The saga behind 325 Greenwich

If I am going to go down a rabbit hole, I am taking you all with me. So wishing us all luck and hoping that James chimes in here.

The new owner of 325 Greenwich, Josh Greenberg, posted a comment to the site, asking for the neighborhood’s help in getting Café Clementine through the permitting process at the Department of Buildings. I waited to post it, since I wanted to see what was going on at the DOB first — and I only got more confused. It seems the restaurant’s ability to move forward was stuck on a piece of bureaucracy called the “narrative statement” for Interim Multiple Dwellings in the Loft Law program — of which 325 is a part. (The building has four apartments upstairs.)

As Greenberg put it, the DOB was holding the restaurant hostage. The DOB says Greenberg has not been a responsible landlord, but just a walk down the block might tell us otherwise.

Greenberg bought the building in 2019 from Tribeca landlord Peter Matera, and since then has been trying to bring it up to code. The building entered the legalization process under the Loft Law in 1983, and for the majority of those four decades, few substantial changes were made to the building since no one sought out a permit (there’s even a defunct elevator in there).

As we all can witness, he has been working on and restoring the façade (which is coming along) and making improvements to the storefronts. According to Greenberg, he paid $80k in fines from penalties from the prior owner, and he filed plans for legalization of the property, which set him back $55k in fees.

In order for Cafe Clementine to get their permits, the building needs a “letter of no objection” from the Loft Board, which is part of DOB.

But DOB says that Greenberg has not taken the steps necessary to clear the decks for that, even though Greenberg says he filed the plans and construction is clearly under way. From the DOB spokesman: “To date the owner has not filed a construction work application to make the necessary repairs inside the building and convert the upper floors into safe, legal apartments…In recent weeks, the Loft Board has reached out to the owner on multiple occasions and has set up an upcoming meeting intended to discuss what steps they we would need to take and what progress must be achieved in order to obtain the LONO for the restaurant on the first floor.”

Enter the rabbit hole. (And if you really like that kind of thing, I left the regulations pasted in below.)

I also wondered why repairs to the residential units were tied to the commercial spaces, and it looks like it does: “In order to get the permit for the proposed construction work to build out the restaurant, the owner must first obtain an LONO from the Loft Board…In order to obtain the LONO, the owner must demonstrate progress towards legalizing the residential units in the building. Since the current owner purchased the property, they have not done this.”

Meanwhile it seems there may be some movement this week after a conference call between Greenberg and DOB officials.

But that gets us back to Café Clementine.

Clementine owner Rosa Tlaseca and her team are fast running out of options — and funds. Their future at that spot is entirely wrapped up in the Loft Board process and whether Greenberg can make sure this is all resolved, and quick, especially since all their other permits are in place (I saw the doc with the approvals from DOB).

“It got all approved and we were like Hallelujah and it gets to the Loft Board and we thought it would be a rubber stamp and now they are saying no,” Greenberg said. “I am now so angry on behalf of my tenants. It is so out of their realm and not their business. This is the last thing the city needs right now is anti-business — and a local business at that. These are hard-working people.”

Applicable Regulation For Reference:

29 RCNY § 2-04(d)(4)(iii)(E) states):

(E) The Loft Board’s staff may deny a LONO request for the proposed work where:

a. the owner does not have an alteration application filed with the DOB to perform the legalization work in the IMD spaces;

b. the Loft Board issued a certification of the legalization work in the IMD spaces pursuant to 29 RCNY § 2-01(d)(2)(xi), and the owner does not have a current permit to perform the legalization work in such IMD units;

c. the DOB had issued a temporary certificate of occupancy for the residential portion of the subject building before the owner applied for a LONO, and the temporary certificate of occupancy expired and has not been renewed;

d. the owner’s monthly reports as required in 29 RCNY § 2-01.1(a)(1)(ii) show no advancement of legalization projects in the building. The Loft Board’s staff may supplement its review of the owner’s monthly reports to consider any relevant information contained in the Loft Board’s files;

e. the IMD building already has a final certificate of occupancy, but the owner has not applied to the Loft Board for removal;

f. the owner applied to the Loft Board for removal of the subject building prior to filing the LONO request, but the owner has not exercised all diligent efforts to submit additional information that was requested by the Loft Board’s staff for processing the removal application; or

g. any other circumstance exists that indicates to the Loft Board’s staff that the owner has failed to take all reasonable and necessary action to obtain a final certificate of occupancy for the residential portions of the IMD spaces to legalize the subject building or to remove the building from the Loft Board’s jurisdiction.



