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V O I C E O F T H E W E S T 13 T H S T . 100 B L O C K A S S O C I A T I O N I N C ., 155 W. 13 T H S T ., NYC 10011
Issue No. 18
Fall 2009/Winter 2010
AREA 151: Endless Dig
Entire Back Yard Excavated; Now the Excavator’s Broke
By Gary Tomei Summer's over, so for those who have been away, welcome back to our collective construction project – or perhaps we should say our “block in progress.” It seems there's hardly a building on the block which is not being renovated and encased in scaffolding. However, take heart: 175 (the Cambridge) should have its scaffolding down in the fall and the City & Country School has to finish soon as school starts in September. As reported in our headline story, the owners of 151, which had a dumpster in front of its premises for a year and a half, have advised us that their excavator has run out of money and that excavation project is now stymied so the construction shed in front of that building remains and, it appears, will remain there as a memorial to the 2nd Big Dig on the block (the 1st being the infamous MTA job at the corner of 6th Ave.) Of great concern is the fate of 135137, which is, and has been a mess for a years now. Renovation was started and It has wooden panels around the ground floor but nothing seems to going on presently. I am concerned that those panels, besides being eyesores, are perfect hiding places for muggers. The City should force the owner to remove them. -cont. P.2
It’s been going on for a year and a half. Dozens of dumpsterloads of rock, sandy soil and debris – many tons – have been removed. And it’s not finished yet. Call it Area 151 – the endless excavation beneath the 160year-old Greek Revival brownstone at 151 W. 13th, with the decrepit gray work shed leaning off the front. After all that digging, the hole is now 19 feet deep, and extends beneath the entire back yard to the property line. The sides of this pit must be shored up, since it hasn’t collapsed, but it’s impossible for a casual observer to tell, since (according to neighbors with a view of the yard) it is entirely covered in plywood sheets. What is it for? The owner says only that this huge underground space will be used for “storage and recreation” – not a very satisfying answer. More worrisome is word that the excavation is not yet complete, and that the excavator has run out of money. No word on what the owner plans to do about that, but meanwhile the eyesore shed remains chained and locked, no work being done. And now the owner wants approval to add two stories to the back of the house (which already has a one story extension) -cont. P.2
THE ANNUAL W. 13TH ST. BLOCK SOCIAL
Sunday, October 4th, at Gradisca Ristorante See last page for full details.
W. 13th St. Gazette
opened this proceeding in February, but – as usual – the wheels of justice turn slowly. Right now the matter is scheduled to be heard in NY County Supreme Court on Nov. 23. I believe we have a very strong case and will prevail. Rudin and St. Vin’s still must go through The Uniform Land Use Review Process to obtain zoning variances, since they plan to violate the zoning laws as well as the Landmarks Law. But it almost certainly will be approved. The truth is that the developers have the politicians in their pockets. Christine Quinn and BP Stringer support the project, and have gotten huge campaign contributions from the Rudin people. The politicos are selling our historic, cultural and architectural heritage – the soul of this great City – for political contributions. And it is not just happening in the Village. Take the area around the Brooklyn Bridge. Quinn and councilwoman Melinda Katz received at least $74,000 in donations through Two Trees Management, a real estate conglomerate, which also spent $400,000 lobbying the Council and city agencies to get approval for a 17-story building steps from the Brooklyn Bridge – and towering 7 stories above it. Despite opposition by the historian David McCullough, documentarian Ken Burns, and 25,000 residents, Two Trees received City Council approval of the project. Our local politicians have become lackeys of the real estate establishment and don’t truly give a damn about the people, history or future of NYC. We planned to print this issue before the Democratic primary election, and I would have suggested that you vote for those who are capable and true preservationists, specifically: for Mayor, Tony Avella; for Comptroller, David Yassky; for Public Advocate, Eric Gioia, and for D.A., Richard Aborn. Only David Yassky, running for Comptroller, made it to the runoffs, and I urge you to vote for him on September 29. (NOTE: These are personal choices and not those of the Block Assn.)
Area 151 cont.
going out one foot beyond his present extension. On Aug. 31, The Landmarks Committee of Community Board 2 held a hearing to consider this new application. Block Assn. President Gary Tomei and seven more of our neighbors attended to speak against the project. For now, the extension application is on hold. But the nearly complete excavation is a done deal. And it remains to be seen how long it will continue as a blot on the block and a mystery to other residents. The Block Assn. will keep tabs on it and attempt to clarify just what’s going on in Area 151. -Bruce Meyer, ed.
(For more on this and related matters, see the President's Message, p.1.)
