CB1 Tribeca Committee: The Unofficial Minutes (May 2014)

A rep from the Friends of BoGard reminded everyone that the group is hosting its second (of two) public design meetings about its plans to convert the plaza and garden into a unified park. Landscape architect Signe Nielsen will bring three proposals based on input from the last meeting. It’s Tuesday, May 27, at 6:30 p.m. at Manhattan Youth’s Downtown Community Center.

There has been a push for increased security at Hudson River Park—specifically, officers stationed in those little boxes where you’re not allowed to tap on the glass. The committee was shown a draft resolution, but evidently the Hudson River Park Trust isn’t feeling the notion.

Community Board 1’s land-use expert, Michael Levine, made a presentation about sidewalk-café regulations. (His slides are shown at left.) It turns out that when the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs gives CB1 an application to review, the application has already been deemed as meeting the DCA’s minimum requirements—so there’s no point in questioning whether the tables are too close to the curb, or whatever. In regard to the DCA, or so we learned last night, CB1 has no leverage with restaurateurs, and what’s more, pretty much every street in Tribeca—except for a big, bustling one like Broadway—is zoned to allow sidewalk seating. If CB1 disagrees vehemently with an application, perhaps because the restaurant has been noisy, it can recommend that the City Council (which approves every application) reject it. This has not happened often. But restaurants must also apply for a separate liquor license for outdoor seating, and that—from what I can tell—is where CB1 still has major influence. (Liquor licenses are under the jurisdiction of the State Liquor Authority.)

A rep from 60 Hudson (a.k.a. the Western Union Building) was called onto the carpet to respond to various complaints. The main ones involved the sidewalk shed, which has been up for a long time, and construction noise. The rep from owner Colliers International, Shaun Mooney, explained that the sidewalk shed is not there for any current work, and there was no set date to take it down—there might be work in the future, and reassembling it is expensive. (So just leave it up forever?!) The committee pointed out that perhaps they could absorb the cost as a gesture to the community. As for noise, there recently have been variances for after-hours work, but beyond that, I couldn’t follow the complaints or the answers—the discussion devolved considerably, with committee members and residents shouting questions and muttering complaints, while Mooney stood there, occasionally offering an answer when he had a chance. Lynn Ellsworth of Tribeca Trust suggested that Colliers reinstall storefronts, move the louvered flues up above street level, and reopen the beautiful lobby. Mooney said he’d mention the lobby to management, and (I think) that the flues are in the (long) process of being moved, as a central cooling system is installed. He also agreed to communicate with CB1 (which will disperse the info) about upcoming construction work. The building, it turns out, is only 70% full, so more work is undoubtedly on its way. One more thing: Evidently there is often loud noise coming from the servers or data stacks or whatever is in there, and Colliers wipes its hands of the problem, saying it’s just the landlord. Mooney said he’d mention to Verizon and Telx, the two main tenants responsible, to see if they want to open a dialogue. Why CB1 doesn’t start that dialogue itself went unmentioned. By the way, this video goes inside 60 Hudson, if you’re curious and you can handle the NPR pace.

The manager has bought the restaurant; nothing is changing but the name (from MaryAnn’s to Dahlia’s). Vote: 8-0.

No changes. Vote: 8-0.

After a few minutes figuring out which business was being discussed—it didn’t help that the agenda said it was “Balcony Café”—Jacob from Church Publick explained that he’d like to put 13 two-tops on Reade. He pointed out that the restaurant/bar has been a good neighbor, and as a Tribecan himself, he has no interest in riling up the community. The committee was concerned that Church Publick is both popular and loud (inside), and even though several members said they’ve enjoyed the place, they had reservations about allowing outdoor seating till midnight (Sunday through Thursday) and 1 a.m. (Friday and Saturday). They also wanted fewer tables, but Jacob didn’t budge, instead suggesting earlier hours—10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Vote: 8-0.

You may recall that Tribeca Trust was applying for a Department of Transportation program to expand Finn Square in a to-be-determined way. The DOT rejected it for this year, telling the group to reapply next year and suggesting it test the concept with a one-day plaza. So on Saturday, June 14, Varick between Franklin and Leonard will be closed to cars. (That’s the block that Square Diner and Transit Trading Corp. are on.) “GET OFF OF MY LAWN!” yelled the member who strongly opposes the closing of any street; he then accused Tribeca Trust of not being upfront about its plans to eventually get that block of Varick or the corresponding one on W. Broadway closed. (W. Broadway poses a problem because Con Edison needs access to its substation.) But this one-day plaza is a done deal: The DOT doesn’t need CB1 approval to close a street.

