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Scaffolding Prompts Concerns at Mary Help of Christians

Workers were spotted carrying scaffolding into Mary Help of Christians Church last Friday, prompting concern among some neighbors as to whether there were any developments about the church’s future.

Mary Help of Christians ChurchSuzanne Rozdeba

Around 3 p.m. late last week, “There was a huge Penske moving van and several workers in front of the church. The church doors were open,” an eyewitness told The Local. “I was concerned because we don’t know what’s going to happen with the church.” The church property was purchased by developer Douglas Steiner, who’s bringing a residential development to the lot between East 11th and 12th Streets.

“I saw the workers bringing in scaffolding into the church, and I thought, ‘Uh oh,’” said the eyewitness. “I asked one of the guys to please be careful with the remaining relics. I thought they were moving the rest of the stuff out. But he said, ‘We’re not taking anything out. We’re just putting up scaffolding in the church. It’s in rough shape. We’re putting up support for the church. It’s an old building.’” It was unclear whether there was work being done to the church’s interior, or whether it had anything to do with work being done at P.S. 60 next door.

Last month, The Local reported that preservationists would like to meet with Mr. Steiner to discuss the church’s future, and the possibility of preserving the church. Several neighborhood preservation groups, along with a neighbor and a former parishioner, have asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider protecting the church. A source close to the project had said it was too early to know what the developer’s plans are for the site.

Garage Might Be Demolished Next to Merchant’s House? Nobody Told Me, Says Garagekeeper

cart ali tousirSasha Von Oldershausen Ali Tousir at his hot dog cart.

Just about everyone in the neighborhood knew about the plan to build a nine-story building next to the Merchant’s House Museum – that is, everybody but the guy whose business was in jeopardy because of it.

Nadir Ayub runs his storage business, Al-Amin Food Inc., out of the one-story garage located on 27 East Fourth Street. The lot, which currently houses 26 carts belonging to local food vendors, is also the site of a contentious development plan that has provoked the ire of many East Village residents.

And yet when The Local approached Mr. Ayub a day after the proposal was reviewed at a Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting last week, he seemed surprised to hear of it. He said he had signed a five-year lease with the garage’s owner in May, around the time he took over the storage business. That same month, unbeknownst to Mr. Ayub, representatives of the Merchant’s House, along with City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, were complaining to Community Board 2 about a plan to demolish his workplace.  Read more…

Church Cleared to Be Sold for $41 Million: Evidence That Douglas Steiner Is Mystery Buyer

5U5T0753Alberto Reyes Last mass at Mary Help of Christians

The Archdiocese of New York has been authorized to sell Mary Help of Christians Church for $41 million, and evidence points to Douglas C. Steiner, a developer of luxury residences and the owner of Steiner Studios, as the church’s prospective buyer.

Court documents obtained by The Local indicate that on Aug. 29, the Church of Mary Help of Christians and the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral filed a petition to sell the church property, including the church and school buildings at 436 East 12th Street, the rectory at 440 East 12th Street, and the parking lot (formerly home to the flea market) at 181 Avenue A. A State Supreme Court order, dated Sept. 6, authorized the sale to an entity identified only as 181 Avenue A, LLC. According to the documents, a contract dated May 11 indicated that the sellers had agreed to a total purchase price of $41 million, well above a Cushman & Wakefield appraisal that valued the property between $34 million and $37 million. Read more…

Action Near Astor: As Building Goes Up, Another Business Bites the Dust

IMG_0080Melvin Felix New signage at the site of 51 Astor Place.

A little over two weeks ago The Local gave an overhaul update on the many changes underway at Astor Place and Cooper Square. It’s already time to check in again.

Norman's Sound & Vision closedMelvin Felix Another record store has shuttered.

A spokesman for Edward J. Minskoff Equities, the developer of 51 Astor Place, said that an announcement regarding tenants in the 12-story office building will be made within the next 45 days. The spokesman also confirmed that “a significant portion” of companies considering moving into the building are in the technology industry, as has been previously reported. The black glass tower is expected to open in spring of next year, as new signage at the construction site indicates. Read more…

Amid Cheers, C.B. 2 Votes Against N.Y.U. Expansion

ProtestorsOutsideNatalie Rinn Protestors held a rally before the Community Board’s vote on the N.Y.U. plan.

The ambitious expansion of New York University faced its first formal rejection last night, as Community Board 2 voted unanimously against the plan, saying it would turn Greenwich Village into a construction site for at least 19 years and fundamentally change the neighborhood for the worse.

Not a single person spoke in favor of the plan during over two hours of testimony in the packed basement of St. Anthony of Padua Church on 154 Sullivan Street. After 115 locals, academics and students skewered the plan that would add four new university buildings and 2.5 million square feet of space just south of Washington Square Park, the board cast its vote in opposition to the expansion dubbed “N.Y.U. 2031.”

