A bit of a battle is expected at next week's Community Board 3 monthly meeting over the proposed restoration of so-called "cabaret units." Those are specialized teams the NYPD assigned to deal with problems at clubs and bars. Most of the units have been phased out in the past year, to the chagrin of many business owners.
The community boards are finalizing a list of budget priorities for the next year – things they would like to see the city fund. In at least two committee meetings this past month, board members spoke in favor of bringing back the cabaret units. Accoding to CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer, a lot of bar and restaurant owners developed relationships with the officers in the "cabaret units," and therefore felt comfortable calling them for help. Since the elimination of the units, that element of trust is gone, leaving some nightclub operators reluctant to involve the NYPD.
Not everyone agrees with this assessment, however. Dave McWater, a community board member and bar owner, believes the members of the "cabaret units" abused their authority. At a community board meeting in June he said their raids on various establishments amounted to "political torture in the neighborhood." McWater, the former chair of CB3 and "no shrinking violet" (as one fellow CB member put it recently) is expected to vigorously fight the proposed restoration.
As for the NYPD, they dismiss the notion that the units were disbanded. When asked about the issue by The lo-Down at a recent 7th Precinct meeting, Captain Nancy Barry said, "we didn't cut the unit. We have a conditions team that works 6 at night until 2 in the morning." According to the Police Department, the teams are now able to respond to a wider range of crimes, not just ones that are nightlife-related.
Community Board members say, however, aren't buying that explanation. They say Police officials have told them that the units were, in fact, eliminated for budget reasons. Regardless of what they're called, Community Board 3 seems likely to urge the city to bring back the narrowly focused units.