CB1 Tribeca Commitee: The Unofficial Minutes (November)

I was sure that the 1WTC spire would be paraded through Manhattan like an enemy chieftain’s head, but no: It’s being brought in by barge from Canada—someone noted the irony that the “Freedom Tower” spire was made in Canada—in 18 sections, each of which will be offloaded onto Manhattan just south of Pier 25, then trucked one or two at a time up to N. Moore, over to Greenwich, and down to the World Trade Center, and this will happen in the middle of the night (10:30 p.m. at the earliest). Somewhat interesting: The traffic lights along the way will have to be temporarily moved to make way for the truck. The fun starts the first week of December and will take quite a while, given that they can only do a piece or two a week.

Not to sound callous, but nothing was going to happen as a result of this discussion—about how the city could handle such emergencies better, most of which was about the sad plight of residents of 67 Vestry—so I zoned out. I did notice when committee member Jacques Capsouto said he had no idea when Capsouto Frères would reopen.

The annual event will be May 18 in the usual place (by Duane Park and along that stretch of Greenwich). One committee member brought up how annoyed the Greenmarket was two years ago, even though he had also brought it up last year. I’m all about holding a grudge but I try not to hold other people’s. Time to let go.

As you have read here before, Spring Studios is a London creative agency/photo studio/fashion beehive taking over much of 50 Varick, the Verizon building across from the Holland Tunnel offramps. Before we get to the issue of whether it should be able to serve liquor, let’s go over what we learned about it during the meeting. (I put a bunch of renderings in a gallery at the end of this post.)

••• The building was purchased by a company that’s related to Spring Studios, but Verizon will still be in floors 2-4.
••• The ground floor will have an entrance and offices, but not much public space.
••• There will also be an entrance on St. John’s Lane, the alley that runs parallel to Varick (and behind the Hilton Garden Inn and the building known as One York).
••• While Spring Studios New York said it’d only be on floors 5-7 and the roof, the reps later mentioned a cinema on the second floor. The materials handed out said it’s an 80-seat cinema, so if the rendering is based on reality it’s either an exceedingly long room or those are seats that can handle four people each. The Jude Law-ish events director for Spring said they’re talking to Tribeca Cinemas about running it.
••• There will be a restaurant/lounge open to the public. If it were up to Spring, it wouldn’t be, but public access is key to the liquor license. The lawyer said they wouldn’t advertise (pity, that) or promote it, and he was sure no one from the public would ever come. (I LOLed loudly, because I’ll be there on day one.) The idea, said the lawyer, is that it’s for people working there, both permanently and temporarily—on shoots, etc.
••• While the main point of the space is photo shoots, retouching, digital editing—”We’re a full 360-degree, multichannel [more adspeak] company,” said Jude—it’ll also host events. “I shouldn’t expect much more than 300 people at a time,” he said. And events will be no more than 50% of the overall business.
••• Spring is indeed popping huge windows into the western façade.

“THIS THING’S A NIGHTCLUB!” declared a committee member, spoiling for a fight. It was easy to see why the committee might be concerned: The space is 40,000 square feet, with a public occupancy of around 3,000—including a massive space on the sixth floor—and Spring asked for 4 a.m. closing (and 2 a.m. on the roof) seven days a week. Even if Spring isn’t trying to pull one over on the neighborhood, what if Marc Jacobs wants to throw a big Fashion Week afterparty there? Would the company say no? The application detailed ways Spring would try to mitigate the effect of events, but one mention of paparazzi gates and, well, dudgeon was high. Matters were not helped by the members’ lack of familiarity with such spaces as Splashlight and Milk Studios, big creative-services spaces that host events.

Spring brought in a sound expert to talk about the possible effects of music, even though anyone living adjacent to the Holland Tunnel would surely have double-paned windows. The location does make this a very interesting application: The block seems desolate, but the building directly to the south (30-32 Varick) is L-shaped (and also known as 11 Beach), and it’s being converted to residential; and the under-construction 11 N. Moore (which takes up the whole Varick block) is just down the street. On the other hand, so is the NYPD’s first precinct. Spring also brought a security person, but he didn’t get to speak.

A few committee members mentioned being burned by Spring’s lawyer in the past, but he seemed to speak pretty straightforwardly, saying right away that the application was a wish list, and that they were ready to negotiate on stipulations such as the number of events, the size of events, the closing hours, and so on. (I also loved him for getting irked at one member—who claimed to know the State Liquor Authority laws—and yelling, “When did you become a lawyer?”) And there was a lot to calm fears: The roof would have no amplified music and no bar; the entire facility would have no subwoofers; the owner would install devices so the volume couldn’t go past a certain level; the windows on Varick don’t open. But the committee is not always good at listening; instead, members accused Spring of not posting public meeting notices (it did—I saw them—and it also ran ads in local newspapers and sending out an email blast via this site).

Eventually, the lawyer decided they should wait a month; Spring would come back with potential stipulations, and it would offer a tour to committee members, so they could get a better sense of the space.

My two cents: I think it sounds awesome, but stipulations are crucial.

The folks taking over the Turks & Frogs space didn’t show, or maybe left in fear, so the meeting ended.


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