For quite awhile, Cosmos Parcels on 1st Ave between 7th and 8th has been empty. But recently there’s been activity inside. I went in one evening to find Kati Duncan, paint-spattered and covered in plaster dust, turning the 45-year-old Ukrainian packing and shipping shop into La Rokara, a jazz café.
Kati will keep the Cosmos sign in the garden
Always suspicious of the new, I talked with Kati about her intentions and they sound good so far. A former East Villager, now Brooklynite, she’s been involved with the LES arts organization A Gathering of the Tribes for the past decade and currently serves on their Board of Directors. She told me, “I love the spirit of that organization--bringing together people from all different backgrounds, and focused on providing space and exposure to new and emerging artists, something I expect La Rokara to do as well, particularly for local artists.”
Kati has expanded the interior and is adding a garden out back. She plans to provide healthy, affordable food in “a comfortable, clean place to meet, eat, drink, enjoy, and feel at home” with “live music, local artists, and maybe some webcasts on areas of interest to this community.”
She hopes it's true that the East Village is starting to push back against super-luxury gentrification "by supporting places that respect the history, culture, and spirit of this neighborhood.”
vanished signage from the door
If change is inevitable, as so many like to remind me, and old businesses like Cosmos Parcels have to be replaced, then I hope their replacements will be in sync with some part of what has made the East Village so unique over the past century--take your pick from the mix of Eastern Europeans, artists, bohemians, laborers, outlaws, Puerto Ricans, punk rockers, queers, activists, intellectuals, etc.
The neighbors are suspicious of yet another restaurant/bar in the neighborhood, but unlike many newcomers, this one seems to have heart and the intention of bringing a little of the vanishing East Village into the new EVill. So I'm optimistic about La Rokara.
Don't say I never looked on the bright side.