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Last Call at the Coffee Shop

Everyone comes to New York to gape slack-jawed at beauty — unless, of course, you’re beautiful, in which case you’ve come here to be adored, or you’re already here, in which case, having been surrounded by both beauty and ugliness in profusion, you are insensate to it.

As a young man — not even eighteen years old — I arrived in New York in the summer of ’99, unbeautiful, suburban, and sponge-like. I was ready to be impressed. I lived in an NYU dormitory on Union Square with a flip phone, a laptop full of Napster-nabbed tunes, and a kid named Jason who snored so loudly that I at first took his wall-shaking snorts to be the subway below. We lived a few doors down from the Coffee Shop, a shimmering 24-hour disco ball of a restaurant and bar, full of stunningly beautiful, arctically cool, actually glamorous gods and demigods for whom Manhattan was Olympus and the herbed french fries they served there ambrosia. But heaven doesn’t last forever. As was announced this month, the Coffee Shop will close its doors in October.

Twenty years ago, the Coffee Shop beckoned like a shiny object does a crow. Opened in 1990 by a trio of Wilhelmina models — Charles Milite, Eric Petterson, and Carolyn Benitez — the Coffee Shop trafficked in physical, some might say superficial, beauty. The pleasingly retro dining room and bar operates under a Byzantine system of seating, no less codified than such tony redoubts as the Four Seasons, Michael’s, and Elaine’s. But unlike in those restaurants, where power was determined by wealth, position, or publishing numbers, at the Coffee Shop, beauty was the only salient metric. For an unsure nube like me, the appeal was evident. One didn’t just receive a Sesame Chicken Salad. The order of the world and your place in it was revealed. The maître d’ was God, and how we trembled waiting for judgment. 

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Alas, being all of seventeen and looking like I was twelve, I was routinely barred entrance, or else allowed passage only to the To Go podium, where I’d order a milkshake and a side of ambrosial fries, then return to my bedroom, to read of Odysseus and Nausicaa all the while fantasizing about what hedonistic fun the real-life nymphs were having but a few feet away. It turns out all my jizzy fantasies were true, as were other fantasies too nuanced and mature for my vulgar mind to concoct at the time.

When I heard of the closing, I reached out to Courtney Yates, who worked at the Coffee Shop for six years between 2004 and 2010. Yates is, as one might expect from a Coffee Shop alumna, a bona fide BP. She is not the most famous Coffee Shop employee — having only appeared on Survivor, twice — but, due to a 2007 Grub Street article, the most Googleable. Other notable alumni include Laverne Cox and — this made me flip my wig — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she was just Sandy from the Bronx. Now, Yates lives in Sugar Hill, Harlem, USA. She works as an astrologer, massage therapist, and yoga teacher, but for six years of the Coffee Shop’s prime, she was both arbiter of beauty and its prime embodiment. She agreed to meet me for dinner recently at 8:30 p.m., a time I had assumed would be peak people-watching.

A little after we were supposed to meet: “I’m on my way but, as you know the MTA is trash,” she texted. So I entered through the Coffee Shop’s glass doors alone. At once, the feelings of existential uncertainty flooded back again, after so many years. If you’ve ever walked into a cafeteria as a new student, tray in hand and lump in throat, you know the feeling. I hadn’t come to the Coffee Shop in a decade; neither — apparently — had many others, thus the restaurant’s impending closure. And yet, so ingrained was the sensation of judgment, of stepping up to receive one’s sentence from on high, that I quailed at the host stand. The gentleman — handsome, forty, flirty, fab — led me back to a two-top behind the bar, where I sat wondering what it all meant.

When she finally arrived, Yates said, a little apologetically, “Ah, #34. You’re a normal.” When I was younger, I would have been crushed. Middle-aged now, I realize, yes, I am a normal. Normal is OK. Normal is normal. Yates, on the other hand, was and is beautiful, and I wondered, as I browsed the sort of wonderfully normcore menu, how she felt seeing the world from #34.

