Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Villager photo by J.B. Nicholas

The Equinox gym on Greenwich Ave. was clad in a giant billboard last week. The building is located in the Greenwich Village Historic District.

A popular fitness center’s illegal place-ment of an oversized billboard on a Greenwich Village building has drawn the ire of residents and preservationists.

Sometime last week the Equinox Fitness Club at the corner of Greenwich and W. 12th Sts. erected the giant advertisement, which rises about three stories on both facades that front the street. However, the property lies within the Greenwich Village Historic District, and the building did not receive permission from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission or Department of Buildings to add the signage.

Billboards are generally prohibited in historic districts, but the fact that Equinox did not even apply to erect the street advertisement concerned Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Society for Historic Preservation.

“We really want to encourage [L.P.C. and D.O.B.] to move on this as quickly as possible, because it’s such a highly egregious flouting of the law,” said Berman, who noted that the property’s zoning does not allow for billboards either. In a letter to both city agencies, he urged them “to send a strong message that such clear and unambiguous violations of landmarks and buildings rules will not be tolerated.”

One annoyed neighbor explained that an employee at the gym assured her that the advertisement had received the required permits and that the billboard’s screen-like material becomes more transparent during the day.

“I don’t think that excuse is going to get them anywhere,” added Berman, whose organization has vigorously fought against illegal billboards. “It is still signage that must get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission and is explicitly forbidden in the historic districts.”

East Side slide

The East Village and Lower East Side experienced the steepest residential rent drops of any Downtown neighborhoods last year, making them among the most desirable areas across Manhattan for discount-driven renters.

According to the Real Estate Group New York’s year-end rental market report, the East Village and Lower East Side saw average decreases of 5.98 percent and 6.25 percent, respectively, for all doorman and non-doorman unit types combined in 2009. Doorman studios led the downward trend in both neighborhoods, with such units falling by 12.1 percent in the East Village and 22.4 percent on the Lower East Side over the past year. Over all, the East Village recorded drops for each one of its unit types, while the L.E.S. saw modest gains for non-doorman studios and two-bedrooms only (up 1.1 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively).

Greenwich Village experienced less-serious losses by plunging an average of 3.1 percent for all its unit types combined, including an 8.6 percent dip for doorman studios.

On the other hand, Soho and Tribeca, the city’s most expensive neighborhoods for renters, both fared well in 2009, posting gains of 8.1 percent and 14.4 percent over all, respectively. Soho saw its non-doorman, one- and two-bedrooms rise by 33.7 percent and 29.2 percent, respectively. Tribeca’s non-doorman studio, one- and two-bedrooms came in up 37.6 percent, 31.5 percent and 23.2 percent, respectively.

All units in Chelsea and Gramercy Park decreased by an average of 1.9 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.

Goodbye, Gus

Beloved Greek restaurant Gus’ Place in the West Village has closed after more than two decades in the neighborhood.

The Mediterranean-style eatery, which spent 17 years on Waverly Place before succumbing to high rents, moved to a space on Bleecker St. near MacDougal St. about three years ago.

Owner Gus Theodoro posted a simple message on the restaurant’s Web site, reading: “To All of Our ‘Gustomers’ we thank you for your patronage, loyalty and friendship for all of these years. We will miss You!”

Theodoro explained that while the end of the eatery’s run at its current spot is “definitely a done deal,” there might be a “1 or 2 percent possibility” he could keep the restaurant open on Bleecker St. He wouldn’t go into the reasons for the closure — saying he’s shuttering “for personal reasons” — but did express a desire to find a new space if the current situation can’t be resolved.

After this coming Friday, Theodoro will know for sure the fate of the Bleecker St. property.

“I’m definitely looking for a new location in the area,” he said.

It took Gus two years to find the new location after undertaking a fundraising effort to relaunch the restaurant in early 2007.

” target=_blank>mixeduse@communitymediallc.com