CB1 Tribeca Committee: The Unofficial Minutes (January 2017)

LAUGHING MAN: STREET SEATS EXPANSION
What everyone thought would be a quickie turned out to be more complex, because Laughing Man owner David Steingard would like this year’s installation of the Department of Transportation’s Street Seats program—in which street parking is used for public seating—to be 50% larger than it has been the past two years. (That’s 42 feet long, up from 28, which is pictured above.) According to the DOT rules, the seating platform can extend to the property line, which the new installation would actually be two feet short of. I did wonder whether the DOT intended for a tiny café, with a tiny façade—maybe 10 feet?—to colonize an area so much wider than itself. (Laughing Man shares the ground floor of 184 Duane with Stella, which Steingard said supports the installation.) The committee was less concerned with the actual expansion than the idea that no one—at CB1 or the public in general—knew about it, everyone assuming this was a standard renewal. So they asked Steingard to post some notices. The Street Seats will be up from March 1 to December 15. Vote: 7-0.

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24 LEONARD: REQUEST FOR AFTER-HOURS CONSTRUCTION VARIANCE
This was added very late to the agenda, or I suspect more people would’ve shown up for it. The construction of 24 Leonard, just west of W. Broadway, has been bedeviling nearby residents since the winter of 2015. The new problem is that the city’s Department of Transportation is insisting that developer Charles Dunne only use cranes on weekends—because it thinks the street is too narrow and too busy for weekday closing—but CB1, in part because one member of the Tribeca Committee lives next door, has now put a hold on weekend construction permits for the project. Residents are at the end of their rope, desperate for a day or two of peace and quiet each week, but the developer is understandably itching to get the building completed. Dunne proposed no heavy equipment on weekends, just hand-power tools, with a decibel meter on site, but neighbors feared the sound of hammers and what not. Ultimately, the committee decided to try and persuade the DOT to allow weekday cranes, of which there shouldn’t be many more anyway (but scheduling them is now hard because of the post-accident regulation changes), and the developer and residents will meet separately to see if they can hash out a way for work to occur on weekends. Vote: 9-0.

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MAXWELL’S: SIDEWALK-CAFÉ RENEWAL
Maxwell’s restaurant neglected to sign CB1’s list of stipulations for its sidewalk café, which is has now agreed to do posthaste. Vote: 9-0.

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WARREN STREET RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT
Representatives from the city’s Department of Design and Construction were launching into their usual reconstruction presentation when committee members jumped in and took them to task: Why was the committee only learning about this now, when it’s too late to have any say about the work hours (because the contract with the contractor has already been signed)? Contractors are incentivized to get the work done as quickly as possible, which often means working at night and on weekends, which residents despise. It was especially galling because CB1 has asked time and again, and even dragged in State Senator Daniel Squadron’s office to intervene, for the DDC to be more upfront about its plans. The DDC’s response was that the Warren Street project has been kicking around for a long time (and, no, it didn’t make any more sense in the meeting).

We already knew the details of the project from the flyer distributed to buildings on Warren: Starting in February, working on two blocks at a time from the west, the street will be torn up so that water mains, sewers, and other utilities can be repaired and/or replaced. The project is expected to take 2.5 years total, or about eight months per block. As you can see from the map above, not only Warren is affected: If you live within a block of Warren on Greenwich, W. Broadway, or Church, you’re up the same brown creek. Moreover, the disruptions to P.S. 234, the Downtown Community Center, and Whole Foods will be severe. (Citi Bike users: The DDC said it’d be removing the popular bike docks in front of Whole Foods in February; there was no mention of putting them elsewhere.) According to the DDC, the entire project calls for relatively little night work, except for when the water has to be turned off, which it prefers to do overnight. As a committee member pointed out, however, the main construction crews are rarely the problem: It’s Con Edison, Verizon, and other utilities that will do work at night with little or no warning. (The subsequent John Street project, meanwhile, is much less intrusive; see the map below.)

At the end of the discussion, I asked whether the DDC is currently mulling construction anywhere else in CB1. “Nothing coming up tomorrow,” was the discouraging reply. He then said he’d look into it and see if there’s anything planned for the next two years.

The committee voted 7-0 to write a resolution that asks the DDC for more input.

