TAQUERIA TALKING HEAD: We pulled up on an electric Citi Bike in front of Empellon Taqueria on W. Fourth Street on a recent Saturday night only to find the bike dock there totally jam-packed without a single open spot. It figures for the Village on a weekend night. David Byrne also happened to be standing outside in front. He was hard to miss in an eye-catching, orange safety jacket. We’re guessing this was not one of his famous cutting-edge garments — like his iconic white “fat suit” from “Stop Making Sense,” the Talking Heads’ 1984 concert film — but probably simply functional, for nighttime cycling safety in the city. We told him we’re a big fan of his music, his “How Music Works” book that we bought at the Strand when it came out, the awesome “Brazil Classics” collections he put out back in the day — still some of the more beautiful music we’ve ever heard. His companion, a dark-haired woman in an olive-drab bicycle helmet, was unlocking her ride from a street pole. Byrne ducked back inside the eatery for a minute. We checked our phone to see if we could locate a free Citi Bike dock somewhere reasonably nearby. Before we even looked up again, the pair had whisked off on their bikes into the night. The man can fly. We didn’t even have a chance to ask him how he liked the tacos. We don’t know where they were heading, but it likely wasn’t “The Road to Nowhere.”
RIVERA RUMOR: The rumor that Carlina Rivera is getting ready to run for Congress is not true — at least, according to her. Some lately were saying that she plans to move to Brooklyn and run for Congressmember Nydia Velazquez‘s seat, if the latter ever decides to step down. But we bumped into Rivera at Assemblymember Harvey Epstein‘s political mixer at the National Arts Club and she totally denied it. She said she’s definitely running for City Council in 2023. Due to redistricting, her current term is only two years, not the usual four. We actually thought that, at one point, we even overheard her saying, “Three-peat.” Meanwhile, Frank Gonzalez of Loisaida Reality and Loisaida CommUnity Concerns is running for East Village Democratic district leader for the seat formerly held by John Blasco, who is now Congressmember Dan Goldman‘s district director.
JUDICIOUS MEETING: We also saw state Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal at the N.A.C. get-together. “The governor might sue us,” the Judiciary Committee chairperson told us of the Democrats’ battle with Governor Kathy Hochul over the nominee for the state’s top judge. “The nominee has been rejected by the state Senate,” he said. “We await the next steps from the governor — specifically, whether she will request the Committee on Judicial Nomination to solicit new applicants.” Hochul’s pick, Hector LaSalle, is too conservative and has barely written any legal decisions, Hoylman noted. On another note, he said he and his husband, David Sigal, are loving our paper’s coverage (in thevillagesun.com) of the WestView News soap opera. “He hit me,” he recalled of when publisher George Capsis slapped him during an emotional meltdown over the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital. As for his own name change, he said, “I actually changed it when we got married in 2013 but never used it professionally until our girls raised the issue and took a vote whether I should change it. They won. It went into effect Jan. 1.”
CORNELIA CONNECTION: Well, Cornelia Street Cafe has met “Cornelia Street.” Robin Hirsch reported that he recently had a sit-down at Tea & Sympathy, on Greenwich Avenue, with Simon Stephens, the playwright behind the new Off Broadway musical, and that things went swimmingly. The upshot is that Hirsch, the impresario of the late, beloved Village venue — which may or may not be the basis for the show — will give a reading of some of his “Cafe Stories” at the Atlantic Theater’s Stage 2, on W. 16th Street in Chelsea, on Mon., Feb. 13, a “dark night” at the theater, as they say in the trade, and actually the day before the show officially opens. Also participating will be Stephens and Mark Eitzel, who did the music for “Cornelia Street” and who may sing, we’re told. The event runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. For more information and tickets, visit eventbrite. Actually, this wasn’t the first meeting between Hirsch and Stephens. As we previously reported, the English playwright hung around with Hirsch and soaked up the atmosphere at the Cornelia Street Cafe four years ago during its final days. Then, totally out of the blue, last summer Hirsch found out, to his surprise, that Stephens had written a musical called…wait for it…”Cornelia Street.” As for what Hirsch will read on the 13th, he said it will be three selections, including one about “dish drying” in Stockholm eateries after graduating from Oxford, which taught him that restaurants, like theater, are a kind of performance. Another story will be about Stanley, the American tennis pro, who likens Hirsch’s cafe to a watering hole in Nairobi he knows that “the whole passes through.” The third story will be Hirsch’s recollections of a homeless man who used to sleep on the Village cafe’s front doorstep in its early days, to whom Hirsch showed kindness and who, in turn, regaled the cafe co-owner with his knowledge of Shakespeare. Hirsch is looking for a publisher for this latest set of writings of his, titled “The Whole World Passes Through, Vol. II.” But, in honor of Terry Jones of Monty Python, his late friend from their university days at Oxford, Hirsch, when he reads them in public, calls them “Cafe Stories.” “Terry was always at the cafe when he was in New York,” Hirsch recalled. “He said, ‘Why don’t you just call it ‘Cafe Stories?'” And he did.
