We had a chat with Lovie Pignata, resident of the Pelham Parkway area who is trying to get a storefront at Brady Court rezoned back to commercial so that she can open up Morris Perk, a cafe that offers so much more than your simple cup of joe.
The storefront in question was once a diner owned by Robert Abrams’ parents, former Bronx Borough President from 1970-1979 and from 1979 until 1993 served as the New York State Attorney General. Since the space has been empty for so long, it has gone back to its original residential zoning so now Pignata has to convince City Planning and Zoning as well as Community Board 11 members to change the zoning to allow for the cafe.
‘An artist and small business owner promoting the beauty of the Bronx.’
In her own words, Lovie Pignata tells us her story:
“I moved to Brady Court in Pelham Parkway in 2001. I was born in Staten Island, lived in Westchester and Putnam counties as well as North Carolina and Oklahoma. I moved back to New York in 1994 to attend Pratt Institute as a sculpture major. I bought my co-op apartment in the Bronx when my Fort Greene, Brooklyn landlord ran me out of my apartment so he could jack up the rent! I’m so glad I left Brooklyn when I did.
“I have never lived anywhere as long as I have lived here in the Bronx. It feels more like home than anywhere I have ever lived and while I am not officially aligned with any particular cause or group, I participate and attend many Bronx events. The Bronx River Flotilla, sponsored by the Bronx River Alliance, walking tours with the East Bronx History forum and I have done plenty of exploring on my own.
“I have worked in many industries, the majority of them were small businesses. I have never been involved in the beginning of the process so I am acquiring a new respect for the previous small business owners I have worked for. About 10 years of my experience was in restaurants. Waitress, bartender, manager, line cook, barista, dishwasher–if someone didn’t show up, I was always the person thrown in to cover the position for a shift. My most recent work history was a project manager at a home automation company. We designed and installed high end audio video equipment and the hardware that would control the lights, shades, security, home theater, etc. It was a small exclusive company and I learned so much in 12 years but it wasn’t very rewarding.
“I left there to work at another technology firm but unbeknownst to me, they were in financial trouble and realized they couldn’t afford a new employee so I was let go after 5 months. Since being laid off in May, I have been utilizing all the available small business help the city has to offer, working on my artwork and my business plan. I’ve made so many wonderful connections that I didn’t have time to make when I was working long hours in Manhattan.
“While Morris Perk is technically in Pelham Parkway, I thought Morris Perk sounded like a better name overall and will include vendors from Morris Perk. The name is also a throwback to the sitcom Friends’ where they all lived in the village somewhere but went to a coffee shop there named ‘Central Perk’.
Morris Perk, Inc. & 754-768 Brady Owners Corporation are seeking community approval to rezone the storefront space located on the corner of Antin Place and Holland Avenue. Because this commercial space has been empty for over 30 years, the NYC Planning office reverted the space to residential status and it cannot be rented and generate income for 754-768 Brady Owners Corporation until it is rezoned. A start-up business, Morris Perk, is interested in renovating and renting the space.
Morris Perk will provide superior coffee and espresso beans from around the globe, roasted locally and brewed and sold in our store. Morris Perk also offers a selection of coffee shop favorites like bagels and pastries, homemade lemonade, as well as daily specials for breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. We are dedicated to the Bronx’s diverse and changing customers and their needs. From the local school children, to the commuters leaving the Bronx for the day, as well as the senior citizen community, Morris Perk intends on being flexible in their offerings to accommodate our customers and the community that surrounds us. Morris Perk is dedicated to utilizing as many local Bronx vendors, employees & products as possible.
Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.