Volume 76, Number 18 | September 20 - 26, 2006

N.Y.U., party school, cracks down on underage drinking

By Albert Amateau

New York University on Monday called for a campaign involving community groups, elected officials and university students to combat underage drinking.

N.Y.U. has been ranked among the country’s top “party schools” in recent years. In 2001, the Greenwich Village university was rated the country’s 19th-best “party school.” But that may start to change with the new campaign.

Alicia Hurley, N.Y.U. vice president for government and community affairs, told a Community Board 3 committee meeting on Sept. 18, that the university wanted a community partnership that includes local bar operators to devise a framework of “education, responsibility and safety” regarding students and nightlife.

Hurley said the idea, which came from Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3 district manager, in a conversation a month ago, is still in its infancy. But the university has sent letters to local city and state elected officials soliciting their participation.

The C.B. 3 State Liquor Authority Committee, which considers license applications to the S.L.A., unanimously agreed to take part in the initiative.

The reaction among the public at the meeting was hopeful but skeptical.

“I’m glad you’re doing something, but I hope you’re going to take concrete steps,” said Anna Sawaryn, a founder of the Coalition to Save the East Village. “We don’t just need a goodwill campaign. We see groups of students, 10 or 20 roaming the streets from bar to bar. They have to know that they’re part of the community,” she said. Sawaryn said she feared the effect of the university’s new dormitory under construction on E. 12th St. on the neighborhood.

“Adding 700 kids to the neighborhood will add to the problems,” she said.

Hurley said the effort would include residential neighbors and she promised that updates on the campaign would be posted on the university Web site.

Ariel Palitz, owner of Sutra Lounge at 16 First Ave., said that underage students who use false I.D. to get into bars should be subject to criminal penalties.

“We’re working ferociously to keep them out, but if they’re caught they’re just not admitted. We feel that if Suzy winds up in Rikers for two days it would make a big impact on other students,” Palitz said. “It’s unfair that bars are the only ones penalized for underage drinking. Having fake I.D. is a crime and it should have criminal consequences,” she said.

Two N.Y.U. students at the Monday meeting said they doubted the initiative would stop any students under age 21 from drinking. But Tom McGuire, 20, a student at Stern School of Business and president of the University Residence Council, who came to the meeting with Hurley, said later he was hopeful about the campaign.

“I think there are many students who don’t drink — or don’t drink on a regular basis. We do have nightlife alternatives to bars,” McGuire said. Under the campaign, N.Y.U. will promote nondrinking nightlife alternatives for the students.

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