Performance Artist Mixes Crime with His Passion

 Looking south in the evening from intersection of Mott Street and Canal Street (Manhattan) in Chinatown, Manhattan. Photo credit: Chensiyuan

Looking south in the evening from intersection of Mott Street and Canal Street (Manhattan) in Chinatown, Manhattan. Photo credit: Chensiyuan

Claiming he was engaged in artistic pursuits, performance artist Joe Gibbons could not convince the judge of that, and was instead sentenced to one-year in jail for robbing a bank.

The artist and former lecturer at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree robbery. He stole $1,000 from the Chinatown branch of Capital One Bank in Manhattan.

Apparently the robbery was part of, or all of, a performance, and was filmed by Gibbons on a pocket-sized video camera, taken by the artist himself.

Gibbons was arrested on January 8, 2015 at the Bowery Grand Hotel, only a short walk from the robbed bank. The police found Gibbons and arrested him based on a tip they received about his whereabouts. When the police entered his hotel room Gibbons was found lying on the hotel bed, holding the camera.

Tattoo Parlor Raising Funds for Museum of Tattoo History

When tattoo parlors were re-legalized in New York City in 1997 Daredevil Tattoo opened on the Lower East Side. It is one of the few from that era still open, but it has had some ups and downs. A few years ago their landlord upped the rent at 174 Ludlow Street by 50 percent, forcing them to find new digs. Lucky enough to find housing at 141 Division, that address is now permanent, not unlike the wares they peddle.

For the almost twenty years that co-founder Brad Fink has run his business he has gathered together an interesting assortment of tattoo memorabilia.  Much of those artifacts were utilized in the new premises décor, but Fink would like to do more for his collection. Daredevil co-owner Michelle Myles agrees that they can and should do more to preserve the objects of tattoo history. To that goal they have been active in promoting the creation of what might be the world’s first “Museum of Tattoo History.”

In order to raise the estimated $30,000 for the project, Fink and Myles have launched a Kickstarter campaign. The following is how they are promoting their pet project.

“Last year Daredevil moved into a new larger location on Division Street a few blocks from Chatham Square and the Bowery. The new space incorporates Brad’s collection into the tattoo shop for customers and visitors to enjoy. Michelle and Brad have been doing extensive archival research to document and map out the earliest New York tattooers in the Bowery area. We need your help to complete the work on the space and finish the display cases so the entire collection can be brought in and put on view.

     “Small businesses are having a harder and harder time staying in place in New York City. After we were priced out of our old location with a 50% rent increase we chose our new location because we had the option to buy the storefront we moved into. In December last year we closed on a mortgage and bought the space making us the only shop in NYC to own the property we’re in. We’ve managed to secure a forever home for our shop and the collection but we need help to finish a few more things. Getting to where we are now was the hardest thing we’ve ever accomplished but we feel we have something important to bring to the tattoo community and that we have something valid to contribute to the heritage of the Lower East Side.”

Graffiti Lovers Can Relax: 190 Bowery Will Keep Its Street Paint Job

Whatever worry Aby Rosen of RFR Reality had about obtaining permission for the renovation of his landmark structure has not vanished like, or perhaps not like yesterday’s graffiti.

Rosen won approval easily from the Landmarks Preservation Commission

190 Bowery: Graffiti to remain as renovations commence.

190 Bowery: Graffiti to remain as renovations commence.

to bring back 190 Bowery as a modern locale for office space, agreeing to keep the years of accumulated graffiti in its much beloved place on the street level walls.

Completed in 1899, the landmarked structure, located at the corner of Spring Street on Bowery, originally served as the office of Germania Bank. One year ago Rosen purchased the building for $55 million. He would like to turn it into offices with a retail space on the ground floor.

Rosen plans on restoring the windows, stained glass and metal gates, but will not be washing away the many years of street painting exhibited on the street level façade. Apparently the Landmarks Preservation Committee is pleased with that plan, and Rosen won the committee’s approval to begin the renovations.
Michael Goldblum, commissioner of the committee, stated that the restoration is “a real testament to the layering that preservationists seek.”

Who Says French Cuisine Has to Be Snooty?

French wines go with French cuisine. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.

French wines go with French cuisine. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Say hello to a new eatery in the Bowery, opening on April 20, called Rebelle, which means Rebel, of course, in French.  Behind the enterprise are two of the three entrepreneurs who brought us the popular Pearl & Ash in NoLIta (North Little Italy), Branden McRill and Patrick Cappiello.

Admitted and confirmed lovers of everything French, the pair want to make this extraordinary cuisine more user-friendly than its reputation would have us believe is possible.

