Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CB3 deadlocked over new "fast-food Italian" at former Graceland space; 7-Eleven next?

Last night, Frank Prisinzano, who owns EV Italian empire Frank, Lil' Frankie's and Supper, came before the CB3/SLA committee with his plans to turn the former Graceland grocery at Second Street and Avenue A into what he described as fast-food Italian.

Nearly 75 minutes of serious high drama later, the committee was deadlocked in its decision to grant Prisinzano a beer and wine license.

Prisinzano started with his concept. He called it "a simple Italian cafeteria" and "quick, easy volume." Menu items would range from $5.95 to $10.95... most food would be prepped to serve in a hurry, with no more than a five or 10-minute wait. People could be in and out for a meal in 45 minutes or less.

And there would be a separate to-go kitchen. And it would be all eco-friendly. With plenty of soundproofing, per the lease, which he has yet to sign. "I want to give the community inexpensive Italian," he said. "I'm hoping this becomes a neighborhood staple like my other places." And! "This is not a nightclub. This is not a bar."

In total, the new eatery would accommodate 190 people, including 75 seats in a sidewalk cafe along the 50-plus feet of Avenue A storefront. This space is currently twice the size of any one of his other eateries.

And he had two last things to say (for now)... "We need help with our fast food in this country. This is my attempt at it."

Then he went in for the kill. Prisinzano said the landlord is currently weighing three other offers: A bank, a 7-Eleven and a bank.


Then some residents spoke. A common theme emerged: Hell. One longtime resident said Avenue A between Third Street and Houston is hell Thursday through Saturday nights. "We hear people vomit," the resident said. "It's a little row of hell." Most residents who spoke mentioned Aces & Eights as the main culprit.

The resident said that she and some of her neighbors have all learned a dance "where we pray for rain [on weekends] to douse the crowds."

It was also mentioned that Supper has had issues with crowd control on Second Street in the past. Prisinzano said that he is getting more "militant" about crowd control. For instance, he has installed video cameras outside all three of his restaurants so that he can monitor the situation from his computer. He said that he can discipline the host or hostess if he or she doesn't help keep the crowds in check. "Now I have accountability," he said. "Big Brother is in the sky."

Susan Stetzer, district manager of CB3 and a nearby resident, also spoke out against the planned restaurant.

"It will just be hell," she said. "I don't see the benefit" for the community. There was some back and forth. She kept with the hell theme. "We just cannot take more people on that street. It's hell." And! "We're begging you not to have another [bar] on this block. It's just hell."

Prisinzano reiterated that this space won't be a bar; that he will serve inexpensive food and will be a good neighborhood. As for this stretch of Avenue A, he said "that block is full of shitty bars." (Perhaps he didn't realize that committee member David McWater, who was sitting a few feet from him, owns several bars on that block.)

So, he was pretty much approve this or, "otherwise you're going to get a bank or a 7-Eleven. Your choice."

Stetzer said that she was tired of people telling her and other residents what will be good for the neighborhood.

At some point Prisinzano said, "I'm not Aces & Eights."

Eventually committee chair Alexandra Militano threatened to make Prisinzano and Stetzer leave the meeting if they spoke up one more time.

There was more debate among the committee members. Militano said that she hasn't heard the end of it from residents ever since the committee approved the transfer of Aces & Eights from Mo Pitkins. There was an argument about motions to pass along to the State Liquor Authority between Militano and McWater, who told her, "I was dealing with the SLA while you were still in law school."

In the end, 75 minutes later, the committee was deadlocked in their vote. Prisinzano looked incredulous. The whole thing will be kicked to the full CB3 meeting on June 22

Previously on EV Grieve:
"All uses considered" at former Graceland

Owners of Frank-Lil' Frankie's-Supper taking over the former Graceland space

More here.


Jeremiah Moss said...

you know what, BRING ON THE BANKS. give us a 7-11. guess what? they're quiet. they don't attract hordes of screaming idiots. i'm tired of this argument about "if you don't let me have what i want, you will get an evil bank."

so let's have banks everywhere. what if every noisy, obnoxious bar in the EV was suddenly a bank? that Bald Chocolate Man place on 2nd Ave became a bank, i walked by it recently and thought, "Wow, no crowds. No sidewalk cafe. No shouting." it was kind of NICE!

you know what else? this new Frankie place sounds like that meatball place where all the meatheads line up and crowd the outdoor cafe. that's what it sounds like to me. who wants that?

so go ahead, bank the fucker up. bank them all up. maybe, if everything's a bank, all these people will go away.

Anonymous said...

HUH? How is Graceland twice the size of Lil Frankies? No chance...

EV Grieve said...

Several residents of Avenue A/3rd St/Second St sitting near me last night said that they'd rather have a bank branch here than another noisy restaurant.

One of the committee members said that he wouldn't mind a 7-Eleven.

EV Grieve said...

@Anonymous That's what Frank said last night. I believe he was talking about number of seats, not so much square footage.

Anonymous said...

How is it that McWater can continually act this way ? There must be some code of conduct of ethics laws that can be used to kick him out. He certainly does not the communities best interest in mind.

Bowery Boogie said...

sounds like a shitshow. i agree with stetzer's comment.

Anonymous said...

bring on 7-11. Theyre right, its just too many people already on the street to even walk by. Its tiresome.

LJM said...

You're kidding yourself if you think a 7-11 is going to be quieter. Have you ever been inside a 7-11 after midnight? It will become the prime refueling/post-Aces spot on the street. Go bank!

glamma said...

how depressing. well i sure don't want a 7-11, that is why i left northeastern queens in the first place.
i wonder what the rent is?

Anonymous said...

don't 7-11s, contrary to their name, run really late? way later than an italian restaurant feasibly would? i can only comment on the 7-11 on my college campus, which was a neon beacon for hordes of drunks as they sought 3am sustenance in the form of questionable hot dogs. long story short: a chain custom-made for satisfying post-party munchies will NOT reduce the number of people heaving their guts out all over Avenue A. i'm quite sure it would cause a surge in their numbers!

also, how is it that the argument against every proposed new restaurant or bar that goes before CB3 centers around a craptastic frat house the board previously approved? how did Aces & Eights (or China 1) get by, only to thwart the efforts of future people, with histories in the neighborhood, opening affordable eateries?

Nigel said...

There's already a bank on the opposite corner. I live on 2nd and walk by supper multiple times every day. Sure it's crowded but it's never loud and obnoxious. Prisinzano is right, his places aren't like Aces & Eights. I'd like to see a cafe offering affordable food.

EV Grieve said...

A 7-Eleven in the East Village would crush the soul of the neighborhood. (Not that I'm being dramatic.) And it would hurt many mom-and-pop bodegas, delis, etc.... Not to mention Ray's.

LJM said...

I completely agree with above.

Nigel said...

Addendum: agreed with previous anonymous commenter. It seems to me people are directing their frustration with some of the noisier bars at the wrong people.

Hey19 said...

Im with Prisinzano here, bring some carachter to this stretch of A, that is currently all banks and shitty bars. A 7-11 would be really depressing, and really kill the soul of the neighborhood. P is a pretty good nieghbor, and there is nothing wrong with good cheap italian, maybe give some of the douchier ital places in the area a little pressure. I dont understand what CB3 has in mind. what do you want? no business? You guys really depress me.

WB said...

I agree that a 7-11 could be horrible for the small businesses in the area. The idea that we'd end up trading Graceland for a 7-11 is depressing.

And it's wrong to penalize Prisinzano because the CB made a mistake in approving Aces and Eights or any other bar. His places are most certainly not Aces and Eights type joints (I go to all of them), and he laid out exactly what he's doing to control the crowds. If there's a problem with Aces and Eights or other bars, it should be taken up with those establishments. Face it -- even if you put a moratorium on all new bars/restaurants/whatever, people are still going to come to the neighborhood and frequent those problem places. To fix things, you have to deal with the establishments that are allowing the problems to continue.

Also, I think the idea of "bank it up" is ridiculous. I thought the increasing homogeneity of New York was something that bothered everyone. This is a proposal for a unique venue by someone who has been in the neighborhood a long time. Give me a break.

Erin Bradley said...

Jeremiah, please tell me you're not serious. You'd really rather have a 7-11 or a bank than something else in that space? You really hate people *that* much??

Sanitization, homogenization, and corporatization of our neighborhoods


Independent businesses that may or may not raise your misanthropic hackles.

Take your pick. You can't have both.

P.S. There's a Chase directly across the corner. Corner-to-corner banks? How useful!

Billy said...

Commenter #1, who are you and what have you done with Jeremiah Moss?

RyanAvenueA said...

Great reporting on this, Grieve!

