Volume 20, Number 28 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 23 - 30, 2007

Mixed Use

Union smells a rat as art school work continues

By Patrick Hedlund

The School of Visual Arts continues building its newest dormitory on the Lower East Side to house hundreds of students by next fall, regardless of a menacing-looking, 15-foot inflatable rat overseeing construction.

A group of workers from the New York City District Council of Carpenters has been protesting construction, with the red-eyed rodent as their mascot, alleging that the laborers being used at the site are underpaid and haven’t received proper safety training.

The planned 20-story, 80,000-square-foot residence hall, located at 101 Ludlow St. at Delancey St., will hold 350 beds in a mix of private and semi-private rooms, said Michael Grant, the art school’s spokesperson.

Grant deferred judgment of the allegations to the city’s Buildings and Labor Departments, while Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3 district manager, said the union has asked the board to take a position at next month’s meeting regarding worker wages and safety conditions.

“This has only come up once in the past,” Stezter said, noting that C.B. 3 “is not an investigatory board.”

The locally based Charles Blaichman Real Estate Development Corp. approached S.V.A. to develop the project, which has only been built to about three stories so far and also endured D.O.B. stop-work orders.

Charles Blaichman, who has developed extensively in the Village, did not return calls for comment.
Andres Puerta, an organizer for the carpenters’ union, said his workers — and their fanged friend — plan to protest each weekday, “hopefully until they open the front doors,” he said. “We’re not going to give up.”

Bubby’s reopens
Patrons at popular pie purveyor Bubby’s in Tribeca had to reconsider where to get their Thanksgiving pastries last week after the city shuttered the restaurant for observing hundreds of live roaches.
However, the eatery passed a re-inspection on Tuesday after being forced to close its doors by the Department of Health for nearly a week.

The original health inspection on Nov. 14 revealed “food contaminated with over 200 live cockroaches in four areas, evidence of rat activity in two areas, fly infestation in four areas, food kept at unsafe temperatures, bare hand contact with ready to eat food, and multiple conditions contributing to vermin infestation,” spokesperson Celine De Leon said.

Bubby’s owner Ron Silver, Jr. angrily shot back on the comment board for restaurant Web site after the closure last week, claiming he heard a health inspector say the department “decided to ‘close down the big boys for the holidays.’” Silver also wrote that the roach problem was “alleviated within an hour after the inspection” and that the restaurant is back up to code.
Bubby’s office manager Christine Carr said the restaurant passed Tuesday’s re-inspection and plans to open up again for lunch on Wednesday.

“We just got the clearance, and the [Health Dept.] stickers are coming down,” she said.

New play space
A new children’s play space touting itself as the largest in Manhattan will open at 95 Franklin St. after the new tenants recently signed a long-term lease.

Owners Carlos and Valeska Corona plan to open Playgarden over 7,500 square feet on two levels in January after agreeing to a 10-year lease for the space with a five-year renewal option. The tenants negotiated a $23,750-per-month rent, with a 3 percent annual increase.

The top floor will be open to members seven days a week. The lower floor will offer sports, karate and ballet classes for children 6 and up during the week and hold birthday parties on weekends.

The Tribeca space also contains an energy-saving air-purification system and will utilize recycled and organic materials and products, noted Valeska Corona.

“We believe by teaching little ones energy and water efficiency and recycling practices through games and repetition at an early age, we can help instill Earth-friendly routines for life,” she said.

Playground equipment at the space will be reconfigured monthly “to keep active children excited and challenged,” Corona added.

Francine Hunter McGivern of Prudential Douglas Elliman represented the tenant in the deal, and Roxanne Betesh of Sinvin Realty represented the landlord.

Respect the uniform
Don’t expect to see them sashaying the catwalk at Fashion Week, but the Department of Buildings has unveiled a new wardrobe for its inspection staff in a continued effort “to further the professionalism and integrity of the agency,” the department announced last week.

The D.O.B.’s 300 inspectors and field responders will now sport jackets, shirts, pants, shoes and hats emblazoned with the department logo, said spokesperson Kate Lindquist. The various articles range from blazers for managerial staff to more utilitarian cargo pants for inspectors.

The total price tag for the D.O.B.’s shopping spree? $385,000.

“I think that they appreciate the new uniforms, and they recognize that it’s bringing a level of respect to their profession and helping them do their job better,” said Lindquist of the mostly navy, light-blue and khaki threads.

Each employee will get 10 new articles of clothing, with workers required to don their department IDs as part of the uniform.

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