Volume 78 / Number 1 - June 4 - 10, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Last week, the second floor and roof of 86 Bedford St., home to Chumley’s bar, were removed, leaving the place resembling more of a lean-to than a legendary landmark. The bar has been closed since the building was damaged during construction work a year ago.

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Le Figaro’s finale
The historic Village eatery Le Figaro Café at Bleecker and MacDougal Sts. just announced its closure after more than 50 years in the neighborhood, with the owners posting a note on the restaurant’s window this week confirming the departure.

According to a Mixed Use reader who passed by the space on Monday, the sign stated: “To Our Valued Customers: It is with geart [sic] feeling of bereft that Le Figaro Cafe a Greenwich Village landmark has to close. In behalf of the management and employees we would like to thank you all for your loyalty and support through all these years.”

The space, once a favorite of Bob Dylan and a hangout for Village beatniks, more recently featured live music and belly dancing at its location at the busy intersection.

The online world lit up with speculation following the announcement, with Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York citing a tipster who has it on “very good authority” that the owners have leased part of the back of the MacDougal St. space to a bank and are searching for another restaurant operator for the front of the property.

“It would be tragic to lose it because of its incredible history,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, upon hearing the news from Mixed Use, “and it would be particularly tragic if it were replaced with something like a bank or chain drugstore, which we’re seeing proliferation of in that area.”

G.V.S.H.P. has been pushing for landmark designation of a South Village Historic District, but the cafe location currently isn’t included in the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s study area for the district.

“Landmarking will help protect some key features of the neighborhood, but it wouldn’t necessarily keep Le Figaro from moving out,” Berman added. “The problem with the loss of small business in the neighborhood is one that we’re looking at additional ways to address, but it’s a really, really vexing problem.”

On that note…
Berman also relayed to us that his organization will be co-sponsoring a discussion this week on strategies for preserving local retail. Members of the East Village Community Coalition will also attend the event, which is being led by Vicki Weiner, director of planning and preservation at the Pratt Center for Community Development. The discussion will feature a screening of the film “Twilight Becomes Night,” a documentary about the community impact of store closings. The public event takes place on Thurs., June 5, at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery. RSVP to 212-228-2781.

Deconstructing Chumley’s
In a new chapter in the ongoing Chumley’s saga, the historic former speakeasy’s West Village building underwent deconstruction work last week after a failed attempt to reopen the space in May.

According to a Mixed Use tipster, last Wednesday workers took sledgehammers to the space, following a series of fits and starts over its planned reopening.

The landmark pub has been closed for more than a year after a collapse at the building, at 86 Bedford St. Chumley’s owner Steve Schlopak first stated that the saloon would be back last October, but then amended that date to this May. Construction crews curiously began buzzing at the site in February, to no avail. Then, last week, workers abruptly removed the entire second and third stories of the landmark building, including the roof and facade.

Workers at the site confirmed the removal on Monday, as evidenced by the half-dozen or so containers filled with debris in front of the address and the building’s skeletal appearance. However, the workers maintained that the bar’s wares were still in place and that Chumely’s is scheduled to serve again in the future.

A representative for the property’s managing agent, Margaret Streicker Porres of Newcastle Realty Services, said the work amounts to mandatory upkeep of the 1831 structure.

“I think they are trying to stabilize the three buildings [including two others located around Chumley’s] and then restore them, and that’s what’s presently going on,” said George Arzt, a Newcastle spokesperson.

Tom Hoover, who lives across the street from the address, said a worker at the site told him that “Chumley’s must die to live again” and that it looked “like Berlin after the war.”

“The suspicion is that since the current lessee — who lived on the second floor — had a 70-year lease, the only way to realize the property’s value was to damage enough structural integrity to cause it to fall down,” he told Mixed Use. “Mission accomplished.”

However, Lisi De Bourbon, a spokesperson for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which must clear all construction at landmarked properties, confirmed that the deconstruction work was approved last year.

“Chumley’s is dead,” Hoover added. “Long live Chumley’s”

Celluloid square
Hudson Square’s increasingly creative office tenancy got a boost last week when it was announced that international movie house Epoch Films would be moving to the neighborhood.

The company will take 15,000 square feet on the fourth floor of 435 Hudson St., between Leroy and Morton Sts., in a relocation from their current digs about 15 blocks south in Tribeca.

The deal brings the nine-story, Trinity Real Estate-owned building to 100 percent occupancy, with tenants including L’Oreal, MCI International and Tom Hennes, Inc.

Hunter Realty Organization’s Marc Schoen, who represented Epoch in the deal, said the company wanted to be in a “premier” building and that this address was the best in Trinity’s Hudson Square portfolio. “This really has become an elegant part of the Downtown area,” Schoen added of what he now considers an “upscale” neighborhood. “It’s got a residential and commercial feel, and the employees love that.” He noted the asking price was $55 per square foot for the 10 -year lease.

The company, with offices in London and Los Angeles, counts clients such as Microsoft, Apple, Coke, Nike and Visa, and produced its first feature film “Junebug” in 2005. Epoch is currently producing its next feature, “Gigantic,” starring John Goodman and Ed Asner, with filming locations throughout New York City.

About 15 staff will relocate to the new office, which Epoch spokesperson Emily Kowalczyk told Mixed Use will be a bit larger than its current space.

“Epoch Films is known for their outstanding innovation and their inspired filmmaking, and we are delighted to welcome them into our Hudson Square community,” said Trinity President Carl Weisbrod — who’s helping to push a business improvement district designation for the neighborhood — in a statement.

Jason Pizer and Garett Varricchio represented Trinity in the deal.

Employees lonely
Popular West Village nightlife destination Employees Only sported some pretty serious signage on its windows at 510 Hudson St. last week after the city issued a partial vacate order at the hip bar/restaurant.

According to a Department of Buildings violation posted at the site, the nightspot’s lack of a secondary exit poses “imminent danger to the life and safety of the occupants” in the cellar and first-floor spaces. The restaurant, which was cited for not having a place-of-assembly permit, featured a “Vacate Do Not Enter” sign on its front window.

The owners also posted their own understated notice alongside the city-supplied literature: “Dear Friends, We will be closed this evening as we work out minor building issues.”

A manager at the restaurant on Tuesday said that the space has been up and running since last Friday, and a visit to the establishment confirmed that all the notices had been removed. However, D.O.B. spokesperson Carly Sullivan said the vacate order was still in effect as of Tuesday for the cellar and first-floor areas, meaning it could not legally have people occupying those spaces — even for employees only.

P.S., Employees Only also happens to be a well-known, if low-key, after-hours hangout — despite the fact that it’s just around the corner from the Sixth Police Precinct.


A watercolor image showing the proposed new St. Vincent’s Hospital (A) and, across Seventh Ave. from it, the Rudin Organization’s proposed condo development (B) that would finance less than half the cost of the new hospital’s construction.

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