On Second Avenue in the East Village, the B&H Dairy has been going strong since the 1930s when it was opened by Mr. Bergson and Mr. Heller (hence the B&H). It is now run by Fawzy Abdelwahed and Ola Smigielska. And it is absolutely adored by New Yorkers all over town. Myself included.
Since the Second Avenue gas explosion and collapse, the B&H has been shuttered. Fawzy and Ola have consistently paid the rent and bills while they struggle to reopen, but it has not been easy.
Fawzy and Ola, today's mom and pop of the B&H, photo from GVSHP
I spoke to Fawzy who explained the barriers they're facing. Due to the explosion, safety requirements from the city have intensified. Before the explosion, the B&H passed inspection. But now they must upgrade the fire system at a cost of $28,000. To do so, they also require permission from Landmarks and the Department of Buildings. The papers have been submitted, but nothing is moving.
Andy Reynolds, local East Villager and ad hoc advocate for the B&H, says, "Things keep getting pushed back another week, two weeks, month, months. They were OK for the last couple months, but with no income, it’s getting critical, unsustainable."
In addition, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City promised financial assistance to residents and businesses impacted by the Second Avenue explosion, but no funds have made their way to Fawzy and Ola, and no one from the city has been in touch with them.
Mr. and Mrs. Bergson: The original mom & pop, 1950s, photo courtesy of Florence Bergson Goldberg
If the B&H does not get approval soon, and without much-needed financial assistance from the city, they will be forced to close. We cannot let this happen. The little dairy restaurant has a long history in the neighborhood. It is one of the last of its kind, a heritage business in a New York that is losing its New Yorkiness.
Recently, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Rosie Mendez held a small business crawl, modeled after #SaveNYC's Small Biz Crawl, for the mom and pops impacted by the Second Avenue explosion. Unfortunately, B&H was unable to open and benefit from these events.
Please write to Speaker Mark-Viverito, Councilmember Mendez, and Mayor de Blasio, and ask that they take action now to expedite permits and funds to keep the B&H alive. We cannot afford to lose this one.
Here's a quick and easy way to do it. Copy, paste, and tweet the following message:
Please save B&H Dairy! @RosieMendez @MMViverito @BilldeBlasio Expedite permits & funds to this EV classic. #SaveNYC http://bit.ly/1BSu4UE