Volume 78 / Number 3 - June 18 - 24, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Lotus, a nightlife locus
Meatpacking District mainstay Lotus, a symbol of the neighborhood’s swanky resurgence since opening nearly a decade ago, unhooked its velvet rope for the last time over the weekend.

The restaurant/club on 14th St. just west of Ninth Ave., which came to epitomize the area as a haven for glitzy nightlife activity, will make way for another similar establishment operated by Lotus owner David Rabin.

Rabin, president of both the Meatpacking District Initiative and the New York Nightlife Association, decided to pack it in Sunday after a nine-year run at the location, which is currently bookended by high-end clothiers, restaurants and a new Apple Store.

“It was just clear that it was time to re-conceptualize it,” Rabin told Mixed Use, adding he and his partners plan to reopen another dining/nightclub establishment there after a gut renovation. The owners were able to settle some outstanding issues with the State Liquor Authority in the move, he noted, as well as take the time to pursue a new venture as the trendy district is undergoing such rapid changes.

“Lotus was really one of the groundbreaking nightlife establishments in the neighborhood in terms of bringing mainstream nightlife business here,” said Annie Washburn, executive director of the Meatpacking District Initiative, adding that nine years “is an eternity for a nightlife venue.” “It’s such a great example of what a nightlife business can do for the neighborhood,” she said, “both commercially and what the neighborhood can do to move in a positive direction.”

But Rabin also knows the reality of an area that has recently forced out some its nightlife forebears, including Florent and The Hog Pit, a process he’s observed in neighborhoods like Soho and the Village.

“When this series of leases is up — eight, nine years from now — if you’re not a hotel, [you’ll be forced out],” added Rabin, who also owns Meatpacking Mexican restaurant Los Dados, of the area’s most at-risk tenancy. “I don’t think any of us are really going to have a choice.”

His newest incarnation at the Lotus space is still in the early planning stages with no timeline for opening, but for now he’s happy reflecting on the former club’s contribution as a social mecca.

“A lot of people had a lot of fun in that venue over the last eight years,” Rabin said. “A lot of friendships were made, a lot of couples met. … I love those kinds of stories.”

City’s ‘pattern of prejudice’
The Soho Alliance will finally get its day in court with the neighborhood group’s filing of a lawsuit last week against the city over the Trump Soho condo-hotel rising at Spring and Varick Sts.

The project prevailed last month over a challenge from the Alliance at a hearing before the Board of Standards and Appeals. So the community group has now taken both the B.S.A. and the Department of Buildings to task with an Article 78 lawsuit, charging “an arbitrary and capricious decision by a governmental agency,” said Alliance president Sean Sweeney.

The group claims that D.O.B. erred when it issued the permit last year for the 42-story building on grounds that the condo-hotel is really a residential building and, thus, not permitted in the manufacturing zone.

Sweeney said while the Alliance never expected a favorable B.S.A. ruling, he sees a “pattern of prejudice” between the agency and D.O.B. that his group has drawn attention to through its legal challenges. “The city’s for sale,” he charged.

Sweeney also said that both D.O.B. and the B.S.A. initially slept on the Alliance’s requests for a view of the permits and to calendar last month’s hearing, reacting only after a construction worker died in an accident at the site in January.

“It’s a pattern of abuse and delay and prejudice against the community that’s been pervasive for years by these two agencies,” he said.

Sweeney noted Article 78 suits have about a 10 percent success rate, but that this time around the Alliance will accept the ultimate court ruling rather than “a bureaucrat’s final word.”

“Legally, we have to test them,” he said. “[The goal] was never to bring down Trump’s building, it was never to shorten the height. It was to catch the attention of the city to do something about the zoning abuses that exist.”

Stuy Town’s luxe life
On a recent walk through Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Mixed Use witnessed firsthand the growing divide between the complexes’ long-term elderly tenants and the howling twentysomethings now commingling on the sprawling East Side grounds. (Some of the older residents stay up late enough to cast reprehensive stares at the inebriated young people as they stumble in from the night.)

But one need look no further than the tongue-in-cheek blog “Stuyvesant Town’s Lux Living” (www.stuyvesanttown.blogspot.com) to get a taste of the generational warfare, which has been mounting steadily since Tishman Speyer purchased the properties in 2006.

The site’s acerbic assessment of the evolving Stuy Town landscape features topics ranging from building maintenance and garbage collection to fictional posts about new resident programs and quotes from faux-Tishman spokespeople.

A blog entry on Monday, for instance, satirically reported on a wheelchair-bound resident’s troubles in navigating the increasingly obstructed walkways.

“Eighty-six-year-old Ed Woodmunch only leaves his apartment once a week now because he can’t get around the complex in his wheelchair,” the item stated. “‘They block the wheelchair ramps with bushes, there’s garbage everywhere, and I get lost because I can’t see over the fences,’ he tells us. ‘The last time I was able to get to the senior center for bingo, I arrived only to find out they converted it to a wine shop. I don’t like wine.’”

The “story” ends with a reaction from the complex’s press rep: “A Stuyvesant Town spokesperson acknowledges the property is a bit disheveled right now but dismisses rumors they are trying to off the elderly tenants for their apartments. ‘That would be too much work on our part, they should just sit quietly at home until it’s their time to go.’ ”

The anonymous author has only been online since April, but has already amassed more than 50 posts — enough to keep both young and old in stitches and hopefully provide a laugh on those otherwise awkward elevator trips.


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