Volume 19 • Issue 7 | July 7-13, 2006

Neighbors not in stitches over Knitting Factory noise

Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel
Concertgoers lining up outside the Knitting Factory on Fri., June 30. Local residents can’t take the noise.

By Ronda Kaysen

The Knitting Factory might be considered one of the city’s preeminent performance spaces, but its Leonard St. neighbors have a very different opinion of the sound the club’s patrons produce.

“I used to love the Knitting Factory, but things have gotten progressively worse and worse and worse to the point that I now loathe the Knitting Factory,” said Leonard St. resident Kate McCamy at a Community Board 1 meeting last Thursday night.
McCamy and a dozen of her neighbors turned out for a Quality of Life Committee meeting to vent about what they described as a deteriorating quality of life. Patrons gather outside the club on Leonard near Church St. at all hours of the night, seven days a week, said neighbors. They leave trash, liquor bottles and, on at least one occasion, a group of women urinated between parked cars in clear view of a resident walking his small children home.

“My 10-year-old had to watch a girl pee!” said Leonard St. resident Bill Manny. “It was disgusting.”

One neighbor, C.B. 1 member Peter Braus, produced a two-minute video of the view of the club from his apartment window at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night and another one at the same time the following Wednesday. Scores of people milled about the block, filling the entire sidewalk and spilling out onto the street. A single security guard wandered up and down the block, rarely interacting with the patrons. The noise of socializing concertgoers was clearly audible on the video. “This is basically what we are living with on Leonard St.,” Braus said.

The clubs owners couldn’t agree more. “I’m not here to argue,” said Knitting Factory president Jared Hoffman. “It’s not a mystery” that there is noise and litter outside his club.

Hoffman was pessimistic that the situation could improve much. “My hands are tied,” he said. Patrons are free to congregate outside his club and providing they’re not breaking the law, they’re free to linger. Even the litter along the sidewalk is out of Hoffman’s control, he said. “Litter and trash is also a tricky zone. No one gets out of my club with a bottle or cup, but there may be other places where they buy them.”

Captain Keith Cunningham, the First Precinct’s executive officer, didn’t offer residents much solace, either. “You can stand out on the street,” he told residents and board members. “We have a cabaret unit. They never see any drinking.”

On the Friday night of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, about 40 clubgoers were milling outside the club close to midnight. A bouncer approached a group of three, including one Downtown Express reporter, and suggested they stand immediately outside the club if they were going to linger on the block. The club permits underage customers to listen to the music but not to drink. Inside, many of the bands ranged from loud to louder — the drummer of one two-piece act broke her drum with the help of her guitarist at the end of the set.

At the C.B. 1 meeting, Andy Neale reminded Hoffman that the club will need community board approval the next time its liquor license is up for renewal. “That could be in jeopardy if this doesn’t change,” he said.

Hoffman did have one piece of good news for his angry neighbors: “Despite the volume of the crowds, we’re generally doing a good job — we have one of the better run establishments in this city.”

Speaking of well-run establishments in the city, the new Mr. Chow on Hudson and No. Moore Sts. is also getting some unwanted attention from its neighbors. Two of them turned out to the C.B. 1 meeting to complain about the sudden appearance of paparazzi and red carpet-strewn events in their subdued neighborhood.

“People are out there screaming… They’ve got paparazzi, b-list celebrities, it’s insane,” said Eliott Ingerman, a Hudson St. resident, at the meeting.

This fourth incarnation of Mr. Chow, an upscale Chinese restaurant that first opened in London, appeared on the streets of Tribeca recently. In the past few weeks, it has suffered a large serving of scathing reviews (“Once you’ve visited Mr. Chow Tribeca, you will appreciate your favorite neighborhood Chinese takeout place like never before,” wrote The New York Times.)

Despite the cool reviews, the restaurant has been hopping and eliciting numerous calls to 311, the city complaint line. “We have been paying attention early on,” said Cunningham of the first precinct. “They’ve been around a long time—we’re hoping their going to work the kinks out soon.”

Mark Thompson, a spokesperson for Mr. Chow, insisted the company was eager to work with its neighbors. “We’re interested in what you think we should do,” he said.

Residents concede that the management has listened to their concerns and taken steps to tone down the volume. “I do think that in the last two weeks, I haven’t been kept awake as much,” said Ingerman.

—With reporting by Josh Rogers


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