CB1 Tribeca Committee: The Unofficial Minutes (March)

PRESENTATION: ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT
ACE, as it’s better known, presented about how it helps the homeless. A great organization—and do support it!—but no news here.

APPLICATION FOR A LIQUOR-LICENSE CHANGE: HAUS (285 W. BROADWAY)
Haus, the nightclub at W. Broadway and Canal (where the Canal Room was), has been open for nine months, and it wants to stay open till 4 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. (It’s already open that late the rest of the week.) There have been no complaints about the place, but some committee members were understandably perturbed that what was initially presented as a “mixology lounge” and absolutely not a nightclub is, in fact, a nightclub. In a breakthrough, at least owner Paul Horowitz finally called it a nightclub! (“It’s always been a club,” he said, for good measure.) He said that the club has been struggling, and it tried to be a lounge but failed to attract enough patrons to make opening earlier worthwhile. (A public member of the committee, an architect who worked on Haus, added that Horowitz “has taken money out of sources he shouldn’t have in order to survive.”) The committee, which has heretofore refused to allow financial hardship to be a factor in its decisions, concluded that times have been so tough lately that what the hell. The cabaret license, meanwhile, is forthcoming—a bit ex post facto, if you ask me. Vote: 6-1, with the condition that CB1 will check with the building to make sure there have been no complaints—and since the building is commercial, they’ll presumably be asking the owner whether he/she has issues with his/her own tenant, so that seems unlikely.

APPLICATION FOR A LIQUOR-LICENSE CHANGE FROM RESTAURANT TO CATERING FACILITY: AMERICAN FLATBREAD (205 HUDSON)
Neighbors were out in full force to oppose the conversion of American Flatbread (at Hudson and Desbrosses) into a catering venue. That’s because they already have many, many complaints about the applicant’s two other catering facilities in the same building (Tribeca Rooftop and Three Sixty)—both of which can handle around 700 guests, and regularly do on the same evening, so adding capacity for 220 more is unappealing, to say the least. And American Flatbread’s liquor license allows for closing of 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, which wasn’t an issue when the restaurant was around because it died out early. The main issue is traffic: buses and livery cars jamming up Desbrosses (there’s no standing on Hudson) and other streets, idling, drivers behaving badly. A secondary, but messier, issue is the behavior of guests, who tend to leave simultaneously, loudly, and drunkenly. Urination! Vomit! A sea of cigarette butts! Elephants! (Yes, elephants had been brought in once, said a neighbor, which actually sounds pretty fabulous.) The application for the American Flatbread space mentioned a dance floor, with live music or DJs, and suggested that weddings and bar mitzvahs would be held there. Can anyone honestly imagine a wedding at street level at Hudson and Canal? I’ll bet you a non-American flatbread that this is not going to be for weddings. To wit: The downstairs bar held a toga party on Valentine’s Day, after the restaurant had officially closed. The applicant was not at the meeting; his lawyer, seeing the way things were going, withdrew the application and said they’d come back next month. She also agreed to put in writing that they would not go straight to the State Liquor Authority.

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION STREET SEATS APPLICATION: LAUGHING MAN (184 DUANE)
Last month, the committee eventually agreed that temporary, seasonal seating in a parking space outside the Laughing Man café on Duane, as part of the Department of Transportation’s Street Seats initiative, is not objectionable in theory, but it wanted to see the design before it granted approval. This month, after being shown the design below, it rehashed the same issues it had last month, most of which were about safety. Members worried about how deliveries would get made, to which Laughing Man’s David Steingard said that trucks generally double-park anyway, because placard parkers take up all the spots along that street. They worried someone would turn the corner and drive right into it—in which case, perhaps we should close Roc’s sidewalk café? They worried that it was unfair to give this merchant an opportunity when subsequent applicants, should there be any, might get rejected because this one had come first. They wondered what Madeline Lanciani of Duane Park Patisserie across the street would make of it, even though she clearly didn’t care enough to come to the meeting (can’t blame you, Madeline!); one member reached out to her and got staffers, who said that it was already hard to get deliveries. A neighboring resident worried that nannies who currently push their wards into the street in order to avoid the dogs that sometimes get tied up outside Laughing Man will have nowhere to go. (Er, cross the street?) Steingard begged to take a chance and experiment—it’s only for six months, and if it proves detrimental, CB1 will have the power to refuse it next year. The committee voted, and the result was 3 in favor and…. Well, it was 3 opposed, but a member had second thoughts, and her voting hand sort of waved at half mast. “I’m conflicted!” she said. The chair pressed her: for or against? For, she decided, so the vote was 4-2-1. I shared an elevator with an especially codgery committee member after the meeting. “Fuckers!” he muttered several times; I’m not sure about who exactly. “I’ll never go there again!” Alas, I think he meant the café and not the committee meetings.

