Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A letter of opposition to the new Italian eatery for former Graceland space

Well, the big story of late concerns the fate of Avenue A and Second Street, the former home of Graceland... Anyway, as you know, Frank Prisinzano, who owns EV Italian empire Frank, Lil' Frankie's and Supper, came before the CB3/SLA committee on June 14 with his plans to turn the former grocery into what he described as fast-food Italian. "I want to give the community inexpensive Italian," he said. "I'm hoping this becomes a neighborhood staple like my other places." He stressed over and over that this won't be a bar or a nightclub. After 75 minutes of intense debate, the CB3/SLA committee were deadlocked.

Tonight, the full Community Board hears this application.

There has been so much spirited debate about this here ... (Read the 40-plus comments here.) The alleged alternatives here are a bank or 7-Eleven.

Meanwhile, some residents of East Second Street, including those at 156, remain opposed to his plans.

What follows is an excerpt of the letter some residents from 156 E. Second St. have sent to CB3:

To: CB3 SLA Committee

Re: Proposed use of 150 East 2nd Street by Frank Prisinzano for an Italian Restaurant

Dear sir or madam,

We have been a long term residents of 156 East 2nd Street. For the last eight years Mr. Prisinzano has been the proprietor of the restaurant Supper, which includes a bar and sidewalk cafe. Supper has been seriously problematic for the residents of the building and residents on the block for the following reasons:

--Crowds and Noise. Supper has consistently allowed their customers to block the sidewalk, such that residents of the block and of the building have to regularly walk into the street to get by. The noise that results from their allowing customers to wait for tables on the sidewalk has regularly and severely disturbed the quality of life for the residents of 156 East 2nd Street and adjacent buildings. They have regularly kept their doors and windows open, creating more noise. In addition to — despite repeated complaints — their continuing to allow their customers to block the sidewalk, they have had poor and inadequate signage asking their patrons to respect the neighbors. They have allowed customers to hold open containers of alcohol on the sidewalk, and at times have had more chairs on the sidewalk cafe than allowed as per their license.

--Poor Response to Complaints. There is a long history of complaints by neighborhood residents against this establishment. But for Supper’s first six years, the management responded poorly to the complaints of residents of the building and the block. Very little was done to establish a better host policy, to keep their customers off the sidewalk and to keep the noise level down. The response by management to the residents of the building and the block was mostly to say they were “doing the best they could” to keep the noise and sidewalk blockage down, without in fact taking any noticeable steps to do so. 

During the last two years, Supper’s management has been somewhat more proactive about communicating with residents of the building and the block to remedy the problems. While there has been some improvement, there continues to be regular disturbances. The fact that a genuine response to complaints took six years suggests that their neighbors’ quality of life is not a priority to Supper’s management. 

--Disregard of the CB3 SLA Committee. Supper’s management has regularly disrespected the requests of CB3 SLA Committee to do a better job of minimizing noise and sidewalk blockage. Every time they have come up for renewal they have come up against a complaint history. When they receive their renewal with the stipulation that they change their door policy to enforce less noise and less sidewalk blockage, they say they will do so and they do not. The most recent example of such disrespect was when, in 2008, they made an agreement to erect a barrier between the restaurant portion of the sidewalk and the public sidewalk and entrance to the residential building. It took them two years to begin to comply with this agreement, and it still has not been completed.

At the same time, in 2008, they made an agreement to close their windows and doors after 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends. They have consistently failed to do so. It was only after consistent direct complaints from residents that they began to do a better job with this. The fact that it took two years to comply with CB3 SLA agreements to respond to quality of life issues is an indication that such poor attention to quality of life issues will managed the same way if they open another establishment in the area. 

--Misrepresentation and Disrespect for Regulations. When they originally opened the establishment, they promised the residents that it would be a “quiet family restaurant “ that “wouldn't have a loud bar “ and that “the bar would be primarily a service bar for the restaurant.” This has never been true, and over time they have made their bar into a separate drinking establishment, which has increased the noise level. They advertise through signage in front of the restaurant drink specials and happy hour, and regularly use the sidewalk tables outside the bar area to serve drinks to customers who are not eating. This causes more noise and is evidence that they are willing to misrepresent their establishments for the purposes of getting licensed.

The most egregious display of this management team’s flagrant disrespect for regulations occurred in July 2009. When their liquor license lapsed and they did not put in the renewal on time they temporarily lost their license to serve alcohol. However, they continued to serve alcohol for over a week past the lapse of the license. They only stopped serving alcohol without a license when the police were called to shut down the bar. (Nevertheless, they eventually did receive their renewal.)

