New York Fringe Festival Takes Over 1 E. 8th Street (at Fifth Ave.) for One Month as “FringeCentral” HQ

“FringeCentral” – 8th Street & 5th Avenue

1 East 8th Street, just off Fifth Avenue, is now “Fringe Central,” home to Fringe NYC (officially the New York International Fringe Festival), now in its 16th year, with events running through August 26th.

The festival set up at the 8th Street location — previously home to …  a Duane Reade? a CVS? (I can’t recall … either that or a bank?!) — in late July. It’s just being used temporarily. It looks sparse – but festive! – and pretty much as it did when I’d peek in before with its “For Lease” sign adorning the window — with a few chairs, colorful signs and people added to the mix. It has a warehouse feel and seems to work for this purpose; the location had been sitting vacant for awhile. A nice change of pace for sure!

FringeNYC began August 10th and is “the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues.” There will be 1200 performances in all.

Heading from the Park, you can pick up a program, tickets and encounter other events at the site. Hours are 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Find the schedule here.

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Taste of the Village at the Park – Recap

Updated 10/30 — So, “Taste of the Village,” happened in mid-September at the Park, hosted by the Village Alliance, the 8th Street BID. This post about the event got delayed due to dying trees, stalled construction and the occupying of Washington Square Park. Since I try to mix it up a bit here, even a bit late, I wanted to report back on the event.

Readers of WSP Blog know that I am not in favor of the trend of privatization of public space — which has increased greatly under the Bloomberg Administration — that includes endless reliance on the model of park conservancies and BIDs – business improvement districts – to either oversee or be entrusted with funding and programming at parks.

We could certainly tie the Village Alliance (the BID from nearby 8th Street) among those pushing at the onset to dramatically redesign the park, particularly under former director Honi Klein. (Klein, inexplicably, also held a position on Community Board 2). There’s a new executive director at the Alliance now, William Kelley, who seems a little more of the times.

This was the first “Taste of the Village” — which is considered a “benefit” to raise funds forthe park and has taken place for the last 9 years — under his watch. I thought it might be nice to experience the event. Kelley accommodated my request to attend and here are some photos and commentary.

8th Street Stalwart Eva's

The Lion on University Place

Mario Batali's GelOtto

Band at the Event

The Fountain in the background

wine tasting

Caviar Pie from Knickerbocker Bar & Grill

George Washington looks on

Set between the Arch and taking over part of the Fountain Plaza with the Fountain in the background, the evening focused on tables laid out with sampling – tastings – from local or nearby restaurants. There was a strong emphasis on meat dishes with only two vegetarian and onetwo fish options. The fish, fluke I believe, from Perilla on Jones Street was quite good. (I don’t eat meat so, in my opinion, Taste of the Village could nix a few meat dishes and add some other more vegetarian-friendly options.) There were vendors offering wine – red, white and rose – as a band played against the backdrop of the fountain.

Tastings included offerings from local restaurants and businesses such as Alma, Eva’s, La Palapa, 8th Street Wine Cellar, Gusto, Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, BLT Burger, The Lion, Otto and Argo and Rob’s Really Good Teas (which I really like).

The ticket price was $50 and director William Kelley says that about 400 people attended (did it seem that high? I’m not sure). He said that typically the organization raises about $50,000 for the park (includes money from sponsors).

People I noted by sight were members of Community Board 2 and also the city’s Parks Department. I was surprised that there was no talk or introduction as to why people were there — but maybe that was for the best. Overall, it was a festive soiree and those attending seemed to enjoy it.

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Still, it raises questions – We have a city public space undergoing a redesign that started out with a budget of $16 millionwhich many felt was already unnecessarily high. Now, we see that the projected costs have skyrocketed to double that. If money had been properly allocated and monitored to begin with, would we really need private forces to be raising money to upkeep the park?

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Photos #4, 5, 7, 8: David Sigal

Photos #1, 2, 3, 6, 9: Cathryn

Fashion Designer and Former Tenant Patricia Field: NYU Killed 8th Street

Patricia Field's Former Storefront, House of Field, on East 8th Street

Earlier this year, I wrote about the state of 8th Street off of the Park, once a destination when visiting New York City, a thriving strip of unique movie theaters, stores and book shops. Particularly over the last decade, 8th Street has veered downhill with vacant store fronts left and right, despite (or partly because of?) the existence and ‘efforts’ of the Business Improvement District. The BID, formerly named the 8th Street BID before changing it to the more gentle-sounding, Village Alliance, heavily promoted the redesign of Washington Square Park, under former director Honi Klein.

The Architect’s Newspaper Blog posted an article recently, “The Trouble With Eighth Street,” revealing the existence of a report commissioned by New York University which noted the potential economic viability of the strip within the Village. Television and movie fashion designer Patricia Field (“Sex and the City,” “The Devil Wears Prada”) was quoted within the piece via a spokesperson strongly critical of the university. Ms. Field’s extremely popular store, House of Field, resided on 8th Street between 5th Avenue and University Place for close to 40 years until 2002.

It was revealed that the educational institution, and one of the largest real estate holders in New York City, largely in the area surrounding Washington Square, was Ms. Field’s 8th Street landlord, responsible for her ouster from the retail and residential space in the building.