Laughing Man Street Seats rendering2Laughing Man Street Seats schematicLaughing Man Street Seats map

17 Comments

  1. I live on the block, walk and drive down the block, accompany my scootering kids down the block (often pausing or going around standing patrons with no derimental effects to our day). I also regularly patronize half the businesses on this loveliest of blocks. Let’s give this thing a chance!

  2. Great, two parking spaces in a neighborhood with limited on-street parking gone. I’m sure most Duane Street residents with cars hate this move (save Duane Street Resident, herein DSR) because that’s two less convenient places to park close to home. Way to cave in to Hugh Jackman and possibly make a neighborhood resident or two spend money on an indoor parking space, CB1. ‘Wonder how much that coward who cast the deciding vote got paid to give it.

    This sidewalk cafe is a bad idea on several fronts. For one it will be a flopping spot and a place for creeps to hide/lay in wait just like the benches next to the Washington Market Park entrance. Each end of the cafe is a blind spot and will encourage people to cross at them. It will block pedestrian traffic even more since according to DSR Laughing Man Cafe patrons block the sidewalk (a ticketable offense) and cause pedestrians to have to avoid people entering and exiting the “sidewalk cafe”. A vehicle, especially a yellow cab or Uber car, could definitely slam into the sidewalk cafe. Someone crossing the street from either end could get hit by a car. Roc’s sidewalk cafe is against the building and has a fence, this Laughing Man Sidewalk Cafe (what it really is) has a little speed bump and wood planters and is in the street, so leave Roc out of it. What about people who will stand/sit just outside the cafe? Make the cafe their office? How do you regulate use of the cafe? What if a skell wants to sit there for three hours?

    This is nothing more than privatization of public space for a self-entitled Hollywood movie star and you better believe if Wolverine wasn’t the owner of LMC, this sidewalk cafe would’ve never been approved.

    Why not have a sidewalk cafe in front of Duane Park Pattiserie considering DPP has been open since 1992 and never relocated after 9/11. Oh wait, a movie star doesn’t own it, so it’ll be rejected. If DPP applied for one I guarantee they’d will be rejected…unless they brought a movie star/famous person into the fold.

    Erik you are wayyyy out of line and cavalier with your “errrr cross the street?” line about nannies. Have you ever crossed Duane Street not at the intersection? It’s unsafe for one unencumbered person, how safe do you think it’d be for a woman with a stroller and/or kids in hand? Btw how is this better than the indoor sidewalk cafe on Avenue Of The Americas? You want to constantly give way to people entering and leaving it? I don’t, it’ll be annoying. Like it’s annoying to weave through people and tied up dogs.

    • And if your concerns prove valid after they try it for one season, then they don’t have to do it again. Duane Park Patisserie, by the way, has the same exact opportunity to do this as anyone else. Hugh Jackman’s name did not come up once. And I sincerely doubt the committee member in question was paid anything to vote on this particular matter.

      PS I’ve crossed that part of Duane about a million times, and I don’t ever recall feeling at risk. But then I live on Broadway.

      • I think my concerns will prove valid, but I doubt it will be eliminated.

