hero’s borough roots.

“The epic story of this paragon of patriotism, told over decades of crimefighting, has inspired millions of comic lovers across our nation” he said in a statement.

The statue will be featured at “several key locations over the span of the next year,” before it is placed in a permanent location that is still being worked on, according to Marvel. Sources in the city said they are working to make sure the statue’s final home is in Brooklyn.

Since making his debut in 1941, the character has entertained audiences around the world for generations with his comic book adventures. He has appeared in video games, animated TV shows and, of course, his hit movies where he is played by Chris Evans.

Joey Chestnut, Miki Sudo top dogs at Nathan’s

The king is back at the annual hot dog eating contest.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira and Lauren Cook

He’s top dog again!

Thousands packed Coney Island to watch Joey Chestnut eat 70 franks in 10 minues at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Monday.

Chestnut beat last year’s winner Matt Stonie by 17 dogs.

Chestnut, who holds the competition’s record with 73 dogs and was the champ for eight years in a row, was a crowd favorite, with fans chanting “Joey, Joey” as he fought to win the competition.

“I kind of re-found myself, reinvented myself, and got myself together and the hard work paid off,” the 32-year-old said after he received his trophy and the coveted championship belt.

On the women’s side, Miki Sudo won her third straight competition, eating 38 1⁄2 dogs in 10 minutes. She bested Sonya “the Black Widow” Thomas, who holds the women’s record of 45 dogs, by 3 1⁄2.

“I can’t wait to come back next year,” said Sudo, 30.

The competitors put on a good show for a crowd that came early to Surf Avenue to check out Coney Island’s famous attraction. Some came decked out in costumes and signs cheering on the eaters.

Patrick Holden visited all the way from Indianapolis in a full sized hot-dog suit for his ninth year in a row.

“It’s inhuman, it’s uncanny,” he said of the competitors. “I’d like to think if I was eating 70 hot dogs I’d need some energy too.”

Mickey Herzog, 28, of Jersey City, has been attending the contest for 11 years. He and his friends have signs and posters of the champs.

“It’s a fun thing to do. It’s a whole production,” Herzog said.

Nathan’s turned 100 this year and the restaurant celebrated with a giant hot dog-shaped cake.

Chris Calmieri, 25, of Jackson Heights, who has been coming to the contest for a few years, said the restaurant and the competition are New York staples.

“It’s a good day to hang out. This is the best food in the world and the beach will be great later,” he said.

Amanda Houdeschell, 18, who was visiting from Canton, Ohio, took in the sights and sounds for the first time and was impressed.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said. “It’s so New York.”

Coney Island amphitheater marks grand opening

Brooklyn’s newest concert spot is now open for business.

(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira and Wendy Lu

Get ready to rock, Coney Island!

After four years of planning and work, amid lots of patience from the community, the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk officially opened Wednesday, just before the arrival of a holiday weekend featuring acts that include Sting and The Beach Boys.

Those shows are just a taste of what’s to come at the 5,000 seat open air arena and residents and business owners say the venue will make the summer hotspot more of a year-round destination.

“It’s gonna bring great new crowds of people from sections of the city that normally wouldn’t come out,” said Chris Adams, manager of Coney Island Brewery. “[The theater] shows people this is a place of opportunity, this area is a cool.”

The amphitheater is part of a $60 million investment. The main stage is built into the southern side of the landmarked Childs Building. Two sliding steel doors open to bring in the outdoors during the warmer months, and shut to create a fully indoor space during the winter.

The Childs Building is also finishing off renovations on a new restaurant, with a 40,000-square-foot greenspace also set to open next year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who joined several Brooklyn leaders at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the amphitheater Wednesday, said the entire facility has been a boon for a community hammered by Superstorm Sandy.

“Coney Island has been a place that has worked hard and deserves a break,” he said.

Residents seem to be thrilled with the new boardwalk staple.

“It’s a good thing. They should bring more stuff to Coney Island,” said Melanie Moore, who lives in the Carey Gardens public housing complex.

Petrina Camilleri said she’s looking forward to some of the acts this summer, which include Jane’s Addiction, Erykah Badu, the Counting Crows and Willie Nelson, even if she doesn’t get a ticket.

“If I can hear it off the beach, I don’t need to see them,” she said.

Johanna Zaki, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, added that the amphitheater is also a major component for the community’s longtime goal of having yearlong programming.

The city has been trying to get people to come to Coney Island outside the summer months and had limited success with events like the New Year’s Eve celebration at the parachute jump, which drew 15,000 people in 2014.

Zaki said she expects similar crowds for non-summer events at the amphitheater and residents agreed.

