Little Italy

Op-Ed from Jeremiah Moss in The New York Times:

The storefront gallery in Little Italy is closing, another sign
that New York is losing the things that made it so captivating.

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from Bowery Boogie:
Debbie Harry and Martin Scorsese Support Landmarking 239 Elizabeth Street in Little Italy and so Should You [OP-ED]

Posted on: July 12th, 2016 at 5:19 am by


What follows is a selection from a “Request for Evaluation” sent to the Landmarks Preservation Commission last week to calendar 239 Elizabeth Street for landmarking. Author of the pitch, building resident Beth Joy Knutsen-Papaleo, even received letters of endorsement from Debbie Harry and Martin Scorsese.

“I am dead sick of tasteless developers who never wanted to live in NYC deciding what’s right for a neighborhood. The neighborhoods are like small towns and have their own histories and identities which are vitally important to maintain and remember. Let’s keep the many flavors and colors that make New York City such a special place, not just another bland expression of greedy commercialism and bad architecture.” –Debbie Harry

“For over 25 years, I have advocated for the preservation of our cultural heritage through film preservation because it is so important to understand and appreciate our past. Elizabeth Street between East Houston and Prince is a crucial piece of Little Italy’s history and an important landmark of New York’s unique immigrant heritage.” –Martin Scorsese

We, the 239 Elizabeth Street’s Tenant’s Association, believe the time is now to landmark our building’s incredible history, alongside its pivotal location, for generations to come. Our rent-stabilized tenants span decades, living here in our building and neighborhood by sharing great stories of times past.

A reflection of community for me for the past 18 years, and for my daughter’s future residing here, has been woven into the fabric of unique, outstanding memories of years past and yet to come with excitement. A sense of fortitude and family values flourishes when I open the door to our distinctly historic and soulful building.

It is not only our building, but the block of Elizabeth Street between Prince and East Houston that must be preserved for the sake of what made our little street so incredibly important.

Scorsese and De Niro filming Taxi Driver

Landmarking our outstanding building is the first step. Generations of Italians spanning 9 decades still call this home and are asking you, The Landmarks Preservation Commission, to listen to our request with an open heart and mind.

Conceptualizing our building in 1904 collaborated in the form of the greatest architectural trio at the turn of the century. The 3 brilliant designers: William Kurtzer, Charles Rentz & Stanford White. It was commissioned by Peter P. Acritelli.

  • William Kurtzer: was famous for his specialized cast iron ornamentation and foundation work on building’s interiors and exteriors. It was his dedication to the German Renaissance & Neo-Grec style. He also designed/built properties for The Astor & Vanderbilt families around New York City.
  • Charles Rentz: a prolific architect was known best for designing and building the now land-marked Webster Hall with terra cotta facade and his specialty of Renaissance Revival.
  • Stanford White: an inspiring and instrumental builder of our great city. In being the pioneering expert of Beaux-Arts American Renaissance Architecture, he chose our building to be his first and only tenement work.

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Shop the Vintage Archives of a Soho Store Out on the Street

Ritual Vintage is taking it to the streets for its annual archive sale beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesay at 377 Broome Street. As owner Stacey Iannacone tells it, it’s going to be an “old school NYC stoop sale” on the sidewalks with several racks of clothing featuring crazy-good discounts everything from Victorian and Edwardian clothing to pieces spanning from the 1920s through the 1990s.

Iannacone assured us that she has so much merchandise put aside for this sale — she cleaned out her archive and storage space, pulling items she’s been saving for over a year — that the sidewalk offering will be restocked on the regular throughout its four-day one, with a little something for everyone. All vintage items will be priced under $50: Shoes will start at $5 and go up to $15, belts will be $10, and hats will go for $10 to $20. There will even be 50% off bridal gowns inside the store.

And considering this week’s forecast, it’s basically the perfect time to shop outside — hello, lunch break plans. Check out the Dealfeed below to get familiar with the sale’s hours.


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I got the idea to write the following petition on change.org after seeing the story about the coming eviction of Adele Sarno, a senior citizen who is a piece of “living history” in Little Italy.  It seems particularly heartless that the Italian American Museum first succeeds in raising her rent to much higher than what a senior citizen in her position can afford, then seeks to evict her.  And it also seems especially ironic that when other cultural institutions give grants, residencies, etc. to up-and-coming artists and writers on much sketchier grounds, that they hadn’t proposed an arrangement of this sort for her.  I think she would add to the museum experience for potential visitors if she were a docent there, and she could definitely help with at least a couple of exhibits if she were an assistant curator. Her past history as a former Queen of the San Gennaro festival is worth at least part of an exhibit!…

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Why don’t they just hire her to tell stories to museum visitors and let her live there rent-free?

from The New York Times:

Adele Sarno, 85, in her Manhattan apartment, where she has lived since the 1960s. Her landlord, the Italian American Museum, wants to evict her. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Adele Sarno’s father, a longshoreman, emigrated from Naples, and she grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy. As a child, she served as princess for the annual Feast of San Gennaro, she said, and one year was even crowned the queen.

Ms. Sarno eventually owned a candy shop and, later, an Italian products store below her family’s apartment on Grand Street until Sept. 11, when business dried up.

The number of people of Italian ancestry who live in Little Italy is shrinking by the year, and may soon drop by one more: Ms. Sarno, 85, is being evicted from her apartment after losing a fight to keep her $820-a-month rent from skyrocketing. But what has gotten tenant advocates’ attention is not just her age, but also the identity of the landlord: the Italian American Museum, which is in the building next door.

“You’re fighting a museum that purports to exhibit Italian-American culture and then proceeds to evict a living artifact,” said Victor J. Papa, director of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, an affordable housing group that has helped Ms. Sarno in her effort to stay. “That’s absolute hypocrisy.”

Founded in 2001, the museum bought the tenement at the corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets and the two adjacent properties seven years later. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

A spokesman for the museum said ethnicity had nothing to do with it. The museum owns a total of six apartments, including Ms. Sarno’s, in three contiguous tenement buildings at Mulberry and Grand Streets, and relies on the rental income to help pay expenses.

“So the museum should be running a charity or providing residences at discount rates?” Joe Carella, the spokesman, asked. “That doesn’t match the mission.”

Founded in 2001, the Italian American Museum is “dedicated to the struggles of Italian-Americans and their achievements and contributions to American culture and society,” according to the mission statement posted on its website. Ms. Sarno said she was indeed struggling, with a notice from the city marshal giving her only days to leave. She filed a request in housing court this week to halt the eviction.

“How could you throw old people out?” she said on Wednesday, sitting in her apartment, a mini-museum itself furnished with lamps, marble tables and ceramics from the old country. “I’m not going to be here that many more years. Let me die in my home.”

The players in the dispute have added a cultural element to one of the thousands of eviction cases in New York each year.

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