A Last Look Inside Meseritz Synagogue Before Its Conversion to Condos

Roni Jacobson

Workers started moving furniture out of Anshei Meseritz Synagogue this week, after the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a plan to add a penthouse to the historic building on East Sixth Street. The Local recently got what may well be a last look at the synagogue before its conversion into apartments.

After years of trying to find a developer, Meseritz’s board leased the building to East River Partners LLC in a deal worth about $1,225,000, as reported in DNAinfo. The building’s facade is protected as part of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District, but the deal allows the developers to convert the inside of the synagogue into luxury condos provided they invest $180,000 to accommodate the congregation in the basement.

“The issue for us is how do we preserve the synagogue as a vibrant, growing part of the neighborhood?” said Charles Knapp, a lawyer for the synagogue. Read more…

Again, Uproar Over NYCHA’s Plan to Lease Land to Developers

harris and committeeLila Selim Fred Harris addresses the room.

At a contentious meeting last night, tenants of the New York Public Housing Authority and their neighbors expressed their opposition to the agency’s plan to allow development on parking lots and playgrounds. Meanwhile the authority announced a delay in its search for potential developers.

David McWater, chair of Community Board 3’s Land Use committee, struggled to keep the meeting in check as Damaris Reyes, executive director of Good Old Lower East Side and a resident of Baruch Houses, voiced tenants’ concerns about loss of light and open space, as well as the structural safety of existing buildings and power and sewage systems.

The bigger fear Ms. Reyes articulated was that the infill plan was the first step toward the eventual privatization of New York City’s public institutions. “I refuse to believe that in a city like New York, with such brilliant minds, that we cannot come up with a plan that will generate revenue, that will enhance the lives of public housing residents, and prevents future speculation, because need I remind everyone that this is waterfront property,” she said, worrying that if given an inch, the housing authority would take a mile. “There is no agreement that says you will not sell off any more land,” she said. “There’s no agreement that says you will not demolish another playground.”
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LPC Approves Meseritz Plan Despite Concern From Congregants

synagogue, East VillageMichelle Rick

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved a proposal to add a penthouse to Anshei Meseritz Synagogue, but current and former congregation members remain steadfastly opposed to the plan.

At a hearing today, architect Joseph Lombardi presented a proposal that would preserve the facade of the East Sixth Street synagogue, conserve its stained glass, and add an extra story to the building.

Though the changes discussed today were cosmetic, they’re rooted in a deeper shakeup: the governing board of Congregation Adas Le Israel Anshei Mesertiz recently leased the synagogue to East River Partners, resurrecting a contentious scheme to develop the building into condos. Construction plans obtained by The Local reveal that the congregation would move to the basement of the building. Read more…

Trio of Tenants Associations Oppose NYCHA’s Land-Lease Plan

SAM_0321 editesLila Selim Rosie Mendez (center) at press conference.

Members of the city council are calling on the New York City Housing Authority to submit to a standardized public review process as it moves ahead with its plan to lease parking lots and playgrounds to private developers. But today the agency rejected that idea, fueling accusations that it’s moving too quickly and steaming-rolling right over tenants.

At a City Council Committee on Public Housing hearing this morning, tenant-association presidents from at least four of the eight sites that have been selected for development expressed concerns about the plan — and in the case of Smith Houses, Meltzer Houses and Baruch Houses, outright rejected it. Read more…

Chino Garcia On CHARAS, P.S. 64 Plan, 7-Eleven, and the Changing Hood

IMAG0830Samantha Balaban Carlos “Chino” Garcia

Yesterday The Local broke news that the buildings department rejected a plan to bring dorms to the former school building that once housed CHARAS. The community group, founded in the mid-1960s, moved into the massive building on East Ninth Street in 1979 and was evicted in 2001, but the organization lives on, as does its president Carlos “Chino” Garcia. “Now we’re working here in the East Village, Brooklyn and the Bronx,” Mr. Garcia told The Local last week. “We’re doing different projects around culture, working with artists, you know, so we’re still kicking, thank God for that.” Days before the dorm plan was rejected, we spoke to Mr. Garcia, an East Villager since 1958, about the ever-changing neighborhood.


Tell me about the former P.S. 64 building and CHARAS’ history with it.


The center was really well utilized by the community. We had programs of all kinds and other organizations were using it. We had community groups of different kinds using it by the hundreds, thousands of people. We had a substance abuse program. In one week we’d have like 1,500 people coming to those meetings.

