With the East Village turned into a combination frat house and bachelorette party destination, I spoke with Susan Stetzer, District Manager for Community Board 3, and asked a few questions about how people in the community can most effectively wield the power of the complaint. The following is a quick guide to waging your own personal "Noise War."
[Update 7/12: The Times takes a noise tour of NYC and confirms what we all know--the bars and restaurants are painfully, dangerously loud.]
Tip #1: Make your complaint a three-fold whammy
1. Call 311. According to Susan, there are a few reasons why it’s crucial to make this call. Each complaint is immediately sent electronically to the police and helps to create a record against the offending establishment. In addition, the City allocates resources and money where there are problems, and 311 is one of the tools they use to identify problems. Your 311 call can make a long-term difference in the neighborhood.
2. Call your local police precinct and give them the complaint directly.
3. Make the complaint to the Community Board. You can do this via email and through their website. CB3 creates a spreadsheet of all the complaints they receive and they review this, as well as 311 calls and discussions with the police precinct, when an establishment comes before the Board for renewal. However, they only review locations that have had complaints reported directly to the CB within the last year.
If a business continually violates any stipulations they agreed to (for example, they promised to close their doors by 10:00 pm), you should also email the CB3 with specifics, such as: "This business has their doors open with live music playing every Tuesday until midnight." Doing so can give the authorities a heads up so they can catch the violators in the act.
"Stop the SuperNoise," says Jill
Tip #2: If you live above Houston Street, attend the 9th Precinct Community Council.
At these monthly meetings (except July and August), you will find many community members lodging complaints, several bar owners, and members of the police force who take these issues seriously. Click here for info--the next meeting will be 9/15.
Tip #3: There's more power in numbers.
A single individual's complaints are one thing, but a group of complainers is really powerful. If a business you have issues with comes to the board for a license, attend the CB3 meeting as a group. If you go solo, bring your "group" to the meeting with signed petitions and collections of letters from community members. If you have formed a group, Susan will be happy to schedule a meeting with you to answer your questions. Click for contact info.
Tip #4: Keep an eye on the Community Board agenda.
When something you’re concerned about comes up in the CB3 calendar, attend the meeting. And come prepared: Bring friends, petitions, letters, photos, and an outline of any specifics (dates of complaint calls, talks with the owner, loud parties, etc.).
Tip #5: Take it straight to the State Liquor Authority.
As Susan says, the SLA’s job is not to plan for our community, it’s to give licenses to people who fit the criteria. Only when it comes to the 500-foot rule does the SLA get involved in regulating. They have a special 500-foot Hearing when a business is planning to apply for a full liquor license where three or more full licenses exist within 500 feet.
If the business owner can attest that they are a benefit to the community, they can be awarded a liquor license—even if they’re within 500 feet of others. Community members who show up at those 500-foot Hearings and testify that the business is NOT a benefit can swing the vote. Susan told me, “Every time I have gone to a 500-foot Hearing with a group of well-organized community members, the SLA has sided with the residents 100% of the time.” Click here for info on upcoming 500-foot Hearings.
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