CB1 meeting devolves into witch hunt

CB1’s licensing committee devolved into a weird kind of witch hunt, with community members pointing fingers at an applicant for a restaurant in Battery Park City with cries of “felon!” and “criminal!” And indeed, they’re right, if a generation off.

The applicant for Watanabe, a white-tablecloth Japanese restaurant proposed for 88 Battery Place, is the son of Ziming Shen, who said at the meeting that he owned the space. (Ziming Shen junior owns the LLC that is Watanabe.) His mother is Joanna Xiaoping Fan, who was sentenced to 57 months in prison for siphoning off millions of federal funds intended for food programs at the couple’s preschools and using it to buy Manhattan apartments. (Fact check: while both husband and wife own several properties in the city, and records show liens on most of them from the IRS, I could not find any records in their name for 2 South End Ave. Perhaps they have the lease?) (Also during that federal trial, Ziming Shen the senior got into a scuffle with news photogs and was arrested, landing him on the cover of the Daily News, below.)

BPC neighbors accused the couple and their son of faking the signatures on their petition in support of the restaurant, scheming to create a party destination under the guise of a quiet high-end Japanese, threatening the super of the building with arrest, and finally, of being convicted felons. Confusion reigned until at one point the senior Shen sprung up and said, “I am the father!” while his lawyer pleaded – I mean really pleaded – with him to sit down.

“We have a real trust problem here because of past acts,” said 2 South End Ave. resident Jim Hopkins. His neighbor put it more succinctly: “Are these criminals? We want to know really who is running the restaurant, who is fronting it, who we are doing business with.”

After all that – and with plenty of heckling coming from the audience – the committee voted to approve the liquor license with some stipulations on the venting systems and hours of operation. And then they took the next applicants.




  1. So, did the takers of these millions from the pre-school programs ever give the money back?

  2. As a member of that CB1 Licencing Comm at that meeting let me add among the stipulations we added was that no liguor license could be obtained unless the family agreed to work with one of the tenants who is a licensed architect also at the meeting who must see all plans and approve them as meeting Dept of Building standards. That’s a huge stipulation.