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New: Original SQRD Pizza, on West Broadway

The Spicy Pepperoni slice at Original SQRD Pizza

The hole-in-the-wall Choice Forex currency exchange was at 401 West Broadway for so long and was of so little use to us that we kind of just stopped noticing it was there, which is why it took us so long to notice that it 1) had never reopened and 2) that it had been already replaced in August by a literal hole-in-the-wall slice shop called Original SQRD Pizza. Co-owned by restaurateurs behind two other pizza shops, one of them Prince Street Pizza, the pizzas here are made elsewhere due to lack of space and are delivered ready to be finished up in the small oven.

SQRD only serves square slices that are closer to Detroit-style pizza than the traditional Grandma slice served at other neighborhood pizzerias; a slice is easily a meal for most people, which is a good deal at about $4.50 for most of the slices on their menu—and makes it a perfect thing to grab and eat on your way to Trader Joe’s so you don’t make the mistake of food shopping on an empty stomach. You can get a whole six slice pie for about $30 by either stopping by the shop, which is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, or get it delivered through Slice.

New: Reddy SoHo Flagship on Prince St

Reddy, on Prince St

If you’ve been wondering how a pet brand you’ve never heard of before can afford the old lululemon space on the corner of Prince and Wooster, the answer is that it’s owned by pet retailer behemoth Petco: launched on October 28, the new Reddy SoHo is the first standalone boutique of what its parent company likely hopes to turn into a chain of stores for their in-house dog apparel and accessory brand.

We visited this past weekend with The Popcorn, our Chief Morale Officer, and found it to be full of lots of great options at not obnoxious price points, for those of you with dogs or buying for friends and family with dogs this holiday season.

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Thursday Dispatch

Photo by Rachael Ren on Unsplash

ICYMI yesterday: Our neighbor The Village Sun published a very comprehensive piece on Wednesday’s City Council SoHo/NoHo rezoning, while we shared some of the best testimonies from community members.

People just named Paul Rudd 2021’s Sexiest Man Alive and our sole complaint: what took them so long?!

Hudson Square BID just named their new President and CEO, Samara Karasyk, who was most recently the Chief Policy Officer and Executive Vice President of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. We’re excited to find out what her vision for the neighborhood is, especially with the big new Google campus currently gestating.

Last night was opening night for Lindens, the new modern American restaurant at the Arlo SoHo hotel on Renwick St. Lindens has both indoor and outdoor seating—the latter in a courtyard with heated cabins (?)—and is open Monday-Thursday from 4-10 p.m., Friday from 4-11 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Gubernatorial candidate Leticia James recently followed in the footsteps of likely gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams and came out in support of “Good Cause” eviction protections, which would give most tenants the right to lease renewals and end unlimited rent hikes in non-rent stabilized apartments. Stronger rent control protections have been rocking the Midwest lately and would be nice to see in New York.

The SoHo Grand Hotel‘s just announced their 13th Annual NYE Masquerade Ball and the $349 tickets are already sold out! If $199 for general admission is more your speed, you’re in luck. Black tie attire, masks are mandatory.

If you’re feeling grateful for good things in your life and would like to pass some of that love on, the angels over at God’s Love We Deliver are looking for volunteers to help make thousands of Thanksgiving pumpkin crisps for their clients in three hour shifts starting from today all through Friday the 19th.

R.I.P. Lahore Deli on Crosby


In food, as in life, most things are compromises, but tucked away in a small storefront on Crosby St just below Houston, Lahore Deli was a 24 hour place where you could buy a meal that was fast, cheap, and good—one of downtown’s oldest hidden culinary gems, and it’s just closed this week after 25 years. They seemed to be doing okay even as the number of taxi cabs on the road dwindled over the past few years, but we’re guessing the pandemic-driven drought of area office workers was just too much business lost to keep the lights on.

We’ll miss being able to get a meal for under $5, a gulab jamun for a dollar, and oh, a cup of their extremely perfect chai—considered the best in the city by South Asian cabbies—for just $1.50.

Wednesday Dispatch: 15 Laight St, Blackout Black Friday

Photo by Hannah Krueger on Unsplash

Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou says it’s time to end New York’s abusive “poor tax”:

Right-wing media outlets pumping up a bogus “crime surge” narrative have actively scared lawmakers away from addressing issues like nuisance fees. But trapping low-income people in an endless cycle of debt and incarceration will never reduce crime or make our communities safer and may well have the opposite effect.

