Few NYC Nightspots Require New Regulations
by linda j. wilson
"There are more than 9,000 establishments with State Liquor Authority (SLA) licenses in New York City. Most of them are not the problem," city Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra told the Queens Borough Board at the board’s March meeting last week. Dykstra came before the board to discuss a new proposal for changing the city’s cabaret laws to regulate problem nightlife establishments.
The Consumer Affairs department’s original reform proposal concerned establishments holding more than 75 people in a residential or mixed-use zone-more than 200 if the establishment is located in a manufacturing or commercial zone—are open later than 1 a.m. and generate noise above 90 decibels. The proposal was not received well by the nightclubs of the city for a variety of reasons, Dykstra continued, so the consumer affairs department is looking for input from communities as to what establishments should have new regulations imposed on them and what the nature of those regulations should be. Most establishments operating under the city’s 1926 law which defines a cabaret as an establishment that allows dancing on its premises and takes out a cabaret license are good neighbors, Dykstra added. "It’s the few—those that make too much noise."
One major problem besetting reform of the city’s 1926 cabaret law, which requires that any establishment that allows dancing on its premises must have a cabaret license, is that the city has no control of the SLA, unlike almost every other major city in the United States, Dykstra said. "The police can get us to pull an establishment’s cabaret license, but though they can make arrests and write up violations, the club can still stay open."
Most of the community board chairpersons who with the City Council delegation make up the borough board agreed that noise, especially noise that carries into nearby homes, be they apartments or single-family dwellings, constitutes the source of most of the complaints they deal with. Another problem is cigarette smokers who now by city law are prohibited from smoking in the clubs themselves and congregate on the sidewalk. City councilmember Melinda Katz noted that the problem of smokers outside clubs could better be managed if the way bars, restaurants and clubs deal with the problem was regulated by city instead of being dealt with by the establishments themselves. Another source of irritation for night clubs’ neighbors is parking, or the lack thereof. Cars spill into the surrounding neighborhoods, to the annoyance of property owners whose own driveways are blocked or who cannot find parking spaces on the streets where they live.
Police sometimes are slow to respond to complaints about nightclubs, and sometimes do not respond at all, it was charged. Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz pointed out that some precincts have only two cars available to respond to complaints on some nights. Aside from noise, parking and police responses felt to be inadequate, complaints about sanitation issues and blocked exits also were heard. Specific areas cited included stretches of Roosevelt Avenue.
Dykstra said she would take the questions and comments into consideration in formulating a package of potential legislation to present to the City Council.
Alexander Garvin, NYC 2012 director of planning, design and development, and Brenda Levin presented the five finalists’ designs for the Olympic Village to be built in the Queens West waterfront development on the banks of the East River in Long Island City. If New York City is selected as the site for the 2012 Olympic Games, The Olympic Village will house some 16,000 athletes and ancillary personnel, such as coaches and trainers, during the Summer Games. After the Games are over, the Olympic Village would be converted to housing for some 18,000 New Yorkers. "The Olympic Village is the psychological center of the Olympics venues throughout New York City where the games will take place," Levin said. "If New York City is selected as the site for the 2012 Olympics, the village will be the physical center as well." Whether the housing would be market rate or will have some units reserved for 80-20 housing has yet to be determined.
The finalists are: Henning Larsens Tegnestue A/S – HLT (Copenhagen, Denmark), MVRDV (Rotterdam, The Netherlands), Morphosis (Santa Monica, CA, USA), Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects (New York, NY, USA) and Zaha Hadid Architects (London, United Kingdom). They were picked from more than 130 entries from all over the world. Presentations by each of the five architects, launched a two-week exhibit, at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal, and public review period, which is part of the selection process before a winning design is announced in May. The designs will be reviewed by the International Olympics Committee, which will announce a decision as to the site of the 2012 Olympics in November of this year. It was noted that if there are no Olympics in New York City, the development will be much more conventional.
City Councilmember John Liu asked if the village would be accessible to the Number 7 Flushing subway line and was told a ferry stop to bring commuters from the village to Manhattan was incorporated in every design.
While the sale of approximately 155,000 square feet of vacant land in College Point to New York Sign City and Inland Paper Products was discussed during the borough board meeting, no vote could be taken, as a quorum of the council delegation was not present. The city Economic Development Corporation (EDC) proposes to sell the property, which is located along 31st Avenue adjacent to Home Depot and across from the Consolidated Edison College Point Corporate Park facility to GCC, LLC, a limited liability corporation with the same ownership as New York Sign City, which in turn will rent some 40,000 square feet to Inland Paper Products. The site will be developed by Hudson Development, LLC, which will construct a two-story, modern printing facility, 120,000 square feet in area with 120 parking spaces. Most employees car pool to New York Sign City’s present headquarters in Flushing and will continue the practice in College Point.
City Councilmember Tony Avella said he had heard "rumors" that one or the other company is backing out of the deal. Bill Walsh of the EDC replied that the developer "is fully on board." "What if we approve this deal and then the companies back out—or there’s a different company altogether?" Avella asked. He was told that approval is contingent on the tenants of the property staying the same.