Courtney Yates (second from right) and fellow Coffee Shop alumni gather for a staffer’s baby shower in 2013.

Though we were separated only by a small table, the delta between Courtney and I was vast. For me, the Coffee Shop was a terrifying adjudication of self-worth. For Yates, and the thousands of other model/waiters who worked there, it was the start of a glorious life in New York. “When I came here,” she said, “I didn’t know anyone.” She was a twenty-two-year-old model from Boston hired by Benitez, who was in charge of all staffing, and soon initiated into the Club of Beautiful People, a counterintuitively inclusive demographic. “Since we were all beautiful,” explains Yates, “no one was jealous or judgmental. We were like a Benetton ad.” She recounts with glee the hijinks and camaraderie of Coffee Shop survivors, who braved groping, grabbing, gooing, and gawing from the “Perve Curve,” a section of the undulating bar from which lascivious barflies cheesed on spindly waiters picking up their cocktails. She recalls the joy of the $2 staff menu and buying meals for assholes for the sole purpose of being able to tell them to go fuck themselves. “And I never got in trouble for it,” she says, still amazed after all these years.

Yates remembers the best section was the normals in the back, because it was always full, whereas the tables reserved for the beautiful and the famous — tables 6, 7, 8, and 9 — frequently sat empty. She recalls Nelly and Ashanti cuddling at table 101 in the back-back room, and David LaChapelle stopping by for brunch, like, all the time. She remembers how much she hated Susan Sarandon, a friend of the owner’s, for insisting that milkshakes stay on the menu — an item that, as any waiter anywhere will tell you, is a pain in the ass to make. “I can forgive her for coming out against Hillary,” says Yates, “but not the milkshakes.” She not only remembers her friends from the Coffee Shop, but still is friends with her friends from the Coffee Shop.

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For Yates, everything flowed from here. It was here — exactly here at table #34 — where, after telling off a drunk d-bag, she was approached by a producer from CBS to appear on Survivor, which she did, twice, once in China and once as a villain on the Heroes vs. Villains season. It was here and, more precisely, around the corner where she’d repair after her shift to drink at the Park Bar until morning. It was here where she formed the sorts of friendships that do not decay with time. Friendships with guys like Ted, another waiter, older now, who still cat-sits for her. Ted isn’t hot. He’s awesome. He’s a school teacher who lives in the Bronx, teaches English to ESL students, and, hustling, has worked nights at the Coffee Shop since time immemorial. It’s Ted, Guardian Angel of Coffee Shop waiters, who is one of those quietly necessary people who cohere bonds of friendship and bonhomie, who keep things together when everything else falls apart.

The food comes. The best that can be said about it is that it is, indeed, food. The cheeseburger is, in fact, a cheeseburger. If I had ordered a grilled cheese, I’m sure it would be that. I imagine the calamari fritto would be either fried squid rings or fried bleached pig anuses. I would eat it either way and care little. Food was always the beard at the Coffee Shop. The real feast was for the eyes. Was.

As she looked around the half-full dining room, Yates seemed nonplussed. “What I tell my friends is that death is a part of life. The space and energy of the Coffee Shop will dissipate, to pop up in other aspects of your life.” Though she hasn’t worked there for years, Yates knew almost all the bussers and food runners and kitchen staff. “They’re here for years,” she says, “but the servers aren’t. Beauty turns over fast.”  

Today there’s something noble, tragic, and just about the Coffee Shop. Its avowed insistence on physical beauty seems awkwardly out of step in today’s culture. But like a silent movie star who refuses talkies, the Coffee Shop is too proud or has too much integrity to adapt. Tables 6, 7, 8, and 9 are still reserved for the beautiful and famous patrons who will most likely never come again. Normals, like me, are still tucked, lonely, out of sight. The order of the world is preserved, even as that world disappears.

On the way out, Yates and I ran into Charles Milite, one of the owners. He’s in his fifties now, and, as with any older model, the sharpness of his features had been blotted by time. He was just passing by. He doesn’t go in much at all now. But he seemed to take the end of the Coffee Shop with a measure of equanimity and humor. “It’s going to make a great Chase Bank,” he said, flashing a sad smile that twinkled fetchingly in the hot night of a much changed city, one no longer with room for the Coffee Shop and all its beauties.

