Volume 21, Number 25 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Oct. 31 - November 6, 2008

Mixed Use

Grimaldi’s Downtown
Downtowners will no longer have to schlep over the Brooklyn Bridge for Grimaldi’s famous pizza when the coal brick-oven joint opens its newest incarnation near the South Street Seaport early next year.

Owner Frank Ciolli, whose original restaurant in Brooklyn has an interminable line out the door, will unveil his first Manhattan location in February or March of 2009 after securing a few thousand square feet of space at 135 John St., at the corner of Water St.

“We get an awful lot of business from Lower Manhattan,” Ciolli said of those willing to trek across the bridge for his No. 1 Zagat-rated pies. “We wanted to be close to Brooklyn; it’s very logistically feasible for us.

The new space will have just as much if not more seating than the original restaurant spread over two levels, and Ciolli hopes to capitalize on the Seaport’s tourist activity and General Growth Properties’ grand redevelopment plan on the horizon.

“There’s a need there for our type of place,” Ciolli told Mixed Use, noting the abundance of foot traffic and nearby parking. “You’re going to like what you see.”

With all due respect, Frank, you could serve Grimaldi’s out of the back of your trunk and there would still be a half-hour wait.

Rising hotel concerns
Residents have been working with the developers of a boutique hotel rising on the site of the former Moondance Diner in Soho to ensure the plan includes noise-reduction precautions for the property’s patio and rooftop space.

The project — a 17-story, 70,000-square-foot hotel with 114 rooms — is currently under construction at the corner of Grand St. and Sixth Ave., with the intention of securing three liquor licenses for the space’s ground-floor, deck and rooftop operations.

Residents and members of the Soho Alliance met with representatives from developer Brack Capital Real Estate last month to discuss concerns over noise, especially as they relate to any open-air portions of the on-site restaurants/bars.

The residents mostly took issue with hotel’s outdoor deck and roof areas, requesting that the developer enclose the rooftop and implement mandatory closing times of 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

“That way you could have your rooftop open all year long,” said Sean Sweeney, Alliance director.

The developer is currently trying to negotiate to keep the rooftop area open, and also wants closing times an hour later than suggested by the community.

“I can tell you right now, we’re not ever going to give them that,” Sweeney offered, which should make for a spirited discussion between the two parties at their next meeting on Nov. 19. Other Downtown communities have successfully lobbied for even earlier closing times at similar hotel bars, getting operators to agree to closing times as early as 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Warren Pesetsky, counsel to the developers for their liquor license applications, said that community relations will be central moving forward.

“You can’t live in atmosphere where everyone around you hates you,” he said.

Waterfalls windfall
Remember a few months back when you and your friends cynically guffawed at the notion of Olafur Elliason’s Waterfalls installation having some great artistic impact on the city? Well, that point is still debatable, but what might not be is the economic boon it provided Lower Manhattan and the rest of the city, as the city says the project generated an estimated $69 million in revenue.

According to a recent report, of the 1.4 million people who viewed the exhibition, about 79,2000 were visitors to the city who came specifically or extended their stay because of the installation. Fifteen percent of Waterfalls viewers who stayed in a hotel chose one Lower Manhattan, which counts only 7 percent of the city’s hotel rooms, showing that visitors disproportionately chose Downtown hotels over others in the city.

Additionally, more than 213,000 boat passengers bought tickets for Circle Line Downtown Waterfalls tour during the length of the installation, with average weekly ridership jumping by 123 percent.

Overall, more than 320,000 people made their first trip to the Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn waterfront for the exhibit, including 44,500 New Yorkers, the report stated.

“We always knew the Waterfalls was going to reinvigorate our city’s waterfront — but its actual impact has exceeded our expectations,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “People didn’t buy tickets or pass through a turnstile to experience the Waterfalls, but this exhibition brought people to areas of the city they might not otherwise ever have visited. We’ve always understood that we have to encourage big, bold projects that set our city apart, and this will be increasingly important while areas of our economy are struggling from the turmoil on Wall Street.” 

Pioneer to get the Boot?
The East Village’s Two Boots Pioneer Theater — the small, independent movie house known for screening offbeat foreign films and gory zombie flicks — will apparently shutter by the end of the month.

The 8-year-old single theater owned by Village impresario Phil Hartman, whose Two Boots empire includes a pizza chain and video store, will fall victim to rising rents if he can’t secure a partner or new owner soon for the E. Third St. and Avenue A space.

“I’m still hoping for a reprieve,” Hartman recently told NYMag.com. “But it was always a labor of love and never commercially viable.”

Two Boots still operates pizza shops around Downtown, in Grand Central Station and as far away as Connecticut, as well as a video store on Avenue A.

mixeduse@communitymediallc.com




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