If you’ve been wondering what’s been going on at the former home of the Tribeca Film Festival at Varick and Sixth Ave, Commercial Observer has a look at the brand new 15 Laight St: eight stories of glass, 100,000 square feet of potential office space, with bike storage complete with lockers and showers as well as a planned gym in the basement.

Wondering if it’s a good time to have a new office building though since according to a study by the Partnership For New York City, only 1 in 6 Manhattan office workers will be back in the office full-time by January. Also:

Half of the city’s largest employers now expect some of their workforce to spend a majority of their time working remotely. About one in three expect to reduce their NYC office space and roughly one in six said they would cut their New York City-based staff.

Reddit’s Million-Strong Antiwork Community Wants to Blackout Black Friday. Community mod Daisy says r/antiwork “invites us to be critical of a whole network of norms and institutions that stand in the way of a more joyful society and true self-determination.”

The Fair Fight PAC, led by Stacey Abrams, just wiped out $212 million of medical debt owed by 108,000 people in the states of Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

NYC’s Department of Transportation has removed the Donald Trump “Adopt A Highway” sign on the Hudson Parkway, which has been repaired many times due to vandalism and has been the focus of a petition for removal for quite a while. Apparently its contract expired on Nov 7th and will not be renewed.

Luxury Swiss watchmaker F.P. Journe is moving from Madison Ave to three floors of 55 Mercer Street, a townhouse between Grand and Broome, for $225 a square foot in rent. “The location will include a fully stocked bar and cigar lounge for its upscale patrons.”

Yesterday’s City Council SoHo/NoHo Upzoning Meeting

Window with SoHo NoHo sign

We missed the first few hours of yesterday’s seven hour long City Council hearing on the proposed SoHo/NoHo upcoming plan but managed to sit through the last half, which was all testimony from members of the community and beyond. We reached out to many of the speakers to ask if we could run some of their comments here for those of you who were unable to attend and will update this post as we hear from more.

Vittoria Fariello, Democratic District Leader in Lower Manhattan:

We need to be clear that this is NOT about affordable housing.  There is a much greater likelihood that this will generate displacement rather than create affordable housing.

Instead, we should be focusing our efforts on sites such as 5 World Trade Center where we could have up to 1300 affordable units in a truly resource-rich neighborhood that would not displace a single person. Or 2 Howard Street in SOHO that could provide around 300 units of affordable housing in SOHO.

Emily Hellstrom, artist, SoHo resident and VP of the SoHo Broadway BID:

Our community and many organizations I sit on have come to the table with real compromises yet ALMOST NO changes to this plan have been made throughout this ENTIRE process.

No, the only voice that matters here today is money. At the root of this rotten rezoning is money: a commercial real estate bail-out cloaked in virtue signaling. Trickle-down housing DOES NOT WORK where market forces do not follow the normal paths, and huge Real Estate interests have millions of dollars to spend exploiting loopholes. During Envision SoHo/NoHo, I sat next to someone high up in Vornado Realty Trust who openly advocated for allowances for rooftop penthouses. One of the loopholes? Rooftop penthouses.

Michele Varian, SoHo resident and small business owner:

As a small business rep at the dozens of the SoHo NoHo Advisory Group meetings, I was “in the room” where many, many great ideas were put forth regarding the future of SoHo by residents and small business owners, while commercial real estate reps contributed few new ideas or suggestions.

What I am now aware of is that I was in the wrong room. Commercial and real estate power brokers were busy making lucrative back room deals that did not reflect any of the hours and hours and hours of “community input” that the ULURP process requires.

(Read her full statement in Varian’s Op-Ed, This Zoning Plan Is Not For Residents.)

Jean Standish, VP of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors:

If the SoHo/NoHo upzoning is implemented, it would actually make these neighborhoods richer, less diverse, and more expensive, and likely destroy much of the affordable housing and push out longtime tenants and businesses, all the while allowing grossly out-of-scale new construction and big-box chain stores. It provides multiple incentives and loopholes for developers to avoid building any affordable housing at all, but would enable and encourage huge commercial structures, luxury condo construction, and hotels. 

Anita Jorgensen, SoHo resident and local small business owner:

Our community is starved for parks and starved for schools. The plan does not address any quality of life issues.

The plan includes no protections for small businesses, like mine. Instead they will be pushed out by the high rents that only big box and luxury retail can afford.

This plan will result in the destruction of SoHo. It will become vastly more expensive and become another bland glass box neighborhood filled with “airport” shops. Village Preservation has proposed an alternative rezoning plan, which I support.

Lorna Nowvé, Interim Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council:

Over the past 55 years, many historic districts have been rezoned after landmarking, in order to bring the underlying zoning into better compliance with the LPC’s regulatory standards. It is sound urban planning to do so.

