Volume 19 | Issue 24 | Oct. 27 - Nov. 2, 2006

‘Sex and the City’ bakery coming to B.P.C.

<<Rendering of Battery Park City’s Riverhouse, which will have Birdbath, an environmental version of City Bakery of “Sex and the City” fame.

By Skye H. McFarlane

It’s framework may be shooting farther into the Battery Park City skyline every day, but Riverhouse, under construction at 1 River Terrace, is making a big effort to blend in.

In addition to advanced environmental features, expanded parkland, and two educational spaces, the 264-unit luxury condominium building will now feature two green businesses, including a branch of City Bakery’s new green brand, Birdbath.

Green has been the color of choice in B.P.C. since 2000, when the Battery Park City Authority published its first set of guidelines for constructing environmentally sustainable buildings in the area. Over time, however, the community has become wary of the incoming developments that stress the area’s resources, crowding parks, restaurants and schools.

With neighborhood concerns in mind, developers at the Sheldrake Organization set out to make their newest residential tower into a community amenity. Sheldrake announced in 2004 that in addition to the previously-planned New York Public Library, the building would also house a new, 24,000 square foot home for Poets House, a local non-profit that provides literary education and events. Plans to expand the Michael Van Valkenburgh-designed Teardrop Park into the courtyard of the building also became public early on.

Now, as Riverhouse speeds towards an opening in late 2007 or early 2008, the building has leased it’s third and final retail space to City Bakery, a move that will give north B.P.C. a second sit-down eatery and help City Bakery owner-baker Maury Rubin expand his “Build a Green Bakery” initiative.

Rubin has long used organic ingredients and recycled materials at City Bakery’s flagship store in Union Square. But these efforts took a back seat to the popularity of the bakery’s food. The 16-year-old café has become a New York icon for its oversized baked goods, even being featured in an episode of “Sex and the City.” As time went on, Rubin wanted to make his customers aware of his environmental choices, in hopes that they would choose to go green on their own.

“At this point in time, we feel the responsibility to take environmental issues and put them more front and center with our customers,” Rubin said.

So, on Dec. 29, 2005, Rubin opened Birdbath, an all-green neighborhood bakery at 223 First Ave. At first Rubin kept the City Bakery name off of the new venture, letting the space speak for itself, but he has since decided to make the connection known. As it stands now, Birdbath will be the future of the City Bakery brand.

The interior of the Birdbath/Bakery space in Riverhouse, like the original Birdbath, will be made from sustainable, biodegradable, recycled and vintage materials. The pastries, baked goods and a small selection of lunch foods will be made, to the largest extent possible, from organic and locally produced ingredients. The aesthetic, however, will be a bit sleeker than the funky East Village original, according to Riverhouse representatives.

For Riverhouse, City Bakery represented an opportunity to give B.P.C. residents a business with a neighborhood feel and an environmental conscience.

“We wanted whatever we put there to be in the character of Downtown,” said Sara Miller, a Riverhouse spokesperson. “We didn’t want it to be a Starbucks. We wanted it to be something that was integrated into the neighborhood, not invasive.”

City Bakery, at the other end, seized the chance to grow its neighborhood bakery business alongside other green and community-oriented ventures.

“We love the idea of being connected with like-minded projects, developers and businesses,” Rubin said. “The chance to do it in building as green as Riverhouse was an especially lucky break.”

Riverhouse will also offer its residents 24-hour access to Ozocar, a luxury cab service that drives only hybrid, low emissions vehicles.

Riverhouse has also offered its assistance to local organizations. In particular, the building has helped the P.S. 89 P.T.A. by sponsoring a spring carnival and a “Run for Knowledge” fundraiser.

Liz Pappas, who directs fundraising for the P.T.A., said that Riverhouse’s willingness to support public education is crucial, since the building will bring many more children into the spatially strapped school. She said that neighborhood children will also benefit from the library and the Poets House, but that her diet may suffer from having City Bakery’s tempting cookies so close to home. She hopes that the school can develop a close working relationship with those entities, just as it has with Riverhouse.

“They have been extremely generous,” Pappas said. “They are one of the ones who get it. We have a great free school here. It’s a selling point. So if the school doesn’t succeed, they won’t succeed.”

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