Photos by Will Engelmann.
You unfortunately only have a few more days to sample Dewey Dufresne’s wonderfully creative sandwiches at BYGGYZ on Clinton Street. In an interview yesterday morning, Dufresne told us he’s temporarily closing the shop at 37 Clinton Street at the end of this month.
Dufresne is hoping to find new investors for BYGGYZ, which has earned strong reviews since opening in September of 2017. But like so many restaurant operators before him, Dufresne discovered that doing business on Clinton Street is a risky proposition. Foot traffic just isn’t there in the daytime. While people flocked from across the city to try out the carefully constructed sandwiches, BYGGYZ never attracted the local following it needed to survive.
Back in 2011, Dufresne won praise at the San Gennaro Festival for his decadent “Byggybeef”sandwich, featuring braised short-rib. That was the signature item on Clinton Street, but other offerings received critical accolades, as well. New York Magazine named “the karrottom,” Dufresne’s vegetarian flavor bomb, the best sandwich of 2017. Gothamist touted BYGGYZ’s chicken sandwich as one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the city. Grub Street called Dufresne’s newish (weekend only) breakfast sandwich one of the best egg sandwiches in New York.
Dufresne, of course, knows the Lower East Side. In 1999, he opened 71 Clinton Fresh Food, the restaurant that made his son, Wylie, one of the world’s most influential chefs. He was also involved in WD-50, Wylie’s critically acclaimed temple of molecular gastronomy that was forced out of business by luxury condo developers in 2014. But Dufesne has always had an emotional attachment to the block, which prompted his decision to give Clinton Street another try. In the next iteration of BYGGYZ he’ll likely choose a busier location, with built-in foot traffic.
If you want to sample Dufresne’s sandwiches on the LES, your last chance will be July 1.
7th Precinct Community Council meeting. Nov. 6, 2017.
A standing room only crowd turned out at the 7th Precinct last Wednesday evening to ask a top official from the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) questions about the worsening traffic situation at the intersection of Grand and Clinton streets.
As we reported last week, Community Board 3 and local elected officials have asked the DOT to propose solutions for making the area safer and less congested. At the meeting, Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez said traffic planners are still studying the situation and hope to have an action plan in the months ahead. Here are some of our notes from the meeting at the regularly scheduled Community Council meeting.
–Sanchez acknowledged that there’s simply “too much traffic” navigating the streets of the Lower East Side on the way to the Williamsburg Bridge. He said the lengthy East Houston Street reconstruction project likely prompted many drivers on FDR Drive to take Grand Street instead. Now that the construction is coming to and end, DOT is looking at redirecting (through signage and signal timing adjustments) cars back onto Houston Street.
–Sanchez said DOT is looking at lengthening the exit on FDR Drive above Grand Street in an effort to reduce the number of cars flowing onto Grand Street at any one time.
–Planners are studying whether some bridge-bound traffic on Grand Street can be funneled to Norfolk Street. While it could help relieve Clinton Street’s bottleneck, Sanchez said the adjustment might simply create more problems. “If we change it,” said Sanchez, “a year from now people will be saying, ‘You messed up another intersection.'”
–Sanchez said DOT is looking at whether the south side of Delancey Street (from FDR Drive to Clinton Street) could be turned into a westbound access road to the Williamsburg Bridge. Engineers will be studying whether there’s enough room for vehicles to turn right onto the bridge at Delancey/Clinton.
–While a study of the Clinton/Grand intersection was completed, more work needs to be done. It was difficult to collect accurate date, said Sanchez, due to construction at Essex Crossing. That construction work on Clinton Street will, of course, be ongoing for another couple of years.
–Sanchez urged residents to continue calling 311 about traffic problems on the streets leading to the bridge. He said it’s important to document the trouble spots. People at the meeting begged police officers to step up enforcement of drivers leaning on their horns at all hours of the night.
–Without offering any specifics, Sanchez said the plan for dealing with the looming L Train shutdown would, “help alleviate traffic in the general area.” DOT and the MTA have come under criticism for failing to release the plan in a timely manner. Sanchez it would be made public “very shortly.”