If adopted, the SoHo NoHo Rezoning Plan will be the first time that HDC is aware of where the underlying zoning of a historic district is deliberately adjusted to be less aligned with the existing built environment. This disjunction preplans a conflict between city regulations and undermines the preservation purpose explicitly put forward by landmark designation. It sets a terrible and damaging precedent.

Adam Brodheim, historic preservation student at Columbia University:

The only threat to Soho is to think that 200 years of development was the perfect amount.  That somehow we, as humans, have found the precise and perfect moment to stop the clock and keep Soho preserved in amber forever.  That in the midst of a historic housing crisis this neighborhood filled statistically with whiter and wealthier residents should stagnate and not do its part to help.

I am a preservationist who believes that in New York preservation and development work best together.  I look forward to seeing a Soho with affordable housing and the diversity of residents that come with that.  I know that this rezoning plan will make Soho a better reflection of the equitable world that we all seek to live in.  I can’t wait to walk through a Soho with new buildings that pay homage to the past while looking boldly into a more egalitarian future.

To make sure that happens I have two comments: 1) we should lower the commercial densities to encourage residential development and 2) we should expand community preference beyond CB2 to target a more diverse set of New Yorkers.

Yukie Ohta, SoHo resident, and Founder and Director of the SoHo Memory Project:

The plan is opposed by leading citywide housing and tenant groups and city, state, and national preservation organizations. Over a dozen community and tenant groups have offered a community alternative rezoning plan which would allow construction of true affordable housing, without tenant displacement, out-of-scale development, and without big box chain stores forcing out local businesses.

Approving this sweeping proposal would not only greatly impair our community’s quality of life while providing no community benefits, it would provide little if any affordable housing, AND it would also destroy the qualities that draw people to SoHo, to the detriment of ALL stakeholders.

Stephen Wanta, architect, SoHo resident and local small business owner:

That this plan has been proposed after effectively abandoning what had indeed been a “robust stakeholder engagement” is insulting to the many residents here who participated in the many Envision meetings. Based on the proposed rezoning, the supporting stakeholders referred to by City Planning appear to be overleveraged developers and commercial landlords that do not live in this neighborhood. Add to that an up-zoning in a historic district is in itself a terrible precedent that should not be the result of plan railroaded through this process.

Equally, if there is a desire to resolve the JLWQA issue—than spend the time with the real stakeholders to create a plan that fully addresses this quite difficult issue.

If you are indeed letting the community speak, we just have in the form of the new officials we have elected, in particular Chris Marte. Please vote no on this proposal and work on this in the next term in a more considered way instead of ruining this iconic neighborhood just so that the mayor has a nice parting gift to real estate interests.

Margaret Baisley, attorney, SoHo resident and small business owner:

What we want to see is a compromise. We are willing to trade some upcoming and increased construction for new housing here, and inclusionary housing. But paying for the right to live here, when people have already lived here and paid dearly to do so, is simply unacceptable.

I first came to SoHo in 1977. I know people who bought lofts years ago. Many here are older and their lofts are their nest eggs—their retirement investments. Don’t make seniors pay $250,000 for the privilege of living in the lofts they have owned for 30 years. Or for the privilege of selling those lofts in retirements.

Todd Fine, historical preservation advocate and PhD candidate in History at the CUNY-Graduate Center:

People say that Lower Manhattan residents don’t want affordable housing, but the truth is that for the last year the local community has been desperately appealing to maximize affordability at 5 World Trade Center, a public site where government is allowing Larry Silverstein to build a luxury tower. The Mayor’s Office holds half of the seats on the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and if they were serious they could work toward more affordable units at this one site than the entire rezoning would produce.

Sorry for the link to the NY Post, but they did cover the earlier half of the meeting, with testimony from local politicians mostly opposed to the rezoning, like Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman.

If you were unable to attend the meeting and would like to give your testimony to the City Council, please email them what you have say by Friday, November 13 at landusetestimony@council.nyc.gov.

Op-Ed: This Zoning Plan is Not For Residents

Michele Varian's former SoHo location
Michele Varian’s former SoHo location

by Michele Varian

My name is Michele Varian, and I am a 25 year residential tenant and small business owner here in SoHo. I share a rent-stabilized JLWQA loft with my artist certified husband, where we both live and work. We have heard nothing from HPD, who were incapable of helping us when we were horribly harassed by the most recent owners of our building!

