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Babbo's Future Unclear as Board Rejects Mario Batali's Zoning Request

By Andrea Swalec | April 12, 2013 6:49am

GREENWICH VILLAGE — The popular Mario Batali-owned restaurant Babbo needs a special zoning permit to continue serving its highly sought-after Italian fare — but the local community board wants the city to think twice about its renewal in the face of complaints over noise and fumes.

Community Board 2 refused this week to support a 10-year extension of a waiver Babbo is required to have to operate on its block of Waverly Place, which is officially zoned only for residential use.

Batali himself chimed in on CB2's decision via Twitter on Friday morning.

Asked by DNAinfo.com New York how he would characterize the situation, he tweeted "In progress toward peaceful resolution."

Some Twitter users came to Babbo's defense.

"It seems like you are doing everything to be considerate. I think your plans will help. Bravo mario!" user @Toga1601 wrote.

"@BabboRistorante neighbors shld be honored to have Babbo nearby. World class restaurant and owner," Twitter user @LarryFundler wrote. 

Board members said at a Wednesday night meeting of its land use committee that the city should force Batali and company to show they have solved neighbor-reported problems with idling limos, smashed bottles and cooking exhaust at the 110 Waverly Place restaurant before its 10-year zoning variance is rubber-stamped.

"You should have to prove [the solutions] are working before you get the permit," committee chairman Tobi Bergman told restaurant representatives.

Babbo neighbors Doris Diether and Nuri Akgul have battled the restaurant for more than a decade, arguing it does not belong on the quiet block.

Akgul brought two lawyers to the CB2 meeting, one of whom said vibrations and noise from Babbo's air conditioning and ventilation systems are so powerful they have left the retired 57-year-old suffering from a sleep disorder.

Babbo attorney Deirdre Carson said the restaurant is planning extensive measures to respond to neighbors' complaints, including extending the kitchen's exhaust duct to reduce cooking fumes and having soundproofing materials installed around the exhaust fan.

Declining to disclose how much Babbo has spent because of their neighbors' gripes, Carson said the restaurant has already trained a video camera on the curb to ensure that garbage and recycling are not picked up in the middle of the night, as well as hired a fleet of experts: an architect, a mechanical engineer, a structural engineer and an acoustical engineer.

CB2 will ask the city Board of Standards and Appeals, which has the final say on the permit, to find an alternative to granting Babbo a 10-year variance renewal, perhaps by renewing the permit for a single year, or by approving it with new stipulations.

The variance expired in December, but Babbo is currently operating on a temporary permit while applying for the renewal.

A Waverly Place resident who declined to provide her name defended the restaurant, saying management had been responsive whenever she griped about garbage and delivery trucks coming to the restaurant too early in the morning.

"I like having Babbo on our block," she said. "They have been good neighbors."