–Part of the L Train traffic management plan entails the installation of a protected bike lane on the south side of Delancey Street. Work will begin on the bike lane in April or May of next year, once the Essex Crossing developers complete construction on their building at Delancey and Essex streets, said Sanchez.
Six months after the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it was conducting a study of the congested intersection at Grand Street and Clinton Street, the results of the agency’s analysis remain a mystery and no concrete solutions for fixing the Lower East Side trouble spot are on the horizon.
For several years, local residents have been complaining about gridlock and dangerous conditions for pedestrians, as well as honking from impatient drivers at all hours of the day and night. Cars waiting to access the Williamsburg Bridge are frequently backed up on Clinton Street all the way to East Broadway and on Grand Street to FDR Drive. In response to requests from Community Board 3 and local elected officials, DOT acknowledged on June 1 that a traffic study was underway. But the results of the study have not been made public, no meaningful changes are imminent and locals are becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress.
One night last week, DOT officials, police officers from the 7th Precinct and local community leaders gathered on the northeast corner of Grand and Clinton to talk about potential solutions. The Lo-Down was invited to attend the hastily organized meeting by Karen Blatt, a member of Community Board 3 and a leader of the Grand Gridlock Coalition (#GrandGridlock on Twitter), a neighborhood group pushing for action from the city. But upon arriving on Wednesday evening, we were asked to leave (reporters were not welcome, we were told).
On Friday, a DOT spokesperson said the Grand/Clinton Street study has, in fact, been completed, but that it was inconclusive. The spokesperson said the agency is entering what was described as – a new phase with new considerations – and was continuing a dialogue with the community board. If this explanation sounds vague to you, it struck us the same way. We have asked for clarification and will update this story if we learn more. The Lo-Down has also filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the traffic study.
This coming Wednesday evening, DOT’s Manhattan Borough Commissioner, Luis Sanchez, is scheduled to appear at the 7th Precinct’s community council meeting (7:30 p.m.) to answer questions about the troublesome intersection from local residents. According to Community Affairs Officer Umberto Guardino, Sanchez was invited to attend because there have been a lot of questions during the past couple of public meetings that officers are unable to answer. While the police department is responsible for enforcement, traffic management is within DOT’s purview.
Clinton Street near Grand Street. March 2017.
Following a string of fatal accidents on Delancey Street, the city made several changes in 2012, including opening Clinton Street to the Williamsburg Bridge. The changes resulted in a bottleneck at the Grand Street/Clinton Street intersection. Over the past few years, DOT has tinkered with signal timings, added signage and the police department has placed traffic agents at the intersection. But these moves have done little to improve the situation.
In April of this year, local residents successfully lobbied Community Board 3 for a resolution that urged DOT to address the problem. In September, the residents delivered a petition with more than one-thousand signatures to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg that read, in part, “We trust that the DOT will take (our) concerns into consideration and will propose a resolution that improves safety and quality of life in our community.”
One resident who attended last week’s Grand Street site visit, Matt Marello, said it was mostly an opportunity for locals to offer up potential solutions. Among the ideas floated by community members:
- Turning Clinton Street between Grand Street and East Broadway into a southbound only block.
- Routing Grand Street traffic through Suffolk Street to Delancey Street.
- Allowing vehicles from FDR Drive to access the Williamsburg Bridge via Delancey Street (a u-turn would be necessary to accommodate this change).
- Allowing cars to turn left from southbound Essex Street onto Delancey Street to reach the Williamsburg Bridge; currently they must continue past Delancey to Broome Street and Norfolk Street.
This past Tuesday evening, we caught up with Karen Blatt as she was headed to the Grand/Clinton Street traffic meeting. She told us, “There has been no action, no communication and no collaboration. If (DOT) did conduct a study, they should have shared their findings, especially if they were unable to optimize the network. It’s ok for DOT to ask for help if they can’t fix the problem. We have lot’s of ideas and we want to help.”
