Pols lead cash mob crawl on 2nd Ave.

Rosie Mendez, left, and Melissa Mark-Viverito supported a local business — Zoltar! — during last Friday’s cash mob crawl along Second Ave.  Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council

Rosie Mendez, left, and Melissa Mark-Viverito supported a local business — Zoltar! — during last Friday’s cash mob crawl along Second Ave. Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON   |  Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito last Friday led a roving “cash mob” along a small stretch of Second Ave.

Dubbed “Follow Me Friday!” the event’s goal was to bring attention — as well as dollars — to businesses still feeling the fallout from the disastrous March 26 gas explosion.

First, they started with a moment of silence at the explosion site, the three now-empty lots at the northwest corner of E. Seventh St. and Second Ave. Inside one of the tenements that once stood there, Nicholas Figueroa, 23, and Moises Lucon, 26 — a customer and worker, respectively, at Sushi Park restaurant — died in the horrific explosion. The blast was soon followed by a raging inferno that consumed the buildings.

Joining Mendez and Mark-Viverito were a convoy of other local pols — including Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Brian Kavanagh, state Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal — plus around 30 local residents and activists.

They visited about eight establishments, starting with Moishe’s Bake Shop and going on to New Yorkers Market, Cafe Mocha, Bar Virage, Gem Spa, Himalyan Vision and Enz’s before wrapping up at Jimmy’s No. 43 bar.

Councilmember Rosenthal came down from the Upper West Side for the event.

“It was a pretty easy bike ride, actually,” she said.

She said, at first, she had been reluctant to come since she had a Shabbat dinner that night, but that Mendez convinced her, telling her she could pick up something for the meal at Moishe’s. Rosenthal held up a chocolate babka cake she had bought.

“And they had kichel, which I haven’t seen since… . It’s flour, sugar and yummy,” she said with a smile.

The East Village’s Democratic district leaders, Anthony Feliciano and Carlina Rivera, joined the effort.

“It’s a good thing for visibility” of local businesses, Feliciano offered.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Rosie Mendez led the group down E. Seventh St., past the vacant disaster site, to the tour’s last stop. Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Rosie Mendez led the group down E. Seventh St., past the vacant disaster site, to the tour’s last stop. Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council

“It’s also an opportunity to talk to the business owners,” Rivera added. “The owner of the New Yorkers Market is a lifelong neighborhood resident. At Moishe’s, the guy in the store was closing up to go home for the Sabbath. I think that was a very real Lower East Side experience, and what makes this neighborhood so great.”

Mendez and Mark-Viverito paused outside Gem Spa as the speaker got her fortune told by Zoltar, before going inside for some old-fashioned egg creams. The two countermen tried to give them the drinks for free, but they refused.

“No, no, we’re here to support the businesses,” Mark-Viverito insisted.

Outside on the corner of St. Mark’s Place, Jim Power, the East Village’s “Mosaic Man,” was touching up his “Media Pole,” which lists the names of local newspapers and blogs, one of the dozens of lampposts around the neighborhood that he has decorated with his mosaic artistry. As Hoylman admired the pole creation, Power — who has severely degenerated hips — painfully limped around his Mosaic Mobile to say hi.

“I’m not afraid to shake a politician’s hand — as long as no one’s watching!” he quipped.

Helping out a local businessman, Hoylman dropped a dollar into his bag on the sidewalk.

“He deserves it. Oh yeah, they’re beautiful, those poles,” he said as he walked off to catch up to the tour.

Hoylman added that he was impressed that Mark-Viverito — whose district also experienced a devastating gas explosion last year — came down to join the East Village cash mob.

“She had a similar tragedy in her district, so she knows the impact on mom-and-pop shops,” he said.

Rosie Mendez enjoyed a classic egg cream at Gem Spa. Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council

As Deborah Glick looked on, Rosie Mendez enjoyed a classic egg cream at Gem Spa. Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council

The East Harlem explosion leveled two buildings and killed eight people. Mark-Viverito noted that one of the E. Seventh St. victims lived in her district.

Hoylman also praised Mendez’s efforts.

“Rosie’s been amazing,” he said. “She’s a real crisis manager. One of the things she does is organize around fast-moving issues and deploy her team, and I think that comes from her having been a tenant organizer.”

On the other hand, as for the investigation into the Second Ave. disaster’s cause, that has been moving slowly, but hopefully surely.

“We haven’t heard from the district attorney,” Hoylman said. “He’s supposed to tell us when they’re able.”

The politicians next were buzzed into Enz’s boutique and checked out its hip vintage clothes.

Owner Mariann Marlowe said it had been a huge struggle to get back on her feet after the hellish March 26 explosion and fire.

“The merchandise was all destroyed,” she said. “Three thousand dollars in dry cleaning. The owner of Beauty Bar, the owner of Otto’s, all the cool establishments helped us out,” she said.

She was also relieved when, after the disaster, she was finally able to rescue her window mannequins that she had brought back from London in the 1970s. It was important that the store could recover quickly after the apocalyptic explosion next door, Marlowe said, adding that she appreciated the politicians’ efforts and anything that could help bring back business.

“This is the busiest time of the year for me. I make $1,000 a day,” she noted.

It's her color! Melissa Mark-Viverito checked out a cool vintage dress at Enz's.  Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council

It’s her color! Melissa Mark-Viverito checked out a cool vintage dress at Enz’s. Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council

The cash mob convoy ended at Jimmy’s No. 43 bar on E. Seventh St. just west of Second Ave., where all the politicians, including Councilmember Antonio Reynoso from Bushwick, briefly took the stage in the small back music room. Reynoso noted he went to high school at La Salle when it was at E. Second St. and Second Ave.

“I came here to show support,” he said. “We’re all one city.”

Looking up at the place’s authentic 1880s brick vaulted ceilings — as they were about to be serenaded by a ukulele duo — Mark-Viverito said, “This is such a wonderful spot. It’s got the nooks and crannies and the vitality that we would like to see in our businesses.”

Jimmy Carbone, the bar’s owner, like Marlowe, said he was grateful for the attention being brought to his business.

After March 26, his air conditioning units were knocked out and the bar was left flooded from all the water firefighters had poured on the three buildings to control the enormous blaze. One place, B&H dairy restaurant, isn’t even back open yet because it still lacks gas service.

“We had to let people know that we were open again,” Carbone said.

He marveled at the politicians’ presence in his place.

“No one ever does that,” he said, “the politicians, a state senator, the speaker — you never see that.”

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