        You’re being disingenious with DPP being able to get this. No way CB1 approves a sidewalk cafe for them as well for a loss of FOUR parking spaces on Duane Street. You are being disingenious by saying a rich, famous movie star didn’t come into play with this decision and city government people couldn’t be paid off – why not? Just because Hugh Jackman wasn’t mentioned at the meeting doesn’t mean he wasn’t a factor. Hollywood people get special treatment all the time and I doubt if some regular Joe Schmoe owned LMC he’d get the cafe. A big part of the cache of this place is Jackman owns it and you know it.

        And you saying anyone else could apply to get what LMC got is the problem with this. Starbucks, Subway, and non-chain businesses will be lining up to have their own sidewalk cafes. Hey, how ’bout Reade Street Pub, Puffy’s Tavern, The Odeon, Sarabeth’s, McDonald’s, Gee Whiz Diner, Tribeca Tap Room, and Locanda Verde, all businesses who preceded LMC (some by decades) apply for and get them? Let’s have no on-street parking in front of any bar or restaurant on Greenwich Street or Tribeca while we’re at it.

        I bet you cross at Duane and Greenwich which is good as that’s where to cross but you know some people will cross in the middle of the street just before the cafe to avoid going through the part of the sidewalk alongside the cafe and that increases the already ever present risk of pedestrians to be hit.

        And what about the privitization of that public space? Will Laughing Man Cafe pay the city for it or at least pay for it’s upkeep like trash and drunkards’ cookies which will no doubt be tossed into the wood planters?

  3. Another thing:

    Doesn’t this open the floodgates for more applications for sidewalk cafes taking up two parking spaces each all over the city? Businesses will see this and say “Hey, why don’t we get one?” which would further decimate on-street parking and force people to pay for indoor parking and park alot further away from home than they should have to. Starbucks, Subway etc. It could happen.

    What if Duane Park Pattiserie wanted one and why not? Again they’ve been in TriBeCa since 1992 (so 25 years in 2017) and never left after 9/11. You’re gonna give a cafe to a place that opened last year (or 2013?) and not give one to a place that’s been open for 23 years (longer than many LMC patrons and perhaps some LMC baristas have been alive)?

    • This is not something that the DOT gives cafes — they have to apply for it. No one is stopping DPP from applying.

      Also, the parking spots in question are for commercial parking.

      • I never said the DOT gives away sidewalk cafes and I know full well that you have to apply for them. That’s my problem with this. This opens the floodgates for more sidewalk cafes to open which means less space for whatever kind of parking – commericial or residential. Yes, this may or will cause a problem for The Hideaway, Max, and Duane Park Pattiserie all right across the street from LMC and maybe even Roc, the clothing store right next to LMC, and businesses on the LMC street side. Don’t cry to us when Starbucks at West Broadway and Chambers Street and/or Leonard Street applies for a spot/spots and gets them.

        Thanks for pointing out that this stupid waste of space will reduce commercial parking spots cuz you know, we need to make it harder for businesses to do business around here which a sidewalk cafe for people too lazy to sip coffee, eat croissants, work on their laptops, and just hang out in Duane and Washington Market Parks and on benches up and down Greenwich Street will do. You come off anti-commercial parking which is ridiculous because how do you think your favorite restaurants conduct business? And you live on Broadway thus know full well the importance of of commercial parking.

        • I’m not anti commercial parking. Those parking spaces are always taken by placard parkers.

          I don’t think Tribecans like Laughing Man because of the Hugh Jackman connection, although that may have initially been titillating. It’s not as if he hangs out there every afternoon. (Tourists, maybe.)

          The Street Seats program has been in effect for a while now, and do you see them opening up all over?

          Laughing Man will pay to build it and store it, and I imagine they’ll be responsible for cleaning it.

          I don’t think it will cause a problem for local businesses. It may even make Duane Street more of a draw.

          But I’m convinced there’s nothing I can say to sway your position on this, so I’m going to bow out now. Perhaps, you’re right, and this is a total disaster. Community Board 1 can stop it from happening next year, and it can stop other ones from being created. (BTW, the full board still has to approve it, and heaven knows, it may not.)

          One last thought: I’m not disingenuous about anything.