In 2015, the city installed a two-way protected bike lane on Clinton Street and later added a mid-block crosswalk on the block between Grand Street and East Broadway (at that time, Blatt was chair of CB3’s transportation committee). In a recent letter to DOT, she and other members of the Grand Gridlock Coalition wrote, “We applaud the pedestrian and cyclist safety measures that DOT has installed in the last few years, but these safety measures have inadvertently led to an intolerable level of traffic congestion, noise pollution and unsafe conditions.”
There was a ribbon cutting on Clinton Street last year to inaugurate a new crosswalk and traffic signal.
The problems on Clinton Street have been made worse by the ongoing construction at Essex Crossing. The developers blocked off the sidewalk on the west side of Clinton while a 15-story building at 145 Clinton St. was being built. As a result, pedestrians spilled out into the bike lane. While the sidewalk was recently reopened, work will soon begin on Site 4 of Essex Crossing, located on the west side of Clinton Street between Delancey and Broome streets. This means pedestrians will once again likely be forced out into the street.
There are other long-range concerns about the impact of the Essex Crossing development project on congestion in the immediate area. The building located at the intersection of Clinton and Grand streets includes a 30,000 square foot Trader Joe’s and a 22,500 square foot Target store. There’s a commercial loading dock for those stores on Clinton Street. Just one block away, NYU Langone will be opening a large medical center in another Essex Crossing building, and a publicly accessible park will border the congested Clinton Street thoroughfare. The new businesses and local amenities are sure to add significantly more pedestrian traffic and more vehicular traffic to an already overburdened area.
For their part, the Essex Crossing developers say they’ve been in constant contact with DOT, the police department and the community board about construction-related traffic issues and about traffic management once the first buildings officially open next summer and fall.
Wednesday’s 7th Precinct meeting takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the station house, 19 Pitt St. Another community meeting devoted to the Clinton/Grand Street traffic issue is in-the-works. It’s being planned by Grand Street Democrats, a local political club. We’ll let you know when there are more details about that.
Clinton Street near Grand Street. File photo.
Grand Street near Clinton Street. Photo by Matt Marello.
If you live near the intersection of Clinton and Grand streets, it’s impossible to forget that it’s is a dangerous and unpleasant area for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Local residents want to make sure that officials at the city’s Department of Transportation don’t forget it, either.
Community activists last month sent a letter and petition with more than 1,000 signatures to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. It urged the city to make changes on Clinton Street, where traffic leading onto the Williamsburg Bridge has grown significantly in recent years.
After hearing from Community Board 3 and local elected officials earlier this year, the DOT began a traffic study to evaluate safety concerns and to determine how to alleviate the traffic bottleneck. Cars are routinely backed up on Grand Street for several blocks and on Clinton Street below East Broadway. Drivers lean on their horns out of frustration, disturbing people who live in the area late into the night.
The other day we heard from Matt Marello, who’s helped lead the campaign for change on Clinton Street, along with Doron Stember, board president of the Seward Park cooperative. On Aug. 23, they tell us, DOT responded to the letter, indicating that the study is ongoing and that it should be completed sometime during the fall. Marello said Daisy Paez, a new district leader who lives in the Grand Street Guild apartments, led the effort to collect petition signatures. He also noted that Karen Blatt, former Lower East Side district leader, worked with the 7th Precinct to install an electronic sign on Grand Street that reads, “Please No Honking” and “Watch For Cyclists.” Advocacy efforts, and a direct plea to the mayor from Grand Street Dems member Tommy Loeb, led the city to place traffic agents at the intersection.
In the letter, Stember, Marello and Paez wrote, “…we implore the DOT to find a viable alternative to the current Clinton Street entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. (Grand and Clinton streets) have, in essence, become de facto ‘on ramps’… from FDR Drive… We trust that the DOT will take (our) concerns into consideration and will propose a resolution that improves safety and quality of life in our community.”
Here’s the full letter sent along with the petition:
Letter to DOT: Clinton Street Traffic by The Lo-Down on Scribd
Clinton Street at East Broadway.
