New Seward Park Board Seeks to Raise Co-op’s Profile

The Seward Park Co-op is making plans to revitalize the retail strip it owns on Grand and Clinton Streets — with the eventual goal of transforming the area into a shopping and dining destination. Three new board members were recently elected to represent the Co-op’s more than 17-hundred shareholders. Seward Park’s new president, Michael Tumminia, and two longtime directors, sat down with The Lo-Down recently to discuss their vision for the future.

“Grand Park” Update

Jesse Hartman won the support of the Community Board 3 committee that considers applications for liquor licenses. But he has a few more hurdles to clear before he can proceed with his plans for “Grand Park,” the restaurant he wants to open in the old “Isabella’s Oven” location on Grand Street. According to Frank Durant, Seward Park Co-op general manager, two restaurants are in the running for the location. The Co-op, which owns the space, is in negotiations with both businesses.

Meanwhile, Hartman has posted on his new web site some preliminary drawings of the backyard enclosure he wants to construct for Grand Park. They’re just a first draft – lots of design and cost issues need to be worked out, so there could be major changes.  Here’s a look:

Community Board Submital SK-004 (8 Community Board Submital SK-003 (8

Grand Park Wins Approval of Community Board Committee

A month after he withdrew his application due to concerns about late night noise, Jesse Hartman won the approval of a Community Board 3 committee tonight for a new restaurant at 365 Grand Street. The committee signaled its support for a full liquor license for "Grand Park," a small plates Italian restaurant that will feature a glass enclosed patio. Last month three or four residents spoke out against the project, fearing that the noise from the patio would reverberate up to their apartments in the Seward Park Co-op. But since then, Hartman has been building support in the community and he had an architect draw up plans for a sound-proofed enclosure. About 10 supporters showed up tonight, including the moderators of two neighborhood message boards and the owner of another restaurant a short distance away on Grand Street, Roots & Vines. The supporters told the committee they welcomed the addition of a good restaurant that will breath some life into a part of the street that's all but deserted after dusk. There was no opposition to the restaurant whatsoever, although committee members did express small reservations about a nearby school. The resolution they passed requires Hartman to close his windows after 10pm.

Also tonight, the committee rejected a request from the highly rated Clinton Street restaurant Falai for a full liquor license. The owner of Falai said it was necessary to upgrade from a license that permits the sale of wine only due to the tough economic climate. But Alexandra Militano, chair of the committee, insisted on upholding the community board's resolution severely restricting new liquor licenses in an area of the LES over-saturated with bars and restaurants.

And then there was the continuing saga surrounding the unfinished shell at 179 Ludlow, which, the owners promise, will one day be a boutique hotel. They went before the committee for a third time, pleading their case for a liquor license for a hypothetical restaurant in the, so far, hypothetical hotel. Militano and District Manager Susan Stetzer reminded them about the building's sordid past – a rat infestation, building code violations, etc. – and sent them packing.

We'll have more on all of this tomorrow.

Committee to Review Grand Park Application Tonight

6a01127920a5dc28a401156f9bbdfe970c-800wi This evening, Jesse Hartman will return to the Community Board 3 committee that reviews liquor licenses, hoping the second time will be a charm. Last month, he withdrew his request for a liquor license for a proposed restaurant at 365 Grand Street, due to opposition from several LES residents. The concerns centered around the potential for noise coming from the restaurant's backyard, which is in the shadow of the Seward Park Co-op. There were also reservations about the proposed closing time (4am) but Hartman has expressed a willingness to compromise on that issue.

The previous tenant of 365 Grand, "Isabella's Oven," used the open air patio, which is adjacent to the Seward Park handball courts. But Hartman said he plans to enclose the backyard.  A couple of residents who were present at last month's meeting asserted that the enclosure would not help muffle the noise. At the suggestion of the committee, Hartman has used the past month to build support for his project in the community and to have an architect draw up plans for the backyard enclosure.