I wasn't going to speak on this last night, but decided to after Frank's comment that they had people canvassing for signatures for weeks. Since I can see this place out my window, and will certainly hear it if it passes, you can bet I've been looking for any info I can (no one asked for my signature). I liked the premise of the place--quality consistent with his other places, but definitely more affordable. I told Frank, and everyone else I guess, that I'd prefer seeing a local like Frank in over a 7-11 or bank--but if it's as obnoxious as Supper you can bet I'll be in line to complain. Banks offer limited improvement to the security of the neighborhood (one thing I liked about Graceland--Kevin was always pretty protective of the locals). And I'm baffled by those supporting a 7-11 which will be THE after hours spot for drunks, and a new Hooverville for panhandle contingent.

While there was plenty of opposition from residents on 6th and 3rd streets, and support limited mostly to Frank's employees or former neighbors, I think that WITHOUT the sidewalk license it could be alright.

I was disappointed by blatant ageism from Stetzer about how the pricepoint of Frank's proposed menu will invite the "young drunks to hell block." Would a fine dining restaurant have warranted her approval? Just another example of the dwindling decorum of the board, a la the McWater/Militano tussle.

Anonymous said...

This is bs- why do these people on the board want to punish Prisinzano over their own dumb decison to give aces and eights a license. He is a longtime business owner in the neighborhood and Frankie's has never been a problem-he just wants to open up another italian restaurant so just let him. I'd rather see that then a bank or 7-11!!

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I think Frank probably has good intentions and his restaurant idea sounds like a nice one. I like all his places, but they all have the same problem: obnoxious and noisy crowds that block the sidewalk. It's unfortunate that this is the result of a successful business.

Another bank would be death to Ave A. Another bar would be worse. 7-11 sounds like a decent alternative, if that is the only alternative. I'm with Ryan - maybe without a sidewalk permit, the noise levels would be ok. And, if they could close at 11 or 12, that might help, too.

Fast-food Italian probably would have had no opposition here a few years ago, but I'm afraid it's the wrong time and the wrong place. Too many bad businesses have ruined it for those who look to do good.

I live on top of some super-noisy and busy restaurants. The difference is they close at midnight (and are strict about closing time) and do not serve alcohol. This does not keep customers away - in fact, I think the BYOB option draws more. The relationship between the restaurants and residents is, for the most part, a positive one because we do not have to deal with the late-night drama. So, it's possible to run a successful restaurant without a liquor license. But then, of course, they could never turn themselves into a bar.

EV Grieve said...

Second Street may very we turn into Mulberry Street... I'm not sure if the block can support another Italian eatery — fast food or otherwise.

And coming down the pike is the 3,000-square-foot Italian eatery behemoth on Second and B.

Does Il Bagatto still do a brisk business?

Unknown said...

Il Bagatto funnels their waiting customers into the basement bar, so that controls for crowds pretty effectively.

I agree with the posters above- Frank is being punished for Aces and Eights. His restaurants have no history of turning into bars, and the high quality fast food italian is a new and promising concept.

Also- I don't understand how anyone could want a 7-11. It's open 24 hours a day, hurts local businesses and caters to the Aces and Eights drunk buffoon crowd.

Nigel said...

Yup, it's full almost every day. Why no one has moved into the long vacant East Village Lounge space to take advantage of the foot traffic I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

The only thing I agree with in this post is that I too pray for rain on the weekends.

Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud when I read that the neighbors pray for rain. I live on 12th and A, and I was just telling my roommate that I pray for rain on weekends so that all the bar hoppers will stay in!

Marty Wombacher said...

I don't live in that area, but I hate to see 7-11's coming in to any neighborhood. Buy local and support mom and pop bodegas.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i'm reacting to the use of banks as threats. varvatos started it when he moved into CBGB. and again we're stuck with this ridiculous notion that everything has to either be a bank, which is like a dead void on the street, or another extreme.

obviously, i don't want to see every corner become a bank. nor do i want to see every corner become another raucous outdoor cafe/bar.

there are countless options in between, and yet we're brainwashed or resigned into thinking those options are impossible.

a used bookstore recently opened on Ave A. the other options are not impossible. how can we pressure our neighbors--the landlords, CBs, entrepreneurs--to be creative and diverse in their choices?

all that said, the bank that took over after the Chocolate Bald Man moved out, is actually a more peaceful alternative. but i don't think "dead voids" are the only way to have (relative) peace back in the EV.

Cookiepuss said...

That strip of stores where the used bookstore is looks like its below a Co-op. I noticed a sign on the storefront window before it was rented that said something like no restaurants/bars. If people are in a Co-op they can have some input with the landlord. I think thats probably why that block on the east side has no restaurants/bars. As for Prisinzano, I think he's greedy. His restaurants are a money making machine. While each restaurant is slightly different, they are all geared toward the masses, kind of a local version of the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy. It's a brand and a monopoly. Bring on the banks!