We had hundreds of theater groups working out of it (including Living Theatre, which recently closed). In all the years we were there, I think we did 600 productions. We used to throw four art exhibits a year. Each exhibit had like 400 artists. And we would present the artists that weren’t well-known. People that needed a work space could get it, depending on their income. If they were poor they’d get it for free. If they had a little of money they’d just pay a little bit of money.

It was a tremendous place. When you walked in, there was always something beautiful happening artistically. Different languages being spoken. It was truly a community center. When we lost it, the neighborhood lost a lot. Read more…

DOB Rejects Plan to Convert Former PS 64 to Dorms

ps 64Daniel Maurer

A plan to convert the former P.S. 64 building into college dormitories was denied on Monday by the Department of Buildings, documents show.

The application, filed in February, sought a permit to convert the 110,000-plus-square-foot building at 605 East Ninth Street into a college dormitory and to relocate the floor area in order to add a mezzanine. The cost of construction was estimated at $16 million.

Until 2001, P.S. 64 housed the CHARAS/El Bohio community center. Since then, it has been one of the neighborhood’s largest and most conspicuous vacant properties.

The building’s owner, Gregg Singer, said the disapproval was “just part of the process.” Read more…

Baruch Residents Riled Up Over Rampant Rats

BaruchRoni Jacobson A map of rodent “hot spots” at Baruch Houses

They’ve been compared in size to squirrels, gophers, chihuahuas and cats. This much can be agreed upon: rats are a big problem at Baruch Houses, and residents plan to do so something about them.

“We shouldn’t have to live like this,” said a tenant of building 105. “The rats are like small cats. I’m definitely afraid of them.”

Some say the ongoing problem has gotten worse in the wake of Sandy, just as it has at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. They’re developing a plan to contain it before it get can get worse during the summer.

“It’s obvious that N.Y.C.H.A.’s Integrated Pest Management has failed,” said Jeanette Toomer in reference to the special unit that, according to the New York City Housing Authority, has been baiting the area since January. “If you see rats, it has failed,” said Ms. Toomer, a community organizer at Good Old Lower East Side who is helping residents draw up an alternate plan.
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Amato Opera House May Go Residential With Added Penthouse

amato2Paul Wagtouicz
amato1Paul Wagtouicz

After sitting vacant for nearly four years, the Amato Opera House may finally be getting an encore.

Real-estate heavyweight Steven Croman, a member of the LLC that bought the iconic building in 2009, has filed an application to convert the jewel-box theater at 319 Bowery into a commercial and residential building, with a penthouse addition above the fourth floor.

The change of use would heighten the building by 10 feet and add three residential units, according to an application for a construction permit filed last week and currently being reviewed by the department of buildings.

The Amato Opera, a onetime fixture of the Bowery art scene, closed in 2009 after Anthony Amato sold it for $3.7 million amidst a heated inner-family legal dispute. It had served as “The Smallest Grand Opera in the World” for more than 60 years. After Mr. Amato died at 91 in December of 2011, The Local got an extraordinary look inside the opera house, then on sale for $6.5 million. At the time, prospective buyers had considered the space for a one-family home, a nightclub, restaurant or bar.

The building’s property manager was not immediately available for comment.

Update | 6:30 p.m. Lauren Muss, the broker of 319 Bowery and Senior Vice President at Corcoran, confirmed that “the owner is keeping” the building.

Housing Authority Reveals Plan to Lease Campos Plaza Lot to Developer

SAM_0290Lila SelimMargarita Lopez addresses the crowd.

The New York City Housing Authority unveiled details of its controversial plan to lease part of Campos Plaza to a private developer at a meeting with tenants Tuesday.

Under the proposed plan, 26,000 square feet of land, currently being used for two parking lots and a basketball court, would be leased for 99 years.

The parking lot is one of 13 parcels of land across eight citywide sites where private developers would be invited to build housing consisting of 80 percent market-rate units and 20 percent permanent low-income housing. Under the plan for Campos, East Village residents would get first crack at what could be 16 to 21 new affordable-housing units, and the revenue generated by the lease agreement would be used to subsidize long-called-for improvements to the aging highrises on East 13th Street, between Avenues B and C.

Tuesday, Margarita Lopez, a member of the authority’s board, fiercely defended the proposal to about 100 tenants, stressing that the agency was in dire need of revenue. “If you have a proposal for where to get the money, let me go get it with you,” she said, addressing the proposal’s critics. “If you don’t, then shut up.” Read more…

Will Yet Another Building Change Hands On East 14th Street?