The Fight for 365 Grand Street

IMG_0296

The food blogs are having a wonderful time poking fun at the squabbling over the fate of the old “Isabella’s Oven” location at 365 Grand Street. Neighborhood message boards lit up after last week’s controversial meeting of Community Board 3’s liquor licensing committee. Jesse Hartman’s proposal for an Italian restaurant in the shadow of the Seward Park Co-op with a full bar and an enclosed backyard was opposed by three residents toting petitions with over a hundred signatures. Over the weekend there were rumors that the Seward Park Housing Corp., the landlord, had decided to go with another applicant, an Asian fusion restaurant. But this morning Seward Park General Manager Frank Durant told us “there is no signed lease in place with anyone.”

Some residents expressed concerns about the full bar Hartman wants to operate and the closing time (4am). But most of the comments at the meeting and on the message boards express worries over late night noise wafting from the garden up to the apartments above. Durant said,“We will make sure that our residents and neighbors are protected from any disturbances. If that means having a sound proof enclosure or have lease provisions in place we will.”  He added, “the Board and Charles Greenthal Management will do whatever is necessary to make (sure) whomever leases that store (will) be able to succeed and be welcomed by the neighborhood.

At the community board meeting, Hartman agreed to withdraw his proposal in order to reach an agreement with opponents of “Grand Park.” He’s been having discussions since then with both supporters and opponents of the restaurant.  Today he met with an architect who has agreed to draw up sketches for a sound proofed backyard enclosure.

Acrimonious Evening at the CB3 Licensing Committee

Residents of the Lower East side came out in force last night to oppose several restaurants seeking liquor licenses. It was a tense night full of face to face confrontations between those residents and restaurant owners. Community Board 3 members serving on the alcohol licensing committee struggled to find the right balance between the two groups.

The largest and most organized opposition came from the residents surrounding a new restaurant planned for the corner of Essex and Canal. As we reported Sunday, the East Canal Neighborhood Association is determined to prevent their block from becoming a “mini-Ludlow,” littered with bars, plagued with late night noise and bursting with drunken crowds. The restaurant’s backers own the building, and have leased space to a green grocer and a shoe store. They hope to open a “family friendly” restaurant patterned after the restaurant at the Inn at Irving Place, which they also own. In explaining their rationale for a full liquor license, they said they wanted to attract a “European clientele.”

IMG_0452

The residents, many of whom live in the luxury building next door, 7 Essex, complained that the concept sounded too much like Les Enfants Terribles, the restaurant and popular late night hangout at the opposite end of the block. Committee member Meghan Joye said, as a bar owner and mother,  she resented the fact that the group presented letters from school principals and mothers concerned about the restaurant’s impact on their kids. Joye added, “they’re not going to be selling coke on the street.”

Chair Alexandra Militano said the overwhelming opposition left the committee with little choice but to reject the liquor license application but she called the predicament “unfortunate.” She said it was extraordinary that the owners had found a grocer to move into the building – no landlord wants a grocery, “they don’t make money,” she said. The applicant said finding quality tenants had been difficult – only fast food operations like KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts had expressed interest.

Amy Carlson, representing the residents responded that they had no desire “to do a disservice to the community.” But she also said they did not want to negotiate a compromise. The committee scolded both sides for failing to work out their differences in advance.

Restaurants Face Strong Community Opposition at CB3 Meeting

It was a tough night for restaurants going before the liquor licensing committee of Community Board 3. Several businesses applying for liquor licenses faced forceful opposition from residents and, in some cases, from committee members.

  • The committee rejected a full liquor license for a restaurant at the corner of Essex & Canal, after a community organization presented a large number of signatures opposing the application. But some board members made it clear they felt the community's objections were "unfortunate." The backers of the restaurant also own the building – and have leased space to a green grocer. They said it's tough to find quality tenants at the location. 
  • Also due to community opposition, Jesse Hartman, who wants to open a restaurant at 365 Grand, withdrew his request. He said he would work with residents to alleviate concerns about noise and about his proposed 4am closing time.
  • The committee denied a liquor license to T Poutine on Ludlow Street.
  • Spitzer's corner was denied its request to add sidewalk seating.

Throughout the evening there was quite a lot of tension among members of the committee, residents fed up with late night noise and partying and restaurant owners who say they can't survive without a robust bar business. Much more to come tomorrow…

Residents Oppose New Restaurant on Canal Street

A neighborhood group on Canal Street is mobilizing to oppose a new restaurant’s quest for a liquor license, saying they don’t want to see their block become a “bar scene.” The owners of the restaurant at 1 Essex (Essex & Canal) and their detractors will go before the liquor licensing committee of Community Board 3 tomorrow night.

