Rough Road Ahead for Scandal-Plagued Developer
Being associated with the biggest assessment scandal in New York City history can really put a dent in business. Representatives of Glenwood Management Corp. found that out the hard way when Community Board 7 put the kibosh on the property developer’s plan to construct a 150-car public garage at 1926 Broadway, as part of a forthcoming 29-story luxury high-rise. On March 5, Board 7 overwhelmingly voted down a resolution to support a special permit for the garage’s construction.
What did in the resolution was the board’s discussion of recent allegations that Glenwood may have benefited from the pervasive tax-fraud scheme involving 18 city tax assessors who were indicted on racketeering charges last month. The allegations were first reported in a March 1 article in The New York Times , copies of which the garage’s opponents eagerly distributed at the meeting.
According to the article, three of the company’s luxury high-rises-the Bamford, the Pavillion and the Lucerne-received millions of dollars’ worth of illegal tax fixes that were doled out by tax assessors who colluded with Albert Schussler, a longtime acquaintance and tax consultant to some of the city’s highest-flying property developers. So when Gary Jacob, Glenwood’s executive vice president, insisted at the meeting, “Glenwood has been nothing but a good neighbor,” board member Melanie Radley and several others rolled their eyes. “I’m wondering why we’re granting privileges to an organization that has acted in a way that is counterproductive to the city,” Ms. Radley said. Gary Tarnoff, Glenwood’s legal representative, told The Observer that the case “has no relevance to the garage proj-ect” and said he was surprised it was even brought up.
The resolution to approve the garage had previously appeared on the agenda for Board 7′s February public meeting, but controversy over details of the structure’s design and the potential for increased traffic flow in the Lincoln Center neighborhood sent it back to a joint land-use and transportation committee for further consideration. Satisfied that Glenwood Management had done its best to accommodate community concerns after the company reported that it had reduced the number of parking spaces from 180 to 150, the committee voted to return the resolution to the agenda for the full board meeting on March 5.
While the luxury apartment building is an as-of-right structure, the garage’s location in the highly congested Lincoln Center neighborhood means that it must be approved and granted a special permit by the board, the Manhattan Borough President’s office and the City Planning Commission.
Though Glenwood representatives estimated that close to two-thirds of the parking spaces would be used by monthly parkers-reducing traffic and the number of transient spaces to only 50-audience members appeared unmoved. “The garage is not as-of-right; it’s as-of- wrong ,” thundered Bruce Simon, a 33-year resident of Lincoln Square, during the meeting’s lengthy public session. Several public speakers echoed doubts about Glenwood’s business practices vis-à-vis the tax-assessment scandal.
Mr. Tarnoff told The Observer he thinks community residents and Board 7 members should pay more attention to the empirical rather than the circumstantial evidence surrounding Glenwood’s bid for the garage. He said studies conducted by traffic consultants hired by Glenwood “demonstrated that there’s a real need for parking in the area.” To prove its point, Glenwood called on several heavy hitters from some of the city’s more powerful parking interests as character witnesses. Lincoln Square lot owner Michael Price of Icon Parking and several others trooped into the meeting and up to the mike to express their commitment to Glenwood Management’s plan. “We’re in favor of the garage, even though it’s a competitor, because it will help alleviate a minor portion of the demand,” said Mr. Price.
But Glenwood’s strategy appeared to backfire. Barry Rosenberg, a board member and co-chair of the board’s housing committee, balked at the garage owners’ show of support for Glenwood. “In view of the recent price-fixing scandal that emerged out of the auction business in this town, you would think that antitrust laws might be uppermost in the minds of garage owners right now,” Mr. Rosenberg said, referring to the recent conviction of former Sotheby’s chief executive Alfred Taubman for price-fixing. “I don’t know why so many competitors are arriving suddenly to support Glenwood,” he continued. Apparently, neither did 22 other members of Board 7, who eventually gave the thumbs-down to Glenwood’s garage plan.
