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7th Precinct Commander on Street Closures: LES is “A Mess” on Weekends (Updated 6/19)

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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.

NYPD on horseback; just another typical weekend evening on the LES.
NYPD on horseback; just another typical weekend evening on the LES.

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.


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  1. It would be nuts to re-open those streets on weekends. I’d much prefer that they schedule a closing of all 4 streets for Friday and Saturday nights every weekend. It’s easy enough to walk in from the perimeter to get to the train or a cab, especially if you don’t have to worry about the cars.

  2. The NYPD presents this as a necessary evil, but it creates a lose-lose situation for residents. It does not reduce noise–drunken, aggressive shouting at all hours is no better than honking cars or garbage trucks–but it does provide a safe, *inviting* space for transitory bar patrons to lose all sense of responsibility, awareness, and respect for residents. Closing the streets to set up a weekly petting zoo is worse than security theater–it’s security mockery.

    There have to be better solutions. Why not leave the streets open but scale up foot patrols, to issue citations *left and right* to unruly members of the public, non-compliant bars, and road violators? You know, to actually enforce the law.

  3. The problem with the closing of all 4 streets is that the people who live in Hell Square actually have basic needs. Sleep being one of them. The closing off of the streets does limit/reduce car traffic but it dramatically increases Congestion and Pollution (to include garbage, human waste and noise). If it was advertised that Hell Square closed off its streets it would just attract more of the drunken crowds. What we are doing is working within our right to deny licenses to new establishments in order to prevent an over saturated zone from becoming much more out of control. It is obvious that ANY additional business between the hours of 10pm and 4am just adds to the problem. If we can cap the current license in the area (61ish?) when the law states that only 3 should exist within 500ft. then we can send a msg to the landlords stating that this is not acceptable and that they need to rent to daytime businesses or ones that are truly restaurants with closing hours of 12pm on Fri/Sat and 11am the rest of the week.

  4. I live right in the center of it and I would much rather they close the streets. The overwhelming amount of noise is generated by yellow cabs honking their horns nonstop as soon as the light turns green.

  5. “I live right in the center of it and I would much rather they close the streets. The overwhelming amount of noise is generated by yellow cabs honking their horns nonstop as soon as the light turns green.”

    I HATE that. Why do cars (Mostly cabs) feel the need to lay on the horn RIGHT when it turns green? Please start ticketing this sh-t.

  6. the other night, i attended a party on mulberry street at grand street. arriving at 8 pm, i was surprised to see several streets in the neighborhood closed off and teeming with tourists and diners. i was even more surprised when leaving the party at midnight to see that the streets had been reopened and most of the revelers had gone home, returning the neighborhood to residents at a reasonable hour. now that is the sort of “entertainment zone” i could tolerate living in. can we get our good old LES to move in that direction?

  7. Those unruly ones that everyone hates so much? They’re not from the neighborhood and they’re not even from NYC. If you want the neighborhood to not be so bad just double the bridge and tunnel tolls between 9 pm and 4 am on weekends.

  8. Illegal behavior like disorderly conduct and public urination would not be tolerated in most Manhattan neighborhoods. No doubt, the 7th Precinct does not want drunks hit by cars, hence they create the Play Streets. So instead lets see some tickets and summonses issued for these quality-of-life violations…generate some cash for our city to cover the expenses of NYPD babysitting drunks.
    Let’s not forget that overcrowded PS 3 was denied creating a Play Street on their block for a couple of hours a day so their kids would have somewhere to do recess and lunch. Reason? Too noisy!

  9. Sorry but I live on Ludlow,and more noise seems to be generated by drunken revelers screaming and shouting than by cars honking.I say open the streets and start ticketing these party goers.

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