LES Partnership Looks at Expansion, Adding Security Team For Nightlife Issues
The Lower East Side Partnership is taking another look at expanding its boundaries. Tim Laughlin, the organization’s president, tells us a steering committee has been set up to explore the idea. Among the services that could potentially be provided: supplemental security and maintenance to deal with the impacts of the neighborhood’s nightlife scene.
The Partnership (previously known as the LES Business Improvement District) pursued a wide-ranging expansion plan several years ago. The organization eventually concluded it was too ambitious. But now the Partnership is taking some preliminary steps to evaluate a more modest plan. Last month, the board of directors approved the creation of an expansion steering committee. It will be led by Meghan Joye (co-owner of Lucky Jack’s and Donnybrook) and Trever Stahelski, a local property owner.
Currently, the district covers Orchard Street and a few adjacent blocks. It does not include Ludlow Street or the area around the Division Street Triangle (below Canal Street) areas with heavy concentrations of restaurants and bars. A significant portion of the BID’s budget is devoted to sidewalk cleanup and maintenance. The organization also coordinates public events, such as the summer DayLife festivals, on Orchard Street. In recent years, there’s been a greater focus on streetscape improvements (new pedestrian plazas, public art, plantings, etc.)
Laughlin said the steering committee will be reaching out to a variety of stakeholders, including property owners, local businesses and residents. “We want to hear from our neighbors about the potential need for additional services,” he explained. One topic sure to come up is the neighborhood’s nightlife industry. Many residents are, of course, exasperated by the continuing proliferation of bars and restaurants. The late night noise and crowds became a serious quality of life issue years ago.
The Partnership’s maintenance staff, Laughlin said, is out on Orchard Street every Sunday morning, cleaning up after late night revelers. There’s a major contrast, he argued, between Orchard and Ludlow Street, where no cleanup services are provided. Also under discussion is the possibility of adding private security personnel to augment the 7th Precinct’s nightlife detail. “We want to have a better understanding,” said Laughlin, “of whether additional security would be helpful in mitigating some of the quality of life complaints in the neighborhood.”
There have already been some tentative conversations with Lower East Side stakeholders. Among them is Ariel Palitz, a former member of Community Board 3 and owner of Sutra Lounge (the club was closed in 2014). Palitz runs a consulting company called Venue Advisers. While on the community board, she was a controversial figure, loathed by some neighborhood activists for fiercely defending bars and clubs. Laughlin said the Partnership is talking with Palitz because “nightlife operators must be at the table” if the conversations are to be fruitful. “She has a breadth of experience, contacts in the industry and the ability to represent a particular point of view,” he said.
Laughlin emphasized that the possible expansion is not simply aimed at addressing nightlife issues. If the LES partnership decides to move forward with a proposal, it will consult with Community Board 3. Property owners in the expansion area would need to be on board, since they’d be paying a new assessment. The plan would go through the Department of City Planning and would eventually require the support of the City Council.