Cafeteria Tribeca, Source of Noise Concerns, Gets Landmarks OK

Rendering of proposed design for Cafeteria Tribeca, at West Broadway and Reade Street. Rendering: Lawrence G. Jones Architects

Jun. 11, 2014

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission gave its unanimous approval for the design of Cafeteria Tribeca, the restaurant planned for West Broadway at Reade Street, despite Community Board 1’s concerns that it would add to noise problems for its neighbors.

The 185-seat, two-story restaurant, a spinoff of Chelsea's popular Cafeteria restaurant, is going into the site formerly occupied by the restaurant MaryAnn's, next to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Of particular concern to the community board was the proposed glass front, nearly 100 feet long, that would face West Broadway. CB1 had objected to the amount of glass, which would open like garage doors to create an open-air restaurant. The board noted in its resolution that noise from the place would be “intolerable.”

“CB 1 recommends rejection because of the noise,” said Robert Tierney, the chair of the commission. “That’s not relevant to this.”

In April of last year, when approval of Cafeteria Tribeca’s liquor license came before CB1’s Tribeca Committee, neighbors bothered by two nearby Reade Street establishments, Sazon and Ward III, expressed their worries about Cafeteria moving into the space. CB1 gave its advisory approval, having heard promises from co-owner Mark Thomas Amadei that his restaurant would be sensitive to noise concerns—even promising to pay for soundproof windows. Having read last month of the restaurant’s design, several neighbors wrote letters to the community board expressing their renewed worries.

But at the LPC hearing, the discussion focused on historic precedents for the design, and whether the architect, Laurence G. Jones, drew ideas from other buildings in Tribeca.

“The signage takes inspiration from some older signage in the neighborhood,” Jones told the committee during his presentation. The canopy on the building would be similar to the “canopies across the street,” he added.

Initially, some commissioners, such as Roberta Washington, said that the design for Cafeteria would not be a good fit for the neighborhood.

“Somehow it doesn’t feel like it was in this district before,” Washington said, adding that it would be a “jarring” addition to the street.

Commissioner Margery Perlmutter expressed a similar view.

“When I look at this building, it reminds me of the Meatpacking District,” she said. “Where is your reference point?”

Of particular concern for Perlmutter, and other commissioners, was the building’s glazed white brick, which she argued does not exist elsewhere in the neighborhood.

“White glazed brick is a fatally flawed building material,” said Commissioner Frederic Bland. “We could recommend some other material that replicates the whiteness.”

Still, Bland was in favor of the design, arguing that the architect would be hard pressed to conform to other buildings on the street.

“West Broadway is really a polyglot of many things,” he said. “I don’t think our role is to invest every little detail. This is legitimate because it is there. It is a huge improvement on what [was] there in many ways. The building needs to be consistent within itself, and to me it is.”

Despite her initial misgivings about the design, Washington also voiced her approval.

“We have approved lots of buildings like nothing else in the neighborhood,” she said. “It is making a statement because it’s different. I think it’s approvable. It does no harm.”