“Well, ‘concerts’ are not a defined term, so the contract suggests that live music can be a part of the site.”
– David Cerron, Chief Accountant, Revenue Division, Parks & Recreation
For three years there has been anger and confusion amongst Inwood residents over the discrepancies between what the License Agreement for the Dyckman Marina concession says vs what the operation has been in practice. There have been meetings, and meetings, and more meetings, and meetings after that, and more meetings. Always the same scapegoats were raised — too much success, blame DOT for the traffic, the police need to enforce traffic laws, it’s so much better than in the 90s, etc. etc. But these various town halls and forums never involved Parks officials directly. Finally, after three years, a Parks representative was scheduled to give an update to Community Board 12’s Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee and a room full of residents on May 5th, 2015. What happened instead was two hours of very bizarre stand-up comedy where left was right, up was down and words had no meaning.
END OF SUMMER UPDATE – Notes provided in Red as to what actually happened in Summer 2015.
Credit to the committee for arranging the meeting and running an excellent session. Heaven knows they tried to get straight answers from the officials in the room. But the meeting ended with many more questions than answers, again.Why is it so hard for the Parks Department to understand its own contract agreements and limit the concession to its original approved uses as a restaurant and marina? Prohibit the concerts, stop the amplified music at 10 pm and cease the unbelievably disruptive valet parking operation. No one is laughing anymore. Restore Dyckman Marina now.
Below is a paraphrased recap of the meeting, and apologies in advance for the snark:
On the Topic of the Contract Process
Lawyers attended from the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS) and the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC). A presentation was given regarding what defines a concession, how it gets noticed to the community, how FCRC conducts a public hearing. The comedy was that no one had many questions about how the Dyckman Marina restaurant and concession contracts were developed or approved – the issue was with what happened after the contracts were signed when Parks unilaterally changed or ignored numerous contract clauses to enable a nightclub/concert venue.
The one direct question to MOCS asked why the actual operation of the concession seemed to better reflect one of the rejected RFP bids (for a huge restaurant destination with parking called “The Marine”, supported by Fernando Mateo) than the actual winning RFP bid (for three small restaurants and cafes on an open site plan, by Manhattan River Group, which Fernando Mateo later bought into). MOCS merrily thought the question had to do with which political body had the right to approve bids, thus burying the question in bureaucratic white noise and leaving it unanswered.
Update – The community never heard from MOCS again.
On the Topic of Noise
The Parks representative at the meeting was David Cerron, Chief Accountant at the Revenue Division. He acknowledged that there were some quality of life issues, and stated that the concession had “worked with the community board (?) and installed a new sound system last year with limiters to make sure noise did not emanate beyond the Premises past 10 pm.”
This was clearly a reference to what was revealed at the SLA license renewal meeting in April 2014, when the concession operators described a new sound system that would better direct sound away from residential buildings, and that any acts who brought their own sound system would have to switch to this one after 10 pm. What this implies is that Parks is completely fine with this unprecedented workaround of city regulations and allowing DJ’s to keep playing outdoors until closing (at 1 am).
Parks says this video shot at Sunday, Sept 7 at 11 pm is in compliance with a contract that requires all amplified music to end at 10 pm. What?
Is Parks joking that they don’t understand their own contract, the one that requires all amplified sound to end at 10 pm? This was directly asked, but not answered. Is Parks being funny when they pretend not to know that the city has a noise code that forbids noise of any level, even the sound of a whisper, to cross property lines after 10 pm, which all other Parks properties comply with (asked to name another that did not, David Cerron could not answer)? And are they just being silly ninnies to pretend not to notice that in addition to the specific noise per se, the very act of continuing the music until 1 am keeps everyone on the site, so that at closing time a wave of patrons exits and creates very loud crowd and car noise while providing a huge audience to keep the rest of Dyckman booming until 4 am?
Update – Music acts continued to play past 10 pm.
