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Central Park West Residents Hire Lobbyists to Block Wine Bar

By Leslie Albrecht | July 6, 2010 9:18am | Updated on July 6, 2010 11:01am

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — Residents in two Central Park West buildings are so set against having a wine bar move into their neighborhood that they've hired high-powered professional lobbyists in hopes of killing the proposed venue.

Members of Community Board 7 say they’ve heard from some of the city’s top lobbyists in advance of a vote Tuesday night who have urged them not to recommend a liquor license for a wine bar on the ground floor of a high-rise known as The Century.

Residents at The Century at 25 Central Park West retained The Parkside Group, which helped U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley get elected, while their neighbors at 15 Central Park West — where a two-bedroom corner unit is on the market for $6.5 million— hired Geto & de Milly, which worked on the Atlantic Yards projects, both groups confirmed.

Residents at 25 Central Park West are protesting a plan to open a wine bar on the exclusive building's ground floor.
Residents at 25 Central Park West are protesting a plan to open a wine bar on the exclusive building's ground floor.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

“It’s a lot of power being poured into not a lot of square feet,” said Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore, who said he has been approached by lobbyists about the wine bar.

The wine bar is proposed for a vacant ground floor space at 25 Central Park West that most recently held a Gristedes grocery store. If approved, the bar would have 61 seats, backers say.

The residents of the two buildings opposing the wine bar include Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, Sting and actor Denzel Washington. It was not immediately clear if any of those residents were involved in hiring the lobbyists.

Greg Hunt, the 52-year-old Upper West Side resident who wants to open the wine bar, isn't bothered by the lobbying effort.

"I think ultimately the community board is going to make its decision based on the merits not on the fact that one side hired lobbyists," he said.

Hunt believes opponents of his wine bar misrepresented the project when they collected signatures against it, saying he wanted to open a night club that would blast loud music.

Instead, Hunt insists he wants to run a classy, understated establishment where well-heeled customers will listen to low-volume music as they sip chardonnay. But residents of 25 Central Park West and neighbor 15 Central Park West argue the wine bar will bring noisy drunken crowds to their quiet block.

Community board members on the receiving end of the lobbying push say the wine bar opponents are getting their money’s worth.

The Parkside Group mailed “impressive” packets of information about the proposed wine bar to community board members, with a host of well-researched background information about other bars in the area.

The packet included a map of all bars and restaurants near 25 Central Park West, with the closing times for each. All were earlier than the 2 a.m. weekend close time for the proposed wine bar, said one community board member who asked to not be identified.

“They did their homework,” the board member said. “It’s well put together, it’s smart, it answers questions. This is the kind of research everyone should be required to do.”

Jake Dilemani of The Parkside Group says the strategy he employed for his clients at 25 Central Park West is similar to the one he uses when The Parkside Group advocates in Albany.

“The core things are the same,” Dilemani said. “It’s coalition building, it’s making sure your argument is heard by the right people, it’s bringing stakeholders together to get a solution that everyone can live with.”

Dilemani and company appear to have succeeded on many of those fronts. The Parkside Group has lined up support from elected officials including City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and State Senator Tom Duane.

Families who live at 25 Central Park West say a proposed wine bar could bring drug dealing and drunks to their kid-friendly neighborhood.
Families who live at 25 Central Park West say a proposed wine bar could bring drug dealing and drunks to their kid-friendly neighborhood.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

They’ve also collected thousands of signatures on a petition against the wine bar, which Dilemani said proves that the residents of 25 Central Park West aren’t the only ones worried about potential problems.

Michele de Milly of Geto & de Milly could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t want the community board members to think this is just the residents in one building being parochial about their quality of life,” Dilemani said. “It’s in fact the residents of several buildings, and if you total everyone in the community, it’s thousands of people.”

The Community Board’s Tuesday vote on whether to grant the wine bar a liquor license is only a recommendation. The New York State Liquor Authority has the final say.

But opponents have already prepared themselves for the next stage of battle, if the community board approves the bar. They’ve retained land use attorney Paul Selver, one of the attorneys on Extell Development Corporation’s controversial Riverside Center development, to argue on their behalf on the grounds that zoning law doesn’t allow for a bar on that block, they said.

Opponents have Community Board 7 meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 7 West 83 Street.