The Real Estate Report
By Kitty Sorell
Yes, recession is definitely here – but there is good news about real estate on our lovely, landmarked block. Recent sales in a doorman building on our block included a one bedroom for $731,000 and a studio for $350,000. A single family townhouse on our block sold for $8,500,000 in January. Otherwise, for now, townhouse owners are taking a breather. Two bedroom apartments in doorman buildings on our block range in price from $1,150,000 to $850,000. One bedrooms range from $698,000 to $649,000. A duplex one bedroom with a garden asks $1,195,000 and a townhouse one bedroom floor-through is priced at $1,470,000. Rental apartments are plentiful here now. Monthly rents for one bedrooms range from $1,950 to $2,950. Studios are asking $1,700. Two bedroom rentals range from $3,400 to $5,900. Kitty is a W13BA member and VP, Corcoran Real Estate. For additional information, call her at 212-989-0101.
President’s Message cont.
Yet all of this will be just fun and games compared to the Rudin/St. Vincent's project, if that ever gets off the ground. Right now, though the LPC has given St. Vin's and Rudin the green light to raze the O'Toole building and commence building two huge edifices, Protect the Village Historic District is pursuing a lawsuit (I am one of the plaintiffs) to prevent this violation of the Landmarks Law. We
Our website, www.west13.org, is changing. We hired Raven Petretti, a local web designer, to give us an overhaul, which is now in a shakedown phase. It's a new design, and the format will allow blogging by various contributors, feedback from block residents, and payment of dues or other fees via your PayPal account. Eventually. We'll send an email when we're ready for an official unveiling.
W. 13th St. Gazette
Hero of the Battle of New Orleans, only a fountain and floral displays. On a recent Thursday afternoon, the park was a lovely place to sit: newly refurbished, occupied by workers on their lunch hours and tourists studying maps, a white pigeon wading in the fountain letting water run over its feet. 2. Electrical Substation, 253 W. 13th St. The A train rumbles down Greenwich Ave. on its way from 14th St. to W. 4th. And a building across from Jackson Square, right at that obtuse angle where 13th meets Greenwich, helps provide electricity to
500 Steps: West
Exploring our Neighborhood A continuing series by Alan Jacobs Our block has become the Gateway to the Meatpacking District and the High Line. But they are not within 500 steps of our block. There are some unheralded (until now) sights closer to our front doors. 1. Jackson Square Park, a triangle bordered by Greenwich Ave., Horatio St., and Eighth Ave. Follow 13th St. west from our block and you come to a fork at Jackson Square. In the East Village, vestpocket parks abound, thanks to the numerous tenements that burned to the ground in the 1970s, replaced by community gardens. Small parks are rarer on this side of town, and our nearest one is Jackson Square. It had been frequented by lots of homeless people, but not anymore, thanks to the Jackson Square Alliance, a group spearheaded by the eponymous new condo build-
ing on the square. The NYC parks website tells us that this piece of ground was never officially named Jackson Square, but followers of Andrew Jackson had a meetinghouse at 2 Horatio on the square, named their meetinghouse Jackson Hall, and called the location Jackson Sqaure. The city has owned the land since 1826, but it was not until 1872 that any reference to Jackson Square appeared on a city map. It contains no equestrian statue of the
the subway. Electrical substations are all over town, converting AC power to DC, which is what the subways run on (and why, if you steal a bulb from a subway station, it won't work in your lamp at home). The art deco station here dates from 1930 when the Independent lines were built. What's amazing is how well this building blends in with the rest of the block. A high-voltage power station sits here, yet it's no detriment to developers building luxury condos right next door. -cont. P.4
W. 13th St. Gazette
me that the racks hold both men's and women's garments: I can't tell which are which. Each individual garment is placed about one foot from any other garment on the same rack. And no one shops there. The clerks stand in a barren store all day without a customer. I'm sure there is a strategy to this sort of retailing, but I don't know what it is. 5. The Donut Pub, 203 W. 14th St. You will not find health food at The Donut Pub, which, (according to its paper cups) has been there since 1964. Back in the 1970s, The Donut Pub was the only place where you could get food at 4 A.M. after a night of carousing. And the muffins were huge, with blueberry-flavored goop oozing out the top. The offerings haven't changed much, but the exterior looks much better now, with a Miami-ish neon sign in retro majuscule lettering. The
3. The Corner of West 4th St. and West 13th St. The first time you saw one of the strange 4th St. intersections when you wandered around the Village, you probably said, "Wha?!" How can a street intersect with a street? Parallel lines (streets) cannot meet, can they? Only West 4th can do it, and it intersects with 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th. I started understanding the streets of the Village when I
began thinking of the numbered streets as rays of light beaming west across the bottom of Manhattan, hitting 6th or 7th Aves. which act as monster refracting lenses. Some of the rays/streets refract 45 degrees to the north, some 45 degrees to the south. Hence, 9th, 10th, 11th & 12th Streets head southwest after hitting 6th or 7th Aves. Bleecker, 4th, Waverly, & 8th St. (which becomes Greenwich Ave.) head northwest. Corners like 4th St. & 13th St. add to the mystique of the Village – a place where parallel lines meet.
counters used to be U-shaped, so that when you sat on a stool, you could commune with your fellow donut-eater across the serving bay. Now, the counters are linear, so you face a wall or a donut display. But the waitstaff is friendly, the place is filled with regulars, and you can stay as long as you want, reading a book while you nurse your coffee.
