Volume 22, Number 16 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 28 - September 3, 2009

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

43 MacDougal squatters
As the city begins to take action on an abandoned Soho property that has been left to deteriorate for decades on MacDougal St., squatters and vandals have allegedly returned despite efforts to prevent access to three-story structure.

The property, at 43 MacDougal St. at the corner of King St. in the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District, had been left to rot for years before the city finally began fining the owners and pursued a lawsuit to compel them to make repairs.

The city responded by boarding up the building’s broken windows and installing scaffolding around the structure, but the latter apparently has only helped squatters set up camp inside the hollowed-out townhouse.

“The sidewalk shed, which was built one year ago by the Department of Housing Preservation to protect passersby, has allowed ease of access for squatters and vandals into and out of the building,” read a letter from Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, to several city agencies. He explained in a separate note that the squatters — who neighbors and G.V.S.H.P. staff have seen living inside the property — face “very real health and safety dangers, including the very real possibility of accidental fires.”

Additionally, new graffiti recently appeared near the  building’s third-floor fire escape, and a pool of water has built up on the roof that could cause structural damage.

“I was grateful to learn in June that the Landmarks Preservation Commission had finally begun initiating a Demolition by Neglect case against the building’s owners,” Berman added in his letter, describing the action taken by L.PC. that includes levying substantial fines against the owners, site visits, evaluation and a lengthy legal process. “However, the beginning stages of this process have been slow,” Berman added, “and we are concerned that the building will continue to deteriorate and pose an increasing health and safety threat to neighbors while we wait for the case to take shape.”

Chain gangs
For customers looking to grab a quick bite at Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway or McDonald’s, the Financial District is not a neighborhood to indulge their fast-food lust.

According to the Center for an Urban Future’s “Return of the Chains” report, an analysis of the spread of national retailers throughout the city, Lower Manhattan’s 10006 zip code counts only seven chain stores, ranking it the third-lowest for such retailers in Manhattan.

However, Downtown’s 10038 zip code contains 80 chains, ranking it 17th citywide for the amount of national retailers.

The 10012 zip code covering the Village and Soho came in at No. 12 citywide with 94 chain stores, while the East Village’s 10003 took third overall with 151 chains.

Dunkin’ Donuts had the most outlets of all chains citywide with 429 (up from 341 last year) and Subway came in second with a staggering 361 locations, outdoing McDonald’s 258.

Vesuvio 2.0
The next chapter in the Vesuvio Bakery saga is probably the best Soho preservationists could have asked for: Another bakery committed to continuing the diminutive Prince St. store’s legacy will take over at the landmark location.

The eco-friendly Birdbath bakery, which has two locations in the Village, recently negotiated to lease the nearly 90-year-old Vesuvio space after a series of unrelated reopenings failed and the store stayed empty for more than a year.

The new bakery will debut in October, according to New York magazine, which interviewed Birdbath proprietor Maury Rubin on the planned move.

“It’s an heirloom, it’s a treasure, it means the world,” he told the magazine. “That I have a chance to have my bakery be in it is a gift.”

Rubin will reportedly remove Vesuvio’s historic, coal-burning ovens to ease the landlord’s fire concerns, but otherwise plans to keep as much of the old shop intact as possible — one of the main reasons he was chosen as the next tenant.

The bakery was owned and operated by the “Mayor of Greenwich Village,” Tony Dapolito, until his death in 2003.

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