Talks continue over Tribeca fashion event space

The contested rooftop structure on top of 50 Varick St., where Spring Studios hopes to open. Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade.

The contested rooftop structure on top of 50 Varick St., where Spring Studios hopes to open. Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade.

By KAITLYN MEADE | A massive fashion and event complex coming to Tribeca put neighbors on the offensive when it applied for a liquor license at Community Board 1 in November, but as the application nears review, an agreement is struggling to take shape.

Spring Studios, a London-based fashion advertising company, has been negotiating with tenants and representatives of the neighboring building One York, who have been the most outspoken in their opposition to aspects of the firm’s massive overhaul of the 50 Varick St. location.

At a Community Board 1 working group meeting on Fri., April 5, Spring’s representative sat down with Jeff Ehrlich and Evan Lacher of Community Board 1 and interested parties from neighboring residential buildings to discuss the ongoing negotiations before Spring’s application comes under review at Wednesday’s Tribeca Committee meeting.

“Obviously, it’s important to recognize that any agreements that come out of today is really just a draft being sent to the committee next Wednesday, because it is the committee that will decide and vote upon the stipulations, said Lacher, C.B. 1’s community liaison.

“The other point I think it’s important to emphasize though is, given the complexity of the application and the committee interest, today is probably the best venue for local residential buildings to have input on the stipulations,” Lacher added.

The overhaul of the first, fifth, sixth and seventh floors and rooftop will equip the building to host everything from fashion shoots to large-scale events for various clients. The ground floor will contain the lobby and a gallery space that will double as a check-in area for events. Verizon will still operate on the remaining floors. The other floors will be a mix of offices and multipurpose spaces, with a commissary on the sixth floor and a rooftop terrace. A tentative opening date is set for September.

Spring has already agreed to having no outside entry line for events, no photographers in a pen outside, no restaurant seating or bar on the roof, and have agreed to consult with a sound engineer to mitigate noise pollution on the rooftop, said Kathleen Cudahy, a representative of One York.

They have also retained the services of Elite Ivestigations, a security firm that he said offers special event security including traffic. At the working group meeting, Elite’s Chuck Garelick presented a plan in which all events with a concentrated arrival time would use the guest entrance on Varick St., while day-to-day arrivals of staff and load-ins would be done on the narrow, cobblestone St. John’s Ln.

Garelick opened up the possibility of hiring off-duty police officers for event security and traffic control. While off-duty officers would not be able to issue tickets to loiterers, “a uniformed cop coming over and telling you to move, I think most people would do it,” said Garelick.

He also spoke about turning the right lane on Varick, which is currently closed during the building’s construction, into a temporary drop-off lane by creating a no-parking zone by applying for a street activity permit. Security would keep traffic flowing and attendants to provide either valet parking or directions to an out-of-the-way location for black car parking.

Brad Tully, vice president of the board at 28 Laight St., said, “My concern for some of the parking outflow around events is that you direct black cars to certain areas; they say, ‘Yep, too far.’ They’re going to figure it out and go here, sort of keep the car running, have a smoke, and all of the sudden we have an issue that, every event we have some problem where we’re then calling the N.Y.P.D., or whoever.”

He said that because of the pedestrian walkway, drivers might see it as an opportunity to avoid a pick-up line at the end of the event and tell their guests to simply come over the short walkway to where they are waiting — in front of 28 Laight St.

Stan Pearlman, developer at 1 York, was also concerned that load-in on St. John’s Ln. would block his garage entrance on the street.

It is only one of many concerns that representatives of One York expressed during the meeting, but most of them pertained to the rooftop. A series of legal battles has taken place recently between 1 York and the landlord of 50 Varick St.

Wall Street banker Richard Handler, 51, recently filed a petition in court against the landlord and the Department of Buildings to stop the construction of two freight elevator cabs which will block the view from his penthouse apartment atop 1 York.

The suit also reportedly cited “significant noise and light impingements from the project and future roof deck use as a late night rooftop bar.”

Bradford Sussman, a representative of Spring Studios, said that after taking a tour of the facility, he “realized that some of these issues are going to dissipate as soon as people kind of see the spaces and the layout involved” and offered to take interested parties on a tour of the building.

For example, he said, 1 York is about a “third of a football field” from the rooftop terrace and the interior is built as a “sound-proof box” to make film shoots possible.

Verizon will keep much of the rooftop’s perimeter for its equipment, creating a partial sound barrier, and Spring is designating a green space that will further keep people away from all edges except the western side overlooking the Holland Tunnel off-ramp.

Spring has agreed that there will be no music on the rooftop, live or recorded, and no amplified sound of any kind.

Spring offered to stipulate a capacity of 300 people on the roof at a given time, though that would not be the capacity for every event. A limit at 150 was proposed by Cudahy.

Ehrlich, a Board 1 member, said, “Maybe it’s just me at this point, thinking an earlier hour, possibly a larger number. That way we’re not responsible for counting how many people are on the stairs.” But he added that enforcing such a capacity would be difficult.

Some residents would also like to see a limit of 30 rooftop events per year out of a total of 291 events or programs (on top of daily activities for clients) proposed by Spring.

A chart compiled by Community Board 1 based on information provided by Spring Studios showed the number of each event with certain closing times and capacities.

Spring proposed that they would host 180 events with under 200 people, but only 15 of those yearly events would have a capacity of 600-800 people and none of them would continue service past 11 p.m.

While the ending times are the time that Spring would turn off the music and stop serving drinks, it might presumably take up to an hour for the crowd to trickle out depending on the event.

No regular rooftop closing hours were agreed upon nor was a small smoking area proposed by Spring for the northwest corner of the rooftop.

“It is going to be a difficult meeting with a lot of people speaking with questions and concerns,” said Lacher, reminding residents to send him specific complaints or questions before the meeting

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