Due to road construction work, Clinton Street in the area between Grand Street and East Broadway was a fiasco earlier this week (the street was completely closed). In truth, however, conditions in this area aren’t much better under normal circumstances. So it should be a relief to many residents this afternoon that the city’s Department of Transportation has agreed to look at remedying the traffic nightmare on the stretch of Clinton Street leading to the Williamsburg Bridge.
Last month, Community Board 3 approved a resolution urging the city to address the concerns about gridlock and safety on Clinton. Local elected officials then sent a letter to DOT, reinforcing CB3’s resolution. Today we hear through State Sen. Daniel Squadron’s office that the agency has begun a traffic study.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg wrote in a response to the elected officials yesterday, “(DOT’s) Traffic Planning and Management Division is currently conducting a study of this location (Clinton and Grand streets) to address the safety concerns that you described.” She also said traffic signals are being changed to allow vehicles more time to pass through the intersection northbound towards the bridge.
It should be noted that DOT has looked at congestion in this area in the past, and ended up implementing only modest changes. There’s no getting around the fact that cars must get to the bridge somehow — and there are no easy solutions for addressing gridlock in a part of the Lower East Side that is sure to become even more congested during the next few years.
Clinton Street near Grand Street.
Local resident Matt Marello has started a petition to close Clinton street has an entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. Community Board 3 approved a resolution in April asking the Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study in the area and to propose solutions to a terrible overcrowding problem on Clinton and surrounding streets. Here’s Marello’s pitch:
Clinton Street is a wholly inappropriate approach to the Williamsburg Bridge. The street is narrow and parallels a bike lane. Traffic frequently enters into the bike lane when turning from Grand Street, and the pedestrian crossing at Grand and Clinton is extremely dangerous. The streets leading to the Clinton Street feed traverse an entirely residential neighborhood that is ill equipped to deal with the traffic volume and there is a significant impact on the quality of life. The exhaust and noise pollution generated by vehicles is intolerable and not appropriate for a residential neighborhood.
Local elected officials have backed up the Community Board’s resolution with a letter to DOT. No response from the agency as of yet.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron and other elected officials have sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the city to do something about gridlock on Clinton Street.
Last month, local residents appeared before Community Board 3’s transportation committee to complain about ongoing safety and quality of life issues along Clinton, Grand and Delancey streets. The heavy traffic flow to the Williamsburg Bridge has become a major problem for the neighborhood. CB3 approved a resolution asking the DOT to conduct a traffic study in the area and to propose solutions.
In the letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, the elected officials wrote:
We urge the Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study at (the intersection of Grand and Clinton) to determine potential traffic improvement measures, including reducing congestion, increasing safety and improving quality of life. Clinton Street north of Grand Street is a narrow one-way street that doubles as the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge for drivers exiting the southbound FDR Drive. There is inadequate space for cars waiting to enter the bridge, causing traffic to spill into the intersection of Clinton and Grand Streets. In addition to causing gridlock, vehicles frequently stop in the crosswalk, preventing pedestrians from crossing safely. Vehicles also attempt to make right turns from the left lane, crossing over a bike lane and creating a dangerous situation for vehicles and cyclists. The traffic pattern also is a major quality of life issue in the neighborhood. Nearby neighbors report loud honking at all hours due to the gridlock. The new development at Essex Crossing will only add additional stress and traffic to the street grid.
In 2012, the city reversed the direction of Clinton Street and prohibited southbound drivers on Essex Street from turning left on Delancey Street (this forced cars to turn on Broome Street in order to reach the bridge). The changes were made after 12-year old Dashane Santana was struck and killed by a minivan at the intersection of Clinton and Delancey streets, prompting a public outcry for safety improvements. The following year, in 2013, the city made some small adjustments in response to complaints about traffic congestion.
The Squadron letter was co-signed by Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Officials of the Department of Transportation and local elected officials came to the Lower East Side this afternoon to celebrate the installation of a new crosswalk and signal on Clinton Street, between East Broadway and Grand streets.
