Volume 75, Number 47 | April 12 - 18 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver speaking at City Hall rally last Friday in support of the NEST+m School, which is opposing adding a charter school to its E. Houston St. building.

Governor and Silver in bar brawl over S.L.A. unit

By Albert Amateau

The strident protests about noisy bars disrupting the quality of life in the East Village, Soho and West Chelsea have prompted actions in Albany by Governor Pataki and by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s influence in the Legislature.

But their proposals to make the State Liquor Authority more responsive to the problem are conflicting with each other

Silver’s proposals in the state budget included a $700,000 appropriation for nine new S.L.A. field investigators and a $250,000 appropriation for a new Problem Premises Task Force within the S.L.A. that in New York City could respond to findings by community boards that a bar or club is a threat to public health and safety.

But Pataki last week vetoed the two appropriations on the grounds that they were “unconstitutional” insertions into his executive budget. The governor also vetoed the Legislature’s proposed amendment to the Alcohol Beverage Control Law to create the Problem Premises Task Force.

The governor’s A.B.C. Law veto contended the task force would create a “two-tiered” enforcement system based on “the identity of the complaining party,” referring, apparently, to the community board role in the process.

Silver told The Villager on April 11 that he was confident the Assembly and the State Senate would override Pataki’s veto of the budget lines and the A.B.C. Law amendment.

Nevertheless, in the same statement that accompanied the veto of the Problem Premises Task Force, the governor said, “The overall goal of this amendment is laudable … and I am directing the chair of the S.L.A. [Daniel C. Boyle] to establish a rapid enforcement unit in the [S.L.A.] to conduct priority investigations and institute prompt disciplinary action where there is substantial evidence that a premises poses an imminent threat to public health, safety and welfare.”

The difference between the vetoed task force and the governor’s rapid enforcement unit appears to be that the R.E.U.is the result of the governor’s executive order instead of an act by the Legislature.

The R.E.U. would investigate “referrals by a law enforcement agency or the chief executive of the governing board of a city, town or village.” Whether that would give community boards a role is an open question. But the R.E.U. would have representation from the three S.L.A. regional divisions: New York City/Long Island, the Albany-based northeast region and the Buffalo-based western region.

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