Bar district still on ice, for now

BY SAM SPOKONY  |    East Villagers hoping for the creation of a nightlife district zoning plan — one that would separate rowdy bar crowds from frustrated residents seeking peace and quiet — will be left unsatisfied for the moment.

“It’s not going to happen now,” said Richard Ropiak, who co-chairs Community Board 3’s Economic Development Committee. “There’s been a discussion, but it hasn’t led to any actual proposals.”

The latest installment of that ongoing discussion took place at the committee’s Sept. 5 meeting, when a representative of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, a recently formed lobbying coalition, came to comment on the prospect of a nightlife district.

The talks never advanced because the committee and the Alliance seem to agree that the neighborhood’s current layout makes the plan’s basic idea unfeasible.

“The East Village is too much of a mixed-use district, in that it densely combines the commercial and residential elements,” said Rob Bookman, the Alliance’s counsel and a former head of the New York Nightlife Association. “I’ve been dealing with these types of discussions for 30 years now, and it’s just not realistic for that neighborhood.”

Bookman added that this kind of rezoning scheme requires a lot of municipal planning before any proposal can even been made. In short, he said, it would be impossible to retroactively create a nightlife district in an area that has been mixed-use for many years.

Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3 district manager, who had previously spoken in support of the plan, declined to comment on where the discussion stands now.

Despite the situation’s seeming futility, Bookman maintained that the Alliance hasn’t shut the door.

“We want to be a part of every conversation, and we responded because the community board reached out to us,” he said. “As long as they want to talk about it, we’re willing to talk.”

Ropiak assured that his committee would continue exploring alternate ways to provide some degree of relief to East Villagers fed up with the  recent influx of bars and nightclubs, many of which are populated by 20-something revelers who noisily flock there from throughout the city and often leave trash and vomit in their wake.

With that conflict in mind, Bookman said, community leaders may find the solutions they seek by working toward a different goal: commercial rent control.

“I think the community activists are just frustrated with the concept of free-market real estate,” he said. “Right now, there’s nothing preventing a landlord from doubling or tripling their rent when the land gets hot, and that’s why you see these big establishments coming in to replace the smaller stores that can afford it.”

However, past efforts to enact commercial rent control in New York City have failed.

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2 Responses to Bar district still on ice, for now

  1. This makes SPURA look like a missed opportunity.

  2. I did not speak in favor of the plan. I brought the idea to the CB for discussion. I think there are things to learn and ideas to take away. People should not be so literal when discussing other proposals.
    I think there are some good ideas to consider to take from this–it is certainly impossible to create a nightlife district in an existing community.

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