Ink, among other things, once flowed at Tattoo Heaven Smoke Shop on East Second Street, both via the needles of in-house skin artists as well as their copy machine.
Here, customers could choose among many dazzling replica driver’s-license decals, including Delaware’s “Great Seal” and Michigan’s majestic moose, elk and eagle emblem.
Undercover cops picked up one of each state’s, according to court papers filed last month.
Police this winter also seized a slew of alleged do-it-yourself identification apparatuses at the tat shop: a Polaroid printer, two digital cameras and 55 blank cards backed with magnetic strips. In addition to the home ID kit, the cops also confiscated 134 glass pipes, 16 baggies of a “white powdery substance,” black metal knuckles and a sword.
Perhaps nothing evokes old New York quite like some sword-slinging shopkeeper, especially one so entangled in illicit commerce.
But after getting jabbed with one of the city’s cutting nuisance-property lawsuits, Tattoo Heaven’s landlord, Biligere Kripanidhi, may no longer feel for the underworld nostalgia.
The 500-square-foot alleged bogus-license boutique remains locked up behind steel shutters, pending a hearing on June 28. But don’t be surprised if a “for rent” sign appears outside the spray-painted storefront in coming weeks.
The New York Police Department’s continuing campaign to promote retail turnover has been kicking less desirable lessees to the curb all across the East Village and the Lower East Side, as condos and national retailers gain a greater foothold in the neighborhoods that once defined a grittier Gotham.
A realtor’s sign currently hangs outside the former 24-hour Bowery Video, where for just $5 a friendly neighborhood prostitute could have once settled into one of the venue’s comfy video booths for a night of brisk business.
Five times since January, court papers show, an undercover officer posing as a hooker (and not the other way around) slipped the video-store manager a fiver to let her set up shop in the back of 329 Bowery. On one particularly lusty night, she arrested five sex-seeking patrons in one hour.
Under a settlement agreement reached with city prosecutors this past April, landlord Vic N. Yau is finally allowed to reopen the place—without paying a fine—but only on the condition that the space is “not to be used to sell sexually explicit or operate private booths showing sexually explicit materials” for at least the next year.
Perhaps, in the interim, some sort of pop-up store could fill the void.
A similar prostitution sting further threatens to shake up the dicey tenancy situation at 17 Essex Street on the Lower East Side, which on June 4 also got slapped with court papers. The current signage on the building’s basement level, where the illicit transactions allegedly took place, reads “TL Driver’s Club, Inc.” But be sure to make yourself very clear, if someone answers the door, about whether you’re actually willing to drive stick.
Karma, a hookah bar on First Avenue near Third Street, has put its remaining leasehold, its two valid liquor licenses and its highly valuable indoor-smoking permit up for sale, after the current proprietors shelled out $10,000 in fines this past February to keep the bar afloat in the wake of three NYPD underage-drinking busts since 2006. The asking price is a hefty $475,000 for the keys and the smoking and drinking privileges; the monthly $13,000 rent is separate. Constant police presence: priceless.
Of course, it’s not all sex, drugs, booze and fake ID’s below East 14th Street. Trafficking in fake handbags remains one of the most common rackets.
All the way up on the sixth floor of 154 Grand Street in Soho, for instance, customers had come for cheap facsimiles of all the big brand names, as a spy for designer Louis Vuitton discovered this past spring.
The Paris-based company is among the most litigious when it comes to defending the integrity of its brand, suing the owners of seven separate Canal Street properties over rampant counterfeit retailing in Chinatown in 2005 alone.
More recently, this past May, police, acting in conjunction with Louis Vuitton’s own operatives, covertly purchased three bags purportedly made by Prada, Chanel and Gucci, for a combined sum of $110.
At those low prices, customers could probably afford to ignore the location’s numerous safety-code violations.
The cops, on the other hand, promptly shuttered the place, which, building inspectors noted, had been “illegally subdivided into eight cubicles used for purposes of engaging in retail sales to the general public,” court papers show.
Perfect move-in conditions for the next group of shady salespeople!