“We’re here tonight to firmly reject this plan,” said board chair Brad Hoylman. “It’s clear that there is no support for this insidious plan that would destroy the culture of Greenwich Village.”

Cheers went up from the standing-room only audience after the vote, though its impact is limited, given that it is only an advisory opinion. The project will next be considered by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the City Planning Commission and the City Council, which will ultimately determine the project’s fate. Read more…

Frank Stella’s Former Studio Up for Bids

After a failed demolition attempt by would-be developers, the historic building at 128 East 13th Street will hit the auction block thanks to an order from a State Supreme Court judge, The Real Deal reports. The building, which was home to one of the city’s leading sellers of horses and horse-drawn carriages and later served as sculptor Frank Stella’s studio, was the subject of much lobbying by preservationists once developers Isaac Mishan and Joseph Sabbah revealed plans to replace it with a seven-story building in 2006. The pair defaulted on $10.5 million in loans, resulting in last week’s court order.

After Bialystoker, Could Cabrini Eldercare Center Be Next to Go?

CabriniStephen Rex Brown The Cabrini Center at 542 East Fifth Street.

The six-story building that houses a medical center catering to the elderly is on the market, raising concerns that a new landlord will give low-income patients the boot before the center can build a new location.

Last night, Community Board 3 sounded the alarm on the possible closure of the Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, sending a formal letter to the lawyer of the mystery buyer of the building at Avenue B and Fifth Street. Read more…

51 Astor Update

New 51 Astor Place Building

Echoing what The Local reported back in June, Edward Minskoff, the developer of the office building set to go up at 51 Astor Place, tells Real Estate Weekly that the Cooper Union Engineering Building will be demolished by the end of the year so that his futuristic Fumihiko Maki-designed office tower can be built by the end of 2013.

After a Divisive Exit, A Builder Returns

Mars Bar and Avalon BoweryIan Duncan The site BFC will develop, 11-17 Second Avenue – the current home of Mars Bar – is squeezed in among the much larger Avalon Bowery Place development

For Donald Capoccia, the developer behind 11-17 Second Avenue — the new apartment complex to be built on the current site of Mars Bar — the project is a return, after a decade away, to the East Village — the neighborhood where he launched his career and where he left his mark during the gentrification of the late 1990’s.

BFC Partners, Mr. Capoccia’s company, was responsible for the construction of hundreds of units of affordable housing in the East Village at a time when property values in the area were taking off. But the firm also became mired in a bitter dispute with residents over the destruction of community gardens to make way for Eastville Gardens, a mixed income development on Avenue C between East Seventh and East Eighth Streets.

Despite some rumblings over the loss of Mars Bar, a relic of the rough-and-tumble East Village of the 1980’s, the reception for the current project could hardly have been more different. In the past decade, the neighborhood has changed dramatically: when the 12-story building rises, it will stand among the much larger Avalon development on East Houston and Bowery. So far, BFC’s plan is going smoothly and Mr. Capoccia stands by his record.

“Housing production of that type in a neighborhood that was changing so rapidly is a great asset,” Mr. Capoccia said in a recent interview. Referring to low-income owners of units at the co-op he added, “community gardens are also a good asset but what was going on in the East Village then and where we are today, clearly a lot of these people wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the neighborhood.”
Read more…

The Day | On the Open Road

Phillip Kalantzis Cope

Good morning, East Village.

Local skaters can rejoice because Open Road Park officially reopens today. The park closed recently amid reports of drug dealing. The closing forced East Village skaters to go elsewhere to ride, hang out and practice kick-flips. East Side Community High School Principal Mark Federman, who held a public meeting earlier this week about the park’s closing, said he hopes to increase the park’s hours of operation next month.

In other neighborhood news, NY1 reports that the demolition of 51 Astor Place will begin in a few days. Later this year, construction is scheduled to begin on a 13-story, mixed-use office tower; that work is expected to take about 17 months.

The folks at EV Grieve have photos this morning showing that the Yippie Museum Cafe is closed temporarily for renovations. Along with the Chickpea location on 14th Street, many East Village business owners are closing for a few weeks in order to spruce up the interior of their shop. EV Grieve also has photos of boxing promoter Don King smoking a cigar in Tompkins Square Park during the premiere of the free, summer-long film series there. The Local’s Joshua Davis will have a full report on the series later today.

A Mars Bar Neighbor To Close, Too

110614_davis_locksmith_070Joshua Davis Joe’s Locksmith, a business in the same cluster of buildings as Mars Bar, will shut its doors June 30. Above: Joe Filini Jr., son of the store’s founder, says “We always knew it was gonna happen.”

As the Mars Bar keeps the public guessing as to when it will close its doors, Joe’s Locksmith confirmed yesterday that June 30 will be its last day of business. Though unlike the Mars Bar, which has no immediate plans to reopen, Joe’s Locksmith expects to relocate to Brooklyn within the next two months.

