GRAMERCY — The owner of a new lounge that opened this fall is keeping his neighbors up at night by allowing partygoers to clog the sidewalk outside, residents say.
Neighbors of the Visana — a lounge located behind a pizza shop at 321 First Ave. — complained about the noise and crowds outside the bar during an October meeting of the 13th Precinct Community Council, and then returned on Nov. 17 after the situation failed to improve, they said.
One resident who has lived in the apartment above the club for 40 years said noise from downstairs has changed the character of the area since Visana opened.
“I’ve lived here since 1970, under three different landlords, but this business is changing the whole picture of the neighborhood,” said Jorge Rios. “I can’t sleep until 4 a.m. It sounds like a disco.”
But according to Visana's owner the problem lies with longtime neighborhood residents resisting changes to their block.
“I think some of the issue here is that a lot of the people complaining have been there for 40 years and they’re used to the status quo,” said David Jaffee, the primary owner of the lounge. “Even if we were doing fine I think people would complain, and we’ve really gone out of our way to be accommodating.”
Jaffee said he's taken steps to appease his neighbors. Shortly after opening, when complaints first came in, he put up fliers in the neighborhood encouraging residents to come to him if they had issues.
And he said he has worked with Rios to mitigate the noise, including dropping about $5,000 on soundproofing equipment since he opened. The trouble since September has been growing pains that he believes will disappear once he works the kinks out, Jaffee said.
But according to one of the neighbors who has grown weary of the disruption from Visana, Jaffee is more concerned with covering his backside than truly solving the problem.
“It seems like damage control more than genuine concern,” said Corey Kaup, a filmmaker who lives next door.
The tussle between Visana and its neighbors is not the first time Jaffee, who was once labeled one of the “Top 10 most hated people in New York nightlife,” has found himself in hot water in his business ventures.
He recently gained notoriety after Gawker’s tech blog Valleywag caught him cramming 23 beds into an illegal AirBNB hostel at 215 E. 27th St., leading to Airbnb banning Jaffee from using its services and lawsuits from landlords from whom he rented the apartments.
Jaffee maintains that the press railroaded him, and even after being sued by three landlords he defends his tenure as an erstwhile hotelier.
“We provided a great service with those apartments to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to live in New York, let a lone Manhattan,” he said.
At the East 27th Street apartment, Jaffee charged guests $35 per night and required a stay of at least 30 days, giving guests the chance to pay $1,050 to sleep in a room with seven other men, according to a copy of Jaffee’s terms and conditions leaked to Valleywag last year.
If Jaffee could apply to his new venture any lesson he learned, it would be to take his opponents’ motivations with a grain of salt.
“What I learned was a lot more about other people, their behaviors, their tendencies, and their motivations,” he said. “People may use my past as a way of assassinating my character to add more credibility to their claim that we’re negatively affecting the neighborhood, but in reality it’s completely irrelevant.”