Board 4 wants cops in front of clubs
By Albert Amateau
Community Board 4, which includes Chelsea, where about 75 percent of Manhattans licensed cabarets are located, is asking the Bloomberg administration to allow off-duty police in uniform to be employed keeping order in front of clubs and bars.
In Chelsea, where clubs are frequently in or near residential areas, noisy and often rowdy crowds on the streets are frequent problems. While club owners are responsible for keeping order inside, they insist that their security guards have no authority over what happens outside.
Community Board 4 has been wrestling with the problem for years and believes that paid detail, is a possible solution.
The practice of uniformed police performing private security work within the city paid by private entities is known as paid detail but it is not allowed for businesses that sell alcohol.
The community board unanimously voted at its January meeting to ask the mayor to change the policy. Paid detail for nightclubs is used regularly in lesser cities such as Los Angeles and Houston, says the C.B.4 letter on the issue. Its even used in Boston. Its time to bring it to New York, the letter concludes.
However, Gretchen Dykstra, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, said last week that the city believes such a change would require state legislation. Under Dykstra, Consumer Affairs, which regulates cabaret licenses, is promoting a new nightlife license that would replace the cabaret license.
A Police Department spokesperson would not comment on the C.B.4 request last week, but it was clear that the N.Y.P.D. does not want paid details working for holders of liquor licenses.
But paid detail for clubs and bars has the backing of the New York Nightlife Association. Robert Bookman, attorney for the association, said uniformed police patrolling the streets in front of clubs would do what club owners cannot do now. The real trouble is the crowds outside clubs exacerbated now by the citys smoking laws and an owners authority ends at his door, said Bookman recently. David Rabin, a partner in Lotus on W. 14th St. and president of the Nightlife Association, also called for paid detail in a hearing last fall.
Officers for the details come from a list of available volunteers, and the police commanders make the assignments. Payments are made to the department, which then pays officers in a detail. If the program is extended to bars and clubs, Community Board 4 recommends that police work only outside clubs and be rotated on a regular basis.
The appearance of a uniformed N.Y.P.D. officer, even off duty, can act as a deterrent for unacceptable behavior, said J.D. Noland of the C.B. 4 Quality of Life Committee. The boards letter to the mayor noted that it might be necessary for paid details to patrol areas beyond the front of clubs to be effective.