Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Round'em Up

Here are some Bronx-related stories which we've rounded up for you, our lovely readers, while trolling the interweb with our horse and lasso this fine morning:

A beloved Melrose eatery faces possible closure after it is served an eviction notice...The community is rallying together to raise funds to keep the restaurant open. [Welcome 2 Melrose]
BD Note: We've yet to visit Coqui Mexicano, but it sounds like a great place. We're wondering...What is the reason for the eviction? Are they behind on rent? Is it healthcode violations? We trust the Mayor of Melrose will fill us in on the scoop. Folks are saying that gentrification is playing a role in the potential closing of the eatery due to the fact that there is a lot of new construction happening in the area. Two thoughts regarding the gentrification speculation: 1) I thought most of the new construction happening in Melrose was affordable housing. 2) If Coqui Mexicano is simply way behind on their rent, isn't the eviction just a dollars and cents issue? Give us the scoop, Mayor!
'Soda buyback' event at Richard R. Green Middle School attracts one lone bottle of soda - and it was a Sprite Zero [Village Voice]

Councilman Jimmy Vacs has the Pompeii Lounge in E. Tremont in his crosshairs...Neighbors complain that the club is bringing unsavory patrons to the normally quiet area [Daily News]

The Silver Fox reports all the week's juicy political gossip and provides us with some entertaining Pedro commentary [Daily News]

There's a baby boom going on at the Bronx Zoo...this weekend's visitors will get to see a baby brown collared lemur and a baby silver leaf langur [zandavisitor.com]



The Mayor of Melrose said...

Thanks for picking up this piece. The facts are that yes, they did owe some back rent but it was not a serious amount and the landlord was happily collecting money every week when she stopped by to cover the back rent. In March they were able to pay two months worth of rent and every week since then they were paying to catch up.

Again, the landlord told them that they were working with them and since the money was flowing in it wasn't a problem - until the notice came out of nowhere just when they were almost done paying. The landlord went from being nice and friendly to cutting off communications.

There are other issues that unfortunately I cannot disclose at the moment but there is definitely something shady going on with the landlord and I have seen documents showing just that but until i get the ok to mention it i won't (sorry folks)

As for the new construction. Although it is "affordable" we should keep in mind that the housing will be bringing in not just low-income renters but middle income renters. Boricua Village's Northrose 400 apartments which are all middle income units with income requirements of 28K for studios (current median income in the area is $19,000+/-) with min requirement for a 3 bedroom with 3 individuals anywhere from $76,000 to $115,000 (based on a 4-6 person household (with two income earners) That being said the people who will be moving into the 400 units in June exactly ONE block away will at minimal have an income almost double that of the area median and not to mention that none will be on public assistance since the units are not for people with public assistance but working middle-income folks.

Boricua Village just represents of the middle income units that will be coming online alongside the low-income units. All of which although affordable will be bringing in the strictly working class whereas in the past people on various public assistance programs were allowed.

Not sure if this sums it all up but feel free to ask any questions and I will answer them all to the best of my abilities.

Keep up the great work guys!

Guywithacause said...

Here's my take as an owner. I have a tenant that has been behind on his rent several times, and I always have to "work with him"..and "by work with him" I mean do it on his terms as it is difficult, time consuming, and expensive to actually evict a tenant.

The most recent time I had to "work with him", he was in the process of paying his back rent, and once it was paid, I decided enough is enough and moved to evict him. Yes he was paying his back rent, but he is not reliable, the rent is paid on his terms, and it causing me unnecessary hardship and stress to maintain this tenant in the building.

I have chosen to cut my losses and get a better, more stable tenant with a more reliable income stream/deeper pockets. That is not to say that is what happened to the Coqui restaurant, but I would not be surprised if that were the case.

I have visited there a couple of times and I was surprised they were still open. They didn't seem like they had any idea what they were doing, were always out of what little food they carried, and were "still working on their menu" after 2 years from "lack of money." I knew from the first time I ate there it was doomed, but what can you do..I tried to support them but it was a lost cause.

I hope they find a new location and can learn from their mistakes. I prefer to see them try again and succeed than close for good....especially if they can stay local.

The Mayor of Melrose said...


If you have been there a couple of times then you do know one thing. That everything is freshly made to order which is why they do run out on a daily basis of certain menu items. Would you rather have food that is prepared and left in the fridge over night until however long?

As far as working on their menu, Danisha, one of the owners, likes to add new things to the menu here and there but the menu itself...the core menu hasn't changed so i'm not sure you actually know what you are talking about or if we are talking about the same restaurant?

I'm not being biased about the place but giving you the facts that EVERYONE who eats there on a regular basis knows.

Have you ever been there during the lunch rush between 11am to about 3pm Mon-Fri? There is barely a place to stand there and the constant flux of people coming in and out is pretty great.

The fact is that they were catching up to the back rent and the landlord was more than happy with them and they themselves saw how their business was really picking up.

Anonymous said...

I definitely disagree with Guywithacause on this one, although your heart is clearly in the right place. In my opinion, Coqui Mexicano is one of the best restaurants in the city.

The truth is that they are doing everything right.