“More tourists, more people will come (here) instead of Barclays Center,” said Camilleri. “Coney Island has everything, and it’s getting better and better.”

Water Street plaza changes spur concerns over POPS

A change to the open plazas in Downtown Manhattan is raising concerns over encroaching stores throughout the borough.

Water Street will have the option of filling in their arcades with retail. (Image courtesy of NYC Dept. of Planning/NYC Economic Development Corporation)

(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

They are the spots where New Yorkers spend lunch hours, read on their days off, and catch some sun and fresh air. But residents in downtown Manhattan are concerned that their favorite public plazas could soon be gone.

The City Council approved a controversial zoning amendment last week to let building owners and developers along a nine-block strip on Water Street fill their privately-owned public spaces, or POPS, with stores, outdoor cafes and other options to attract more visitors.

Some community leaders and the Department of City Planning say the move aims to encourage developers to take better care of their POPS, but opponents argue it gives them room to change them completely and could set a bad precedent for other plazas in the city.

“We don’t need any more Duane Reades and banks,” said Gina Pollara, the president of the Municipal Arts Society, which advocates for better access to POPS.

The amendment will affect 17 buildings between Whitehall and Fulton streets and about 110,000 square feet of plazas and arcades, which are passageways supported by archways or columns. Property owners will be able to put kiosks and open air cafes in the plazas and retail spaces in the arcades.

Retail stores can occupy up to 7,500 square feet but need special approval for anything larger. The maximum width for banks in the spaces is 30 feet and for drugstores it’s 50 feet.

Jessica Lappin, president of the Alliance for Downtown Manhattan, which was a key player in the deal, said the changes were put in place because the plazas are poorly kept and are not attracting enough visitors year-round. She said property owners are more likely to beautify the areas if they are more populated by people.

“Water Street is tough,” she said. “Some of these arcades and plazas can be dark. If you have a shop there that’s well lit, it will bring people out.”

The Water Street plazas, like most of the 525 POPS in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, were created in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s as compensation to residents from the city in exchange for developers getting to build taller buildings, according to Pollara.

Alice Blank, a Financial District resident who has been organizing neighbors against the amendment, said the new zoning feels like an about-face to residents who were promised the spaces.

“In development deals such as this, we need to focus on the hard math — square feet and its economic value — and not on illusory and alleged public benefits, like an ‘enhanced pedestrian experience,’” she said.

Locals who chatted with amNewYork had mixed reactions to the changes.

Jill Levy, 48, of TriBeCa, said she wouldn’t mind more retail in the area. She recalled how she once waited in a plaza for some friends and wished she could grab a salad or coffee.

“It’s not like we’re losing any charm. So yeah, why not?” she said of the amendment.

Megan Greener, an actor from Ditmas Park who was relaxing in a plaza last week, questioned whether landlords and developers have the public’s best interests in mind.

“They’re probably going in the direction that most landlords do: Getting more money without input from tenants or the public,” she said.

Lappin and the city have reiterated that the Water Street amendment is tailored for that set of blocks, but advocates said the plan could inspire developers and building owners in other parts of the city.

Layla Law-Gisiko, of Manhattan Community Board 5, which represents midtown, said the board often grants requests from cafe and restaurant owners to put tables in POPS but she said the additions have done nothing to attract crowds.

Instead, “people are more reluctant to use the space because they don’t want to buy anything,” she said.

Law-Gisiko added that developers find ways to skirt the laws, pointing to the city’s investigation of Donald Trump’s use of the Trump Tower POPS on Fifth Avenue for campaign events.

The Trump Organization has denied using the space inappropriately.

Patrice Derrington, director of the real estate development program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, pointed to past examples such as the Fifth Avenue Apple Store, where the addition of retail to a plaza or arcade actually benefited the community.

“Someone is paying rent, Apple is making a lot of dollars, and it’s attracting a lot of people. It’s an indication on how our cities develop,” Derrington said.

Members of the public can have their voices heard this Wednesday when the City Council’s Land Use Committee holds a hearing on a bill to require the city to collect reports on the state of the open spaces.

The reports would determine which POPS owners are operating in accordance with their agreements with City Hall.

“I think earlier engagement with the community is important,” Derrington said. (with Wendy Lu)

Cornell Tech shows off green Roosevelt Island dorm

The world’s largest passive house is coming to Roosevelt Island.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus is on track for its grand opening next year, and the school’s green dorm, which is the largest passive house building in the world, is the standout structure.

The school’s officials and construction crews gave a tour of construction site Tuesday and showed off all the amenities at the 270 feet tall green building that will house faculty and graduate students starting August 2017.

