Archive for the ‘Neighbors’ Category

Service of a Happy Ending: Coogan’s Stays Open in Washington Heights

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Photo: amazon.com

I’m a sucker for happy endings and a recent one that hit the spot is about a 33 year old Washington Heights, NY restaurant/bar, Coogan’s, that was being forced to close when its lease ran out in spring because of a $40,000 rent increase–to $60,000/month–according to harlemworldmag.com.

Photo: phillymag.com

In two days Coogan’s gathered 18,000 signatures on a petition to save the Broadway and 169th Street hangout. Under pressure the landlord, New York Presbyterian Hospital, agreed to lower the rent increase and the owners, Peter Walsh, Dave Hunt and Tess McDade, are staying put.

Before the agreement, according to cbslocal.com, Walsh told the landlord: “’There’s community here, don’t build walls. Don’t pull a plug so fast on a person when they’re still breathing.’”

Harlemworld.com reported: “During the neighborhood’s dark days of the 80s and 90s — which were plagued by drug-related violence — the restaurant remained open, owners told the Manhattan Times. ‘When we opened, we were one of the first integrated bars in New York, and maybe the country,’ Walsh told the Manhattan Times. ‘We were Dominican, African-American, Irish, Jewish, and everyone got along. We embraced the neighborhood. It worked. But thirty-three years ago, you didn’t see that kind of thing.’”

Photo: airbnb.com

“‘We have served a very, very big part of the Washington Heights community in supplying that big living room that these apartments just don’t have,’ co-owner Dave Hunt told WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman.

“‘Now the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted out and said everybody should get onboard, that certainly helps,’ said Hunt.” WCBS also noted “‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda celebrated his birthdays there.”

It also doesn’t hurt when in addition to hefty neighborhood support your cause is picked up by local media such as The New York Times, harlemworldmag.com, nbcnewyork.com, cbslocal.com, manhattantimes.com and patch.com/new-york for starters.

The owners are good souls—another reason so many jumped on board their cause and why the story resonated with me. Before the agreement happened, Harlemworldmag.com quoted the New York Times that the “owners are using their connections to help the 40 restaurant employees find jobs.”

There’s a flagrant contrast between the approach of this small business and the big ones that in spite of their tax windfall from the December 2017 “reform” bill are nevertheless collectively laying off millions—AT&T, Wal*Mart, Comcast, Carrier Corp. and Pfizer, to name some. Maybe we should rename “trickle down”  “riches up.”

Might this David & Goliath story be a template for supporting other worthy small fries against the greedy big ‘uns? Can you point to  instances where an aggressive collaboration by concerned citizens, backed by a celebrity and media, helped achieve a happy ending for a beloved neighborhood business?

Photo: Coogans.com

Service of Neighborhood Characters

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Neighbor image for post 1 turned I’ve lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn much of my life and I’ve always noticed at least one mystery character in every neighborhood.

It’s no different today.

Nightly I walk home from the office on the west side of Second Avenue. There’s a stretch of restaurants with outdoor seating between 50th and 51st. All summer I noticed an elderly woman at the same spot, either working on a crossword puzzle or hunched over her mobile phone as she is in the photos above and below. There’s a drink on her table–maybe a cocktail–and a napkin on her lap. Perhaps she has already eaten or is waiting for her food as I’ve never seen a plate.

I noticed her because she was impeccably coiffed and expensively clad in a summer suit or dress with coordinated sweater, shoes and handbag–a different ensemble each time I saw her–and always alone. She was also much older than any of the diners around her.

Once I stopped to tell her I admired her fashion style and kept going. In summer, foot traffic is brisk on the slim slice of sidewalk that tables and chairs don’t hog. This doesn’t allow for hesitation by pedestrians rushing past in both directions.

It’s cold now but the outdoor tables were still in place last week and she was the only person at one of them in the lineup of restaurants one night. It gets dark early so she was sitting in obscurity, stooped over her phone, oblivious to passersby, honking and traffic. Her hair was windblown and instead of a drink, there was a coffee cup on the table.

I like to guess about neighborhood characters like this. Where does she live? What did she do for a living? Do her clothes fill all the rooms in her apartment or does she have many closets? It’s fun to make up positive stories.

Are there strangers who pique your curiosity in your neighborhood? Are they more obvious in a city as walking slows motion and better allows for observation than when you’re driving through town in a car?    Neighbor image for post 2 turned

Service of Neighbors

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

tree1

We were on the Metro-North Railroad last week when the conductor told us how his neighbors came to his aid on Mother’s Day. We’d been discussing the huge cost of anything related to trees from trimming to removal and installation.

The conductor had bought his wife a tree to celebrate the occasion and after lunch went to dig the hole to put it in the ground. Soon he confronted what most of us find in the soil of Dutchess County, NY: Lots of stones, rocks and small boulders. A slight man, neither his shovel nor his muscles were up to the job.

treeplantingNoticing his dilemma, a neighbor came over with a bigger shovel and began to dig and soon there were two neighbors scooping out an appropriately big hole and lugging away the mini boulders. Our conductor ran for some beer and watched them finish the job, thankful that his tree was in place and that his only expense was a couple of beers.

This reminded me of a story a former managing editor of The Daily News told me years ago. The paper sent her to an intensive management course for a few days and she shared one of the instructor’s anecdotes. He told the class that at a cocktail party, one of his neighbors admired his vegetable garden and asked him if he might share his secrets. She invited him over to her house one Saturday and he ended up preparing the soil and planting the seeds while she watched.

A few weeks later she called to ask him if he might come over to tell him which were the weeds and which were the seedlings in her garden. As he weeded her garden, she sat on the porch sipping lemonade. “And this,” he said, “is an excellent example of management.”

What part of management is manipulation? Are helpful neighbors suckers for the most part? Do you feel good or like a chump when you help your neighbor either at home, at work or on a committee or board?

management

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