If I am going to go down a rabbit hole, I am taking you all with me. So wishing us all luck and hoping that James chimes in here.
The new owner of 325 Greenwich, Josh Greenberg, posted a comment to the site, asking for the neighborhood’s help in getting Café Clementine through the permitting process at the Department of Buildings. I waited to post it, since I wanted to see what was going on at the DOB first — and I only got more confused. It seems the restaurant’s ability to move forward was stuck on a piece of bureaucracy called the “narrative statement” for Interim Multiple Dwellings in the Loft Law program — of which 325 is a part. (The building has four apartments upstairs.)
As Greenberg put it, the DOB was holding the restaurant hostage. The DOB says Greenberg has not been a responsible landlord, but just a walk down the block might tell us otherwise.
Greenberg bought the building in 2019 from Tribeca landlord Peter Matera, and since then has been trying to bring it up to code. The building entered the legalization process under the Loft Law in 1983, and for the majority of those four decades, few substantial changes were made to the building since no one sought out a permit (there’s even a defunct elevator in there).
As we all can witness, he has been working on and restoring the façade (which is coming along) and making improvements to the storefronts. According to Greenberg, he paid $80k in fines from penalties from the prior owner, and he filed plans for legalization of the property, which set him back $55k in fees.
In order for Cafe Clementine to get their permits, the building needs a “letter of no objection” from the Loft Board, which is part of DOB.
But DOB says that Greenberg has not taken the steps necessary to clear the decks for that, even though Greenberg says he filed the plans and construction is clearly under way. From the DOB spokesman: “To date the owner has not filed a construction work application to make the necessary repairs inside the building and convert the upper floors into safe, legal apartments…In recent weeks, the Loft Board has reached out to the owner on multiple occasions and has set up an upcoming meeting intended to discuss what steps they we would need to take and what progress must be achieved in order to obtain the LONO for the restaurant on the first floor.”
Enter the rabbit hole. (And if you really like that kind of thing, I left the regulations pasted in below.)
I also wondered why repairs to the residential units were tied to the commercial spaces, and it looks like it does: “In order to get the permit for the proposed construction work to build out the restaurant, the owner must first obtain an LONO from the Loft Board…In order to obtain the LONO, the owner must demonstrate progress towards legalizing the residential units in the building. Since the current owner purchased the property, they have not done this.”
Meanwhile it seems there may be some movement this week after a conference call between Greenberg and DOB officials.
But that gets us back to Café Clementine.
Clementine owner Rosa Tlaseca and her team are fast running out of options — and funds. Their future at that spot is entirely wrapped up in the Loft Board process and whether Greenberg can make sure this is all resolved, and quick, especially since all their other permits are in place (I saw the doc with the approvals from DOB).
“It got all approved and we were like Hallelujah and it gets to the Loft Board and we thought it would be a rubber stamp and now they are saying no,” Greenberg said. “I am now so angry on behalf of my tenants. It is so out of their realm and not their business. This is the last thing the city needs right now is anti-business — and a local business at that. These are hard-working people.”
THE FINE PRINT
Applicable Regulation For Reference:
29 RCNY § 2-04(d)(4)(iii)(E) states):
(E) The Loft Board’s staff may deny a LONO request for the proposed work where:
a. the owner does not have an alteration application filed with the DOB to perform the legalization work in the IMD spaces;
b. the Loft Board issued a certification of the legalization work in the IMD spaces pursuant to 29 RCNY § 2-01(d)(2)(xi), and the owner does not have a current permit to perform the legalization work in such IMD units;
c. the DOB had issued a temporary certificate of occupancy for the residential portion of the subject building before the owner applied for a LONO, and the temporary certificate of occupancy expired and has not been renewed;
d. the owner’s monthly reports as required in 29 RCNY § 2-01.1(a)(1)(ii) show no advancement of legalization projects in the building. The Loft Board’s staff may supplement its review of the owner’s monthly reports to consider any relevant information contained in the Loft Board’s files;
e. the IMD building already has a final certificate of occupancy, but the owner has not applied to the Loft Board for removal;
f. the owner applied to the Loft Board for removal of the subject building prior to filing the LONO request, but the owner has not exercised all diligent efforts to submit additional information that was requested by the Loft Board’s staff for processing the removal application; or
g. any other circumstance exists that indicates to the Loft Board’s staff that the owner has failed to take all reasonable and necessary action to obtain a final certificate of occupancy for the residential portions of the IMD spaces to legalize the subject building or to remove the building from the Loft Board’s jurisdiction.