For further information, contact Lillian Tozzi (212) 908-9573

Neighborhood Group Objects to Questionable Sale of City Property

(New York, October 6, 1999) Hostile takeovers aren't only happening on Wall Street, as former trader Lillian Tozzi has learned. Apparently they also happen on Mulberry Street in Little Italy. The building at 166-170 Mulberry Street, now a city-owned building where Ms. Tozzi grew up, and where her family has lived for sixty years, is being annexed piece by piece, by Da Nico Restaurant at 164 Mulberry Street, a spot frequented by the Mayor Giuliani and his aides.

Since March 1997, Da Nico Restaurant has leased part of the backyard of Ms. Tozzi's building from the city for an outdoor garden. There are no patron complaints, but plenty from the residents about the restaurant's behavior. While often in violation of various city codes, Da Nico does not receive many summonses. Word in the neighborhood is that inspectors leave after being told by the management that they have "friends" in the Mayor's office. Mayor Giuliani would not be happy to hear that a local business was possibly trading on his name regarding laws and codes. Residents attest that the restaurant has been a bad neighbor, refusing to even discuss resident complaints of noise and garbage in the backyard.

Da Nico now occupies so much of the backyard next door, that it is in violation of fire and safety codes, and its lease from the city. The solution? New York City HPD plans to spend up to $70,000.00 est. to create an emergency fire exit, not in Da Nico's building, but through the city-owned one, demolishing a residential apartment. The application for this work came before Community Board 2 last winter, and was disapproved. Since then, HPD has not altered its plans. Contractors showed up on Tuesday, October 5, to start work, but were turned away because they lacked proper work permits.

What's next? HPD is now arranging the sale of the backyard to Da Nico's owner, without publicly offering the property for sale, using open bidding, or holding an auction, as is usually done. And of course, building residents were not consulted. They object to the nightmare in their backyard gaining permanent control over their lives. This application is also on file at HPD. And, after the backyard is sold to Da Nico Restaurant, who would buy the building, except - Da Nico?

L.I.N.A. calls on Mayor Giuliani to stop this closed deal. If the city is determined to sell the property now, let them put it and the building in the TIL (Tenant Interim Lease) program so the residents can buy it. If not, the city has an obligation to sell property in an open and sensible manner. A building and a backyard should stay together. The building entrance and an apartment must not be demolished at city expense for a profit-making business. The residents of 166-170 Mulberry Street have sent out a letter detailing their problems. We support their objections to the piecemeal sale and destructive alteration of the property.