- Under Cover
- Special Editorial
- In Pictures
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | An oversize presence on Community Board 3 for more than a decade, David McWater said he would announce his resignation at C.B. 3′s monthly full-board meeting on Tuesday evening, Sept. 24.
McWater, 47, chaired the East Village/Lower East Side community board for four consecutive one-year terms from 2004 to 2008.
“I’m just too tired, too frazzled and don’t have the time that I used to,” he said. “It’s very time-consuming and it’s very emotionally debilitating,” he said of serving on the board.
McWater, a bar owner, was being dogged by questions about whether he currently lives in New York City, which was first reported by TheVillager.com, a sister website of Downtown Express.
Community board members can live outside of the district for the board on which they serve if, for example, they have a business or work on an organization within that district. But they can’t live outside New York City.
According to information obtained by The Villager, it appears that McWater’s legal residence, in fact, may be in Lambertville, N.J. A Lexis search of court filings shows that the State of New York has issued at least 11 warrants for back taxes owed by McWater, and that in each case, the address these warrants were sent to was in Lambertville.
The borough president appoints and has the power to remove community board members, all of whom are unsalaried volunteers.
Asked on Monday if McWater is a New York City resident, a spokesperson for Borough President Scott Stringer responded, “This matter is currently under review.”
McWater said he lives on First Ave. between E. Third and Fourth Sts., and even invited a reporter over to verify that he lives there.
He said he’s lived at four places in the East Village and Lower East Side since 1989, including E. 11th, Stanton and E. 12th Sts., as well as on First Ave.
As for the Lambertville address, he said, “I have a summer home out there.”
However, McWater wasn’t comfortable with the line of questioning.
Asked point blank where he files his taxes, he said, “I’m not answering any more questions about this. I can’t believe you’re stooping this low.”
The phone conversation ended soon after Sept. 23, but McWater then called back a bit later to say he had decided to resign from the board.
He currently owns three bars, Doc Holliday’s and The Library, both on Avenue A, and Milano’s on East Houston St.
McWater said he is most proud of two major initiatives he shepherded through to approval, the 2008 East Village / Lower East Side rezoning — which added height caps for new construction in the neighborhood — and, more recently, the redevelopment plan for the long-dormant Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.
Last week, Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference to announce that developers had been selected for the massive $1.1 billion SPURA project, located at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.
“I’ve done more than any community board member in the history of New York City,” McWater said. “Nobody in the last 20 years did anything like the Lower East Side rezoning and SPURA. The community owes me a debt — nobody’s ever done what we’ve done. …
“When I started SPURA, people said, ‘You’ll never be able to do it,’ ” he continued.”
“It was miraculous,” he said of SPURA. “We took one of the most fractious committees in Manhattan and we brought a consensus. It was remarkable, it was a lot of work. We got 500 affordable units, 3,400 construction jobs and 1,600 permanent jobs.”
After stepping down as the board’s chairperson in June 2008, McWater has been chairperson of C.B. 3’s Land Use, Zoning, Public and Private Housing Committee, and also a member of the board’s S.L.A. Committee, which weighs in on liquor license applications.
Anti-bar resident groups have recently gained strength and momentum following the denial of a liquor license at 106 Rivington St. both by C.B. 3 and the State Liquor Authority.
Things recently came to head on Sept. 16, at the board’s S.L.A. Committee meeting over an application for a new licensed establishment at 120 Orchard St. by a group calling itself Pure 120. Neighborhood opponents said they don’t want another nightclub there.
McWater arrived at the meeting late because he had been at an earlier meeting with officials from the city’s Economic Development Corporation regarding SPURA, for which the mayor would announce the developers two days later.
When McWater got to the S.L.A. Committee meeting, Sara Romanoski, an Orchard St. resident, who also happens to be the executive director of the East Village Community Coalition, accused him of only attending so he could vote on the 120 Orchard St. application.
The much bigger McWater lost his cool and got in the smaller woman’s face in an incident that was captured on video and went viral. He was subsequently chided by the committee’s chairperson, Alexandra Militano, that as a board member he has to hold himself to “a higher standard” of behavior and not act like that.
“She said I had showed up at the meeting just for that one issue,” McWater said of Romanoski. “All I said is, ‘You have no right to talk to me that way.’
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “The S.L.A. stories always get framed in the context of me being a bar owner.”
He said, all the sturm und drang over liquor licenses, accomplishes little, since the S.L.A. often approves the application no matter what.
“It’s just song and dance, it’s just theater,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if the community board votes yes or no.”
As for what’s next for him, his love of sports will be in the mix again. He said he’ll be “managing some fighters — on the Eastern Seaboard, Philly, Atlantic City.” In the early 1990s he also managed boxers, but that was around when his bars were starting to do well, so he got out of the sport.
Though not on the community board, he’ll still be around, he assured.
“I’m not going to retire — I’m not that old,” he said. “It’s not like I’m leaving. I’m involved in my community. I’m not like these single-issue people.”