Seaport Report: January 2016


Breathe. Sigh. Relax. A new year, new starts, reconnecting.

Music-video historian Stephen Pitalo will host the “Music Video Time Machine” series on the first Friday of each month through June at Ambrose.
Music-video historian Stephen Pitalo will host the “Music Video Time Machine” series on the first Friday of each month through June at Ambrose.

You can dance if you want to … Being a big fan of both music and shellfish, I was gobsmacked to discover “Music Video Time Machine,” a new, fun night at Ambrose (18 Fulton St.). This Friday (Jan. 8, 7- 11 pm) kicks off the 2016 first-Friday-of-the-month residency of Stephen Pitalo, music video historian/event performer/VJ.

“Rock Lobster: Riff, Rock & Punk Edition,” takes partiers on a time trip back to ’80s and ’90s with a lot of killer guitar vids. Pitalo will take requests all night from AC/DC to Zebra and blast guitar-god clips and three-chord rock videos. Pair that with the tasty cocktails and seafood of Ambrose’s menus and you have a hot night on a cold evening.

“I’m so excited to have this opportunity,” Pitalo told me. “Folks can expect AC/DC, the Clash, the Ramones, the Offspring, ZZ Top and more. From guitar boogie to three-chord jams, we’ll be showing plenty of amped videos!”

Pitalo has been collecting music videos since the genre made its debut in 1981 on MTV. “I have a database of more than 15,000 videos – everything from Led Zeppelin to Christopher Cross, up to what I consider the end of the golden age of music videos – 1993.”

Pitalo, who grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi, and graduated LSU in journalism, began his audio fascination at age 10 with a Radio Shack tape recorder. He’s now the leading “music video historian,” in The Golden Age of Music Video (1976-1993). He gives speeches at festivals, colleges and other events on the topic. He also hosts a show on RadioFreeBrooklyn.com (first Sunday of each month at 4 pm), where he interviews musicians and music industry insiders who were around during those glory days.

Pitalo and Ambrose promise lots of fun Friday night, including themed drink specials, music memorabilia, photo ops, cool giveaways and even special guests.

Photo by @HannaBrakeyDSLR The Bridge Café hopes to reopen in March for the first time since superstorm Sandy.
Photo by @HannaBrakeyDSLR
The Bridge Café hopes to reopen in March for the first time since superstorm Sandy.

Bridge Café to reopen … Hopefully back on the fast track after lots of false starts since Hurricane Sandy hit 27 months ago, The Bridge Café (279 Water St.) is inching its way to a springtime opening. Last week we spoke with proprietor Adam Weprin, who assured us that after saying “we’ll be back in two months” for two years, those last “two months” are growing closer. He’d like to see a March soft opening.

“Right now we’re still fighting,” he said of telephone, electric and water issues. Problems include not being able to access the building from the street to install new phone lines. For some reason, when Water Street was ripped open to put in Fios and other new infrastructure, phone lines weren’t run to the building. And water lines leading from the steam pipes under the street weren’t insulated, so all the water coming into the restaurant is scalding hot.

“Hot water runs into the walk-in food cooler systems so that’s not going to keep food cold,” Weprin said. “Not to mention that workers and customers could burn their hands. It’s frustrating.”

You would think that most hair-pulling moments were behind him. The wooden building from 1794 was pretty much gutted from the main floor down to the basement. Seawater filled the basement and rose four feet in the dining room and kitchen. The fetid water destroyed not only all the power lines and water pipes but ate through beams, flooring and supports, some of which are more than 200 year-old.

The basement was dug out. Nearly 85-percent of the wood supports in the city’s oldest commercial wood-frame building needed to be replaced. The basement ceiling and first floor were completely reconstructed. The exterior was cleaned up, rotted wood replaced and repainted.

“We only did restoration,” he said, noting that the Landmarks Commission was very supportive. They wanted the façade as it looked years ago. To accommodate, “we changed the Dover Street wall to add fake doors.”

The wooden pillars in the dining room were reinforced, and only one needed an iron rod insert to strengthen it. “What I found interesting is that wood construction moves with what’s shaking it —like an earthquake or water. It all moves together. So the building was surprisingly structurally sound,” Weprin said. “The dining room floor is all new, missing all those scuff marks, but that’s just a matter of time to get that look back. The bar managed to survive.”

One distinctive aspect of the 221-year-old structure hasn’t changed, despite all the work.

“But the funny thing is that with all the reconstruction, the building still slants,” he said. “It still has that same old feeling.”

Weprin is now gearing up to hire all-new staff and find a new chef. “I’m going to have to give him or her some leeway and add their own dishes to the menu, have their fun.” But he assured me that Bridge Café favorites will be back – softshell crabs, calamari, crab cakes and of course, the buffalo. “We’re going for high-end American comfort food.”

And we long-time neighbors can’t wait!

A Zen year … I can’t believe a year has passed since Warrior Bridge (275 Water St.) opened. Seems like just a couple months ago, I met Gary Snyder, owner and head Aikido instructor, who was so enthusiastic about becoming part of our neighborhood.

“It’s been a good year,” Snyder told me. “I love being in the Seaport, moving into a new neighborhood which is so warm, embracing and different. The quiet cobblestone streets. It’s a soothing, nice place to be.”

And the neighborhood has embraced his school and community center that “trains mind, body and spirit through martial arts, yoga and meditation.” The space is intimate and soothing, and class sizes are smaller than most around NYC. “People are getting more individual attention. Students who began with us, stay with us,” he said.

The morning mediation class, at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, is one of their “best kept secrets,” he noted. “The regulars are appreciative to have this.”

Yoga classes attract the most diverse students. Under Sean Langaus, who heads the yoga program, it is the fastest growing area of the dojo. One popular class is Acro Yoga — basically acrobatics and yoga combined. People partner up and balance on each other in a series of yoga poses. “It’s poetic and beautiful,” said Snyder.

“Last year was a solid foundation for our new place, and we are excited about 2016,” he added.

To celebrate the first anniversary, Warrior Bridge has a sign-up special, offering a free month of classes to anyone who signs up for the introductory one-month membership before the end of January. So you’ll get two months of unlimited classes for $75. Schedules and registration are at www.warriorbridge.com.