Jill said...

Just because Frank threatened a bank or a 7-11 in that space doesn't make it true. I thought it sounded like a shallow attempt to sway the vote to ask the committee to choose which devil to side with.

The issue with that space is that it is huge, not that anybody thinks it will become a bar. He also put in for a sidewalk cafe with 40 people outside (I could be wrong in the exact numbers). I believe the total occupancy quoted was 190. That's a hell of a lot of people to bring to that corner all at the same time, with loads of turnover ("5-10 minute wait for fast food.") Do the math - potentially 1000 people coming in there every night if it's truly an in and out kind of place that is successful. Crikeys.

As far as the cheap food, when Susan complained that $6 meals will surely bring in the crowds, creating noise and havoc on the sidewalk, Frank countered by saying that wasn't quite true, they are small plates. So the cheapness of the food is questionable if you have to order two or three dishes to make a meal.

I've seen Frank up before the board for renewal before, at least a year or two ago, and the complaints from the committee were exactly the same - he hasn't made a big enough attempt to manage his sidewalks.

Unknown said...

Im not sure if anyone remembers where they live or not but last I checked this was NYC. The words CROWD and NYC go hand and hand. People!! the approximate population is $8,363,710- and that was 2 years ago!!

Restaurants, artist, investors and bars made this area a safer place. My friend whose parents grew up on 2nd street said until almost the 80's you couldn't even walk after dark in this area. The police only started to help and patrol this area because of the change. I am not promoting the fact that you it will get worse if we don't approve him but if we don't have places for people (tourist, community, and others) to go and the area "shuts down at 6" as someone said last night what is going to happen then? Prime area for drug dealers and trouble makers..

I was offended by the price point being pinned for drunks and a college crowd. Neither I nor my husband would mind having a cheap healthy meal and a glass of wine. Stereotyping price points is just crazy. We all need everything to go down right now!

NYC is known for nightlife, restaurants(with great food), and fashion. I don't disagree that it may be an annoyance for residents with crowd and noise but pining the reputations from the surrounding bars on the guy is ridiculous. Not allowing him to open up a restaurant isn't going to make these problems go away with allowing a bank or 7-11 to come in.. And p.s. 7-11 is an amazing spot for drunks to go after bars close (remember 7-11's are open 24 hours) leaving them in the area for even longer.

I used to live in the area and moved once I had my child. I am not going to change an entire area and community for my benefits its just not fair. You rely on NYC to have different communities, crowds, nightlife, and life period. This is why we are all here. Otherwise I would go home to my small little town and have my pharmacies, Banks and Starbucks and listen to the bugs and bird chirps. I don't want a bank there. I am so irritated at how all the banks are almost being rewarded for all the mess we've all been put through the past 2 years. I would rather keep my money under my mattress then support another one being opened. Lets not also forget all the incidents (attempted robberies, mugging, and smashed front windows) we all dealt with WAMU and 1 since Chase has taken over on that corner. Is that peaceful and quiet? Let's not be so selfish here. He seems like an honest reliable person.
I was there last night. I heard the first case- 14 3-1-1 calls in the past month. He had had 1 in the past YEAR.. Obviously he handles situations. I'd rather give him a chance than A. Leave it open to sit empty so it can be a reminder of the community disintegration B. 7-11- no thank you for the soda's and slurppies- fueling the even worse eating habits and an oasis for the drunks after hours for hotdogs C. Bank/pharmacy- rip off artist, investors we never even see D. Clothing shops that unfortunately can't make it in the area (as we've seen so many shut down and turn over).

We need to support a business owner in the community who will in turn support the community. Someone we can speak with rather than dial a number and get a recording. I'd rather have someone there that knows us and can help us figure out a way to improve the community and even push out the other "shitty
bars" as he put it. Then a stranger who is just an investor collecting a check every month.

Banks, Pharmacies and 7-11's take from the community- what do they give in return??? If you don't care about that then what faction of your community are you concerned with?

EV Grieve said...

Hi Jessica,

Thanks for your perspective...I'm really curious how all this will play all...

Tom said...

I'm convinced I could never open my own business in the East Village or any other NYC neighborhood currently "ruled" by Community Board Overlords that think they have the right and moral imperative to pepper legitimate business owners with question after hypothetical question about conditions that may or may not happen in the future.
All under the guise of what's "good" for the neighborhood. When in reality they are just egotistical assholes drunk on a modicum of power and influence. All they will succeed in doing is reducing a vibrant neighborhood to block after block of boring banks and drugstores or worse, empty storefronts.