The committee, noting no opposition from the community, signaled its support last month for a license to sell wine only.  The application for “1 Essex” was mistakenly removed from the published agenda and then added back on shortly before the meeting began. Amy Carlson, speaking for the neighborhood group, appealed to the full board of CB3, arguing that they would have showed up to voice their opposition if they’d known the application was being considered.  CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer says the restaurant withdrew its application and will re-apply for a full liquor license tomorrow night.

The backers of the restaurant own the Inn at Irving Place, which includes the cocktail lounge Cibar. They did not return our phone calls. But in their original application, they said the new venture will be a  family friendly restaurant emphasizing organic food (“Jewish fusion,” they called it), not a nightlife destination catering to hipsters in search of the latest hot spot. See our previous coverage here and here.

More Details: New Grand Street Restaurant

Yesterday we told you about the new restaurant planned for 365 Grand Street, the old "Isabella's" location. This morning Jesse Hartman confirmed he's going before Community Board 3's licensing committee on May 11 to ask for permission to serve alcohol. Hartman is a musician and filmmaker, who along with his brother, Phil, operated "Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction" on Avenue A until it closed a couple of years ago. Phil Hartman runs the "Two Boots" pizza restaurants.

The restaurant will feature an Italian small plates concept. Since the indoor space is very small, he'll make full use of an outdoor area in the back, adjacent to the Seward Park handball courts. Hartman says he plans to enclose the garden so it can be used all year and to cut down on noise.

Hartman and his wife have lived in the neighborhood for 7 years. Since "Mo Pitkin's" closed, he has been working on a film project, "House of Satisfaction."

He's excited about the concept for the restaurant, tentatively called "Grand Park." Unlike several blocks above Delancey (Rivington, Orchard, Ludlow), there are not a lot of dining choices in the immediate area.  Hartman says there are stil a lot of details to work out, including building department issues. But he's hopeful everything will fall into place.

New Restaurant Seeks to Replace Isabella’s on Grand Street

There are petitions in a few of the businesses on Grand Street seeking the community's support for a new restaurant called "Grand Park." You guessed it: this is where "Isabella's Oven" used to be, 365 Grand Street. You'll recall, Isabella's was evicted by the building's owners, the Seward Park Co-op board — and then someone smashed the place to smithereens (review the whole saga here and here.)

The petition from Jesse Hartman (of Two Boots?) says he plans an "elegant eating counter/bar" and a "beautiful patio and garden." "Grand Park" plans to serve Italian tapas (cicchetti), salads, sandwiches and grilled items. Hartman wants to serve wine, beer and cocktails. The restaurant hopes to replicate European style dining – serving food late.

According to the State Liquor Authority's web site, 365 Grand's current liquor license expires in 2010. Isabella's was only permitted to serve wine and beer – no cocktails. Hartman will go before Community Board 3's licencing committee next month. In the petition he points out that he is a longtime Lower East Side resident and pledges to be "the best neighbor I can be." IMG_0296

New Restaurant Seeks to Replace Isabella’s on Grand Street

There are petitions in a few of the businesses on Grand Street seeking the community's support for a new restaurant called "Grand Park." You guessed it: this is where "Isabella's Oven" used to be, 365 Grand Street. You'll recall, Isabella's was evicted by the building's owners, the Seward Park Co-op board — and then someone smashed the place to smithereens (review the whole saga here and here.)

The petition from Jesse Hartman (of Two Boots?) says he plans an "elegant eating counter/bar" and a "beautiful patio and garden." "Grand Park" plans to serve Italian tapas (cicchetti), salads, sandwiches and grilled items. Hartman wants to serve wine, beer and cocktails. The restaurant hopes to replicate European style dining – serving food late.

According to the State Liquor Authority's web site, 365 Grand's current liquor license expires in 2010. Isabella's was only permitted to serve wine and beer – no cocktails. Hartman will go before Community Board 3's licencing committee next month. In the petition he points out that he is a longtime Lower East Side resident and pledges to be "the best neighbor I can be." IMG_0296