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“Gunbae” means “cheers” in Korean, but there was no cheer on hand when a Tribeca restaurant by that name asked Community Board 1 for longer hours to serve alcohol.
The high-end Korean BBQ and karaoke joint at 67 Murray St. that opened last June took months to get Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee to sign off on its original liquor license. Neighbors had been burned before by previous bars at the same space, and worried about the noise from Gunbae’s plans for seven karaoke rooms. The spot ended up opening with four — and was only allowed to serve booze until midnight.
But it wasn’t noise that was at issue on Jan. 13, when owner Andy Lau, manager Ray Cho, and lawyer Glenn Romano asked the committee to approve extending Gunbae’s hours of operation from midnight to 2 a.m. Thursday to Sunday.
It was an offense against another sense — smell.
“I know you all make things with cabbage because our apartments smell like it,” said Loretta Thomas, a resident of the building. “Cooking cabbage smells like rotten garbage. And our whole building smells like rotten garbage a lot of the time. And that’s from the kimchi.”
It’s unclear how odors from the restaurant are getting to the apartments above. Romano suggested the building’s center duct may be the culprit, but he said it is not hooked up to the restaurant’s ventilation system.
Equating the smell of cabbage and kimchi with garbage did not go down well with Lau, who called Thomas’s remark “a little racist.”
Thomas apologized if her comment came off wrong, but she said there were more issues than just the kimchi-cabbage conundrum.
She said there have been problems with drunken patrons urinating in the doorway, vomiting on the sidewalk, and even passing out in front of the building — not to mention a proliferation of cigarette butts. Thomas said she pines for the days when the ground floor space was vacant.
“It was fine when there was nothing there for about a year, and now it’s all back again,” she said. “The idea of having another hour even, or another two hours to drink is daunting.”
The committee counseled the restaurant to manage the street better, improve relations with the neighbors, and to temper their expectations about a 2 a.m. closing, saying 1 a.m. may be more feasible.
“Generally we do not approve 2 a.m. on side streets and Murray is a side street,” said committee chairwoman Elizabeth Lewinsohn, who invited the restaurateurs to come back in five months and try again.
Jackhammers in the morning
If you think late-night karaoke is a hard sell in Tribeca, try early morning construction.
Plaza Construction representative Mark Segalla asked CB1’s Tribeca Committee to allow construction on the 157-unit luxury tower set to rise at the former St. John’s University site at 111 Murray St. to start at 8 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
Segalla made the case that the extra time would get the foundation work over with about a month earlier than otherwise.
“We’re trying to get out sooner than later,” Segalla said.
But committee member Bruce Ehrmann said the trade-off wouldn’t be in the interest of residents.
“Better to get out later and let people, let kids sleep another hour on Saturday,” he said.
Ehrmann said the neighborhood is “under siege” with construction. Lower Manhattan has around 90 active major construction projects in addition to extensive roadwork.
The proposal went nowhere and the committee passed a resolution against it.
Something fishy in the Seaport?
They loved the message, but didn’t trust the messenger.
Seaport residents gave the Howard Hughes Corporation a hard time last week, when the developer presented their plans to restore the historic Tin Building at the foot of Pier 17 to CB1’s Seaport and Landmarks committees.
The restoration of the dilapidated fish market warehouse garnered praise from the committee members, but the meeting went off course when attendees raised questions about the company’s plans for another site — the New Market Building, where Hughes had hoped to build a 500-foot tower until it abandoned the plan last month.
Preservation group Friends of South Street Seaport dug up a draft proposal for another 10-story mixed-use project including a hotel at the site, which the developer had filed with the city’s Economic Development Corporation last August.
Landmarks committee chair Roger Byrom read from the document at the meeting, but was interrupted by Chris Curry, H.H.C.’s executive vice president of development, who tried in vain to steer the discussion back to the Tin Building.
“We’re not talking about a mixed-use project,” he said repeatedly. “That’s not what’s before you tonight.”
Curry insisted that the document was just a hypothetical plan submitted to the E.D.C. as a formality because of a contractual deadline and did not represent an actual project that was going forward.
Nevertheless, the revelation of yet another H.H.C. Seaport plan that had not been made public caused the lingering mistrust many local residents feel toward the developer to bubble to the surface.
“Every time we turn around, the project shifts,” said Maureen Koetz, a member of the group that obtained the document.
CB1 has repeatedly asked H.H.C. to deliver a master plan for the Seaport, rather than proposing separate projects for individual buildings — which they feel leaves them in the dark.
“It does beg the question about the rest of your plans,” Byrom said of the draft proposal.
Curry said that H.H.C. continues to explore a mixed-use project for the site, but that the community would be informed as soon as there was a concrete plan.
“We have not furthered a mixed-use project to date because there is no project to go with,” he said. “Before anything happens, we’ll be back to see you.”
But some on the committee think it’s time for an ultimatum demanding a master plan for the area.
“I think it’s long overdue that we as a committee write letters to Landmarks, City Planning, etc., saying we would like to put a halt on anything you’re doing at the Seaport until we get a master plan,” said committee member Joe Lerner. “I think they’re piecemealing us to death.”