Why Does CB3 Want to be in Bed with the BID?
As previously reported, the SLA subcommittee of Community Board 3 heard a proposal by the Lower East Side Partnership earlier this month that would see the business improvement district become part of the liquor license application process. Needless to say, the appearance on the agenda has since caused confusion amongst board members and angered many residents in the neighborhood already worn down by an over-saturation of bars.
There are three parts to the BID’s proposal – help vet new licensees, assist with the application submission paperwork, and police license stipulations (even though this responsibility falls under the purview of NYPD and SLA).
Locals argue the proposed relationship will stymie democracy and proliferate nightlife even further, while proponents like District Manager Susan Stetzer (also sitting member of Nightlife Advisory Board) and Chair Alysha Coleman are the biggest cheerleaders. Arguing that this arrangement could “streamline” the process and relieve the overburdened SLA subcommittee.
In a bid to assuage the negative sentiment, though, the CB3 Executive Committee revisited the measure last Tuesday, and invited Partnership president Tim Laughlin to return. The public meeting seemed to further galvanize the division amongst the ranks of CB3 and reveal how those at the top are really pushing for this marriage.
Indeed, roughly three hours before the meeting, Susan Stetzer allegedly informed Stuart Zamsky from the 5th Street Block Association that the planned discussion about the BID proposal was canceled. Schedules were cleared. However, the show went on, and Laughlin presented anyway. And again met resistance from within.
During the public meeting, board secretary Clint Smeltzer argued how the whole proposal was poorly prepared and requires additional scrutiny. And how the presentation at committee “was a disaster” and different from what was shown last week.
SLA subcommittee chair Alex Militano echoed that notion and mentioned that the public was left out of the process and that there should be greater transparency. She explained that the huge turnout earlier this month demonstrated that the public is indeed weary and concerned about this proposal, and that nothing currently keeps the BID from supporting “better restaurants” in the neighborhood.
Stetzer held her ground, though, and pushed for the collaboration. Painting the Partnership as selfless saints, while fawning over its history and “benefit” to the community. She even went further, arguing that the BID is a “quasi-governmental agency” and should have a right to participate in the process.
For context, the Lower East Side Partnership is a nonprofit whose goal is to support landlords within its commercial district. It was founded in 1991 by local real estate baron Sion Misrahi to attract business to the neighborhood using the “bargain district” slogan. A tidal wave of nightlife ensued. Enough to cause legitimate public heath concerns in the present day, according to one Hunter College study.
The BID also maintains a documented track record of supporting liquor licenses within its district, despite community opposition or bad operators (e.g. The DL, 106 Rivington).
As a post-script, later that evening, Zamsky interrupted the meeting after the committee had moved on to other business and mentioned the alleged hoodwink.
“Stetzer tried to parse that she had not told me that there would not be discussion, but that there wouldn’t be an official presentation,” Zamsky said afterward. “I told her and the committee that I was deeply upset and that this was not true. Stetzer then said that it amounted to nothing, since no official action had been taken. She was then chided by the SLA Committee Chair Alex Militano, who said that we were promised by Coleman at the last meeting that we would be able to attend this one to hear the details. We were then bum-rushed out of the room with more profusely apologetic pleas from Coleman.”
So, again, why does CB3 really want to add the Lower East Side Partnership to the process?