Mars Bar to be Demolished in August; the 400 Grand Street Connection

The Mars Bar, The End is Near, East Village, New York City

Photo by Vivienne Gucwa. Visit her web site at: www.nythroughthelens.com.

Yesterday Crain’s posted an interesting story about the demise of the Mars Bar and the silver lining for several East Village tenants:

An octogenarian playwright, a drag queen and a kvetcher provoked nightly by the bar’s cacophony are among the nine tenants in two adjoining buildings at the corner of Second Avenue and East First Street who will receive (a) sweet deal. At the end of the month, they will vacate their 1920s building, which will be demolished in August. When they return in about two years, each will pay $10 (tax free) to buy an apartment in a 12-story luxury high-rise.

The reasons behind the “sweet” deal reveal a lot about the Lower East Side’s past, present and future. Crain’s explains:

…the building, once a Yiddish theater, had been seized by the city, as had many others after arsonists-for-hire torched much of the neighborhood. Artists like Mr. Vaccaro reclaimed the abandoned buildings. Eventually, with government subsidies, they were brought up to code and returned to the tax rolls. Tenants’ sweat equity and sheer perseverance were rewarded as the city disposed itself of its portfolio. Many were allowed to buy their units for a nominal fee. Developers, meanwhile, salvaged city-owned buildings and parking lots. Some erected luxury apartments. But like the walls of the Mars Bar, the blank canvas that once attracted artists to the neighborhood has been covered. Almost no formerly city-owned buildings remain undeveloped.

In the article, Steve Herrick of the Cooper Square Committee said there’s only one resident-occupied city-owned building left in the neighborhood — 400 Grand Street.

400 Grand Street; July 2010.

Last summer, we reported on the fight to save 400 Grand. The building, located on the Seward Park redevelopment site (SPURA), is very likely to be demolished in the next few years to make room for a new residential and commercial development. The tenants, the only residents living on SPURA, are battling to save their homes (more on this later today).

These residents are, of course,  not the only tenants of 400 Grand. Last month, the LES Jewish Conservancy opened a brand new Visitor Center on the ground floor: