Volume 75, Number 29 | December 7 - 13, 2005


City must balance needs of residents and nightlife better

When one thinks of New York City one of the things that springs to mind for many is nightlife. As everyone knows, the Big Apple is known as the city that never sleeps. Yet, the fact is, most people who actually live here do usually want to sleep at night, and therein lies the problem.

From the East Village and Lower East Side to west Chelsea and all over Downtown Manhattan, in general, residents are increasingly being driven to distraction by the noise and tumult from the city’s burgeoning nightclub and bar scene. They can’t relax and have peace of mind, much less get some much-needed shut-eye.

The reasons why nightlife has become such a major quality-of-life issue are varied. In the case of the East Village and Lower East Side, there has obviously been an explosion of liquor-licensed establishments. Formerly relatively quiet neighborhoods have morphed into all-night party zones. The clubs are on narrow streets with residents living right above. Throw in the ubiquitous taxis that cater to the club crowd and it’s a recipe for disaster for residents.

Meanwhile, in another area where nightlife is thriving and expanding, west Chelsea, the city plans to add more housing. Yet this will merely mean more residents being adversely affected by the noise of the club crowds and cabs.

The police quality-of-life blitz on Avenue B last Friday night was a long time coming. Residents on this narrow avenue, particularly toward its Houston St. end, have been up in arms about the situation for some time now. The precinct’s new commander, Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, deserves credit for marshaling police units for the operation, which should have put bar and club owners — as well as the bargoers and the taxis, too — on notice that the volume has to be kept down.

Making Avenue B one-way may offer some hope. Like others, we think a study is first needed on whether the change’s benefits will outweigh any negative impacts.

But beyond such measures, the problems in the East Village and Lower East Side and Chelsea point to a larger problem that must be addressed, namely the need for a sensible plan by the city on nightlife. The New York Nightlife Association, for example, argues convincingly that its members purposely located in manufacturing zones to be away from residents, only to see the city grant residential variances near them.

Community Board 3 is backing a rezoning of the East Village/Lower East Side. Yet to change the use-group 6 zoning that allows bars may take even longer. One would hope, however, that the city could expedite this process. Without a change, longtime residents will continue to be driven out of these new entertainment zones, while new residents and clubs will continue to clash in formerly all-nightlife areas.

It’s time to figure out how to balance the needs of residents and nightlife — so that the city that never sleeps can be that way for those who want to carouse, while for others, this can also be the city in which one can sleep.

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