First, the SLA I refer to is not the Symbonese Liberation Army, but the State Liquor Authority. On Thursday evening, State Senator Daniel Squadron hosted a Town Hall for the new-ish head of the SLA to speak to residents and bar owners, and to answer their questions and listen to their gripes. And gripes there were aplenty. For a journalistic overview to the meeting, you can read about it at the Lo-Down. For my opinionated and sarcastic take, you can read about it here.
The evening started with someone, I think it might have been Squadron, but it also could have been Susan Stetzer (director of Community Board 3), raising a piece of paper to the crowd announcing that they found this posted on a blog, yes a blog. They said that the notice, which was actually a photo of a sign posted on the street alerting neighbors to this very meeting, made reference to the way that liquor licenses were being processed, with the inference that they are being rubber stamped to expedite them rather than consider the community's concerns. What struck me was that the emphasis that such information was found on a blog, rather than the fact that it was a photo of a notice on the street, implied that you can't trust blogs, as they are biased and are spreading rumors, when no mention was made that it was actually written by a block association and simply photographed and posted on a blog. Naturally, you cannot trust my blog, since I tend to exaggerate to make my point, and sometimes even outright lie, but other blogs, and especially Jeremiah's, have proved themselves to be quite trustworthy. In fact his blog was recently chosen as one of the best neighborhood blogs in New York.
At first, the politicians addressed the audience, saying very political things and trying to sound balanced as though they weren't going to favor one side over the other. And believe me, it was two sided. The bar owners were sitting all together on the left, with a few smattered about the rest of the auditorium, while the residents took up the other 2/3 of the seats. Each side cheered and applauded when something was said they agreed with, much like the state of the union address, but without the standing o's.
Deborah Glick, who I am a big fan of from my old activist days, used the words "Consciousness Raising" twice in her brief speech. Yet another reason I adore her. (Here is where that phrase originated.)
The question I wanted to ask, but didn't, was this: who is in charge of carrying those flags from one event to the next, and really, why bother.
For those of you who want to complain directly to the SLA, you can directly contact the man I like to think of as "the enforcer." He only spoke once, at length, and the mike wasn't that loud and his New York accent so intense that I got distracted and stopped paying attention about 30 seconds into his speech so I don't know what he said. He is an ex-Assistant DA whose job is to focus on the city and work with the police on enforcement. He can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One fun moment of this long evening happened close to the beginning. The owner of the deli on 6th & B, who lives in that charming little house built on top of the deli said that his business depends on foot traffic, and thus the bars bring him business so he was in favor of more bars, not fewer. It was a good point for himself, but then he lost credibility by adding that the noise that the bars create isn't so bad, you just have to get used to it. This set off a big round of booing. Guess who started the booing. Hint: that guy annoyed me.
The one thing I learned from this evening was about the 500 foot rule, which is the rule that says that you can only have 3 bars within 500 feet of each other. What I learned was that it isn't an actual rule, but only a recommendation that the Community Board and the SLA should consider, along with all the other things they consider when approving a liquor license. This vaguery is what has got us into this mess, the rule has no teeth.
Last night, the street noise was as loud as ever, I had to push my way through giant crowds of drunkards to get home at 11pm, and I do not have any hope of the situation changing. But the community is active and the pressure will stay on the community board and the SLA to stop awarding licenses in congested areas and, as a friend pointed out, neighborhoods change, and ours will eventually go out of style and the bars will go somewhere else. By that time I will be dead.