In the midst of a medley of stores, bodegas, and warehouses in Bushwick lies a little patch of farmland. Surrounded by a liquor store and a smoke shop, Oko Farm has an entrance as nondescript as you can get. The fence does little to justify the haven that lies behind the shack that spans the length of the lot. But look carefully and you may notice the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation sign and a tattered laminated diagram —the only indicator of the aquaponics farm within.


gem-spa-st-marks-place-east-village-james-and-karla-murray-storefront-photography-nyc-001Photo by James and Karla Murray, as seen in the book Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York

On Sunday, October 9th at 12pm, Untapped Cities will host the tour STOREFRONT: A HISTORIC EAST VILLAGE FOOD TOUR, led by photographers and authors James and Karla Murray. This visit will cover the  food, history and diverse culture of the East Village while tasting delicious specialties from at least 6 different tasting stops.

Below, James and Karla have written a piece for us about one of those stops, Gem Spa:

On the Storefront: Historic East Village Food Tour, one of the many small businesses we will stop and sample a drink from is the newsstand/candy store Gem Spa, located on Second Avenue at the corner of St. Mark’s Place. Gem Spa was originally called “Gems Spa” and was founded in 1957 by Ruby Silverstein and his partner Harold Shepard. In an interview in 1969 with New York Magazine, Ruby explained that the name “Gems” comes from a combination of the initial letters of Gladys, Etta, Miriam, and Silverstein-Shepard. The three ladies used in deriving the name were his wife, his partner’s ex-wife, and his partner’s current wife. The “Spa” is a word that he says was picked up when he was overseas in the service.


Bel Aire Diner, a stand-alone diner in Astoria

In New York City, where office buildings and apartment complexes jet into the sky, a stand-alone diner is a rare sight to come by. Their vintage storefronts and neon lights easily stand out amongst the industrial gray that’s so characteristic of the city, but they’ve become quite the novelty over the years.

To clear room for real estate development, many establishments have been forced to shut down, as evidenced by the recent closure of Market Diner in Hell’s Kitchen (Moondance, Cheyenne and the Lost Diner have also disappeared over the years). So when Empire Diner, located on the corner of 22nd St. and 10th Avenue, covered up its windows in 2015, it seemed like New York City had lost yet another classic, all-American eatery. That was before we learned about its comeback in November. With the good news came a small glimmer of hope that the stand-alone diner would continue to remain a fixture on New York City streets. Here are 10 you can still visit:


2016-nyc-diner-en-blanc-robert-f-wagner-park-jr-the-battery-nycAll photos of 2016 Dîner en Blanc by @ericlau_street and @untappedmich

In the sixth iteration of the New York City Diner en Blanc, almost 4800 guests converged onto Robert F. Wagner Park, just north of The Battery. From the main party area between Pier A and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the pop-up white dinner extends into the gardens, grasses and waterfront walkways of Robert F. Wagner Park, named after Democratic senator who originally hailed from Germany. The views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty on this clear day were simply stunning and possibly for the first time in the history of the dinner in New York City, the weather was comfortably cool.


Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetImage via The Fish Site

New York City is a bustling metropolitan of skyscrapers, subways, and cabs, best known for its dazzling skyline, scintillating night scene, and frenzied streets. And yet, amidst this motley of buildings, infrastructure, and city life, where nature seems sparse and difficult to come by, lies a multitude of indoor farms and gardens—a means of respite for those seeking nature, and an uncommonly known alternative agriculture scene.



In 2015, Empire Diner, the iconic dining establishment in Chelsea, shut down after its second failed attempt at revival. The windows of the restaurant are now covered in paper, but it’s slated to return under new management in November. On Monday, we saw the doors open briefly with some activity inside, and we attended the liquor license hearing yesterday to get more details on the new iteration.