downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 Issue 39 | February 9 -15, 2007

Under Cover

Moving inn
The timeshare condo-hotel may be all the rage in Hudson Square (and by “all the rage” we mean that Andrew Berman and company are seriously ticked about the Trump project), but the residential condo-hotel concept seems to be catching fire farther Downtown.

In addition to condo units currently for sale in the Ritz Carlton hotel building in Battery Park City, two upcoming projects plan to create hotels with residential units on certain floors. At 123 Washington St., developer Joseph Moinian is planning a 56-story residential tower that several Downtown sources say will include a W Hotel.

Meanwhile, at 50 West St. (and 47 and 48 and 49 West St.), Francis Greenberger’s Time Equities plans to spend an estimated $345 million to demolish its current property and create an enormous hotel-condo combo. Sources say the project could include as many as 310 condominium units and that Community Board 1 is currently looking into ways that Time Equities might “contribute to the community” in exchange for the board’s support for the project.


Just say no
After years of crafting carefully worded liquor license resolutions, Community Board 1 members learned from the State Liquor Authority that only one phrase matters.

“All those stipulations that we put in a resolution — when it gets approved, they don’t mean anything,” said C.B. 1 member Marc Ameruso, filling in Tribeca Committee members on recent discussions with the S.L.A.

The board’s committees frequently pass resolutions approving of liquor license applications on the condition that an establishment agrees to certain restrictions such as shorter hours, no live music or no sidewalk café license. The restrictions are intended to prevent so-called restaurants from turning into bars, clubs or performance venues after hours.

But according to Ameruso, any application with the word “approve” on it typically gets green-lighted by lower-level staff without ever being reviewed by the S.L.A.’s commissioners. The restrictions are dropped in the process and the business becomes free to operate as it pleases.

The S.L.A. and local community boards are both working to revamp the dysfunctional licensing process. The S.L.A. wants to create color-coded “method of operation” licenses, which would specify whether a business is a restaurant, bar or club. The boards, meanwhile, are striving to create a standardized approval form so that a particular board’s wishes will be crystal clear when the application reaches state-level review.

Until then, Ameruso said, the board should just say no to any application it doesn’t like at face value and ask the S.L.A. to impose the desired restrictions as a prerequisite for approval down the line. That advice did not sit well with new committee chairperson Carole DeSaram, who urged the board to research the matter further before imposing such a drastic measure.

“It’s the one percent [of businesses] out there that’s the problem and they know they’re going to be problems, so they hire lawyers who know more about these rules than we do,” DeSaram said. “I don’t want to penalize businesses that just want to be businesses.”

Despite the discussion, the committee overwhelmingly voted to approve all five liquor license applications that came before it at the Feb. 1 meeting, including, not surprisingly, a renewal application for Capsuoto Freres — the restaurant owned by committee member Albert Capsuoto (Capsuoto recused himself from the vote).

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