PERCOLATING: Isabel Celeste, the mother of actress Rosario Dawson, is one of the owners of the reopened 5C Cafe, at Fifth Street and Avenue C. Her partner in the venture is Vito DiTomaso of The Roost, at 222 Avenue B, who has brought in his coffeemaking expertise. Celeste said the cafe would have two shifts, during the day and during the night, and be closed for a break from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Daytime would see breakfast and kids karaoke — no adults Bogarting the mic, Celeste warned — while nights would feature jazz and Cuban music. She said Casa Adela, a couple of doors down, might be used as “an overflow space” for the cafe. “Rosario has been going there since she was a little kid,” she said.
THE JEFFERSONS: Library and garden lovers can enjoy a twofer on April 30, when the Jefferson Market Garden will hold a joint benefit both for itself and the Jefferson Market Public Library. They’re doing it this way because if the library held a benefit, the money would go into the New York Public Library’s general coffer. This way, the garden, which is a nonprofit, can make a contribution directly to the historic Sixth Avenue library branch. Lending local cachet to the event will be Sarah Jessica Parker and Justine Leguizamo.
SAY HER NAME: We were wondering who came up with the name Mathilde, for the octogenarian London plane tree that was recently felled in East River Park, due to sewer work being done as part of the coastal resiliency project. As we found out chatting with folks after one of Reverend Billy‘s recent hoedowns at the Earth Church, it was musician John Plenge. He and Rita Garcia are also squirrel protectors. They’ve put up five squirrel houses in the park to help the shell-shocked critters, who have lost half of their habitat thanks to the resiliency project’s destruction.
NO DANCERS…YET: Ray Alvarez turned the big nine oh on Jan. 1. “I don’t feel any different,” the Avenue A egg cream maestro of Ray’s Candy Store, at Seventh Street and Avenue A, a.k.a. Asghar Ghahraman, told us a couple of weeks before a shocking attack by an unhinged local man left him with broken bones in his face. So far, there hasn’t been a birthday party, complete with neo-burlesque dancers on the countertop, one of Ray’s annual traditions. Hopefully, once he recovers, there can be one and people can share their love for the famed Oreos and beignets fryer.
NOT RUNNING? It’s hard to believe, but apparently former Councilmember Alan Gerson actually is not making a political comeback. “People constantly ask me. … Never say never,” he told us. But he said he’s busy with his work right now for the Chinese American Planning Council and other local groups. Asked if he had a position on the WestView News versus Village View (formerly New WestView News) hyperlocal newspaper battle, Gerson said, “As long as we have The Village Sun, that’s all we need.” Sadly, Gerson related, tragedy recently struck when Josue Lopez-Ortega, 15, a participant in his nonprofit, Sophie Gerson Health Youth, which is named after his mom, was fatally shot in the Bronx. Gerson said the teenager really loved the organization’s tennis program.
UNNATURAL FEELING: Commodities Natural Market on First Avenue was closed on Jan. 26, with a marshal’s notice stuck on its door, stating, “The landlord has legal possession of these premises.” “I don’t know what’s going on but this is the most popular natural food store in the East Village,” said Lesley Sussman, who tipped us off. One online notice says, “Temporarily closed.”
TALE OF THE PAPE: Speaking of WestView News and Village View, architecture reporter Brian Pape tells us that he has cast his lot with the latter. He complained that WestView did not publish his December article on time. He said the February issue of Village View will feature some of his street photos (which it does), so it sounds like he’s starting off slowly. On the other hand, Alec Pruchnicki is giving both sides a chance: He’ll be submitting articles to both papers and then seeing how it goes. He’s not ready yet to abandon Capsis, the embattled 95-year-old publisher of WestView. “George has always run my stuff,” he said.