“I’m a big lover of the Parisian food and wine scene, and we wanted to really replicate that here,” Cappiello remarked. “It was making a statement against the system.” He explained that today’s scene in Paris is a definite move away from “dress-code dining” towards “its all about the food.” “In Paris, it was about fighting the Michelin system, and here, it’s about fighting the Midtown mentality.”

The restauranteurs travelled to Paris to find the perfect chef. All the stars were perfectly aligned, and they were able to bring back with them Daniel Eddy. He was working as a chef de cuisine at the well-known Spring, but was looking for a way to get back to New York, from where he hails.

“You can’t really replicate Paris,” the Eddy said. “You have to take the philosophy and ideals of what exist there, and bring that back as your inspiration.”

For the restaurant’s interiors the team enlisted the design firm Home to get the exact deconstructed, pseudo-industrial feel they wanted for the dining area. The room is filled with dark, wooden tables in contrast with exposed brick walls and marble counters.

We wanted to fit in with downtown,” McRill explained.  He noted that the minimalist,  raw space, is a perfect pairing with its sister establishment Pearl & Ash. “It’s this juxtaposition of light and dark: industrial Bowery and northern Paris. I think it’s a sexy restaurant.”

NYC Program Helps Subway Homeless Get Shelter

Homeless Person sleeping on NYC subway. Photo by  edkohler

Homeless Person sleeping on NYC subway. Photo by edkohler

Over the past four years the number of homeless New Yorkers who seek shelter in the subways has skyrocketed by 90 percent, to a total of 1,841 today. To address this problem the city signed a contract with the Bowery Residents Committee for $6 million over several years. One benefit of the deal was the tripling of the number of social workers and clinicians to 60, allowing the city to reach out to more homeless people.

There are now about 1,000 homeless in the caseload of this new and unprecedented program. So far the program has convinced 261 of them to accept housing and other services that are available to them.

“We’ve increased the placement into transitional housing tenfold and we see that as a huge indication our efforts are working,” said assistant commissioner Danielle Minelli-Pagnotta.

To be considered a “chronically homeless” person an individual must be seen sleeping in the subway on a minimum of five occasions, said officials from the Department of Homeless Services. Each person is assigned a case manager, and information obtained from the homeless person is entered into a centralized data base.

Photographer Maisel Scores $55 Million on Bowery Property

Photo by Beyond My Ken

The Germania Bank Building, located at 190 Bowery at the corner of Spring Street in the Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, was built in 1898-99 and was designed by Robert Maynicke in the Renaissance Revival style. It is a New York City landmark. Photo by Beyond My Ken

In what some are saying is one of the greatest return on investment for real estate in New York City, photographer Jay Maisel sold his Gilded Age bank building, the Germania Bank, for a whopping $55 million, after paying a mere $102,000 about forty years ago.

The property, located at 190 Bowery, is a graffiti-covered relic which developers have been salivating over for years as the once seedy neighborhood transformed to a trendy, up and coming hot spot in Manhattan. Maisels has been living in the building with his wife and daughter, using the lower floors as his studio and the upper floors for his living space. Last year the photographer cut a deal with developer Aby Rosen, but the record of the sale was filed with the city on Thursday.

Rosen already relisted the property for sale with realtor Cushman & Wakefield before the end of last year.

The Bowery Ballroom’s Swier Heading West

The Bowery's New Branch Coming Soon to Los Angeles

The Bowery’s New Branch Coming Soon to Los Angeles

Michael Swier, founder and owner of the Mercury Lounge, which opened in 1994, and the Bowery Ballroom, 1998, is about to open a new music venue on the west side… of the country!

Yes you heard it right- Swier, a non-apologetic New Yorker, has purchased a 100-year-old former silent film theater on the outskirts of downtown LA and is transforming it into the Teragram, a deluxe modern rock club which can entertain 600 people in one go. Swier’s brother Brian, an architect who helped design the New York clubs, is one of his partners on the LA venture.

Swier also started Bowery Presents, a concert company that for the past ten years has become one of the country’s largest independent promoters. The company has become a major force, not just in New York, but all the way from Maine to New Orleans. According to Pollstar, a trade publication, Bowery Presents sold 1.1 million tickets in 2014.

The LA venture, Teragram, is scheduled to open in March, 2015. The $2 million spent on renovating the old space will make it completive with such venerable Southern California hot spots as the Roxy and the Troubadour.

