Beloved Neighborhood Restaurant Jimmy’s Diner Closes After 13 Years

Jimmy’s Diner owners Blair Papagni and Josh Cohen outside their closed restaurant

Another beloved small business has closed in the wake of COVID-19. Jimmy’s Diner (577  Union Ave.) announced this month that the local restaurant would close for good. And yes, “The pandemic is absolutely the reason we closed,” says Blair Papagani, owner of Jimmy’s Diner.

Jimmy’s diner paused service in mid-March, when Governor Cuomo put New York State on PAUSE. “I had no doubt we would reopen,” says Papagani. At the time, she was beginning remote learning with her three kids, and assumed this closure would only last a few weeks. “In the first two weeks of being closed, we watched, like everyone else, I’m sure, the stories on the news of healthcare workers overwhelmed by the huge influx of patients into hospitals on a daily basis,” Papagani recalls. “We wanted to help and do what we had always done: Feed people.”  Jimmy’s partnered with North Brooklyn Angels to produce 450 meals a day for Woodhull Hospital healthcare workers and military personnel stationed there. This continued for eight weeks until the need subsided. Still, that wasn’t enough to keep Jimmy’s in business.

In early June, when became clear to Papagani that indoor dining was not going to be returning to normal anytime soon, it was time to make some tough decisions. “Jimmy’s is located on a busy stretch of Union Avenue and our sidewalk is quite small.  The idea of outdoor dining never seemed feasible to me,” Papagani says. “On a good day, when the world was a different place, Jimmy’s maxed out at 26 seats, eleven counter seats and fifteen table seats. When indoor dining returns we would not have been able to seat the counter and spacing people out would mean a maximum of 10 people seated at a time, if we were lucky. After thirteen years, it was no longer economically possible to stay open.  Delivery is not profitable enough for us to rely on and the takeout market is super saturated right now. I mean, even Peter Luger is doing takeout.”

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See Which Businesses in North Brooklyn Received COVID Relief Money

Temporarily shuttered Manhattan Avenue  stores in March following the initial coronavirus shutdown. (Photo: Aaron Simon)

Struggling businesses in North Brooklyn haven’t been shy in applying for federal aid. The U.S. government granted between $500 million and $1 billion worth of small business loans in the northern tip of the borough, according to an analysis by Greenpointers.

Officials in the U.S. Treasury Department released data this week on the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to “small” businesses struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic. The program has been shaky in its implementation, but there’s no question that some appreciated the infusion of cash.

The dollar amount (in millions) of PPP loans per North Brooklyn zip code.
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury

Greenpoint, which roughly corresponds to the zip code 11222, has received the bevy of the federal windfall in North Brooklyn, raking in approximately $160 million. And more than 75% of qualified businesses in Greenpoint applied for aid, according to an analysis by Renthop.

Some of the companies in North Brooklyn that put the biggest dent in the federal government’s coffers are local favorites. ACME Smoked Fish received a loan of somewhere between $5 million and $10 million. However, more nondescript businesses like ConsenSys, a software company that specializes in blockchain technology, also received loans to the tune of millions.

Manhattan Avenue at the end of March. (Photo: Aaron Simon)

Unsurprisingly, companies in the retail and food industry, both of which were decimated by the economic fallout of the pandemic, made up the bulk of loan applications. The federal government also cut employers within the capacious category of “Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services” a healthy stack of checks. (This includes law firms, software companies and public relations agencies.)

The number of PPP loans per industry type in North Brooklyn.
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury

Most loan applicants decided to neither disclose their gender nor their race or ethnicity. Of those who did, the majority were white and male. This could be due to demographic skews, bias on the part of those who administered the program or a combination of factors.

The racial and ethnic breakdown of owners who received PPP loans (of those that chose to respond).
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury

The U.S. Treasury Department extended the deadline to apply for a PPP loan to August 8. In a city reeling from an ongoing economic crisis, there’s still an opportunity for businesses in Greenpoint and Williamsburg in need of extra cash to get support.

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Greenpoint Film Festival Will Host a Drive-In Edition This August

The Greenpoint Film Festival is happening this year! (Image courtesy of Greenpoint film Festival)

Summer movies in city parks seem like a distant memory, but several new drive-in theaters have made communal viewing possible in the wake of COVID-19. Now, Greenpoint Film Festival is latching onto the drive-in trend for the 9th annual Greenpoint Film Festival, which will screen 35 films between August 1st – 9th.

