LOWER EAST SIDE — A Lower East Side block association that has aggressively opposed new liquor licenses is under attack from Community Board 3 and will be forced to take a back seat in future negotiations with bar owners, DNAinfo New York has learned.
L.E.S. Dwellers, which has fought for restrictions on new liquor licenses in the bar-saturated area bounded by Essex, Allen, East Houston and Delancey streets over the past year, will no longer be recognized as a community representative after Community Board 3 accused it of acting as a "shadow" community board, according to a letter from CB3.
In the letter from CB3 Chairwoman Gigi Li, which was shared with DNAinfo New York, Li accused L.E.S. Dwellers of meeting with liquor license applicants without CB3's knowledge and submitting investigative reports on applicants to the State Liquor Authority while keeping them secret from CB3.
Li also accused the group of negotiating with bar owners outside of the block association's coverage area.
As a result, CB3 will no longer encourage liquor license applicants in the area to meet with the group before coming to the community board, CB3's District Manager Susan Stetzer said in an Oct. 4 phone conversation recorded by L.E.S. Dwellers. The suspension started Oct. 1 and will last for three months, according to the recording.
"It [L.E.S. Dwellers] is not recognized by us and we are not telling the applicants that they need to meet with you," Stetzer said in the phone conversation with Li and L.E.S. Dwellers' Sara Romanoski and Diem Boyd which was shared with DNAinfo.
Li confirmed to DNAinfo that CB3's executive committee discussed the suspension during a meeting in September.
In an email to DNAinfo, Stetzer wrote that this was the first time the board had taken action against a block association and that there was no official procedure for it.
The State Liquor Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Boyd called the board’s decision to suspend her group illegal — and said they still plan to show up at the CB3 meetings and continue to fight to keep disruptive bars out of the area.
"If the board is not representing the community and they are limiting their voices, then we have a problem," she told DNAinfo New York Monday. "How are they serving the community?"
Boyd said members of L.E.S. Dwellers still planned to voice their concerns at CB3's liquor license committee Monday night, including on proposals for an Artichoke Basille's Pizza at 108 Stanton St. and Yemma Bar at 125 Rivington St.
"We will be speaking as the Dwellers even though we are not allowed to," she said.
CB3 first recognized L.E.S. Dwellers as a block association in October 2012, and since then the group has advocating for earlier closing times and no hard liquor sales, they said.
Civil liberties lawyer Norman Siegel, who is familiar with the community board operations in the city, said the block association suspension should have gone through a public hearing and a vote by the full community board.
"They can't just decide, 'We don't like these people' and more importantly, 'We don't like what they are saying,'" Siegel said.