Volume 75, Number 36 | January 25 - 31, 200

Editorial

Reform at S.L.A.might have to wait for a new governor

Governor Pataki’s recent appointment of an Upstate police chief to head the State Liquor Authority came as a huge letdown to residents of Downtown Manhattan who were desperately hoping the governor would appoint a commissioner who lives in New York City.

Thirty-five State Senators and Assemblymembers signed a letter urging Pataki to appoint a resident of the five boroughs to the S.L.A. In addition, Community Boards 3 and 4 — representing the East Village/Lower East Side and Chelsea, respectively, areas facing a serious oversaturation of bars and nightclubs — also wrote the governor to the same effect. But all their efforts were in vain.

New York City has 39 percent of the state’s liquor licenses and half the state’s population. It’s absurd that we have no representation on the S.L.A. The S.L.A., however, is a body wholly controlled by the governor. And the governor’s appointment of Daniel Boyle, police chief of Glenville, was confirmed by the Republican-controlled State Senate. According to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office, Silver — leader of the Democrat-controlled Assembly — simply can’t influence the process.

We’re not against nightlife. It’s part of what makes New York City great. But there has been a persistent problem with the S.L.A. during Governor Pataki’s tenure — namely, the authority has not listened to local community boards’ recommendations and has repeatedly ignored and abused the 500-foot rule. This rule states that a license must be denied if three or more licensed premises are within 500 feet of the applicant’s location, unless granting such a license can be proved to be in the “public interest.”

The result is today entire neighborhoods have become bar and club zones.

We need an S.L.A. that respects a community board when it recommends denial of an application because an operator has a bad track record or the location is in an oversaturated area. And we need an S.L.A. that doesn’t flout the 500-foot rule by flippantly justifying doling out licenses by saying they “help the economy.”

There is hope, though. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat and New York City resident, is running for governor this year. If Spitzer is elected, we think it would be much more likely that we’d at last see some city residents among the S.L.A.’s three commissioners. And we would think these commissioners would be more sympathetic to our concerns than a bunch of Upstate Republicans who clearly are totally removed from what is going on down here.

The Villager has learned that Speaker Silver will hold a public hearing in the early spring on the S.L.A., at which the exemptions to and disregard of the 500-foot rule will be discussed, along with other concerns of local residents. We’re glad to see Silver getting more involved on S.L.A. reform. And we’d sincerely like to see Mayor Mike Bloomberg do the same.

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