Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick knows from experience how hard the pandemic has hit small businesses. He arrived in New York from Ohio over 20 years ago and lives in Hell’s Kitchen with his young daughter, Artemis.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I moved to NYC over 20 years ago. It was the year before 9/11, and I came here for opportunities that a Queer, Black, 19-year-old wouldn’t find in Cleveland, Ohio.
For the past 16 years I’ve been a small business operator in District 3, and I’m also a single dad to an amazing 4-year-old daughter named Artemis. Just a few months before I moved to NYC, the day before my 19th birthday, my father who was black, and openly gay, was targeted and murdered outside of a gay bar. NYC meant a fresh start for me, like so many other New Yorkers.
How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
My daughter has another dad, he’s an amazing and wonderful parent, but we weren’t working out as a couple. So my daughter and I moved from the West Village to Hell’s Kitchen. TMI? Probably, but I’m sure I’m not the only co-parenter in the neighborhood…Parenting is the most important, wonderful and hardest job in the world, and I can honestly say we are killin’ it in the dad department.
What’s your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?
Most New Yorkers, after a certain amount of time living in the City, claim the right to be annoyed by tourists, but I love being so close to Times Square. Seeing families (especially now) take pictures, to see their excited faces, to be in the most exciting city in the world only reminds me of my first day stepping off that Greyhound bus so many years ago.
And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?
Overdevelopment. For-profit real estate has a hold over our district, especially here in Hell’s Kitchen. The construction is never-ending, and at the end of the day, I’m washing off more concrete dust than anything.
Did you stay put when the pandemic hit or did you find an escape for some of the time?
Here the whole time. My daughter spent a week and a half with her grandma and Aunt Skyler in Jacksonville, but as a small biz operator, getting my stores and my employees back to work was my number one priority.
What did you do for work pre-COVID? What are you doing now?
Beach Bum Tanning. 17 years and counting. I lost my store in Chelsea after almost 13 years. That was devastating for me and the employees who worked in that location. Which is one of the biggest reasons I’m running for City Council now. I reached out to Corey Johnson’s office for months, with no reply. I assumed they were helping other small business operators, instead, he and Erik were fundraising hundreds of thousands to secure themselves jobs while the rest of us were losing ours.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned during the pandemic?
That the safety nets we all just assume are here for us really are a false sense of security. There are so many of us who do not feel that they have a voice. Who think their worries aren’t taken into consideration, and it’s local government’s responsibility to include all of our community members into conversations about the well-being of our city home.
Tell us one thing that’s given you hope during the pandemic?
That my daughter still loves me, even though for the past year trying to get my stores open, working 60 hours-a-week, running for this city council seat, I’ve been just a little distracted. I’m hoping when she’s older she will understand that this was worth the sacrifice, win or lose. That If you care enough about something, you can do anything you want. Even without a college degree.
What’s the most serendipitous (random/obscure/ insane) experience that’s happened to you in Hell’s Kitchen?
It was actually Chelsea, sorry. I was in Sleepys testing out new mattresses before the pandemic with my bestie. I was lying on a very comfy Tempur-Pedic I couldn’t afford when someone laid down next to me. It was Alec Baldwin. He’s a funny guy.
What’s your closest brush with world fame and celebrity?
I’m sort of a world famous spray tanner, lol. I’ve airbrushed just about every A-list celeb you could think of, but Chris Pratt has been a client for years, and he thanked me before his wife during an acceptance speech. That was exciting, and ridiculous.
What’s your superpower?
What song do you sing at the top of your voice in the shower?
Which people inspire you the most?
Everyday people. Moms and Dads and Grandparents, raising kids, working like dogs, surviving day to day just like me, all to live in the most overpriced, crowded, stressful and wonderful place in the world.
What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”
Do you love Times Square? Why, or why not?
Even when I’m stuck in rush hour, I still kind of love it..
Do you love Hudson Yards? Why, or why not?
I can’t afford to shop there, let alone live there. I think Hudson Yards was a real missed opportunity at true affordable housing.
If you could bring one thing (person/place/event) back to HK that is no longer around, what would it be?
Every small business that has closed, because, just like me, they reached out for help with no response. Even before the pandemic, small businesses were suffering at the hands of greedy landlords and insane rent. The pandemic was just the gasoline on a fire that’s been burning for decades.
HELL’S KITCHEN HAPPY PLACES
44&X (W45th & 10th Ave)
The Shortribs, and the Cosmo. Not too sweet, just the right amount of citrus.
Tulcingo Del Valle (10th Ave between W46/47th St)
Frozen Margaritas and Nachos. We are talking Nachos here.
Thriftway Drugs (10th Ave and W46th St)
Prior Authorizations are no match for the pharmacy staff.
Briciola (W51st and 9th Ave)
Love the staff and the grilled octopus.
Clinton Community Garden (W48th bw 9/10th Ave)
I just received my first key. It feels very Notting Hill. Now I don’t have to throw Artie over and climb the fence. JK — sort of.
Hellcat Annie’s (W45th & 10th Ave)
Wings. Hot Wings. BBQ Wings. All the Wings?
Valla Table (Formerly Siri Thai — 10th Avenue between W45/46th St)
The Pad Thai, the fried rice, the spring rolls. I hope all the other candidates talked about food.
Ramon Aponte Playground (W47th St btw 8th & 9th Ave)
It makes Artemis happy — and when she’s happy, I’m happy.
Art of Fades (W47th & 10th Ave)
Tape up, shape Up. The best fade $25 can buy.