We previously discussed the demise of my favorite New York deli, Carnegie. After roughly 80 years, the deli closed despite a huge following of supporters. It was a New York icon ruined by the daughter of its late owner and her truly repellent husband. The result is that the now divorced couple ran one of the most successful restaurants into the ground — and with it the vision of her father (and arguably the best Matzo Ball Boup in the city).
The undoing of Carnegie began with an alarming discovery by Con Edison. Con Edison reported that its crews discovered a diverted line running to Carnegie while looking for a leak. These inspections have been increased in the aftermath of an explosion in the East Village that killed two people. An illegal gas line tap is suspected. What is astonishing is that I could not find evidence that anyone, including the former manager Sanford Levine or the second-generation owner of the deli, Marian Harper Levine, being charged criminally. This would seem an obvious crime worth thousands of dollars that put lives in obvious jeopardy. Yet, the only discussion appears to be a fine in the media. In the meantime, an elderly couple was living above the deli without heat or utilities for months with winter approaching.
It then got even more seedy. Sanford Levine, who was denounced by a judge as the “shyster of smoked meat,” was found to have been ripping off the minimum wage workers at the deli and paying them the equivalent to $2.50 a hour rather than $15. The restaurant recently settled the dispute for $2.65 million.
Then it came out that Sanford Levine, who married the daughter of the founder of the deli (Marian Harper), was having an affair with his manager who was accused of sending meat and recipes to her restaurant connections in the Philippines. Levine reportedly allowed her to live above the deli at a low rent while their affair was going on.
Justice Matthew Cooper slammed both telling that Sanford and Marian Levine were not worth his concern or sympathy. In the meantime, Sanford pursued Marian for $11,000 per month in support during their divorce. Cooper asked “Does Mr. Levine have no shame?” and added that “In the name of profit, Mr. Levine would toy with the safety of the people of New York City. . . . (He’s a) rapacious person who not only deprived workers of their livelihood – guys who cut the meat and washed the dishes . . . Even worse he steals gas from Con Edison and endangers not only anyone who came to the building but anyone in Midtown Manhattan!”
Marian Harper reportedly said that the restaurant was simply taking too much of her time and she wanted to enjoy her life. She is moving however to license the brand and sell products for wholesale distribution. In the meantime, her father’s great success has been left in ashes and, worse yet, thousands will be left without the over-sized corned beef and signature Matzo Ball soup.
I still have not found a substitute for my deli fix in New York despite years of trying. The number of Jewish delis (one of the icons of the city) have been falling in New York for years — due to changing diets and perhaps a declining cultural identification with the traditional dishes). I was particularly found of the soup and would not miss the deli on visits to New York. Now I am left a deli orphan.