  1. No surprise with the owner of the building. That building will lay there as is. Promises not kept. Very sad

    • “Native”, I bought the building 2.5 years ago… and think I’ve already made some good progress with the outside, wait until you see her completed.

      Unsure of promises you’re referring to but feel free to reach out to me if you have anything further You should also speak to the owners of Clementine when they do open about whether or not I fought like my life depended on it for them.

      Also just my opinion, while I don’t mind criticism at all, if you choose to criticize publically those you don’t know about situations you don’t know anything about, you should at least have the fortitude to use your full real name. We’re all adults on here trying to make this neighborhood better (I live in 325 Greenwich), and there’s a name for keyboard warriors who hide behind fake usernames and make disparaging remarks anonymously… (Hint: they’re green and live under bridges, and they’re usually teenagers)

      • James I was unaware of that. I am also so happy to hear about your moving forward. Can’t wait for all to be resolved for you. Best of luck!

        • James, I am not hiding behind a computer. I was unaware that you are the new owner. No need to make remarks. Best of luck I am sure it will all work out.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear that Cafe Clementine is in such limbo! I’ve been looking forward to having them back in the neighborhood since you shared they would return. Could Cafe Clementine be released from this “lease” that isn’t happening and perhaps look into other spaces? The former ‘wichcraft space at Greenwich and Beach is still available according to the signage…
    Hoping the best for them!!!

    • There’s also the Beach Street Eatery space around the corner.

      Sounds like the landlord either really dropped the ball with the permitting process or tried to pull a fast one and got caught here. Either way, it’s a very unfortunate turn of events for Cafe Clementine.

      • Actually I walked by Beach St today and there were workers clearing out the space. I wasn’t able to stop and get details today, but will see if they are still there tomorrow.

  3. 1.) The Loft Law tied work on the commercial premises to making progress on legalizing the residential lofts for a good reason. It was thought to be a way to motivate landlords to legalize the residential lofts.

    There was a lot more income to be had from renting stores than from rents paid by interim multiple dwelling (“IMD”, or not-yet-legalized) loft tenants who were going to end up as rent-stabilized tenants at the end of the costly process. So if landlords wanted the privilege of commercial rental income they would have to show they were fulfilling the responsibility of legalizing the lofts.

    2.) From the Loft Board on the Narrative Statement (more than just bureaucracy):

    “The Loft Board’s rules establish an Occupant Review of Plans Process, commonly known as the Narrative Statement Process. The process provides IMD tenants an opportunity to review and comment on the owner’s construction plans for converting the building to legal residential use. The Loft Board has concluded that this process, which involves the tenants in the details of legalization, is necessary because the process of legalization generally involves substantial construction work and may necessitate basic changes to individual units.”

    3.) The building owner obtained a Loft Board Letter of No Objection to file with his DOB facade work application in September 2019, but it applied to the facade work only. The Loft Board requirements should not have been a surprise.

    4.) It seems Cafe Clementine did not do their due diligence before they signed the lease to see about the status of the Certificate of Occupancy and whether they would be able to alter and use the premises.

    5.) What is not clear is whether any Loft Law tenants remain in the apartments. Did they leave? Were their rights bought out by the prior owner? Were the apartments renovated without DOB permits and are now rented out as market-rate apartments? Various DOB Tenant Protection Plan filings do indicate that there are 4 occupied apartments.

    6.) This would not be the first Tribeca building that is renting apartments to market-rate tenants with no Certificate of Occupancy, having never made progress out of the Loft Board jurisdiction. Some just keep renewing DOB permits every year to post on the door, but nobody does any work and no one complains because the Loft Law tenants are long gone.

    • I know at least one apartment is still occupied, as I know the tenant. They offered many different incentives to buy her out, but she chose to stay.

    • James,

      Great contribution, someone clearly understand this subject!

      Firstly, Happy to announce I’ve reached terms with the Loft Board on a dramatically reduced requirements to issue Clementine’s permits and we should be moving full steam ahead. This is due in large part to the assistance of Councilwoman Margaret Chin’s office as well as Tribeca Citizen.

      Just couple notes:

      You are correct about the legalization process, I’m a well versed landlord and never had any confusion that this building would have to be legalized. As you know however that is typically a 20,30+ year process in most cases, and what I could not see in my crystal ball was COVID, and so with my property sitting empty with no income (very few IMD tenants actually pay rent) well I can’t even pay the real estate taxes (which cover 30+% of city revenue) let alone make any dent in legalization. My biggest issue here was timing. Was coming out of the pandemic the time to draw the line in the sand and keep businesses from reopening, all over a small portion of a 30+ year process in a building that’s been in same condition for 40 years? This city needs the economy back pumping ASAP or it’s headed back to its state in the 80’s, and again, the vast majority of NYC funding comes real estate taxes.

