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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.