Proposed Gourmet Garage Exit Ramp Meets Community Board Resistance

The owners of Gourmet Garage want to put a ramp, rather than stairs alone, at this door of the Franklin Street side of their store, due to open by September. The main entrance is on Broadway side. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jul. 27, 2015

UPDATE: On Aug. 4, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved the ramp.

While residents of eastern Tribeca have been eagerly awaiting the long-delayed opening of a Gourmet Garage at Broadway and Franklin Streets, a Community Board 1 committee earlier this month was less than welcoming.

Their objection is over a ramp that the owners want to build on the Franklin Street side of their store.

The stores space, with a main entrance at 366 Broadway, is a long one: 125 feet from the front door to the registers at the other end of the store. And the owners visualize customers with strollers and grocery carts fighting past incoming shoppers as they make their way to the door on Broadway. What those customers need, they say, is a ramp conveniently placed outside a side door on Franklin Street.

But exterior additions to the pristinely maintained, 114-year-old building, located in the Tribeca East Historic District, need Landmarks Preservation Commission approval and CB1’s Landmarks Committee, advisory to the commission, was decidedly against the ramp.

The committee often, if reluctantly, approves ramps when they are legally required for handicap access. But with that access already in place at the Broadway entrance, they saw the ramp as an unbecoming and unnecessary appendage to the building.

“The building is too important,” said committee member Marc Ameruso. “They already have [handicap] accessibility. It’s not necessary.”

“When it’s just to help consumers move heavier [carts] I have difficulty in seeing that as a solution,” said the committee’s chair, Roger Byrom, suggesting that the owners have alternatives to a ramp.

The committee, which unanimously rejected the ramp in its advisory resolution to the Landmarks Commission, said the owners should either put the ramp inside the building or provide a lift.

Jason Gold, the architect in charge of the project, told the committee that an internal ramp would require “massive demolition” as well as an alteration to the door that the Landmarks Commission would not allow. And a lift was viewed as impractical.

Following the committee’s rejection, Gourmet Garage co-owner Andy Arons, who said he plans to open the store in late August or early September, told the Trib he was surprised by the rejection. “The ramp is really small,” he said of the 20-foot addition. “It’s on a slope going down so it’s not the traditional kind that’s a mile long.” The Broadway store is the owners seventh to open in Manhattan.

Arons vehemently rejected the claim that the ramp would help the store sell more goods, saying he recalled the difficulties he had with his own late father, navigating with a wheel chair.

“Wheeling him around I thought it’s no fun to be stuck on one side of a hundred people with the door over there,” he said. “And it’s the same thing with moms with strollers.”

The Landmarks Commission is scheduled to consider the application on Aug. 4.