On the Topic of Waterfront Access
Remember all those renderings and site plans showing open waterfront access? Access that seemed a little inconsistent with, say, VIP sections and concert barricades? Well, Parks heard you! And so, starting this summer will be full and open access to the site at all times! Oh wait, no, that’s not it. But there will be no more ticketed concerts! No, that’s not it either. Oh, here it is – a new sailing school! With free programs for kids and some for adults too! Yaaaaaay.
Here’s the punchline though — while such a school is certainly welcome, one was promised in the RFP seven years ago. Approval of a sailing school as part of the programming is in the very first paragraph of the Marina license agreement. The sailing school was further announced in every 2012 press release when the restaurant first opened. This is not news, this is an overdue promise and it does nothing to resolve activities that limit access, like bottle service, which Parks definitively did not approve.
And speaking of overdue promises, the EcoDock might now arrive in 2017, five years after it was funded by taxpayer dollars. So Parks, thanks for that all that effort you’ve put into “working with the concessionaire” on things they were already supposed to do. Ho ho ho.
Update – The sailing school finally started at the end of August. Two days will be free; programs otherwise cost $95-200. EcoDock remains a mystery.
On the Topic of Traffic
Everyone’s favorite item, and good news again, Parks has been working with La Marina on this matter! They have been partnering with local garages and car service companies, and their website now says to take the subway! Ha ha, good one, Parks, you made us think it was 2012 there for a moment. You know, blame DOT, blame the other Dyckman St restaurants, talk about garages and such. Oh wait, you’re serious about this? David Cerron thinks “Traffic is not an issue exclusive to La Marina, it’s an issue in many parts of the city. We’re working with DOT and NYPD to address.”
The fact that this backup occurred on an evening that La Marina hosted a 1,000 person concert is of course a wild coincidence.
Um, maybe the fact that you are approving dozens of nightlife events with over 1,000 people might have something to do with it? Or the fact that you fail to notice how La Marina is larger than every other business on Dyckman Street combined? Or that traffic is especially bad at the exact moment when La Marina has concerts? Really, you’re too funny. DOT didn’t approve a massive concert venue at the end of a dead-end street — you did. Get the joke yet?
Update – with the help of tremendous numbers of publicly-funded police resources, through traffic on Riverside and Broadway was improved; however, Dyckman, Henshaw, Staff, Payson and Seaman remained perpetually gridlocked.
On the Topic of Smoking
Perhaps responding to one of the points in the February public letter from Boro President Gale Brewer to Parks, David Cerron was very clear that smoking on parkland is prohibited for tobacco or e-cigarrettes. And he went over that ridiculous hookah loophole. But, he also pointed out that smoking is ok in parking lots in parks. That is in fact true, so it would be fine if people were smoking in, say, the parking lot at the end of Dyckman Street that sits next to the Dyckman Marina concession. But, and here’s the rub, Parks allowed La Marina to set up a designated area inside their premises for smoking in what they claim is a parking area. Only problem – there is no parking area inside the premises. Per the final site plan, the area where the smoking corral is set up is supposed to be the driveway to the marina ramp. It’s not even in the restaurant premises, it’s in the marina! The fact that the operators use it as occasional unauthorized VIP parking for Lambos does not a parking lot make it. It is parkland, and it has been wrongly converted to a smoking zone with the approval of the Parks Department. Is that carcinogenic comedy or what?
Update – No change.
On the Topic of Ticketed Events
David Cerron did say something truthful, which was that the quality of life issues around the Dyckman Marina concession just might have something to do with the frequency of “private events”. Parks apparently feels that the contract allows the concession to have private events, but they are now acting to limit the number of events of 1,000 people or more and the Community Board would be given notice of these events. (Left unsaid was how many events Parks would allow, the time of day they would be allowed, the days of the week they would be allowed, or that the Community Board does not even meet during the summer months).
