IN BID FOR SELF-DETERMINATION
New York State Liquor Authority disapproves nightclub's liquor
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
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
themselves long time Northside residents experience problems in
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
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