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Mars Bar Will Close (Temporarily!) to Make Way for New Apartments

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People who think the old East Village is dead probably love the strip of ragged low-rise buildings on the west side of Second Avenue between Houston and 1st Streets, home to legendary dive Mars Bar, the building with the spray-painted 7 1/2 address and other neighborhood icons. This block has remained immune to gentrification, but it looks like some vaccine appointments got missed this year! The Local East Village reports that BFC Partners, builders of luxury condos like Noho's 48 Bond and Downtown Brooklyn's Toren, plans to renovate part of the row and add new market-rate housing. This will cause the temporary closure of Mars Bar and its neighboring businesses. Mars Bar's owner is cool with that. Deep breaths, everyone.

BFC will head to Community Board 3 tomorrow night with its plans for 9 Second Avenue and 11-17 Second Avenue. According to the LEV, the plan is to combine the structures and build a new addition, perhaps bringing the height all the way up to 12 stories (though wouldn't demolition make more sense given the condition of the buildings?). That's allowed under zoning because the developer will get bonuses for including affordable housing, which in this case will be 12 apartments (compared to 48 market-rate units). There are 9 low-income families currently in the buildings, so they'll get first dibs on the apartments, which could be sold to them for $1 each. East Village affordable housing: cheaper than a cup of coffee!

There's a bit of debate over the number of low-income apartments, but the project has the vocal support of the tenants and the businesses, even if they'll have to relocate/close during the two years of construction. Mars Bar owner Hank Penza says he'll wind up with a space three or four times the size of the current bar. Oh, he also said this: "They won't choke me. I didn't get off the boat yesterday with a pound of spaghetti in my hand." Famous last words? We'll have to wait and see. The approval process for this whole kit and caboodle still has a long way to go.

· Plan Would Add Low Income Housing [The Local East Village]