Op-ed: Why Standing Up to Paul Seres & Aleksandra Drozd Makes Us Stronger

Posted on: November 26th, 2013 at 12:07 pm by
155 Rivington Street

155 Rivington Street

The following Op-ed was written and submitted by Diem Boyd, founder of the LES Dwellers Association.

Community Board 3’s decision to approve Rivington F&B at 155 Rivington St. for a full liquor license is a proverbial slap in the face to this community. This joint venture between Paul Seres, part owner and head of day-to-day operations of The DL, and Aleksandra Drozd, majority owner in The Delancey and The DL, has all the markings of a business that will further burden a neighborhood already suffering the crushing weight of liquor licenses in the hands of negligent operators. We only have to look to The DL and The Delancey to see what the future of Rivington F&B holds–more Paul Seres and Aleksandra Drozd brings more problems.

So, why does Community Board 3 keep saying yes–often with stipulations that are pointless when unenforceable–to well-documented bad operators when they should just say no? With 16 full-liquor licenses within 500 feet of each other, which is already more than four times the legal limit, there is absolutely no public benefit to be found in granting a liquor license to Rivington F&B. It will be interesting to see how a “tavern serving a diverse slider menu, small plates and personal pizza program” will enrich an already deteriorating neighborhood.

Despite community opposition and compelling evidence and assertions against this application (LES Dwellers Rivington F&B and The Delancey Community Report), which was shared with all members of the SLA & DCA committee, Community Board 3 thought otherwise, exposing just how disconnected it can sometimes be from the community it purports to represent.

For many, there is nothing shocking in Community Board 3 approving another liquor license south of Houston Street and on the border of Hell Square. However, residents may be shocked to learn that the 3-to-1 vote technically does not count.

In a letter addressed to Alex Militano, Chair of the SLA & DCA Licensing Committee, and shared with the LES Dwellers, a concerned resident east of Essex Street challenged the vote stating,

Four voting committee members present at the meeting did not constitute a quorum. The decision by these members to vote despite this, is a direct violation of the by-laws of the community board and its committees.”

The Community Board 3 by-laws are implicit:

  1. A majority, (1/2 + 1 of the appointed members of the Community Board), shall constitute a quorum. Public members and ex-officio members are not counted toward a quorum.
  2. A quorum being present, a majority, (1/2 + 1 of the members eligible to vote), must vote in favor of a motion for the motion to pass.
  3. Committee meetings shall be conducted under the same procedures as Board meetings.

Based on a composition of eight people who serve on the Community Board 3 SLA & DCA Committee, there needed to be five appointed members in attendance to vote on any of the resolutions. Therefore, technically none of the votes should be counted that night as the committee was two members shy of a majority. Though this will possibly be messy to address, Community Board 3 must revisit all motions passed that night in accordance with their by-laws.

There is also the matter of the possible shared pecuniary relationship between the applicant Paul Seres and appointed member Ariel Palitz. As explained in the resident’s letter, Ariel Paliz should have recused herself from voting on this item since she and Paul Seres have previously worked together as “consultants”:

Also troubling was the lack of concern from the other board members present at the meeting in regards to the conflict of interest between board member Ariel Palitz, and one of the principles on the application, Paul Seres. Their collaboration on a nightlife consulting project was not only an issue that should have been more quickly disclosed and more thoroughly discussed, but one that should have resulted in Ms. Palitz recusing herself from voting on the application.

This letter is a battle cry for the positive changes needed in the Lower East Side. Penned by a first-time participant in the community board process, this person refuses to stand down to operators like Paul Seres and Alex Drozd and stand up to Community Board 3 asking them to reconsider their vote despite feeling “some of the members of the board had little regard for our concerns as residents and that we were merely a “nuisance.” We too as a community should flex our civic muscles and stand alongside this letter.

If civic engagement is the cornerstone of an effective and representative community board, then Community Board 3 must seize the opportunity to foster this by revoking last week’s result and to vote against a liquor license approval for Rivington F&B at tonight’s full board. A vote not in support of Paul Seres and Alex Drozd – both of whom routinely break the law, operate outside of the approved method of operation, and have a history of NY SLA violations and community nuisance complaints – is a vote of confidence in Community Board 3.

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