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Best Weekend Food Events: Candy Making, Boozy Cupcake Tasting, and Chili Takedown


Union Square Holiday Market Opening Weekend, Union Square, Friday through December 24

Grab a cat-shaped macaron from Meow Parlour or pick up any number of food gifts at the brand new Urbanspace Provisions pop-up at Union Square’s annual holiday market, with ready-to-eat bites from the likes of Delaney Barbecue. This year, The Children’s Museum is also setting up a crafts booth where kids can make their own ornaments. A full line up of participating food focused businesses as well as holiday hours can be viewed on the Union Square Holiday Market web site.

How to Make Magical Healing Candy with Sweet Saba’s Maayan Zilberman, Fort Gansevoort, 5 Ninth Avenue, Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 2 p.m.

This two-day workshop lets students make candy from scratch, while teaching them how additives and oils can turn candy into cough drops. After students have molded their candy and returned for day two, the class will cover how to use food dyes for decoration. The class includes a mold to take home as well as goodie bag of treats from Sweet Saba; reserve your seat for both days – $264.74 per person – here.

Lexy’s Cupcake Tasting, Lexy’s Cupcake BarBlue Jean Studio, 149 West 24th Street – Suite 5B, Saturday, 5 p.m.

Enjoy cupcake and cocktails? Want to be on the ground floor to give feedback on flavors? Sample a variety of two dozen different alcohol-infused sweets (wine and soft drinks will be available too). Cupcakes also come in non-alcoholic flavors like pineapple-upside-down and caramel cinnamon apple, with other booze-infused creations like strawberry margarita and Bailey’s Irish Cream-infused vanilla.Tickets are $10; reserve them here.

Brooklyn Chili Takedown, The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, 514 Union Street, Brooklyn, Sunday, 12 p.m.

Grab all-you-can-eat bowls of homemade chili and vote on which chef’s secret recipe will take home the top prize. Over 25 chefs will offer spicy, savory, and sweet chilis to enjoy, with drinks available for purchase. Tickets are $20 and can be secured here.

Oyster Pairing and Restoration Talk, Lighthouse, 45 Borinquen Place, Brooklyn, Sunday, 5 p.m.

Have an hour to kill this weekend? Then enjoy it with an hour of oyster and beverage tastings along with conversation with Pete Malinowski, director of the Billion Oyster Project. Guests receive a half dozen oysters with beverage pairings — three different oyster preparations teamed up with a cocktail, beer, or wine. Afterwards, guests will learn about the role of recycling oysters in New York’s restoration efforts as well a better understanding of the farming process, courtesy of guest speakers from the Fishers Island Oyster Company. Tickets are $30; score them here.

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This Weekend’s Five Best Food and Drink Events – 10/17/2014

An event featuring only bacon, or New York’s first juice-bar crawl? Whatever your style, there’s a food event for you this weekend.

Rebel Bingo, Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place, Friday, 8 p.m.

This epic bash, which started in an English church basement, makes a return to New York for a few rounds of complete debauchery. The party includes everyone’s favorite spinning-numbers game along with plenty of booze, dancing, and eclectic performances. Tickets start at $19 for Friday — with the option to purchase for next weekend as well, at $13 — and are available here.

The New York City Wine & Food Festival, multiple locations, Friday through Sunday

An all-star lineup of culinary professionals and food personalities will descend upon Manhattan for a smorgasbord of all-you-can-eat events. Returning again this year is a tailgate party hosted by Jets great Joe Namath and Mario Batali; Bobby Flay hosts a late-night party featuring tacos and tequila. And if crowds aren’t your thing, a few intimate dinners and classes still have tickets available; you can learn the art of pickling and cake decorating. A full lineup of events and tickets can be found on the NYCWFF website.