Films well be shown in the parking lot on Meserole Avenue and Jewel Street, hosted by Broadway Stages, and The Foundry LIC. The eight day event will showcase eight feature films and 27 short films. Special Guest Speakers and socially distant gatherings, which abide by state and city health stipulations, will also take place.


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This year we’ll be screening 35 films from filmmakers local and beyond.

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The line-up includes an opening night screening of the official Chuck Berry documentary Chuck Berry, the world premiere of before/during/after written by and starring Orange is the New Black’s Finnerty Steeves, the NYC isolation thriller Locked Alone, the U.S. premiere of wild grizzlies documentary Bear-like, feature documentary Microplastic Madness that follows Brooklyn kids as they face the global plastic pollution crisis, and short film American Marriage from Academy Award-winning Call Me By Your Name writer James Ivory. The full program is viewable on the Greenpoint Film Festival website, where tickets are also now on sale, starting at $20 per car.

Car ownership, or even a rental, won’t be necessary for those who want to attend the festival. Organizers have arranged for a row of parked, stationary cars to be available for those who need a vehicle seat. A dedicated cleaning crew will be appointed to consistently reset and clean between, before and after each movie screening.

In lieu of a traditional concession stand, Wilson Rivas Catering will provide food trucks. Bathrooms will be located outside the lot with a dedicated cleaning team servicing them regularly. Filmmakers and celebrity guests will be invited to participate in a drive-through green “red” carpet. Frontline workers are also invited to contact the festival organizers for complimentary tickets. Continue reading

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Azure Gourmet Opens Upscale Deli on Franklin Street

Azure Gourmet is now open at 113 Franklin St.

A new deli and grocery store at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Franklin Street sells all the essentials typically found at a Brooklyn bodega, but fancier. Azure Gourmet (113 Franklin St.) opened in early July, its freezers full of pints of Oatly oat milk ice cream, Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches and frozen vegan meat alternatives. Shelves are stocked with Brooklyn-made dry goods, like Sfoglini pasta as well as imported specialty items. The selection is quite a contrast from the bodega across the street, 111 Franklin Deli Grocery, a Greenpoint mainstay vending mainstream grocery products like Doritos and Top Ramen.

Assorted frozen treats at Azure Gourmet

Azure Gourmet has a small fresh produce section, offering a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as ready-to-eat produce like Organic Girl salad mixes. Dairy products and their vegan alternatives (like Kite Hill ravioli and Daiya cheddar) are also for sale, as are specialty snack items, like Ithaca Craft Hummus. Continue reading

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Where to Get Tested for COVID-19 in North Brooklyn

Altru Chemists in Greenpoint offers COVID-19 tests. (Photo via Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner)

While New York City’s COVID-19 curve has thankfully flattened, the pandemic rages on across the country. In Brooklyn, we’ve been able to keep coronavirus at bay by social distancing, wearing PPE (keep those masks on!) and sanitizing our hands like our life depends on it (it does), but another important part of limiting the spread of the virus is being tested.

New York City recommends that all New Yorkers get tested, and, when necessary, continue getting tested after potential virus exposure, such as after being around a sick person or in a group setting.

Testing is quick, often free and helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here’s where to get a test:

Walk-in at Jonathan Williams Houses (333 Roebling St.)

This city-sponsored walk-in testing center at 333 Roebling St. offers free tests, often without a wait. Walk in for a COVID-19 swab test: Monday- Saturday, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. and Sundays, 8 a.m.- 12 p.m. Antibody testing is also offered Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Continue reading

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Lili and Cata Adds Backyard Manicure And Pedicure Stations

Lili & Cata’s backyard garden is open for pedicures and manicures

It’s been nearly a year since Lili and Cata Nail Saloon opened its non-toxic nail shop and cafe on Greenpoint Avenue, and after over three months of mandatory closure, the café and salon is back and better than ever, thanks to a backyard addition.

Outdoor space is of course highly sought after in Brooklyn, and Lili and Cata always planned to used their backyard for nail services, but after opening at the height of summer 2019, the founders Lilly and Jorge Rojas decided to wait to invest in improvements until 2020. Like all of us who made plans for 2020, the Rojas’ expectations slightly shifted this spring.