Unlike virtually every other restaurant in the city, Coqui is not driven solely by profit. This is what distinguishes the experience of eating there. Most places it's about the exchange of currency; you're in you're out, you get what you want, exchange a few pleasantries, that's it.

But Diego (the chef) has a strong belief in family, and if you are a customer, you are also a brother or sister. I've heard him say many times, "This is my house, and when you come into my house, I take care of you."

That's why going to Coqui is such a wonderful experience. Everyone is welcome there. It's like going home: you can literally feel the love! And that's how Diego runs his business.

In this day and age any pragmatist would say that this kind of idealistic business model would fail. But the truth is that it is working!

And thank god for it, because the world needs more idealists. Coqui has enriched my life and the lives of many people who live and work in the neighborhood.

What money they owe they will pay back. Business is only getting better. Coqui Mexicano is here to stay!

NYC LGBT Chamber of Commerce Inc said...

As a customer and a partner with Coqui Mexico who we gave them a free membership to our NYC LGBT Chamber of Commerce. The food is off the hook. And is a home for a community that comes to this great business. What they need is support and help and we will provide that for them. The great news that I just recieved from them. At the courts today, everything turn out in their favor. Thanks for the great support like the Mayor of Melrose who step to the place and care for his own. And to all those who loves Coqui Mexicano..And yes this is a place that we call home. Cause when I go in, it remind me of my country Puerto Rico. This is just the begining of helping and support our small business in the Bronx. As Coqui Mexicano.

Guywithacause said...

Let's just clarify a couple of things because I really wanted this place to succeed (and still do).

Nowhere in my comment did I state the food was bad. But when I go to eat at a restaurant, I go to eat, not to wish I came some other day/time because they are out of whatever...which happened the two times I was there. So if I had a choice between NOT eating a magical, fantastical empanada because they are out of it, or actually eating a really really good empanada that had been made the day before...I would choose actually eating something. They are in the business to make money and I am looking to spend my money..but somehow it was hard for me to do so. See the problem? So did the other people I was with.

Secondly, I asked for a menu, and I was told by Diego that there is no menu due to lack of money. After 2 years with NOTHING to hand out to a customer, you don't see this as another problem? He was very nice and friendly, but the look on face when he told me that said it all.

Overall I thought it was a nice, comfy place, although it needed to be cleaned and spruced up desperately (but this went back to the lack of money issue). Would have I liked for them to stay? Yes. But based on my visits there, they did not seem like they knew what they were doing, and you can feel they had cash flow problems...so the eviction does not surprise me.

So as I stated, it would not suprise me that the LL decided to finally cut his losses because the Tenant, although now catching up on rent, was not reliable or stable enough, to maintain them in the building. But this is just a hunch based on my experience. I wish them the best and I hope they reopen with a better business model. I will try them again in their new location should they try again.

ChiquitaFajitaBonita said...

In this day and age when mom and pop operations have gone the way of the dodo bird, it's refreshing to find charming eateries like Coqui Mexicano.

I, unlike Guywithacause, have always had a hard time in determining what I want to eat when I walk through the doors of Coqui Mexicano because the food is always so appetizing. I might have gone in craving a steak fajita but after sitting and talking and savoring the enticing aromas from whatever Diego is cooking, I typically tend to change my mind and try something new and different and I am never disappointed. The chicken mole is incredible! The couscous salad is phenomenal (sorry to everyone for having purchased all of them on my last visit! I promise to leave some behind on my next visit). And oh my goodness, don't get me started on their guacamole, I'm drooling all over my keyboard just thinking about it.

The Mayor of Melrose said...


Again...why don't you ask them what they would recommend? so they didn't have menus at the time but the offerings are pretty basic. Does a restaurant need to have all pizazz and glitz to be a place to come in and check out? No, not at all...the down to earth home feel of it is what people like and obviously has the place packed with people during the rush.

If you prefer to eat something not fresh and prepared the day before older then Coqui Mexicano is not the place for you because they only deal in fresh to order food.

And to say that they need a better business model? again you are focusing on what seems like a visit quite some time ago and if you read anything in the original piece then you would have seen that BUSINESS IS NOW THRIVING for them. Oh and by the way - COQUI MEXICANO STAYS - they won their appeal but i'm sure you'll read about it in the New York Times over the next few days since they were there today and absolutely loved the food that they had :)

Guywithacause said...

Hehe..this is entertaining since we all want them to stay and succeed. Chiquita: I had a hard time deciding what to eat as well, but mostly because the few things I wanted to eat were not available. The items I did eat were fine though. However it could be that I am accustomed to choosing what I want to eat versus settling for whatever was left over/available at that specific day or time.

Mayor, my assertion regarding a better business model is simply being able to offer food to customers consistently without being "out", and being able to pay rent. Their prior business model did not accomplish these goals consistently as evidenced by my experience (maybe my 2 visits were a fluke)and their inability to pay rent. In addition, I don't think asking for a simple single page menu is pizzaz or glitz, just a basic requirement, and their answer of 'lack of money' should have been instead "we change the menu every day...fresh to order..so we don't have a menu."

I am glad they are staying and that business is improving. I hope they succeed. Because you have stated that my opinion is likely outdated, and that they are in fact on the ball now and thriving, I will pay them a 3rd visit.