Nightlife Saturation in Hell Square is Toxic to Quality of Life and Spurs Crime, New Study Finds
The LES Dwellers Block Association yesterday released a new study on Hell Square nightlife and its deleterious effects on the local populace. At the behest of the activists, graduate students at the Hunter College urban development workshop (URBG790) investigated the crime and safety situation as it relates to liquor over-saturation.
The study reveals much of what we already know, and have discussed at great length over the last decade. Namely, that the expansion of nightlife as a vehicle for area economic development essentially backfired. Instead, it spurred increased crime, public health and safety concerns, commercial and residential turnover, and an overall decrease in quality-of-life.
First, it should be noted that the confines of Hell Square were slightly enlarged for the study. The data collected here is regarding the 24-block area bounded by East Houston, Allen, Broome, and Clinton Streets. The land area in question is roughly 57 acres, according to the current GIS maps provided by the New York State Liquor Authority. There are over 130 active on-premise liquor licenses (“OPLLs”) in this tiny quadrant, translating to approximately 2.3 bars per acre, or 11.5 bars per block. This makes Hell Square the area with the highest density of licenses in New York City.
Findings show that there is a direct relationship between density of nightlife in Hell Square, and crime, perceptions of public safety, and quality-of-life issues. Take a look at the above graph. Area crime statistics for rape and felony assault are reportedly up nearly 45% and 14% respectively, at a time when these crimes are declining throughout New York City. Residents and business owners feel less safe in their own neighborhood, as evidenced by many of the statements captured during focus groups and on the surveys.
“The report confirms what is palpable in Hell Square. Most local residents and small business owners do not feel like they live or work in a safe, clean and healthy neighborhood compared to neighborhoods with comparable residential and commercial rents,” said Diem Boyd, founder of the LES Dwellers.
During the course of research, Hunter College graduates held a series of three focus groups with residents to discuss possible solutions to the problems. Below were the recommendations, per the report:
Focus Group #1 recommended cutting the number of liquor licenses in half, and increasing the NYPD’s street presence and approach to enforcement during bar hours.
Focus Group #2 focused on broader visions, including establishing a Brooklyn Navy Yard-type facility (empowerment zones, low-tax/tax-free) that could accommodate small business incubators, makers’ spaces, light manufacturing, etc. They also suggested developing a strategy to court new types of development that would be more appropriate for the neighborhood, and would help to limit the entertainment zone.
Focus Group #3 suggested increased vetting by Community Board 3’s SLA Committee when reviewing applications for liquor licenses, as well as revising the composition of Community Board 3 when members’ terms are completed to gain more balance.
Below is the full, fifty-page report for your reading pleasure. What do you think is the best solution?