Orchard and Ludlow Building Mess Baffles Community

Construction mess dominates Orchard St. landscape.

Construction mess dominates Orchard St. landscape.

by Gregory M. White

Sept. 10, 2008

The once cozy tenement streets of Ludlow and Orchard are now in the shadows of emerging tower developments and another is looming. The fate of the building at 180 Orchard St. stretching back to Ludlow St. is rife with speculation and hearsay.

Construction has been held back for at least a month. Samantha Battista of the recently moved Mint Julep when asked if she has seen construction at the site says, “I don’t think I ever have.”

Gabriel Lockey, a server at Max Fish, agreed. “There hasn’t been construction for at least two months,” he says. He continues, “Its weird because they were here everyday for a while and then it just stopped.”

A stop order has been in place, according to the New York City Department of Building records, due to the use of a crane without permit at the site.

Melissa Lowe, a clerk at the neighboring Earth Matters food store and café, says that locals, “complain a lot about the neighborhood noise,” and that they are, “not very happy.”

According to New York City Department of Building records, there has been a permit granted for plumbing and mechanical work on Aug. 28.

And while this work is a return to normalcy, if Masami Tomihisa of the Pink Poney restaurant is correct, the community has a lot more noise pollution to look forward to.

“The foundation is done all wrong. Whoever buys the building will have to tear it down.”

The prospects for what’s to come thereafter might be even more.

Lockey says, “People said it was going to be 30 floors.”

“I heard they have a permit to build 30 to 40 stories high,” Tomihisa says.
Roberto Ragone , Executive Director of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, a non-profit organization for the economic growth of the area, says, “What I had heard was unclear whether the current developer was purchasing aerial rights.”

Aerial rights are the rights to build higher in an area. They are subject to zoning rules. Ragone says, “There are no real height limits in the LES. The zoning restrictions are from 1961.”

Ragone says he feels that there is some truth to the rumors that, if the building is to go higher than the original plans, more construction will be necessary. He says, “It sounds like the entire thing would have to come down, that’s my understanding.”

There is real concern about the impact this construction is having on neighborhood businesses and residents. The Ludlow Orchard Community Organization, or L.O.C.O., is combating the construction at the site. They describe their goals on their website as, “We believe that we need to get the people of this neighborhood together, to stand up for ourselves and demand action and accountability, in order to stem the tide of gentrification that is forcing members of this unique community to disperse.”

Ragone says, “When there is a construction site small businesses feel like it’s a Russian roulette of sorts.” He continues, “There is no requirement that developers accommodate small businesses.” Ragone is concerned of “proper visibility” for some the local shops. He says, “With scaffolding there must be a sensitivity to local businesses.”

Ragone also notes that some residents feel, “the block looks like an eyesore.”

The labeled contractor for the site, Palisades Construction LLC, failed to respond to both e-mails and phone calls to comment. Community Board 3 District manager Susan Stetzer also did not comment referencing previous conversations to other media outlets on the issue.

A community board meeting that could potentially cover the subject is scheduled for Sept. 23rd.

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