Neighbors Debate the Merits of Proposed East Broadway Bar
As we noted earlier this week, the owner of 221 East Broadway has spent the last few years renovating the six-story residential and commercial building. Two years ago, a coffee shop (Dora – later renamed Pushcart Coffee) opened; just a few weeks ago a second upscale business, Malt & Mold, debuted in a neighboring storefront. And within the past several days, the operators of a bar on Avenue B signed a lease for a prime corner spot, where they plan to open a neighborhood watering hole.
Recently, we spoke with Sivan Harlap, who owns “B-Side” on Avenue B and 12th Street, about her plans for a “friendly, community-oriented” spot, with co-worker Andrew States, in the 1300 square foot space, much of which was once occupied by a 24-hour bodega. Harlap, who’s in the process of buying an apartment in the Hillman Cooperative just a few blocks away on Grand Street, said she’s fallen in love with the immediate neighborhood.
She believes that the area needs a new community-gathering place to augment Pushcart Coffee, as well as nearby restaurants Cafe Petisco and La Flaca. The bar is “not meant to be a high-concept place,” she said. There will be a limited food menu, including falafel and fish & chips. There will also be a pickup counter, opening around 11 a.m., offering lunch items as well as fresh fruit smoothies and juices. The main bar area will open at about 3 p.m. The liquor license application requests a 4 a.m. closing time. Harlap said she envisions an “open and airy” space with windows that open up to the street in warmer months. Paperwork filed with Community Board 3 indicates the business will request a sidewalk seating license next spring.
In the past few weeks, Harlap and States have met with a number of local residents, many of whom live in the Seward Park Cooperative, located across the street on East Broadway. The proposal has divided co-op residents; some welcome the new bar; others are alarmed at the prospect of late night noise.
One very vocal opponent of the proposal is Ed Green, a co-op resident who led a 2009 campaign to reduce truck noise on East Broadway. During an interview last week, he said, “I knew that there were many, many many people, especially in the building I live in, which immediately faces the bar, that just saw as impossible the idea of having a seven-day-a-week bar with a 4 a.m. cut-off time.” Saying the area is predominantly residential, Green asked, “how are people going to get uninterrupted sleep? How are people going to maintain their health, go to work? How is that good for your children who need their sleep, the elderly?”
Green has organized a petition drive, and has been working alongside a prominent community leader, Pastor Marc Rivera of Primitive Christian Church. The church is located at 209 East Broadway (223 feet from the proposed bar, according to Google Maps). “I am not in favor of such an establishment in our community for several reasons,” Rivera explained in an email message. “I suspect that the noise and disturbance levels will make this quiet street similar to what we are now experience on Rivington Street, which is teeming with late hour bars,” Pastor Rivera wrote.
He also referenced the “200 foot rule,” a section of the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control law which prohibits liquor licenses within 200 feet on the same street as a school or religious institution. Rivera pointed to the former Young Israel Synagogue at 225 East Broadway, next door to the bar. The synagogue was demolished in 2010, and a plan to rebuild it is entangled in a complicated legal dispute.
Linda Jones, another Seward Park resident (and a Community Board 3 member), supports the new bar. Like Green, her apartment faces East Broadway, but Jones said the area could use a bit more street life, especially late at night. She is confident Harlap and States will be running a responsible establishment, noting that B-Side has only had one noise complaint in two years.
The Seward Park Co-op Board has declined to weigh in on the matter, but the management office did send an email to residents encouraging them to express their views to the community board. Green said he believes the opinions of those living closest to the proposed bar should count the most, since they are the ones who would be most impacted by late night noise. Green encouraged Harlap and States to substantially revamp their concept. What the area really needs, he argued, is not another bar but a restaurant that closes at 11 p.m. The open windows are a big issue for Green, since he believes music and loud voices will waft out from Clinton Street, keeping neighbors awake.
The CB3 application details several steps Harlap and States plan on taking to alleviate concerns about noise. They intend to move the entrance to Clinton Street, away from the cooperative. Security would be hired on weekend evenings to check identification and to make sure people don’t congregate on the street. They also plan to install soundproofing.
The community board vote is only a recommendation; it’s up to the State Liquor Authority to approve or deny the license. CB3’s liquor licensing committee meets Monday, June 18, 6:30 p.m., at the JASA/Green building, 200 East 5th Street.
UPDATE 3:51 p.m. The community board requests that all letters and petitions be presented at the meeting, rather than at CB3’s office.