The restaurant’s lawyer told CB1 that he’d be attending, but he didn’t, so the committee felt it had no choice but to reject the renewal application—but since the restaurant went around it last time, any change seems unlikely. Vote to deny: 6-0-2 (abstentions).

There’s going to be a “four-star boutique hotel” at the ten-story 396 Broadway (southeast corner of Walker)—or so said the manager, but bear in mind that the branding wasn’t announced and owner Atit Jariwala’s two other properties are Wyndham Garden Hotels (20 Maiden Lane and 37 W. 24th St.). The application for a hotel liquor license includes inside the 125 rooms, in a 500-square-foot bar in the subcellar (sounds dank), a 2,500-square-foot restaurant and bar on the ground floor, and an 800-square-foot roof deck. Now, seeing as how rooftop bars are both rare around here and controversial to CB1’s Tribeca Committee and to neighboring residents, you’d think the agenda might have mentioned it, if only so that the committee members could have wandered over to see what effect it might have on the surroundings; instead, they complain that no one gives them photos. Then they yell about how they never allow rooftop bars, and how this would be a terrible precedent to set—forgetting that they approved a rooftop bar on Lispenard just seven months ago. The hotel plans on applying for a cabaret license (for weddings and similar events), which further rattled members’ cage. It was determined that CB1’s FiDi Committee often breaks hotel applications into parts, and here’s what the Tribeca Committee came up with: 4 a.m. (Friday and Saturday) for in-room service; 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. for the restaurant and bar; and no liquor and no music on the roof. Vote: 5-1-1. P.S. As you can see from the plans—click to enlarge—the hotel entrance will be on Walker; there will be a “café” on Broadway; and the ground-floor restaurant and subcellar bar appear to have an entrance on Cortlandt Alley. (The cellar level restaurant space is for back-of-house use.) The hotel manager and the committee were under the impression that there’s no residential on that block of Broadway, which I don’t believe is true. Furthermore, while most nearby buildings are much smaller, the equally tall (if not taller) 395 Broadway, which is residential, is across the street from the hotel.

Folks, we hit the two-hour mark and I was fried. So I left, because I could only imagine that the committee would have the same discussion over and over. I learned this morning that Tre Sorelle was approved for 20 seats. I wish—not really!—I could’ve been there to hear the discussion, because CB1 Tribeca Committee has not historically been OK with sidewalk cafés on side streets, unless they’re on loading docks (which don’t need their approval) or they sneaked their way in (see Smith & Mills above).

Approved for 14 seats.

This no doubt passed unanimously, unless something dramatic is changing, which is unlikely, because the area is so small.

My guess is that Sushi of Gari had no problem, because it’s on a corner.

See Sushi of Gari, above.

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  1. Does that mean that the sidewalk cafe for Church Publick was approved? Will it be on Reade (a side street) or on Church? By the way, the comments from “Jacob” are not true — Church Publick is not a good neighbor. They tell their patrons not to smoke in front of the restaurant but to move down the block and smoke in front of residential buildings. I live on that block just down from Church Publick and there are often several people sitting and standing outside my purely residential building smoking. When I confronted the unwanted smokers, several have said that the individuals from Church Publick asked them not to smoke in front of the restaurant and to move in front of other buildings.T here has also been a significant increase in late night noise, garbage on the block and other unsightly things (ever smell that phone booth?) since Church Publick opened. Church Publick clean up your act and stop telling people to smoke in front of other buildings.

    • Yes, the tables will be on Reade. I don’t know Jacob, but he said he was willing to give his cell number to anyone who had issues—so you might contact the place to see if you can get in touch to talk about the smokers.

  2. 60 Hudson really is a caricature of the corporate villain that plunders the public realm at every opportunity. Not content with assaulting the neighborhood’s senses with deafening noise and polluting the air we breathe with toxic fumes, they are now annexing the sidewalk and defacing the streetscape with a sidewalk shed they don’t even need. The grande finale will be when they ignite the tons of fuel stored inside and blow everything up. Thank you, 60 Hudson!