Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CB3 says no to Frank's fast-food Italian on Avenue A; fishmonger also denied

I'm picking up where I left off last night...


During a nearly four-hour meeting in a steamy PS 20 auditorium last night, the full Community Board 3 denied Frank Prisinzano's application to open a fast-food style Italian restaurant on Avenue A and Second Street. Raguboy would have seated 121 people inside and another 44 people on a sidewalk cafe at the former Graceland grocery.

As you know, the CB3/SLA committee members were deadlocked in their vote last week. Prisinzano, who owns EV Italian empire Frank, Lil' Frankie's and Supper, was on hand as were several of the residents who spoke out against another liquor license on Avenue A during the CB3/SLA meeting. (You can read all that drama here.)

Several people spoke for and against a restaurant here... themes were the same... "we live in a noise hell" ... there's a lack of retail diversity in the East Village... too many liquor licenses on that stretch of Avenue A already...

CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer, who lives nearby, also spoke out against the application as she did at last week's CB3/SLA meeting... There were several outraged people in the auditorium who were upset that Stetzer continued to talk beyond the alloted two minutes designated for each speaker.

Meanwhile, the board also denied Keith Masco's attempt to open Sea on A, a fish market/restaurant at 171 Avenue A. It came down to the same issues: Too many liquor licenses in the area. (You can read more about the plans here.)

There was also discussion on the Gaelic gastro pub, Percy's Tavern, taking over the former Al Diwan space on Avenue A and 13th Street. The CB3/SLA committee approved this last week. However, a few board members had questions about stipulations (closing time, etc.). You can read all about Percy's here.

It was an agonizingly long wait for the applicants... After the board voted on the license applications, other reports were heard, such as the Arts & Cultural Affairs Task Force... all important, but... then the votes came in... For Raguboy, 28 board members were against; 11 for and one person abstained. As for the fishmonger, 23 were against and 17 were for...24 were in favor of Percy's; 16 against.

The board also approved Little Printz Cafe, a "global Jewish" restaurant that will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the former Chabelas space at 40 Avenue B. The CB3/SLA committee approved this last week.

During the sometimes contentious meeting, board member David McWater stood up in the audience and questioned the entire SLA process, which he called at different times "unfair," ludicrous" and "dysfunctional." He did make many valid points concerning licenses seemingly arbitrarily being issued within the so-called resolution area.

Said McWater, "We have to find a way to be consistent again." There's more to all this, which we'll explore in another post...

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.


WB said...

So these were votes to recommend to the SLA that they not approve alcohol licenses for Raguboy and the fishmonger? The CB can't stop one from opening a restaurant, right? Whether a restaurant can make it without alcohol is another story.

EV Grieve said...

Good point, WB. You're right: The CB3 is only passing along their denial of liquor licenses for these places to the SLA.

It's certainly very possible that both places could continue to open a restaurant or fish market... just without a liquor license. Perhaps after showing what good neighbors they are, they could eventually apply again for a liquor permit.

For instance, didn't Westville East open for some time without a booze permit?

Keith Masco said that needed a liquor license because the margin on seafood is so low (with the spoilage, etc.)

Billy said...

Any word on what the alternative to Frank's place will be? Why do I have the feeling it will suck?

WB said...

Appropriately, the verification phrase for this comment was "hydra." Maybe the margins on it are good enough to operate without a liquor license?

EV Grieve said...

Nothing specific has been mentioned, Billy. Word of a bank or 7-Eleven came from Frank... I recall that the landlord jacked up Graceland's rent to like $20K or so a month....which is why they left.

Shawn said...

Great reporting EV! You tell it like it is.

First off: 11B and Casa Adela do very brisk business with no wine, beer, or liquor.

I attended CB3 and spoke out against the proposed establishment at 171 Avenue A "Sea on A" as it is below my apt.

With 6 drinking establishments on our block already, we don't need another.

Did you hear that Mr. Masco, the Sea on A petitioner, sent out an searing email condemning all those against him, and threatening to sue at least one person (Andrew) who spoke against his establishment?

Mr. Masco also agreed to take supporters of his bar "out for dinner and drinks..." I'm glad at least one CB3 board member called him out on that. Absolutely appalling - he is literally bribing people to speak on his behalf!

