Volume 18 • Issue 35 | January 13 - 19, 2006

Under Cover

Friends in high places
The mayor isn’t the only one eager to get his hands on the World Trade Center. City Councilmember Alan Gerson hopes to give the floundering redevelopment a shot of adrenaline, with help from newly anointed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Gerson has been in talks with Quinn about getting the council more involved in his neighborhood.

“We need to make our influence felt through the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and other agencies of government,” Gerson told UnderCover. “We need to figure out the best way to orient and organize the City Council.”

Gerson would like to see the committee he chairs, the Select Committee on the Redevelopment of Lower Manhattan, elevated to a more prominent position. One option is to make it a bona-fide committee, with all the funding and authority bells and whistles that go with it. Gerson was reluctant to say when his committee might get its new name. “I’ve got to keep a few things in suspense,” he demurred.

Sky’s (not) the limit
New York Law School is close to sealing a deal with an unnamed developer on the sale of its Mendik Law Library building. The Tribeca school put the four-story building on Leonard and Church Sts. on the market this summer promising developers they could build as much as 306,000 sq. ft. in the low-rise neighborhood.

Downtown heavyweight Madelyn Wils is not convinced of the law school’s sky’s-the-limit argument. “I’m concerned about the legality of it,” she told UnderCover last week. The school dodged a height limit when the neighborhood was rezoned a decade ago because it is a “community facility.” At the time, Wils chaired the Community Board 1 committee that worked with the city to rezone the neighborhood.

School officials confirmed they are in negotiations with a sole developer, but declined to name names. When asked about how residents in the landmark neighborhood might react to a sky-high building in their midst, spokesperson Alta Levat said, “The new construction will be done consistent with our as-of-right development rights.”

Local residents told UnderCover that they’re gearing up for a fight against whoever buys the building. But Wils, who left her post as C.B. 1 chairperson last March and is president and C.E.O. of the Tribeca Film Institute, wouldn’t wait that long. “I’d be fighting it already,” she said.

What’s eating Tribeca?
For a little triangle of a neighborhood, Tribeca made an honorable showing in New York Magazine’s recent 101 Best Restaurants issue, claiming 5 of the spots on the list, albeit only one was in the top 20. Chanterelle on Harrison St. grabbed a spot as the 13th best place in the city to fill your belly. Nobu, the Robert De Niro-Drew Nieporent creation, came in just under the wire at 40, “but not by much.” West Broadway bistro Landmarc, slipped in at 96. Tribeca chef David Bouley was the only neighborhood chef to secure two spots on the list. His signature eatery, Bouley, was rated 41 and his Austrian invention, Danube, graced the page at 66, but not without a stab. The Tribeca restaurateur was dubbed a “faded rock star,” who returns “perhaps too often, to the fusion-mad eighties of his youth.” Danube, according to the mag, suffers from “the worn, unchanging menu, the spotty service, and the perennially drab expense-account crowd.”

Where should we all head for numbero uno? Le Bernardin, in Midtown.

Remaking a landmark
Speaking of bests, 90 West St., the Cass Gilbert building facing the World Trade Center site, was tapped as the “Project of the Year: Adaptive Reuse” by New York Construction magazine. The 23-story landmark office building from 1907 was carefully cleaned and restored after sustaining heavy damage on 9/11. The Beaux-Arts tower re-opened last year as a 410-unit luxury rental complex, with the help of $106.5 million in Liberty Bonds.


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