Not to sour the hilarity of the above statement, but here is what the accepted RFP from the operator actually said about private events:
Individuals, corporations, and organizations will have the option of renting the Costera pier area, the Costera garden area, or 315…. In addition to hosting weddings, communions, bar/bat mitzvahs, bridal showers, corporate functions, tour groups, birthdays, anniversaries, rehearsal dinners and other private events, MRG proposes to use the property for community events such as Memorial/Labor Day picnics, clambakes, 4th of July fireworks displays, and a regular farmer’s market.
Ha, ha, how cute, no mention of 1,000+ person concerts by DJs or live music but of course that was the approved intent, right Parks? So yes, the contract does allow for “special events” without regard to number or quantity, but given that concerts were prohibited and the approved site plan had no stage or concert area of course the contract really meant that bar mitzvahs with thousands of people would be kosher, and therefore DJ Boris and other music events sponsored by Pacha nightclub would be fine too. Too funny!
Update – up to five promoted, large-attendance events per weekend were allowed. Most were ticketed or required a cover charge. Approximately fifty (50) promoted music events in total were hosted.
On the Topic of Valet Parking
Several board members and residents at the meeting asked point-blank questions of David Cerron and MOCS about how exactly a parking concession could be operated outside of the Dyckman Marina premises without a concession agreement. The answer seemed to be that you don’t need a concession agreement to run a parking business on parks property if Parks is ok with it. Specifically, David Cerron said that “the act of paying someone to park a car for you is not illegal and does not represent a concession”, and besides, the valet parking is part of the solution to the traffic problem!
Once the laughter died down over that last part, everyone reminded themselves of what MOCS had presented earlier in the evening:
“Concession” shall mean a grant made by an agency for the private use of city-owned property for which the city receives compensation other than in the form of a fee to cover administrative costs, except that concessions shall not include franchises, revocable consents and leases.
The La Marina operators, who were present, said they reported the revenue from the valet parking and paid the city their fee based on that revenue, and all agreed the valet parking was taking place on parkland and city streets, so how exactly is this allowable again? Har-dee-har.
Also, the parking spots where the valet operates are all marked “No Standing 6pm-6am”, a change that DOT made after requests from Parks and La Marina in 2012. So the parking spots don’t even exist as parking spots during the time the valet is not illegally parking that car for you. Following this logic, I guess it’s open season for setting up valet parking businesses in Central Park (or anywhere else) since the act of parking cars on non-spaces on city property without a concession agreement is just peachy with Parks and MOCS? Woo-hoo!
Update – Illegal valet parking continued to be allowed, to the extent of having valet staff seize all of Staff Street.
On the Topic of Capacity
There were several questions about capacity. For the first time in recorded history, Parks actually understood the listed capacity correctly. With some help from the audience, it was clarified that just under 2,100 was listed on the Public Assembly Permits. The La Marina operators then stated that they could host many more if they just added some more restrooms (?).
But the real ringer from an audience member was why exactly Parks allowed such a large complex to operate i the first place when they had originally promised a much smaller facility. It was high comedy to watch David Cerron twist and turn to do everything possible to not actually answer this question other than to state that anything the Fire Department approved was A-OK with Parks, there was “sufficient capacity for what has been allowed”. Suggested ‘Who’s On First’ routine for future meetings:
- Why did you allow this capacity?
- Because it was sufficient for what was allowed.
- What was allowed?
- Whatever there was sufficient capacity for.
- Sufficient for what?
- Whatever was allowed.
The fact that approving such a large capacity led to so many other problems was thereby amusingly swept under the rug.
Update – La Marina changed their website to state that their private event capacity was 1,500. Many 2015 events were described online as being “sold out”.
On the Topic of Concerts
From the beginning, one of the biggest questions for Parks has been why dozens and dozens of concerts were approved when the contract language clearly stated “concerts are strictly prohibited”. Here was the comedic highlight of the night, from David Cerron:
“Well, ‘concerts’ are not a defined term. So the contract suggests that live music can be part of the site. If the intent was to ban live music it would have said so.”