Last year, the city installed a new two-way bike lane on the west side of Clinton Street, but had not yet acted on local pleas for additional pedestrian safety measures. During a press event on the block this past September, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced plans to add the crosswalk. Cantankerous residents badgered her about the issue nonetheless — for good measure.
Luis Sanchez, DOT’s Lower Manhattan Commissioner, cut the ribbon today along with State Sen. Daniel Squadron, City Council member Margaret Chin, Karen Blatt of Community Board 3, Daisy Paez of the Grand Street Guild tenant association and Willie Lozada of the Seward Park Co-op.
Clinton Street Love Mob, 2015.
For the second year in a row, several not-for-profit groups are coming together to show a little love for Clinton Street.
Clinton Street Fest is a “celebration of commerce and culture” on the commercial strip above Delancey Street. It takes place Friday afternoon. Here’s more from the press release:
Featuring artists Raul Rios, Sally Young, Kerry Cox, Erin Sweeny, Bridget Bartolini, Priscilla Stadler, and dru k!d + Friends, the event will feature a walking tour of participating businesses, artist interventions in both active and vacant storefronts, popup installations, music, poetry, and performances. Expect activities such as City of Stories : A community story sharing workshop with Bridget Bartolini of Five Boro Story Project; an installation of Fragile City at Clinton Community Garden by artist Priscilla Stadler; and a Cake Walk with artist Erin Sweeny, outside of Santo Domingo Bakery. Participating businesses include long time establishments such as Socrates Hair Designs and Santo Domingo Bakery, as well as newcomers such as Paloma Rocket. Visitors will enjoy special discounts, tastings, and drink specials. The event will kick off with a welcome and walking tour starting at Donnybrook Bar, including words by LES poet Raul Rios. Clinton Street Fest will bring together a variety of stakeholders residents, visitors, artists, merchants, property owners, and prospective commercial tenants to strengthen, celebrate, and support small business survival on the LES. Participating artists hope to create and fuel conversations about the vibrant and ever changing commercial and cultural landscape of the area.
The event is being hosted by GOLES, ALBOR, FABNYC, and community activist Anna Adler. It takes place between 4-7 p.m. Here’s the Facebook invite.
A Message from Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and the Association of Latino Business Owners and Residents (ALBOR):
Join us on Thursday, March 24 for an open house on Clinton Street. We’ll tour many of the commercial spaces available for rent on Clinton between East Houston and Delancey streets.
Meet at Donnybrook, 35 Clinton St. (at Stanton Street).
RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This is a paid advertisement.
Dewey Dufresne on Clinton Street.
This is the latest installment of our special series on Small Business Survival.
In 2002, the New York Times called Dewey Dufresne the “unofficial professor” of Clinton Street. Over the years, he’s not just been a dispassionate observer, but also a catalyst for the changes that have washed over the three blocks between East Houston Street and Delancey Street.
So when we decided to take a look at the state of small business on this struggling commercial strip, Dufresne (who you might know better as “Wylie’s dad”), was our first call. In 1999, Dewey and several partners opened 71 Clinton Fresh Food, a restaurant that blazed a trail for fine dining on the Lower East Side and established his son as a world-famous culinary innovator. A lot has changed on Clinton Street in the past 17 years, yet much has remained the same. Years ago, says Dufresne, “I saw a mixed community. There was something for everyone. Today, everyone is here, many are barely getting by and they’re all just trying to find a niche.”
Many of the challenges facing the neighborhood’s independent businesses — high rents, a dwindling customer base, maddening city regulations — are plainly evident on Clinton Street. We walked the block with Dufresene, stopping to talk with restaurant and shop owners along the way. They spoke both of the promise and of the shortcomings of a business corridor that always seems to be in transition.
Jairo Barros, owner of Galeria at 43 Clinton St.
Last summer, community activists counted about 20 vacant spaces in the three block stretch below Houston Street. In recent months, though, the empty storefronts have been filling up with fresh-faced entrepreneurs ready to make their mark.
