David McWater Decides to Resign From Community Board 3

David McWater, a high-profile and controversial member of Community Board 3, plans to step down.

Video: CB3’s David McWater Angrily Confronts LES Dwellers

More now on the drama last night between CB3 member David McWater and members of the LES Dwellers neighborhood group.  Gothamist has posted video of the ordeal, and has more from both sides.

CB3 Approves New Liquor Licensing Rules

CB3 held hearings on liquor licensing policy last summer and fall.

Last night Community Board 3 voted to put in place comprehensive new policies that could have a dramatic impact on the nightlife industry on the Lower East Side for years to come.  The revised rules, governing how CB3’s SLA Committee evaluates liquor license applications, are intended to streamline and standardize a process that has been harshly criticized by bar owners and community activists alike as inconsistent and capricious.

Reversing a decision made at the committee level last week, the full board decided to phase out the controversial practice of automatically transferring licenses from one operator to another. During a heated meeting last Wednesday, CB3 member and bar owner David McWater persuaded his colleagues to make the practice official community board policy. But last night, key members of the panel changed their minds. Acting on a proposal from longtime CB3 member David Crane, the full board then voted 37-0-3-1, to throw out the automatic transfer language (there were 3 abstentions; one member did not vote).

Angry Words Dominate CB3 Meeting on Bar Policies

CB3's David McWater was at the center of this week's contentious meeting.

if there’s one thing you can say about members of Community Board 3, they’re passionate about the Lower East Side. So its not very surprising when, from time to time, discussions about various issues become a little heated. But earlier this week, a meeting to finish hashing out new policies for evaluating liquor licenses became unusually contentious. The back and forth among board members turned highly personal, tense and ugly — before the proposals were finally approved, unanimously.

For the past several months, CB3 has been trying to figure out how to address a perception that the recommendations of the “SLA Committee” are often inconsistent and arbitrary — and that marathon meetings frequently stretching well past midnight are counter-productive and overly burdensome on everyone involved.

CB3′s Full Board Approves SPURA Guidelines

The Seward Park sites south of Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa.

The Seward Park sites south of Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa.

The emotions ran the gamut last night inside the auditorium of P.S. 20 on Essex Street. Elation, anger, relief, regret and pride were all palpable as Community Board 3 held an historic vote on the future of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. At the end of the evening, CB3 members accomplished what seemed impossible to many not so long ago: unanimous approval of a set of planning guidelines (you can read the full document here) for a 7-acre development site the neighborhood has been fighting over for 43 years.

The decision, backed by all of the neighborhood’s elected officials, dramatically increases the odds that CB3’s vision of a mixed use (residential and commercial) project, including 50% affordable and 50% market rate housing, will one day become a reality.

CB3 Committee Makes History, Votes Yes on SPURA

SPURA

It was the deal most everyone thought could not get done. Four decades after hundreds of homes and businesses were bulldozed in the name of urban renewal, Community Board 3 took an historic step last night towards finally rebuilding on five blighted parcels known collectively as SPURA. CB3’s land use and housing committee voted 19-1, with one member abstaining, in favor of planning guidelines (you can read the full document here) calling for a mixed-use, mixed income community at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Immediately after the vote, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver released a statement backing the proposal for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. “The final guidelines that were approved by the committee tonight strike an appropriate balance between the needs and concerns of all stakeholders and will result in a development that will ensure our neighborhood continues to thrive,” he said.  State Senator Daniel Squadron also put out a statement last night, saying “the community board vote is a huge win for the community.  It is appropriate that after 43 years, a community-driven process has moved SPURA forward.”

NYPD’s Quality of Life Teams

There was an interesting exchange at last night's Community Board 3 meeting concerning the elimination of the NYPD's specialized "quality of life teams." Sometimes referred to as "cabaret units," they focused on enforcement of laws at clubs, bars and restaurants. Late last year, the Police commissioner ordered some precincts to disband the teams, saying ""the reassignment of some of these specialized units has allowed more
police officers and supervisors to be deployed for patrol purposes and
has "allowed greater focus on quality-of-life issues."  Last night, District Manager Susan Stetzer said she's hearing from club owners who believe disbanding the specialized groups was a mistake — that the officers now responding to problems at bars and clubs are less knowledegeable. CB3 member David Mcwater strongly objected to the notion that the cabaret units were helpful. He asserted that they abused their powers, calling their raids on various establishments "political torture in the neighborhood." McWater, former CB3 chairman and a current member of the committee that evaluates liquor licenses, owns several bars.

McWater Wants SPURA Plan By December

Seward Park redevelopment area.

Housing rights advocates fought for a stronger stance in support of affordable housing Monday night, as a committee of Community Board 3 came close to completing a “statement of principles” for the redevelopment of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). Chairman David McWater, vowing to have a plan by the end of the year,  nudged the economic development, planning and zoning committee towards a consensus.

SPURA consists of 10 sites near Delancey and Essex Streets that have languished for 40 years as community groups feuded bitterly about how they should be developed. Specifically, supporters of affordable housing and Grand Street Co-op residents have never been able to agree on the mix of low income, middle income and market rate housing to be built.

There now seems to be general agreement, within the committee at least, that the redevelopment plan should include an equal mix of all three types of housing. But the devil is in the details. Both groups are determined to make sure the statement that’s drafted reflects their own priorities.

Moving forward was difficult Monday, since none of the most vocal representatives of the Grand Street residents were present. McWater and CB3 Chairman Dominic Pisciotta were hesitant about making changes to the document with a key constituency absent – the very same group that derailed the last attempt to develop SPURA six years ago.

Committee Moves Carefully in Search of SPURA Consenus

27citywide.THUMB A commiittee of Community Board 3 met this week, trying to move towards common ground on a plan for the long-delayed Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). The five parcels at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge near Delancey Street have remained vacant since 1967, when tenement buildings were bulldozed in the name of urban renewal. Repeated efforts over the years to develop the parcels have led to bitter divisions in the community. CB3’s economic development, zoning and planning committee is now trying to build a consensus for a plan all of the neighborhood’s constituencies can accept.

The panel, led by David McWater, is drafting a statement of general principles, which will be followed by more specific plans for the site. But even this step has been difficult. The committee reflects the divergent views in the community. Members are debating how much low, middle and market-rate housing the parcels should contain. They also are working through the mix of residential, retail, commercial, non-profit and open space uses for the area.

The statement of principles will be debated again next month. There will also be a presentation from city planning officials, who will lay out some of the issues involved in developing SPURA. At some point, the committee will solicit the opinions of the broader community. Look for more extensive coverage of the SPURA issue from us in the weeks ahead.