C.B. 3 Supports Standard Overhaul, Beer at Zaragoza

IMG_0013Stephen Rex Brown The State Liquor Authority committee of Community Board 3.

Last-minute negotiations between East Fifth Street residents and the owner of the Standard East Village paved the way for the hotel’s overhaul on Monday.

The famed hotelier Andre Balazs and members of the East Fifth Street Block Association presented Community Board 3’s State Liquor Authority Committee with a series of stipulations marked up with fresh ink before formally presenting the plans for the hotel formerly known as the Cooper Square Hotel.

The sticking points of negotiations were the concepts of “undetectable” sound versus noise that is “un-disturbing to neighbors,” according to Stuart Zamsky, an officer with the East Fifth Street Block Association. In the end, the association won the former.

“We wound up finding some good middle ground there,” said a clearly exhausted Mr. Zamsky, who added that he had probably spent 20 to 30 hours dealing with neighbors and hotel administrators, including a three and a half-hour meeting before last night’s meeting.

The hotel also agreed to build a planter that would obstruct the view — and presumably some of the noise — of the second-floor terrace that was infuriating neighbors. The conversion of the second-floor terrace to a space for hotel guests is part of Mr. Balazs’s reorientation of the hotel from East Fifth Street towards Bowery — a major overhaul that he says is necessary for it to be profitable.

“We spent months talking with neighbors,” he said before the committee voted to support his application. “We feel very proud and that we resolved many of the issues with them.”

Meanwhile Zaragoza, the popular family-owned Mexican deli, got the board’s support for a new license to sell beer. Ruben Martinez, part of the family that runs the business, explained that his previous license was mistakenly allowed to expire. Shortly thereafter, the State Liquor Authority cited the deli for selling alcohol without a license.

“It’s a bodega, essentially, and you just want to sell beer,” said board member Ariel Palitz, addressing Mr. Martinez. “I’m sure it’s a huge part of your business.”

Later, referring to a recent string of undercover drinking busts, Ms. Palitz noted that preventing the sale of alcohol to a determined underage patron or undercover police officer can be as difficult as warding off a suicide bomber who is set on infiltrating a secure target.

Strained metaphors aside, the committee voted to recommend the business get a new license, noting that it had been at 215 Avenue A since 2001, and that it shared the block with other nightlife destinations that had been much more problematic. Only the committee chair Alexandra Militano voted against the deli’s license, apparently due to the citation from the liquor authority.

In other goings-on, three business owners seeking approval for a renewal of their liquor licenses — the Ninth Ward, the Boiler Room, and Numero 28 — faced the community board crucible and pledged to better manage noise concerns.

As always, it’s worth noting that the board only issues recommendations; the State Liquor Authority makes the final call on what businesses get to sell booze.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 16, 2012

An earlier version of this post misinterpreted a comment that Ariel Palitz made in reference to a string of underage drinking busts, and said she likened State Liquor Authority investigators to suicide bombers who take out innocent victims caught within their blast radius. Ms. Palitz has since clarified that she was not comparing investigators to suicide bombers and was instead referring to the difficulty of preventing alcohol sales to minors.