Also, it is curious to see members of the public yelling and screaming at Board Members, as you pointed out. I don't quite understand the logic - if any - behind this. These Board Members people are VOTING; how is screaming at them persuasive to your cause?

And I want to commend CB3 Board Chair Dominic Pisciotta, who showed restraint against a rather disruptive heckler, who only calmed down after he said he was ready to toss her out.

Mr. Pisciotta was informing, quite nicely, that there were not one, but two fish markets at Essex Street Market as a response to several claims of "...there's no place for fish in the East Village."

One person even complained Essex Street was not in the East Village, but the "Lower East Side" (are you freaking' kidding me?)

I have never seen people who live on an ISLAND so passionate about not being able to find fish! You'd think Key Food or Associated never existed!

As for Frank Prisinzano - great guy. I feel for him. However it would appear that location was a bad choice for his new place; that block is packed packed packed already.

Also I wish people who speak would at least give their address or proximity to the establishments in question (I always do). The people who live closest have the most weight in the discussion, in my view.

It's really easy to say "hey I want that!" to anything, when it's NIMBY.

And last but not least. 171 Ave A is where the Beastie Boys recorded their first album. It should be a clothing/record/music some kind of NY culture store!

Anonymous said...

hey Shawn Chittle you live in the east village and literally are taking away a great fresh seafood market/restaurant from the whole community because you dont want it there. if you want peace and quiet, move out of the e village or for that matter, live in the suburbs. the best part of nyc is the great food and unique establishments it has to offer. here a guy is trying to create a great business for the community and you speak against it because of noise. hey buddy, your living in the e village which is the "hip, trendy, young" place in the city. sorry if you dont like noise but mannn are you living in the wrong part of town for that.

sincerely, a NYC resident who wants a fresh fish place in the e village but now can get it because of older, stubborn, rent-controlled apt tenants who wont leave the e-village because they are getting such a good deal on their apts and feel its necessary to shoot down all restaurants that benefit the community. wow was that a run-on sentence?

Anonymous said...

Hey Shawn Chittle - 11B is almost completely empty every day, except of course when people BYOB, which is illegal.

Nigel said...

Hey anonymous, do you know that Shawn Chittle is an older, stubborn, rent-controlled tenant? It's easy to construct these imaginary figures to shoot down.

I might not agree with all of Shawn's opinions, but he has a perfectly reasonable point of view. If you're going to disagree, at least do it constructively instead of telling him to move out to the suburbs to make space for yourself.

glamma said...

wow. well i would really like to know why in the hell they approved the coming disaster in the former midway space! are they getting paid off or something? or did they all just wake up?

listen people the east village has more restaurants per square foot than any of part of manhattan, and some of the worst retail diversity, made worse by the total mom and popcide that occurred here the last two years, we really do not need more bars or restaurants. give it a rest already! no one's buying it.

glamma said...

and yes, excellent point that he can just open without a liquor license.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

WB above brings up a point I've been wondering about for some time - just because a liquor license is denied doesn't meant the restaurant cannot open, right? Why not move ahead with opening the place and at least establish some credibility? I find it interesting that so many applicants flat-out scrap their plans when they are shot down by the SLA - it makes me wonder what their real intentions were in the first place.

And, maybe someone can enlighten me on something else. In my opinion, the argument has gone stale - on one side, we have residents who are sick of all the noise and do not want any new bar/restaurants. Then, there is the opposing side (residents? not sure) who insist NYC/EV is supposed to be noisy and crowded, and those who think otherwise should move. Where is the common ground? The city does *not* have to be chaos 24/7 and it never has been. There have always been busy nightlife areas and residential neighborhoods. True, the locations of these places have shifted over the years, but has it really become this black and white? Is there no way for families, working people, artists, businesses and everyone in between to coexist? Hasn't coexistence been the pride of this city until now? The great 'melting pot' is beginning to resemble a bowl of gruel.

EV Grieve said...


Well, good point re: Billy Hurricane's opening at 25 Avenue B... this goes to what McWater was talking about... how does a full bar like this get the OK... yet, that new Sigmund pretzel place a few doors up B, who was looking for a beer/wine license and closes at 8 p.m., get denied because of being in a resolution area?

This whole licensing system is fucked, really.

EV Grieve said...


Thanks! With so much happening, I forgot to mention the scene in which Keith said that, yes, he did offer free drinks to people who came out to support last night.