Inside Galeria, a combo art space-restaurant at 43 Clinton St, Jairo Barros is full of creative energy. Always a “West Side guy,” he was looking to expand beyond Organika, an Italian spot he co-owned on 7th Avenue South. After many months of searching, he finally found a home for a new creative concept, and soft-opened a few weeks ago. Barros believes the block is a hidden gem. “Clinton Street is an underrated street in New York City,” he said. “You have some of the best people doing the best things right here.” He loves the diversity and neighborly feel of the local community — qualities that other parts of the city lost years ago. “I didn’t think I could ever feel that again in New York,” Barros explained. “It’s happening and it’s 10 times stronger than it ever has been for me.”
Next we stopped in to see Michael Reynolds, co-owner of Black Crescent, the cocktail and oyster bar in the old Alias space at 76 Clinton St. The events of this past year have definitely tested his optimism. After a fire in January of last year, he and partner Carlos Baz were forced to jump through many bureaucratic hoops by the Department of Buildings. When we visited, they had just gotten the okay to turn gas service back on, clearing the path for a long-awaited reopening. Black Crescent will finally be back in business this coming Sunday (we’ll have more from Reynolds in a future story). As we continued down the block, Dufresne said he can definitely relate to his neighbors’ predicament.
It was in the spring of last year that the food blogs first began salivating about BYGGYZ, an avant garde sandwich shop Dufresne planned to create at 37 Clinton St. An opening was anticipated in a matter of weeks. But those weeks turned into months as complications arose over many old Buildings Department violations remaining from John’s Deli & Grocery, the previous business at this location. Now, finally on the verge of resolving those issues, Dufresne is just about ready to resume renovations. He’s looking forward to a fresh start after a difficult couple of years on the old block.
In November of 2014, Wylie Dufresne was forced to shutter WD-50, his acclaimed temple of molecular gastronomy at 50 Clinton St. The restaurant still had some time left on its lease inside a modest single story commercial building. Dewey Dufresne designed the space himself. But the new property owner, Icon Realty Management, was determined to move WD-50 and several other small businesses out in preparation for a luxury makeover. As the final dinners were being served, news broke that Icon had flipped the property, selling the development site to another firm for $28 million. Today, a seven-story building is rising on the lot, featuring 37 high-end condos (prices range from $1-3 million).
50 Clinton St.
The construction has only added to Clinton Street’s woes. As we stepped inside the Little Shoe Shop, a storefront located just to the north of the plywood and cranes, owner Syndey Pringle confirmed rumors that she’d decided to call it quits. What little foot traffic existed on the block in the past disappeared after the sidewalk barricades arrived. After closing at the end of March, she’s moving to a farm far away from New York City and turning to an internet-only business model.
When Dufresne arrived on the scene two decades ago, Clinton Street had a different feel. It was a haven for drug dealers, but at the same time, the retail was more vibrant. There were many more stores and restaurants set up to serve the local community. Today, only a few remain. There’s Cibao (the longtime Dominican diner), Santo Domingo Bakery and a few old school barber shops and hair salons. In recent years, new businesses have opened and closed in rapid succession. Clinton Street Baking Company, which recently expanded, is a rare success story. Ivan Ramen, which opened in 2014, benefits from a constant stream of coverage in the food media. But even this buzz-worthy restaurant suffers through slow periods.
Many fledgling businesses have failed in an area that is removed from the bustle of Orchard and Ludlow streets. In spite of gentrification, few local residents can afford the types of upscale retailers who are leasing Clinton Street spaces. About one-third of the households in the Census tract covering Clinton and surrounding blocks have an annual income of $25,000 or less. Only about 15% of households have an income of $100,000 or more. The best solution, as Dufresne and others see it, is a commercial area that supports both the local community and customers from elsewhere. Finding the right mix has been tricky business, but Dufresne thinks it is possible. “I do believe that if there are enough places and they’re good, that Clinton Street could become a destination,” he said.
A “love mob” descended on Clinton Street last year to support longtime businesses. It was organized by ALBOR and Fourth Arts Block.