The Local caught up with Joe Filini Jr., son of the store’s founder Joe Filini, Sr., to reflect on his time in the East Village and discuss his future in Brooklyn.

“In a sense we always knew it was gonna happen,” said the younger Mr. Filini. “It was just a matter of time of when it was gonna happen. My father’s been hearing about it for years and years and years.”
Read more…

Area Bartenders Reflect on a Rival

Mars BarRoey Ahram

Area bartenders discuss the closing of Mars Bar and the question of commercialization versus preservation.

Mark Trzupek, manager of Life Café, 343 East 10th Street

“I don’t have any respect for landlords who come in and try to make money off people who have been here for 30 years and who took a risk in coming down here in the first place. Evolution always comes but at what cost? It’s changing the look of the neighborhood.”

Pepe Zwaryczuk, bartender at McSorley’s Old Ale House, 15 East Seventh Street

“Isn’t it a natural progression of life? It’s like how when Henry Hudson went up the river, the Indians looked over and said ‘There goes the neighborhood!’”

Randy Weinberg, manager of The Boiler Room, 86 East Fourth Street

“I’m absolutely 100 percent for it” — closing. “It’s all criminal to me, that they make their money off all the people that other bars throw out. It’s a real seedy crowd with a lot of drunks, a lot of druggies, and a lot of pickpockets. It’s not that they’re our competition because they take everyone we throw out because they’re bad. It’s a bad scene. It’s a part of the old East Village but really it’s time for it to go.”
Read more…

A New Plan for Extra Place Takes Shape

Extra PlaceLaura E. Lee Extra Place.

Construction is scheduled to begin Monday on a new plan to turn the historic Extra Place alley into a pedestrian walkway for retail patios and a new local arts venue.

The art space is a collaboration between developer Avalon Bay and Fourth Arts Block, a non-profit coalition of arts organizations.

“We’re really excited” said the arts block’s director Tamara Greenfield. “We think it is a fantastic opportunity.”

The vacant alley, tucked off First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue, has special historical significance. In the 1970’s, the backdoor for the legendary music club CBGB opened to the alley and bands like The Ramones were photographed in the space.

“It managed to make garbage look beautiful, in its context,” said Rob Hollander of the Lower East Side History Project.
Read more…

As 51 Astor Falls, A Cafe Will Close

New York Film Academy Cafe at 51 Astor PlaceStephen Rex Brown The New York Film Academy Cafe is expected to close as developers begin demolition work on 51 Astor Place (below) in July.
51 Astor PlaceMeghan Keneally

Last night we told you that the demolition of 51 Astor Place would begin next month. Today, we confirmed what some have speculated: the destruction of the site will require the closure of one of the neighborhood’s only cafes with a large outdoor space.

The New York Film Academy Café at the corner of Astor Place and Third Avenue will be used as a staging ground for workers tearing down the six-story building next door, meaning the business will serve its last cup of coffee on June 30.

“A lot of our customers are really bummed,” said Jennifer Lee, 33, a cook at the café. “It’s a good spot. It’s rare to have a patio where people can lounge outdoors.”

Lee added that the majority of the six or seven employees still on the payroll were planning to go on unemployment.

But she bore her bosses no ill will. In fact, employees were told when the café replaced the Starbucks at that location last year that the job would be short-lived.

“They knew this was going to happen. They told us before the place was open,” Ms. Lee said.

A regular at the café, Lou Stoltz, said that he would miss the space.

New 51 Astor Place BuildingCourtesy of Sciame Construction Corp. A rendering of the planned development.

“It’s a great place to have my coffee, read my paper, do my Sudoku and just keep cool — like I’m doing now,” said Mr. Stolz, who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years. “There’s an outdoor and an indoor space, even a smoking area. No one rushes you out. I hope they find a comparable location nearby.”

Mr. Stolz, who lives nearby at 10th and Stuyvesant Streets, added that he would even miss the building at 51 Astor Place.

“I’ll miss it, it’s been here since the 1950’s,” he said.

“I wish they’d build something here more along those lines,” Mr. Stolz added, gesturing toward the Cooper Union building. “Something more in keeping with the neighborhood.”

July Demolition Set for 51 Astor

New 51 Astor Place BuildingCourtesy Sciame Construction Corp.An artists conception of how 51 Astor Place will look once development is completed. Demolition of the current site, below, will begin in July.
51 Astor PlaceMeghan Keneally

Construction officials announced tonight that they will begin demolishing the former Cooper Union Engineering Building July 1.

Representatives from Sciame Construction Corp. hosted a public hearing about the demolition of the building at 51 Astor Place, located between Eighth and Ninth Streets. They expect the entire construction process to take 17 months, finishing by December 2012.

