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The Fight for 365 Grand Street

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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.

The indoor space is quite small. Hartman would use it for a bar and an expanded kitchen. He would then build a “Frank Lloyd Wright” style enclosure on the patio for the dining room, and possibly, build out onto the lawn that runs alongside the Seward Park handball courts.

Residents speculate that the Asian fusion restaurant would not ask for a liquor license, at least not until they have a signed lease.  They also doubt that the new restaurant would be willing to pay to enclose the patio. Hartman presented the community board with nearly 300 signatures.  He’s now gone on the message boards himself, making his case for the restaurant and urging supporters to come to next month’s community board meeting.

Emotions have been running high online, as residents debate development below Delancey. Some people want the quiet stretch of Grand Street from Essex to the East River to stay that way. But opinion is divided. Linda Jones, moderator of the Seward Park message board, wants to see some signs of new life along Grand. She believes the street would, in fact, be safer if there were a few restaurants and shops open past dusk.

She acknowledges that residents who live in the building closest to the retail spaces should have their say, but that in New York City expecting complete silence is unrealistic. Jones would like the Seward Park Board to weigh in on a master plan for the retail space the Co-op owns, laying out what kinds of restaurants and stores they hope to attract.

We have reached out to Seward Park Board President Karen Wolfson. We’ll let you know when we hear back from her.


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