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Paying Rent

Lucy’s Is Being Evicted. Do the Landlords Care?

"It was an institution there, but I guess things come to an end at some time."

Exterior of Lucy's bar.

Lucy’s on February 7, 2024 (Hell Gate)

My favorite Lucy's memory happened around ten years ago on a Tuesday night. It was a little after 1 a.m., a dozen people perched on those red pleather barstools, chatting and sipping cans of PBR. The jukebox had gone silent, everyone was either too engrossed or too drowsy to put another dollar in. Voices burbled like a stream, occasionally interrupted by the smack of the cue ball to signal a new game. Cozy.

Suddenly, shouting. The two guys in leather jackets who were shooting pool clearly had a problem. They were playing at what my friends and I referred to as "the good table," because it had fewer rips and stains than the table closer to the bathrooms, and cost $1.50 instead of $1.00 (or was it $1.25?). But the table's condition and prominence also attracted the kind of people who'd take a game of pool a little too seriously.

Shoving ensued. Those of us awake enough to realize that one of us would have to stop the fight began exchanging worried glances. Then a voice rang out from behind the bar. 

"AHHEEE-YAH-YAH-YAH-YAH-YAH!" Owner Ludwika "Lucy" Mickevicius had grabbed a broom and in seconds, put herself between the two men. "No fighting! No fighting! Go home!"

The bar was silent for a beat. Then one of the leather jackets addressed the guy he was fighting: "Yeah man, come on, this is Lucy's." The rest of the bar growled in assent. "Yeah!" "Come on!" "Get the fuck outta here!"

The second leather jacket looked hurt, and confused—why was he being singled out instead of his opponent? It didn't make any sense, but it was too late. He looked around, registered that he was outnumbered, and slunk out. As soon as the door slammed shut, everyone cheered. Lucy poured shots of Polish vodka—she was taking care of her people yet again.

135-137 Avenue A, with Lucy's on the left and Rosella on the right (Hell Gate)

No one should feel shocked when a venerable institution gets priced out of the neighborhood, especially in the East Village. It happens with such regularity, you almost feel stupid for feeling sad. As if this is how the city has always worked, and that you are a fool to think otherwise. Don't be a cliché

But I would argue that getting upset about a dive bar (or a bagel shop) being evicted and replaced with a TD Bank or a luxury apartment—or even a shittier dive bar!—is one of the few universal rights that New Yorkers have. 

So it was with stupefying disbelief that I read reports that the building Lucy's occupied, 135-137 Avenue A, had been sold to a new landlord for $19 million, and that this new owner had served Lucy's an eviction notice. The people living in the 34 units of the building now also have a new landlord. (Rosella, the swanky sushi joint that occupies the other commercial space in the building next to Lucy's, hasn't responded to a request for comment.) 

We couldn't get ahold of Lucy herself, but in an exclusive interview with EV Grieve on Wednesday, Mickevicius said she didn't want to leave the bar that she has owned and operated since 1987, but that the new landlord had raised her monthly rent from $8,000 to an eye-watering $25,000. Her month-to-month lease wouldn't protect her. Barring a miracle, she'd have to be out by February 29. 

"I don't think about this now, a new location, because I'm not finished here," she told EV Grieve. "I would like to sell the business or have a reduced role, a partnership."

Why was this happening? Well, we all know why. Money. 

Still, I wanted to know if the landlords involved in the sale of Lucy's building knew what their real estate transaction had wrought, that they were, directly and indirectly, responsible for killing something special.

Peter Herrick, the previous owner of the building, told Hell Gate that he found out that Lucy was being evicted from the EV Grieve coverage, and that the buyer hadn't said anything about their plans for the space.

Property records show that Herrick purchased the building in July of 1977 for $72,500—or around $364,000 in 2023 dollars.

"I sold my building to retire so I'm not being aggravated all the time for the first time in 50 years," Herrick said. "I have a little bit of freedom."

Initially, Herrick questioned my reason for calling. "I dunno what the big fuss is. Lucy could hardly walk, she's in her mid-80s to 90s, I dunno what she's trying to do," he said (Mickevicius was 70 in 2012, according to a Times profile from that year). Herrick added that he was "more than fair" to her as a landlord, and that he didn't raise her rent for a decade.

"She's a nice lady and I had her for many years, I never had any trouble with her," Herrick said. "It was an institution there, but I guess things come to an end at some time."

We asked Herrick if he had anything planned for retirement. "I don't know yet," he replied. "I'm still filing this paper and that with the City, telling them I don't own [the building], so I don't get any more garbage tickets."

Property records show that the buyer of the building was an LLC called West Lake 135-139 Avenue A LLC on behalf of James Ryan III, who runs a real estate investment firm called RYCO Capital.

In addition to his own New York City real estate business, Ryan also helps manage RYCO Management, a real estate firm based in Rochester, according to his LinkedIn profile. That firm was founded by his grandfather, James Ryan Sr., and also employs his father, James Ryan Jr., per a 2018 press release that begins with the sentence, "Following in father’s footsteps has been a tradition in the James Ryan family."

The release notes that all three generations of men named James Ryan played football at the same public high school in Rochester, though James Ryan III played lacrosse once he arrived at Yale.

Reached by telephone, we asked James Ryan III why he was evicting Lucy's.

"They don't have a lease," he responded.

What would he say to people who are upset that he's evicting a legendary East Village bar?

"Everyone's entitled to their own opinion."

That's it?

"Yep. Thanks Chris."


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