” Furthermore, MRG would propose to host an annual festival at the start of the season, in which all profits would be donated to community charities.”
– From the winning Manhattan River Group bid to operate the Dyckman Marina concession, describing a plan for charity events that ended up quite differently.
Other than major holidays, the big night for concerts at the concession are Sundays. Despite this being a weeknight that the License Agreement specified for closing at 11 pm, and the 10 pm end time required of all amplified music, and the severe gridlock that the traffic associated with the concession creates in the area as people try to return from their weekend errands or excursions, Sunday has been the biggest party day of the week since the concession re-opened in 2012. Even the advance valet parking costs more on Sundays.
There is something else unusual about Sundays — many of the concerts on that day of the week are described as “benefits”. The event name on Sunday concert permits is often the “Sunday Benefit Series” and the posters have very fine print about the concert “benefiting” some neighborhood event sponsored by the concession such as Three Kings Day or a Thanksgiving charity luncheon. The community events put on by the concession are well-appreciated, greatly valued by the community and entirely appropriate for what a flagship Parks concession should be doing, but why are they being explicitly tied to summer concerts with thousands of ticketed attendees that, per the various approved documents, should not even be happening?
Is the linking of the concerts to community events some sort of rationale for hosting such disruptive, inappropriate concerts on Sundays in the first place? Is there some revenue or tax implication? (The concession must give 5% of all revenue, including event revenue, back to the Parks Department as rent.) Why are so many Sunday concerts specifically called “benefits”?
And what exactly constitutes supporting these community causes? How much money is being donated from the ticket sales? A September 9, 2012 Sunday concert, for example, advertised that it supported the excellent Washington Heights Corner Project. However, their website does not list La Marina or Manhattan River Group on their supporters page. So what benefit, exactly, was given to this group in exchange for hosting an illegal, disruptive, late-night concert on a Sunday before school?
Being ostensibly community-oriented, many of these events also attract the support of local elected officials. But these are the same officials who are supposed to be overseeing the city and state agencies which oversee the concession’s licensing and operations. If La Marina holds a concert which violates many terms of its contract and liquor license, then uses some of the proceeds from that concert for a community event that burnishes the office of an elected official who can apply pressure to the licensing agencies… is that not a conflict of interest?
The way to resolve all of this is to restore the concession to its original approved uses — then the question of holding concerts, benefits or not, will become moot. And without disruptive concerts running all-day Sunday there will be more room for true charity and community events. But in the meantime there is concern about whether these benefits are being used as justification (or in the case of elected officials, as a means) to prevent the enforcement of the contracts and proper restoration of the concession.