Monday, March 14, 2011

CB3/SLA rejects application for music venue at 34 Avenue A

We've been writing about the plans to turn 34 Avenue A into a music venue in "the tradition of the old Knitting Factory and Tonic" the past few weeks.

Tonight, partners Todd P. and Phil Hartman made their case before the CB3/SLA committee.

While we weren't at the meeting, EV Grieve reader and frequent commenter RyanAvenueA was in attendance ... he just passed along word that the CB3/SLA committee rejected the application for the space.

Per Ryan: "There was tons of heated debate. You've never seen a more prepared bunch present to the board."

Residents on the northern stretch of Avenue A also spoke out against a license for 34 Avenue A.

Committee members Herman Hewitt, David McWater and Ariel Palitz voted in favor of the proposal. However, there were four no's lead by committee chair Alexandra Militano.

We're sure there will be a lot more about this tomorrow...

Previously on EV Grieve:
Phil Hartman bringing a 'performance venue' back to former Mo Pitkin's space

[Updated] Bringing 'the tradition of the old Knitting Factory and Tonic' to 34 Avenue A

Because you want to know more about the plans for 34 Avenue A


Jill said...

It was one of the most civilized and well thought out debates in this venue in a long time. In the end, the votes hinged on 2 things (I thought): 1-that the Pioneer Theater/UCB opening (recently sold by Hartman) was about to bring 150 more people 3x/night to this block and adding another venue with 150 capacity (between the restaurant & performance space) was just overwhelming to the area; and 2-Damadian, one of the owners of Aces & Eights, was financially involved with this new project and he has this worrisome past to contend with, sullying all the other fine reputations in the group of prospective owners.

CultureVulture said...

This was the most dramatic SLA meeting I have ever seen. There were many people there in support of the project and many people against. It didn't pass by one vote from a committe member who almost abstained.

chris flash said...

My experience with Phil Hartman is that he's decent ethical guy who runs a clean operation.

The "Community" Board has no business weighing in against Hartman, whose record is spotless. If memory serves, this space already had live music with alcohol served -- what's the big deal with Hartman re-opening this venue under a new name?

Morgan Tsvangirai said...

Went to my first CB3 SLA meeting tonight at the recommendation of EVG and I'm glad I went. I'll probably go to more.

Jill sums up the 34 Ave A saga quite well. I'm not sure I have the terminology correct and I don't know the names of the committee members, but it looked as though the motion was going to be approved with 3 in support and one on the fence. However, the woman on the fence eventually was swayed to the no side and the motion to deny was approved 4-3.

There was a whole contingent of older residents of a building near 34 Ave A that stood up in support of denying the license. I did feel bad for them after hearing how awful it is to live on Avenue A these days.

Any word on what happened with Wyndham Hotel on Bowery? I used to live around there and I'm curious. I got to the meeting at 6:30 it didn't start till 6:45. I left after the motion to deny on 34 Ave A was approved around 8:50 or so.

RyanAvenueA said...

Two hours of my life I want back. Understandably, Damadian's continued involvement makes people nervous. He is the first to admit that he failed the community with A&8s. That said, I think it was a good compromise that he relinquished any voting rights in the new entity, and upon recouping his initial investment would have taken a buyout from the other partners. They need that time to build capital, which they don't have or they would have just bought Damadian out in the first place.

I appreciate the efforts of the "North Avenue A" crowd, but when you speak out against something on 13th and A, then read the same speech against something on 3rd and A, it loses something. On South Avenue A we have one block with 7 bars on it (several belonging to McWater) and then two smaller restaurants with licenses b/w 2nd & 3rd. I really wouldn't have minded a music venue. But thanks for coming down and letting me know what I should have around me.

And as for the older members of the community living in Stetzer's building, I empathize with them. I agree Avenue A is too loud, but you bet your ass if I encouraged everyone in my building to stand up and be proud that they came to their first community board meeting, Stetzer would be the first one yelling for us to sit down. A lot of the complaints they voiced were based on behavior, not a specific venue. People come to our neighborhood and act like assholes, but I don't believe the remedy for that is an avenue of vacant storefronts.

We can all dream of the dress shops and shoe stores that will take over the Aces and 8s spot, but what retail store is going to take over a $20k monthly lease, gut remodel it, and expect any profit? A Forever 21? Good luck with that crowd.

I think Phil was the only chance that place had, so get ready for them to try their hand in Albany, or we can stare at another closed business.

Jill said...

@Ryan- I struggled with this one and generally agree that the people directly impacted by potentially crazy spots should have the largest voice in the debate, but the reason to speak up about this particular application is that this place promises to bring potentially 150 more people to the Avenue, and we don't have the infrastructure (ie police who care about drunk & disorderly/quality of life on the sidewalks rather than raiding bars for whatever stupid infractions they can find), to deal with the complaints that are potentially generated from a hot spot that brings a lot more people to the avenue.

As a defacto entertainment zone, Avenue A establishments are generating streams of people going up and down the street bar-hopping. What happens up north certainly impacts the south and vice versa, especially when we are talking about big numbers - after the performance, many will continue partying in local bars.

I for one was uncomfortable talking about the issue directly and tried to keep it about making the board consider the rules they had just approved,and to let them know that they are being watched for their promise to provide consistency in their decisions. The meetings to create those rules were really painful and I will be really angry if it goes nowhere and means nothing.

There is a new definition of "public benefit" and this debate hinged no that issue. Plus, they made a commitment to no new licenses in resolution zones, which is what this was. Hartman sold his license and Aces&8s lost it, so it is a new license.

Since this is such a big space, some people wanted to speak because they thought this has the potential to impact a far wider range of residents than the usual application.

Anonymous said...

They were the most well prepared not because they had a brilliant business plan but because they used every trick in the book simply to get through the community board process. From bringing Phil on board to leaving Damadian at home. I was wondering why he didn't come. I know why, because he's SCARY!

I liked the guy who spoke in opposition to Phil and finished off with the parable of "The Frog And The Scorpion":

"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?" "Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly. "Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!"

Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked: "how do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog. "Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"

So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.

Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs. "You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?"

The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog's back - and then said:

"I could not help myself. It is my nature."

Anonymous said...

Frankly, all this talk about the e-vils of eying "another closed storefront!" passes me by. I'd much rather A&8s stay closed.
Anyway, if enough storefronts remain empty, eventually the landlords will reduce rents and some other businesses WILL be able to afford to open here besides cash-flow liquor-dens.

Richard D James said...

Haha. You must be joking. No landlord in NYC drops the rent. Several of the storefronts that are vacant on Ave btw 2nd and 3rd have been vacant for YEARS!

Jill said...

When they keep the stores closed 2 things happen: 1-the value of the property is increased because empty units are more desirable, and 2-the assessed value of the property is decreased (due to lower revenues generated), thus reducing taxes.

There are no incentives to rent empty stores and no planning in the city that addresses it in any meaningful way that I've been able to find.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the "frog and the scorpion" speech. that was certainly long-winded and asinine. By the definition of that parable, no one should be entrusted to open an East Village business, ever. We'll all get stung every time, by anyone and everyone.

And we all know the neighborhood is perfectly calm and clean now... or was it 10 years ago? or maybe 25 years ago? or whenever it is that those folks with rose-colored hindsight are yearning for and becoming community reactionaries in order to "recreate."

The East Village is very likely losing Sidewalk Cafe, and is losing Acme and its venue, and the neighborhood NIMBY crew mobilized to block this new avant space as well. When did the East Village become a community that shuts down live performance spaces and hates culture?

Anonymous said...

Who gave the frog and scorpion speech?

BTW, @ChrisFlash -- seriously?