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LES Dwellers and CB3 at Odds Over “The DL” and Other Issues

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As mentioned a couple of days ago, the Lower East Side Dwellers and management of The DL, the nightlife venue at 95 Delancey St., will be meeting tomorrow evening.  The tri-level entertainment complex has had a rough relationship with some neighbors since opening at the end of 2011.  Another issue that’s come up in recent weeks is the increasingly tense interplay between the Dwellers, a neighborhood group founded last year, and Community Board 3.

The DL, 93 Ludlow St. Image: The DL's Facebook page.
The DL, 93 Ludlow St. Image: The DL’s Facebook page.

Last month, CB3 approved a resolution acknowledging that residents have “complained about noise from (The DL’s) roof top and noise and crowds from patrons on the sidewalk… as well as poor management of the sidewalk and have submitted documentation (seeming to show) that they are hosting regularly scheduled promoted events and hosts weekly dance parties, which violates the (venue’s operating agreement).”  But at the same time, the resolution called on residents and management to hold a meeting to “address complaints” before returning to the community board this month.  CB3 leaders have said they would consider asking for additional restrictions on The DL’s license, even though the State Liquor Authority (SLA) went ahead and approved the renewal in early September, before the community board weighed in on the matter.

The Dwellers were outraged about the renewal and have criticized CB3 for what they see as its failure to deal with troublesome nightlife venues and to fight on behalf of residents fed up with the Lower East Side’s boisterous bars and clubs.  The community board, on the other hand, has signaled that it believes the Dwellers group is circumventing and undermining CB3’s office, and dealing with bars in a counterproductive manner.

This week, William Crowley, the SLA’s director of public affairs, told The Lo-Down that “renewal applicants must notify their community boards 30 days prior to filing their renewal” with the state.  But in many cases, he noted, the agency does not receive recommendations from local boards.  In this case, it appears the SLA processed the DL’s paperwork early.  While CB3 keeps a list of upcoming permit renewals for controversial venues, on this occasion, the renewal slipped through before a community board hearing could be scheduled.  In the past, the SLA has been willing to consider additional permit restrictions even after a renewal has been granted, so CB3 does not consider it problematic to hear most renewal applications even after the SLA has acted. 

Yesterday, we talked with Diem Boyd and Sara Romanoski, two leaders of the Dwellers organization.  Speaking generally (not necessarily about The DL), Romanoski said, “maybe there’s a better process to deal with problem venues… There are cracks in the system. We are told repeatedly that the renewal (process) is our time to review (how venues are operating and whether there are community concerns that need to be addressed).”  Yet since the CB3 office does not schedule public hearings for renewal applications in which there are no complaints against a venue, she added, “the community is cut out of the process. All renewal applications should be made public so we can respond.”

At last month’s full board meeting, CB3 Chairperson Gigi Li, in effect, admonished the Dwellers, without naming the group, for failing to share information they had collected against The DL before a committee meeting. “When new information is introduced in meetings,” she said, that the office has not had a chance to review, board members are forced to vote on items without adequate information and it can “have the effect of undermining the credibility of the board.”

A flyer circulated by the LES Dwellers.
A flyer circulated by the LES Dwellers.

The Dwellers say they have always submitted evidence to the board in the past but chose not to do so in the case of The DL because they learned that CB3 had not alerted the SLA of violations taking place at the venue, including “open bar” promotions. The group had no confidence that the community board was dealing with the issues, they said.  Boyd added that SLA officials have told her she “absolutely has the right” to report infractions directly to the authority.  In public meetings, CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer has said she was waiting for the Dwellers and the management of The DL to hold their meeting before forwarding complaints to the SLA.   The venue’s managing partner, Paul Seres, has indicated that the Dwellers have been unwilling to meet until now.  In yesterday’s conversation, Boyd said that her fledgling volunteer group has been so busy battling other neighborhood bars that scheduling a meeting was difficult.  “We should have responded more promptly,” she said. But Boyd continued, “we pleaded with him to address known problems,” and as far as members of her group are concerned, it makes little sense to be “negotiating when he is breaking the law.”

More broadly, the Dwellers do not agree with the community board’s strategy.  Rather than simply asking the SLA to impose more restrictions on problem operators, they would like to see the board take a stronger stand, denying some renewal applications. CB3 leaders have indicated that a more uncompromising approach would put at risk a fairly good working relationship with the liquor authority and ignores the fact that liquor permits are very seldom revoked. No one, including the Dwellers, would deny that taking a permit away from an operator is a difficult process.  We asked the SLA’s Crowley what types of violations can trigger a license revocation. His answer:

(Venues) operating outside of their approved method of operation, serious violations that have occurred repeatedly at the premises, etc.  However, unless there is good cause shown, the SLA cannot deny the renewal of a license.  If we receive complaints or referrals on violations, we will investigate, and/or charge the licensee with a violation.

