LOWER EAST SIDE — The Lower East Side needs more butchers and grocers, not bars and nightclubs, residents say in a new letter-writing campaign.
Community Board 3 is sending letters to dozens of neighborhood property owners and brokers, urging them to rent space to a variety of community friendly businesses, rather than to more bars, chain stores and high-end boutiques.
"We used to have very diverse local retail, but we've lost it," said Susan Stetzer, CB3's district manager. "What can you buy, other than a $300 handbag? There's nothing local for an ordinary person who is not rich."
The letter, signed by CB3 Chairman Dominic Pisciotta, also warns that the community board will not look kindly on liquor license applications in areas that are already oversaturated with nightlife, including blocks of St. Mark's Place, Avenue A and Orchard Street.
The board will not approve new liquor licenses in those areas unless the bars' owners show that they have community support and will benefit the neighborhood, the letter said.
Stetzer said she sees the letter as fair warning to newcomers who may not be aware of the restrictions, and she hopes it will make landlords think twice about their future tenants.
CB3 has already sent the letter to the owners of many vacant storefronts on the Lower East Side and in the East Village and is also working with the Lower East Side Business Improvement District and the New York Nightlife Association to distrubute it further, Stetzer said.
Apart from the letter, CB3's Economic Development Committee is also looking into more aggressive ways to increase the diversity of the neighborhood's retail and prevent small mom-and-pops from being priced out.
One possibility would be for the city to require chain stores and late-night bars to apply for a special permit before they can open in parts of the East Village and the Lower East Side, said Mary DeStefano, an urban planning fellow who is working with CB3.
Another possibility would be to advocate for tax breaks or rent subsidies for small businesses, which would require state legislation to enact, DeStefano said.
"This is the first step," Richard Ropiak, co-chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said after Wednesday's brainstorming session. "It's complex, and it's going to take a lot of thinking."