From the piece:

The street, which once played a distinct role in Village bohemia, began as a hub for book dealers and fostered the original Whitney Museum. Eventually, the street became a district for shoe stores and edgy fashion anchored by Patricia Field. Field decamped for the Bowery about nine years ago and much of the street has since devolved into a hodgepodge of chain stores and characterless low-end retail.

Recently, NYU commissioned a report on the economy in the Village by the economic consultants Appleseed. The report identified the strip as one of a number of “soft areas where the development of new businesses can be encouraged,” particularly the block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

“Appleseed was examining the economy of Greenwich Village, we didn’t tell them the specifics of what to examine,” said NYU’s chief spokesperson John Beckman. “The mentions of Eighth Street should not be taken as an indication that NYU would be directly involved in the development of the street.”

Still, one former Eighth Street stalwart isn’t buying it. “This is a bitter subject for Patricia as she was forced to not only close her store on Eighth Street but also leave her home [she was residing on the top floor of the building],” wrote Patricia Field’s spokesperson Dennis Bernard in an email. “In 2002, NYU kicked her out and all the other business followed. NYU killed Eighth Street. This all she has to say about it.”

According to a feature on Ms. Field at CityFile, the designer studied philosophy at the university, and, shortly after a gig as an assistant fashion buyer, she opened her store on 8th Street in the ’60’s until it closed in the early ‘2000s. Field’s retail store currently resides on the Bowery.

NYU’s press release touting the data found in the Appleseed report states how important NYU is to the “economic health of Greenwich Village and NYC.”

Former House of Field retail space Now: Vacant

Posted earlier this week at CityFeet, a commercial real estate site, is an advertisement that – surprise! – the former House of Field location at 10 East 8th Street is currently available:

Greenwich Village Location ~ 1600 SF ~ Floor to Ceiling Glass Store Front ~ New AC & Lighting ~ New Infrastructure ~ Hi-Ceilings Neighbors Include : Le Pain Quotidien, Capital One Bank, L’Occitane en Provence, CVS Pharmacy, Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, & Mario Batali’s Otto Restaurant

It appears that NYU, behind the eradication of places with endless character like The Bottom Line and House of Field, wants to expunge any entity with a unique, free-spirited nature from the area — so as not to influence their students? for real estate reasons? It’s unclear how much influence the university had on the redesign of Washington Square Park, despite their small $1 Million investment (at least that’s what’s known publicly). For Eighth Street, a combination of greed, bad decisions and mismanagement by the arbiters of the real estate on the strip — those same entities attempting to “revitalize” it — is responsible for its demise. Perhaps they should try a new tactic?

Top Photo: KMP Blog
Bottom Photo: CityFeet

You can read and download the report NYU commissioned here:
greenwich-village-profile-2011-05-16

On West 8th Street; Spotted in Shop Window on Troubled Strip: “Support Small Business”

Sign spotted in the window of Andy's Chee-Pees in business since 1977

More and more for Rent signs on West 8th Street

West 8th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues has been in trouble for awhile now despite the local BID’s efforts to make the strip less about shoe stores and more about high end establishments. A few new spots have opened recently but so many have closed; three in a row on the south side of the street right off MacDougal, including Is-Wine and 8th Street Kitchen, both relatively new. There was another newcomer, Patty & Bun right off 6th Avenue, on the northern side. I always meant to go in. That’s now closed.

This sign, “Support Small Business,” is in the window of Andy’s Chee-Pees Vintage Clothing. This is their “flagship store,” in business since 1977. My first memory of this Village strip is from going to Postermat in the ’80’s when the block was a destination.

The status of West 8th Street has been an ongoing discussion for years now. Is there hope for it to revitalize? It is one block from Washington Square Park. What would it take?

2006: West 8th Street will be new ‘Culinary Alley’, Village Alliance says, The Villager

2008: 8th Street Ghost Town, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

2011: More Closings on West 8th Street, Flaming Pablum

Local Business Improvement District hosts “Taste of the Village” at Washington Square Park Wednesday, September 16th, 6-8 p.m.

Updated (See my question at the end)

Well, I’m not the biggest fan of the Village Alliance, the Business Improvement District, formerly named the 8th Street BID that at some point changed its name to the much more benign Village Alliance.  As the BID that promotes business in the Village down along 8th Street, they have worked to change the character of that strip to more high end (think Marc Jacobs/Magnolia Bakery end of Bleecker Street) – maybe some for the better, and some not (they’ve prompted the booting out of stores they don’t consider up to the proper caliber).  They have an interest in Washington Square Park being as un-counter culture and spruced up and non-controversial as possible.  And there is a concern that they are in line to be part of a private conservancy at Washington Square Park.

But, who’s to say this isn’t a nice event nonetheless? They will present a benefit, “Taste of the Village,” to raise money for Washington Square Park at Washington Square Park on Wednesday, September 16th, 6-8 p.m.  Tickets are $40 and part of the park will be closed off for the event.

Here’s what they say about it:

Celebrate the best tasting and wine festival of the year with a benefit for Washington Square Park. Mark the seventh anniversary of this event by inviting friends who love extraordinary food from award-winning chefs such as Dan Barber, named the nation’s top chef in 2009 by the James Beard Foundation; Mario Batali of International Acclaim and Chef Akhtar Nawab of Eletteria. With the purchase of a $40 ticket, you’ll enjoy more restaurants, more wines, and more pleasure gathered under one big tent.

Location: Washington Square Park

More Information:
(212) 777-2173
Village Alliance

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Oh, does anyone have any opinions on this event?