– Candace Rondeaux
Neighbors Want to Dry Up Raucous Block
Back in a bygone era, when watered-down whiskey cost a dime, the East Village’s Alphabet City was a veritable bar Byzantium. The neighborhood was near to bursting with the often odoriferous and routinely riotous ebb and flow of liquor and barflies in 1866, when it was host to 75 concert saloons. It’s nearly 150 years later, and some things just refuse to change in the East Village-but Sixth Street between Avenues A and B might be an exception.
Residents, concerned about the number of restaurants with liquor licenses on the block (which has recently mushroomed to 30), and worried that a spate of newly opened eateries are simply Trojan horses for club promoters and bar owners eager to capitalize on the East Village’s upwardly mobile economy, attended Community Board 3′s Feb. 19 meeting, begging for an end to the madness. By the meeting’s end, board members waved their magic wand and set Sixth Street free.
Citing “ongoing noise problems caused by liquor-licensed establishments,” the board voted overwhelmingly in favor of sending a letter to the New York State Liquor Authority calling for “a moratorium on new liquor licenses between Avenues A & B on Sixth Street.” The moratorium will not apply to future restaurant liquor-license applicants who submit a menu and architectural drawings containing plans for a “fully constructed kitchen” to the S.L.A.
At the meeting, residents pointed to the sleek concrete entryway at 511 East Sixth Street as a leading locus of loudness. The address is home to Coz, a café- cum -lounge smack in the middle of the troublesome block. Coz’s neighbor, Juan Jose Aviles, contends the café’s live D.J. performances, small menu, 4 a.m. closing time and perpetual advertisement in Time Out New York ‘s “Club” listings belie the owners’ original statement of intent to operate a café-restaurant. Costas Andreou, Coz’s co-owner, told The Observer that he is not unsympathetic to his neighbors’ complaints, but insists that he’s done everything to assuage tensions on the block. “It’s frustrating,” he said. “I put in soundproofing when they asked for it; I stopped putting out the garbage late at night after they sent a letter of complaint; I closed the back garden lounge when they complained about noise-but they’re still not satisfied.”
But Board 3 and longtime Sixth Street residents, who came of age during the neighborhood’s gritty glory days when Patti Smith sightings were an everyday occurrence, clearly favor earthier establishments like Joe’s Bar, a classic, smoky Sixth Street watering hole that has catered to working stiffs and starving artists for nearly 100 years. “Bars like Joe’s prove that a restaurant and bar can be prosperous without illegally seating patrons in their garden or privileging profits over community harmony,” said one veteran resident.
Dot Joe, the bar’s owner-manager and a lifelong Lower East Side resident, blames the general hubbub on the rise of unscrupulous real-estate speculation. She told The Observer that she thinks Board 3′s letter will have little effect on quality-of-life concerns in the neighborhood. “The board does a lot of good things, but they’re going about this the wrong way. The real culprits are the landlords,” she said. More to the point, Ms. Joe continued, Board 3′s call for a moratorium is toothless and probably “won’t do much” to ease tensions on Sixth Street.
Though several people present at the meeting recalled a similar moratorium being called for on the desperately oversaturated Avenue A, S.L.A. spokesman Mark Anderson could not say for certain if there was a precedent for such a moratorium in Manhattan. He told The Observer that the S.L.A. strives to adhere to recommendations from community boards. “As far as a blanket moratorium on a certain area, I don’t know if it would have a binding effect on the State Liquor Authority. But I’m sure the commissioners and members of the authority’s board would certainly take their stance into account on a case-by-case basis,” Mr. Anderson said.
March 13: Board 6, New York University Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Classroom B, 7 p.m., 319-3750.
March 14: Board 5, Fashion Institute of Technology, 227 West 27th Street, Building A, eighth floor, 6 p.m., 465-0907.
March 19: Board 1, P.S. 234, auditorium, 292 Greenwich Street, 6 p.m., 442-5050; Board 11, Terrence Cardinal Cooke Building, 106th Street, 6:30 p.m., 831-8929.