Because the building was constructed in the 1950’s, there will be an initial 40-day abatement period where specialists will secure any hazardous materials, like asbestos which covers some pipes in the building. Then, following city demolition procedures, there will be a two week period before any actual demolition of the existing building occurs, meaning that the existing structure will not begin to be taken down until approximately the third week of August.

About 50 people who live near the site attended the meeting, and their biggest complaint was about the city-designated hours of construction which begin at 7 a.m.

Steven Colletta, vice president of Sciame, said that because of the city regulations and workers union hours, construction will generally occur between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and, as of right now, there are no plans to build on weekends, though permits for weekend work may be applied for if needed on a week to week basis.

The plan for the new building, which includes retail space, commercial offices, and a portion dedicated to education use, was completed and approved in 2002, leaving the design of a public outdoor area as the only issue up for debate.

Sciame repMeghan Keneally Construction officials at tonight’s meeting.

The new building, designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, will be multi-tiered with the highest point reaching 12 stories, and the lowest being dedicated to retail space and standing 4 stories. The plan for the outdoor space includes benches and area for flower arrangements. The plan will be finalized at an as-yet-undetermined Community Board 3 Land Use meeting in mid-July.

Workers Dismantling 35 Cooper

Ian Duncan Men at work on the roof of 35 Cooper Square. Below: Views from inside the building show holes in the roof above a stairwell (top), and daylight pouring into the ground floor.
The stairwell of 35 Cooper Square open to the sky
Daylight pours into the first story of 35 Cooper Square

Update | 3:30 p.m. A team of three men was at work apparently tearing down the roof of 35 Cooper Square by hand this afternoon.

Behind its unlocked front door, the building had been completely stripped and holes knocked through the floors of the second and third stories. Workers threw bits of other wood and other debris down to the first floor. No power tools were heard to be in use, but a buzz saw lay idle on the roof. From across the street, workers appeared to be using hand saws on the building’s masonry.

The building’s stairs are intact, illuminated by a string of bulbs on a yellow wire, which snaked its way up to the roof.

At the unenclosed entrance to the roof, a worker in a flourescent yellow safety vest told The Local the site was off-limits.

5 Questions With | Anne Guiney

Guiney.Anne.1Mark Riffee Anne Guiney.

It would be a gross understatement to say that the East Village is in the midst of a transition. Old buildings have been threatened and new ones are scheduled to rise, much to the chagrin of many locals. But as Bill Millard, an East Village resident and freelance writer for various architectural and urban design publications, points out in an e-mail, it’s just as “important to consider ways to encourage the types of development that provide or foster benefits for a neighborhood” as it is to protest and block “destructive forms of development.”

So what kind of development is positive and why, recently, have some seemingly less favorable projects been allowed to continue in the East Village? The Local caught up with Anne Guiney, executive director of the Institute for Urban Design, and asked for her thoughts.


What architectural elements characterized the East Village before the gentrification of the neighborhood?


It all depends on what your carbon dating system is for gentrification and how you define it. I think the East Village has, for a very long time, been defined by tenements in terms of building type. And that hasn’t changed a lot architecturally. Obviously the street-level retail and the kinds of uses are a lot more commercial, a lot more recreational than they were 20 or 30 years ago, but the physical structure of the buildings is still defined by the tenement.
Read more…

Violations Cleared on 35 Cooper

The developer of 35 Cooper Square has resolved three outstanding code violations concerning work at the site, according to a spokeswoman with the Department of Buildings. The developer, Arun Bhatia, paid about $16,000 in fines related to the violations, according to department records; the status of a fourth violation was unclear. Mr. Bhatia has not said how he intends to develop the site, which preservationists have asked him to maintain. —Suzanne Rozdeba

Future of Essex St. Market Uncertain

Essex Street MarketSuzanne Rozdeba Preservationists have rallied around the Essex Street Market, which may be forced to move because of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area development project.

While a battle between preservationists and the developer of 35 Cooper Square is still brewing, residents on the Lower East Side are raising their voices about the possible uprooting of another historic location, the 70-year-old Essex Street Market.

“If that market had disappeared, and I had just sat back in my apartment, I don’t think I could live with myself,” said Cynthia Lamb, a Lower East Side resident who is circulating a petition to keep the market, home to more than 20 businesses, from being relocated as part of the contentious Seward Park Urban Renewal Area project. The site is home to five parcels of land that have sat empty as a development debate has steeped for over 40 years. John Shapiro, the city’s planning consultant, has suggested a “superior location” elsewhere on the Seward Park site for the market.
Read more…

N.Y.U. Plan Receives Landmark Approval

The Landmarks Preservation Commisssion approved N.Y.U.’s application to make changes to the open space at the landmarked University Towers site, following a hearing on April 5. The application represents one element of the university’s revised plans to expand in its core neighborhood. — Kim Davis