Stonewall Reopening; Will It Be ‘Disruptive’?
Get ready to rip out a parking meter or two.
“The Stonewall Inn will re-open for business on Monday, March 12,” according to a sign posted this week outside the historic tavern at 53 Christopher Street—the site of the bottle-tossing, meter-uprooting 1969 riot that birthed the gay-rights movement.
For two months now, workers have been renovating the hangout at the behest of the Stonewall’s new management, which includes Bill Morgan and Tony DeCicco of the neighboring Duplex piano bar. “It’s gonna be gorgeous,” one worker inside the dusty reconstruction site told The Observer earlier this winter.
In an interview with The Observer last summer, before the bar’s ownership change, Mr. Morgan was highly critical of the venue’s prior vibe under predecessor Dominick DeSimone, whom he alleged had “pushed out” the regular gay clientele in favor of a more “disruptive” crowd. Mr. DeSimone ultimately lost his lease on the space after falling behind on the $20,000 monthly rent.
Mr. DeCicco and Mr. Morgan, who later took issue with The Observer’s account, have since rebuffed all requests for comment.
—Chris Shott and John Koblin
ESDC Eyes Farley Buy Before Month’s End
The Empire State Development Corporation is paving the way to get hold of the Farley Post Office by the end of this month. The acquisition is a crucial part of the Spitzer administration’s strategy for building a new Moynihan Station and revamping Pennsylvania Station.
Shortly after coming into office in January, Pat Foye, the new downstate chairman of the ESDC, extended the option to buy Farley, but just until the end of March—an optimistic target, it seemed at the time, for wrapping up a huge real-estate deal that would have involved moving Madison Square Garden a block west, to the back end of Farley, opening up Penn Station to the sky, and erecting huge office towers around its edges on the Eighth Avenue super-block where the Garden now sits.
But it is increasingly clear that Mr. Foye will not wait until that mega-deal gets worked out before buying the post office. And having control of some of the property involved would put the state in a better position to negotiate with the private developers who own Penn Station’s air rights over who will pay how much to redo the station.
At a Feb. 28 meeting, the ESDC board agreed to seek a bridge loan or an advance from the developers that would give the agency the few million dollars it needs to close the post-office deal next month.
Robin Stout, the president of the Moynihan Station Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the ESDC, said that the agency could purchase the post office before wrapping up the larger negotiations. Neither he nor Mr. Foye would say, however, when that would happen.
“A closing date has not been scheduled, but we are committed to moving forward as quickly as we can,” Mr. Foye said.
A public hearing on the loan comes on March 12. The state Public Authorities Control Board could then approve the general project plan—the same one, it turns out, that was rejected last October—before the end of the month, when the option expires.
Will Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver veto it this time around?
92nd Y Is Tribeca-Bound
Jews and Episcopalians of the world, unite!
The 92nd Street Y is moving to Tribeca. The famed Upper East Side Jewish cultural institute has landed a 15,800-square-foot lease at Trinity Church’s 200 Hudson Street. The Y will move its “Makor” and “Daytime” programs downtown. Those programs are relocating from former uptown digs at 35 West 67th Street, which was sold to the City University of New York last year.
Trinity leasing maven Jason Pizer brokered the deal, along with Janet Liff of J. Liff Co., who represented the 92nd Street Y.
Noho Condos: Can You Spare Rolling Papers?
“It’s very nice, without being sterile, like a lot of the new condos are now,” said a broker from the top-flight firm Key-Ventures.
He was at a March 1 party for 48 Bond, one of three new luxury-condo developments along one block of Bond Street in Noho, that little neighborhood birthed a couple of years back by the housing boom as much as by anything else. Down the street from 48 Bond rises Ian Schrager’s 40 Bond, and across the cobblestone street is 25 Bond, a former parking garage. The projects might finally very well make Noho’s rep as a place for the well-heeled to live and play.
There’s certainly a lot of interest—of 48 Bond’s 17 units, the first seven sold in a month this winter.
