Volume 78 / Number 17 - September 24 - 30, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower
East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Lucky for Times Square
Venerable East Village drag dinner club Lucky Cheng’s has grown too big for its sequined britches and will move to the more tourist-friendly environs of Times Square after 15 years on First Ave.

The restaurant, long a favorite for bachelor(ette) and birthday parties for its cross-dressing wait staff, has become such a tourist destination that owner Hayne Suthon has decided to bring it to a more mainstream neighborhood.

In an interview with nightlife impresario Steve Lewis, Suthon acknowledged that the club “really belongs in Times Square at this point,” where she can add more nightly shows.

“One thing that’s happened with Times Square is that it’s become its own bubble city,” Suthon said on Lewis’s Web site, Good Night Mr. Lewis. “The tourists go there and want to see…all of the shows, and the ones that wanted to see Lucky Cheng’s no longer want to venture outside the bubble. I used to get all kinds of concierge referrals and a lot of tourists, but they don’t come here anymore even though they know where we are.”

Suthon also rued the loss of New York City’s nightlife culture, saying current and recent administrations have sought to clamp down on the hospitality business by engendering local community boards with more decision-making power

“It’s because so much [power] was given to the community boards that it’s almost difficult to take that back,” she said. “They scream and they yell. I mean you’ll see at the community boards the women with the gray bobs, the red, square glasses trying to be stylish, with hand-knit sweaters and the socks with the Birkenstocks, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, if they’re there for me I’m dead.’”

Making noise in Soho
Developers of a new high-rise hotel going up in Soho will meet with the community this week to discuss their request for a trio of liquor licenses for the property.

According to the Soho Alliance, developers are planning to build a 10-story hotel above a two-story base at the site of the former Moondance Diner at 27 Grand St. at Sixth Ave. The hotel’s revised liquor license application calls for three bars at the location — one on the ground floor, another on a patio area about 20 feet above street level and a third on the hotel’s rooftop.

“All three bars will have amplified music, which could spread for blocks around,” read a notice from Alliance Director Sean Sweeney, whose group has sparred in court another nearby establishment, the jazz venue Lola, over the impacts of its live music. He added that one of the hotel’s proposed bars will operate right next to residents’ windows, and that outdoor music is unacceptable as far as he’s concerned.

“You don’t need music to have a drink. I’m sorry,” Sweeney commented to Mixed Use. “If you think people are going to come to your hotel to listen to some half-assed deejay’s music choice, you’re wrong.”

The project is being built as of right, but the State Liquor Authority will make the final decision concerning the license applications. The community meeting is planned for 7 p.m. on Thurs., Sept. 25, on the fifth floor of 125 Greene St.

Suit targets ‘poor tax’
Tenant advocates rallied in support of a lawsuit filed against the city’s Rent Guidelines Board last week that charges the board with creating an illegal supplemental rent increase for longtime, lower-income tenants.

Joined outside City Hall by a host of local pols that included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC teamed up to announce the suit challenging the R.G.B.’s recently approved longevity tax for tenants living in rent-stabilized apartments more than six years and paying $1,000 or less per month. Dubbed by its opponents as a “poor tax,” the supplemental increase stipulates minimum monthly increases of $45 and $85 for one- and two-year leases, respectively, in line with the R.G.B.’s June approval of 4.5 percent and 8.5 percent increases for rent-stabilized tenants. The plaintiffs argued that these minimum monthly increases could exceed the percentages voted on for tenants paying less than $1,000 a month, and deemed the move both illegal and underhanded.

“They pulled a bit of a fast one on all of us,” Quinn said of the R.G.B. “With no public debate, they instituted a last-minute, unprecedented increase on longtime, low-income tenants — the people who can least afford to pay.”

To its detractors, the R.G.B.’s supplemental increase attempts to create two classes of rent-protected tenants, thereby exceeding its authority and necessitating the suit.

Advocates are putting pressure on elected officials to pass the Rent Reform Bill, authored by State Senator Thomas Duane, which would overhaul the R.G.B.’s makeup and effect deep changes within the board.

Duane’s measure, which has been held in committee since it was introduced in May, stands a good chance of becoming law if Democrats take back majority control of the Senate from the G.O.P.

Map Quest?
Lower East Side megadeveloper AvalonBay is in negotiations with the city to take over a sliver of street near its large residential projects in the area for retail operations.

Extra Place — an unmapped stretch just east of the Bowery that intersects the north side of E. First St., adjacent to the Avalon Bowery development — is currently owned by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which has not maintained upkeep of the alleyway, according to AvalonBay.

AvalonBay plans to secure ownership of Extra Place from H.P.D. to renovate the block with paving work, drainage and lighting installation, before bringing in about four to six smaller retail tenants, said Fred Harris, the builder’s senior vice president of development.

“We just want to be able to fix it up and make it a public place,” Harris said, noting AvalonBay isn’t seeking exclusive ownership of the street. Niche-type stores, such as clothing and jewelry shops — “like the typical small shop in the East Village” — and cafes with outdoor seating will eventually sprout after renovations take place, Harris added.

“The goal,” he explained, “is to animate the space and give it back to the neighborhood.”

mixeduse@communitymediallc.com

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