Historic, but not famous

Alfredo Thiebaud (December 13, 1939 – September 19, 2014) was the founder and president of Delicioso Coco Helado, known for its coconut flavored ices. He was born in Honduras in 1939. By the 1960s he had immigrated to the Bronx and opened the business that recreated a dessert popular in Latin America and the Caribbean. The business started in the kitchen of his  apartment. He would eventually added more flavors such as cherry and mango.

Alfredo employed workers and supplied vendors with pushcarts that he built himself in his factory basement. These employees became his family, as well as the Bronx community and the organizations that he supported. He often donated his icy treats to neighborhood festivals and borough events. He was known for never saying no to anyone, remaining in the Bronx and selling ices on the streets even during the worst years when most people and companies were fleeing the area.

Mr. Thiebaud’s faith in the Bronx had helped revitalize a declining neighborhood and provided thousands of families with much-needed jobs over the years. He died at the factory he loved after an accident with an electric security gate.

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Historic, but not famous

Samuel Cocks, grocer, builder of Grove Court
Grove Court

One of my favorite places to show visitors to NYC is tiny beautiful Grove Court. First laid out in 1848, Grove Court is set off of Grove Street between Bedford and Hudson Streets in the West Village.  It is entered through an iron gate and its garden is decorated for every season.

In 1848, the merchant Samuel Stryker, who had been leasing the land from Trinity Church, sold to Samuel Cocks the backyards of numbers 6 and 8 Grove Street along with all of number 10.

Cocks was a partner in the law firm of Cocks & Brown, located nearby at 18 Grove Street.  At the time of the transaction, Cocks already owned a small strip of land to the East of 10 Grove Street, providing for the perfect passageway to his newly acquired lot.  According to the designation report for the Greenwich Village Historic District, “The present six connected houses on the rear of this lot were built for Cocks and finished in 1854;  It was not until 1921, when the lot was subdivided by Alentaur Realty and the six houses sold and altered individually, that Grove Court took on its present delightful appearance and name.”

Mr. Cocks left law practice and became a grocer in the area. The three-story Federal houses  were for the working class.  Mr. Cocks felt that by populating this enclave with working class people he would be guaranteed patronage of his store.  The alley was first known as “Pig’s Alley” or “Mixed Ale Alley,” a reference to the drinking habits of those living there.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that the homes were converted to 2 family homes and “spruced up” that the area began to change. The hope was that it would become an artists homestead. Instead, it became an enclave of single women who were teachers, office workers and widows.

Mr. Cocks could never have imagined the homes he built for tradesmen and laborers becoming some of the most sought after property in the West Village with one selling for $4.2million.

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Historic, but not famous

Sunny Balzano, bar owner

Mr. Balzano owned Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook Brooklyn. The bar became the center of the community in the area with Sunny overseeing the activity for 2+ decades.

Sunny was many things including a boxer, an aircraft mechanic, a jeweler, a spiritual pilgrim to the Far East, a classical actor, a landscape muralist, a painter leaning toward the avant-garde, a collagist, a guitarist aligned with Djangoism, and, eventually, a bartender. He became a bartender after taking over the bar in 1994 on the death of his uncle. When he took over, he decided the bar would only be open on Friday nights and run on the honor system.

Sunny encouraged music and theatre and performance of all varieties. It wasn’t long before the bar, purely through word of mouth, the magnetism of its owner, and the conspiratorial pleasure of visiting a practicing speakeasy, began drawing customers from everywhere in NYC and beyond. As he advanced in age, he left running the bar to his wife and worked on his drawings and paintings in the room upstairs from the bar he was born in and passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage in 201.

The bar remains open most nights of the week and all that can be done to preserve the ideas of Sunny are done. And the bar is directly across from the shore line where you can see one of the most beautiful views of the Sunset over the NY harbor in NYC.

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