CB1 Tribeca Committee: The Unofficial Minutes (February 2017)

The initial liquor-license application process for Spring Studios—the massive, multi-level event space at 50 Varick—was a highly contentious affair, with both sides agreeing to a long list of stipulations. One called for “community advisory meetings,” and I thought this was going to be a report about whatever happened at the last meeting. But the discussion degenerated after a committee member asked whether Spring has been hosting events for more than 800 guests, which he said is a violation of the stipulations and which Spring promised it wouldn’t do. (Spring has three floors that can each hold 800 people, as well as other, smaller spaces.) Spring representative Bradford J. Gonzalez-Sussman of Pitta & Giblin LLP parried, posing a scenario in which one group, such as the Tribeca Film Festival, has concurrent events, then asking whether those should be totaled up into one event. Pushed to answer the question, he snapped. “These are the only two people to oppose the liquor license!” he yelled to the room. “They’re still sore that Spring passed!” Now the stipulations are up for review, presumably as part of the liquor-license renewal process, and a subcommittee will be convened to work it out. Should be interesting….

The seasonal Street Seats installation outside the Laughing Man café has been approved for another year. But David Steingard was also hoping to expand the seating by 50%, so that it takes up nearly the entire frontage of the building. (Apologies for the crude diagram above.) When the expansion came up at last month’s CB1 Tribeca meeting, it took the committee by surprise, so the members requested that Steingard give neighbors a chance to weigh in. He came back with a pro-expansion petition signed by 350 people, many of whom live on Duane. But that was ultimately outweighed by two people. First was a chair for Taste of Tribeca: Unhappy at the prospect of losing space for another two booths to the installation, he asked Steingard to agree to wait until after the event to add the extension. (Steingard wasn’t open to that, but suggested that they could work out a solution somehow.) Second was Madeline Lanciani of Duane Park Patisserie, who said she didn’t speak up against the Street Seats two years ago because she didn’t want it to look like sour grapes, but she said the effect on commercial parking has been deleterious. (The bakery has to double-park its trucks, so then it gets one parking ticket after another.) The committee acknowledged that the Street Seats installation is popular, but it ultimately couldn’t justify the expansion; the vote against the project was 6-0-1-1, the last two being an abstention and a recusal. As he left, Steingard noted that there were 350 signatures in favor, and minimal opposition—indeed, no other neighboring business objected. “The committee suddenly outweighs the community?” he asked, to no answer.

Any change in the façade of a city-owned building must go before Community Board 1. This is a minor one, involving a three-foot-by-three-foot louvered window overlooking Benson Place, the alley south of Cortlandt Alley. Vote: 7-0.

Community Board 1, or at least the Tribeca Committee, prefers restaurants to wait a year after opening before requesting a sidewalk-café license. As a result, Añejo’s application was initially denied, so instead the restaurant went to the Department of Consumer Affairs, which approved it. (“We couldn’t wait a year,” they said, and they had been upfront about it with CB1.) The café is the same as before—20 seats, all on Church—but now it has the CB1 stamp of approval. Vote: 6-0, with two abstentions.

Residents of 200 Church vociferously opposed a full liquor license for Tribeca’s Kitchen a few years ago, forcing the owners to only serve beer and wine. Now that the restaurant clearly poses no threat to residents’ quality of life, two of the owners, the father-son team of Andy Koutsoudakis and Andreas Koutsoudakis Jr., were back at CB1 for a full liquor license. No one opposed it, helped in good part because the restaurant closes at midnight seven days a week. Vote: 8-0.

The new restaurant Yves, at Greenwich and N. Moore, applied for a sidewalk café with 36 seats at 21 tables, including 11 tables on N. Moore. Historically, the Tribeca Committee has opposed sidewalk cafés on side streets, with an occasional exception for corner establishments. (Ivy’s Bistro had two tables on N. Moore, as you can see below.) Moreover, Yves wanted outdoor closing hours to be midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There was a lot of back-and-forth as the committee asked itself and proprietors Matt Abramcyk and Akiva Elstein what sort of compromise they might all accept. Eventually, they reached an agreement: Five tables (with 10 seats) will be eliminated from the eastern end of the N. Moore side, and the closing hours outside will be 11 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and midnight Thursday through Saturday. Vote 7-1. P.S. Apparently, one or two neighbors wrote in to CB1 to object to the plan, citing recent incidents of public vomiting, urination, and defecation. The full trifecta!

