7th Precinct Commander on Street Closures: LES is “A Mess” on Weekends (Updated 6/19)
Last week, the ongoing conversation about the Lower East Side’s over-saturated nightlife scene played out at the 7th Precinct’s Community Council meeting.
Captain Peter Venice, the commanding officer, brought up a letter he received from LES resident Emily Armstrong regarding the closure of several streets west of Essex and above Delancey on weekend evenings.
In the area known as “Hell Square,” Armstrong noted, up to eight streets are shut down creating a “play area for unruly” and inebriated nighttime revelers. It’s unfair to local residents, she argued, who must pay the price because the city has allowed the Lower East Side to become an unruly entertainment zone. In his remarks, Captain Venice disagreed with the contention that streets such as Rivington, Orchard and Ludlow are closed to create a drunken “play space.”
Venice said it’s a public safety issue. “People are coming out of bars intoxicated. We don’t want them getting hit,” he explained. In a four block by four block square zone, he said, “the amount of people in that area is a mess.” Venice said the precinct makes decisions about which streets to shut down based on the activity ouside LES bars and clubs on any given night. In a rhetorical question, he asked, “would it be better (smaller crowds, less noise, etc.) if the streets were open?”
Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3’s district manager. said the topic of street closures had not been previously raised in any formal way by local residents. She indicated the board could potentially address the issues caused by the closures, including automobile access by local residents, if residents ask CB3 to weigh in on the precinct’s policies.
UPDATE 6/19/2013 We received the following statement from the LES Dwellers neighborhood group regarding the street closure issue:
The 7th Precinct’s mitigation focus on closing down the streets to prevent conflicts between overly-intoxicated patrons and vehicular traffic does not address the root cause of the problems in Hell Square. This approach sanctions both irresponsible patrons and nightlife venues to act with impunity and outside the law. It does not improve the overall conditions on the ground for residents and daytime business owners; if anything, it worsens them by creating “safe party zones” on the streets and forcing vehicular traffic onto tiny adjacent streets. We need consistent and proactive police enforcement so disorder, the anti-social behavior of people coming to this area, and non-compliant venues are pressured to change. A positive shift toward a well-ordered condition could begin if patrons were ticketed regularly for quality of life infractions and disorderly behavior; if vehicles were ticketed for incessant honking, idling in bike lanes and blasting music down the street; and if nightlife venues were made to abide by laws, stipulations, and local regulations and ordinances. Simply the solution is not street closures. The solution must start with police enforcing the law. This community’s sense of peace and well being depend upon the 7th Precinct intervening to restore order, protect ALL citizens, safeguard property and ensure that businesses are compliant with laws and regulations.