As far as the Dwellers are concerned, there is ample evidence to pull The DL’s license (the liquor authority does not publicly confirm when it is investigating any venue).  Referencing videos shot inside The DL after CB3’s SLA Committee met last month that showed apparent violations of the venue’s operating restrictions, Boyd asserted that “illegal behavior is continuing” at the club.  At tomorrow’s meeting, she said, “we want to hear his explanation,” adding, “if you break the law, you should get shut down.”  Arguing that neither the community board nor the 7th Precinct is monitoring The DL and acting on violations, she explained, “we will continue to watch and monitor and be patient.”   Romanoski said, “the goal is to get it under control, no matter how long it takes.” Asked whether there is any concession The DL could make that would appease members of the group, their response was, “no.”

In a conversation this afternoon, Seres said he continues to be willing to work through differences with neighbors. He said the venue has responded to concerns from other local entities, including the Blue Moon Hotel, which had complained about late night noise.  While he said there have been some issues with “people who came in from the outside” for some events, Seres argued that the business is following its agreed upon stipulations.  When asked about the Dwellers’ posture going into tomorrow’s meeting, Seres said, “it’s a shame but indicative to their approach to businesses in this neighborhood.”  He added, “we have a great relationship with the (community) board, but it seems like they (the Dwellers) are going out and doing their own thing… If the only goal of the meeting is to warn us, it’s going to be a quick meeting.”

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  1. You should be clear when you write “The community board, on the other hand, has signaled that it believes the Dwellers group is circumventing and undermining CB3′s office, and dealing with bars in a counterproductive manner.” CB3 has neither reached nor announced any such conclusion. You are attributing the opinion of one or a few members (certainly NOT a majority) to the entire board, and that is not accurate. The Dwellers have MANY supporters on the board.

  2. Kind of the District Manager’s job description?:

    • Maintains a working relationship with elected officials and their representatives, City agencies, nonprofit groups, churches and businesses.
    • Resolves problems and assures the delivery of City services. Processes complaints from constituency relating to services provided by municipal agencies within the district. Prepares written or verbal reports to the Community Board on complaints received.
    • Must be a strong advocate for the board and the community.
    • Must be able to work well with groups and individuals.

  3. We saw what happened to Meatpacking, you’re not fucking doing this here with your insane bridge & tunnel club.

  4. P.S. Did you notice that the allegation of the LES Dwellers is that DL is violating the terms of its license stipulations and CB3’s threatened response, if the allegations are proven, is to pass MORE STIPULATIONS?!? “If you break the rules and we catch you, we will pass more rules that you can break!” Give me a break. Talk about a paper tiger. GROW A BACKBONE CB3!!! No wonder the LES Dwellers are going head without you.

  5. My point Bowerygals is that CB3 is clashing with the Dwellers because of Susan’s direction. Susan is an instigator and does not maintain working relationships. She annoys, pokes and undermines the process until she gets her way. She is a bully that is only self serving. It’s time for her to retire and put someone in that seat that doesn’t alienate so many people from local businesses to city delegates. There needs to be term limits on her position. We need someone like Bob Zukerman in this role who knows how to speak intelligently and not snarky like Stetzer.

  6. The so called “dwellers” are 3 people sarah aka emily, diem and kim aka the worst tenant ever.

  7. This is a simple case and a very good example of what happens when you have more then 3 Liquor licenses per 500 ft. Currently if you stand in the middle of Ludlow st (on the block btwn Rivington and Stanton) at the address for the proposed Ludlow House you can count 51 Liquor licenses that the SLA has granted which CB3 has either allowed or not protested. The SLA created a law that only 3 license are allowed per 500 ft radius…..the reason that this law exists is to specifically allow for a well directed PUBLIC HEALTH and PUBLIC SAFETY issue. The DL has very clear stipulations on its license which they have been violating for a very long time and these are not negotiable or subjective actions that they have taken.

    The process for granting a license is clear and easy……CB3 has a hearing, the public speaks, CB3 takes a vote and makes the recommendation to the SLA….SLA then can issue the license. The process for enforcing stipulations does not exist. To be honest I think it does exists but only the SLA can enforce stipulations (and I think they have about 3~5 people on staff in the entire NYC area who are supposed to do this) thus no effective enforcement. If someone is found to break a stipulation they are fined (fines tend to be about $1000.00) so for the clubs its not a big deal…its just the cost to ride the train……Licenses NEVER get taken away……..basically once you get a license you can do whatever you want (thus the DL).

    If the SLA really wanted to get this under control they would assign either more case officers to the area or I could even see a day that a Joint Task Force (SLA, NYPD, NYFD, SANITATION) could roam the Hell Sq area on Thur,Fri, Sat nights in order to make sure that all of these locations (who are generating millions of dollars in tax revenue) continue to operate in an orderly fashion. But they don’t.

    In order to bring order, some of the residents in the area (including myself) continue to speak out at the CB3 meetings but more importantly now we work directly with the SLA. If we do not speak up or take action then stipulations will never get policed and places like the DL will continue to do what they want however they want.

    its simple.

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