Volume 81, Number 4 | June 23 - 29, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Betsy Kim

Neighbors say the sidewalk shed outside Karavas Pizza ’N’ Pita, at left, is a magnet for criminal activity.

Neighbors wish pizza place would shed sidewalk shed

By BETSY KIM

The building bearing the addresses 108 Seventh Ave. South and 72 Christopher St. shows there are always two sides to every corner. Sometimes even more.

Designed by William H. Kaiser and built in 1925, this architectural battle-ax, housing Karavas Pizza ’N’ Pita, on both sides of the Village Cigars shop, is a neighborhood fixture at a prominent intersection. Now, the three-story building needs some cosmetic surgery. Because the structure is a designated landmark, the Landmarks Preservation Commission wants to make sure the building maintains its historic character.

Building owner Suzanne Twitchell’s son, Daniel Twitchell, looks after the building. He said the tenant, restaurant owner John Karavas, is responsible for maintaining the premises and is working with the city and contractors to fix up the building’s existing facade.

Some neighbors see another problem. At the recent Sixth Precinct Community Council meeting, Rebecca Kagan, who lives on Christopher St., expressed particular unhappiness about the sidewalk shed outside the building. Kagan noted that, as a law student, she stays home many hours during the day, yet never sees any workmen attending to the building’s facade. She complained that the sidewalk shed provides an area where drug dealers do business.

“It looks like an episode from ‘The Wire,’” Kagan said. She noted that, at night, police park a Mobile Communications truck nearby and turn on a light tower on the corner.

“But I’ve been wondering what can be done when those floodlights go away and the mobile command goes away, and the scaffolding is still there and the drug dealers come back?” she asked.

Detective Cheryl Crispin, a Police Department spokesperson, confirmed that the police have deployed personnel to the location as a result of crime complaints from the community.

Daniel Twitchell and Karavas appreciate the police support. Twitchell wants to repair the building as soon as possible.

“We want to get what needs to be done done,” Twitchell said. “For John, the scaffolding is messing up his business. It’s a lot of grief for him, as well as the neighbors.”

For Twitchell the building has personal meaning. He said that his great-grandfather, James Pringle, came to New York as an immigrant from Ireland and started the Pringle Ice Company. James bought the building at Seventh Avenue South and Christopher St., along with other property. His son, Joseph — Daniel Twitchell’s grandfather — sold all the other family real estate, except this last building. Suzanne Twitchell has no intention of selling it to a developer or a large corporation.

“We would do whatever is necessary not to sell the building. It’s going to be in our family for the next 20 generations,” he said.

The Twitchells have no desire to rent the property to the highest bidder. They want to keep the family-owned pizza shop in the Village.

“John Karavas and his parents have been tenants there for more than 50 years,” Twitchell said. “The easiest way for us to make money would be to rent it out to some chain restaurant, and we don’t want to do that.”

Twitchell emphasized the sidewalk shed still stands because he and Karavas want to make the repairs. This includes replacing windows, lintels — the load-bearing part of the windows — and repointing the entire building.

The Buildings Department issued permits for scaffolds and sheds for the location in October 2009. Due to delays, contractors erected the protective sidewalk shed only earlier this year, according to Twitchell. The sidewalk shed permit was renewed in January and expires in January 2012.

He said repairing an old building involves time, effort and often delays, while working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The commission stated that the building has existing open violations. These must be addressed before the facade work can begin.

Yet the different sides with differing views of the building agree upon one common point — the concern for the quality of life in the community.

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