NEWS


Noise complaints at Tribeca club

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Downtown Express photo by Ramin Talaie

Customers outside 99 Hudson St. last Saturday night for a special event party. Neighbors say noise problems increased two months ago when the club changed from a sports bar to a lounge.

The sleepless nights started about two months ago, residents say, when the velvet rope first appeared outside the bar at 99 Hudson St.

Since then, the bar, known by its address, has played host to promotional and private parties an average of two or three times a week. Revelers talk loudly as they wait to get inside the club, but that’s nothing compared with their drunken behavior on the way out, residents say. The noise has left many of the bar’s neighbors yearning for more shut-eye, and for the days when the bar was the relatively tame Sporting Club.

“When you count on weekends to catch up on sleep and Friday, Saturday night you can’t sleep through, it really has an effect,” said Steve Dolmatch, a long-time resident of 100 Hudson St., across the street from the bar.

Many say the often-young crowds don’t seem to have any sense that there are residents on the block. Neighbors say they have seen fights break out among patrons, who often hang out in the area and blast their car stereos in the nearby parking lot after leaving the club between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

The tension surrounding 99 Hudson St. comes at a time of increased scrutiny of the city’s nightlife. The Bloomberg administration is considering revamping the city’s longstanding cabaret laws, which regulate where patrons can dance. At a hearing held two weeks ago by the Department of Consumer Affairs, bar and club owners discussed such issues as how far their responsibility for patron behavior extends past their property.

The owner of 99 Hudson St., Paul Bovi, admits that there have been some glitches with his new business approach. Several factors, including the spread of cable and satellite television, made it difficult for his business to be profitable solely as a sports club where people gather to watch games, Bovi said. So he redid his space as a lounge and opened it up to private parties in April. The club does not have a cabaret license, according to the Department of Consumer Affairs, so patrons cannot dance inside.

“I’ve made some mistakes,” Bovi said, noting several “improper bookings.”

Bovi and residents agree that the low point came at a recent Friday night party that got way out of hand. Bovi said that the party was presented to him as a charitable event. Instead, it was a raucous gathering of very young patrons.

“They went crazy,” Bovi said.

One resident who requested anonymity said that there were near riots in the street outside as five or six partiers started “pummeling each other.” He called 311, the city’s new call number for complaints and information, at 3:00 a.m. and again at 4:30, he said. Neither police nor the bar’s private security was very responsive to the problem, he said.

“The bouncers behaved as bemused camp counselors,” the man said.

Rick Lee, community affairs officer for the First Precinct, said that the station house had received many calls about 99 Hudson St. and that officers were closely monitoring the club. Lee said that noise complaints across the first precinct have surged since the mayor’s smoking ban went into effect in late March.

While officers are doing their best to patrol the precinct in the wake of the smoking ban, Lee said, “It’s not yet against the law to be on the street. This is America.”

Last Wednesday, Bovi met with concerned residents and representatives from Community Board 1 at the board’s Chambers St. office.

“I want to apologize for what’s gone on in the last couple of months, because I do realize it’s been an invasion on your quality of life,” Bovi told the gathering of about 20 residents.

Residents complained of sleep deprivation and having to curtail their and their children’s activities on nights when the club holds late-night parties. Bovi acknowledged that a party promoter he hired had booked parties that were not a good fit for the neighborhood. He terminated his contract with the promoter but was legally bound to hold two more parties, on July 5 and 12, Bovi said.

The group discussed possible solutions that would allow Bovi to keep operating without compromising residents’ quality of life.

“Short of all of us banding together to buy him out, he does have a right to do business,” said Albert Capsouto, chairperson of C.B. 1’s Tribeca committee, who moderated the meeting.

Residents said that short-term solutions should include increased security, better sound proofing measures, and signs that remind patrons that people live nearby. Bovi said last week that he would bring in more private security personnel for the July 5 and 12 private parties, and he promised to be present both nights to monitor the staff and patrons.

Capsouto stressed that a long-term fix would have to include a re-evaluation of Bovi’s business model. It would be better to use local residents as a base, instead of focusing resources on attracting people from outside the area, Capsouto said.

“You can make a business just with Tribeca itself,” said Capsouto, who co-owns Capsouto Freres restaurant on Washington St. in Tribeca.

Bovi said he had hired a manager with restaurant expertise to help reposition his place as more of a food destination. He said he would work on attracting a more mature crowd, with artists and theater people instead of the very young patrons who have jammed his parties.

“I think I’ve got my work cut out for me,” Bovi said after the meeting.

At the meeting, both Bovi and the residents agreed that July 5 and 12 would be a good test of Bovi’s short-term strategies to improve crowd and noise management.

Nat Farnham, a resident of 100 Hudson, said that the party on the 5th was quieter and less eventful than previous parties. But he said that the community remained on guard.

“He can work his way back into our good graces,” Farnham said of Bovi. “I don’t think anyone is willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt.”

Bovi had anticipated this response, saying after last week’s meeting, “I honestly feel as though I’m on a very short rope.”

Residents stressed that they weren’t expecting a suburban atmosphere in Tribeca.

“I’m an urbanite and there’s noise and bustle and that’s what I love,” said a resident of 90 Hudson St. who asked to be identified only as a native New Yorker and a Hispanic woman in her 40s. “But not the lawlessness at 2:00 a.m.”

Elizabeth@DowntownExpress.com


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