CB1 Tribeca Committee: The Unofficial Minutes (July 2016)

SIDEWALK-CAFÉ APPLICATION: 385 GREENWICH
There was no announcement, but I overheard that the proprietors of the restaurant opening at 385 Greenwich (formerly Ivy’s Bistro) withdrew their sidewalk-café application, at least for now.

PHYSICAL-CULTURE PERMIT: TRIBECA HEALTH & FITNESS
The longtime gym at 105-107 Chambers never realized it needed a physical-culture permit from the city, the way all businesses with showers do, so this was a legalization of something that already exists. Vote: 6-0.

LIQUOR-LICENSE APPLICATION: SERAFINA (113 READE)
The three founders (two pictured above) of the Serafina chain of Italian restaurants, whose names were muttered, charmed the committee mainly by following its guidelines: closing hours of midnight (Sunday through Thursday) and 1 a.m. (Friday and Saturday); background music only; putting the entrance on W. Broadway rather than Reade; and closing all doors and windows by 10 p.m., to mitigate noise. If they do apply for a sidewalk café, they will wait till the restaurant has been in operation for a year, and they were urged to understand now that the committee might request that the cafe be very small, given the tightness of that stretch of sidewalk (or at least what anyone can remember of it—it has been shrouded under plywood for so long). A neighbor worried that Serafina will add to the noise caused by patrons outside Sazón and, to a lesser extent, Ward III; a member of the committee complained of “oversaturation” of bars in the neighborhood. Another member disagreed, announcing, “This is the most vanilla, boring restaurant on earth. No offense!” Vote: 8-0.

STREET-ACTIVITY PERMIT: STREET FAIR ON WARREN ON SEPT. 16
Clearview Festival Productions would like to close Warren between Church and Broadway on Friday, September 16, for a street fair. It would be a benefit for Avenues for Justice, which helps juvenile offenders avoid jail time. Who would argue against such a worthy cause? I would, because this will be the third street fair on that block—my block—this year. (The first was June 24; the second is today.) Clearview is excited because this is one of its new Pop Up New York events, which try to bring something fresh and “curated” to the traditional dismal street-fair experience that we’ve all come to hate. The organizers said it would be primarily food, with the kind of vendors you’d find at Smorgasburg and picnic tables. Businesses on the block get “first priority” at participating in the event, paying a minimal fee (maybe $50). I don’t normally speak at these meetings, except to help out when the committee can’t determine where a specific restaurant is or what was there before, but I broke that rule. What I really wanted to know was why my block has suddenly become fair game for street fairs; was it on some sort of citywide list? The organizers said no, that they tend to pick streets where events have already happened—gee, thanks—and they look for streets with the least amount of traffic (hardly the case with Warren), and consider how traffic and parking garages will be impacted. Not only is that block on an MTA bus route, the Downtown Connection shuttle route, and home to a bike lane, it also pours into a stretch of Broadway that’s drastically congested at all hours thanks to the reconstruction project a few blocks south. Moreover, we have two big construction projects (12 Warren and 30 Warren); one of the organizers claimed that 12 Warren is “98% done,” but they’re still taking over a lane of the street and closing it off entirely on occasional weekends for crane work. So I call bullshit on the idea that this block makes any kind of logistical sense.

Ultimately, here’s what I’d like to see in regard to CB1 and street fairs:

—All applications for a three- or four-month period should come up for discussion at one time, so we can see when certain blocks are bearing the brunt. Obviously, there should be a cap to the number of events on a given block.
—There should be no amplified sound, especially on residential streets like this part of Warren. (At the last street fair, a band  was stationed mid-block, facing not east or west but south, right at an apartment building, where it blasted wedding-reception music for five hours.) The folks from Clearview did agree to no amplified sound.
—These events are too long: Set-up is supposed to start at 8 a.m., with breakdown over at 7 p.m. Is there really a need to do this from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.? Clearview swore that for the Sept. 16 event, there will be no set-up at all before 8 a.m. We’ll see…. I could hear today’s street fair being set up as early as 7:15 a.m. (You know that clanging sound of metal poles banging against the ground? Anyone who lives near a Greenmarket knows what I mean….)
—We need more notice. The only reason I learned about the Sept. 16 event was because I happened to look at the CB1 Tribeca agenda yesterday, only to discover that it had been added with no fanfare. And the only way I learned about today’s street fair was because I saw the sign below—as you can see, it gives absolutely no hint of what to expect. Why do we ask more of film crews than of street fairs? Let’s insist that the organizers post detailed notices about what residents should expect.
—Priority must be given to the organizations that are in our community. It would be nice if there was a rationale for why a certain event is happening here, but I suspect that’s too much to hope for.