      I’m sure you’re also aware of the legalization catch 22 and why Loft Board does have a very tough job I admit. You mentioned the landlords, however almost always, the remaining IMD loft tenants DO NOT WANT the building legalized because once legalized their rents jump pretty substantially to Rent Stabilized rents via a calculation that includes the costs the landlord had to put into legalization. If you want to go and look thru loft board records (you can pull any records on any building you’d like at their office if you make appt), you’ll see instance after instance of landlords fighting for access to loft units with their architects to update and move legalization along and refusal by tenants. Again I don’t even blame them, the process is set up to incentivize them to fight the process itself. Just stating the fact it’s a two way street, neither side really wants it done so there has to be a better path here than just withholding permits once in a blue moon when they feel like it (remember they issued mine no problem in 2019). Permits are the proper legal process, if they continue this all they’ll do is either encourage LL’s to do work without permits which is dangerous and/or they’ll continue to hold up business from opening and landlords from improving their properties.

      James if you’d ever like to discuss please shoot me an email sounds like you’ve got some great knowledge me and others in my industry can use to help the neighborhood,

      Be well

      • The Loft Legalization process is certainly a challenge, and I wish you well. Entering rent stabilization is a fairer regime for all. Despite the percentage increase in rent, it is still not exactly a financial windfall for the landlord. The code compliance reimbursement is a temporary increase, to be paid back many years after the money was already spent, without regard to inflation or time value of money.

        From the available documentation of this building, the prior owner took little to no action since the early 1990s to move legalization along. Loft Board penalties and fines were not a motivator. The evidence that he was obstructed by the residential tenants seems sparse. Stores were apparently renovated and rented without permits.

        I do not know whether I would have come in as a new owner and started work on DOB-filed facade repairs without simultaneously pushing forward on the apartment legalization process, by filing an Alteration Type 1 application to change the C of O and legalize the apartments even without a complete narrative statement. (Then again, I do not know if tenants were complaining about leaks or other habitability issues related to the facade.)

        Hopefully the narrative statement and any access issues are resolved soon, so you can get done the legalization you seem committed to see through.

  4. I read his comment or earlier post and replied before now reading this post. I am too confused in the rabbit hole tonight so…I just wish very best for cafe clementine.

  5. The explanation is quite simple. Having been one of the very few buildings to successfully survive the Loft Board system and get a C of O, I can tell you first hand that the Loft Board’s sole and primary purpose is to prevent any and all progress on any IMD. This allows the tenants in place to continue to pay the same rents they were paying in the 1970’s, which is the only political consideration.
    I don’t know the details of this case, but I’ll bet the Loft Board has simply rubber stamped every single objection the tenants have put up over the past 40 years, while putting the landlord through an onerous and costly paperwork hell.

    • The Loft Board is not the only agency in NYC with a political bent. That said, OATH exists to hear these issues and resolve them, but a landlord can hire an attorney and an architect to show what is reasonable and what is not, even if certain tenants may certain silly, unreasonable, or arbitrary demands.

      In this case, the (prior) owner was penalized by the Loft Board for many years for failing to renew the annual IMD registration, some as far back as 1990, in addition to penalties for failure to take even the most basic steps to legalize the residential apartments. (The numerous Loft Board orders are online to be read.) It is hard to believe from this record that the (prior) owner was diligent and the tenants were obstructing progress.

  6. Just wanted to chime in.
    James – thanks as always for educating us.
    Josh – I know you and the Rudd group to be straight shooters and experienced landlords. I wish you the best of luck and glad you are making progress.
    Neighbors – we all have to tell our mayor and city council rep (and Chin seems to have listened and has usually been responsive) that our city’s economic revival is key to achieving many of our common goals. City processes need to be fair and streamlined in order for small family businesses to have a chance to thrive – if they are not, then only large corporations will have the money and time to deal with the red tape and be here, and we will no longer have small family businesses that are more tied into and support our communities.

  7. The first rule of commercial tenancy in NYC is to check the zoning and CO for feasability.

  8. It’s amazing but not surprising that the City government nit-picks the permitting process for building and business owners while doing nothing about murder, mayhem and filth on our streets. So sad to remain a New Yorker as so many of my friends and neighbors flee the City and the State because of bad governance like this.

  9. I tried to read the tedious bureaucratic parts and still don’t really understand the issue but hope that Clementine can open soon. They are an integral part of the neighborhood and sorely missed.