Volume 75, Number 34 | January 11 - 17, 200

Pataki ignores outcry for city S.L.A. member; sheriff gets nod

By Albert Amateau

The hopes of Village, Soho, Lower East Side and Chelsea community advocates and elected officials that Governor Pataki would appoint a New York City resident to the State Liquor Authority were dashed last week with the report that an Upstate police chief would be named as the new chairperson of the three-member S.L.A.

Daniel Boyle, police chief of Glenville, near Schenectady, was offered the $120,000 per year post to replace Edward F. Kelly, of Pawling, Duchess County, who resigned in November and leaves the agency on Jan. 12, according to a Jan. 6 article in the Albany Times Union.

Kelly’s resignation came after Attorney General Eliot Spitzer began an investigation into unfair liquor pricing practices allegations that favored liquor store retailers are given illegal discounts, cash and trips. Subsequently, Pataki appointed Joshua Toas, former assistant secretary of state for New York State and assistant counsel to the governor, as S.L.A. chief executive, a new position in charge of agency operations.

A spokesperson for the governor declined on Jan. 9 to comment on the Boyle appointment and said only that a new head of the agency would be named after Kelly leaves office. The appointment is also subject to confirmation by the State Senate.

Advocates for New York City neighborhoods where bars, nightclubs and lounges have become so numerous and noisy that residents regularly endure four sleepless nights per week, have denounced the S.L.A. for granting too many liquor licenses. The 500-foot rule, whereby the S.L.A. must hold a hearing for a new license application within 500 feet of three other existing licensed premises and issue a finding that the new license is “in the public interest,” has been outrageously abused, critics say.

The two other S.L.A. commissioners, Lawrence J. Gedda, of Long Island, and Joseph C. Zarriello, of Colonie, near Albany, are expected to remain on the authority. Gedda, a member of the board since 1992 and an S.L.A. staff member since 1963, is a former U.S. Army counterintelligence officer and Zarriello is founder of a successful liquor retail business.

Thirty-five state senators and assemblymembers from New York City signed a letter on Dec. 28 urging Governor Pataki to name a New York City resident as the new S.L.A. chairperson,

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who represents Chelsea, said of the expected appointment of Boyle, “It would be outrageously insensitive of the governor to ignore New York City again. In the past 12 years there has not been a single member from New York City appointed to the S.L.A. It’s unacceptable to have no one on the authority board from a city of 8 million people. It’s critically important for the S.L.A. to have first-hand knowledge of how we live and work. I hope Mr. Boyle will be responsive to our situation but it would be much better if there were someone in the S.L.A. who knows New York City first hand.”

The city legislators sent a similar letter to Mayor Bloomberg asking his support for a New York City S.L.A. member. The letter notes that 39 percent of on-premises licenses issued by the S.L.A. are in New York City.

Community Board 4, whose district includes a six-block area in West Chelsea where more than a dozen nightlife venues have a combined capacity for more than 10,000 patrons, also called on the governor to appoint a New York City resident as S.L.A. chairperson.

The Soho Alliance, a neighborhood civic group, won a State Supreme Court victory over the S.L.A. in November when Justice Marilyn Shafer reversed the agency’s granting of a liquor license to Lola, a proposed lounge and jazz club at the intersection of Watts and Thompson Sts.

“This is a victory for neighborhoods all over the city and the state who have been fighting the S.L.A,” said Sean Sweeney, executive director of the alliance.

Shafer ruled that the S.L.A. was arbitrary and capricious in granting the license to Lola. She ruled that granting the place a liquor license would violate the 500-foot rule. Shafer said the agency, which is obliged to hear the advice of local community boards, failed to acknowledge that the full board of Community Board 2 unanimously voted against the license. The agency also failed to state reasons for its finding that the license was “in the public interest” as required by the 500-foot rule, Shafer said.

“The decision should end the S.L.A.’s circular reasoning that a license serves the public interest by serving the public interest,” Sweeney said.

Of new S.L.A. Chairperson Boyle, Sweeney said, “He knows nothing about the law or the industry!” However, he added, “Hopefully, he’ll be more responsive.”

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