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Loping down N. 8th on March 15 a saw a slew of flyers proclaiming a “victory for the Northside.” I had wondered if the community board had declared open season on guys wearing Elvis Costello glasses. No such luck.

Instead, it appears the forces of NIMBY have won. As their press release notes,

“On March 14, 2001, in a rare, precedent-setting decision, the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) disapproved the application for a liquor license of the Sin-e´ nightclub, located on the primarily residential Northside block of North 8th St., between Bedford and Berry Streets, Brooklyn.”

Precedent setting, indeed. As in Sin-e´ got screwed. Friends of the Northside skillfully terrified the old folks on the block by portraying Sin-e´, a cozy coffee joint and night-time performance space as a “night club.” Hello- aren’t night clubs places where people pop ecstasy, chug vodka and energy drink cocktails, and dance to thumping music until 7 AM? Politicians, who know that high percentages of the elderly vote, responded. Joseph Lentol, Martin Connor, Kenneth Fisher, Jeannette Gadson, Howard Golden, Nydia Velasquez, Marty Markowitz, Steve Cohn, and the good people on Community Board 1 all got in their kicks.

So it goes. Meanwhile, a colossal restaurant-bar is being erected just a block south on N. 7th between Berry and Bedford, right next to the hulking Planet Thailand. So far as I can discern, though, Friends of the Northside have not protested it. Nary a flyer damning it as “Disneyland” has been seen. Hmmm…

- F. Sot Fitzgerald

Read the abovementioned Press Release below:


New York State Liquor Authority disapproves nightclub's liquor license

On March 14, 2001, in a rare, precedent-setting decision, the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) disapproved the application for a liquor license of the Sin-e´ nightclub, located on the primarily residential Northside block of North 8th St., between Bedford and Berry Streets, Brooklyn.

This important decision is the result of over a year and a half of lengthy involvement by the community group Friends of the Northside, and on the parts of elected and appointed officials Joseph Lentol, Martin Connor, Kenneth Fisher, Jeannette Gadson, Howard Golden, Nydia Velasquez, Marty Markowitz, Steve Cohn; as well as Community Board No. 1 of the Borough of Brooklyn; and the community and block associations Friends of the India St. Pier, Inc., Neighbors Against Garbage, North Fifth St. Block Association, Northside Gardens, Inc., the Ukrainian National Home of Brooklyn; as well as hundreds of community residents.

The Friends of the Northside represent a broad spectrum of our population - landlords, business owners, tenants, retirees, young families, artists, musicians, writers, professionals and working people - united in the conviction that the neighborhood in which we live should retain those livable qualities that drew many of us here in the first place. It is most essential that it not be given over to those who, for quick profit, would convert it into a nighttime playground with no regard for the many quality-of-life problems such changes would create.

Our victory is a victory for communities throughout Brooklyn and greater New York. For too long developers have acted capriciously and selfishly to mine profits from trendy neighborhoods. Everywhere neighborhoods are starting to fight back, insisting that they will be heard on community planning issues and acting, where necessary, to legally block ill-advised commercial development.

The community action we have pursued included an initial 500-foot public hearing in August 1999, a lawsuit against the SLA for issuing the license without community involvement, revocation of the liquor license by the New York State Supreme Court, and a resulting new 500-foot hearing in February 2001. We have worked through the system every step of the way, our opposition to the siting of a 360+ person nightclub borne out by testimony, anecdotal evidence and statistical data. More than 500 people in the two-block radius of Sin-e´ formally opposed the granting of a liquor license to Sin-e´, including 159 on the affected block itself, while only three people on the block supported the club.

Northsiders are legitimately concerned about the rise in late-night eating and drinking establishments in residential areas, and the scale and siting of this nightclub was particularly egregious, with residential buildings on either side and people living on the first floors of almost every building on the entire block. Seniors live in almost every
building, along with families whose children play on the sidewalks.