NYC’s First Juice Crawl, multiple locations, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Beginning in Union Square and ending in the Flatiron district, this event will unite juice heads from across the city with stops at The Squeeze and Juice Press, among others. The event includes prizes, like the chance to win a three-day cleanse or coconut truffles. Tickets are $55 for individuals and $90 for duos.

Fall Carnival Spectacular, Kings County Saloon, 1 Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn, Saturday and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Skip the hayrides and pumpkin patches teeming with children and head to this adult-only carnival in the heart of Bushwick. Naughty clowns, gypsies, and a “wheel of spanking” are included among the entertainment, and then there are food-related activities, like a pickle-eating competition. Have a bourbon candy apple; sip a mulled-cider cocktail. Games start at $2.

Brooklyn Bacon Takedown, Littlefield, 622 DeGraw Street, Brooklyn, Sunday, 2 p.m.

This event celebrates, well, bacon. Attendees will get the chance to sample a number of bacon dishes, many provided by home cooks. Tickets are $20 and include all the bacon you can eat.

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Here Are the Five Best Memorial Day Weekend Food Events in NYC

Not fighting the traffic or beach crowds this three-day weekend? Make the most of sticking around the city by taking advantage of what’s cooking up around town.

Free Suckling Pig Roast, Ariana, 138-140 West Houston Street, Friday, 7 p.m.

This Village Russian restaurant is kicking off the weekend with a free suckling pig roast and punch party. At 7 p.m., the kitchen will start serving up bits of the buckwheat-stuffed hog, and the bar will pour a berry and vodka punch. You’ll want to get there early to partake — food and drink are first come, first served.

Passport to Taiwan, Union Square, Sunday, noon

Come Sunday, Union Square will be filled with performances, art exhibits, and plenty of food celebrating Taiwanese-American heritage and culture. Look for goodies like bamboo tamales, shaved ice, oyster omelets, and intestines with noodle. Food-related exhibits include dough figurines and sugar paintings, which showcase the artists’ use of edible materials for creative purposes. A full line up of food vendors and activities can be found on the event’s website.

Rub-A-Grub, Do or Dine, 1108 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, Sunday, 2 p.m.

With a three-part menu accompanied by DJ sets, this musical feast includes bloody marys, beer and shot specials, and record-sized plates of hearty BBQ. Music will be provided by the I Love Vinyl crew, and a selection of appetizers courtesy of Justin Warner’s team are also part of the tasting menu. Tickets start at $15 for the event without food and $30 if you plan on dining or drinking.

Manhattan by Sail’s Out@Sea Party, Slip 1 — Battery Park, State Street at Battery Place, Sunday, 9:45 p.m.

Celebrate having Monday off by staying up late on a Sunday with this two-hour boat party geared toward the gay and lesbian crowd. Hop aboard the Clipper City Tall Ship where you’ll find a full bar — including Jello shots, pickle backs, and other drink specials — and a DJ, who’ll play sets as you take in the city skyline. Tickets are $20 if you use the promotional code MBSFFOS14; they can be purchased through the Manhattan by Sail website.

A Drinking Game NYC presents Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, A Celebration of Whimsy, 21-A Clinton Street, Monday, 9 p.m.

To cap off the weekend, head out for this live stage version of the 80’s cult classic, which involves drinking — both by the actors and the audience. When you hear key phrases and buzzwords, everyone drinks, which means that by the end of the show, certain lines may not come out as intended — or at all. There’s a cash bar inside the theater that will provide beer, wine, and soda, though the event is 21 and up. Tickets are $15.

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These Are This Week’s Four Best Food Events

Toast the end of April showers. This week’s best food events include a Persian feast, an oyster shucking competition, and a lesson on the science of ice cream.

Our Persian Spread, The V Spot, 156 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, Monday, 6 p.m.

Check out this vegetarian version of a traditional Iranian meal, where the prix fixe menu includes options like eggplant, walnut, and tomato mezze and sweet and sour stew. Tea and dessert are included in the $60 ticket.

