INWOOD — Controversial Inwood hotspot La Marina was quietly granted permission to host 1,800 patrons at a time in its city-owned venue uptown, the Parks Department revealed this week, to the surprise of locals who were told the venue would only host 500.
La Marina — built and operated on Parks Department land — has been a flash point for the community since it opened last year. Partygoers have flocked to the waterfront restaurant and venue in droves, and residents have complained of incessant noise late into the night and traffic congestion along Dyckman Street on weekends.
Locals, including members of Community Board 12, were under the impression that La Marina's capacity was limited to 500, based on a statement from the Parks Department last year.
But after critics confronted a Parks Department representative with tweets and photos from social media showing what appear to be thousands of revelers, Parks representative Jennifer Hoppa told Community Board 12's Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee that the venue currently has a permit from the Fire Department that lets it hold 1,800 people at a time.
"The place of assembly allows for 1,800," Hoppa told CB12 Monday night, adding that the 500-seat cap only applied to the number of people indoors.
"We heard it was cut from 1,000 to 500," bewildered CB12 member David Kach said, referring to comments from a Parks Department spokesman last year.
Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson wrote in an email last May that La Marina concessionaire "Manhattan River Group stated in their SLA application that the maximum seating capacity is 1,000. But Parks had not approved that amount. When we did review the seating plans, which are subject to Parks' approval, we approved 500, which is what we felt was appropriate for this type of operation.”
La Marina's 2012 Place of Assembly License, obtained by DNAinfo New York, shows a capacity of 294 for the space labeled "Ground Floor." The license, which was applied for by La Marina co-owner Jerald Tenenbaum and Parks Department employee Elizabeth Smith, was approved for one year by the city Department of Small Business Services on June 27, 2012.
The venue secured two Place of Assembly licenses in 2013, both for "La Marina-The Beach." The applications, accepted by the SBS on June 5, 2013, have capacities for 1500 and 300 people, respectively, according to documents obtained by DNAinfo.
La Marina co-owner Josh Rosen refuted claims that the hotspot's capacity numbers had changed. Rosen added that questions about the La Marina's capacity hadn't come up during presentations to the community board.
"It was never hidden, it just never came up," Rosen said. "The plans were all there. Its not like we extended the fence."
Residents have accused the city of not enforcing regulations at La Marina, including turning a blind eye to what critics believed was illegal dancing. However, State Liquor Authority records show that the venue has had a cabaret liquor license since March 2012, permitting dancing.
Hoppa said the Parks Department has taken neighbors' complaints seriously, passing along two of them to La Marina's owners — namely, that the late-night noise and scantily clad ads are unwelcome in the neighborhood.
"La Marina has been directed to stop all amplified sound after 10 p.m., live or acoustic," Hoppa said. "And they've been made aware that Parks doesn't think that a lot of their advertising has been appropriate for parks facilities."