Volume 76, Number 32 | January 3 - 9, 2007

Scoopy’s Notebook

Trump fires up: After a brief respite following the unearthing of historic bones a few weeks ago at the Trump Soho condo-hotel site, pile driving resumed Tuesday. There will now ensue a month of heavy-duty pile driving, we are told. According to Doris Diether, Community Board 2 Zoning Committee chairperson, she and Maria Passannante Derr, C.B. 2 chairperson, recently met with construction managers working on the 45-story tower’s foundation to discuss the project and see if the work can somehow be made less disruptive. Diether said Chelsea Vocational High School, located just a half block from the Spring and Varick Sts. site, has expressed concern over the effect the pile driving’s noise will have on its students’ ability to learn. Julius Schwarz, executive vice president of the Bayrock Group, a partner in the project, did not immediately return a call for comment on what kind of measures might be taken to mitigate the noise. Meanwhile, the remains — reportedly from a graveyard connected to the former Spring Street Church, which was razed in the early 1960s — are being protected under a white geodesic-type tent structure in the middle of the construction area.

Tapas bar battle: At its December full board meeting, Community Board 2 voted not to approve a liquor-license application for Tasca, a new tapas bar planned at the site of the former Raffaella’s on Seventh Ave. S. at Charles St. The board’s Business Committee had deadlocked, voting 2 yes versus 2 no, on the license, which counts as a denial. Board member Bob Rinaolo led the charge for the opposition at the full board meeting, contending that the new place, including its outdoor cafe, would have 300 seats, and that they had flip-flopped on whether they’d have one or two bars. But the group of about a half-dozen young Wall St. investors/restaurateurs behind Tasca — who have already invested $800,000 to remodel the space — say their first lawyer made a confusing presentation to the board. Their new, improved lawyer, Warren Pesetsky, was a former counsel with the State Liquor Authority. They maintain they’ll have under 300 seats, though don’t have an exact figure yet, claiming they need to build out the space and see it first to figure it out. They also say that some aluminum and glass siding on part of their exterior — which Rinaolo had objected to, since it’s in the Greenwich Village Historic District but had not been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission — was added by a contractor from a previous project who died midwork. Some neighbors, like Washington Square Park activist Jonathan Greenberg, however, said they’d love a new wine and tapas bar at the former Raffaella’s, a popular cafe that the Tasca group says was forced out by high rent.

Seminary sweetens deal: Dean Ward Ewing of the General Theological Seminary last week told Community Board 4 the seminary would use development rights left over from its proposed 15-story Chelsea Square project on Ninth Ave. to create affordable housing someplace else in Chelsea. The seminary’s partner in the proposed Ninth Ave. luxury condo/academic complex, The Brodsky Organization would apply about 50,000 square feet of unused development rights to an unspecified government affordable housing program, said Ewing in a Dec. 28 letter to Lee Compton, C.B. 4 chairperson. “We pledge to work with the Fulton Houses Tenants Association, Community Board 4 and the city to find such a site for affordable housing in Chelsea,” Ewing said. Compton said on Jan. 2 that the affordable housing offer was a fine idea but not very practical. “We tried everything we could to find other places in Chelsea and West Chelsea to transfer development rights and there aren’t any, unless you rezone the neighborhood to do it,” Compton said. Because the seminary is landmarked, it has the as-of-right option to transfer development rights across the street or across a corner, but there is no such ready solution in this case, Compton said. “If the seminary had told us about this two years ago during the West Chelsea rezoning, we could have made room for it,” Compton added.

Bowery buildings, etc.: The Liz Christy Garden at E. Houston St. and the Bowery got a real, regulation-looking Parks Department-type fence last week, replacing its former worn chain-link. The fence is courtesy of AvalonBay Communities, which developed the two new buildings, Avalon Chrystie Place on E. Houston St.’s south side and Avalon Bowery Place (whoever thought the Bowery would become a swank address?) on the street’s north side. In addition, Fred Harris, AvalonBay’s senior vice president, told us that the Whole Foods Market in Avalon Chrystie Place — to be Manhattan’s largest supermarket at 60,000 square feet — should finally open late this winter or early this spring. Avalon Bowery Place will have five to seven commercial tenants, including two restaurants, Harris said, adding he’ll have information on this in about two months. Not having to cope with subway rails below or a garden next door, AvalonBay’s third, smaller, 90-unit building, between Second Ave. and Extra Place, should be finished by this summer, according to Harris.

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