Arianna Sacks Rosenberg, of Hudson Inc., the building’s co-developer, said the school wanted to set an example for the engineering and tech principles that it will teach.

“We were excited about this challenge because this university … is all about innovation,” she said.

The dorm’s structure allows it to reduce its carbon footprint through a variety of features. The exterior and windows are designed with special material that make the units, the majority of which are studios, air tight and prevent hot air from escaping.

The building’s state of the art temperature control system, called the variable refrigerant flow, uses a “cruise control” like system to keep the temperatures comfortable by using less energy and waste, according to Luke Falk, an assistant vice president for Related Companies, the passive house’s co-developer.

“When you do all of that together, you have optimized your heating and cooling systems,” he said.

In addition to the 352 units, the building will include a fitness center, a rooftop garden and other amenities that will be included in the rent, according to the school.

The passive house, Bloomberg Center academic building and the Bridge, which will serve students and start up companies, will be the first three locations that open next year.

Sacks Rosenberg said the other two buildings will have green features as well, including solar panels on the roofs.

Astor Place cube returning in August: Parks Dept.

The art project’s anticipated return has been delayed by two months.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

Fans of the Astor Place cube will have to wait a for most of the summer for its anticipated return.

The City’s Parks Department told amNewYork Monday that the 512-cubic foot structure would be reinstalled in August and not Wednesday as previously reported.

Although there were fliers posted in the Village that gave a June 22 date for the art piece’s re-installation, the agency said it is being inspected by a conservator for final preparation.

“NYC Parks has historically contributed its expertise to the upkeep of the Cube,” Parks spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson said in a statement.

The Alamo cube was removed in 2014 and put in storage due to ongoing street construction. It was originally placed at Astor Place in 1967 as a temporary art installation, but was kept following positive community feedback.

The cube’s supporters can still head to the location this week to show their appreciation in creative ways.

Tuesday is the final day for “Creativity Cubed” project where visitors can write their favorite cube memories on a piece of paper that will be displayed on a clothing line at the site. In addition to the messages, over 250 fans created mini Alamo cubes out of construction paper and art supplies, according to Village Alliance member Will Lewis.

NYC stands in solidarity with Orlando shooting victims

Gay and straight alike, the city joined together to show their support for the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting and promote peace.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira and Wendy Lu

Gay and straight alike, New Yorkers came together to send their love and support to the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando.

From memorials outside the landmark Stonewall Inn and elsewhere to tweets and statements by elected officials, a mood of total shock and sadness over the worst mass shooting in U.S. history mixed with resolve to stand strong in the face of terror and hate.

About 350 people gathered at 6 p.m. Sunday for the memorial at The Stonewall Inn, which featured candles, flowers and prayers for the 49 people killed and dozens more injured in yesterday morning’s nightclub massacre in Florida.

Supporters placed dozens of flowers in front of the bar, along with rainbow flags, cards and signs.

The crowd included all ages and all sexual orientations. There were several police officers stationed there to ensure that the memorial went smoothly.

The crowd sang, “We Shall Overcome,” then had a moment of silence.

Crystal Finch, 32, of East Harlem, a lesbian, attended. “This is the core of gay rights in New York. I had to be here. I was devastated. I hope they (Orlando victims) know we are all supporting them.”

John L’Ecuyer 35, a consultant, and his husband Zack Hatton-Brown, 41, who works in finance, were supposed to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary yesterday, but decided to come to Stonewall, which is near their home, to show solidarity.

“It touched home based on what the city experienced on 9/11,” Hatton-Brown said.

L’Ecuyer added: “We’ve been here 17 years and we know how it feels. I remember after 9/11, seeing pictures of people around the world in solidarity. That helped us.”

The rally ended as the crowd chanted, “We got your back, Orlando!” and then sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“People want to gather; this is a place for victories as well as, sadly, losses,” said Stacy Lentz, Stonewall’s co-owner, earlier in the day. “This wasn’t just an attack on LBGT Americans. This was an attack on Americans.

Emily Green, 31, of Greenwich Village, who is straight, was walking her dog outside Stonewall when she heard the news, and said the only way to counter the hate is to spread a message of tolerance across the world.

“We are so far away and New York is in our own universe but we can still lend our support,” the Australia native said. “This country is already going in the right direction for LGBT rights and we need to move forward.”

Rebecca Triglianos, 34, came to the bar earlier in the day with her partner Nicole Martin from Westchester. She said the location and other gay clubs and bars, like Pulse Orlando, were more than just a place to have fun with other LGBT patrons.