EV Grieve said...

Great comment, Goggla.

There doesn't seem to be much common ground. Some residents have said they'd compromise... start with a beer/wine license and hold off on a sidewalk cafe... baby steps. But.

Coexistence is possible among people who are actually neighbors.... people who all live together in the East Village... the problem is, so many of these newer places/popular joints aren't intended for, or don't appeal to, people who actually live here.

I have yet to meet one person who has actually gone to Superdive for anything but a lark or to see how horrible it is, for instance. And places like this *mostly* attract people from other places who don't give a shit about the neighborhood.

And places with good probable good intentions like what Frank and Keith proposed are getting punished because of the likes of Aces and Eights and Superdive.

Uh, anyway, it's a complicated issue... but I do understand why some people are saying enough is enough with ANY new liquor licenses, intentions aside.

HippieChick said...

Why CAN'T we just have a fish market in the "central" EV? We used to have two great ones: Victor's on 1st and 13th and the one on 1st and 9th. Sometimes Essex Street or Whole Foods is just too far for those of us with walking issues...supermarket fish is unspeakable.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Thanks, EVG

I was trying to refrain from saying "Chill out, man! Can't we all just get along?" because the answer seems to be No. In a perfect world, these bar/restaurants would open and everyone would be well-behaved and happy, but experience has shown that just doesn't happen.

If it's any consolation, some day the EV will cease to be the trendy place to be and there will be reasons to lament that, too. I just think there are more options for businesses and CB3 to explore, but no one seems to want to put the effort into being a good neighbor.

Hey19 said...

Agreed EV, Sigmund's is great, and would be just as sweet a little spot w some gewertaztraminer to go w your pretzle. Yet a bourbon st themed frat bar? Really? Seems Sigmunds is kind of the same story as the fish monger, a diversity adding place that just gets categorically denied a liscence. We need more places like Sigmunds, with or without a liscence, I dont care, with hopefully, to help them be viable. Great Jones Cafe isnt far if you really need a hurracane. So wrong, so arbitrary and petty.

EV Grieve said...

Liquor licenses aside, CB3, and NYC, really, has a lot of work to do... the retail diversity in the neighborhood is skewed now, of course, toward bars and restaurants. (East Village isn't alone in this...) A resident last night said that there are 13 more liquor licenses on Avenue A than there were five years ago...

Anyway, helping the mom-and-pop shops and encouraing retail diversity are epic challenges....something that I'll address in a post tomorrow...

The Macho Man Randy Savage said...


Anonymous said...

I love the guy who is whining about a lack of a fish place. If he loves it that much, he ought to move to Cape Cod because no East Village fish joint is going to compare!

Anonymous said...

soooo many points here to address Shawn. First of all , When you have been completely railroaded by the community board and more specifically, the chair of the sla subcommittee the way I have been,yes lawsuits come to mind. When a resident lies to the board,(and they do record these meetings) he is breaking the law and may be liable for damages he causes to others as a result.
The drinks and food were simply consideration for nearly perfect strangers to spend almost 4 hours in a 90 degree auditorium to lend their support for a business they own no part of. Consideration there is a concept the opposition should look into. They went door to door inside of buildings bothering people to sign their petition. In the nearly 30 years I have lived in the east village I have never had my privacy disrespected in this manner. Not to mention the extra pressure this exerts on the resident in question. When i was personally collecting signatures,if two people were even talking to each other, I left them alone. If someone was on a cell phone ,I didn't disturb them. Yet these overzealous residents have the unmitigated gaul to invade the sanctity of their neighbors homes. They probably had to do this because not many people would sign it in the street. When I was gathering signatures,roughly 1 out of 50 or so people refused to sign my petition. Even with my more conservative ,polite and non-invasive method, I had more supporters from the very bldg as well as the immediate block . and roughly 900 more people from the immediate area.
I offered to cut my hours down to midnight sunday thru weds and to 1:00 on weekends. show me a bar that operates on those hours and I'll grab their lease in month or two.
I own an indie label.and I knew the beasties when they were stealing jackets from wienstien parties. Unfortunately through no fault of mine,the studio has left the bldg. Its been an empty eyesore for over 2 years now, and the opposition is acting like I am LeSouk or the Box. You people make me laugh,when exactly was the e.v. this quiet low key place? You all knew when you moved here what you were getting into, and if you want peace and quiet you really messed up by living on the avenue instead of at least a side street.
To all of you that think its sooo easy,go ahead and open a book store,or music store,or a clothing shop and start to be part of the solution,Instead of just bitching about others who are trying to bring this hood what it clearly needs and clearly supports

Richard D James said...

