Greenpoint residents are fed up with noisy nightlife

"It feels like we’ve got sound ricocheting in a canyon."

November 18, 2019 Scott Enman
Greenpoint. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
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Residents of the Greenpoint Historic District are calling on their community board to curb the number of liquor licenses granted to bars and restaurants due to incessant noise, which they say is severely disrupting their lives.

In an impassioned presentation on Tuesday, roughly 16 people stood before the board brandishing signs reading, “No more bars! “Hardworking people and their children need to sleep at night!” “Basic quality of life is under threat,” and “Preserve the sanctity of the Greenpoint Historic District.”

Jane Clark, a resident and member of the Milton Street Block Association, said inebriated patrons routinely intrude on residents’ private time after a “hard day’s work” and wreak havoc on the neighborhood as they leave venues late at night.

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“We are a community of hardworking people who get up early in the morning: teachers, nurses, descendants of the shipyard dockworkers,” she said. “When we come home, we want to open our windows by choice. We’ve been plagued throughout the summer with people having fun, having a drink in a bar. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for our historic donut, it feels like we’ve got sound ricocheting in a canyon.

“We ask this committee for its support. We feel inundated and we feel invaded, and the privacy and simplicity of our lives is being violated, and it’s coming at us from all angles.”

Residents singled out 132 Franklin St., a former laundromat operated by Fulgurances LLC, that wants to serve alcohol at the address and in its backyard. If backyard service is approved, residents fear sound will carry down the block.

The boxed area is a rough sketch of the Greenpoint Historic District. The red icons are operating liquor licenses, while the yellow ones are pending. Map via NYS LAMP

There are at least 20 operating liquor licenses in the Greenpoint Historic District, according to the State Liquor Authority’s mapping tool. Three additional licenses are pending approval, including 132 Franklin St.

Fulgurances LLC’s application falls under SLA’s “500-Foot Law,” meaning there are three or more establishments with liquor licenses within 500 feet of the space. (That number, according to the map, is actually closer to 10.) Applications under the 500-foot law must undergo a public hearing, where members of the community can provide verbal or written testimony about how the addition of another licensed establishment would affect the neighborhood. 

The hearing on Fulgurances LLC’s application is scheduled for Nov. 25.

William Crowley of the SLA told the Brooklyn Eagle that his agency has a policy of sending all applications that receive opposition to the full board for a hearing and determination — rather than reviewing and making a decision at the staff level. Those full board hearings are open to the public, and anyone is welcome to testify.

“The Full Board of the SLA takes a balanced approach in reviewing applications, weighing the merits of the individual application, while placing substantial weight on the recommendations of residents, community boards and elected officials,” Crowley said.

Milton Street residents have long been outspoken about the use of backyards in the neighborhood. In 2014, they were successful in pressuring the community board — in an unprecedented decision — to disallow Budin, a Nordic café, from serving alcohol in its yard. (The restaurant was permitted to serve alcohol inside.)

One resident who only gave her first name, Elizabeth, said that many of the buildings in the historic district were never meant to house bars or restaurants, but landlords are “lying” to small business owners to make them believe that the buildings can accommodate eateries.

She said the venues have become “menacing and invasive” from the installation of giant ventilation systems that bring noise and air pollution.

“With the influx [of bars and restaurants], my neighbors have been vandalized; they have been stolen from; there is garbage pollution,” she said. “I believe they can coexist, but there has to be precedent set and balance restored to the force. We have to say ‘no’ eventually and keep with the precedent that was set by this very board to honor the residents who have worked for generations.”

132 Franklin St.’s liquor license application was submitted to the SLA on Oct. 28. The community board postponed its vote because representatives from the business were absent.

“They pulled their typical trick of not showing up on the day they were supposed to, so we’ll have to keep an eye on them,” said Tom Burrows, Community Board 1’s chair of the SLA Review Committee.

The SLA ultimately has the final say on whether a liquor license is approved; the community board’s vote is purely advisory.

The city has little say over whether a liquor license is approved, but the Office of Nightlife does routinely work as a liaison between industry professionals and residents. A recently introduced initiative on the Lower East Side, dubbed Night Owl, strives to reduce noise in the neighborhood through a poster campaign.

Ariel Palitz, senior director of the Office of Nightlife, called it a “prototype” program, and said she hopes to launch it other neighborhoods with similar needs.

“We’re aware of issues that can arise in neighborhoods,” Palitz said. “Our office works to ease community tensions by coordinating city services to improve quality of life, as well as through a new mediation program that helps venues and residents communicate and find resolutions. I would encourage residents and venues in Greenpoint to contact us.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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  1. Roberto Gautier

    Congrats to those who are fighting fo their right to sleep. Noise is the number one complaint to the 311 system. In addition to bar noise and disruption to peace and quiet connected to participants in needlessly raucous night life activities, 24/7 construction work caused by loosely issued after-hours construction variances throughout the city is a big factor. It’s possible to have bars and construction, but with respect as well as adherence to the NYC Noise Code.

  2. It seems unfair that a business that hasn’t even opened yet is being put in the crosshairs for what sounds like the crimes of other businesses. I’m familiar with fulgurances’s Paris restaurant, which is beautiful and serene, and situated on a very quiet block there. Personally, I am thrilled to have them opening in my neighborhood!