MIDTOWN — Advertising executives, graphic designers, and fellow citizens of Midtown have banded together to found a new block association, one geared toward combating what they say is a scourge of noisy nightclubs and rooftop bars spreading across the neighborhood.
The 29th Street Neighborhood Association, which covers a 0.65-mile rectangle bounded by Lexington and 11th Avenues, and 23rd and 34th streets, has started meeting the second Tuesday of each month to discuss how best to "bring attention to the problems that we have," said Mario G. Messina, president of MgMGold Communications and a founding member of the association.
"We have seen a proliferation of really many liquor licenses that are being used for lounges and clubs that are creating nuisances for all the residents," Messina told DNAinfo.com New York. "The quality of life has gone out the window."
The number of liquor licenses in the three zip-codes covered by the association has only slightly increased in the past 10 years. Whereas there were 415 on-premises liquor licenses in 2003 in the 10001, 10010, and 10016 zip codes — not counting establishments allowed to serve only beer and wine — there were 477 as of Thursday, the State Liquor Authority said.
The number of hotel lounges and rooftop bars, however, has noticeably risen — especially with the opening of hotels such as the Gansevoort Park, which boasts five liquor licenses and an open-air rooftop pool and bar that attracted a string of complaints from neighbors.
"These are hotels that are using the scheme of being a hotel to then have two or three liquor licenses and have, in their premises, parties and stuff," Messina said.
The problems most often arise long before dawn, as the late-night venues start to close and patrons spill onto the sidewalk.
"At night, when people arrive, they are orderly and lined up," Messina said. "But when they are leaving, all hell breaks loose. They are jumping in the middle of the street to try to hail a cab, they are creating chaos and traffic jams because you have two or three lines of parking limousines and taxis, and all of this is creating disturbances in the whole neighborhood."
Gansevoort Park spokeswoman Erin Hopkins said there are "plans in the works" to address neighbors' complaints, "programming plans that may or may not come to fruition."
She declined to elaborate.
Messina's concerns, meanwhile, have apparently struck a chord: The association has attracted about 40 members, Messina and fellow founding member Leslie Hendrix said, and it has also won support from State Senator Liz Krueger. She has urged the group to focus its efforts on bringing attention to the state's "500-foot rule," which provides "a check against runaway liquor license density" by allowing the agency to reject an application if there are other establishments with liquor licenses nearby.
"My office will monitor additional applications for liquor licenses in this neighborhood, and I am open to testifying in support of the needs of the community and local residents at any 500-Foot Rule hearings held by the SLA," Krueger wrote in a March 22 letter. "It is my hope that this [500-foot] provision built into the current Alcohol Beverage Control Law can be used as a safety valve for neighborhoods like the area surrounding East 29th Street."
Hendrix, who helped Messina launch the 29th Street Neighborhood Association, emphasized that the group does not want to completely eliminate bars, hotels and nightspots from the area.
"It's not a NIMBY organization," she said. "It's more, 'Let's develop it in a responsible way that makes it a well-rounded neighborhood, instead of just hotels and clubs.'"
The association meets at 425 Park Ave. S, on the building's mezzanine level.