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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Carter's View

The 1920s building that houses the Mars Bar at 11-17 Second Avenue will be demolished in August and when some tenants return in two years, each will pay $10 (tax free) to buy an apartment in the new building, a 12-story luxury high-rise with a total of 64 apartments, according to an article by Jeremy Smerd at crainsnewyork.com today. "An octogenarian playwright, a drag queen and a kvetcher provoked nightly by the bar's cacophony are among the nine tenants in two adjoining buildings at the corner of Second Avenue and East First Street who will receive this sweet deal," the article said.

Ten dollars buys two cold Budweisers at the Mars Bar. For those who live above the graffiti-scarred East Village dive, it's the price of a new, luxury apartment. It will not only be the deal of their lives, but among the last of its kind in the area. Still, it's bittersweet. Their new digs will epitomize the change they resisted for so long.

"'Look at this stuff all around us, all these high-rises. Everywhere you look. Behind us. West of us,' said John Vaccaro, 81, the lone tenant willing to be interviewed. 'It bothers me that New York has changed so much. It's not the New York I came to.' The Second Avenue he came to in the late 1950s was lined with Jewish restaurants and jazz musicians, Mr. Vaccaro said. He founded the Playhouse of the Ridiculous Repertory Club in 1966 and moved into his 2,100-square-foot loft 11 years later. By then the building, once a Yiddish theater, had been seized by the city, as had many others after arsonists-for-hire torched much of the neighborhood. Artists like Mr. Vaccaro reclaimed the abandoned buildings. Eventually, with government subsidies, they were brought up to code and returned to the tax rolls. Tenants' sweat equity and sheer perseverance were rewarded as the city disposed itself of its portfolio. Many were allowed to buy their units for a nominal fee. Developers, meanwhile, salvaged city-owned buildings and parking lots. Some erected luxury apartments. But like the walls of the Mars Bar, the blank canvas that once attracted artists to the neighborhood has been covered," the article said.

Almost no formerly city-owned buildings remain undeveloped, the article continued. "It's the end of an era," said Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Committee, a community housing organization. The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development owns fewer than 800 apartments acquired through tax foreclosure, down from 101,000 in 1981. The last resident-occupied, city-owned building on the Lower East Side is 400 Grand St., Mr. Herrick said. It is part of a 10-parcel, 7-acre site, the largest undeveloped city-owned plot south of 96th Street, to be developed into 1,000 mixed-income units in the next few years. In the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area, from the Bowery to Second Avenue and from East Fifth to Stanton streets, one piece of vacant, city-owned land remains: a tiny lot off East Houston Street.

The area was designated for renewal in 1959, but residents stopped Robert Moses' plans to raze blocks and create a development like Stuyvesant Town on the Lower East Side. Instead, the neighborhood was developed piecemeal, the article said.

The final installment came in the last decade, when developer Avalon Bay Communities built four luxury buildings. Whole Foods Market moved into one on East Houston Street in 2007. The other developments surround Mr. Vaccaro's building, 11-17 Second Ave., which the city sold to BFC Partners in 2002. The same year, 9 Second Ave. was sold to the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a housing organization. In the new, 65-unit building, nine of the 13 affordable apartments will go to the tenants in the existing buildings. The other four will be sold by lottery for around $150,000 to people making less than $64,000, according to BFC Partners.

Donald Capoccia, a principal at BFC, said his company was among the first to rehabilitate city-owned property. It renovated 72 E. Third St. in 1980 after acquiring the building for $1. The company grew. More recently, it developed the high-rise Toren condominium in downtown Brooklyn.

Additional Info About the Building

 
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
Spacious 1 Bedrooms with outdoor space and in-residence w/d View Property
Luxury Homes in Midtown | Newly Renovated Studio-2BR Homes View Property
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