-- Saturation of Bars in the Vicinity. Avenue A and East Second Street does not need another bar. Just on the four blocks immediately extending out from this intersection, there are at present some dozen bar/restaurants. For the three weekend nights of the week (Thursday nights having become nearly as busy as Friday and Saturdays) this leads to a rowdy party atmosphere, with crowds of people blocking sidewalks, smoking, shouting drunkenly, etc. Our immediate neighborhood has become saturated with places that serve alcohol, while otherwise-useful businesses are dwindling, to the detriment of our quality of life.

If all of the circumstances detailed above are any indication of how Mr. Prisinzano and his management team run their businesses, we definitely do not need another one on our block, and so close to the establishment that has already wreaked so much havoc on the neighborhood. If Supper was proposing to move to the corner, closing the restaurant and bar in our building, that would be another matter, and would at least move the noise to the avenue, restoring some of the quieter side-street atmosphere to the block.

Thank you for taking all these facts into consideration as you consider giving approval for Mr. Prisinzano to operate a restaurant/sidewalk café/bar at 150 East 2nd Street.


156 E.2nd Street

Previously on EV Grieve:
CB3 deadlocked over new "fast-food Italian" at former Graceland space; 7-Eleven next?

"All uses considered" at former Graceland

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


Jeremiah Moss said...

epic letter.

EV Grieve said...

Indeed. There was another section too:

5. Annexation of Residential Apartments for Commercial Use. Supper rents four rent-stabilized apartments at 156 East Second Street, for the purposes apparently of office use and storage, resulting in high transient traffic in and out of the building. One apartment is being commercially used to run Frank’s Catering; an operation owned by the owners of Supper (and other restaurants). We find it difficult to understand how rent-stabilized apartments can be legally used for commercial purposes. This is a clear violation of the rent stabilization code, since these apartments are not being used as primary residences.

Further, this use contributes to a diminished security for residents. Supper employees go in and out day and night; there’s no way of knowing how many non-residents have keys; given employee turnover there is no way of recognizing who does and doesn’t have legitimate business in the building. One of the building’s long term tennants was mugged in the middle of the day in the lobby just a few years ago, so we find this situation of great concern.

While tenants’ complaint in this issue is primarily with the building’s management (a letter on this matter was sent to the landlord, cc-ing the Division of Housing and Community Relations, but never received a response), it further indicates Mr. Prisinzano’s willingness to break or bend city regulations, and his callous disregard for the safety and well-being of fellow citizens.

esquared™ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Any chance someone wants to snap some photos of crowds loitering outside Supper? I only ask as I've never witnessed this and pass the restaurant daily.

Media glut said...

Re: rent-stabilized apartments used for commercial purposes

Yeah, well, we have that going on in my building on 1st St right now. Only its the notion of short term hotel that we are dealing with here. They have about 3 units they intend to use in this way.

Bowery Boogie said...

the question is whether the board will take this into consideration.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I'd not heard about the apartment deal. Wow. That needs more publicity.

Hey19 said...

I also walk by supper every day, at various times at night, and the Supper crowd seems very civilized and under control. Maybe Caracas is one thing, Im sure Frank wishes he had that problem.

Marc said...

Dear CB3,

We live in a city of 8 million people and are flabbergasted that our sidewalks are noisy and crowded.

We also demand large, spacious apartments with cheap rents and the removal of all unsightly homeless individuals, effectively immediately.

EV Residents Who Can't Cope with Neighborhood Change

Todd Shaffer said...



You people are complaining about SUPPER?

I can understand Superdive, I can understand bars that rock out until 4am and are assholes about everything. But really guys?

Let me explain the sidewalk situation: They serve good food, it attracts a crowd, they spill onto the sidewalk it's so damn good, just like any other restaurant that serves up something better than the rest.

Alcohol on the sidewalk: You're waiting, you want to have a glass of wine and talk with your company, so be it.

They have a happy hour, where people drink, shocking. I'm guessing at 5pm the streets of NYC are supposed to be deathly quiet?

"People have to walk in the street to get around the crowd" OR you could kindly ask the person in front of your path to excuse themselves. Or just be a wack job, walk in the street, fume about it, call the community board/311 and cry about it, then be shocked when the management doesn't acknowledge every crazy bastard that complains about things that should have never been complaints.

You need some balance on the board. This staunch anti-everyone-but-lifeless-business is really starting to smell.

Susanna Beacom said...

This is bullshit. I live in the neighborhood and eat at Supper all the time, and although I do not live on 2nd Street, I have a laissez-faire attitude to the bars and restaurants (mostly bars) on 6th Street, where I do live. I live in the East Village. I've lived here 15 years, in a rent-stabilized apartment, and I welcome more eating and drinking establishments. If I wanted to live in suburbia, that's where I'd live. For me, the quality of life in the EV is inextricably linked to the energy of the place and to the plethora of reasonable, delicious dining establishments in the neighborhood. And all of Frank's restaurants fall into this category, though Supper is my favorite. Hell, it's my 78-year-old mother's favorite, too. What a loss that we won't have his inexpensive "Italian fast-food" joint to add to our options.