Op/Ed: Community Board 3’s Race Debate

Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was submitted by K Webster, a new member of Community Board 3 and a longtime community activist.  The Lo-Down accepts unsolicited op/ed articles.  Submissions should be emailed to: tips@thelodownny.com. 

Race & Politics: CB3 Chairperson Gigi Li’s Leadership Appointments Criticized (Updated 2:40 p.m.)

“Dear Dwellers:” Community Board 3’s Letter to Suspended Neighborhood Group

There’s a lot of interest in CB 3’s decision to suspend the LES Dwellers neighborhood group for three months. Here’s the full text of the letter sent by Chairperson Gigi Li to the Dwellers on October 1. 

Eight New Members Appointed to Community Board 3

Teresa Pedroza, Dashane Santana's grandmother, looks on as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver praises Delancey Street safety improvements last year.

Teresa Pedroza, Dashane Santana’s grandmother, looks on as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver praises Delancey Street safety improvements last year.

The Manhattan Borough President’s office announced the appointment of 76 new community board members today.  There are eight new members on Community Board 3, which covers the East Village, the Lower East Side and most of Chinatown.

Among the appointees: Teresa Pedroza (pictured above), the grandmother of Dashane Santana, the 12-year old girl who was killed on Delancey Street last year.  New safety measures were implemented on the dangerous thoroughfare after her death.  Pedroza is a resident of the Baruch Houses and a member of Good Old Lower East Side.  City Council member Rosie Mendez recommended her appointment.

Community Board 3 Posts April Liquor License Agenda

Alias, 76 Clinton St. Photo via Facebook.

Alias, 76 Clinton St. Photo via Facebook.

Community Board 3 is out with the agenda for its April 8th liquor licensing hearing.  There are some potentially interesting items here, including a new proposal for the Alias space at 76 Clinton St.  More details as full applications are posted online.

Soho House Pulls Liquor Application at 139 Ludlow

139 Ludlow Street, the possible future home of Soho House on the Lower East Side.

139 Ludlow Street, the possible future home of Soho House on the Lower East Side.

As we have reported, Soho House planned to go before Community Board 3 next month, seeking support for a liquor license at 139 Ludlow Street.   But the operators of the members’ club have decided to take some more time for community outreach before moving forward with their Lower East Side expansion plan, so the liquor application has been withdrawn, for now.

Soho House staff held several open houses the past two weekends inside the former funeral home on Ludlow Street.  Letters were sent to around 1800 residents in the immediate area, explaining the project and inviting people to stop by to check out the plans.   Yesterday afternoon, the community board was notified of the withdrawal.

CB3 Panel Rejects “Finale,” Approves Most Other Liquor Licenses

Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm at last night’s CB3 meeting.

It was a rough night at Community Board 3’s March liquor license hearing for the New Kings of New York Nightlife.  Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm of the EMM Group wanted the board’s blessing to move the dance floor at their huge Bowery club, Finale, to the ground floor (from the basement).  The committee voted 5-2 (with one member abstaining) against the application.

Residents of 199 Bowery, where the club is located, have filed a lawsuit against the EMM Group, claiming that late night noise and crowds have made their lives miserable. More than a dozen opponents of the club testified last night.  Committee Chair Alex Militano says Remm and Birnbaum appear to have pulled off a “bait and switch,” promising to open a “bar/restaurant/bakery/lounge” and then morphing into a full-fledged night club.  In their defense, the nightlife impresarios said they were making a real effort to address resident concerns.  They said there’s an adjustment period any time a club opens.  CB3’s full board will vote on the application later this month before forwarding a recommendation to the State Liquor Authority. 

Yo! Adds New York-Boston Round Trip Service From Pike Street (Updated)

Yo! Bus began service on Pike Street December 18, 2012.

The New York Times reported today that Yo! Bus is “rushing to fill the void left by the shutdown of Fung Wah,” the Chinatown bus company which was forced out of service by the federal government last week due to safety concerns.   Yo!, a joint operation of Greyhound and Peter Pan, began service from Pike Street last December.  The company was forced to move from a proposed location in front of Seward Park after a neighborhood uproar.

Following the Times report, YO! put out a press release today announcing six daily round trips between New York and Boston, a route previously served by Fung Wah.  The new service begins on Thursday from the same Pike Street location, near East Broadway.  As the Times story indicated, the Department of Transportation “updated (Yo!’s permit)” to allow the additional stops.

Op/Ed: SPURA Plan Reflects True and Unprecedented Community Process

The Seward Park development parcels are depicted on the cover of the city’s request for proposals.

Editor’s note: Last week, we published an op/ed from Jenifer Rajkumar, a district leader and prospective City Council candidate, concerning the Seward Park development project. Today, here’s a related opinion piece from Dominic Berg, who was the chairperson of Community Board 3 from July 2008 – June 2012. He continues to serve as a member of CB3 and is a member of the Seward Park RFP Task Force. This Op/Ed is not an official statement of Community Board 3:

As the former Chairperson of Community Board 3 who oversaw a community consensus on this project, I would like to provide recent historical context about the progress taken thus far on the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA).

The deal that allowed this development to move forward after over 40 years of inaction was a result of true common sense community consensus on what is best for the Lower East Side. I often said that we knew we had a deal because everyone gave up something and all felt a little out of their comfort zone. Every vote taken by the full Community Board on this project was unanimous.

Community Board 3 Spells Out Procedures For Block Associations

Recently Community Board 3 sent a survey to neighborhood block associations and followed up with a letter outlining various procedures these groups should follow.  Block associations deal with lots of different issues — their organizing efforts to oppose, or at least to restrict, liquor license applications at bars and restaurants being the most high profile.

