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Casa Adela restaurant fights for fair rent on Avenue C

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | It’s hard to imagine Loisaida Avenue without Casa Adela.

But, incredibly, it could happen if the legendary Puerto Rican eatery’s lease renewal isn’t renegotiated.

Meanwhile, the restaurant and a local real estate broker are fighting back, planning a star-studded protest on Sat., Dec. 11, that they say will include the likes of rapper Fat Joe, actors Rosario Dawson, Luis Guzman and John Leguizamo “and many more.”

In addition, several days before the protest, there will be a press conference on Tues., Dec. 7.

Adela Fargas with activist Power Malu, left, and a fellow chef in 2017. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Known as the Godmother of Loisaida, the restaurant’s namesake, Adela Fargas, passed away in her early 80s in January 2018. She was a fixture cooking on Avenue C since the 1970s, starting out at another spot nearby before moving to 66 Avenue C, near E. Fourth Street. Her seasoned roasted chicken was her speciality.

Since Fargas’s death, her son Luis Rivera has kept the pots going, at 66 Avenue C, near E. Fourth Street. But, to hear him and an ally tell it, the board of the Housing Development Fund Corporation that runs the low-income building now clearly appears to want Casa Adela out.

The late Adela Fargas of Casa Adela restaurant was profiled in the documentary “Last One Standing,” by Gary Cruz and William Rosario.

The H.D.F.C. recently offered Rivera a lease renewal but the terms would be impossible for him to meet, he said. The first year’s rent would be $4,000 a month, which is manageable for him. After that, though, it would shoot up to $7,000 a month, a rent he could not afford.

Frank Gonzalez, the founder of Loisaida Realty, is helping Rivera try to deal with his predicament. He said the restaurateur just wants “a fair offer” from the H.D.F.C., which would be an annual rent increase of from 1 percent to 3 percent.

“They’re not being flexible and obviously they want to push him out,” Gonzalez said. “This building is supposed to be for low-income renters and businesses, for people indigenous to the neighborhood.”

Casa Adela has been a longtime home for members of the Puerto Rican diaspora. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Rivera said he doesn’t know why the board members — or particularly the board president — want him out.

“If there’s a hidden agenda, I don’t know — if she didn’t like me or my family,” he wondered.

There was one specific issue, though — an apartment upstairs that Fargas lived in. Her daughter cared for Fargas during the last year of her life, then moved into the unit herself.

Adela Fargas was honored with a NY Acker Award, including a signature coffee cup portrait by Zito. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Rivera has since relinquished the apartment to the H.D.F.C., though does admit he would like to get it back. But the restaurant lease is the bigger issue for him, he stressed.

“The apartment is old news,” Gonzalez scoffed.

A Civil Court date involving Rivera and the H.D.F.C. is coming up on Mon., Dec. 13.

The Village Sun was not immediately able to contact the H.D.F.C. board for comment.

Before Fargas died, filmmakers Gary Cruz and William Rosario made a documentary about her, “Last One Standing.” They said they felt it was important to honor her as a local matriarch and icon who ran the neighborhood’s last authentic Puerto Rican restaurant.

13 Comments

  1. savenycjobs savenycjobs December 2, 2021

    Why isn’t anyone calling for a vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, sitting in committee with 27 sponsors and ready to easily pass if voted on. The bill gives 10-year leases, equal rights to negotiate fair lease terms and an arbitration process to protect from rent-gouging and tenants being forced to pay their landlords property taxes? NO MORE pleading with landlords to do the right thing. Demand from your lawmakers to do the right thing and pass the only real lifeline to save this business. STOP protecting Johnson, Bottcher and Rivera, who are responsible for stalling this bill. Picket at their office not the landlord or business. For over a decade countless businesses like this have been forced out and countless press conferences have been held with NO good outcome. On Oct 22, 2018, Speaker Johnson pledged to amend this bill and move it to a vote. Because he lied and never kept his pledge, this owner is fighting to survive. Call for a vote on this bill today, and you can save this business and all businesses in the future.

  2. Eric Diaz Eric Diaz December 2, 2021

    This is unacceptable and cannot happen to this community!

  3. NycJay NycJay December 2, 2021

    This is ridiculous! There is no way the community can let this happen ! Shareholders of the building have a say ! Community members fight for our People ! Let’s all get together and protest this unfair rent gouging !!!!!

  4. William Viera William Viera December 3, 2021

    Frank Gonzalez, you are mistaken when you state that the low-income cooperative is also low income for the restaurant. The restaurant is a profit-making business. The restaurant pays MARKET rate! And you KNOW that! For more than thirty years Casa Adela has paid actual rent less than $1,380 per month. Now as the owner of a realty company in the Lower East Side, you KNOW what the market rate is! $1,380 is a sweetheart deal! You’re in the business, what is the market rate for a small restaurant in our part of town? That’s all the corporation wants, what everyone is paying! We were told by other realty professionals that market rate is $8,000. You’re in the business. YOU find Casa Adela an equal space in the Lower East Side for $1,380 per month. Again, the storefront is NOT a shareholder in the corporation, they are tenants and therefore should pay market rate. Don’t you agree?