“I just want it to be the best-sounding room and the best experience for people coming to see the music and for how bands are treated when they get here,” Mr. Swier said. “I want to bring my reputation of how I do that in New York, and I think there is room for a place of this size and this quality in L.A.”

Thanksgiving Day has a Long Tradition at the Bowery Mission

After 135 years the Bowery Mission is still helping people, and this past Thanksgiving they were certainly still at it.

The Bowery Mission photo by Beyond My Ken

The Bowery Mission photo by Beyond My Ken

One mother from Queens, Jenny Vargas, together with her 6-year-old daughter Lian, were just two people who benefited from a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, in addition to the other benefits they receive from the Bowery Mission.

Although Vargas, a 37-year-old immigrant from Peru, works as a house cleaner, she often finds it hard to put enough food on the table on her income alone. “Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes it’s not enough,” she explains.

Vargas comes to the Bowery Mission on the Lower East Side from her home in Queens to fill up on essential supplies when she just can’t afford them herself. When she heard that the mission was hosting a traditional Thanksgiving meal, she wanted to be on hand with her daughter; not just to have a great meal, but to also show that she understands the meaning of this quintessential American holiday.

“I want to say thank you, because we have everything — health, food, she’s going to school. We don’t need a lot,” she said. “I want her to know what we do for Thanksgiving — and why. This is a time to give thanks.”

As it has during the past century plus, the Bowery Mission served thousands of meals to those entering the premises as well as those getting their meals delivered all over New York.

“We’re trying to provide a Thanksgiving meal for folks who otherwise wouldn’t have family to be with,” said James Winans, the chief development officer.

Celebrating Diversity: The Fabulous French Fry

Sir Kensington's French FriesWe certainly know that New York City is hard to top when it comes to diversity, but what you probably did not realize that this description of our city goes way beyond ethnicity and culture.
Apparently, at least according to the curators of a new pop-up art exhibit called “Fries of New York,” there are no less than 85 different types of fries served around town.

In order to showcase his specialty brand of mayonnaise and ketchup, Sir Kensington’s co-founder Scott Norton decided to put together this exhibit of New York’s fries.
“Our No. 1 focus was to show the diversity of French fries there is in the city,” said Norton, the curator of the exhibit. “We wanted to get a selection where every fry was different from the other.”

Beginning this past July Norton and his business partner Mark Ramadan began traveling the width and breadth of the city scouting out unique styles of fries. Some classics were chosen, as well as a more unusual taro fry from Boahaus restaurant, a pomme soufflé fry from 21 Club, and a cocoa and chili-sprinkled waffle fry from Max Brenner.

A total of 85 different kinds of fries were selected, and last week were retrieved and brought back to the Guild’s studio, the production company that is helping Ramadan and Norton with their project. The workers then took each fry, covered it with a special resin to prevent spoilage and to maintain their fresh-out-of-the-fryer look.

Finally the fries will be place in small glass cases. No fries will be on hand to taste but those who do stop by on either November 7 or 8 will be offered free samples of Sir Kensington’s organic ketchup, mayo and mustard.

“You can’t be obsessed with ketchup without being obsessed with fries by association,” Norton said. “Today we have Mediterranean restaurants making fries with zaatar, which are Middle Eastern herbs, we have restaurants that boil their fries in truffle oil… We wanted to show that diversification.”

“Fries of New York” will be on display at 168 Bowery on Nov. 7 and 8 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The International Center of Photography Coming to the Bowery

Moving Day Coming to the ICP

Moving Day Coming to the ICP

Last March artnet News reported that the lease on the space in which the International Center of Photography was expiring.  Ever since we have been waiting to hear to where the ICP would make their move.

We need wait no more. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the board of the ICP gave the go-ahead for the purchase of a building on the Bowery. The premises is close to the New Museum, and the announcement said that the new space will be up and running by mid-2015.

The old lease held by the ICP on a space in midtown, which is up in January 2015, has been in effect as a practically rent-free agreement since the 1980s. Mark Lubell, executive director of the ICP, did not say how much the new building will cost, or its exact location, due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing negotiations. Lubell did explain why he picked the Bowery over some other prime spots in New York for the ICP.

“There’s openness to experimentation and ideas in that part of town,” Lubell is quoted in the Times. “Chelsea is a wonderful place, but it’s already done and established. We’d be following, and I don’t want to follow.”

The ICP has a collection with more than 100,000 photographs. There are major holdings of such photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Lisette Model, and Garry Winogrand, and others. The collection will be moving from the Midtown site into the Mana Contemporary, a storage and exhibition space for fine art collections in Jersey City. ICP will open a media lab there which will provide access to the photos.