Volume 74, Number 40 | February 9 - 15, 2005

Mulberry tenants: City reneging on promise

By Hemmy So

More than four years after former Mayor Rudy Guiliani promised Little Italy residents the chance to purchase their apartments at below-market rates in exchange for giving Da Nico restaurant the right to use their backyard as a dining patio, residents continue to fight for fulfillment of that promise.

On Jan. 27, Barry Mallin, the 168 Mulberry St. Tenants Association’s attorney, sent Commissioner Shaun Donovan of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development a letter demanding that the city finally give residents of 168 Mulberry St. and two adjoining buildings the opportunity to purchase their apartments from the city.

“We’ve written other letters to other staff members or the deputy commissioner over the last several years. This time, since there’s a new commissioner, we decided to write directly to him so we could bypass the staff people who haven’t really responded,” Mallin said.

In 2000, Guiliani approved a deal through which the residents could buy their apartments for $13,000 under the “tenant interim leasing” program, as long as they didn’t turn around and sell their apartments at a windfall price. The tenants, in turn, promised to agree to lease their backyard to Da Nico for 20 years at $1,300 per month.

But that deal never took shape, and the city has been leasing the backyard to Da Nico for about five years. Da Nico is a Guiliani favorite, a restaurant he recommended to those coming into town for the Republican National Convention last August.

The restaurant, however, has gotten plenty of media attention after its mention during the trial of mob boss Joseph Massino. Not only was the restaurant noted as a mob hangout, but owner Perry Criscitelli was identified by mobster Richard Cantarella and the F.B.I. as a Bonnano crime family soldier. The City Health Department also cited two health code violations at Da Nico last year.

Nicholas Criscitelli, a Da Nico owner, refused comment.

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