German Food: A Journey of Cheese, Wine, and Beer, Bedford Cheese Shop, 67 Irving Place, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Learn about Germany’s beer law along, the qualities of German wine, and German cheesemaking technique from sommelier and food writer Ursula Heinzelmann. Tickets are $25.

Shuck Yeah!, Brooklyn Brewery, 79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 7 p.m.

A handful of Williamsburg bars and restaurants will compete in a few friendly competitions including oyster shucking, cocktail creating, and ladies arm wrestling to help raise funding to benefit the North Brooklyn nonprofit Neighbors Allied for Good Growth. For $75, guests can sample a selection of food and drinks courtesy of area businesses like Dram while cheering on local competitors.

The Mysteries of Ice Cream, Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 8 p.m.

In this installation of the continuing free series by the Masters of Social Gastronomy, guests will get to learn the science behind ice cream making as well as a historical look at the treat’s growth in popularity. Did you know, for instance, that the 19th century’s favorite flavor was artichoke? Though not required, guests are encouraged to reserve spaces in advance.

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Cheap Drink Deals at Cubana Social, SingL Lounge, Johnny’s Bar, and St. Dymphna’s

If a weekend full of shopping for others has cleaned you out, why not treat yourself to a cheap drink? We have a fresh round-up of spots where you can find one.

Cubana Social, 70 North 6th Street, Brooklyn

Cuban eats, rum, and live music are a good way to mentally escape the cold — and it helps when you can do so affordably. From 3 to 7 p.m., beers like Modelo Especial are $3 while select wine and cocktails are $5. Pair your drink to a little food; consider taking advantage of the two-for-$5 empanada deal as well as $5 fried pickles and other small bites.

SingL Lounge, 80 East 13th Street

One of the best parts about the holidays is that seasonal drinks that come but once a year. From 4 to 6:30 p.m., this Union Square cocktail lounge is offering 20 percent off any holiday drink, such as the Naughty or Nice, a mix of gin, vodka, Chartreuse, and lemon. The offer is available daily throughout the month of December.

Johnny’s Bar, 90 Greenwich Avenue

This West Village dive continues to attract a crowd with its multiple weekday happy hour specials. From noon to 3 p.m., there’s a buy-two-get-one-drink-free special. If you don’t get a long lunch break, there’s also an after work special from 3 to 7 p.m., which nets you well drinks for $4.25. The bar features a shot of the day, too.

St. Dymphna’s, 118 St. Marks Place

From noon to 8 p.m. daily, drafts are $4 each at this neighborhood Irish pub. The current line-up includes heavy hitters like Spaten Oktoberfest, Boddingtons, and Stella Artois, though the ambiance may just put you in the mood to order a good old Guinness. There’s also plenty of pub grub like bangers and mash should you find yourself hungry after multiple pints.

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Kill City

“There are those who kill violently!” the tagline to Abel Ferrara’s 1979 grindhouse flick proclaims, as though we were expecting something called The Driller Killer to portray a kinder, gentler breed of psychopath. The director starred in this gory New York classic set amid counter-cultural enclaves in a pre-yuppie-grocery-store–dominated Union Square. So what finally sets off the power-tool–toting maniac in question? Oh, you know, rent hikes, noisy neighbors, roommate troubles—the usual stuff. Ferrara, as a Travis Bickle-esque moral renegade always harping on about the “derelicts,” captures the Big Apple at its most rotten, but also at its most deliciously seedy. He appears in person for a Q&A after this special screening with trivia, prizes, drink specials, and music by DJ Bones.

Thu., Oct. 10, 9:30 p.m., 2013

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Mulberry Project’s Rael Petit on Foie Gras Gin and Bespoke Cocktails

Behind a carousel of plastic sunglasses and cotton scarves, sandwiched between old Italian eateries, is a dark, unassuming door that leads to Mulberry Project. This speakeasy forgoes menus to instead list seasonal ingredients and choices of base spirits on blackboards, which are hung on the walls around the dimly lit, red-accented space. “What mood are you in?” servers ask. “What flavor profile do you prefer? Sweet, sour, dry, fruity, or spicy?” From there, the bartenders take charge, creating custom cocktails for eager patrons. We called up partner and mixologist Rael Petit to learn a bit more about what inspires him when crafting cocktails and where he goes to get a drink away from his underground hideaway.

