Plan for New Tribeca Eatery, Cafeteria, Raises Noise Concerns

Rendering of proposed design for Cafeteria Tribeca. Most of the restaurant will front onto West Broadway, with an entrance near the corner of Reade Street. Rendering: Lawrence G. Jones Architects, via The Tribeca Trib

May. 16, 2014

It's sight lines and design decisions, not noise levels and neighborhood nuisance complaints that are the usual concerns of local preservationists. But when the architect for Cafeteria Tribeca, the restaurant planned for West Broadway, at Reade Street, came before Community Board 1's Landmarks Committee last week, the members could already hear the rush of racket complaints.

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. The proposed second level of the eatery is faced with light-colored, glazed brick rather than the orange stucco of its predecessor. A cornice and canopy would also be added. While the building would maintain the same four-window scheme on the second floor, the ground-level facade, nearly 100 feet long, would be glass panels that can be raised like garage doors, creating an open-air restaurant.

"I don't know if you're familiar," committee co-chair Roger Byrom instructed architect Lawrence Jones, "but restaurants and bars that like to open their windows have had a lot of resistance because this is a residential, mixed-use area."

In particular, the committee pointed out that Sazon, the restaurant a few doors down at 105 Reade St., has been the perennial target of noise complaints for years, and the bar Ward III, next door to the site, has also been singled out as a problem.

The committee predicted a tough time for Cafeteria's owners when they come to CB1's Tribeca Committee to request a liquor license.

"That will be an interesting discussion," said Michael Levine, CB1's planning consultant.

Even on aesthetic grounds, the committee decided, the long length of glass did not fit with the Tribeca South Historic District.

"Do you know of anything [in the historic district] that's a hundred feet long that's the size of these windows that open up to the street?" committee member Marc Ameruso asked the architect. "These are twice the size of any place that I know of."

Plans for a residential building on that site, with an all-glass ground floor, had already been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2010. (The project was later abandoned by the Cosmopolitan Hotel, which owned the property.) Jones argued that his design introduces many elements found in Tribeca, including the glass store fronts seen on nearby buildings as well as the one that stood in that very spot in the 1800s.

"We're trying to harken back to what had been there before," Jones said. 

Overall, the committee said they had no objection to most of the design, including the canopy and the subtle signage over the corner entrance. They voted 5-1 to approve it, while noting their objection to the amount of glass on the building's West Broadway side and the likely objections of neighbors over the potentially noisy, open-air frontage.

The community board's opinion is advisory to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which postponed a presentation on the project that was to be given on Tuesday, May 20.