Once a fixture of downtown New York, Weinstein is now a ghost amid scandal

Harvey Weinstein had an array of haunts he frequented for years before he was accused by over a dozen women of making unwanted sexual advances

The atmosphere in the Tribeca Grill was convivial. The mix of diners came from finance, film, media consulting or marketing, with a smattering of well-behaved tourists.

There was the buzz of conversation and laughter, against a backdrop of low intensity music and lighting, amid expressionist art on the exposed brick walls. A dozen suited banker types filed in down the side of the upmarket bistro and disappeared through a doorway next to the kitchen, which leads to the private dining area.

That’s where movie giant Harvey Weinstein was a regular fixture, using the restaurant – in which he was an original investor when Robert De Niro opened it in 1990 – like an office cafeteria, because the headquarters of his now-ex company are in the same building. It is also where he would invite young models and actresses in what turned out, by some accounts, to be a prelude to the casting couch upstairs.

Tribeca Grill.
Tribeca Grill. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Weinstein has now been accused by more than a dozen women of making unwanted sexual advances. He has said many of the details are inaccurate, has denied accusations of criminal sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault. Sallie Hofmeister, a spokesperson for Weinstein said last week: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein … with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual.”

On Thursday evening, as waiters at the Tribeca Grill, dressed in black whirled among the tables ranged around a central bar, carrying pan-seared salmon, fettuccine with “butcher’s ragu” and roasted Amish chicken from the solid New American menu, there was something missing. That something was Weinstein, who had been fired and was 2,400 miles away beginning sex addiction rehab in Arizona after explosive reports accusing him of decades of sexual assault and harassment of female protégés, as first revealed 10 days ago by the New York Times.

The restaurant and office building, on the corner of a cobbled street in the expensive , post-industrial Tribeca neighborhood of loft apartments, designer boutiques, fitness studios and intimate coffee and wine bars in lower Manhattan, is – or was - the cornerstone of Weinstein’s downtown world.

Anne Hathaway and Harvey Weinstein at the Waverly Inn.
Anne Hathaway and Harvey Weinstein at the Waverly Inn. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Here, the impresario lumbered in and out of limousines that whisked him from film screening to after-party, from office to restaurant, to nightclub, to hotel suite, accumulating objects of his attraction along the way and encounters that ended in scandal behind closed doors.

Someone who has worked in close proximity to the movie mogul for a number of years confided, on a darkened sidewalk around the corner from the grill, simply: “Harvey Weinstein is boorish. He is not a nice person. That’s all I need to say.” He wouldn’t give his name before scuttling off into the night.

A handful of short blocks away gleams the single, tall, glass skyscraper called One World Trade, which eventually replaced the twin towers of the old World Trade Center that were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, at what may always now be known as “Ground Zero”. That other downtown cultural figurehead, Robert De Niro, created the Tribeca Film Festival the spring after 9/11 to help revive the blighted lower Manhattan scene and lift the creative spirits of a city still in shock.

The annual festival endures and its offices sit a few floors above The Weinstein Company’s, also in the same building as the Tribeca Grill, at 375 Greenwich Street.

Someone who works on the artistic side of the festival paused on the street after leaving the office, between an Issey Miyake boutique and a designer lighting store, and said: “We work in the same building and I’ve always been very glad I’m not working for him. You see him around. Let’s just say he’s larger than life. Loud. Aggressive.”

Robert De Niro at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
Robert De Niro at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Photograph: Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images

The festival company is run by film producers Jane Rosenthal and Paula Weinstein (no relation).

“Our company is kind of matriarchal, it’s run by women, and the working atmosphere is great, really collaborative and encouraging, I love it there. They really support women in the industry, um, in a different way than Harvey supports women in the industry,” he said, asking that his name not be disclosed because he was not authorized to speak.

Just moments away, is the retro-style Roxy Hotel, which recently changed its name from the Tribeca Grand, and was another chosen haunt of the movie mogul.

In 2010, Weinstein held astarry screening at the hotel for The King’s Speech, his triumphant comeback film after a creative hiatus during several years of acrimony after Disney bought Harvey and his brother Bob’s original movie company, Miramax.