Our concerns are fully reinforced by the SLA's own regulations that when three or more bars exist in a 500-foot radius, the community must be duly notified (through the community board) of any application for a liquor license. In such instances, it is incumbent upon the applicant to show compelling community support for the issuance of a new license. We successfully demonstrated that no such support exists and that, in fact, there is a widespread desire among residents to choke off the development of more bars and clubs if possible. We informed the SLA that there already exist 10 liquor-serving businesses within the 500-foot radius of the Sin-e´ site.

We are a growing neighborhood, but we don't believe that development must be synonymous with bars, nightclubs and large bar/restaurants. FOTN calls on all landlords and developers to turn away from the quick profits that come at the expense of our neighborhood's quality-of-life and consider the actual needs of Northside residents: a bank, a post office, a green-grocer, a day care center, a gym, artists' studios or a gallery - these are the kinds of new businesses that will help sustain our community.

Because opinion pieces and letters to the editor continue to be published that mischaracterize our recent struggle against the Sin-e´ siting, we wish to clarify several issues for the record:

Capacity: What had been presented as a 294-person nightclub turned out at the 500-foot hearing on February 6 to be a 360-person capacity club (3-1/2 times larger than Teddy's, also larger than Galapagos).

Sound: FOTN was not particularly concerned about actual sound emanating from the club, because soundproofing was supposed to be extensive. In fact it did turn out to be a considerable problem. The apartment next door vibrated from the sounds of music, and the family of four next to the site summoned the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, who warned Sin-e´ the club would be given a violation if the problem did not abate. Sin-e´ suspended live music shows immediately.

Parking problems: To handle parking issues, since there is no additional street-parking available, Sin-e´ maintained that patrons could park under the BQE! This was clearly not a viable solution, as the BQE is blocks away and not safe for nighttime parking. Sin-e´ offered no plan as to how this site would be made secure for patrons and their cars, or how patrons would be induced to park their vehicles so far away from the club.

Street congestion: Unloading of trucks and buses in front of the nightclub has already caused problems for the residents of the block. Buses and vans idling for a half hour at 12:30 a.m. while bands load their gear is not a viable practice for a residential block.

Foot traffic: Throngs of people would magnify the current problems being experienced with the bars and restaurants in the immediate neighborhood whose patrons cause problems when they depart the establishments at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning. Even the best-intentioned bar or club owner cannot control the noise and behavior created by their patrons after they leave the premises. Several neighborhood bar owners who are themselves long time Northside residents experience problems in this regard.

Expense: Since the SLA's decision in our favor, the owners of Sin-e´ and their colleagues have complained about how much money they have lost because of FOTN's actions. Our objective was simply to defend our neighborhood and protect what quality of life we have. Sin-e´'s profit margin would have come at our expense. The principal owner, Shane Doyle, attended two large community meetings in Fall 1999 at which it was clear the neighborhood did not welcome the club, yet Mr. Doyle chose to persevere. We offered on several occasions - in August, October and November 1999 -- to assist him in finding a more suitable location in Northside, offers he rejected. Finally, we seek to point out that we also incurred thousands of dollars of debt in order to mount the fight against the nightclub siting, and dozens of our unpaid volunteers worked hundreds of hours over an 18-month period organizing our efforts.

We have been ably represented in our efforts by Barry Mallin, attorney with Mallin & Goldstein Associates, NYC. We have raised money for our legal costs through solicitations to Northside businesses, elected officials, and the general public. We require additional funds immediately to resolve outstanding legal bills, and more general support to help us continue our efforts. If you can assist us with a tax-deductible contribution, or would like more information about FOTN, please contact us at the phone or address listed above.

Friends of the Northside
135 North 8th St., #4-R
Brooklyn, NY 11211
tel: 718 384 2248
fax: 718 384 4218
URL: http://www.brooklynonline.com/bol/mybrooklyn/friends

(Opinions expressed in Free Williamsburg editorials are not necessarily endorsed by our organization. But then again maybe they are. We are all freelancers godammit!)

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