City Finally Faces Residents of 400 Grand Street

400-402 Grand Street; the building on your left is occupied; the boarded up structure on the right is vacant.

Finally this week, the residents of 400 Grand Street got to hear directly from the city about their fate. For nearly three years, they’ve been desperately trying to get answers about the status of their building, which sits on one of 10 sites making up the Seward Park redevelopment project (SPURA).  Monday night, two officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which controls 400 Grand, appeared before Community Board 3’s land use committee.  What they told residents did not go over very well.

Barry Chusid, Tenant Activist, Succumbs to Long Illness

Barry Chusid (right) with Clayton Patterson. Photo by Hugh Burckhardt.

Last summer, I conducted an extensive interview with Barry Chusid, a longtime Lower East Side resident fighting to save 400 Grand Street, the apartment building he’d called home for many years. This morning there’s some sad news to report about Barry.  He was found dead in his apartment earlier this month, having succumbed to a long illness. Barry told me he was battling emphysema and other medical problems.

Barry was a well-known figure in the community. That’s Barry on the right (pictured above) with legendary LES photographer/documentarian Clayton Patterson. The photo was taken by Hugh Burckhardt inside Patterson’s Essex Street apartment about a year ago.

Mars Bar to be Demolished in August; the 400 Grand Street Connection

The Mars Bar, The End is Near, East Village, New York City

Photo by Vivienne Gucwa. Visit her web site at: www.nythroughthelens.com.

Yesterday Crain’s posted an interesting story about the demise of the Mars Bar and the silver lining for several East Village tenants:

An octogenarian playwright, a drag queen and a kvetcher provoked nightly by the bar’s cacophony are among the nine tenants in two adjoining buildings at the corner of Second Avenue and East First Street who will receive (a) sweet deal. At the end of the month, they will vacate their 1920s building, which will be demolished in August. When they return in about two years, each will pay $10 (tax free) to buy an apartment in a 12-story luxury high-rise.

Jewish Conservancy Opens Visitor Center at 400 Grand Street

This past Friday morning, the LES Jewish Conservancy had lots of help from its friends in celebrating the grand opening of the Kling & Niman Family Visitor Center at 400 Grand Street.  The storefront gives the organization a visible presence in the heart of the Lower East Side — a “brick and mortar” launching pad for neighborhood walking tours and a venue for events and education about the neighborhood’s rich legacy. 

LES Jewish Conservancy Opens Visitor Center Friday

The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy plans to open the doors of its Kling and Niman Family Visitor Center on Grand Street Friday morning at 11 a.m., with an inaugural ceremony that’s open to the public and expected to draw local community leaders and elected officials. The center, where workers were laboring to finish construction this afternoon, will provide a headquarters for the organization’s historic tours, as well as offer exhibits about Jewish life on the Lower East Side.

Jewish Conservancy Visitor Center Targets Spring Opening

You may have noticed an addition to 400 Grand Street in the past few days: a brand new awning. The future home of the the LES Jewish Conservancy is coming along. We’re told the organization’s Visitor Center, formerly Ruby’s Fruits,  is now expected to open in the spring.  Speaking of the Conservancy, you can find a listing f their upcoming events (including walking tours) on our Community Calendar.

Opening Next Month: the Jewish Conservancy’s Visitor Center

Via email blast, we learn the LES Jewish Conservancy is just about ready to debut its new Visitor Center at 400 Grand Street. The storefront, formerly Ruby’s Fruits, is scheduled to open next month after undergoing extensive renovations.  You can see several architectural drawings on the Conservancy’s web site and find out how to help support the center through a financial contribution. The Jewish Conservancy is part of the United Jewish Council of the East Side.

Dog Run Improvements, Building Issues to be Discussed Tonight

Corlear's Hook Dog Run. Photo by Jennifer Strom.

Three stories we have been following will be the subject of community meetings on the Lower East Side tonight. First, a fledgling group hoping to improve the dog run at Corlear’s Hook Park will hold an organizing meeting. It’ll take place at 6pm, at the dog run (the park is located at Cherry and Jackson streets).

One Man’s Battle to Stay on SPURA

400 Grand Street.

400 Grand Street.

Barry Chusid is fighting to stay in his home, a 100-year-old, city-owned tenement  located at 400 Grand Street.  But this is not your average story of a guy at war with City Hall.  That’s  because Chusid (and the residents of 12 other apartments) happen to be sitting on some prime real estate — a little corner of the infamous Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA).

43 years after 2-thousand homes and many businesses adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge were bulldozed, former site tenants are still battling for the right to return. They’re actively involved in Community Board 3’s drawn out quest for a consensus plan. Meanwhile, Chusid  is  on a quest of his own. At a recent meeting of CB3’s SPURA task force, he vowed to “pitch a tent,” if necessary, rather than be displaced.

End of an Era – “Ruby the Fruit Man” Has Closed Shop

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The doors have been closed at Ruby’s fruit and vegetable stand at 400 Grand St. for over three weeks and the word on the street is that Ruby Baumgarten has finally retired.  There had been some community concern over his health, but local business owner James Iglesias says he has heard Ruby is doing fine, just decided to close shop as he is approaching 90 years of age.

James, whose dry-cleaning business has been across the street for almost thirty years, said, “I could always hear him yelling over there, talking to people. But then I realized he’s getting up there, him and his friends were just hard of hearing.”

Former New York Times food writer Mimi Sheraton wrote this about Ruby’s in 1997:

Multicultural is also the word for eating habits here. Ruby (the Fruitman) Baumgarten has catered to a primarily Jewish clientele for 50 years, always stocking greens and root vegetables for chicken soup. Now he also keeps fresh ginger root for new Chinese customers. Savvy shoppers are regularly and loudly berated for squeezing produce, but he takes pride in never stocking anything that is too expensive for his customers. ”If they’re not going to buy cherries, why should I buy cherries?” he asks rhetorically.

As reported by a local neighborhood website, Kicking Over the Traces, Ruby’s location at 400 Grand Street is “one of the few old buildings remaining in the Seward Park Extension Renewal Area –  and was the last building to enter the City’s Tenant Interim Lease Program (TIL). The program allowed residents in City-owned buildings to take ownership of their buildings as a cooperative. LES activist Chino Garcia added that one of the organizers who led the fight to save this building was former City Councilwoman and current NYCHA board member Margarita Lopez”.

You’ll be missed, Ruby.