CB1 Tribeca Committee: The Unofficial Minutes (May 2012)

I was way out of my depth on this one, but if I understood it correctly, the City Planning Commission insists that a certain amount of any new development (or residential conversion) be “open space,” which is a misnomer because what it really seems to mean is communal space for the people who live there. The committee spent eons discussing whether 415 Greenwich—Tribeca Summit, where the original developer was foreclosed upon and the bank is trying to clean up the mess—is allowed to have less “open space” than it should. There’s a roof deck, a gym, and a play room for kids, but it all falls short of whatever is required. The City Planning Commission had no issue, according to the petitioner, and it only affects the tenants—who are onboard with the plan because it’s close enough to what was in the prospectus—so pardon my directness, but who gives a shit? Oh, that’s right: CB1. They voted 4-0-1 in favor of a resolution to approve the motion as long as it’s noted that they were peeved to be asked after the fact and they think the building should find a way to incorporate some unused roof space.

Another zoning variance was up next. The 1860 landmarked buildings at 78 and 80 Leonard were combined in the early 90s and converted to rentals with retail at the ground floor (and below, and below). A sixth floor was added, set back from the roof line. But the health club (Eastern Athletic) on the ground floor and two floors below it needs a lot of air conditioning, as do the tenants, so the roof doesn’t allow for enough open space, and the open space that does exist up there isn’t accessible by elevator; since it can’t satisfy the ADA requirements, the City Planning Commission is fine with it. So is CB1 Tribeca: 5-0.

Paolo Meregalli, as explained here last month, wants to open a restaurant and wine bar called Mulino a Vino at 279 Church, the brick building just south of White & Church restaurant. His family is in the wine business in Italy, and has at least one Mulino a Vino restaurant there. Last month, the CB1 Tribeca agenda listed an incorrect address, so neighbors felt they didn’t have enough time to weigh the proposal, and Meregalli was told to come back next month. In the meantime, he held an open house to discus any concerns, and he collected around 90 signatures in support. At this month’s meeting, Meregalli once again explained his goal, reiterating that any music would not be amplified—a violinist, a pianist, possibly his friend Andrea Bocelli (still not sure I heard that right). There was hubbub over the status of the building—was it commercial or residential (the latter), was it an IMD building (yes, but not sure why we cared whether it was under the Loft Law), the menu (was it small bites and therefore a bar masquerading as a restaurant?). One member of the committee pointed out that people savoring $25 glasses of wine were unlikely to cause a ruckus, reasoning that another member found “appalling” but struck me as pretty logical. The main issue, ultimately, was that there are already four establishments serving alcohol on that block—there were five until Ristorante Aglio closed—and the neighbors are concerned. Meregalli’s lease says he has to soundproof, and if the building gets Landmarks approval to make it more historically appropriate—by, say, adding a window to the brick façade—CB1 Tribeca wants to make sure the windows stay closed (even though only parking lots are  across the street, which is double-wide at that point because it’s where Church and Sixth split). Meregalli wanted 1 a.m. (Sunday through Thursday) and 2 a.m. (Friday and Saturday), but the committee insisted on midnight/1 a.m., even though it’s on Church. (Nobody asked me.) Meregalli presumably can go back in six months to ask for extended hours. Vote: 7-0.

The owner of Uncle Mike’s, the bikini bar at 57 Murray, was hauled before the committee to explain why his establishment had received two citations for underage drinking in the past year. The owner—whose name I didn’t catch, but I hope it’s Mike, and who was evidently he was the chair (?) of CB3 for years—said it was the same bartender each time, and she has been stripped of her official Uncle Mike’s bikini, so to speak. There was discussion about how to solve the underage problem, even though Mike insisted that young people don’t really go there, and no one was going to admit whether he did either. (I’ve been wanting to! I love their flyers.) Then the point of the interrogation switched to how patrons tend to say rude things to women—nay, girls—through the open window as they walk down the street. (Which does sound creepy.) “I will take care of that,” said Mike in convincing fashion. He handed out his cell phone to aggrieved neighbors and was asked to close his windows at 10 p.m.