4. Yohji Yamamoto, 1 Gansevoort Street. This is a befuddling store on a little wedge of commercial space where W. 13th & Gansevoort part ways. The curved brick exterior comes to a point at the corner. Inside, all of the clothes are black. The clerks tell
Sam at Donut Pub
W. 13th St. Gazette
spend $1,250 on this project, which at this writing is nearly complete. It was announced that Gradisca Ristorante will again host the annual Block Social, on Sunday, Oct. 4. The meeting adjourned at 8:45 pm.
Report of the Annual Meeting
The annual meeting of the West 13th Street 100 Block Assn. convened at 7:45 pm on June 10, 2009. Attending were 27 block residents, including four members of the Executive Committee: Gary Tomei, president; Alan Jacobs, Vice President; Judy Pesin, Treasurer, and Robert Kittine, Secretary. The first order of business was an election of officers. Gary asked if anyone present wished to stand for election to the board. As no one expressed such a wish, the current list of officers was re-elected by unanimous vote. Judy Pesin presented the Treasurer’s report. The Block Assn. has a balance of $7,113.47, with no current obligations. Gary then offered a series of reports: • Overcrowding and restructuring of two local schools, P.S. 42 and P.S. 3. Naomi Usher has been keeping tabs on this and will continue to do so, reporting to the board as needed. • The St. Vincent’s Hospital / Rudin construction project. Gary reported that the Protect the Village Historic District has initiated a new lawsuit to block this project, or at least reduce its scale. • Current construction projects on our block. (Please see the lead article and President’s Message in this issue of the Gazette for details.) A disussion of new business and block residents’ concerns followed. It was noted that several of the tree pit guards installed last year at Block Assn. (and some individual owners’) expense are damaged. The Assn. is seeking repairs, preferably paid for by those known to have damaged them. Gary asked association members to call the city at 311 to ask that trees cut down in front of Nos. 124 and 157 be replaced; also that the temporary asphalt patch in front of No. 159 be replaced with permanent concrete. Alan Jacobs reported that the building at No. 105 will be replacing the sidewalk, as part of a vault repair project. Gary reported that two “speed bumps” have been approved for our block and we are currently waiting for them to be installed. Alan reported on a substantial upgrade of the Block Assn. web site. Those present voted to
(Thanks to Robert Kittine for minutes that made this report possible. – ed.)
The Fabric of New York
On Sept. 7, an Op/Ed story by Nanette Lepore and Robert Savage, residents of our block, was published in the New York Times. They wrote of the Garment District, but much of what they had to say could equally be applied to the Village, with its many artists and performers and a grand history that make it such a great place to live. You can read it in full on the Times web site, but here’s an excerpt:
The blocks from 34th to 40th Streets between Broadway and Ninth Avenue have been home to America’s fashion industry for more than 100 years. But all that could change. The district is in danger of disappearing, with its factories and workers forced out by landlords seeking higher-paying tenants — a sad prospect on Labor Day (or any other day). Mayor Bloomberg is considering a solution that sounds fine on the surface, but we believe would mean the end of the district. Garment manufacturers would be given protected space in a large building or two, and the rest of the area would be up for grabs. It’s fair to ask why we still need a garment district. But even in the Internet era, proximity offers many advantages. Designers are able to work alongside manufacturers ... More important, in close quarters a mutual respect develops across the chain of production. The people who make the clothes are as passionate as the designers ... If the zoning is lifted, the floodgates will open. Small shops, showrooms and jobs will disappear, along with a national landmark ... American fashion has a rich history. We want to make sure it has a future — and that depends on preserving New York City’s Garment Center.
W. 13th St. 100 Gazette
The West 13th Street 100 Block Association proudly presents
The Annual Block Social
Sunday, October 4th, 4pm – 7pm
126 W. 13th St. (212) 691-4886 $25 per person at the door Includes all food, wine & other beverages All block residents welcome, kids too!
This has become the most popular event on our Block Assn. calendar. It’s a chance to meet and converse with your neighbors in the friendliest of circumstances. Gradisca’s proprietor, Massimo Galeano, has once again generously agreed to host this event, which includes superb Italian appetizers and pasta, along with wine and other beverages, all included in a single contribution of $25 per person. All block residents are welcome (kids too!), whether or not you have taken part in Block Assn. activities in the past. It’s an especially satisfying, congenial and delicious way to get started!
To reserve your spot, call Bob Kittine at (212) 255-1891, or email him at email@example.com.
GUARANTEE YOUR SPOT AT THE ANNUAL BLOCK SOCIAL, taking place at GRADISCA, 126 W. 13th St. Sunday, October 4, 2009, 4 to 7 P.M.
Leave this coupon & a check with the doorman at 105 W. 13th St., attn: Alan Jacobs
I (we) plan to attend the event at Gradisca.
Number of individuals: __________ Name or names:
Address: Advance payment ($25 per person) guarantees your spot! Make checks payable to "West 13th St. 100 B.A."
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?