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In NoHo, a Neighborhood Watchdog Forges a Team of Power Brokers

Screen shot 2012-03-23 at 5.13.50 PMRay Lemoine

She’s been called “NYC’s biggest killjoy,” and now she’s looming larger than ever. Last Tuesday at Community Board 2’s S.L.A. Licensing meeting, longtime activist Zella Jones publicly unveiled the NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders, a group of heavy-hitters that will act as a united front in helping to determine the course of the historic neighborhood – with Ms. Jones as President and Chief Operating Officer.

Two years in the works and modeled after similar organizations in Baltimore and San Francisco, the non-profit 501(4)c consists of 250 paying members, including residents of NoHo, local real estate and business owners, and non-profits such as the Merchant’s House Museum and La MaMa.

At Community Board 2 meetings, where Ms. Jones and her loose coalition of concerned neighbors were once the neighborhood’s scrappy watchdogs, they’ll now be part of what Ms. Jones likens to “A Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about President Lincoln’s cabinet.

“We have some really powerful people – some of whom traditionally have squared off against each other for a variety of reasons, from out-of-scale development to landmarking to nightlife proliferation – all involved for the benefit of NoHo,” she said, adding that the group’s members range from “purist” property owners who began their NoHo careers in artist-in-residence lofts to the more recent arrivals living in the sleek new properties on Bond Street. Read more…

At B Bar, A Garden Paradise

Gas CafeJoel RaskinB Bar and Grill, 40 East Fourth Street.

When I sat down the other day to have lunch in the garden courtyard of B Bar and Grill, at 40 East Fourth Street, I did the natural thing. I took a seat facing out towards the Bowery. But then I thought: Why am I looking at traffic when I could be looking at the garden? And so I turned my back on the street.

Here is what I saw: A light breeze stirred the branches of the six great, spreading locust trees which grow inside the courtyard. Straw baskets, some as big and broad as beehives and others the size and shape of Chinese lanterns, hang from the branches, and the breeze had set them in gentle, bobbing motion. It was a warm day, but the broad leaves filtered out the sunlight and cast dappled shapes on the brick floor. The garden is enormous — a 3,000-square-foot space where a gas station once stood — and the sounds of talk and clattering silverware drifted up towards the sky. The East Village is not a serene place; but B Bar is.

There is a very complex, and very charming, interplay between “indoors” and “outdoors” at B Bar. Only one half of the roof is open to the sky; the other half is covered by a bamboo trellis, which leaves stripes rather than blotches of sunlight on the brick tile of the ground — that is, floor; no, ground. The surrounding wall is pierced by wide openings which offer prospects of Fourth Street and the Bowery. At B Bar you are embowered, but your beloved street-world is very much with you. Step through the wall, and you’re there.
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