Getting loud – on and about Dyckman
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
For those who visit any one or many of its various restaurants, bars and lounges, it is a prime destination for socializing and revelry.
For those who live on or nearby the corridor, and call it home, it can be a little more complicated.
This past Thurs., May 9th, a public meeting hosted by Community Board 12 had as its primary agenda area nightlife and quality of life issues, including concerns about liquor licenses, noise and public nuisance complaints, and traffic.
The meeting, held at Isabella Geriatric Center, drew hundreds of local residents and business owners, and came after the liquor licenses of two Dyckman Street establishments were rejected by the board.
One of those establishments, the International Food House, was the scene of a New Year’s Eve fight.
The other establishment, Kon To Euro Caribbean Cuisine LLC, was also denied an on-premise liquor license. At the April meeting of the Licensing Committee of Community Board 12, proprietor Nicole Collado did not agree to stipulations to stop selling alcohol before 4 a.m.
Thursday’s meeting was sponsored by local elected officials, city agencies and the 34th Police Precinct. Members of the public were given a chance to voice their opinion.
Though the meeting was ostensibly about nightlife in Northern Manhattan generally, the Dyckman corridor drove much of the discussion.
The thoroughfare now has 11 establishments with liquor licenses, leading some to dub it “Alcohol Alley.”
On Thursday, some who took to the microphone argued for the right to a vibrant social scene, while others insisted on a quieter environment in which they live and dwell.
Opposing factions on the issues have stirred up Community Board meetings in the past, and some have resorted to the Internet to launch acrimonious verbal offensives, drawing reprimands from one local elected official.
“I read you on the Internet. Social media has become an anonymous latrine—on both sides,” admonished State Senator Adriano Espaillat.
While passions sometimes did run high on Thursday, many focused on specific grievances and solutions.
Angelo Ortiz, Executive Director of UNIDOS Coalition, illustrated the ills of underage drinking in Northern Manhattan.
From 2010 to 2012, the Coalition conducted a survey of the drinking habits of minors in the area, and discovered that uptown youth were drinking far more than their peers in other parts of the city.
“No one is talking about this issue,” said Ortiz.
He explained that alcohol was intrinsically related to leading causes of death in the teenage population.
“The youth’s drinking habits are mimicking the drinking habits of the twenty and thirty year olds,” he later explained to The Manhattan Times. “That’s the age group that these establishments cater to. We could do a better job at promoting better behavior.”
Others spoke from personal experience.
William Lora, a local pastor, admitted to the crowd that he served time in jail for hitting and killing a woman while driving under the influence of alcohol.
His powerful confession left the room momentarily silenced.
“I want to know what you’re going to do to prevent something like that from happening,” he implored the audience.
Solutions offered in reply were to seek other kinds of businesses on Dyckman, as restaurants and bars were not the only way to make money.
“I’d like to see a variety of establishments,” said resident Barbara Diprieto. “Do you know anyone who wants to open a parking garage?”
Given traffic and parking complaints, a new garage might seem a welcome business.
The meeting had been preceded by various accusations online that noise complaints mostly came from newcomers to the neighborhood. The arguments have sometimes veered into inflammatory comments on class, race and socio-economic status.
As such, it seemed speakers strove to state exactly how long they had been living in Northern Manhattan before making their case.
Diprieto, for example, was met with applause when she declared she was a descendant of the Dyckman family.
“My ancestors came here in 1651,” said DiPietro, who lives on the same block as many of the establishments cited. “All I want is something reasonable, like a closing time that allows me to get some sleep.”
“I was excited about the development until I stopped getting sleep,” added Katie Weaver, who lives on the corner of Broadway and Dyckman Street. “It’s not fair for people who live in the neighborhood.”
Some, however, offered a different sentiment.
“New York City is called the city that never sleeps for a reason,” said Frank Medina, a local poet who performs at local establishments.
He cited the area was a social and cultural destination as a result of the investment made by restaurant, lounge and bar owners who feature art, music and live performances in spaces where there was none.
Others said it was unfair for thriving businesses, who have added to economic development and employment in the area, to be condemned for the negative aspects of their customers’ behavior, including adding to area traffic and being excessively loud.
In response, Weaver pointed out that the law states that establishments are responsible for their patrons’ behavior 15 feet beyond the curb, and, in the case that a patron is drunk, is responsible for them until they reach home.
But others said that greater self-control and responsibility were required.
“In all reality, there is a middle person, and that’s the patron,” argued community member Ayisha Oglivie.
She suggested that some patrons should check their behavior—and volume—upon exiting an establishment.
“They’re creating a difficult situation for the owners of restaurants.”
Despite the fact that no conclusive solutions were drawn that night, people seemed optimistic that one could be reached.
“If we were able to get the drug dealers out of the neighborhood, we are able to address this problem,” said State Senator Espaillat, referring to the troubles of decades past.
Community Board 12 Chair George Fernández suggested that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which had representatives at the meeting, help educate restaurant owners on appropriate decibel levels.
Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez asked the Department of Transportation (DOT) to undertake a study on transportation in Northern Manhattan.
As evidenced by the high levels of passion and participation, the meeting will likely not be the only public forum on nightlife and quality of life concerns.
“This is an ongoing discussion,” agreed Fernández.
For more information, visit Community Board 12 at www.nyc.gov/html/mancb12/html/home/home.shtml; visit its office at 711 West 168th Street; or call 212.568.8500.