One organization trying to find the right blend for the neighborhood is ALBOR, the Association of Latino Businesses and Residents. In 2014, it teamed up with another group, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), and the city’s Department of Small Business Services. The non-profits received a $30,000 “small business attraction” grant to help locate independent businesses for some of the many retail vacancies on Clinton Street. They met with local residents to find out what types of businesses they wanted to see, conducted a marketing survey and reached out to landlords.
Recently we sat down with Enrique Cruz, ALBOR’s founder, for a progress report on the initiative. According to our count, there are 21 establishments on Clinton Street with liquor permits out of about 90 total storefronts from East Houston to Delancey Street. During public outreach sessions, residents made it abundantly clear they opposed more nightlife businesses in the area. “We are trying to act in the community’s best interest.,” said Cruz. “We haven’t gone after nightlife or restaurants at all because we understand the community has a oversaturation (of these types of businesses). A lot of people feel that way.” What residents did request is shops offering local services, such as home goods and hardware. While there have been some interested business owners, said Cruz, they require significant floor space; almost all of Clinton Street’s storefronts are small.
Another stumbling block has been working with a diverse group of landlords and prospective tenants. Seven or eight months ago, it looked like a deal was in place for a concierge services businesses. But attorneys for both parties were unable to agree on language in the contract, so the agreement fell apart. The big problem, though, is no mystery to anyone. “The elephant in the room,” he said, is that rents are substantial, hovering around $100 a square foot. Many mom-and-pops are simply priced out. One of the conspicuous examples can be found at 47 Clinton St. After Icon sold the 50 Clinton St. development site in 2014, it turned around and bought a tenement right across the street for $5 million. For many months, big signs have been posted in the newly installed picture windows advertising two spaces (900 sq. ft. each) for $6,000/month.
There are some signs of an upswing. Storefronts are filling up at a quicker pace recently. New players include: Koneko (New York’s first Japanese-style cat cafe), Garfunkel’s (a second floor cocktail bar), Scumbags & Superstars (an edgy streetwear brand) and Boba Guys (the San Francisco-based organic bubble tea company). They will soon be joined by Paloma Rocket, a self-serve beer concept, and Speedy Romeo, a wood-fired pizza restaurant from Brooklyn.
One person who has seen her share of comings and goings on Clinton Street is Meghan Joye. She’s co-owner of Donnybrook, a bar that opened in October of 2008. She also serves on the economic development committee of Community Board 3 and on the board of directors of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District (now the LES Partnership). Speaking of her own business, Joye said, “We started off pretty strong and in the last couple of years things have definitely plateaued for us.” Bars, of course, have a stronger business model than a lot of other retailers. “I know that Donnybrook is probably one of the busier locations on Clinton Street,” Joye explained. “If we’re struggling, everyone else must be struggling, too.” She’s optimistic that the big Essex Crossing development project, adding new apartments, entertainment venues and destination retail, will be good for the whole area. “That’s got to increase foot traffic,” said Joye. “That’s why we’re hanging on. Things have got to improve. It’s just unfortunate that there are a lot of places that can’t hang on until then.”
Some people on the block – including Dewey Dufresne and Jairo Barro of Galeria believe merchants on Clinton Street should form an association to advocate for their interests, coordinate marketing campaigns and possibly stage some public events. Joye said she loves the idea, but is also concerned about the obstacles. During the past five years, she’s tried many times to get business owners together. It’s always hard, she said, because independent operators are overwhelmed running their shops and restaurants. They just don’t have the hours in the day to run an advocacy organization. The Business Improvement District (now called the LES Partnership) does not cover Clinton Street. While an expansion was considered a few years ago, the topic is unlikely to be revisited unless there’s significant support for the idea among business owners and property owners on the block.
Whether it happens organically or through the assistance of some type of neighborhood organization, the time might be right. “Clinton Street has always needed something cohesive,” said Dufresne, “something to knit all of the businesses together.” In the meantime, he’s got a sandwich shop to open. Hopefully, you’ll be able to stop by for lunch by late spring or early summer.
