Posts Tagged ‘Lower East Side’

Katz’s Deli Defies Flood To Stay Open

May 22, 2014

This piece first appeared on The Jew and the Carrot blog at the Forward.


World-famous Katz’s Delicatessen remains open for business following a water main break right in front of it at the intersection of E. Houston and Ludlow Streets on the Lower East Side on Thursday morning.

The break is reported to have taken place took shortly before 11 a.m., and all lanes of East Houston Street were closed in both directions between Allen and Essex Streets.

New York City’s Office of Emergency Management issued an alert at 11:45 AM, warning drivers to expect road closures, traffic delays, and emergency personnel in the area, and to consider taking alternate routes. There was no response from OEM to a request for further information on the situation.

“The water main burst right in front of us,” Jake Dell, a fifth generation owner of Katz’s Deli told the Forward. The street had apparently completely collapsed, leaving a huge sinkhole.

Click here to read more and watch a video.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Growing Up in a Former Synagogue Sanctuary

March 26, 2014

This piece was first published on the Arty Semite blog of the Forward.


For the many people walking through New York’s Lower East Side on any given day, 70 Hester Street is just one of many historic buildings. But for 37-year-old filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski, this former synagogue is home. He grew up in the loft space on the upper two floors, which his artist parents, Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins, used as their studio for 45 years until they were evicted in 2012.

With a sense that 70 Hester Street would likely the suffer the fate of so many other buildings in the old neighbourhood and be torn down to make way for a new, sleek condominium or commercial space, Nozkowski started filming his childhood home in June 2012. His premonition turned out to be correct. Not long after, his parents received notice that the building was being sold and that they, as rental tenants, would have to move out.

“I went in to overdrive when we got the eviction notice,” Nozkowski told the Forward. “I started editing as I was still filming, and finished the film toward the end of 2013.” Fortunately, he completed the documentary in time to submit it for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, which accepted it for its City Limits: New York Shorts program. In its world premiere, “70 Hester Street” will be screened five times between April 17 and 27.

Click here to read to read more and watch the trailer.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

What It’s Like to Grow Up in a Synagogue — Literally

December 3, 2013

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Casimir Nozkowski's childhood bedroom was in the women's balcony of what was once a synagogue at 70 Hester Street. (photo credit: Casimir Nozkowski)

Casimir Nozkowski’s childhood bedroom was in the women’s balcony of what was once a synagogue at 70 Hester Street. (photo credit: Casimir Nozkowski)

NEW YORK — Generally speaking, when someone talks about the shul they grew up in, they are referring to the synagogue they regularly attended when they were young. When Casimir Nozkowski speaks of the shul he grew up in, he means it absolutely literally.

Nozkowski’s boyhood bedroom was in the U-shaped women’s balcony of an old synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In 1967, a decade before he was born, his parents, artists Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins, moved into the building at 70 Hester Street, between Orchard andR Allen. They turned what was once the original home of the First Roumanian-American Congregation into a two-floor artists’ loft apartment/studio, decorating the walls, ceilings and floors with their paintings and sculptures.

“Art is their religion,” Nozkowski tells The Times of Israel about his Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, who met as students at Cooper Union, and ended up living for 45 years in a synagogue that is believed to have been built in or around 1860.

After the congregation abandoned the building for a larger one at 89 Rivington Street (which was destroyed more than a century later when its roof collapsed in 2006) and before the couple moved in, it was apparently used as an illegal whiskey still during Prohibition, and later as a plastic raincoat and shower curtain factory.

Now, 70 Hester Street is about to assume yet another identity — an art gallery and café. Renovations are underway and expected to be completed by some time in December.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.