Lower Manhattan Community Church is in the initial stages of planning a back-to-school block party for Saturday, September 16, on Murray between Greenwich and W. Broadway. (This appears to be instead of its annual pumpkin patch party at Halloween.) The event will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with set-up and breakdown from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The CB1 FiDi Committee already said OK (that committee oversees the south side of Murray, while Tribeca handles the north), and fears about traffic being hampered were calmed by the knowledge that the Department of Transportation has to sign off on any street closure. Vote: 8-0.

George Aprile, who owns the beautiful Bogardus Mansion building at 75 Murray (above), is planning to open Club 75 Piano Bar in the cellar, where Silver Lining once was, followed by Caviarteria. It’ll have 60 seats in the main area and 20 at the bar, but the overall capacity is 125. The food is just enough to get a liquor license—”cold food, like cheese and sausages,” said the attorney representing Aprile—and closing hours will be midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. I rarely speak at these meetings, but I said I thought it was unfair to nearby residents that the application had been promoted by Community Board 1 as a catering license, when in fact it was for a bar that can handle up to 125 people. The notice at 75 Murray didn’t mention catering, however, so the committee members thought that was good enough—if you cared, you probably walked by and would’ve noticed it. (My guess is that far more people read the agendas posted by the Tribeca Trib, Broadsheet, and this site, but whatever.) Vote: In favor, but I didn’t catch the tally. The meeting had really started to devolve at this point.

Recapped here.

One member tried to get the committee to insist that the Tribeca Family Festival not allow deliveries before 6 a.m., but people were rushing for the exits. (The meeting went two hours and 45 minutes.) It’s obviously a good idea, but even if the organizers agree to the restriction, who are you going to call at 6 a.m. to enforce it?

••• Citi building renovations update
••• Hubert and Washington traffic calming proposal



  1. This Street Seats decision does not reflect well on the committee. Embarrassing lack of respect for the community’s obvious preference.

    • To be fair to the committee, as previously noted, it is still not clear that this proposed expansion beyond the frontage of the Laughing Man premises is legally permissible, regardless of the decision of certain DOT personnel or the wishes of the community or the wishes of the building owner or the building owner’s relationship to the store that, nevertheless, occupies only a portion of the building’s frontage.

  2. I like the street seats. Even better would be to widen sidewalks where they are too narrow, so that such seating can be on the sidewalk.

  3. I am glad there is opposition to expanding the Street seats.
    They are such an inconvenience-especially in the mornings
    Many Laughing Man customers are completely
    oblivious of their fellow neighbors trying to also start their
    days. I also think it is important to take the
    needs of other businesses into consideration. Their voice and opposition should be noted. It is just too
    much. I also voice support for Taste of TriBeCa and their
    needs. To use the arguement that many of your signatures
    are from people who live on Duane Street is not relevant
    Laughing Man got their initial seats. Be happy for that and
    allow other commerce & conversation to take place. Enough

  4. The laughing man situation is not the community vs 2 and Steingard sounds a petulant child. Madeline from Duane Park is a valued part of our community for years and served hundreds of people a day. If the loss of commercial parking is hurting her business – that is an issue. She may not be the only one who has the problem but the only one that showed up to speak. Would neighbors lament if she went out of business due to one more extra cost? Steingard has his goal for his own purposes. I applaud the CB for thinking a bit larger and as the last comment noted…enough!

  5. It was absurd to reject the proposed expansion of the Sidewalk Seats parklet on Duane Street. The area proposed as the extension of seating is always blocked off and not usable for parking anyway, so no additional street parking would be lost.

    This little area is not a part of Laughing Man but equally availableto all, though the proximity it both it and the Duane Street Patisserie works extremely well.

    It is set up for face to face conversations in a way other local parks aren’t, and the ocassional sidewalk congestion that is sometimes complained about would most likely have been decreased, not increased, with more places to sit down so that people don’t have to stand on the sidewalk itself while conversing with friends.

    Most importantly, this tiny park enhances our neighborhood’s sense of community, providing an informal place for people to sit down and talk and get to know each other.