          • You are by saying Hugh Jackman owning LMC had nothing to do with this cuz he wasn’t mentioned at the application hearing. I just don’t see this vote being cast let alone this application even being considered if he wasn’t the owner/co-owner/partner (whatever he is) of LMC. Is he unmentionable or something? This isn’t your average, ordinary business. Jackman bankrolls this place otherwise how does he pay rent and multiple workers and sell reasonably priced food and drink from such a tiny space AND ALL the profit goes to charity? Let me clarify my stance by saying I have nothing against LMC, just the privitization of public space and the floodgates this decision could open from a movie star owning the business. Starbucks and McDonald’s will want and get this if they want it – you want that anywhere?

            Giving public space to a private business for upkeep is privitization of public space no two ways about it, and that’s a dangerous precedent to set. And no too ways about it this street space is a free space for LMC cuz no way LMC applies for it if it doesn’t benefit them financially. LMC didn’t propose this to make Duane Street more of a place to sit and hang and a draw – the street doesn’t need a draw with Duane Park a few steps away – they did it so they could get free space thus avoid having to open in a bigger space and I resent a business that has been in the neighborhood for what, two or three years?, and has the smallest square footage thus generates the least sales tax revenue of all neighborhood businesses getting free space. They just came here and they’re getting this – c’mon man.

            The Street Seats program has been around for awhile, yes, but it hasn’t caught on. Something like this, which involves a business owned/co-owned by a big time movie star, will definitely bring awareness to the program by chain stores et.al. and that is bad.

            If this was a weekends only thing, ok, but every day and a permanent fixture (at least for now)? It’s gonna crowd the sidewalk and make people cross into the street even more than they already do. I myself cross the street well before I approach LMC because there’s three or four people blocking the sidewalk and I’m not in the mood to ask them to move so I can pass, and that’s with no street space.

  4. Perhaps the meter maids could ticket the thing daily, and produce a bit of revenue for the city? Or, even better, perhaps TD bank could put a couple of ATM’s on it..

  5. Just a few thoughts in response to D’s tirade(s):

    — restricting parking in that space to commercial vehicles only is, by definition, the privatization of public space, i.e. making it useable by some (but not all) citizens.
    — quite the contrary, the proposed installation would be open to the public at large, i.e. LMC can’t restrict who sits there, so the proposal actually results in the publicizing of (currently) semi-private space..
    — LMC as the sponsoring organization is responsible for cleaning, maintaining, breaking down and locking up the proposed installation.
    — personally, I’d love to see many more Street Seats cafes throughout the City; they encourage pedestrian traffic, community engagement, and local economic activity, all while discouraging private car ownership in a crowded city and the “privatizing of public space” you decry so vociferously.
    — defending people’s desire to jaywalk across a notoriously tricky (and potentially dangerous) street is not a very convincing argument.
    — finally, you should keep in mind that this is a community blog that Erik runs and maintains on his own for no commercial gain before you start accusing people of dishonesty or having ulterior motives.

    I hope LMC’s café works out well (for them and the neighborhood) and that other Tribeca businesses follow suit. However, if it doesn’t work out as hoped, I’m sure the “celebrities” on CB1 will have no difficulty standing up to Jean Valjean and exerting their authority to withdraw their approval. No harm, no foul.

    Just my two cents.

    • For the record, this site is absolutely for commercial gain (but also, I hope, with a multitude of benefits for the community).

      • Ha! I apologize then for overstating your selflessness — I certainly didn’t intend to be “disingenuous” about it. Keep up the good work, the community absolutely benefits from your efforts.

  6. Was D beaten out for a big movie role by Hugh?

  7. The global idea is a great one but this location is terrible, it is very dangerous for pedestrians as it is from Duane/Greenwich to the park…and the seating will not enhance safety but add another complexity. Business wise it is a cheaper for LMC to pay for seats then try to find a new space which is larger or renovate.

  8. I never knew Hugh Jackman had anything to do with this place until just now. I’m willing to bet that applies to the majority of people that go there.

Comment: