“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:

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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


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


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.

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.