Volume 75, Number 10 | July 27 – Aug. 2, 2005
Hasidic high-rise dorm? Oy vey! Pat Pacifico, executive director of the Board of Standards and Appeals, confirmed to us that developer Gregg Singer is indeed appealing to reverse the Department of Buildings’ rejection of permits for his megadorm on E. Ninth St. A public review is set for Aug. 15 at 9:30 a.m. at the B.S.A. at 40 Rector St. on the sixth floor, and a hearing is set for the next day, Aug. 16, at the same location, starting at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, Jennifer Givner, a Buildings spokesperson, said Singer tried to pitch the dorm different ways, but was rejected by D.O.B. each time. In addition to University House Corporation — apparently, the straight university dorm — he also proposed that the planned 19-story, 222-unit building be operated by Manhattan Jewish Education Network, a division of Chabad of Gramercy Park. Did Singer think if neighbors wouldn’t accept hundreds of liberal arts students living next door, they might go for scores of Lubavitchers in black hats and beards instead? In both cases, though, Givner said, the dorms didn’t show “sufficient nexus, proximity [i.e., connection] to an educational institution.” Michael Rosen, of the East Village Community Coalition, said it was the first he heard of the Chabad proposal. “It’s a growing community; I’m sure they have a lot of students. I have no idea what they have in mind,” he said. “But I hope they would not destroy the sanctity of our community by participating in a clear ruse.” “I’ll be testifying for Community Board 3 [at the B.S.A.],” said David McWater, C.B. 3 chairperson, adding, “I don’t see any way the B.S.A. would overturn Buildings on this.”
Avenue A empire: Speaking of McWater, adding to his bulging portfolio of bars and nightspots, many of them along Avenue A, last month he purchased Opaline on Avenue A, in which he used to be a shareholder, Girls Room, a lesbian bar on Pitt and Rivington Sts., and a quarter share in Boys Room, the former Tapis Rouge, a gay bar on Avenue A near his Library bar. McWater said he’ll turn Opaline into a restaurant and is “about 90 percent sure” it will be “Mexican, moderately priced.” He noted he announced his acquisitions to C.B. 3 in the spirit of full disclosure. Since he bought the full corporation in each case, he won’t need to apply for liquor license transfers, he said. The Post reports it was Mo Vaughn, the former Mets slugger, whose shares McWater bought out.
Forlorn over focaccia: Phil Hartman, head of the Federation of East Village Artists, is shell-shocked that one of his favorite eateries, the Focacceria on First Ave. between Seventh and Eighth Sts., closed three weeks ago, presumably due to high rent. “It was a fabulous vestige of our own Little Italy, and had been around about 80 years. They specialized in a Sicilian dish called vestedi,” Hartman said. “The joint was run by an old-timer, Vinnie, I think, who hadn’t aged in 25 years. It kills me that in a town like New Orleans, there would be public mourning for an occasion like this, while here, virtually nothing.”
Meat bits: A recent Villager article on the vanishing Meat Market quoted James Ortenzio as saying he thinks Andre Balazs’s hotel project on Washington St. will take at least three years, so no meat businesses should even think about getting the former Premier Veal space at 555 West St. until then. In fact, Ortenzio said the Dia museum project — to be built over the Premier Veal space — would take three years, and that no meat businesses would probably be able to move into the old Premier space until then. The hotel project is located on the block north of the museum site, and there are no plans to have any meat businesses below it. (The article also failed to mention that Weichsel Beef is still located on West St. in the West Coast apartments building and that there are still two fish businesses in the Meat Market. “We have five years left on our lease — we’ll see what happens. We’d like to stay, but we don’t own the building,” said Weichsel’s Frank Farella.)
Branch rickety: We hear several big branches crashed down in Washington Square Park last week. One that fell to the west of the arch knocked down a police surveillance camera, another felled one of Marjorie Kouns’s temporary art lampshades, while yet another almost clocked a musician playing in the park Saturday night. These branches were reportedly nothing to sniff at and were “huge.” Some of them were still lying on the ground Monday, cordoned off with yellow tape. A Parks Department spokesperson said last week’s high heat and high winds of up to 25 miles per hour — we didn’t notice the winds, ourselves — may have done the three branches in. Parks will inspect and prune the park’s trees to insure safety, she said.
Cameras coming: Rebecca Moore of L.O.C.O. (Ludlow Orchard Community Coalition) says she ran into John Battista, from the Mayor’s Film Office, the other day, who was by chance checking out the factory where she works with a location scout. The scout was working on “a huge film production in September — two weeks of prep on Rivington St., where they will make the block look like St. Mark’s Pl. back in the 1960s, and film for four days at night,” Moore reports. She says Battista told her the Lower East Side’s “cooling-off period” from filming will continue till September’s end — it started in May, when L.O.C.O. first made a ruckus.
Thanks soooo much: In Newsday’s recent article on the rocky relationship between Villagers and N.Y.U., John Sexton, the university’s president, stated they’re itching to buy the Catholic Center site on Washington Square South, but that if they did, they would build “not to the legal max” of 10 stories. As if N.Y.U. would be doing the community a favor! Hey, a 9 1/2-story building is still too tall! By the way, the Newsday reporter got the idea for the article after reading Marty Tessler’s letter to the editor in The Villager wishing Bob Rinaolo good luck in dealing with N.Y.U. as new chairperson of the Community Board 2 Institutions Committee.
Hot property: As for Rinaolo, a little birdy tells us he recently purchased the building containing the Beatrice Inn restaurant on W. 12th St., at which many local luminaries, including a strong contingent of C.B. 2 members, are known to make the scene. The building and restaurant were owned by Aldo and Vivian Cardia, whose mother, Elsie, longtime owner, died several months ago. Word has it the purchase price was $200,000. The Cardias will continue to operate the restaurant, but who knows for how long? The building has six rental tenants.
Strictly business: In other committee change updates on C.B. 2, John Diaz is chairperson and Mark Rosenwasser is vice chairperson of the Business Committee; apparently Don Lee decided he did not want to be the committee’s co-chairperson because of time constraints.
None of your business: The Villager article two weeks ago on 47 E. Third St. may have misstated the amount co-owners Alistair and Catherine Economakis spent to buy the building they now want to empty of tenants. In an interview with writer Sarah Ferguson, Alistair Economakis first admitted to spending about $800,000 to acquire the tenement, then said that was not correct, but declined to say how much the couple spent, saying it was irrelevant. We thought we should make that more clear, or rather unclear.