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City O.K.’s Little Italy owner’s plan to stabilize damaged building

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Here’s some gouda news about that damaged Little Italy building that was slated for emergency demolition.

No. 188 Grand St. — which until recently was the home of Alleva Dairy, the nation’s oldest cheese shop — looks like it has a strong chance of being saved after all.

Andrew Bench, a representative of Stabile Realty, the property’s owner, said the Department of Buildings has O.K.’d a plan to stabilize the old tenement, which dates to 1900.

Things came together quickly at a meeting on Tuesday between Bench, Stabile’s engineers and D.O.B. The approved emergency repair plan will be done in such a way to minimize the time workers must spend inside the building — initially, at least.

“The Department of Buildings has given us permission to conduct emergency repairs to stabilize the building,” he said.

“Essentially, we’re going to cement the entire structure together. We’re going to pump this tremendous amount of concrete into the basement, which will fix all the structural problems.”

Outside 188 Grand St. on Tuesday, workers removed some of the electric lights that span Mulberry Street that spell out the lyrics of the classic Italian pop song “Volare.” (Photo by Karlin Chan)

As for the hole in the wall that opened up on Mulberry Street when an old interior chimney crumbled on Wed., Jan. 10, he said, “The collapsed wall is fairly low on the list of priorities.”

In other words, it’s the 2,500-square-foot basement that is the focus.

If, after the massive concrete pour, the building is then deemed stable, the wall repair and anything else that needs fixing will be done. The facade repairs will hopefully be done “within weeks not months,” he said.

Bench said they hope to do the pour this Friday, with the concrete then taking three to four days to cure. Fourteen cement trucks will line up and, one after the other, pump in a special slurry mix that will flow like water and fill up any voids, creating an 18-inch-thick layer of new concrete. The pour will take one day.

Handling the work will be Celtic Contracting, which Bench praised as “the best in the business.”

In March, Alleva Dairy vacated the space after reaching a settlement with Stabile over back rent the cheese shop owed from the COVID slowdown period. In July, Stabile leased the ground-floor space to Amici Restaurant Group, with plans for Amici to renovate it for use as a new eatery. However, Bench previously told The Village Sun the lease forbids the tenant from doing any renovations without first obtaining valid city permits. Yet, he said that during a walk-through of the site in October, it was clear that Amici was doing work on the space. According to Bench, Amici was then told to stop the renovation work — but allegedly continued. D.O.B. has said that illegal and unauthorized work was going on and caused the partial collapse.

As for whether the tenant was digging out and deepening the basement floor illegally, Bench said, “No comment — because of possible litigation.” However, according to reports, this was being done.

Activist Karlin Chan came by the Little Italy site Tuesday morning to lend support to a press conference community activists allegedly were going to hold to advocate for saving the building — but no one showed. (Photo by Karlin Chan)

The emergency repair plan also will include monitoring the building with a high-tech system of lasers and optics. Prisms will be attached to the building’s corners and sides and a network of stationary lasers will be set up to shoot beams at them to check for vibration and movement.

“It’s pretty rare to have this level of monitoring,” Bench noted.

As for the projected cost of all the work, he said he couldn’t give an estimate at this point.

Stabile Realty has owned the corner property for more than 100 years. In the 19th century, the Stabiles owned two whole blocks of Little Italy, plus the Banca Stabile. Today, the family — which is located in Pennsylvania, where Bench is Allentown’s district attorney — owns only two buildings from that former real estate empire.

Ironically, “stabile” in Italian means “stable” in English, perhaps auguring well for the emergency stabilization effort.

“We’re undertaking the repairs out of love for the building and community,” Bench said. “We were motivated to do this by people coming up to us and saying they wanted it to be saved.

“All credit to the Department of Buildings for giving us the opportunity to try to save the building,” he added. “We are so incredibly grateful that we were given the chance.”

Among local groups involved in the effort to keep 188 Grand St. standing is Bowery Alliance of Neighbors a.k.a. BAN. Michele Campo, a BAN member, said she braved Wednesday morning’s freezing weather to go by the fenced-off site to find out the latest. To her relief, the supervisor of the demolition crew there told her that all the parties were actually right then at D.O.B. headquarters hashing out a plan to save the historic structure.


  1. Marna Lawrence Marna Lawrence January 20, 2024

    Wow, Michele! You have always been the true Heroine of Little Italy! Just wonderful work on behalf of the community of Little Italy to so quickly stand up for its beautiful history and culture.

    It still feels like my home! I miss it so much!!!

    I do have one question (not of Michele – but of the City and the property owner): Did Stabile Realty contact the City about the illegal work Mr. Bench witnessed in October? And if so, why didn’t the DOB do anything about it then? Thankfully, in the end, no one was hurt.

    What is most vitally important, is that Michele and those other resident advocates that worked alongside her actually saved the day!!!


  2. Lora Tenenbaum Lora Tenenbaum January 20, 2024

    Kudos to Michele Campo, who immediately upon hearing of the collapse organized local groups and individuals, contacted our electeds to save this building. So glad our community has such a tenacious advocate!

  3. Ken Ken January 19, 2024

    While this is great news, there is one serious error. Real Estate records are wrong and the building is considerably OLDER. Calling up an 1885 Robinson Atlas clearly shows the building while the earlier 1867 Dripps map shows the existing 190 and 192 buildings. That means that the building was built between those years. The architecture suggests sometimes in the 1870s is a good bet.

    • I-----m I-----m January 20, 2024

      good point – it does date to when the neighbors were built. an addition was added in the late 1850s or 1860. not uncommon to do so.

  4. Carol Davis Carol Davis January 19, 2024

    Thank you Michele and Katlin!

  5. Keri F Keri F January 19, 2024

    Karlin is a treasure. We are blessed to have him as an advocate in the community.

  6. Hank Hank January 18, 2024

    Yay, Michele !
    Hats off to a building owner that sees the value in residents and neighborhood history too! Almost unheard of these days!

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