Our affordable loft created the opportunity for me to start my design and manufacturing business and eventually, open a retail store in SoHo. My store grew to showcase not only my own work, but that of over 100 other mostly local and locally manufactured design brands, a contributing economic driver for many other small businesses. It became an international destination visited annually by business delegations from around the world – Germany, Brazil, Japan and even Beverly Hills. Businesses like mine were what they wanted to emulate in their own cities.

Unfortunately, I was forced to move my shop and manufacturing out of SoHo due to the increasingly burdensome high rent. I moved my shop to an area in Brooklyn with lower rents, and now my store, business and the block I moved to are flourishing as the new “it” place to visit for cool retail. Because I now have the profits to re-invest in my employees and business, versus owing every last cent of potential profit to my landlord, I can now consider scaling my business to additional locations,

As a small business rep at the dozens of the SoHo NoHo Advisory Group meetings, I was “in the room” where many, many great ideas were put forth regarding the future of SoHo by residents and small business owners, while commercial real estate reps contributed few new ideas or suggestions.

What I am now aware of is that I was in the wrong room. Commercial and real estate power brokers were busy making lucrative back room deals that did not reflect any of the hours and hours and hours of “community input” that the ULURP process requires.

Unlike big real estate, we do not have the ears of elected officials. DCP has made clear their vision for the future of SoHo: It does not include residents – AFFORDABLE or otherwise.

Many officials know this proposal will not create affordable housing, but a carefully crafted PR campaign by real estate lobbyists and gas lighting by DCP has made any opposition to up-zoning for supposed affordable housing political Kryptonite.

I look forward to accountability in a few years, when very few if any affordable homes have been created due to the endless loopholes in DCP’s plan, and those affordable homes that currently exist disappear, including mine as we are pushed out to make way for empty luxury residential and more offices.

Additional points:

The city’s resistance to acknowledging Chinatown’s inclusion in the up-zoning is truly hypocritical considering that my “SoHo” shop’s rent was increased to cover the fees charged for its being a part of the CHINATOWN BID.

Whether this terrible zoning plan is implemented, much damage has already been done by just the PROSPECT of an up-zoning so favorable to real estate interests. These same players who overpromised the potential income to banks based on a manipulated and inflated “market” value, proceeded to snub offers by banks to refinance during the pandemic, which would have allowed the asking rents on spaces to be reduced. Instead they continue to leave many storefronts empty versus lowering the rents to levels that would attract tenants, creating and continuing our current high-rent blight.

I could not afford to start my business in today’s SoHo. NYC no longer provides opportunity to scrappy, young dreamers, only venture funded Frankenstein “museums” and “experiential retail”. The reason for this is the greed and lack of vision for the future of officials in the pockets of real estate interests.

Michele Varian is a designer, micro-manufacturer and entrepreneur; she is also a buyer, curator, retailer and shop owner, a tenants’ rights advocate, a small business and community activist, a proudly native Detroiter, and a passionately longtime New Yorker.

Op-Ed: Rezoning Is The Right Thing To Do

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

by Denny Salas

The day after I lost my race for city council in the Democratic primary, I attended the first in-person community board meeting concentrating on rezoning NoHo/SoHo since the pandemic forced all meetings to be held virtually.

The crowd that day was rowdy and a little indignant at any individual or governmental agency espousing the benefits of creating more housing for working-class families. They shouted over governmental officials, disrupted their presentation, and would not allow supporters of the plan to express themselves.

It was not a welcoming scene.

Despite that environment, I stood up—and have continued since—to voice my support for the plan because, simply, it is the right thing to do.

In 2020, New Yorkers were exposed to the generational inequities that have befallen communities of color and have restricted their ability to achieve upward social mobility. One glaring policy that has been used is the creation of wealthy enclaves that limit the building of new housing—especially affordable housing—with the misconception that existing homeowners’ property values will be driven down due to the new housing stock and the occupation of working-class families, especially families of color.

This ideal is racist, but it has been ingrained in our social fabric since our nation’s founding. And all you have to do to realize how removing barriers in housing can help people is to look at my family’s story.

We grew up poor and with minimal resources, but when my siblings and I reached school age, my parents lied about our address so that we could attend a neighboring district with better schools.

That lie allowed us to receive a rigorous academic curriculum where my older sister is now a Ph.D. in Psychology and William Fulbright Scholar; my younger sister, who has a Masters in Economics, runs her own investment advisory firm; and my older brother, who speaks three languages, knows how to code, is a long-haul truck driver who was indispensable delivering much-needed goods across our country during the pandemic.