IMAG0730Samantha Balaban
photo(299)Melvin Felix For Rent signs dotted the block last

On a scrappy stretch of East 14th Street that’s more than half a block long, all but one building has been sold to a mysterious developer. Now the holdout, 520 East 14th Street, may change hands as well.

Back in November, almost all of the buildings west of ABC Animal Hospital, between Avenues A and B, were leased for a 99-year period to a company going by the name of East Village 14 LLC.

The $35 million deal included five plots to the west of 520 East 14th Street and three plots to the east, according to documents.

Now David Jacobson, an owner of 520 East 14th Street, tells The Local that his building is on the market, too. “For the right price it is for sale,” he said. “All my buildings are for sale.”

The six-story tenement is home to a Dunkin’ Donuts, a tailor and a t-shirt shop, plus 40 residential units.

According to Anna Krakowski, an operations manager at East Village Property Management, it’s one of seven addresses that are on the market for a total of $100 million.
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Dust Up: East 3rd Street Tenants Plot Lawsuit Over ‘Uninhabitable Situation’

WallLisa Hornberger

Tenants of three buildings on East Third Street plan to file a lawsuit next week alleging that their landlords have illegally endangered their health and safety while performing renovations.

In April, The Local reported that the residents of 50, 54, and 58 East Third Street were rallying to stay in their apartments after news came down that the buildings would be sold. As feared, the landlord refused to renew the leases of market-rate tenants whose contracts expired last year. An organizer of the tenants eventually gave up the fight and moved to Washington Heights.

The new landlords, Gregory and Graham Jones, are now trying to remove the remaining tenants in rent-stabilized apartments by a combination of buyouts, aggravation and evictions, said Wasim Lone, director of housing services at Good Old Lower East Side, who is working with the tenants on the lawsuit.

“They’re trying to scare the pants off of us — it’s all intimidation,” said Lisa Hornberger, a resident of 58 East Third Street. “They have gone out of their way to make this demolition process an uninhabitable situation.” When she came home from work two weeks ago, her cat’s normally white paws were black with the construction dust that had settled over her apartment.

The new landlords have started renovation, and only half of the original tenants are still living there, according to Ms. Hornberger. Across the three buildings, there are between 25 and 28 people left in the rent-stabilized apartments, who are “under a lot of anxiety given the construction and the landlord’s attitude,” according to Mr. Lone. Read more…

Supporters of Displaced Tenants Rally in Front of Wyndham Garden

protestRoni Jacobson

Supporters of tenants displaced by the construction of the Wyndham Garden rallied in front of the hotel at 93 Bowery today to demand compensation.

“It’s been over three years and we want this resolved,” said Peter Gee, director of housing at Asian Americans for Equality, which organized the rally to call attention to the plight of the former residents of 128 Hester Street. “The owner continues to make a profit and the tenants have not been given one penny.”

Approximately 30 people attended the protest, holding signs reading phrases like “Responsible Development” and “Shame on You, William Su,” while protest chants in English and Chinese played from a loudspeaker.

As The Local reported yesterday, a tenement at 128 Hester Street was demolished in 2009 due to structural damages resulting from the construction of the hotel. The New York Division of Homes and Community Renewal ordered building owner William Su to reimburse his former tenants for their losses. The agency has since decided to reconsider its initial judgment and Mr. Su has not produced any compensation.
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Where Buildings Fell As Hotel Rose, a New Condo and Calls For Justice

89 bowery2Mel BaileyAn empty lot at 89 Bowery may soon get a commercial condo building.

Tenants of a Hester Street building that was leveled as a result of the new Wyndham Garden‘s construction will demand compensation during a rally Thursday. Meanwhile, another building that was razed as the 18-story hotel went up is finally being replaced.

The tenement at 128 Hester Street was demolished in 2009 after it was destabilized by construction of the hotel next door. A lawsuit brought by the tenants of the building late last year alleges that the owner allowed building violations to pile up and ignored an “enormous volume of evidence of grossly substandard and hazardous conditions.” The building’s walls were damaged in part because of construction of the Wyndham Garden at 93 Bowery, Department of Buildings records indicate. The tenants were ordered to vacate the building in August of 2009 and it was demolished in November.

The tenants allege that William Su, an owner of both the hotel and of 128 Hester Street, intentionally allowed the tenement’s condition to decline. “It’s my belief, and my clients’ belief that [Mr. Su and his partners] acquired 128 Hester knowing that there were some serious violations, structurally,” said John Gorman, their lawyer. “This group acquired 128 Hester, not to re-inhabit, not to maintain it, but to avoid any interference with the construction of the hotel.”