“It helped that both me and the other developer are going to live here,” said Romy Goldman at the March 1 party; her development partner is Donald Capoccia. “I took the whole ninth floor.”
The party at the sales center at 50 Bond Street drew about two dozen brokers within its first hour, as well as the media. Everyone sipped beers and champagne, chomped dim sum from Chinatown Brasserie, and traipsed gingerly around what was an airy rendition of a typical 48 Bond condo—all the amenities spread out over hardwood floors (walnut, to be specific) with a ceiling placed 10 feet above it.
Outside the sophisticated gathering, however, Noho struggled. A man (not a party guest) asked matter-of-factly, just beyond the sales center’s doors, at not even 7 p.m.: “Hey, man, you have any rolling papers?”
Levine Fires Salvo Over State Financing
Jeffrey Levine, the president of Douglaston Development and an influential real-estate developer, is resisting the cap that the state financing agency has placed on tax-exempt bonds for mixed-income apartment buildings.
Mr. Levine is one of two developers who received permission to use tax-exempt financing in the waning days of the Pataki administration. (The other one was Larry Silverstein.) Shortly after Governor Eliot Spitzer took over in January, the state Housing Finance Agency froze those projects and nine others that hadn’t gotten as far because it didn’t have the authority to issue that much tax-exempt financing.
Last week, H.F.A. president Priscilla Almodovar sent a letter to all applicants—including Mr. Levine and Mr. Silverstein—asking them to revise their applications for tax-exempt financing by March 16, limiting their requests to $1.5 million per affordable unit that they build.
“I don’t think we are resubmitting an application,” Mr. Levine told The Observer on March 2. “I believe we are having discussions with the state on this.”
Mr. Levine had applied for $2.59 million per affordable unit for a project at 316 11th Avenue, according to state filings. Limiting tax-exempt financing will drive up the developers’ costs and cut into their profits significantly.
Ms. Almodovar believes she has the authority to freeze the Douglaston and Silverstein deals even though the Public Authorities Control Board O.K.’d both in December. Together, the projects amount to $847.5 million worth of financing—which is far more than the $590 million in tax-exempt bond-granting authority the H.F.A. believes it will have available for 2007. Mr. Levine applied for, and was allocated, $191.5 million in tax-exempt bonds; Mr. Silverstein received $656 million.
While the Real Estate Board of New York has said that the bond cap would make projects difficult or impossible, Mr. Levine’s comments are the strongest signs of resistance to date.
Ms. Almodovar told The Observer on Monday that the H.F.A. had the authority to ask developers to resubmit applications because it had not issued a letter of commitment for any of the projects in question. “Mr. Levine is free to choose whether to participate in the program or not,” she said.
Dunkin’ Donuts Shoots for Upscale, Misses
Meet the “new look” Dunkin’ Donuts: garish orange-and-pink signage, comfortless metallic chairs, raffish menu graphics.
Kind of like the old-look Dunkin’ Donuts—and catering to the same stereotypical clientele: cops.
Around 3 p.m. on March 1, the newest corner location for Dunkin’ Donuts franchise Centurian Plaza Donuts LLC, located at 20th Street and Third Avenue, was crawling with recruits in New York Police Academy uniforms. This location, which opened last week, was supposed to herald the unveiling of a “more upscale store model” in order to lure white-collar workers away from Starbucks, according to Crain’s.
The changes rang so subtle, however, that this reporter needed to hike six blocks to the next-nearest Dunkin’ Donuts, on Third Avenue at 26th Street, to even notice them.
It seems to come down to this: The upscale look feature s trendy track lighting in the seating area; the old model uses mere Kmart-style fluorescent bulbs.
If the purveyors of the big Box O’ Joe truly want to hone in on the yuppie crowd, perhaps they should borrow a page from the Starbucks playbook and get themselves a decent wireless Internet provider.
It took about 20 minutes for this reporter to hijack an external Wi-Fi connection. By that time, a marble-frosted doughnut and small black coffee were completely consumed.