Volume 78 - Number 22 / October 29 - November 4, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Backing The Box
Owners of high-profile nightlife mecca The Box reached a resolution with nearby residents previously upset over noise and traffic emanating from the Lower East Side space, resulting in a thumbs-up last week from the community board in the club’s bid for a liquor license renewal.

A vote on the issue by Community Board 3’s S.L.A. Committee had been postponed for a month to allow owners of the Chrystie St. location to meet with disgruntled residents in an effort to assuage concerns regarding the club. The committee gave its recommendation last Monday after owners agreed to abide by a list of stipulations, including sound mitigation, pedestrian and vehicle traffic control, additional outdoor security and garbage cleanup. Moving forward, The Box will also hold monthly meetings with the residents to discuss ongoing issues, said Board 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer.

“They actually worked very, very hard,” she added of the club’s owners, noting they had been calling her “constantly” to reach an amicable solution. “They spent a lot of time and lot of money.”

Stetzer said additional soundproofing has been installed to keep the noise inside, and awnings will be added near the entrance to muffle the din of patrons waiting on line.

As for the seemingly endless stream of would-be clubgoers that amass outside the space in hopes of gaining entry into the elite nightspot — many of whom contribute to the street noise — Stetzer added, “It’s not our problem how they keep it quiet.”

“That’s not what the Lower East Side is about,” she elaborated. “The Lower East Side is not supposed to be about being exclusive.”

Rising hotel concerns
Residents have been working with the developers of a boutique hotel rising on the site of the former Moondance Diner in Soho to ensure the plan includes noise-reduction precautions for the property’s patio and rooftop space.

The project — a 17-story, 70,000-square-foot hotel with 114 rooms — is currently under construction at the corner of Grand St. and Sixth Ave., with the intention of securing three liquor licenses for the space’s ground-floor, deck and rooftop operations.

Residents and members of the Soho Alliance met with representatives from developer Brack Capital Real Estate last month to discuss concerns over noise, especially as they relate to any open-air portions of the on-site restaurants/bars.

The residents mostly took issue with hotel’s outdoor deck and roof areas, requesting that the developer enclose the rooftop and implement mandatory closing times of 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

“That way you could have your rooftop open all year long,” said Alliance Director Sean Sweeney.

The developer is currently trying to negotiate to keep the rooftop area open, and also wants closing times an hour later than suggested by the community.

“I can tell you right now, we’re not ever going to give them that,” Sweeney offered, which should make for a spirited discussion between the two parties at their next meeting on Nov. 19. Other Downtown communities have successfully lobbied for even earlier closing times at similar hotel bars, getting operators to agree to closing times as early as 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Warren Pesetsky, counsel to the developers for their liquor license applications, said that community relations will be central moving forward.

“You can’t live in atmosphere where everyone around you hates you,” he said.

School site for sale
The building once home to the Gateway School on the East Village/Gramercy border has hit the market along with a neighboring townhouse, offering a total of nearly 20,000 square feet between the properties for a potential new school.

The seven-level building, located at 236 Second Ave., formerly held the nonprofit Gateway School for students with learning disabilities before it moved to W. 61st for the 2008-’09 school year.

Prior to this relocation, the 12,366-square-foot building had been completely renovated. It includes nine classrooms, a gymnasium, art room, library, numerous offices, a rear courtyard and recreational rooftop space. The adjoining property, a five-story townhouse on E. 15th St. with about 7,500 square feet, had held offices for the Gateway School and could be sold separately as a residence or in conjunction with the Second Ave. site.

Since the property’s going to market two weeks ago, numerous schools and corporations have expressed interest in it, said James Nelson, partner at Massey Knakal Realty Services, which is representing the sites.

However, a new private school set to open next year, Greenwich Village High School, which had been perusing property on 14th St., has not made a play for the site, a representative said.

The townhouse is on the market for $5.9 million.

Losing its Voice
First, The Village Voice’s beloved longtime staffers started unceremoniously getting pink slips from the paper, and now comes news that the foundering alt-weekly’s Cooper Square headquarters will be losing the lettering gracing its facade.

According to a post on the Voice’s blog, building manager Hartz Mountain Industries decided to remove the VILLAGE VOICE name from just above its second-floor windows as part of planned renovations to 36 Cooper Square.

The building was swathed in scaffolding over the weekend, and management responded that the lettering would be taken down in an attempt to give the building a more retro appearance.

The Voice blog noted that Hartz, whose C.E.O. Leonard Stern, formerly the paper’s owner, recently brought in new tenant the Curbed Network, which operates a series of blogs about New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco real estate.

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