Volume 75, Number 44 | March 22 -28 2006

Letters to the editor

Strickler’s death leaves a void

To The Editor:
Re “Arty Strickler, C.B. 2 district manager, is dead at 60” (obituary, March 15):

The board, Music Committee and staff of the Washington Square Music Festival already miss Arty Strickler. His unflagging support of free concerts in the park, his enthusiasm and his chutzpah in helping me deal with some of the more arcane aspects of local government made him a board district manager to cherish.

“Never say never, Peggy,” he would say when I whined to him about the defection of some contributor. Often he made the problem go away, or helped us locate funds from another source.

Arty was a man who loved life, music and Greenwich Village. He was never afraid to stand up for what he thought was right. His death leaves a void in our hearts and in those of many fellow Villagers. Our condolences to David, and requiescat in pace Arty, we’ll remember your lessons.

Peggy Friedman
Friedman is executive director, Washington Square Music Festival

Co-op owners won’t ‘cash out’

To The Editor:
Re “West Village Houses tenants close deal on purchase of 42 buildings” (news article, March 15):

My family and I have lived in West Village Houses for 23 years. Our wish to stay in our home was realized when we were able to purchase our apartment as part of our recent affordable co-op conversion, made possible because of the cooperative efforts of so many dedicated individuals, city agencies and our stellar local politicians. We take exception to Will Creed’s remark quoted in Albert Amateau’s article in the March 15 issue of The Villager, that with the co-op conversion and the purchase of our apartments we’re phasing out affordable housing, since we’ll be able to cash out in 12 years. Oh really? Cash out and go where?

There is not one West Village family I know who bought their apartment with the plan of cashing out, as Mr. Creed, who no longer lives here, so crudely put it. We all bought our apartments in order to live in them. These are our homes. There is no better place to live than right here in the West Village. We have a vital, engaged community, with bonds made stronger by the long process of conversion we’ve just gone through. We are old-fashioned Villagers, who intend to become very old Villagers, as everyone I know who purchased their apartments intends to stay right here until they have to, as one neighbor said, “carry us away.”

Suzanne W. Stout

G.O.P. and S.L.A. don’t mix

To The Editor:
A letter in the March 1 issue of The Villager by Robert Weitz (“S.L.A. column went down badly”) questions Ed Gold’s assertion in his earlier talking point column (“What Lola wanted but didn’t get, no thanks to S.L.A.,” Feb. 8) that if we had a Democratic governor, the dysfunctional situation at the State Liquor Authority could definitely improve. Weitz opines that virtually all politicians are disingenuous and that party affiliation makes no difference in the S.L.A.’s egregiously and illegally granting liquor licenses. He correctly offers Virginia Fields as an example of a Democrat who supported the liquor industry to the detriment of the community’s values. However, she was the Democratic exception, not the rule.

“Were things any different with a Democratic governor?” Weitz asks.

The answer to that question is a resounding yes.

The 500-foot law was enacted in 1993 during Mario Cuomo’s Democratic administration. Pataki did not become governor until 1995, two years later.

In 1994, the Soho Alliance began utilizing the 500-foot law to stem the invasion of bars that was occurring in Soho in the early ’90s. This law limits the number of licensed premises within a 500-foot radius. With only a community board resolution opposing the license application, a few residents and without legal representation, we could easily persuade Cuomo’s commissioners to deny a license.

As soon as Pataki’s Republican commissioners were appointed, a sea change occurred. Overnight we witnessed Pataki’s S.L.A. approve license after license despite significant community opposition.

For example, one applicant who was denied a license in 1994 by the Democrat-appointed S.L.A., reapplied in 1995. Although nothing had changed — in fact there were more bars in the area by this time — Pataki’s S.L.A. overturned the previous denial without any explanation.

Another time, nuns and a priest from Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral pleaded with the Republican S.L.A. to deny a license to a noisy vodka bar open till 4 a.m. situated behind the convent and rectory. They testified that they needed their sleep to do their pastoral and teaching duties. Although at least two of the commissioners were Catholic, the remonstrations of their spiritual advisors made no difference. License granted.

Finally, in 1996, 80 Soho residents took a day off from work to attend an S.L.A. hearing to seek denial of a license to a nightclub that would stay open till 4 a.m. on a quiet residential block. The Republican commissioners took 30 seconds in private discussion to determine that such a joint was in the “public interest.” Fed up, the Soho Alliance got legal representation, sued and was successful in State Supreme Court in overturning the S.L.A.’s decision.

Ever since, we have hired an attorney when we go before the S.L.A., but even that does not guarantee a fair shake. Often we must file suit to overturn illegal S.L.A. decisions.

In October, Democrat Eliot Spitzer began investigating the S.L.A. for corruption and cronyism. Two of the three commissioners promptly resigned, including the chairperson. Although the new S.L.A. chairperson and C.E.O. appear to apply the 500-foot law more conscientiously, they have only been on the job a short time. The jury is still out.

Spitzer is the frontrunner in the race for governor and that is likely why Gold said that a Democrat would likely guarantee an S.L.A. that respects the 500-foot law, especially one with knowledge of the shenanigans that have been going on at the S.L.A. for almost 12 years under Republican Pataki.

