29 June 2008

Joanne Lucas: A Landlord's Landlord

Tonight, the iconic Meatpacking District diner Florent will close its doors for good. But on Tuesday, when it reopens at the R & L Restaurant, it will have the same decor, mostly the same menu and all the same staff members. Everything except beloved owner Florent Morellet.

This was the big news at Eater.com and the other food blogs last week. Back in January, inviting months and months of drama, landlord Joanne Lucas made the unconscienceable decision to kick Florent out of his Gansevoort Street space after 23 neighborhood-transforming years, just so she might get pour some more jack in her pocketbook and help ruin the neighborhood in the process. Then, when no retail chains turned up with the dough she was looking for, Lucas turned around and decided to take the place away from Florent anyway and turn it back into the R & L Restaurant—the diner run by her father at that address, before Morellet arrived.

Everyone was generally stunned by this turn of events. Some called Lucas the canniest landlord ever. Others looked on the bright side, noting that Florent would not completely vanish from the face of New York, since R & L would look and eat much the same as its predecessor.

Me? If I could cast Lucas howling into the flames of Hades, I would.

That landlords are perfidious beings, I know. That they best embody man's inherent inhumanity to man, I well believe. But I have encountered few examples of the profession's grasping, greedy, duplicitous, conniving, feral, amoral, atavistic, pre-ethical, cynical, underhanded tendencies as the heinous double-dealing—at the expense of Mr. Morellet's livelihood, the happiness of thousands of patrons, and the general cultural health of the City—of Ms. Joanne Lucas (may her name ever live in infamy). She rolled the dice for the hell of it, and Mr. Morellet lost his mission in life. Blood colder than hers no snake ever had.

When asked by Eater why Florent isn't involved in the new restaurant, Lucas responded, "Florent from what I understand is moving on to a new chapter in his life." Yes, Bitch: Because you forced that chapter on his ass by kicking him to the curb!

Florent himself struck a more generous note: "I'm not totally surprised. There's something very special about this neighborhood in the Meatpacking District...the property has been in the family with Joanne for three generations and they have an emotional relationship with the building. I was curious to see what would happen when push came to shove with Joanne when the big bucks came to the door. It would have meant tearing down the inside...This was not a decision based on capitalism."

I am not as forgiving as Mr. Morellet. I wish Lucas nothing good. I love the space, I love its history, but may she never have a day of luck with it. May the pipes burst every winter and the air-conditioning break every summer. May the DOH shut R & L down every month. May Florent's customer base abandon her. May her home in the City be infested by bedbugs and her summer house be swallowed by the ocean. And may the New York Times, New York magazine and Gourmet—having been suckered into granted Florent's lengthy tributes based on its fading into the sunset—never bestow upon R & L a drop of ink.


Anonymous said...

The irony of your post is that Morellet in the NYM article said the entire reason he loved NYC was that it is constantly changing and never stays the same, with his example of the worst of this being Paris. Paris of course is a city Americans love but most Europeans think of as overrated. Kind of funny, when you think about it. Of course, one could contribute that to their thinking their own large cities are the greatest - London, Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest, Vienna, Amsterdam, etc., etc. But Morellet is French so I think his opinion carries more weight :)

So anyways, don't expect Morellet to line up behind you too quickly.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thank for the comment, James, but I pointed out the difference between my thinking and Florent's in the post. He is a man of generous spirit. To me, his comments illustrate the difference between him and Lucas. He is the sort of businessperson who contribute to the great community. Lucas is the sort that contributes only to her own welfare. And hers is the type of businessperson that dominates in today's NYC.