I hope to attend the next meeting.

I find it hilarious that people are fighting restaurants being open in the East Village.

1. It's the East Village, it's where people go out in NYC, if you don't like that - move to one of the outer boroughs.
2. Before that the East Village was somewhat sketchy this far East - remember that? Oh, probably not.
3. There is an incredible amount of vacant retail spaces in the East Village, specifically Alphabet City - would you rather we have more vacant spaces? I wouldn't. It's unfortunate, rents are so high for ground level retail space, it's damn near impossible for anything to go into these spaces except for chains, or stuff w/ liquor licenses. To someone who wanted a music store - you must be high, record stores are dinosaurs sadly, there is less than 25% music stores left in NYC compared to 10 years ago.

All I know is I would prefer another restaurant (not a burger joint) to a bank, or a Subway Sandwiches.

Also - the noise - it sucks. But it is the East Village. It is a shame that we have been overrun by former FratBoys and Wannabe Sex&The City women from Murray Hell and the UES - that said, if I REALLY wanted peace and quiet, I wouldn't live in this part of town.

Richard D James said...

+ 1 to Anonymous above

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous: "You all knew when you moved here what you were getting into, and if you want peace and quiet you really messed up by living on the avenue instead of at least a side street."

And you sir knew when you signed your lease that the community board had a resolution area effectively outright denying any applicant unless they can substancially prove they are beneficial to the community. Maybe you should do some research next time before you invest a lot of money and get a lease outside in the resolution area.

Anonymous said...

In a response to the above comment. What is more beneficial to the community than a day time food use (fish market which the e-village lacks) and a fresh seafood restaurant at night? Overwhelming community support (obvious with the 1,000+ signatures for in comparison to the 125 against). THAT, my friend, is why someone assumes their concept will work in that space.

Obviously this isn't a bar if its agreed to close at 1am...all bars close at around 4.

Cookiepuss said...

It's true, there's always been noise and bars and loud music in the East Village and it was awesome. Lots of interesting stores and cool people. It was the counter-culture, which railed against the mainstream, stood for freedom of expression and individuality. It was a bastion of radicalism with squatters, activists, artists and musicians. That kind of beauty can never be replaced, and it had a purpose. Today lots of people who live here are the mainstream, and these restaurants are not progressive and radical. How is being part of a system that drives out small businesses radical? The new people that these restaurants and bars are catering to are Yunnies. These restauranteurs are as right wing as they come. They kind of remind me of conservatives who support off- shore drilling. Profits over people.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in the East Village for 20 years and it is has always had bars but not the crazy amount it has now. I wouldn't care if they didn't blast music but these places are loud and we working class types have to sleep. It's never been a library around here but there is no need for it to turn into a nonstop frat party now.

Speaking to the fish place, I have no problem with restaurants opening as long as they aren't blasting music. It is really the bars that are the problem.

Anonymous said...

I believe you should do your research, the "resolution" clearly states "board will grant licenses to applicants only in cases where applicant can demonstrate public benefit or substantial community support.and my leasewas contingent upon sla approval, so I didnt waste much money on the project as of yet. I'm just wasting time talking to people with closed minds that are incapable oflistening to reason

Hey19 said...

@4:34, Thanks for trying, too bad, there is so much negativity, from a select few who just are more passionate, or have more time on their hands to sabotage any business besides used book stores.

Also, I love the cape, not much to do there for work, but I live on seafood when I go, and often like a piece of whatever we can get in NYC. Might as well eat it while you can, the BPs of the world are doing a good job to make a fish monger a non starter for other reasons than CB3.

Anonymous said...

"Overwhelming community support (obvious with the 1,000+ signatures for in comparison to the 125 against). THAT, my friend, is why someone assumes their concept will work in that space."

There is no doubt it would work. That's the problem. We don't want 1000+ people WHO DON'T LIVE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD coming in and making a lot of noise. Good luck somewhere else. Maybe they'll be capable of understanding your reasoning.

Anonymous said...

