Sidewalk shenanigans

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  • Photo: emerson12, via flickr

east side observer


Bike clamor — With all the street traffic on city sidewalks, space is limited, so a tall pole to lean on at the bus stop (where the bus indicator resides) during the long waits is a welcome amenity. Whoa, not so fast. Let us not forget that sidewalks are also where stationary bikes have a right to park where there are bike racks. But not all sidewalks have bike racks. So bikers lean their bikes on street lamps or wrap them around bus poles, taking away valuable public space. Of course, they could do what cars do when they can’t find a parking space and go look for another spot. Doesn’t happen that way. The result is that bikes wrapped around bus poles or leaning against street lamps take away the ability of other street users to endure long bus waits while at least being able to lean on the bus pole or the street lamp. These bikes also interfere with the ability of pedestrians to navigate the sidewalk safely. It’s not fashionable these days to interfere with bike rights, but bikers should not be permitted to misuse public property without penalty.

Disappearing sidewalks — Businesses that operate a portion of a restaurant on a public sidewalk must have a sidewalk cafe license. An unenclosed sidewalk cafe is an outdoor area on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant with removable chairs and tables. Small unenclosed sidewalk cafes have no more than a single row of tables and chairs next to the building. The tables and chairs can occupy no more than 4 feet, 6 inches of the public sidewalk. Truth to tell, I don’t walk around with a ruler or a tape measure. All it takes is a look-see and there’s no doubt that some of the restaurants on the west side of Second Ave between 89th and 90th Streets are occupying space beyond the requirement. I love the restaurants. I love the street life, but it’s hard for pedestrians and other street traffic to co-exist as the sidewalk gets narrower and narrower.

Return of everyday ethnic eating — Everyone has a favorite ethnic food. Mine’s Greek. The tavernas of old — small Greek restaurants similar to a tavern — are few and far between in Manhattan. There are the high-end Greek restaurants like Avra and Estiatorio Milos in Midtown, and Korali, a newbie on the UES. And there are the low-budget gyro and souvlaki grab-and-go or sit-and-eat-real-quick places. What I miss are those tavernas that once were — where you could sip a glass of Greek wine, preferably retsina, have some pita and meze, and just hang out. My favorite was the Greek Village on Lexington in the 70s, which is no more. But all is not lost. In recent weeks, I found two that fit the bill. One on St. Marks Place — Ayios (Yeeros). “Yeeros” is a riff on the pronunciation of gyros — and Greek Eats on First Ave between 66th and 67th Streets. Ayios has table service and Greek Eats is self-serve. At both you can get a glass of Greek wine for $6. And at Ayios, you can enjoy the earthy retsina. Nice to find casual Greek dining in our town without having to take the train to Astoria.

Welcome back tree — Soon a tree will be growing again on East 92nd Street between First and Second Avenues. The previous one, opposite the Drunken Munkey restaurant, was taken down by the city. Another is being planted. Word is that the pretty lights will be back, too. The neighborhood is de-lighted.

A Manhattan Tale — Actor Chazz Palminteri had a long run with his “A Bronx Tale” on stage and screen. Same fate was not to be with his eponymous restaurant on Second Ave and 47th Street, which closed at the end of June. It was an old-worldish Italian restaurant with classic Italian dishes, tuxedoed waiters, linen table covers, ‘50s music in the background. It’s moving to the Cambria Hotel on West 46th Street off Fifth Ave. The new location in the Theatre District may have a cache that was missing in Midtown East, where the rage is for more casual dining and a 24/7 Morton Williams supermarket. As for the Palminteri celebrity aspect, I get the sense these days that celebrity dining experiences are more Mark Wahlberg’s Wahlburgers than old-school Italian. Buona fortuna.

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