Volume 79, Number 12 | Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

 
High Line puts on brakes 
 
A controversial plan calling for a tax on residents and property owners near the High Line to help pay for the elevated park was dropped last week after neighbors apparently came out against the proposal.

According to Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit organization that oversees maintenance and management of the West Chelsea green space, the concept of imposing taxes on building owners based on their proximity to the High Line caused enough of a stir to table the plan for now.

“Friends of the High Line and the District’s Steering Committee sought broad community input on the idea of creating an Improvement District to help the City’s new High Line park,” read a statement from F.O.H.L. “The Steering Committee reached out to the larger High Line community, so that their responses would help determine whether to move forward. Following these public outreach efforts, it was decided to put the proposal on hold. While many strongly supported the concept, important concerns were also raised.”

The proposal, modeled after the city’s business improvement district program, sought to raise $1 million from various property owners for daily upkeep of the park running between Gansevoort and W. 30th Sts. The plan called for charging either a 3- or 9-cent tax per square foot for buildings located near the High Line, running for almost 20 blocks along the length of the former railroad viaduct.

“Friends of the High Line has always been a community organization, and the members of the Steering Committee are community members first and foremost,” the Friends’ statement continued. “Friends of the High Line will continue to work with the community to develop a diversified revenue stream for the High Line’s future, so that the park can always be maintained and operated at the level necessary to make it a treasured asset to its community and to the city as a whole.” 
 
 
More MacDougal squatters
 
As the city begins to take action on an abandoned Soho property that has been left to deteriorate for decades on MacDougal St., squatters and vandals have allegedly returned despite efforts to prevent access to three-story structure.

The property, at 43 MacDougal St. at the corner of King St. in the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District, had been left to rot for years before the city finally began fining the owners and pursued a lawsuit to compel them to make repairs.

The city also responded by boarding up the building’s broken windows and installing scaffolding around the structure, but the latter apparently has only helped squatters set up camp inside the hollowed-out townhouse.

“The sidewalk shed, which was built one year ago by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to protect passersby, has allowed ease of access for squatters and vandals into and out of the building,” read a letter from Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, to several city agencies. He explained in a separate note that the squatters — who neighbors and G.V.S.H.P. staff have seen living inside the property — face “very real health and safety dangers, including the very real possibility of accidental fires.”

Additionally, new graffiti recently appeared near the  building’s third-floor fire escape, and a pool of water has built up on the roof that could cause structural damage.

“I was grateful to learn in June that the Landmarks Preservation Commission had finally begun initiating a Demolition by Neglect case against the building’s owners,” Berman added in his letter, describing the action taken by L.PC., which includes levying substantial fines against the owners, site visits, evaluation and a lengthy legal process. “However, the beginning stages of this process have been slow,” Berman added, “and we are concerned that the building will continue to deteriorate and pose an increasing health and safety threat to neighbors while we wait for the case to take shape.”
 
 
Vesuvio 2.0
 
The next chapter in the Vesuvio Bakery saga is probably the best Soho preservationists could have asked for: Another bakery committed to continuing the diminutive Prince St. store’s legacy will take over at the landmark location.

The eco-friendly Birdbath bakery, which has two locations in the Village, recently negotiated to lease the nearly 90-year-old Vesuvio space after a series of unrelated reopenings failed and the store stayed empty for more than a year.

The new bakery will debut in October, according to New York magazine, which interviewed Birdbath proprietor Maury Rubin on the planned move.

“It’s an heirloom, it’s a treasure, it means the world,” he told the magazine. “That I have a chance to have my bakery be in it is a gift.”

Rubin will reportedly remove Vesuvio’s historic, coal-burning ovens to ease the landlord’s fire concerns, but otherwise plans to keep as much of the old shop intact as possible — one of the main reasons he was chosen as the next tenant.

The bakery was formerly owned and operated by the “Mayor of Greenwich Village,” Tony Dapolito, who died in 2003.


mixeduse@communitymediallc.com

 

 

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