Sean Sweeney
Sweeney is director, the Soho Alliance

Not fooled by ‘stealth bars’

To The Editor:
Re “S.L.A. rejection is hard to swallow for gastro pub” (news article, March 8):

As a public member of two community boards, voting on liquor licenses on both, I strongly sympathize with the community. Over the last 10 years, having heard many fabulous presentations for “white tablecloth restaurants” that turned out to be clubs, or morphed into one when the chef quit, most committee members are leery of many presentations, especially when they are represented by one of three law firms, two of which were mentioned in your article on E.U. The average small businessperson that wants to open a small community-friendly restaurant cannot even conceive of the retainers that are charged by these firms. The third attorney, who was not mentioned in The Villager’s article, was featured on the cover page of a Newsday real estate section last year, telling how the type of client that he represents would never be permitted in his community in Breezy Point; yet, he feels that it is A-O.K. to dump these bars in our community.

Frank Palillo, E.U.’s attorney, was the attorney for F. Stop cafe at 28 W. 20th St. An affidavit was filed with Community Board 5 that F. Stop would not become a club. Four months later, the chef left and F. Stop morphed into a club. Prior to F. Stop, the space was occupied by a photo lab. Once a liquor license is granted for a space, the license can be transferred into eternity if you have the proper lawyer.

Personally, at community board meetings, I personally have a tendency to try to see who the lawyer is, even before I look to see who the applicant is. What makes it harder is that some past applications in the C.B. 5 Flatiron District moratorium area, such as Gotham Comedy Club and Shaffer City, have kept their promises and been great neighbors. On the other hand, the club that recently opened with a transferred license in the old F. Stop space received 17 summonses in one night several months ago.

As previously stated, a handful of prominent attorneys who know how to navigate through the S.L.A. come to community board meetings and fill the attendees with terror, the attendees knowing that the white tablecloth restaurants that they represent will either never happen or will mutate into something else if the owners are not taking in enough revenue. Another problem that I have been observing is that many of these applicants have been bringing in a member of the New York Police Department as a silent partner. When there is an incident requiring police response, I have personally observed a flash of a shield to the responding officers, resulting in a summons that should have been written not being written and corresponding S.L.A. report not issued.

A community board almost never rejects a liquor license without good reason. In the case of E.U., I’m sure that the attitude of both the applicants and attorney, a possibly questionable business plan and the strong reputation of the Ninth Precinct commanding officer, Deputy Inspector De Quatro, were major factors

Jon Schachter
Schachter is vice president, Manhattan South Citizens’ Police Academy Alumni Association

Silver punchless on bars

To The Editor:
“Deputy mayor: Bloomberg will push for a city S.L.A. commish” (news article, March 8):

It’s wonderful news that well over 10 years after the problem first began, that the proposal of a “C.L.A.” or City Liquor Authority and/or having a resident of New York City on the State Liquor Authority is being taken seriously by more than one or two members of the State Legislature. Residents have known truths about the current S.L.A. for eons that Deputy Mayors Walcott and Skyler seem to only have discovered on March 2.

What I can’t get happy about is the “new” State Assembly hearings on May 5 that Shelly Silver’s office wants us to get all excited about. Our question to Silver is: What happened after the three other hearings?

Silver has held at least three prior hearings on the S.L.A. — including one very large hearing on March 16, 2001. At that hearing, activists from all over Lower Manhattan and even from as far away as Rockaway, Queens, testified in support of how poor a job the S.L.A. was doing in the Lower East Side, East Village, Soho, Little Italy, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Tribeca, etc., regarding the lack of enforcement of their own rules and regulations and the Alcohol Beverage Control Law. A lot of promising about legislation to change how the S.L.A. did business came out of the hearing only to later “die” on Silver’s desk.

Since 2001, there have been at least two more State Assembly hearings with nothing to show for it — no thanks to Silver.

Now Silver wants to hold yet another hearing to make voters “think” he is doing something to solve this long-standing problem. Don’t allow Silver to fool you.

Any legislation that will change the A.B.C. Law for the better for us and help to control, quiet and close The Lower East Side Alcohol Theme Park™ will die in The Silver Mausoleum. Unless we act now.

Marcia H. Lemmon

No sleep hurts economy

To The Editor:
Re “Nightlife fuels economy” (letter, by Christopher Molinari, March 15):

Mr. Molinari misses the point, like a smoker oblivious to the fact that his rights end when they interfere with my rights.

If his neighbor chooses to be “tucked in at 9 p.m.,” how does that affect Molinari — unless Molinari considers his bar an extension of his neighbor’s apartment? There are enough residents who have had bars inflict noise on them — as if the bars had eminent domain — in apartments they are paying damn good money to live in. At least a resident is paid to move out with eminent domain.

Perhaps the offending bars should pay affected tenants’ rents and a class-action lawsuit is called for.

Jobs are lost? What about those who are kept awake until 4 a.m.? What economic benefit is that? What is the social benefit to hard-working people of having to deal with this quality-of-life nightmare?

Robert Weitz

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