How did you become interested in mixology? Rael Petit: I started bartending at the Coffee Shop in Union Square around 10 years ago, and then I worked at several other places, and every time I was bartending, people always asked, “Can you just make something up for me?” So over the years, I’ve been making up cocktails. In time you get confident about it; you pretty much know what you’re doing even if you’re making something that you’ve never done before. You have an idea already in your head of what it will taste like.

What’s your favorite cocktail that you’ve created? I’m actually gluten intolerant, but I enjoy making this one cocktail with beer. It’s a very strange thing for someone who can’t drink it. It’s basically burned rosemary, some ginger, some gin, some Lillet Blanc, and I top it off with a little bit of beer.

What is the most useful but often overlooked cocktail ingredient? There are so many different kinds of liquors and mixes that you can use. A lot of people are scared to use absinthe or chartreuse. What I usually do with absinthe is burn it to make the taste smoother; it makes it taste tea-based.

What do you drink at home? I make a lot of bacon cocktails. I did a foie gras gin, which was a little crazy. I created it for a bar in Hong Kong. I first made foie gras, used the fat from the foie gras and fat-washed the gin with it. I have it in my fridge at home for personal consumption. I use it to make a bramble. A bramble is usually just gin, simple syrup, lemon, and jam, so it’s like eating foie with jam, but it’s a little complicated because you have to make the foie gras from scratch for the fat.

What’s your post-work go-to drink? After work I’m likely to drink Fernet Branca or green Chartreuse just straight. I’m a big fan of Chartreuse because of the herbs in the liquor. It’s a liquor made by monks, and it has around 70 different herbs. It’s a secret recipe by three monks who make it, and each monk doesn’t know what the other one is doing.

What’s your favorite cocktail someone else has created? Where do you go to get a drink? I go to Williamsburg, Maison Premiere or Dram. I usually go to Maison Premiere for the $1 oysters. It’s a bartender thing. The cocktails are really good. They do a variation menu of mint juleps, and I always choose a different one. And the bartender knows me there so he gives me some VEP Chartreuse.

Recipe: Rosemary Ginger Beer by Rael Petit

Ingredients

1 fresh rosemary leaf, plus 1 sprig for garnish

1 thin slice fresh ginger

1 1/2 ounces Fords gin

1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc

1 ounce simple syrup

1 ounce lemon juice

1 teaspoon orange blossom water

1 tangerine

Ice

Peroni beer

Directions

Burn a rosemary leaf in the bottom of a glass, and cover to keep the smoke in. In a shaker, muddle the ginger. Add the gin, Lillet Blanc, simple syrup, lemon juice, and orange blossom water. Squeeze half a tangerine into the mix. Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain in a glass with a little ice and top with some Peroni beer. Garnish with remaining tangerine half and a sprig of rosemary. Makes 1 cocktail.

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Supporters Skeptical but Hopeful for Justice in Travon Martin Case on Anniversary of Murder

A year removed from the murder of 17-year-old Travon Martin, hundreds of supporters took to Union Square yesterday, carrying candles and wearing hoodies, to stand in solidarity alongside Martin’s parents on the anniversary of his death.

They demanded justice for Martin in the case against George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watchman who shot and killed the unarmed teenager in a gated community where Martin’s father lived in Sanford, Fl. While demands for justice were loud and fierce, many in attendance acknowledged that the justice they’d like to see for Martin’s death may never materialize if solely left up to the legal system.

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“Jail time, that’s justice, nothing less,” Nicholas Heyward Sr., whose teenage son was killed by a rookie NYPD officer nearly 18 years ago, told the Voice. “The way that this system has operated in the past with all these other cases, I don’t see any justice really coming out of that Zimmerman case.”