These were all approved unanimously. The first three proposed no changes; Viet Café’s is new—12 seats at six tables.

The folks behind Amsterdam Ale House on the Upper West Side—which is north of here?—want to convert the old Mocca space at the northeast corner of Church and Reade into Balcony Café (or maybe just The Balcony, as written on the menu). Chef Chaz Brown spoke first because he’s a contestant on “Around the World in 80 Plates,” a TV show on Bravo, and he was due at a viewing party. He said the food would be simple and fresh and, if it were up to him, more interesting. Members of the committee jumped on the menu, noting that it looked awfully simple and not especially fresh, making them think that Balcony Café was actually going to be a bar. To his credit, primary owner Jacob Rabinowitz said it absolutely would be a bar, too—the menu was more of a lunch thing. The problem was that they want 4 a.m. seven days a week, which even a casual observer of CB1 Tribeca would know ain’t gonna happen. (If I have one piece of advice for people thinking of opening a restaurant serving alcohol, it’s this: Go to a CB1 Tribeca meeting before you present. Trust me.) They had thorough soundproofing plans, but the stench of Mocca’s sad decline into nightclubbery hung over the proceedings. Colorful residents of the building showed up to talk about fires that happened 20 years ago; it got a little Felliniesque. The committee said it would be fine with midnight and 1 a.m., which was countered with 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., which led at least one member to take offense. Estancia 460‘s Stacey Sosa stepped up to say that she likes Amsterdam Ale House, but then folks who live farther along Reade said that lots of people were urinating everywhere late at night. “Reade Street is turning into Bourbon Street!” cried one resident. After far too long, the committee held to its midnight and 1 a.m. side-street standard—not even bothering to explain that the restaurant could come back and ask for later hours after six months—and the Balcony Café folks said they might withdraw as a result. Still, the redefined hours passed 5-0.

There was one last item on the agenda—a liquor-license application for the soon-to-open Tribeca Blu hotel at Canal and Broadway. But I think it must’ve been held over, because the meeting seemed to be ending, and after two hours, I wasn’t waiting around to make sure. As my dear, sweet mama used to say, a bitch gotta eat.

UPDATE: “The Tribeca Blu crew seems nice enough,” commented Orinocco Vaginelli on another post. The GM waited for almost two and a half hours last night—last item on the agenda—only to be asked to come back in a month! Given the rollocking the Balcony posse received for not playing ball, said GM was smart enough to agree to a revisit.”



  1. While Uncle Mike’s may pour stiff drinks, and have bikinii clad bartenders, it is an unsightly and low budget neighborhood presence. Their patrons constantly are strewn out over Murray St, whistling at passerby’ers, are loud, very drunk, and have no care for the obstructions they cause. No one who attends that bar lives locally…so why should they care? Their patrons are local (construction) workers, commuters ‘going out ‘ after work who litter with their cigarettes, bottles, and drink cups. Fights on the street happen routinely. I know this since i live across the street and hear and see brutal beatings quite often.

  2. When we passed it on Saturday morning (5/12), Uncle Mike’s had official signs posted on the window and door to the effect that it was [closed?? and] being cited for serving alcohol to underage patrons. Not sure about being closed; after all, it was only about 10:30 AM.

  3. First off, Uncle Mike’s takes seedy to a whole new level.
    Second of all, the fact that someone yelled “Reade Street is turning into Bourbon street!” actually makes me want to attend one of these meetings. I mean, seriously, that is amazing.

  4. @Suzanne: Those signs were from being cited for serving underage drinking; Uncle Mike’s owner said he’s required to leave them up there for some period of time. (There was a great moment I didn’t write about where a resident said she asked the bouncer there about the signs and he said they were left up because “they thought they were funny.” The owner wasn’t happy about that….)

    @Iz: Please do come!! In the yeller’s defense, people have been pissing at his front door, which would lead one to get a little fed up… If I remember Bourbon Street, there needs to also be vomit.