Miramax’s offices at 375 Greenwich Street on 9 August 2004 in New York City.
Miramax’s offices at 375 Greenwich Street on 9 August 2004 in New York City. Photograph: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

But in 2015, Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez wore a police wire there, which recorded her pleading with Weinstein as he bullied and threatened her when she wouldn’t go into his hotel room, while he also apologised for groping her previously, as revealed in the New Yorker.

The day before, she had gone to his office for what she thought was a business meeting, after encountering Weinstein at a reception in midtown Manhattan for a show he was producing at the legendary Radio City Music Hall, she said.

But at 375 Greenwich Street, Weinstein lunged at Gutierrez on an office couch, she later told the New York Police Department, groping her breasts and trying to get his hand up her skirt. Prosecutors reviewed the wire conversation and decided there was not enough evidence to charge Weinstein.

He had also allegedly perpetrated a sexual assault at the offices with aspiring actress Lucia Evans in 2004, just one of dozens of accusations now piling up against Weinstein.

Evans had first met him at yet another pillar of the downtown New York scene, Cipriani Downtown, the SoHo branch of the grand family restaurant chain, on West Broadway, she has said.

Cipriani Downtown.
Cipriani Downtown. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Where Tribeca Grill is warmly elegant, Cipriani Downtown screams glitz. Piercingly lit and spilling out on to the sidewalk beneath a taxi-yellow awning, patrons drink, eat, eyeball, cluster, swivel, jostle and bling, all cheek-by-jowl in a constant showcase as waiters in white dinner jackets and white bow ties swing through with bubbly cocktails mixed behind the bar by the jug. There’s a giant sculpture of a shark in attack mode on the sidewalk and a metal charging bull on top of the dessert case inside.

There’s a preponderance of tall, thin, blonde women and slick men in suits with shirts opened half way down their chests, and a vivid palate of accents. Porsches draw up outside, spill out the prosperous, and roar off.

Who comes here, mainly? A barman shrugs. “Models. You should have seen it during Fashion Week, it was craaaaaaazy.”

Two guys hustle up to the bar. What industry are you guys in? “Finance.” Bankers and models, why is that such a cliche? “Well, they need someone to pay for their boob jobs,” said one of the men, giggling. This was just the calm before the storm. Late at night, with a great flourish, the restaurant lowers folding steps down to the ground from above the front door, creating a coveted stairway to what some consider heaven – a private lounge-club with an elusive guest list, bouncers and plenty of buzz, called the Socialista. It heats up around midnight and goes until 4am. In 2004, the lounge was called Cipriani Upstairs, where Evans said she was approached by Weinstein, who ultimately invited her to an office meeting at what was then Miramax, where he is alleged to have forced her to give him oral sex.

A Cipriani staffer who was rearranging chairs outside next to the shark said: “Oh yes, Harvey is here all the time. Or he was. It’s very sad. He never did anything bad to me and he brought us a lot of business. He’s like family, a very good friend of the owner, we love him.”

Harvey Weinstein’s West Village home on 11 October 2017 in New York City.
Harvey Weinstein’s West Village home on 11 October 2017 in New York City. Photograph: James Devaney/GC Images

In a different compartment of his life, but again just a few blocks away, is Weinstein’s splendid townhouse in New York’s still-charming West Village, where he moved after marrying Georgina Chapman, 41, with whom the 65-year-old Weinstein has a daughter, seven, and a son, four. He has three daughters from his first marriage.

Weinstein held a glamorous fundraiser here for Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.

He’s known Hillary and Bill Clinton for decades and threw a party for them at the now-defunct, legendary artsy-establishment restaurant Elaine’s in 2000. Weinstein was a bit more of an uptown man back in the 90s. He lived with his first wife, Eve Chilton, overlooking Central Park, and was more often seen at screenings near Lincoln Center and famous watering holes such as the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Plaza, and the Four Seasons.

Born in Flushing in the city borough of Queens, Weinstein is a proud, native New Yorker. Apart from his college years upstate in Buffalo and despite blazing trails through Los Angeles, London and Cannes, he has loomed over New York for decades. But for many, growing evidence suggests, his presence was oppressive.Back downtown, the pleasant air of calm settling over the Tribeca Grill dining room last week could very well have been the sign of a neighborhood exhaling with relief.


Joanna Walters in New York

The GuardianTramp

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