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THE EVENT SPACE AT 144 DUANE
A lawyer hired by the owner of the 12,000-square-foot penthouse triplex at 144 Duane was asked for more information about exactly what’s going on there. The lawyer said that the owner has been renting it out to a corporate client to showcase its products occasionally at invitation-only events. The company—which TC readers know is Apple—started renting it in August, extending it for three-month periods. (Before Apple, the triplex was used for at least one other event: a Kendall and Kylie Jenner fashion launch in February 2016, complete with barricades on the sidewalk.) No one would probably care if the event organizers hadn’t commandeered the entire south side of the block for parking and deliveries, which the lawyer said wouldn’t happen again. The committee did warn him to look into the legality of the situation: Is the building zoned in such a way to allow for the events, and if it is a de facto event space (even if Apple employees stay there every now and then), does it need liquor licenses for each event, assuming alcohol is served?

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2017 TD BANK FIVE BORO BIKE TOUR
The representative from Bike New York, which runs the Five Boro Bike Tour, had a conflict and had to postpone her visit till next month. The committee discussed the event a bit anyway, noting that organizers have been placing speakers for many blocks down Church Street, blasting music and announcements in front of residential buildings early on Sunday morning (the event starts at 7:30 a.m., but cyclists amass much earlier)—and that’s a violation of the city’s code for amplified sound. The pertinent part of the code is below, and I’ll throw in photos of speakers at the 2015 event—between Murray and Park Place and between Duane and Reade. February’s meeting should be lively!

The police commissioner shall not issue any permit for the use of a sound device or apparatus […] Between the hours of eight p.m. or sunset, whichever is later, and nine a.m. on weekdays and between the hours of eight p.m. or sunset, whichever is later, and ten a.m. on weekends and public holidays, in any location within fifty feet of any building that is lawfully occupied for residential use. The distance of fifty feet shall be measured in a straight line from the point on the exterior wall of such building nearest to any point in the location for which the permit is sought.

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COMMUNITY BOARD 1: STREET-ACTIVITY PERMIT
To raise money to pay consultants, Community Board 1 hires Mardi Gras Productions to run several street fairs each year—ironic, given how the actual community generally hates street fairs—and there’s one scheduled for Thursday, July 13, on Warren between Church and Broadway. I think it was only discussed because I’ve been such a pill about it. (I’ll spare you my litany of reasons why that block is a terrible spot for a street fair.) Community Board 1’s Street Fair Task Force has a policy of not discussing its own street fairs, but CB1 has to get pro forma approval somehow, so that’s how this one landed on the CB1 Tribeca Committee agenda, buried with the liquor-license renewals. I pleaded my case, explaining that CB1 should really move its street fairs around, and I begged that, at a minimum, the fairs should not be allowed to have amplified sound (such as from the rock band that blasted last summer for six hours). They said they’d ask Mardi Gras to look into other locations for this fair. As one member pointed out, Mardi Gras might as well start now, since the Warren Street reconstruction project is going to force a relocation eventually.

11 Comments

  1. Re: “I did wonder whether the DOT intended for a tiny café, with a tiny façade—maybe 10 feet?—to colonize an area so much wider than itself.”

    They likely did not.

    See as an analogy, for example Zoning Resolution 42-532 regarding signage and the width of a zoning lot.

    In all districts, as indicated, non-#illuminated signs# with total #surface areas# not exceeding six times the #street# frontage of the #zoning lot#, in feet, but in no event more than 1,200 square feet for each #sign#, are permitted.

    And 42-53 –

    For the purpose of determining permitted #surface area# of #signs# for #zoning lots# occupied by more than one establishment, any portion of such #zoning lot# occupied by a #building# or part of a #building# accommodating one or more establishments on the ground floor may be considered as a separate #zoning lot#.

    See similarly ZR 32-64 etc.

  2. I suppose the one upside to the Warren Street construction is that there won’t be any street fairs on that block for 2.5+ years.

    As to Con Ed, Verizon, et al performing non-emergency late night construction: WHY? Why is DOT awarding them permits for this?

    • It will be hell. I live at 80 Chambers and the Chambers Street construction on the block between Church and Broadway took years! It as insufferable noise, mess, and disruption. I suppose it’s necessary but the city did not seem to be in any kind of hurry to finish. Good luck!

  3. Thank you so much for all the useful information. I depend on the Tribeca Citizen to keep me informed.

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