Mud Coffee in First Park

Mud Coffee is one of those local companies that “East Villagers” love to love. They started by selling coffee from a bright orange truck in Astor Place, then they opened up a café on East 9th Street, and most recently took over the gazebo in First Park (at First Avenue and East 1st Street), once occupied by Veselka.

Regular readers of Quilas* will know my position on privatization of public spaces: I don’t think any company should operate in any park, nor should park conservancies have domain over them. That said, Mud operates the gazebo in First Park.

They weren’t there for very long before they hung this sign, on the south side of the park:

first-park-0

It wasn’t up for very long before it was removed, either by the Parks Department or the Mud people at the behest of the Parks Department. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have done it of their own volition.

Fast forward to November, 2014, and these appeared:

first-park-1
Northeast corner.

first-park-2
Southwest corner.

first-park-3
South side, at F-train entrance.

first-park-4
Southeast corner.

Responsible citizen that I am, I filed a complaint with 311. With some complaints, you can upload photos, and this was one of those. I uploaded three of the photos; a few weeks later, the signs were down.

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Free of obnoxious signs.

These people have shown no regard for the public nature of this park, so I’m sure they’ll try something again.

* * *

One of the buzzwords of the “East Village” is “community”. Small businesses like Mud are considered part of this “community”, but what type of community member actively tries to destroy that community? The answer, as I’ve written before, is that “community” is not a group that includes everyone — it’s small-business owners and their customers. The Mud owners would take over the park entirely if given the opportunity. It’s already been alleged that they close the park early:

mud-park-20140825-1257

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who cares about these things.

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*As regular as that can be, given my infrequent posting!

51 Astor Place, East Village, NYC | Mid‑Century Mundane

Some weeks (months?) ago, I was looking for a photo of the Cooper Union building that now no longer exists (the building, not the photo). I know I have one, but for my purposes, I didn’t need my own — any would do.

That’s when I found this fantastic blog, called Mid-Century Mundane. It’s a name I would have chosen!

Anyway, this is what the author had to say about the Cooper Union building, but you should bookmark this site.

51 Astor Place, East Village, NYC | Mid-Century Mundane.

Trivia Question

Who said this?

evg-711-2013-1031

Dancing on the Grave of No-7-Eleven-NYC

Back in June, I wrote that the anti-worker group No 7-Eleven NYC had “packed it in”. They had gone from meeting weekly in front of the 7-Eleven store on Avenue A and East 11th Street, to meeting only on the first Sunday of every month.

Well, at most, that amounted to two meetings. I wasn’t around to see, but I’d bet anything they didn’t meet the first Sunday of September, which was Labor Day weekend. And this was the scene in front of 7-Eleven at 1:30pm yesterday:

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Unfortunately, the sentiments that gave rise to them in the first place have not disappeared. No doubt they will reform in some other guise to fight efforts by DeBlasio to raise the minimum wage in New York City.

* * *

Spoiler alert!

Back in November of 2013, I wrote something that I scheduled to post automatically in October of this year. That’s all I’ll say about it, other than that it pertains to the 7-Eleven in question.

Westside Market Comes to the “East Village”

The Westside Market is opening a store on Third Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets.

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Westside Market on Third Avenue.

Local news sites and bloggers are beside themselves with giddiness, focussing on their family-owned, immigrant, rags-to-riches appeal: the usual Horatio Alger crap.

And eco-friendliness! What new store would be complete without eco-friendliness?

The Westside Market may have risen to its prominence by hard work, but it was the over-worked employees who did it. Over-worked and subjected to unsafe working conditions, such as what killed 20-year-old Raymundo Juarez-Cruz, an immigrant from Mexico, at their Broadway and 110th Street store. Police investigating the death said a safety switch on the compactor had been overridden.

    Patrick Purcell, the director of organizing for Local 1500, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said Mr. Juarez-Cruz’s accident was indicative of the working conditions endured by employees of many nonunion supermarkets.

    “These machines are something that you should be working with supervision after being properly trained,” Mr. Purcell said. He said that in stores where the union represents workers, there are clear signs and directions on the compactors. 1

* * *

When this same Upper West Side location closed in 2004, the Columbia Spectator wrote about how workers had been treated:

    Modou Dia, who worked at Westside for 17 years, said, “I work 72 hours a week for the last 10 years. I never got no holiday, no sick pay, no overtime, no vacation. No even ‘thank you.’ He no even tell us he gonna close [today].”

    Liapat Ali, who worked in the deli section at Westside for 17 years, said, “The store made money from selling expired food. They would repackage things after they expired and resell them. … I’m 51 years old. Where am I gonna go? No pension, no severance, nothing.” 2

* * *

Westside Market is not alone in this. The following information is based on a survey of over 100 workers in gourmet grocery stores in Chelsea and the West Village:

    Poverty wages, and no pay increases: The average reported wage was just $7.50 per hour, and cashiers started at $6.50 per hour – that’s $13,000 a year working full-time. The highest wage was $9.00 per hour. At many of the stores, workers did not receive annual pay increases.

    Few benefits, if any: Only a few stores offered health benefits. And in the few cases where health insurance was offered, the benefits were too expensive, workers had to be full-time, and had to wait 10-12 months to become eligible.

    Long hours and no over-time pay: Full-time workers often had to work up to 60 hours per week – with no overtime pay, a violation of state and federal wages laws. At the same time, many part-time workers wanted more hours but couldn’t get them.

    Discrimination: Women, undocumented immigrants, and workers with limited English proficiency earned the least and had to work the hardest.

    Little upward mobility: Most of the stores hired their managers from the outside, rather than promoting from within. As a result, entry-level workers were largely black or Latino, while most managers were white.

    Abusive working conditions: Breaks were short and infrequent. Almost no store allowed sick days. Sexual harassment, verbal abuse and threats were frequent, especially against immigrants.3

But it’s eco-friendly!

* * *

None of this information was hard to come by. I found it in a short time using Google, while at work, no less! Local news sites and bloggers who take the time to interview the owners certainly have time to interview the workers too. Of course, as I found when interviewing workers at bodegas, they’re reluctant to speak, for fear of losing their jobs. But the bloggers could report this, and they could take the time to find out the working conditions existing in the stores they gush over.

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1Supermarket Worker Is Killed By Cardboard-Box Compactor,
accessed Oct. 3, 2014.
2Westside Market Closes its Doors After 30 Years on Broadway,
accessed Oct. 3, 2014.
3Is your Gourmet Grocery a Sweatshop? A Report on Working Conditions at Upscale Groceries in New York City, accessed on Oct. 4, 2014.

The Bendy Tree

On September 14, a group of people led by performance artist Bill Talen (“Reverend Billy”) met in Tompkins Square Park to “pray and sing” at the site of the bent elm, the bendy tree.

The performance was supposed to start at 8:30pm, but at 8:30, people were still milling about.

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People milling about the bendy tree.

It didn’t get underway until around 8:40pm, when Talen enjoined people to surround the tree. They climbed over the fence that surrounded the tree and circled it. There were about a dozen people, most of whom were part of Talen’s Stop Shopping Choir.

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Once around the tree, Talen began his speech. I commented on it the next day on EVGrieve’s report of this performance:

    It wasn’t so much a prayer for the tree as a challenge to the science used to determine that the tree was structurally unsound, criticizing “professional arborists,” “academics,” etc., equating the removal of the tree to gentrification at one point, to removing anything “different”. It was pretty appalling to listen to (except for the singing, which was very good, I’ll say!).

    If it had just been a farewell to the tree, I’d have thought it was silly enough to do at night, but not worth commenting on. As it was, if you exchanged a few of the nouns, it could have been a global warming denial sermon.

Gamma, from Gammablog, was there shooting a video (below). I don’t know if he read what I wrote above, and decided not to include Talen’s anti-academic screed, or if he himself was embarrassed by it, or if he just wasn’t there when it happened, but that part of the speech (which occurred at the beginning) is missing from the video, although there are other disparaging comments about those whose conclusion it was that the tree was unsafe.


 
* * *

Saturday morning, September 20, the people from the Parks Department showed up to remove the tree. This is the video I shot of that event:


 
While taping, a guy standing next to me said “You know, there’s nothing wrong with this tree.”

“Yes there is,” I said. “It’s not safe.” He went on to tell me arborists agree with him, and I should talk to arborists.

I told the guy “They’ve been studying this tree for years.1 They didn’t just walk in one day and say “This tree has to come down! There isn’t some Earth Spirit that’s going to come save it,” but you can’t reason with a man of faith.

Towards the end, I moved to the other side. This same guy there too, with his iPhone. When they cut through the tree, exposing the hollowed-out center, I said to him “There’s your proof,” but he didn’t respond.

* * *

About half way through the process of cutting it down, Bill Talen showed up, in costume, but alone. He attempted to climb the tree, or at least acted as if he was attempting it, then mounted the top of the workers’ truck, and did a modified version of his performance from earlier in the week. He spoke this time of Anne Frank, and the tree she wrote about in her diary2, and what people did when that tree was dying. He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and threw it into the crowd I was in, exhorting someone to go to a hardware store and buy a ladder, using his credit card. A guy next to me picked up the wallet, but didn’t leave to buy the ladder.

I haven’t processed the video of him on the truck, and subsequently being arrested, because I don’t want to promote his nonsense. As I wrote before, I’m tired of the preacher schtick. But that by itself wouldn’t prevent me from posting a video of one of his performances. It’s the anti-rational argument he gives regarding the tree that I won’t promote. Some other time, some other performance, and I’ll put it on YouTube, but not this one.

Tomorrow, Sunday, September 28, he will be at the tree again, this time for a memorial. I will be there with my video camera; maybe I’ll be able to post it!

In conclusion, I just want to say that this looks way better now!

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* * *

Meanwhile, not a word was uttered regarding a tree at the Avenue A and 7th Street entrance to the park, that was cut down on Monday, September 15. No memorials were held, no prayers, no circus acts. It was so… normal!

_MG_2446

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1 There was a cable attached to the taller tree behind it, holding it up. It was put there years ago. People have been aware of the precariousness of this tree for a long time, and did what they could to preserve it.

2 My god! Where do you even begin?! The significance of Anne Frank; the significance of fascism, and specifically Nazism; even the significance of the chestnut tree (it was the roots of a chestnut tree that revealed the meaning of existence to Antoine Roquentin in Jean Paul Sartre’s Nausea). This elm doesn’t come close to any of those. Talen debases them all with his comparison!

Portlandia

Portlandia is one of my favorite TV shows. I’m not going to say a lot about it, because if you’re a regular reader of Quilas, chances are you already know about it, watch it, and it’s one of your favorite TV shows too.

What you might not know is that you can watch this online, even without Netflix. Check out the sites Project Free TV, and WatchSeries.

(If you really don’t know about it, the Wikipedia page is here.)

I’m linking to a segment* from the current season that I find particularly funny; it’s very representative of the “East Village” also:


With Jello Biafra

* * *

Oh! While researching this piece, I discovered that IFC was having a contest, the grand prize of which is:

  • Round-trip airfare to Portland, Oregon on Virgin America for winner and guest
  • 4-day/3-night hotel stay for winner and guest
  • Walk on role in an episode of Portlandia Season 5
  • Ground transportation to and from the hotel
  • 2 IFC/Portlandia branded prize packs

I was lucky that the deadline hadn’t passed yet (August 21 at 11:59pm PST!). Naturally, I entered. So maybe you’ll see me on an episode of Portlandia soon!

portlandia-quilas

Maybe I’ll even become a regular, and have to move to Portland. I don’t know if I could stand that.

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* If this video doesn’t load, let me know and I’ll find another link.

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