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

Desbrosses St. residents and Community Board 1 are opposing a second catering hall on the block because they say Tribeca Rooftop already causes traffic and noise problems. Below, a rendering, of the proposed Sunshine Terraces space.

Neighbors raise the roof over proposed catering hall

By Julie Shapiro

Residents of northwest Tribeca delivered a strong message last week to Cheni Yerushalmi, who hopes to open an event space for small businesses on Desbrosses St.: Good cause, bad location.

Some neighbors say that Desbrosses St. between Greenwich and Hudson Sts. — a cobblestone, industrial block — already has more activity than it can handle with another catering hall, Tribeca Rooftop.

“Tribeca Rooftop is an ever-present annoyance and nuisance in our lives,” said Lewis Taffer, vice president of the condo board at 195 Hudson St.

Taffer said Tribeca Rooftop’s patrons spill out of the venue late at night, drunk, singing, yelling, fighting and shattering glass on the sidewalk. Limos double-park and block the fire hydrant and the entrance to 195 Hudson’s underground garage, he added. During the day, Taffer sees a constant stream of delivery trucks blocking the street.

For all those reasons and many more, Taffer and his neighbors do not want Yerushalmi to open a 300-person event space next to Tribeca Rooftop. Community Board 1 concurred, voting overwhelmingly to deny Yerushalmi the catering license he would need to serve alcohol. The board’s opinion is advisory, and the State Liquor Authority will make the final decision.

Yerushalmi is a managing partner at Sunshine Suites, a company that offers low-cost office space and amenities to small businesses and entrepreneurs. One of Sunshine’s locations is at 12 Desbrosses St., a three-story building Yerushalmi filled with cubicles and conference rooms for rent.

Yerushalmi wants to build a two-story addition on top of 12 Desbrosses St. to rent to his clients as event space. The space would have an open balcony with a retractable roof and would also host parties and weddings. It would be open until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights and until midnight the rest of the week.

In addition to needing the State Liquor Authority’s approval, Yerushalmi will also need to apply to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission for his addition because his building sits in a historic district.

“This is not another Tribeca Rooftop,” Elizabeth Clemants promised C.B. 1’s Tribeca Committee last Thursday night.

Clemants rents space from Sunshine for Draft, her counseling and mediation business. She lives at 430 Greenwich St. and has three young children, so she said she wouldn’t support the new catering hall if she thought it would be disruptive. Several of Yerushalmi’s other clients agreed, saying they would oppose rowdy events directly above their offices, but they thought Yerushalmi’s plan would work out for everyone.

“The community does need affordable event space for small businesses,” Clemants said.

Laura Karp, another 195 Hudson St. resident, agreed that Yerushalmi was doing wonderful work for small businesses, but she couldn’t support his new venue.

“It’s a nightmare situation,” she said of the noise from Tribeca Rooftop.

Eileen Montague, who also lives at 195 Hudson St. and brought her three young children to the meeting, said she does not want to risk the new space contributing even a little more noise, since she and her family already have trouble sleeping at night.

“It’s very, very annoying,” Montague said.

Montague’s daughter appeared to agree, as she repeatedly stretched out her foot from her perch in a stroller to nudge Warren Pesetsky, Yerushalmi’s lawyer.

Francine Hunter McGivern, a Desbrosses St. resident, also thought another event space would overwhelm the street.

“We pay a lot of real estate taxes,” she said. “We have zero quality of life.”

Tribeca Rooftop’s owner did not return calls for comment.

After hearing from more than a dozen speakers on both sides of the issue, several C.B. 1 members said they were torn between wanting to support Yerushalmi’s cause and wanting to support the residents.

“If there were nothing else going on in that street, I would be in support of it,” said Peter Braus, who led the meeting. “But the additive effect is exponential…. That street can’t take it.”

Braus suggested that Yerushalmi rethink his business model, cut out the alcohol, limit his hours of operation and move the entrance, but Yerushalmi said those would likely be deal breakers.

The committee then passed a resolution to disapprove Yerushalmi’s request.

After the committee meeting, Yerushalmi said he was frustrated by the focus on Tribeca Rooftop rather than his plans.

“You’re guilty by association, basically,” Yerushalmi said. He said the community should be more open-minded, since he is willing to work with them. He added that it is “unrealistic to think future development in the neighborhood is not going to bring traffic and noise.”

Yerushalmi sees the space as a necessity for local small businesses, which often have trouble pulling together the money to rent spaces for events in Manhattan. Particularly under the current economy, small businesses will need help if they want to grow, he said.

Bruce Ehrmann, a C.B. 1 member, praised Yerushalmi’s mission and said it echoed northwest Tribeca’s light-manufacturing roots.

“Your business is an evolution of what northwest Tribeca was,” said Ehrmann, who abstained from the committee vote.

Tempers ran high at the committee meeting as accusations flew among Yerushalmi, his lawyer, residents and board members. Marc Ameruso, C.B. 1 member, told the Tribeca Trib last month that he thinks Yerushalmi is seeking a catering license as a back-door way of opening a club. Pesetsky, Yerushalmi’s lawyer, accused Ameruso of calling Yerushalmi a liar and Ameruso stood by his comments.

Tempers also flared over flyer posting. Yerushalmi said he held two community meetings to get feedback, which almost no one attended, but residents say they never saw any flyers announcing the meetings. Then, several residents said Yerushalmi ripped down the flyers the residents posted in opposition to the project. Yerushalmi first denied ripping them down, but when one resident produced photo evidence, he said he only ripped down one flyer because he saw a swastika drawn on it, which the neighbors dispute.

Taffer, the 195 Hudson St. resident, lightened the mood at the meeting somewhat when he tossed in a phrase popularized by vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

“Let’s not turn this street into fantasy island,” he said. “It’s enough already. You can put all the lipstick you want on this pig — it’s Tribeca Rooftop.”

Julie@DowntownExpress.com




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