Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

2 a.m.’s new 4 a.m.?

Nightlife denizens who don’t swill at city bars until after the witching hour might want to adjust their clocks two hours back, according to recent reports claiming that Downtown communities are looking to make 2 a.m. closing times the new standard.

The growing trend, reported by both the New York Post and Sun newspapers, raised the alarm that the city’s community boards have been colluding with the State Liquor Authority to strong-arm nightlife establishments into shuttering earlier.

However, S.L.A. spokesperson Bill Crowley told Mixed Use that more than a quarter of the on-premises liquor licenses his agency has approved across Manhattan from the beginning of the year through this month were for establishments with 4 a.m. closing times.

“I didn’t look over stats carefully enough to determine whether there’s a trend or not,” Crowley admitted, adding of the 87 establishments approved for licenses since January — 21 of them for 4 a.m. — many included “diners” and “pizza places.” “We’re still continuing to approve places for 4 a.m.,” he said.

Community Board 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer also denied that the boards and S.L.A. are conspiring to staunch late-night operations, stating that many establishments work with the community to set acceptable closing times.

“Our community board has never, ever at any of the meetings said we want to vote this way on this kind of thing,” said Stetzer about the idea of a sweeping plan to force bars to close earlier. “Maybe people should talk about it, but there has not been a policy set,” she added, reiterating that determinations are made on a case-by-case basis. “It’s always an agreement; no one can make anyone do anything.”

The board might question why a food-service establishment would need a 4 a.m. closing time and request that it shut earlier, Stetzer noted, but added that it all comes back to the goal of quieting the already oversaturated residential areas.

“The big issue is not when they close,” she said, “the issue is the noise on the street.”

Hudson Sq. Dishing

Hudson Square continues to bolster its position as the Downtown hub for media companies with the recent announcement that satellite-television broadcaster Dish Network would be making its entrée into the neighborhood.

The network inked a six-year lease for two floors at 185 Varick St., between Houston and King Sts., for its first-ever sales office in Manhattan, confirmed Grub & Ellis senior director Ira Rovitz, who represented the company. The deal comprises nearly 29,000 square feet of space for Dish Network, which features hundreds of channels and counted approximately 13 million subscribers last year after launching in 1996. The new tenant also retains the building’s naming rights in the deal.

“They didn’t want to be in Midtown,” Rovitz commented, noting easily accessible transportation options helped court the Colorado-based company.

Asking prices in the building were in the $46-per-square-foot range, Rovitz confirmed, and the satellite-signal provider plans to fully move in by August. The six-story building also houses offices for electronic mail provider Pitney Bowes and American Express.

It takes a Village, in Chelsea

A group of concerned community activists, including Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Director Andrew Berman, will take to Ninth Ave. in Chelsea this weekend to protest the impending loss of a group of retail shops between 17th and 18th Sts. following a massive property purchase.

Eight mom-’n’-pop stores just north of the Maritime Hotel — including Chelsea Liquors, the 9th Avenue Gift Shop, Sweet Banana Candy Store, New Barber Shop and Famous Deli — are under threat after Morris Moinian’s Fortuna Realty purchased the entire building at 112 Ninth Ave. last year. The shops are endangered, since the new owner doesn’t plan to renew their leases in favor of luring new, high-end stores to the strip. Berman joined Chelsea activist Miguel Acevedo in pulling together the May 3 rally, featuring scheduled appearances by Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, State Senator Thomas Duane and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried.

Acevedo added that more concerns have emerged in recent weeks about the new building owner, with residential tenants upstairs taking him to Housing Court over alleged harassment. In addition, Acevedo said, Sweet Banana Candy Store’s lease doesn’t expire until 2013, but the shop needs some renovations and had already secured approval for them from the Department of Buildings. Now, “the landlord is refusing to sign off on the permit. So he’s stuck!” Acevedo told Mixed Use. And, he added, the building’s longtime super is being asked to give up his apartment, “so the landlord can put in a swimming pool down there.”

Somehow, Mixed Use doesn’t believe the pool would act as a community facility for residents of the adjacent Fulton Houses, but we’ll find out for sure at the rally on Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Also planning to attend are reps from the Chinatown Society for Small Business, the Korean Small Business Society and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), as well as Community Boards 2 and 4.

6 months to 75 years

As a relative newcomer to these pages, the Mixed Use column has sought to shed some light on the ever-evolving and always-exciting world of Downtown real estate. Publications across the city dedicated to the most alluring and unpredictable market in the country, if not the globe, often report about multimillion-dollar deals and developers spinning the wheels on some of the most sought-after square footage in the world.

Mixed Use strives to more or less accomplish the same, but we do so from a curious, critical, street-level perspective fitting for a newspaper with The Villager’s lofty standards — and equally high reader expectations. Without our group of savvy and erudite editors and contributors, this column would never break the type of news most important to the neighborhoods we cover: the hyper-local bits that, from a block-by-block view, showcase the multifaceted picture of Downtown development.

But it takes a certain instinct — one forged through 75 years of committed, scrupulous and ultimately award-winning reporting — to make these or any of The Villager’s words inscribe a truly lasting mark on the greatest property in the world.

So at barely 6 months old, we at Mixed Use know we have a lot to live up to. And look forward to.