His son, Nicholas Heyward Jr., was a 13-year-old honor student whom NYPD Housing Officer Brian George shot dead in the stairwell of a building at their home in the Gowanus Houses in Brooklyn. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes never indicted George, and his office concluded that the shooting occurred because George witnessed Heyward Jr. playing with a realistic-looking toy gun, (a plastic pop gun), in a darkly lit area, and reacted in a split-second in fear for his life

Hynes refused to reopen the case after glaring conflicts emerged between the DA office’s official report and a deposition given by George two years later. Heyward Sr. says he’s written and petitioned, to no avail over the years, to multiple mayors, police commissioners, and other public officials to review the case.

“My thing is that after 18 years of protesting, it’s time for the people to organize and take these matters to the streets because there’s no way that I can see we’re going to get justice in the court system,” Heyward said. “I’m hoping for the sake of the people that it does.”

Just as George eluded punishment under the pretenses of a justified homicide, Zimmerman maintains that he shot Martin in self-defense. The murder occurred when Martin was heading back to his dad’s house from a 7-Eleven, carrying a pack of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea while talking on the phone with his girlfriend. Zimmerman pegged Martin as suspicious, alerted police, then proceeded to defy police advisement not to pursue Martin on his own, leading to an encounter that resulted in the murder of Martin.

“Being black is not a crime. Being brown is not a crime. Being poor is not a crime. Wearing a hoodie is not a crime. Having Skittles is not a crime. Having iced tea is not a crime. Living is not a crime,” City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who’s been outspoken against racial profiling and the NYPD’s practice of stop-and-frisk, said during yesterday’s rally. “Waiting a year for justice is a crime. Having to have uproar, just for an indictment is a crime.”

Williams was alluding to the fact that it took a massive outcry just to get the police to press charges against Zimmerman, who was permitted to go home on the night of the murder. Actor Jamie Foxx also showed up to lend support for the family and expressed equal bewilderment that Zimmerman wasn’t immediately charged.

Travon Martin's parents Tracy Martin (far left in blue with hoodie up) and Sybrina Fulton (left in black) during last night's vigil.

“All we’re asking [for] is simplicity . . . allow the court system to work,” Foxx said. “The things that baffled me the most is that someone can take someone else’s life and go home.”

Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, thanked those at the rally and others around the country for their support — while unofficially declaring February 26 Hoodies Up Day.

“It’s a sober day for us . . . It seems like yesterday that Travon was here. The wounds have not been healed but we’re working towards healing [them], and we just want you all to know that we appreciate all the love and support,” Martin’s father said. “Continue to stay with us . . . until the day I die it will be Hoodies Up Day for me.”

Zimmerman is set to stand trial on second-degree murder charges in June. Councilman Williams urged the powers-that-be to bring justice in the Martin case and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD to finally clean up the culture of racial profiling and police brutality that has long stained the department’s ranks.

“We want justice and we want it now,” Williams said. “Dr. King said riots [are] the language of the unheard. We are unheard . . . So, please us hear while we’re calm because unheard people do things to be heard.”

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Union Square Greenmarket in Winter

Deals are to be had on designer garlic.

Austere are the pleasures of area farmers’ markets in winter, and the mother of them all, the Union Square Greenmarket, is no exception. The number of vendors has shrunk by about half, as have the number of pedestrians making their way through the L-shaped parking lot — making shopping more of a pleasure, especially for those who favor seasonal and local eating .

The stock of summer and fall vegetables has been largely decimated, and supplies of tomatoes, broccoli, and brussels sprouts have given way to root vegetables, alliums, and hardy fruits. Indeed, apples, pears, carrots, onions, garlic, and kohlrabi now share space with vendors hawking dairy products, meats, and wines from Long Island.

Here are some pictures taken in the Union Square Greenmarket right before sunset yesterday.

Don’t go away empty-handed.

Carrots are everywhere…

…and so are sweet-fleshed apples and pears.

Wine tasting is a popular pastime.

Lining up to buy goat meat and goat yogurt

Potatoes and parsnips are the stars of the show.

In the winter Greenmarket, find plenty of elbow room.