It’s an ambitious concept, especially for a guy who hasn’t seemed to do much of anything with his property in more than two decades. Except storage.
The building was once home to a seedy, round-the-clock cabaret where women danced nude and, to hear him tell it, also performed “magic tricks.” Mr. Noury evicted the sexy magicians and, for a while, used the place as an after-hours party spot, which he called RSVP.
Yet, despite the venue’s potential high value as a nightlife destination—boasting no restrictions on dancing or live entertainment—he never leased it to anyone else, preferring instead to let it devolve into his own personal pack-rat palace, cluttered with old club relics, movie props and other stuff: There’s a rusty old light rig from Studio 54, a pool table from the Paul Newman film The Hustler and several automobiles stashed away in the old strip-club space. The second-floor outdoor patio, which Mr. Noury has dubbed his “showroom,” is strewn with old sinks, chairs, suitcases, stacks of insulation and a six-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty, among other items.
In recent years, neighbors have complained to the Buildings Department about the condition and use of the registered restaurant space for automotive storage and residential purposes, city records show.
All present appearances aside, Mr. Noury insisted that the site offers plenty of potential. “My building could be like the special, eclectic little mini-mansion of rooms to get away from the pizza-pie hotel,” he said of his proposed hotel deal with Mr. Balazs.
The actual hotelier, though, wasn’t looking to join forces with the visionary club vet. Instead, the developer severed ties—literally—demolishing an old abutting train station, which previously linked Mr. Noury’s building to the High Line.
In the months since, the inveterate Mr. Noury has vigorously sought to reconnect to the High Line. Hence, his critics say, all the emergency-preparedness talk.
“You can’t have celebration without evacuation” is perhaps Mr. Noury’s favorite slogan. He even wrote a song about it, titled “Emergency Preparedness Post 9/11”: “Castrophe/Lives in distress/Emergency preparedness/Because I don’t want to leave you behind/We would meet in that place/With suitcase in hand/And a plan/We would still be walking strong/To do what we can/To rebuild/Our life/Our love/Our land.”
Officials involved in the park project aren’t buying Mr. Noury’s Chicken Little routine.
“The High Line’s egress plan was carefully reviewed and approved by the Department of Buildings, as well as Police and Fire departments, as meeting all applicable codes,” said Joshua David, co-founder of the nonprofit fund-raising and advisory group Friends of the High Line, in a written statement. “We have studied several possible emergency scenarios on the High Line that would require evacuation. It is our conclusion, based on evacuation models at times of highest anticipated use, that the current number and location of High Line access points more than fulfills the highest standards of safety for public spaces.”
Even if his proposed “Stairway” never materializes, Mr. Noury seemed determined to redevelop his long-standing building. Just as soon as he can find a financial backer. “I’m in talks with various interested parties that I can’t mention now—I don’t want to start a bidding war,” he said. “They see what I have here is a gold mine.”