But hey, as long as it's quiet, right?

I wouldn't last five minutes in one of these meetings.

Anonymous said...

These comments are so depressing. Since when are small affordable Italian restaurants the enemy? The people on this board have so many enemies, it's just very hard to keep up.

The only thing I take from these comments is people's desire to see new businesses fail (unless you directly approve of them, like a used bookstore.) It's so sad the community can't rally together and support each other. I would NEVER want to open a business amongst these people!

glamma said...

obviously the landlord wants to make as much money as possible off the space, that is why they kicked graceland out, and why they are only looking at chain stores/banks (aka the devil) and trendy restaurants. so this discussion is really worth having, since there's NO WAY they will go for a tenant that we will love, hopefully the lesser of evils will prevail so let's figure out what that is and get some cohesion. personally i think chains represent the culture of wealth and greed that is the undoing of humanity these days, and should be avoided at all costs especially in the EV where we have had a full out mom-and pop-ocide the past two years. the weekend crowds make me sick to my stomach but que sera sera, they go to bars not restaurants anyway... better frank than croxley ales part 2?

Cookiepuss said...

Excuse me, did you say you don't live in the area. Than MYOB. Funny thing is that Frank Prisinzano doesn't live in the area either. He lives on Broadway. He started out partnering with other business people and is now the sole owner of, I believe all three restaurants. They started out with a wine only license eventually upgrading to full liquor licenses. His criticism of the dumpy bars on A between 1st and 2nd is a disassociation tactic. He knows damn well that these people will spill over into his place and conversely bar owners love restaurants like this because his people will spill over into their places. They thrive off of each other. Even if the community board wants to place a stipulation to his license saying that there will be no upgrades to a full liquor license it can eventually be overturned based on popularity and demand. That corner space is a gold mine. If 7-11's and banks will discourage Yunnies from coming into the area, that would be a success. The only thing that would be better is if 7-11's and banks made Yunnies who live in the neighborhood want to leave.

EV Grieve said...

i heard a rumor that nicky's might movr into the old ev lounge space. the current space shsres the same landlord as graceland, and he wants big $$$ here.

Anonymous said...

Cookiepuss: I've lived at 3rd and B for 25 years, do I qualify to comment under your rules?

This guy makes quality food, his restaurants fit the character of the neighborhood and are not "loud, party" type establishments. I walk past Supper every day/night and I rarely see any sort of unruly behavior.

While I agree things can get out of hand around here on weekends, no one moved to the East Village for the peace and quiet.

Unknown said...

I live on the stretch of 2nd St with Supper and il Bagatto. He doesn't do an amazing job with crowd control on the sidewalk, but it's not as bad as people make it out to be. I would HATE to have a 7-11 there. How many drunks would be in it AFTER all the bars have already closed? A bank doesn't really add anything to the community but I guess I wouldn't be opposed.

~evilsugar25 said...

i can't believe anyone that pretends to care about the east village "the way it used to be" would DARE say they favor a 7-11. that's absolutely ludicrous. i used to state nyc's utter lack of 7-11s as testament to our uniqueness. why did we need chain microwave burritos and sandwiches when we have real delis on every block? that's absolutely insane.

the "old" ev here would have a used furnuture tchokcke store (remember waldorf hysteria? cha-cha-tchotchke? atomic passion?) or a record store! or a bookstore! or alt.coffee! but this is not the old ev. the best we can hope for is a nice cafe or food place, instead of a bar, bank or a FREAKING CHAIN.

7-11? 24/7? that's absolutely insane and the the last nail in the coffin. seriously.

Jill said...

It's strange to think that a 7-11 could make it here and pay the higher rent that the LL wants, when Graceland couldn't make it. And also that 7-11 would draw big crowds when Graceland didn't. Aren't they kind of the same type of store, but one is a franchise with slurpees and the other locally owned without slurpees?

It would be painful to see a 7-11 open here, but it seems like they would fail pretty quickly unless there was some kind of run on slurpees and disgusting microwave sandwiches, as they would presumably get similar business as Graceland did.

glamma said...

7-11 is a huge chain with tons of capital backing it. they are extremely profitable because they sell extremely low quality, cheap food at extremely inflated prices. everything they sell is mass produced and they get it at super bulk discount. even if they were not profitable on a and 2nd for the first two years, they have plenty of money to stay afloat. i am sure that if they opened they would never, ever leave. they also have huge contracts with horrible CAFO's (confined animal feeding operations) and as such do much to contribute to the continuation of this practice that is horrible for animals, people, and the planet...

Anonymous said...

circle k?