According to the letter, CB3 has updated its list of block associations following Hurricane Sandy, when communication with local residents was all but impossible. It became apparent that the board’s contact list was really out of date, partly due to the fact that local organizations tend to come and go in response to various “hot button issues” on specific blocks. Keeping updated information is a challenge. CB3 typically refers liquor license applicants to block groups.  The same goes for film production studios looking to shoot in the neighborhood, as well as organizations applying to hold block parties.

NYCHA Plans Luxury Housing Alongside Five LES Public Housing Projects

Photo via Alfred E. Smith Houses Facebook page.

The next big housing battle on the Lower East Side is upon us.  In the past month, officials with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been briefing elected officials and some tenant leaders about plans to lease a huge amount of property alongside public housing to private developers for market-rate apartments and retail.    Last night, at a meeting of Community Board 3’s land use committee, activists began to mobilize against the proposal, one tenant leader saying in regards to NYCHA, “if you want a war you’ve got a war.”

The cash-strapped agency has been talking about selling or leasing some of its property for years.  A 2008 report from the Manhattan Borough President found that the housing authority has more than 30 million square feet of unused property rights (including parking lots, playgrounds and open space).  In September, NYCHA Chairman John Rhea signaled that he was preparing to move ahead with the leasing plan as a way of narrowing the authority’s annual $60 million budget gap.

Sunshine Cinema Returns to CB3 in Quest For Liquor License Next Month

The Sunshine Cinema is applying for a new liquor permit. Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

Community Board 3 just published the agenda for next month’s liquor license hearing.  There are several interesting items listed, including a return engagement by the management of the Sunshine Cinema, which is transforming the East Houston Street landmark into a “dinner/drinks/and a movie” venue. Back in December, CB3 turned the Sunshine team away, saying their application was incomplete.

Also on the agenda, a business dubbed the “Cow Theater” is seeking a wine and beer permit at 21 Clinton, Currently the home of the Living Theatre (the legendary theater company is moving out of the space after its current production ends).  The new applicant appears to be Tyler Maganzini, who runs the Black Mountain Winehouse in Brooklyn.

Click through for the full agenda.

At Liquor License Hearing, Ludlow Hotel Owners Promise to Be Good Neighbors

180 Ludlow Street.

The new, upscale hotel at 180 Ludlow Street is expected to open by next spring.  That was the word from the hotel owners, who went before Community Board 3’s SLA Committee earlier this week, winning the panel’s blessing for a liquor license.  The long-suffering development site was bought by BD Hotels two years ago for $25 million.  The high flying group, led by Richard Born and Ian Druckier, offered a few new details about the project, which is destined to be a Lower East Side game changer.

The 20-story hotel will include an Italian restaurant not unlike Gemma, the trattoria in the Bowery Hotel (one of this group’s many Manhattan holdings), a small patio on the Orchard Street side of the building and a lobby lounge.  Food service will be available 24 hours; liquor will be served until 4 a.m.  They submitted a letter of support from their neighbor, The Ludlow apartment building, as well as petitions from local residents containing 150 signatures.

Sunshine Cinema Says Alcohol Permit is Key to Staying on the LES; CB3 Balks

The Sunshine Cinema is applying for a new liquor permit. Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

Last night, representatives of the Landmark Theatre Company told members of Community Board 3 that their plan to sell alcoholic drinks at the Sunshine Cinema offers the only hope of keeping the art house theater at 143 East Houston Street.  But citing an incomplete application and concerns about the scale of the proposed liquor permit, CB3’s SLA Committee sent them away with a tongue-lashing and the threat of rejection.  Executives from the company withdrew their application for the time being.

Mike Fant, Landmark’s senior vice president for real estate,  said the company will soon be renegotiating its lease in the historic 1898 building on East Houston Street that has served as a center of independent film downtown for more than a decade.  He indicated that the property owner expected to have multiple offers from other theater companies.  In anticipation of a big rent increase,  Fant said, Landmark wants to invest $1 million to transform the Sunshine into an upscale venue for drinks, dinner and film.

Liquor License News: Freemans Expands, More Karaoke, Another Orchard Street Bar

Onside K-One, the karaoke club at 97 Bowery.

More details are rolling in concerning the applicants going before Community Board 3’s liquor licensing board next Monday.  Documents posted on CB3’s web site show:

  • Andy Lee wants to expand his K-One karaoke bar to the fourth floor of 97 Bowery.   The liquor license would be extended to seven private karaoke lounges in the growing club.  The new space would be open until 4 a.m. seven days a week.  There are already 12 rooms listed on the bar’s web site; we’ll have to see how many total rooms the owners plan to add.
  • Taavo Somer and Kent Kilroe of the Freemans empire plan to take over 8 Rivington Street, the former home of “The National.”  Based on diagrams submitted to the board, it looks like they want to expand Freemans Sporting Club (their upscale men’s clothing store) into the ground-floor space and add a bar with small plates and appetizers on the lower level.  The lounge would be open 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.  In the past, a few very vocal neighbors have showed up to oppose Somer’s expansion plans for his flagship restaurant in Freemans Alley, just around the corner from 8 Rivington.
  • And the team behind Midtown bar, “Redemption,” on 2nd Avenue, is looking to take over a vacant space at 138 Orchard Street.  They’re seeking a full bar, 4 p.m.-4 a.m. hours and say they’ll be serving “American” food. This place would be on the same block as Lucky Jack’s.

More to come…