Community Coalition Petitions MTA to Oppose Gracias Mama’s Bid for 162 East Broadway

Posted on: August 3rd, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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A locally vocal coalition of block associations has joined forces in vehement opposition to Gracias Mama, the proposed Mexican restaurant-bar at 162 East Broadway. They’ve appealed the MTA to deny special permission to the applicants for an entrance above the subway station.

With help from the LES Dwellers, the Orchard Street Block Association, the Knickerbocker Tenants Association, and Residents of Two Bridges are collectively on the offensive. Just as the Little Canal cafe opens on its backside.

Gracias Mama, you’ll recall, is the new taqueria dreamed up by co-principals Koorosh Bakhtiar and Nima Garousi. Scandalous is the fact that Garousi’s partner in Gelso & Grand in Little Italy – Hassan Gholizadeh – purchased the building last December for $6.6 million. That led to the departure of two longtime Chinese businesses (newstand and bakery) and the installation of his friend/associate.

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Moving the front door closer to the F line subway entrance – the old Chinese newsstand – was basically an admission – nay, reaction – that the establishment sits within 200 feet of St. Teresa’s church at 16-18 Rutgers. It’s a sly maneuver to escape the additional scrutiny, but one that will create more discussion about the dangers of crowding in this spot.

The new entrance sits directly above the heavily trafficked stairwell of the East Broadway station; it shares the sidewalk with a bus stop for the southbound M9. Furthermore, there are a total of nine known intercity bus depots operating – both legally and illegally – within two blocks, unloading thousands of customers who rely on both of these public transportation access points. There is a constant flow of humanity at any given time with luggage, strollers, wheelchairs, goods deliveries, etc.

The four-level station is the sole terminal for the entire area. The closest stations to this stop are the Grand Street station eight blocks away (1,682 feet) and the Delancey Street station five blocks away (1,720 feet).

Needless to say, the alteration went before Community Board 3 two months ago, and scored approval. A 500-foot ruling at the State Liquor Authority is also forthcoming.

“The decision to relocate its door from East Broadway to Rutgers is not necessary for Gracias Mama’s operation or success,” said Diem Boyd founder of the LES Dwellers in a prepared statement. “It is necessary, however, to obtain a liquor license from the New York State Liquor Authority. The sole purpose of Gracias Mama moving it’s door is to circumvent to 200 Foot Law, which does not permit a liquor license within 200 feet of a church or school.”

Adds Tamara Daley of Orchard Street Block Association, “ Hundreds of people regularly travel to this immediate area for religious services, as there are more than five varied houses of worship within a two block radius of this corner. Local churches, synagogues and Buddhist temples have expressed their apprehension for this plan.”

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“This community is already suffering epidemic levels of severely clogged streets and sidewalks, and feeling the pressure from the numerous legal and illegal charter buses dropping off hundreds of transients into the area. We need immediate relief and mitigation tactics from congestion, not situations that will add to this problem.”

“Another factor to consider is the daily commercial deliveries, taxi and on-demand car service drop off and pick up to this business, using the new entrance on Rutgers Street,” added Christina Zhang of Knickerbocker Village Tenants Association. “Gracias Mama’s delivery trucks and patrons use of on-demand car services (Uber, Lyft, Via, etc) and taxis will snarl vehicular and pedestrian traffic and result in more dangerous situations.”

The community organizations, it should be noted, do support Gracias Mama with a beer-wine license, scaled-back hours, and the “natural” entrance the on East Broadway.

Alongside the MTA appeal, the coalition also contacted the offices Mayor Bill De Blasio, Public Advocate Tish James, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Alice Cancel, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilwoman Margaret Chin, and DOB Borough Commissioner Martin Rebholz to request that they “stand with residents to uphold public safety and deter additional vehicular and pedestrian bottleneck to an area already severely compromised.”

There’s also a petition of protest if you’re so inclined.

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