In the years since the vacate order, a non-profit organization, Asian Americans for Equality, helped tenants file a petition with the New York Division of Homes and Community Renewal, which in 2010 ordered the building owner to pay his former tenants a stipend as well as moving expenses.

But Mr. Su hasn’t produced the money. Instead, the agency decided to reconsider its initial judgment for reasons that remain unclear, according to Mr. Gorman. “I do not understand why after two levels of review the D.H.C.R. decides hey, maybe lets take another look at this; meanwhile my clients are dislodged without a penny of relocation benefits,” said the tenants’ lawyer, who estimated that they were owed around $800,000. “It bothers me to no end.”

According to Mr. Su’s attorney, Stuart Klein, the agency realized it had erred and withdrew the claim.

Meanwhile, Asian Americans for Equality has continued to facilitate conferences between the owners and tenants. The organization’s director, Peter Gee, said that Mr. Su has only attended one of the four meetings. Mr. Su’s lawyer said he was only invited to one. This Thursday, A.A.F.E. will host a rally in hopes of finally winning tenants the compensation to which they feel they’re entitled.
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Resistance Brewing Over Conversion of Former P.S. 64 Into Dorms

ps 64Daniel Maurer

On the heels of an application to convert the former P.S. 64 building into college dorms, Villagers are again calling for the historic building to be used for non-profit organizations and low-income housing.

“The building was an arts and cultural center, and it really needs to be returned to that,” said Carolyn Ratcliffe, a member of Community Board 3 who is also vice president of the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative and a member of the Ninth Street Block Association.

Ms. Ratcliffe, who protested the eviction of the CHARAS/El Bohio community center in 2001, questioned the intentions of Gregg Singer, the developer who bought the building from the city in 1998 and has been clashing with local residents and elected officials ever since. “He has not been a good neighbor in the past,” she said.

Frank Morales, a long-time housing activist who has led numerous discussions about the building’s future, is hopeful that community members can reclaim it. “The former P.S. 64 needs be converted into low-income and affordable housing for those in need,” he said, “as we are amidst a deep crisis in this city regarding the lack of accessible housing for poor and working-class people, a situation that we intend to change and reclaiming Charas back from the speculators is part of that plan.”
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BREAKING: Developer Seeking to Convert P.S. 64 Building Into Dorms

school5 Rendering from a promotional brochure.

The owner of the building that housed P.S. 64 and then the CHARAS/El Bohio community center has applied for a permit to covert one of the East Village’s largest and most controversial vacant properties into a dormitory.

The application, filed Tuesday by Gregg Singer, seeks a permit to convert the 110,000-plus-square-foot building, at 605 East Ninth Street, into a “college student dormitory” and to relocate the floor area in order to add a mezzanine. The cost of construction is estimated at $16 million.

The filing lends credence to speculation that Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors is aiming to turn the building into a dormitory. Last month, in an interview about the firm’s student housing business, chief executive Albert Rabil III told The Times, “We’re looking at a deal right now in New York City, on the Lower East Side. It’s a building that’s been vacant for 11 years — it was a former school building. We are now in negotiations.”

Olivia Offner, a representative of Kayne Anderson, told The Local that “nothing has been acquired at this point” at 605 East Ninth Street, and declined to comment further. Mr. Singer was not immediately available for comment. Read more…

Shaoul Said to Have Sold Seven More Properties to Jared Kushner

Samantha Balaban 199, 201 and 203 East Fourth.
propertyMassey Knakal

Jared Kushner has signed a contract to pay $49 million to Benjamin Shaoul for seven buildings on East Fourth Street, sources tell The Real Deal.

The Local suspected that the properties might have been purchased when they were mysteriously removed from Massey Knakal’s website shortly after we wrote about them two weeks ago. Yesterday, John Ciraulo, vice chairman of the firm, failed to reply to our inquiries about the matter. This morning, Mr. Shaoul’s attorney, Ken Fisher, declined to comment on the status of the buildings. The Real Deal broke the story this afternoon.

News of Mr. Kushner’s seven-building purchase comes on the heels of reports that he purchased 17 buildings from Mr. Shaoul and Westbrook Properties. The Post reported that the sale was for $128 million; The Real Deal now says the number is $130 million. The seven-building package consists of 118, 120-122, 195, 199, 201 and 203 East Fourth Street, which have a combined total of 115 residential units and one store.

Mr. Kushner, 32, is married to Ivanka Trump and owns The New York Observer. When it comes to high-profile real estate purchases, this isn’t his first rodeo. His family business, Kushner Companies purchased 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007 in a $1.8 billion deal, which The Times referred to as “a classic example of reckless underwriting.”