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Ironically, Lili and Cata’s in-salon café got its liquor license five days after closing in March, which in an ideal world would allow the business to expand revenue streams, but in a pandemic world, was more of a “bittersweet” accomplishment, Jorge said. Last month, they tried selling wine and beer on weekends, but Greenpoint has a ton of competition, so, “We decided to wait until Phase 3 to put energy into the business,” he adds. Continue reading

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Assembly Candidates Lentol and Gallagher Prepare for Absentee Ballot Count

(Image courtesy of Emily Gallagher for State Assembly)

After the pandemic struck, Kevin Forsyth, a resident of East Williamsburg, went up to his parents’ place in Connecticut to ride out the worst of COVID-19’s spread.

Anticipating that he wasn’t going to be in Brooklyn for the Democratic primary, he then filled out an application for an absentee ballot in May. But come June 23, it still hadn’t arrived. On primary day, he decided to make the two-and-half-hour drive back into Williamsburg to vote in person.

“It was pretty absurd,” he said. “But I know those primaries matter, and these races are tight. I wanted to show up for it.”

Forsyth’s story is one of ten Emily Gallagher, a candidate for the 50th District in the state Assembly, has collected to document absentee ballot irregularities during a primary amidst a pandemic. Despite voters reporting issues with absentee ballots, Gallagher remains optimistic that these votes will clinch her first position in elected office.

Incumbent Assemblyman Joseph Lentol hopes, however, that his 15% lead over Gallagher after in-person voting won’t budge. Tomorrow, the New York City Board of Elections (BOE) will put each candidate’s optimism to the test as it begins to tally mailed-in votes across Brooklyn. Continue reading

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Sea Wolf Opens a Second Location on the Williamsburg Waterfront at 420 Kent

(Photo via Sea Wolf)

One of Bushwick’s favorite spots to eat seafood, Sea Wolf, has opened a new location in Williamsburg. Stationed just steps from the East River, Sea Wolf is one of several local businesses opening up shop at 420 Kent, a new luxury mixed-use building offering both rentals (a studio starts at $2500+) and retail on the South Williamsburg waterfront developed by former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer.

The much-anticipated opening was first announced in October 2018, two years after the original Sea Wolf became a North Brooklyn destination at 19 Wyckoff Ave.

East River views from the new Sea Wolf location in Williamsburg. (Photo via Sea Wolf)

Sea Wolf’s new Williamsburg restaurant has socially distant outdoor dining with views of the Manhattan Bridge and skyline, and contactless ordering and payment options.

The menu is similar to the original location, including a daily happy hour from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. which includes $1 oysters, $1 chicken wings, $1 Buffalo cauliflower, $5 draft beers, $6 wine, and $6 Painkillers. The dinner menu includes opulent seafood towers, more low-key options like San Diego-style fish tacos and a deep fried shrimp basket, as well as solid vegetarian options, like a grilled cauliflower steak and wood fired bok choy. Continue reading

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Skyline Drive-In NYC Comes Under Criticism After Opening to Fanfare

Skyline Drive-In during non-business hours (Image via Ben Weiss)

After opening to widespread acclaim from the media in mid-June, Skyline Drive-In NYC (1 Oak St.) has come under criticism for screening two movies that feature characters in yellow and black face.

The drive-in waterfront theater showed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which features a white actor playing a character who embodies Asian stereotypes, on June 25. And on July 1, it presented “Trading Places,” a film in which the main character wears black face.

Activists have released a petition demanding, among other requests, that the owner of Skyline Drive-In formally apologize for screening the two movies. It has more than 400 signatures.

“We submit that showing films with caricatures of POC as a form of entertainment is no longer acceptable in our society, as doing so perpetuates the harmful stereotypes against POC,” wrote the petition’s authors.

Sia Eliopoulos, a Prospect Heights resident and one of the campaign’s principal organizers, considered going to Skyline Drive-In when it opened. However, when she saw that it was screening “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” she was aghast. Continue reading

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Men’s Clothing Drive Launched by North Brooklyn Mutual Aid

North Brooklyn Mutual Aid is accepting men’s clothing for donation.

The volunteer-powered organization North Brooklyn Mutual Aid that formed in response to the corniavirus crisis is now accepting men’s clothing donations in coordination with a local homeless shelter.

NBMA is currently seeking men’s clothes (size large is preferred) to be donated to The Bowery Residents’ Committee Shelter (146 Clay St.) in Greenpoint.

The shelter currently provides resources for 200 men in the North Brooklyn area and clothing donation drop-offs can be arranged by following the instructions here.

Clothing items sought include men’s shirts in size large – 3XL, men’s pants (size Large and above), clean men’s socks and new men’s undergarments. Continue reading

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