Friends of the Northside
(Przyjaciele Northside / Amigos de los Nortes)
A COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION
Friends of the Northside
____________________________________________________________________________ PRESS RELEASE ____________________________________________________________________________
FRIENDS OF THE NORTHSIDE
Sarah Porter, steering committee, FOTN, 718-782-1289
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 26, 2001
NORTHSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD VICTORIOUS
IN BID FOR SELF-DETERMINATION
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.
PRESS COVERAGE, CONTINUED
From the New York Daily News, October 12, 2000
Nightclub Under Fire: New Northside spot will add to already noisy block, say foes
By Matthew Creamer
Residents of Williamsburg's trendy Northside rallied yesterday against a new music club, saying the neighborhood already is teeming with too much noise and nightlife.
More than 40 early-morning protesters charged that Cafe Sin-e, a live music venue with a legal capacity of 299 people, will cause noise and traffic nightmares on the quiet block of N. Eighth St. between Bedford Ave. and Berry St.
"This is a residential street with apartments on each side," said Ken Grobe, a 32-year-old writer who lives on the block. "There is a family of four that shares a wall with the stage."
The residents and the public officials who support them are worried that Sin-e is symptomatic of a larger development: that the neighborhood is turning into a hot spot for late-night clubs and bars.
There are at least eight other bars and restaurants with liquor licenses within a 500-foot radius of Sin-e. On the block with Sin-e are 230 residents, mostly in three- and four-story, multifamily homes, rally organizers said.
"This is no way to treat families," said Deputy Borough President Jeanette Gadson. "This community has already been saturated by liquor-selling establishments."
The State Liquor Authority, which issues liquor licenses, took much of the heat yesterday.
"Perhaps the State Liquor Authority should be called 'Serve Liquor Anywhere' or 'Shaft Local Areas,'" said Sarah Porter, a resident of the block and a rally organizer.
The demonstration occurred two days before oral arguments are scheduled to be heard in a lawsuit brought against the authority in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 1 by the neighborhood group Friends of the Northside, seeks to vacate the authority's awarding of the liquor license. It charges that the agency did not properly notify the community of the final hearing at which the license was approved.
State law requires written notification to be sent to the community board at least 15 days prior to the hearing. Barry Mallin of Mallin and Goldstein, the firm bringing the suit, said the board never received notice.
"We believe the State Liquor Authority has abdicated its authority to protect the public interest," Mallin said at the rally.
The lawsuit was signed by more than 220 Williamsburg residents and public officials, including Borough President Howard Golden. The authority declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.
Shane Doyle, the owner of Sin-e, said the club will open in about two weeks regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. "I've done everything I'm supposed to do, and the authority saw fit to approve my license," Doyle said. "When I open, that will dismantle their arguments. There will be no noise."
Sin-e, which occupies a 4,800-square-foot space in a former silver-plating factory, has been the subject of controversy since members of the community learned about it in August 1999.
Doyle owned Sin-e on St. Mark's Place until 1995, then sold it. He owns Arlene Grocery on Stanton St. in lower Manhattan.
In August, Friends of the Northside obtained a temporary restraining order prohibiting Sin-e from selling liquor until the case is heard in court.
Original Publication Date: 10/12/00
From the New York Times, Jan. 14, 2001
Court Ruling Brings Happy Hour to Foes of a Music Bar
By Tara Bahrampour
Seventeen months into a battle against a new bar and music spot on their block, North Eighth Street residents have won a suit challenging a license that was approved by the State Liquor Authority last spring.
"It's a great victory for our community and for communities across New York," said Sarah Porter, who lives across the street from Sin-e, the new bar, which opened in December.
According to a ruling by the State Supreme Court, the liquor authority failed to notify the community properly about a hearing on the license. Previously, Community Board 1 had voted to oppose the license after local residents said they feared the new place would bring noise and vandalism, and said there were already too many bars in the area. The ruling told the authority to reconsider its approval and take residents' concerns into account.
Shane Doyle, owner of Sin-e (pronounced shi-NAY), said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the ruling. Even without alcohol, he added, Sin-e has been drawing crowds by offering live acoustic shows. But, he said, it has been hard to make money. He said he had spent $500,000 on the site, which is zoned for industrial use, and would not consider moving.
Maris Hart, a spokeswoman for the liquor authority, said there would be another hearing, "and citizens will have an opportunity to attend and express their views."