Monday, December 8, 2014

Stop the Vanishing, Save the Varnishkes!

Yesterday, our rally to save Cafe Edison was a big success. Thank you to everyone who spread the word, showed up, and made it all happen.


photo: Jennifer Leonard

In attendance were Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYC Council Member Corey Johnson, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, and New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, along with members of the entertainment unions and a crowd of supportive community members--who brought signs like: "Don't evict Grandma!" and "The Yiddish are coming!"

Senator Hoylman introduced another great slogan: "Stop the Vanishing, Save the Varnishkes!"


photo: Jolly Holidays, via twitter

The Jolly Holidays carolers were also there, volunteering their time and talent, along with a personalized song for Cafe Edison. To the tune of "Silver Bells," they sang, "Matzo balls, matzo balls, we love our soup in the city..."


photo: Peter Ajemian, via twitter

The politicians gave rousing speeches in support of keeping Cafe Edison right where it is. The owners of Hotel Edison want the coffee shop to relocate, so they can upscale the space, but while relocation might look like a rescue, it could mean Cafe Edison's demise. It's a situation we've seen happen too many times--like in the case of Arnold Hatters.

A third-generation Times Square business, dependent on the Broadway community, much like Cafe Edison, Arnold Hatters was forced to move due to an eminent domain grab of the building they'd been in for 50 years. They relocated just four blocks south. But those four blocks made a big difference. The Broadway community did not follow, they went out of business, and 7-Eleven moved into their space.

"Manhattan’s funny," the co-owner of the hat shop told me in 2009. "We’re just four blocks away, but it’s another world down here. We’re down 40% of what we did in our last year in the old location."

We cannot let this happen to Cafe Edison.

"It is unimaginable," said Council Member Corey Johnson at the rally, that Cafe Edison "would be under the threat of eviction and closure... There really is only one good solution here. The only solution is to allow Cafe Edison to stay in this magical place, which has been their home, and to hopefully put the entire community-- New York City, the theater community, all of that--above, hopefully, a little bit of profit."

He added that the public advocates present, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio, "all stand ready to be of help and assistance in any way possible."


photo: Jennifer Leonard

But this is no easy fight. The Edison Hotel's owner, Gerald Barad, is partners in the Triumph Hotel chain with the notorious Shimmie Horn. As the Post reported back in 2011, Horn built his empire "by converting family-owned fleabag flophouses into chic spots," like the Upper West Side's Belleclaire, from which beloved Big Nick's was forced out after 50 years, thanks to a massive rent hike last year.

When Horn upscaled the Iroquois in 1999, out went a storied barber shop. Reported the Times, "For as long as anyone could remember, the Dumont Barber Shop occupied the street-level space on the Avenue of the Americas side of the hotel entrance. But what was acceptable in a budget hotel charging about $129 a night was not in one hoping to move up to the luxury level with rates starting at $275 a night and going up to $675 a night for a two-bedroom suite."

In addition, Horn's prior company, said the Post, "was at the center of a lawmaker-bribery scandal." The Village Voice in 2003 outlined what they called a "heartless" hotel empire, built on prison contracts and the homeless crisis.

So kicking out a beloved, long-time business run by Holocaust survivors and their family, for the purpose of upscaling and bringing in a "white-tablecloth" restaurant with a "name chef," is par for the course.




Previously:News breaks about Cafe Edison's forced closure
The first of many Lunch Mob draws 600 supporters
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer writes a letter asking for a lease for Cafe Edison
New York State Senator Brad Hoylman writes a letter
Councilmember Corey Johnson writes a letter

Join the Save Cafe Edison Facebook group
Tweet with #SaveCafeEdison
Sign the petition

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

And what really bothers me is this schmuck owner inherited the Edison Hotel from his hard-working father, who came here with nothing, and was so honest he gave the Café Edison a verbal agreement (which his schmuck sun knows has no legal validity in New York).

Anonymous said...

What does NYC Small Business services do? NYCEDC is also notorious for doing NOTHING as a landlord to promote the vendors in their market or any small businesses. And, NYC & Company is mum on this topic as they have the worst retention of members and if you look to see who their members are they are all chain stores. They do nothing to advocate for small business tourism. Any small business does not have the funds to be a member of NYC & Company and there really are no benefits to being a member. As this has been a problem for years and ignored by management. or, what every one knows political hacks. Please ask Marty Markowitz how NYC & Co supports local business?

Gojira said...

Unless and until the politicians meet and talk to the landlord face to face, none of this street protest will really matter, I'm afraid. And even then, given this guy's rep and obvious lack of regard for anything but money, it might not matter...