Volume 78 - Number 32 / January 7 - 13, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Moondance 2.0

Former Soho standby the Moondance Diner is finally set to open in its new home this week after relocating more than 2,000 miles to Wyoming a year and a half ago.

The 1920s diner, which stood for decades at the corner of Sixth Ave. and Grand St., was purchased in 2007 and moved to the tiny town of La Barge, Wyoming, before a series of setbacks delayed the reopening.

The Moondance had originally been slated for demolition before a preservationist convinced the site’s developer to sell the diner to Vince and Cheryl Pierce, who relocated it to the small western Wyoming town. The couple purchased the diner for $7,500, then hauled it through nine states to its final destination.

“It was bittersweet, since the Moondance isn’t close to its roots in the Big Apple, but miraculous as to how it will take on new definition in a small town of nearly 500,” said preservationist Michael Perlman. It was Perlman who successfully swayed developer Extell to donate the Moondance to the American Diner Museum in exchange for a tax write-off, before the eventual sale. “I take pride in knowing that it found a secure new home, and La Barge will have its first restaurant in awhile,” Perlman added.

According to reports, the Pierces plan to reopen the restaurant by Jan. 9, the main delay coming after heavy snow collapsed much of the diner’s roof. The new owners spent most of 2008 renovating the original structure, which appeared in numerous movies and television shows during its time in New York City.

“The Moondance Diner is a rare piece of Americana, and such establishments are the ultimate public institutions,” Perlman said. “I believe history shouldn’t be sacrificed at the sake of progress, but appreciated and enhanced. It goes unacknowledged way too often.”

New Year, same Meatpacking

With MTV filming its latest reality show hit, “The City,” in the de rigueur Meatpacking District, developments continue to sprout in the area currently inhabited by chic boutiques, restaurants and stiletto-clad scenesters.

The Prime, a 10-story, limestone-and-glass tower at 333 W. 14th St., just launched a sales and marketing campaign for its nine loft-style residences ranging in price from $2.55 million to $7.5 million. A press release announcing the campaign is rife with descriptions like “sophisticated,” “eclectic,” “awesome cachet” and “luxuriously livable” to hype both the property and its environs. One of the project’s marketers cites the building’s “distinct views of mid-19th century landmark steeples that evoke the feeling of a European village, more than the heart of the city.”

But that classic image is in contrast to renowned hotelier Andre Balazs’ just-opened, modernistic Standard Hotel, at 848 Washington St., and another new high-rise slated to go up a block away to the chagrin of a local preservation organization. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is opposing the planned construction of the 14-story building at 437 W. 13th St., calling the developer’s requests for zoning variances unjustified and claiming the structure is out of context for the area.

G.V.S.H.P. expressed concern over the proposed project’s placement, at Washington St. just outside the Gansevoort Market Historic District, which would result in the demolition of the site’s existing two-story Art Deco building, currently home to Atlas Meats. (We had never realized this refrigerated meat locker was an Art Deco building before, so go figure.)

The society also took issue with the proposed design — all glass on three sides and windowless metal on the fourth — and the fact that the three-story base would likely court a big-box retailer for the space, which is much larger than the retail size currently dictated by the neighborhood’s zoning.

Furthermore, the developers — the Romanoff family — have claimed the project’s location next to the High Line, which would actually bisect the building, presents a hardship necessitating the requested zoning changes.

“The High Line will clearly prove to be a great boon to adjacent property owners, and thus to claim ‘hardship’ due to proximity to it seems like Alice in Wonderland logic,” read a statement from G.V.S.H.P.

In total, the proposed zoning changes would amount to a two-thirds increase in allowable bulk, according to the society, as well as providing for height and setback waivers.

“As you can imagine,” the society’s statement continued, “we are deeply disturbed by this proposal.”

Also of note in the G.V.S.H.P. complaint is an item stating that the interested ground-floor retail tenant is none other than upscale department chain Barney’s. Hey, those MTV crews do need a flashy backdrop for filming.

Not In My Backyard

Neighborhood activist and Soho Alliance Director Sean Sweeney, who has gotten his share of ink for famously feuding with Donald Trump over the developer’s new condo-hotel in Soho, tipped us off to his latest recognition in the press — this time as “NIMBY of the Year.”

The popular pedestrian/biker Web site Streetsblog conferred the dubious honor on Sweeney for his critiques of controversial Department of Transportation initiatives in Soho, such as the Prince St. and Grand St. bike lanes.

“With bike, bus and public space improvements proliferating throughout Lower Manhattan,” Streetsblog stated, “Sweeney had a busy year trying to maintain his neighborhood’s traffic-choked status quo.”

Citing his protests over the bike lanes, as well as his opposition to a proposal to make a stretch of Prince St. car free on Sundays, Streetsblog called out Sweeney while simultaneously giving a nod to his activism and willingness to contribute to the blog’s comment section: “You may disagree with Sweeney, but you’ve got to respect him for being a hardworking neighborhood activist.”

Also earning honorable mention was Community Board 4 member Allen Roskoff, who, as this paper reported, railed against the proposal for an Eighth Ave. bike lane for its possible negative impacts on Chelsea’s gay community.

Dive wire

Fears are being stoked that another classic East Village dive bar, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge on St. Mark’s Place, could be on its last legs.

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York reported this week that the longtime local tavern — once the haunt of literary luminaries like W.H. Auden and Allen Ginsberg — has been shuttered since its elderly proprietor recently checked into the hospital.

The no-frills pub, between First and Second Aves., has served as a watering hole for artists and eccentrics for more than four decades. It’s worth noting that another East Village dive, Sophie’s on E. Fifth St., encountered similar troubles a year ago due to the failing health of its owner, but managed to negotiate a deal to stay open. Stay tuned.


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