In addition to being the owner of pop-up laboratory LTO, where the Fatty Crew will hold court starting tomorrow, Ron Castellano is an architect who’s been working on a certain sure-to-be-sceney Chinatown bar that had hoped to open in time for Fashion Week. Castellano is normally clean-shaven (head and all), but back in January he decided to let his hair and beard grow until the Department of Buildings approved his plan to enlarge a mezzanine in the bar. “The objective was to show them how long the process took,” Castellano tells us. “My expediter told the plan examiner [at the Department of Buildings] that I wasn’t going to shave until the plan was approved.” Over four months later, this is how Castellano looked. The scary part? He was working with the city’s New Business Acceleration Team.
Even with the team at his services, a process that Castellano thought might take four to six weeks ended up becoming a hairy situation. “People were saying I was looking pretty crazy,” says Castellano. Did the stunt at least speed up the process? Actually, Castellano thinks he might have been better off without the NBAT: “We probably would’ve been better off just keeping it at the regular DOB where there are more plan examiners. [The NBAT] is not streamlined and it’s also not trying to help you do it in a way where you get things done quickly. It’s hard, because as a professional you can’t self-certify anymore and take responsibility, but then they don’t want to certify it and take responsibility and it’s such a complicated process.”
For example, Castellano described getting approved to pour concrete. “Before, I used to be able to just pour the slab. Now they have ten different forms and it costs $3,000 more. It’s just another hoop to jump through.” Well, not literally ten different forms, but still: “One person has to sign off on the design mix. Then you have to get the owner of the concrete company to sign a form saying he made the concrete to the [specifications of the] design mix. Then you have to get another engineer to test it to make sure that guy’s not lying.”
Castellano’s Alt-1 permit was finally issued last week, and he looks a little less like Osama bin Laden these days. So when will the bar open? “Hard to say,” he tells us. “Now we’re going into inspections — sometimes you can get an inspector in a day and sometimes three weeks.”