Down by the East River side — The UES part of the East River Esplanade is hopefully in its final phases with expected date of completion sometime in 2018. Hard to know how realistic that date is. As a result of the Marine Transfer Station construction on the esplanade, a shed was built north of 91st Street, separating the river from the walkway so that runners could run, walkers could walk, and everyone could enjoy while the construction was going on. However, runners and walkers are finding that the bright blue shed through which they have to run and walk is dilapidated and a safety hazard with broken pavement, poor lighting, potholes, and rain bringing sometimes knee-deep puddles. There are remedies — re-pave the walkway, get better lighting, add viewing inserts into the walls so there’s light coming in and a view of the waterfront. Right now, it’s dangerous. Responsible parties and agencies have to step up to the plate, and that includes the Departments of Sanitation, of Design and Construction, maybe the Parks Department. Maybe others. No more status quo. Let the safety measures begin.
Bad for business — No matter how you say it, or how many times you say it, it’s all true and not good: small businesses are a dying breed in Manhattan. Walk up and down the UES and you see For Rent and Going Out of Business signs galore. Charming restaurants like Le Monet, Brio in the 60s on Lex are out. And no more China Fun at the corner of 64th and Second. Why all the restaurant closings? Blame rents. Blame changing dining-out alternatives such as Blue Apron, Fresh Direct, and the like. Blame rising costs and wages. All contribute to the cost of operating a small business. But let’s not have to include arbitrary, onerous city rules, regulations, and enforcement procedures among the reasons — or the reason for the closings. If there’s a violation, absent emergency, why can’t inspection or compliance be made on prior notice to the establishment involved? If that’s not policy, then at a reasonable time and not during a busy dinner hour with the threat of closing down the restaurant while customers are having dinner if the restaurant doesn’t come up with paperwork that could have been retrieved during the day when there was no business — which means Fire Department enforcers, in full regalia, arriving at prime dinner hour. That’s what happened at Bistro 61 at the corner of 61st and First, when the Fire Department arrived at 7:30 pm with a demand that they be shown certain records then and there. And in the absence of immediate compliance, the restaurant would be shut down, after letting customers leave, I assume. (Don’t imagine holding them hostage was part of the plan.) The manager asked if they could come back the next day at an earlier hour? No. Immediately. Or shut down and fines. No way to run a city that wants to keep businesses in business. Understood that the coffers have to be filled, but good policy dictates reasonable enforcement remedies. Our town needs its small businesses. Badly.
Falling blocks, neighborhoods lost — Rumor has it that the low-rise buildings on First between 79th and 80th, northeast side of street, are going to be demolished for another towering high-rise. The businesses along the avenue are gone or in the process of going. Only Italian Village and the grocery market on the corner remain. The wine store was in the midst of packing and moving a block or two south. The demolition would be following in the footsteps of the low-rise buildings at 310, 312, 314 East 86th. Recently, as reported in The Real Deal and DNAInfo, the deed for these three buildings was transferred by the seller (a subsidiary of Extell Development) to the buyer, a subsidiary of Izaki Group Investments. The three buildings are on the same side of the street as the entrance to the newly opened Second Avenue subway station, and the new owner will have the right to build a development of up to 70 thousand square feet wide and up to 210 feet high on the site, as reported by The Real Deal. Big’s in. Small’s out.