Mom & Pop Stores Could be Displaced by Redevelopment

by - May 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm -

columbus house1The owners of 95 West 95th Street want to redevelop the bottom two floors of the apartment building with new commercial and community space, but neighbors are upset that they could lose the small stores that are there now. Community Board 7 weighed in last night, voting against the owners’ application and crying foul that the changes were thrust on them at the last minute.

But the community board’s vote, and local residents’ opposition, may not matter. The city planning board told local officials that it expects to rule on the developers’ application despite changes made to the plan before the board says it was able to fully review them.

A rendering of the proposed roof garden.

A rendering of the proposed roof garden.

The building owners, the Witkoff Group, want to add 4,950 square feet of retail space to the building, which is known as Columbus House, and add 17,530 square feet of community space, including a rooftop garden. The redevelopment could displace 4 retailers, including a beloved health food store called Columbus Natural Food.

The owners say they are working with the retailers to give them space in the new development. But at least one of the store owners said at the meeting that the owner hadn’t met with him. Jamil Uddin, an owner of a Subway sandwich shop in the building said he hadn’t been consulted, and his partner interrupted building owner Scott Alper’s speech to the board. Uddin says his store has 7 years to go on its lease. (Alper came over afterward and agreed to meet with Uddin and his partner).

The roof as it is now.

The roof as it is now.

“We do not want big box stores,” Alpert told the board. “We are supportive of mom and pop.”

In short, some neighbors think the new development reminds them too much of the Columbus Square development a few blocks North, which now houses retail behemoths like TJ Maxx, Whole Foods, and Michaels craft store. (To be fair, 4,950 square feet of retail space could not hold a typical big box store.) Lifelong local resident Dawn Sprout called the Columbus House design “just hideous.”

However, some of the people who showed up at the meeting supported the changes. Leslie Burns, the president of the tenant association at Columbus House, said it would brighten up an otherwise dreary space. “We see this as a positive,” she said. “The majority of tenants are for the revisions they are making to our building.”

(photos of renderings by Avi)

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  1. Ellen Mendel says...

    Anne has been the owner of Columbus Naturals for over 15 years (I believe). She has served the neighborhood very well and has many supporters of the wonderful care and work that she does to help people with all kinds of health issues.

    She was never told about this take over project . found out about it by accident, and until today would not have been told about it. This causes many people to think of ‘foul play’ because otherwise all this would have been planned and the occupants informed long ago. The residents of the area feel this is a community and Anne’s health food store, surrounded by several other stores, create a community feeling, enhancing the neighborhood and helping its residents. She has over 3000 signatures attesting to the above. These are all concerned citizens and voters who want to see Ann get a fair deal. This would mean that the landlord communicates with her and honors his commitment to have her as a tenant continue under her extant lease which has two more years to go before expiring; and then raising her rent the allowed amount. This has not happened. Instead she has been treated most unfairly. rudely and callously by a representative of Steve Witkoff, the landlord.

    We want and hope to do all we can to support Anne in this mismanaged situation.

  2. OpinionatedGift says...

    I grew up on the UWS during the 70s. To my mind, the history of the UWS for the last 30 years has been the steady and sure destruction of Mom and Pop businesses.

  3. Doris Kitson says...

    Only the Tenants Board of 95 West 95th St endorses Witkoff’s project. The tenants in the 249 apartments do not. Most of them who know the facts oppose it. This is a landlord who has taken over 3 years to repoint the bricks, causing concrete dust to invade apartments, endangering tenants’ health. Their newly proposed project will be worse and destroy the local businesses that tenants patronize. The majority of tenants have low incomes or are retired on fixed incomes. This project is not suitable for this location.

  4. hyiam youkel says...

    A lease is a lease and it speaks for itself. It does not entitle a commercial tenant any rights other then what is in the lease. So what is the problem. Neighborhhods change as does the populations. So whats the problem. It seems that they (tenants) complain because water penetrates into their apartments or there are loose masonary so that it can kill someone (remember ?? thats the reason the law was changed) but they dont want it fixed because there is dust. The project is not “suitable” for the old tenants but what about the new ones? Just because the law grants you a right to be a stabilzxed tenant does not give you the right to own the property or control it. Please forgive me, I went to far yes we are in a socilist country on the upper west RIGHT? Right!!!!