Last but not least, back in 2011, and I quote DNAinfo, “The city has banned all weekday street fairs in lower Manhattan indefinitely, citing the multitude of construction projects that are already choking the neighborhood’s streets.” Does anyone really think there’s less construction now? Or did Mardi Gras Events and Clearview successfully lobby our noble mayor for a change in the policy?

street fair signTwo HandsLIQUOR-LICENSE ALTERATION: TWO HANDS RESTAURANT & BAR (251 CHURCH)
I missed the discussion of Two Hands‘s sidewalk-café application back in April, but apparently it was contentious. From what I understand, the committee wanted the restaurant to a) be in operation for a year before opening a café; and (b) use fewer tables in a different configuration. Two Hands opted to stick to its plan and go straight to the City Council for approval. (This is what happened way back when with Smith & Mills.) The awkwardness comes when you have to revisit the committee to get your liquor license changed to allow for drinking outside. Two Hands will have three four-tops; the question now is whether it’ll be allowed to serve alcohol outside till midnight and 1 a.m. “We shouldn’t reward that kind of behavior,” said one member, but the truth is that, in many matters, CB1 isn’t in a position to reward or punish; the committee wrestles time and again with its own advisory status. (The discussion grew testy. When the committee chair wondered aloud how patrons would be able to sit directly in front of the entrance, one of the restaurant’s owners replied that she was welcome to climb over it. “I don’t appreciate that,” she snapped back.) The vote was 7-1-1 to oppose the liquor-license amendment, on the grounds that Two Hands has ignored CB1’s requests about the café. Two Hands will now try its chances with the SLA.

LIQUOR-LICENSE APPLICATION: 241 W. BROADWAY
As you read here, Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson (above), formerly co-chefs of the Keith McNally empire (Balthazar, Pastis, Minetta Tavern, et al), are opening an “all-day brasserie, with French roots but American-inspired” in the former Cercle Rouge space at 241 W. Broadway. They said that when they left McNally in 2013, they approached Cercle Rouge’s George Forgeois about buying the restaurant, but he wasn’t interested. (They also considered the spot where China Blue is now.) There had been concerns that the mosque on that block would mean the establishment couldn’t serve alcohol—the “200-foot-rule” precludes it—but the attorney explained that the rule applies only to buildings that are exclusively used as a place of worship, school, or whatever else gets unnecessarily protected from the perils of drinkers. As was determined by the SLA and a judge back when it came up in regard to Cercle Rouge, the mosque is only part of the building, which is also used a community center and “other things.” Nasr and Hanson agreed to the committee’s guidelines (1 a.m. and 2 a.m.), and they’ll keep doors closed after 10 p.m. They’re hoping that their good behavior now and in the coming months will allow them to get a sidewalk café approved without waiting till the place has been open a year. And the best-case opening date is in March of 2017.

The application materials included this description of the design: “Fresh interpretation of the classic French brasserie meets 2016 New York. Elegant wooden bar highlights the front room with a free flowing café vibe. An inviting mix of historical materials and modern-era elements integrated in a way that feels natural within this bona-fide Tribeca space.” Below: The floor plan and sample menus.

241 WBroadway floor plan241 WBroadway breakfast menu 241 WBroadway lunch menu241 WBroadway dinner menuPRESENTATION: EILEEN HERMAN OF TRIBECA TRUST
I had to leave—we were past the two-hour mark—but it seemed to be a request for support in getting zoning changed to allow fewer tall buildings.

UPDATE: BUDDHA BAR (62 THOMAS)
My sense has been that Buddha Bar is going to ask the State Liquor Authority to approve its application over CB1’s objection. I’ll try to find out if there’s more going on than meets the eye. UPDATE 7/15: There’s more info here.