"We don't want 1000+ people WHO DON'T LIVE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD coming in and making a lot of noise." So you are saying if people live in the neighborhood it's fine?

If you want peace and quiet, move upstate. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

I don't feel bad for all these bar and restaurant owners. Go to another neighborhood that really could use some nightlife and dining spots. There are plenty of areas like that in NYC but they all want to come to the EV.

Anonymous said...

It sucks that this was not approved. I'm certain that whatever winds up going in the space will be less beneficial to the neighborhood than this small, locally owned restaurant would have been.

For Shawn Chittle: did you ACTUALLY suggest that decent seafood can be purchased at Key Food or Associated? When you make a statement as asinine as that I tend to discount anything else you say as equally dishonest.

Anonymous said...

By the way ,every signature was from cb3 constituents, and 70 percent of them from within four to five blocks

Jill said...

Re 25 Ave B - the issue on this is that in its previous incarnation it had a liquor license. CB3 has an unwritten (and in my opinion ridiculous-but this issue is a whole other can of worms and anybody interested in it is free to write me personally so I can explain it) policy to greenlight any transfer of license to a new owner. Their rationale is too long to explain here, but that would be why a "new" bar can open, but one without a license that already exists has trouble getting one. The resolution area rules are for "no NEW licenses" which means that if someone wants to open a licensed establishment, the easiest way is to buy a license from someone selling.

here is the resolution with stipulations they agreed to for 25 Ave B:

Jill said...

Richard - Are you Aphex Twin or using his name to trash your neighbors?

I do hope you go to a CB3 meeting. If you do care about living here for the long term, it is good to learn the facts and the nuances of the issues, before you speak so resolutely. They are not so simple.

The system is broken, nobody will disagree with that. We have no real zoning, we have some ridiculous unwritten rules about transfer licenses that create a situation where any new license is a potential SuperDive, and the rules that are in place for the Resolution Area and the 500 foot rule are inconsistently applied, among many many other things that have come together to create the situation we find ourselves in today. The solution to these problems will not be fixed over night, but if people care enough, and are willing to volunteer their time to work them out, maybe we can come out the other end and have bars and restaurants for tourists like you, and also have retailers that serve the residents.

The thing that is so infuriating about your comment is your contention that the people who are arguing against the bars don't remember what it used to be like here.

The people arguing against the bars are twofold: first are those who have been directly impacted by a really bad neighbor from the noise and crowds, ie people who would never otherwise complain but sleepless nights have made them insane; and second are long time residents, the ones who literally, not figuratively, but literally, made this neighborhood the one that is now so attractive that people like you want to move here. They managed to take the scary elements out, and in their place, you moved in. Is that an improvement? I guess it depends on how much you've had to drink.

These are the people you think should leave to make room for you and your personal partying desires. They aren't going to leave, they have an investment in what they have built, and your yelling at them to leave is a ridiculous argument, as ridiculous as you might think if someone suggested you leave because your new seafood restaurant failed to get approval from the Community Board (which, by the way, doesn't preclude them from applying for and getting a liquor license from the state).

I'm not sure how you made it here for five years as a small business owner but haven't seemed to learn much about the people in this neighborhood. The people who moved here 30 years ago spent a lot of energy trying to fit in with the largely Puerto Rican and Eastern European population that preceded them. It wasn't always easy or accepted, but the most successful tried hard to be respectful of the heritage that came before them. It's a point you seem to have missed.

Do you think the gardens built themselves? Or that the drug dealers took themselves off the streets (and ironically into the bars they are now fighting against)? Or that the schools have vastly improved because the residents weren't fighting for them? Or all of the other things that we now benefit from through their blood, sweat and tears?

You should be GRATEFUL that they spent the past 30 years working really hard to turn this seemingly dangerous place into the one you now want to party in all night long. Your disrespect for what they have done, and continue to work toward, will not get you very far in politics. If you plan to stay here, then you might want to learn about the people you are trashing before you do it.

There isn't a soul who attends the Community Board meetings regularly who isn't deeply involved with the community on many levels - they are volunteering their time to try to make their neighborhood, the place they raise their families and have invested their lives, a better place. What that place might look like is open for discussion, but there is much more going on there than the approval or denial of liquor licenses. And you want them to leave? That would mean you, and your friends, would be left to run the place. Do you have the time and inclination to do it? I know I don't.