Good morning. It’s Monday. We visit a basement full of gingerbread houses for the holidays in Queens. We also try to find out what happened to the city’s Open Streets initiative, one of the bright spots of the outbreak.
There’s a line describing John Lovitch’s basement, and Clement Clarke Moore didn’t write it. Quoted here the other day from an old Crazy Eddie ad: “It’s Christmas in August!”
It was Christmas in July in Lovich’s basement, and it would be Christmas in September and October: it’s Christmas every day in Forest Hills, Queens, unless it’s Christmas everywhere else. From January through November, Lovitch makes gingerbread houses, gingerbread nutcrackers, gingerbread sleighs and gingerbread Santas.
He lines them up on bookshelves, tables, chairs and even ottomans until it’s time to assemble them in Essex Market’s giant gingerbread village on the Lower East Side. His Gingerbread Lane demonstration in 2010 It opens on November 26th, 100 days from today.
Lovitch is shifting into high gear, saying he’s built 800 homes but needs 1,500.
“The first time people find out you’re running a holiday-themed business, they assume, ‘Oh, wow, it’s summertime, you’re drinking lemonade, watching a ball game, giving back,'” Lovitch says. “Now nobody thinks about Christmas. But during the summer I have to find about 300 houses every month.
This means 70 to 80 hour work weeks. There will be drummers, sleighs and reindeer — all edible, though Lovitch says snacking on Santa is a bad idea.
“How do you chew it?” He said, he tapped a stone roof with a frosting made from powdered sugar, egg whites, and cream of tartar. “I mean, unless you have teeth like ‘Jurassic Park’ or ‘Zombie Apocalypse.’
Missing teeth aren’t the only danger in Lovitch’s sugary world. He said he was once shocked when one of the gingerbread buildings hit him on the head. He was pulling him loose from the wall he was stuck on.
Hours later, he felt a headache coming on. He was a hockey player. Knowing what a concussion felt like, he took himself to the emergency room. “I was telling the attending physician what happened, and he said, ‘You have a concussion from the gingerbread house,'” Lovich said. Lovitch assured him that he was telling the truth.
Lovich, a former executive chef who turned a side project into a full-time job, has a beard, but it’s not white, and when he laughs, his stomach doesn’t jiggle like a bowl of — what do you know? He’s not a “ho, ho, ho” guy, and he doesn’t listen to Christmas music when he works.
“I spend most of the year working here in my flannel pajamas and socks,” he says, “not having to worry about manpower, not having to worry about unions, the things you worry about as a chef. Like, there was a knife sitting on the floor that I used to scrape the jelly beans. That knife on the floor is going to get me in trouble,” in the hotel kitchen.
It runs four dampers to keep the moisture from softening the sheetrock, which is supposed to be as strong as sheetrock. It is built on items purchased during holiday sales, but not the 50 percent off sale on December 26th. “Usually they get 90 percent within two weeks, to get rid of it and that’s when I go in and buy it. It is,” he said. “A dozen candy canes for a penny!”
Enjoy a partly sunny day with a low near the 80s. In the evening, mostly cloudy, with temperatures dropping into the upper 60s.
Optional side parking
Today (Easter) is suspended.
Author Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed 10 times on Friday, has been taken off ventilator, his agent said. “The road to recovery has begun,” his agent, Andrew Wylie, said in a text message. “It’s going to be a long one; the injury is serious but his condition is going in the right direction.
Rushdie was attacked on stage minutes before he was to speak at the Chauquaqua Institute in Western New York. The attack brought the Terror into an unlikely retreat (above). Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, NJ, was caught wrestling with the floor by spectators.
Rushdie was the subject of a decree known as a fatwa issued by Iran’s leader 30 years ago after the publication of Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which ordered Muslims to kill him.
More local news
Art and culture
Fight for pedestrian-friendly ‘open streets’
Sixty-three miles. From Times Square to Trenton, NJ or Bridgeport, Conn. It’s also how many miles of pedestrian-friendly “open streets” have been lost in New York City.
The city’s Open Streets initiative prohibits or restricts traffic on certain blocks during certain hours up to seven days a week. It was a bright spot during the 2020 pandemic when the city designated 83 miles of streets for the program. But keeping the roads open proved more difficult than expected. Now there are slightly more than 20 miles.
City officials and community groups are still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t with the new initiative. Officials say they are in the process of adding five miles of open streets around the city; Transportation Commissioner Yadanis Rodriguez said the city is committed to investing in and expanding the program.
But in Jackson Heights, Queens, and Green Point, Brooklyn, the open streets drew backlash. Greenpoint drivers have restored two open streets at Driggs Street and Russell Street after metal barriers were damaged, run over and thrown into Newtown Creek.
Street Lab, a nonprofit working with the city to develop new open streets, has organized community groups to run 11 new open street stations. An open street next to a housing project on East 141st Street in the Bronx brings people together every Saturday for basketball games, music and story hours with Bogie Down Books, a “bookstore without walls” featuring pop-up events.
Michael Brady, executive director of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District in the South Bronx, knows how hard it is to keep streets open. He is racing to raise $600,000 a year in donations to pay for two open streets on Alexander Avenue and Willis Avenue.
“We’re not closing streets to close streets,” he said, adding that yoga and CrossFit classes, as well as Sals Saturdays with live bands — all listed on the monthly program schedule — have boosted traffic in stores and restaurants. .
I have been looking for a week to buy a pocket comb to replace the one I lost. No one seems to be selling them. I tried several Duane Reade and CVS stores. Maybe it was a supply chain issue.
Finally, I broke down and bought a pack of 20 combs at a chain drugstore on John Street. He had multi-colored combs in all widths, shapes and sizes. Some had handles and pointed ends. In fact, there were a few pocket-sized ones.
“This is great,” said the cashier when he called me. “You always lose combs.”
I told him that I wanted to buy just one comb, but there was no one selling singles.
“I need a comb,” he said. “Can I buy one of these for a dollar?”
I happily opened the package.
“You choose which one,” he said.