No one said dealing with Gramercy Park residents would be easy—this is, after all, the neighborhood that’s famous for regulating access to Manhattan’s only private park with the fervor of a drill sergeant at basic training.
But it must have been hard to anticipate the uproar that ensued when a simple liquor license request from restaurateur Cole Miller for a new tapas restaurant and wine bar at 38 Gramercy Park North brought 150 opponents to a recent Community Board 6 meeting.
Community Board District Manager Toni Carlina, who didn’t respond to The Observer‘s multiple requests for comment, told Grub Street in March, “It is extremely controversial because Gramercy Park North is a narrow and highly trafficked street. There are huge concerns about limos and cabs causing congestion and honking. That space hasn’t been an eating and drinking establishment since the twenties. It was an antiques shop. We are talking about historic Gramercy Park.”
Even so, Mr. Miller, who owns The House on nearby East 17th Street, persevered. Last week, after allaying community concerns, he finally got the liquor license approval for his restaurant.
Mr. Miller plans to open the tentatively named Gramercy Park North in the next couple of months. He described overcoming the community’s initial opposition as a “long, difficult battle.”
“The issue that kind of stuck with the whole board was traffic,” Mr. Miller said. “So we hired three of the biggest traffic experts in the city,” who, essentially, demonstrated that a restaurant opening on the north side of the park would not inundate the neighborhood with cars.
Alas, patrons will not be able to sit in front of the restaurant, technically on 21st Street between Gramercy Park East and Third Avenue, and gaze longingly at the imprisoned garden nearby.
“No outdoor seating,” Mr. Miller said. “They would have really flipped out if we tried to pull that.”