While running for city council during this past year, I was very fortunate to speak to several of my neighbors who opposed this rezoning. I understand their fears about NoHo/SoHo becoming a retail boondoggle, and if city planning makes the necessary adjustments of lowering the commercial density allowance in the current plan, then those fears will be alleviated.

I also learned why they moved to this neighborhood, why they love it, and why some stayed throughout the decades. And, in learning their stories, I have been made a better person and inspired by their journeys.

By rezoning NoHo/SoHo, these same residents can have a chance to inspire kids from working-class families like mine, provide access to better schools, and allow them an opportunity to achieve their American Dream.

It is time for all of us who posted a black square on Instagram or retweeted the hashtag #BLM to stand up and fight towards righting our past wrongs.

Here, in NYC, fight to remove exclusionary zoning practices so that working-class families can succeed.

Denny Salas was a candidate in the most recent Democratic Primary, running for the city council seat that represents our area, that is currently occupied by Margaret Chin and was subsequently won by Christopher Marte in the general election.

Report: November 2021 CB2 SLA Licensing

Photo by Lerone Pieters on Unsplash

Attending a Community Board SLA Licensing meeting over Zoom is less exciting than attending one in person—for one, you don’t get to spent a few hours surrounded anxious restaurateurs and their lawyers sweat while waiting for their item to be called so they can find out whether or not they can actually make real money or just money on their investment—but on the plus side, you can attend it in pajamas from the comfort of your own home!

There were two no-shows from our area: Dos Caminos SoHo (seeking corporate change to pre-existing license) and Zutto Japanese American Bar, which was applying for a new full-liquor license at a new location on Broome. The most interesting no-show was P.F. Chang’s, a large national chain which is the Olive Garden of Chinese food; they’re applying for a very large space in the West Village and not a single person on their side showed up, but residents either opposed to them or hoping to get clear stipulations about future garbage removal did.

Saito on Kenmare had Daisuke Nakazawa (principal) and Michael Kelly (attorney) appearing on its behalf; these are the same people who’ve run the two previous Japanese restaurants in the space, except that the current space will be expanded. They agreed to stipulations that they will not be doing road bed dining (impossible in location), will return to the board if they want sidewalk dining in the future, and will never apply for a full liquor license as they will only be serving sake and soju.

Next was the item we were most excited about on the agenda: Mari Makan on Spring St. Another Indonesian restaurant from the Vongerichten clan, this time headlined by Ochi Vongerichten (who was born in Indonesia), it’s in the building right next to her husband Cedric’s restaurant Wayan. We heard from Vongerichten, Kade Siapno (general manager), and Martin Mehler (attorney) in their application for a full liquor license; they had to clarify that the space was not the one currently occupied by a frame shop (sharing the same address), has been empty for years, and will have neither sidewalk dining nor road bed seating (the latter because of a fire hydrant). Mari Makan will have six tables with twenty seats, five seats at the bar, and will apply European technique with a focus on seafood and vegetarian food, with a raw bar and a crude menu.

Last was the item we’ve been most curious about: Casa di Angelo, in the space occupied by Angelo’s of Mulberry from 1902 till March 2020. We confirmed with principal Iyad Hamsho that none of the previous Angelo’s owners are involved, though one of his new partners, Bruno Brancaleone, was a waiter at Angelo’s for over thirty years. They agreed to the following stipulations: 11 p.m. closing on weekdays, midnight on weekends, with the accordion doors closed at 9 p.m. Music is recorded only, no televisions, they’re not applying for outdoor seating currently but using the outdoor restaurant plans for now: 18-20 max seating in the road bed, with no speakers outside.

Tonight’s CB2 Meeting: SoHo BID Plan

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

If you’re free tonight at 6:30, please consider attending Community Board 2‘s joint session of the Parks & Waterfront and Traffic & Transportation committees over Zoom, as the SoHo Broadway BID will be officially presenting its controversial Public Realm Vision + Framework Plan to the board.

There are many things to like about the plan—it takes into account SoHo’s already horrible and unsustainable traffic and noise levels, encourages the widening of sidewalks for increased walkability and better street life—but as Sean Sweeney of SoHo Alliance has pointed out, its proponents are attempting to increase the remit of the BID to include other parallel streets but they’re all residents and property owners on Broadway, so naturally the plan benefits them most of all.

However you feel about the plan, whether you’re for or against it, or haven’t made up your mind yet, please consider attending. If you can’t attend but would like to make sure the board knows your thoughts on the matter, you can send them directly to the board, to SoHo Alliance at info@sohoalliance.org if you’re against it, or to info@sohobroadway.org if you support it. We will be attending tonight and posting our recap of it tomorrow afternoon.