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Inwood Residents Worry Brazilian Steakhouse Will Be a Nightclub in Disguise

By Carla Zanoni | November 17, 2010 10:53am

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — A massive Brazilian steakhouse that plans to open in the historic Seaman-Drake arch has some residents concerned it's a nightclub in disguise.

Churrascaria Amores plans to open an approximately 7,000-square-foot restaurant at the property on 5065 Broadway, near West 216th Street, which includes the historic arch. But that's too much space for a simple restaurant, some residents say.

"How do the owners plan to fill a 7,000-square-foot restaurant?" asked Inwood resident Miriam Walker, 33. "That's not a neighborhood restaurant."

The restaurant owners, who also own nearby Sazones, Vin-Tich and Tobaco y Ron, did not respond to requests for comment. Earlier this year, they said they hoped to one day turn the area into "Manhattan's next Meatpacking District."

The changing face of upper Broadway has many Inwood residents excited about new dining and shopping options on the previously desolate stretch, but the changes have some concerned about a resurgence of crime and quality of life issues.

Residents were particularly worried about the restaurant's design, which includes two rooftop spaces. They fear it could create excessive noise for two apartment buildings on Park Terrace East that overlook Broadway.

Residents are still reeling from the former Passions Lounge, a hotspot that stood across the street from the Seaman-Drake arch until it shut down five years ago amid a swirl of drug activity and noise complaints.

Before that, another club called Sugar Shack succumbed to the same fate on the same corner.

In addition to previous problems in the area, some residents say they are concerned the new restaurant might overtax already strained police resources.

"If the restaurant does follow the law, which would be wonderful, how will it assure the public that it will restrain its clientele from sitting in parked and double parked cars in front of the establishment with radios blasting after 11:00 p.m., which has been the case down on Dyckman Street, where the residents have received very little support from the authorities?" asked 62-year-old John Emmanuel, an Inwood resident of three years.

Andrew Shell, the real estate agent who facilitated the 20-year lease between the arch and property owner Salvatore Mantione, said he sees the restaurant as a positive addition to the neighborhood.

"There was nothing up here ten years ago and now ten years after, there are so many places to eat," Shell said. "I call it restaurant row on Dyckman Street and now we have Broadway turning into restaurant row, too."

Shell did not disclose the monthly lease cost.

But he told DNAinfo last year that the owner was asking for $17,000 per month for the space, which includes the 19th Century scaled replica of the Arc de Triomphe, a garage and the adjoining retail space formerly occupied by a child-modeling agency.

Shell said the new leaseholders have promised to restore the arch, which was crafted from marble back in 1859 but has been covered up with layers of paint and graffiti.

News of the promised restoration did little to quell concerns by some in the neighborhood that Inwood's unofficial landmark could be altered for the worse.

"Enough is enough, that arch is to Inwood what the Eiffel tower is to the French or the Coliseum is to the Italians," said Javier Perez, 46, who has lived in Inwood since 1981. "We need to assert community control here and do whatever is necessary to protect our arch from idiots in the future."

The owners of Churrascaria Amores are scheduled to present their business plan to the Community Board 12 Economic Development committee in December, after postponing their presentation by a month.

The public will be allowed to weigh in on the application.