Volume 79, Number 18 | Oct 7 - 13, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Sullivan St. switchover

A developer’s effort to get a zoning change to allow for commercial development along a residential block in Soho is stoking fears over what the move could mean for neighbors in the area.

The application for the zoning change, by Zaccaro Realty, requests to extend an existing commercial overlay to include the property at 73-75 Sullivan St., between Spring and Broome Sts. The one-story building currently at the site, which houses a bakery and since-closed pasta maker, would be razed in order to construct a five-story, mixed-use structure with commercial use on the ground floor and residential use above.

If approved by the Department of City Planning, the zoning amendment would allow a host of commercial uses on the low-rise, tree-lined block, including the possibility of a bar or nightclub.

“For example, Zaccaro is noted for repeatedly leasing to raucous bars and clubs — for instance, The Falls on Lafayette St., where Imette St. Guillen was lured to her death a couple of years ago,” noted Soho Alliance Executive Director Sean Sweeney, who is also a member of Community Board 2’s Zoning and Housing Committee, which will review the application at its Oct. 8 meeting. “[Zaccaro] also permitted 75 Sullivan St., the old Ravioli Store, to be rented out to a club last year called the ‘F—k Club,’ that ruined the quality of life of the block for months until we had the city close it down.”

The conversion would also allow for restaurant use — including the possibility of a “noisy” sidewalk cafe, like the ones operating around the corner on Spring St. — “open till midnight on the quiet block, disturbing our peace, quiet and property values,” Sweeney added.

In total, the rezoning would affect an approximately 150-by-100-foot parcel, or more than 16,000 square feet.


Office equilibrium

Downtown’s office vacancy rate appears to be stabilizing as increased leasing activity has helped buck the downward-trending real estate market.

According to a third-quarter report from brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle, the vacancy rate in Midtown South — which covers the office market between 30th and Canal Sts., from river to river — remained unchanged from the previous quarter, staying at 11.4 percent for all property types. While the vacancy rate for Midtown South’s Class B buildings went unmoved, at 12.2 percent, dating back midyear, the rate for Class A properties rose slightly to 8.9 percent — marking a 1.2 percent increase from the 8.8 rate seen at midyear.

This equilibrium could be attributed to continued decreases in average asking rents, with Class A properties slipping 4.5 percent (from $57.61 per square foot at midyear to $55 in the third quarter) and Class B properties dropping 4.3 percent (from $45.66 per square foot at midyear to $43.70 in the third quarter).

“The increase in overall activity could indicate that tenants are feeling comfortable enough with current conditions to finally make real estate decisions,” said James Delmonte, vice president and director of research for JLL, in a statement. “It is still too early, however to determine if the market will continue toward improvement or simply stabilize.”

By comparison, Lower Manhattan saw its vacancy rate edge up very slightly (from 10.8 percent at midyear to 10.9 percent in the third quarter), while Midtown experienced a slight drop (falling from 14.3 percent at midyear to 14.1 percent in the third quarter.)


Art criticism

A just-opened public sculpture park in Hudson Square suffered an unflattering reception from one self-styled critic who spray-painted “This is not Art!!” across a pair of the plaza’s installations.

The perpetrator, who has not been caught, offered the critique of the sculptures at LentSpace, the Trinity Real Estate-owned vacant-lot-turned-exhibition-space at Canal and Varick Sts.

The graffiti tags, which appeared only days after the half-acre plot’s Sept. 18 opening, covered two of the sculptures in large black spray paint, including one of the space’s most prominent pieces. The lettering has since been scrubbed from the sculptures, but faint dark blots still remain.

“I appreciate the fact that someone joined the conversation,” said project curator Adam Kleinman, of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. “Making things public is fantastic. However, vandalism is illegal, it’s someone else’s property, and it isn’t public by definition.”

And although Kleinman called the graffitist “infantile” and “cowardly” for his or her actions, he said the artists were actually “delighted” by the additions.

“The artists themselves were interested in it,” he added, while not encouraging anymore freelance art criticism. “Categorically, it is illegal.”



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