    • Alvin Santiago Alvin Santiago December 4, 2021

      They do not live like Kings and Queens. They do not drive a Beamer or Benz. They are humble people, keep their prices low and during the pandemic gave plenty of food away for the love — not the money. This world has come to only money and it is sad. There is no empathy or caring for other people. William, remain with your one-percenters, where you belong.

      • Roberta Schine Roberta Schine December 5, 2021

        Eating there today. Bringing friends. Thank you, Alvin.

  5. William Viera William Viera December 3, 2021

    I am one of the founding members of the 66 Avenue C Housing Development Fund Corporation. This is a nonprofit cooperative. Casa Adela is in one of our storefronts. Casa Adela is NOT part of the corporation. They are a tenant. The purpose of renting the store is to make money for the corporation. And Casa Adela makes money! The corporation does NOT make money from the shareholders living in the building. The corporation is an H.D.F.C. nonprofit. The corporation makes money renting the two storefronts. Casa Adela has been operating since 1986. The building did not get its C of O until January of 1987. Meaning the restaurant was making money BEFORE shareholders could move into their new building. From 1986 to 2000 the rent for the restaurant was $1,000 a month. Way below market rent. Why? The homestead was created by mostly Puerto Ricans. We wanted to help another Puerto Rican make it in this capitalist society. From 2000 to the present, Casa Adela paid $1,380 per month for rent. STILL way below market rent. Why? The corporation financially was stable. We were NOT greedy property owners. In retrospect we SHOULD have charged Casa Adela market rate from day one. Maybe we were “pendejos” for NOT charging market rates from day one. We genuinely wanted to help a fellow BORIQUA make it. AND WE DID! Now due to coronavirus our co-op is in a dire financial situation. We need to raise Casa Adela’s rent. The corporation decided to charge market rate for the storefront. Casa Adela is willing to pay more, just not that much more. Casa Adela is still “buscando el mango mas pajo,” trying to get a cheap deal. We can’t afford to cut them MORE slack. You would think that after we carried them for more then thirty years, Casa Adela might reciprocate the consideration. We have been negotiating with Casa Adela for the last three years for a new rent. Negotiations are over. You want to help Casa Adela? Then you give them a restaurant space at way below market rent. 66 Avenue C H.D.F.C. CANNOT afford to cut them anymore slack. No good deed goes unpunished.

  6. William Viera William Viera December 3, 2021

    Casa Adela makes A LOT OF MONEY from their restaurant. From 4 pm to 10 pm all twenty seats are occupied. Let’s say each person average about $15 per plate. Let’s say from the time you sit down to eat, wait for your food, eat and leave a tip you are there for half an hour. That means every hour each seat makes $30 for Casa Adela. $30 x 20 = $600 per hour, times 6 hours (4 pm to 10 pm) = $3,600. That’s just from the tables from 4 pm to 10 pm. That does NOT include money made BEFORE 4 pm from the tables, that does NOT include takeout nor does it include catering. Seven days a week, $3,600 equals $25,200 per week. 52 weeks per year (Casa Adela is open all year long 7 days a week.) 52 x 25,200 = $1,310,400. Let’s say they REALLY make half of that, so $655,200. Their annual rent is $16,560. Now that’s what I call a sweetheart deal!

    • Alme Alme December 4, 2021

      I don’t know how much $$ Casa Adela makes, but I also don’t know any restaurant where all the tables turn every half hour, especially in the evening. Where’s your evidence?

  7. Jeannette Jeannette December 3, 2021

    I think you forgot the poor old people that work there 🤔 Remember they get paid as well. Here we go again, hurt the middle class people that are trying to get thru these still difficult circumstances.

  8. Kathleen Squires Kathleen Squires December 4, 2021

    William Viera, you don’t take into account the expenses of the restaurant business: food, staff, utilities, health insurance, etc. The profit margins are super-slim. Plus, if you push Casa Adela out, the business that will replace them has an extremely high rate of failing within the year. You’re just going to end up with a vacant storefront. Cut Casa Adela a deal at a higher (but not too high) rent and retain one vestige of a rapidly disappearing neighborhood. Fix your financial situation in other ways.

    • William Viera William Viera December 4, 2021

      I personally would LOVE to cut Casa Adela a deal. I know if the shareholders can all meet we can come up with something fair. I originally was there supporting Casa Adela with the low rent.
      The problem now is the board of directors has recently changed to three shareholders. These three people now control the corporation. Gladys Rivera is the president and she makes all decisions. I don’t know what her agenda is. I wanted to raise Casa Adela’s rent but I don’t want to kick him out. I support Casa Adela. Because of Covid-19 Gladys filled the power void. She now runs the show.

  9. Will les Will les December 6, 2021

    Maybe Casa Adela should be considered to be named a historical landmark since for Loisaida it has cultural significance and has been a pillar of the community for a very long time. It has survived gentrification for decades, so maybe our state Legislatures and new mayor can step in and solve this dilemma. It’s clear the landlord is putting profit over community relations. Sometimes you have to meet the community halfway. If Casa Adela is shut down you can almost guarantee they would put in a Starbucks right away.

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