Volume 78 - Number 47 / April 29 - May 5, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

A rendering of the new wavy subway grates planned to help mitigate flooding, also including a bench.

Grate design grates on board

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s controversial new subway-grate design recently got the green light from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission despite reservations from the community for its far-out appearance.

The structures’ undulating look, which would rise as much as 18 inches off the sidewalk, would help protect against subway flooding in low-lying Downtown areas.

Community Board 2’s Landmarks and Public Aesthetics Committee took issue with the stainless-steel grates popping up in the Noho and Soho historic districts, where they are being proposed for Broadway and Canal St., Broadway near Broome St. and Broadway near Bond St.

“Although the design is appealing, it’s a one-size-fits-all solution — a generic approach for flood-prone areas throughout the city, not with historic districts in mind,” read an April 13 decision by the C.B. 2 committee, which was unanimously approved. Community Board 1 also lodged its concerns with the grates last month, calling the design ugly and unnecessary.

The L.P.C., however, unanimously approved the design on April 21, noting that its “playful and sculptural quality” was a “more responsible solution than more expensive infrastructure changes.”

“I just thought it was ridiculous,” said Doris Diether, co-chairperson of Board 2’s Landmarks Committee. At a board meeting last month, she showed pictures of the proposed grates to attendees and they were “quite upset” with what they saw, she said.

“They can put in flat ones,” Diether said, dismissing the L.P.C.’s claim that the wavy appearance would suit an artsy neighborhood like Soho.

The M.T.A. plans to begin installing the grates toward the end of this year and finish within six months.

Chupi goes rental

After a series of price slashings at his luxury Palazzo Chupi building in the West Village last year, artist Julian Schnabel has taken the final two units in the palatial pink high-rise rental.

Actor Richard Gere and Schnabel both live in the ambitious W. 11th St. development. Schnabel has put its remaining triplex and duplex apartments on the market for $50,000 and $40,000 a month, respectively, according to a listing on StreetEasy.com.

The news comes after a history of price reductions for Chupi’s two top-floor units; the triplex and duplex units had both been on the market for as much as $32 million before dropping to $22 million and $19 million, respectively.

Schnabel will also reportedly sell a late-period Pablo Picasso painting from his own collection to pay off debts incurred from the project.

Balducci’s bows out

Gourmet grocery store Balducci’s shuttered its stately Downtown digs over the weekend, marking the homegrown market’s departure from New York City.

Balducci’s sold its flagship store in the West Village in 2003 and moved to the Chelsea location, at 14th St. and Eighth Ave., in 2005, taking over the 1897 former bank building on the bustling corner.

The ending was low key; the only indicators for many shoppers were price markdowns and increasingly empty shelves as the April 26 closure drew near.

Balducci’s also shuttered its only other Manhattan location, on the Upper West Side, as well as one each in Connecticut and Washington, D.C., but will retain six stores elsewhere.

Now the question becomes: Who stands to take over the spacious, century-old building on a prime retail intersection? Faith Hope Consolo, the broker who worked on other deals for Balducci’s, said a tenant with muscle would likely move in, like the ones currently setting up shop in the Meatpacking District.

“It would have to be something really creative, like another Apple Store,” she said, referring to the computer giant’s third Manhattan location an avenue to the west. “In terms of food, more like a major restaurant.”

Conoslo added that an arts tenant might also work for the site, with Chelsea’s gallery district and a lot of high-income earners located nearby.

“I think it could be perfect for something like that,” she said, noting that the space could go for $100 per square foot.

Prime L.E.S. plot

A prime corner property on the Lower East Side with residential development capabilities of nearly 20,000 square feet has hit the market with an asking price of $3.2 million.

The site, at 178 Delancey St. at the corner of Attorney St. near the Williamsburg Bridge entrance, allows for 13,500 square feet of development under the area’s new R8-A zoning designation.

Massey Knakal Realty Services has been retained to sell the 25-foot-by-100-foot site, which currently houses a vacant one-story structure.

With a voluntary inclusionary-housing bonus, which requires 20 percent of a planned project to be allocated to affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families, the residential floor-to-area ratio could allow for up to 18,000 buildable square feet. With a community facility, the F.A.R. would allow for 16,250 buildable square feet.

“At $3.2 million, the site is less than $200 per buildable square foot, with inclusionary housing or community facility,” Mike DeCheser, a Massey Knakal broker who is handling the sale, said in a statement.

The site is located just down the block from the School of Visual Arts’ new 20-story dormitory building and the highly visible 17-story residential Blue building.


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