A Lower East Side couple has gone public with news of a pit bull attack on Clinton Street Tuesday night. Christine Mancuso and Tim Bremer say they were walking Barnaby, their 5-month-old puppy, near Rivington Street when the mauling happened. After Bremer jumped in to intervene, the pit bull bit him repeatedly. More details from Channel 7:
UPDATE 12/20: Last night we heard from Christine Mancuso, who asked us to publish the photo you see below of the pit bull’s owner. Mancuso is hoping someone will recognize her. She also wanted to, “warn other residents to stay away from this woman and her dog if they see her walking on the street.”
“Since the incident,” Mancuso said, “I have been very apprehensive to possibly come across that dog again–and also extremely worried that someone else will face the same fate as we did.”
In the comments following WABC’s story, a number of readers sounded off on the issue of pit bulls. Mancuso asked us to publish the following statement in response to those comments:
I had two main goals by going to the media: first and foremost, to find the responsible dog owner; second, to shed light on where we as a community should be focusing our anger–which I wholeheartedly believe should not be the pit bulls themselves. I learned the hard way in NYC, if your dog is attacked or even killed, you will have absolutely no recourse with the police or the city. The police will refuse to get involved because they will claim it is a civil matter. The health department will refuse to even take a report unless a human was bit. City officials, and their agencies and police, will ultimately shrug at dog attack victims saying “it’s not our problem.” If you really want to point a finger at who is responsible for victimizing innocent pet owners or bite victims, it should be at our law makers and police force who turn a blind eye. There are 600,000 dogs in NYC alone. Any of these dogs, regardless of the breed, has the potential to cause significant damage to another human or pet. This is a huge public safety concern. And yet, when an incident such as the one we encountered happens, the city fails us. No one will help you, no one will listen, and you are left on your own to track down the responsible parties and seek justice. Putting bans on pit bulls and other stereotypically “dangerous” dogs is not going to solve anything. It’s not going to pay medical or vet bills for victims, it’s not going to track down iressponsible owners who flee the scene, it’s not going to hold dog owners accountable for their pet’s actions. You are welcome to have whatever opinion regarding pit bulls as you please. Personally, I love pit bulls and have had numerous positive experiences with the breed. I’ve been bit by many dogs over the years, none which were pit bulls. Do I think this particular pit bull is a menace to society? Yes. Do I hold all pit bulls responsible? No. Who am I angry at? I am angry at irresponsible dog owners, such as this woman, who give a bad name to pit bulls and other stigma-ridden breeds. This woman is the problem. And even more so, I am angry at the system that leaves me to defend myself in the aftermath of this terrifying and heartbreaking tragedy. Dog owners and all citizens alike should be focusing their attention at those who are truly responsible. Those who have the ability to actually protect us when attacks happen, yet fail to do so.
If you have information about the pit bull owner, you can email Mancuso here: email@example.com.
Clinton Street between East Broadway and Grand Street. December 2015.
The city’s Department of Transportation announced today’s it’s adding a mid-block crosswalk and signal on Clinton Street between East Broadway and Grand Street.
Residents have complained about safety in the area for years. Cars come racing up Grand Street on their way to the Williamsburg Bridge, while pedestrians living in the Seward Park Co-op and shoppers visiting the Fine Fare Supermarket routinely cross in the middle of the block. Over the summer, the city installed a protected two-way bike lane and established a new parking lane. After the changes were made, complaints increased.
During a media event on Clinton Street in September, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg committed to the crosswalk. More details from a news release put out a short time ago:
The DOT joined Frank Durant, General Manager of Seward Park Co-op, and representatives from local elected officials on a walk-through of the block in September, to discuss and observe pedestrian and traffic issues. Following a study of the block that included counts of pedestrians and vehicles, vehicle speeds, crash history, amongst other factors, DOT approved a midblock crosswalk and a signal. Implementation will take place this spring.
Local elected officials praised the decision. There had been some concern that a traffic signal would not be part of the plan, but the city decided to include it in the safety improvements.