St. Marks Residents: Now We’re Cooking Without Gas

1359498095369-1 Molly Socha

Residents of 22 St. Marks Place have been dining out a lot lately. Shortly before Christmas, firefighters responded to a complaint about a gas odor, and the building has been without cooking gas ever since.

What started as an inconvenience (ever try to cook a Christmas feast in a microwave?) has become a genuine irritation.

“People are getting mutinous,” said a tenant who did not want to be named. In fact, some are circulating a petition that they’re threatening to take to the Department of Buildings.

It’s uncertain who, exactly, is responsible for the extended outage. According to a representative of the building’s management company, NBKM Realty, Con Edison turned off the gas because of a leak in one of its ground-floor restaurants.

Mamoun’s briefly closed because of the leak but reopened around Jan. 4. “It was the building’s fault,” said Kareem Ibriham, an employee of the falafel joint. He insisted that the gas for the restaurant is separate from the apartments above, and has been restored.  Read more…

Shaoul Seeks $53 Million For Six Buildings On East Fourth

propertyMassey Knakal Realty

Benjamin Shaoul is selling off a slew of his East Fourth Street apartment buildings.

195, 199, 201 and 203 East Fourth Street are on the market as a package deal for $32 million, a listing posted by Massey Knakal Realty indicates. The buildings include 46 residential units and one store, according to the listing.

Just a few blocks west, another two apartment buildings are for sale, said John Cirallo, Vice Chairman of Massey Knakal. 118 and 120-122 East Fourth Street are being sold as a package for $23 million, a recent drop from $25 million. They include 69 residential units.

Rent-stabilized tenants of those two buildings are responsible for Occupy East 4th Street, a blog dedicated to “maintaining East 4th Street as the diverse and mixed-income block it’s always been” in the face of what the site says is Mr. Shaoul’s plan to “empty our buildings of tenants, many of whom are rent-stabilized and senior citizens, do a cheap renovation and raise rents beyond market rate.” In July, eight rent-stabilized tenants of the buildings spoke about their landlord with The Times. “They recalled not learning who owned their buildings for months, lost rent checks, eviction notices, heat and hot water turned off with little notice, scant communication from the management company, a menacing property manager and intense construction that lasted well over a year,” The Times wrote.
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With Penthouse in Contract, Alphabet City Townhouse Drops to $7.5 Million

photo-26Dana Varinsky

Want to buy a four-story luxury townhouse from a media power couple? Congrats, the one that Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig are said to have checked out just got $1 million cheaper!

The price of the 5,840 square-foot townhouse at 238 East Fourth Street dropped to $7.5 million last week. The cut might have occurred because the penthouse unit above the townhouse has gone into contract, a representative of Town Real Estate told The Local.

Sue Hostetler, editor-in-chief of Art Basel Miami Beach Magazine, and her husband, media executive Jon Diamond, put the townhouse, between Avenues A and B, on the market in April. In September, the two-story, three-bedroom penthouse was also put on the market, priced at $3,895,000. Its owners, Oscar Proust and Colleen Goujjane, are the duo behind One If By Land, Two If By Sea, a romantic dining destination in the West Village.

The entire building, townhouse plus penthouse, was available for $12.4 million, the Wall Street Journal reported in September. But now that the penthouse apartment is in contract, the listing’s suggestion that the townhouse “can be combined with the duplex above for a spectacular 11,000 sq ft mansion” might soon cease to be true.
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Shaoul Ready to Start Work Securing Controversial Rooftop Addition

photo(47)Daniel Maurer

Benjamin Shaoul has filed an application for renovations that will allow him to keep a controversial rooftop addition at 516 East Sixth Street.

The application, filed Wednesday, requests permission to renovate the five-story building and add a “new sixth floor.”

Of course, Mr. Shaoul already added the sixth floor, along with seventh-floor cabins, to the building in 2006. Tenants sued the Department of Buildings for issuing the permit for that construction, arguing that it violated the state’s multiple dwelling law and ran afoul of fire and elevator rules. The Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, among other opponents, argued that the extension corrupted the architecture of the 153-year-old tenement as well as the character of the streetscape. In 2010, the Board of Standards and Appeals ruled that the sixth-story addition could stay, but the seventh-story cabins had to go.

Last year, Mr. Shaoul requested a waiver from the Board of Standards and Appeals, to the chagrin of State Senator Daniel Squadron. In September of this year, the board voted to reinstate permits allowing the enlargement, according to the G.V.S.H.P.’s Off the Grid blog.

Which brings us to the latest filing.
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