“When you are different and you’re not protected in your homes, in your families, in your schools and within your state, you need to have these safe places to socialize but also to take care of each other,” she said.

Clergy members and about 50 supporters gathered outside Judson Memorial Church across from Washington Square Park to sing songs from their respective congregations. The Rev. Fred Davie, of Union Theological Seminary, said, “We want to remember them [the victims], to acknowledge them and never forget them, and never forget what happened to them.”

In Jackson Heights, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her fellow council members joined LGBT and Muslim leaders at Diversity Plaza, to condemn the attack and call for tolerance.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who is gay, said, “We have to fight this together. This is a crime of extremism and extremism leads to this type of violence. I wanted to respond quickly. [I wanted to show that] … the Muslim community and LGBT community and all communities are united in our efforts against extremism.”

Jacqueline Rozado, 18, of Elmhurst, is the youth council representative for Dromm.

“I’m a very big advocate for LGBT rights and human rights in general. I was horrified,” she said.

“It’s also liberating for the cause to show homophobia is real and it’s an issue that we have a responsibility to deal with,” Rozado added. “Especially in New York City, with a large LGBT population and large minority population in general, it’s especially important that we all have a strong united front and responsibility to act on this issue.”

Other elected officials in the city expressed outrage over the shooting. Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered flags to fly at half staff in honor of the victims and City Hall lit up in rainbow colors to represent LGBT pride.

Staff members hung a rainbow flag off the second-floor balcony of City Hall in the afternoon.

“I can only imagine what they’re going through right now, the pain they are feeling. Once again we stand in solidarity, as New York City knows so well what this feels like to be the victim of a terror attack,” de Blasio told reporters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also ordered all flags across the state to do the same.

“On behalf of all New Yorkers, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the injured and their loved ones during this unimaginably difficult time,” he said in a statement.

There will be a second vigil at Stonewall Inn on Monday night, at 7 p.m. Thousands have RSVP’d on Facebook.

With Alison Fox

Robert De Niro, Alicia Keys among NYC entertainment ambassadors

The top names in NYC’s entertainment industry will be out promoting the city’s diverse film scene.


(Original Link)


By Ivan Pereira

From King Kong bellowing atop the Empire State Building to Travis Bickle’s ride through gritty Manhattan streets and Kimmy Schmidt’s comic misadventures, New York City has played host to a wealth of unforgettable moments on film and television.

While the city continues to see an increase in filmed productions year after year, officials believe there’s more to be done to attract crews to the Big Apple.

And they’ve got an impressive roster of native stars to help, after the announcement Wednesday that Robert De Niro, Alicia Keys, John Leguizamo, Lady Gaga and Tribeca Film Festival honcho Jane Rosenthal will serve as city entertainment ambassadors, as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME).

Over the next 12 months, the stars will play an increasingly visible role in promoting the local film and television industry, which generated $9 billion in revenue last year and created over 130,000 jobs.

“You want to make the movies where the talent is. It’s here. It’s this city that attracts the most diverse community,” De Niro said at an event at the Museum of the Moving Image on Wednesday.

Over the last 15 years, the city has seen film and TV production double. Some 366 movies and 52 prime-time series were made locally in 2015, according to the mayor’s office. By comparison, in 1966, before MOME was created, there were only 11 movies made in New York, generating a total of $20 million.

Paul Levinson, professor of media studies at Fordham University, hailed the office’s role in spearheading the city’s transformation into a movie town. MOME launched concurrent to a period where studios started shifting away from backlots in favor of on location shoots.

With specialized services such as a dedicated NYPD film unit and a central hub for getting permits, the city made things easier for productions in search of iconic locations.

“New York really rolled out the red carpet,” Levinson said.

The past decade has seen an extra degree of success before of a streamlined permit process, new tax credits, an increase in outer borough studio space and the rise of streaming services.

Keys, a Hell’s Kitchen native who joked that she refuses every entreaty to move to the West Coast, said artists are increasingly looking to the outer boroughs.

New York has always been a character in my stories and there’s nothing like it,” she said. “I never saw it as a small place; it’s a big place.”

MOME’s 50th anniversary celebration will include 10 pop-up outdoor movie screenings featuring New York movies, a city-centric movie marathon on Turner Classic Movies on July 21 and more.

Some, of course, bemoan the rise in production because of the inconvenience of late-night shoots, street closures and other effects of on-location filming. It’s one of those eternal New York City quality of life issues that just won’t go away.

But Levinson believes most New Yorkers get the significance of the industry.

“If you think about it, it is an incredibility important reason for the inconvenience. This is doing a lot of good for the city,” he said.