Um, I think the ban was the “concerts are strictly prohibited at the Licensed Premises” part. In any case, here is a helpful definition from the Mirriam-Webster dictionary:
Given that the special permits for DJs, bands and artists approved by Parks say right on them the words “Live Musical Performance” it’s completely bonkers that Parks is trying to claim “concerts are strictly prohibited” means “live musical performances are just dandy”. What kind of performance exactly would Parks consider the type of concert that would be banned, the New York Philharmonic?
I suppose at the next meeting we will hear how Parks’ legal interpretation of such contract language as “Alcoholic beverages may only be served during sit-down service” means the three massive standing bars in the Liquor License Application are totally ok, because standing is really the same as sitting, except for that your knees are not bent. Am I right?
The stand-up comedy skills of the Parks Dept. representatives are highly underrated.
Update – The 50 concerts held during the summer of 2015 featured both DJs and live acts.
On the Topic of An Environmental Impact Statement
A question was asked about whether an EIS was performed, and if not then why. David Cerron could not really answer this, as apparently he was unaware with the statement by the Parks Director of Concessions at the 2008 FCRC hearing that:
“This is an existing use, previously a [marina] cafe, for at least, I believe, 15 years. I don’t know the exact number; at least the last 10 years. So this is not a new use of this space. Therefore, we didn’t do any [environmental assessment], because typically it is existing use and we know what the conditions that were there before. We don’t think there is going to be any — the concessionaire has offered to work with local garages to make sure that there is valet parking; to encourage people to come by public transportation. And we don’t think there’s going to be a particular traffic impact based on the concession.”
It’s too bad this was not brought up, as the MOCS and FCRC representatives in the room could have addressed what happens exactly when Parks blatantly lies to their committee. But in any case, David Cerron had nothing to joke about on this topic.
Update – As before, no EIS was performed.
On the Topic of a Cabaret License
There was a question asked of the concession about whether they had a cabaret license, aka a “license to dance“. The concession admitted that they did not have such a license but that they were not a dancing establishment, so, you know. (More guffaws.) Parks stayed silent on the topic but the police stepped up to keep the comedy going. The representative from the 34th Precinct said whenever he has stopped by he has not seen a dance floor or people dancing; in essence the NYPD does not see a cabaret. Ha ha!
This is not a dancing establishment.
(Some in the room were confused as to why anyone cared about dancing. The answer of course is that no one does – the cabaret license is just a de facto nightlife license used as an enforcement tool when a bar or restaurant gets too rowdy and becomes a bad neighbor. Or in this case, if a contract agreement that prohibits concerts is being utterly and totally ignored.)
Update – Dancing continued to be allowed without a cabaret license.
On the Use of the Name in Songs and Videos
Another direct question was whether Parks was comfortable with the now-infamous use of the concession’s name in songs and videos that referenced drugs and violence. David Cerron then pointed out how the operators can’t control every use of their name, and people had First Amendment rights after all. (How sporting of Parks to care more about the Constitution than their constituents!)
David Cerron did not mention how it came to be that several music videos were filmed on the site, or that perhaps allowing the city’s largest nightlife destination to exist at a restaurant concession just might, might, lead to it becoming a cultural reference for songs about nightlife.
The operators also protested that of course anything bad for their brand was bad for them too and that they did everything they could to control the use of the name. And that while it was easy to call them a nightclub, they were not a nightclub, they were a restaurant. Which all makes total sense when French Montana says this:
I get it from me prima
Yall n****s might have seen her
The cokin cowboys, they goin’ La Marina
You fuck up her money, Oooh mama mia
or maybe this…:
Three bricks for a verse, that’s a swap, n****
Shout my n**** Meek, he on lock, n****
Shout my n**** Max, he in a box, n****
Pull up La Marina in a yacht, n****
Then skate off like a pirate with ya thot, n****
You heard she’s a freaky ho
Bitch ain’t loyal, she fucked Breezy, ho
Believe me, you can ask Weezy, ho
I heard she fucked Puff like a week ago
But I still want the pussy though
… but then, you know, La Marina has him over to their “restaurant” for a couple sold-out concerts and lets him film a video on the site. So of course Parks and its concessionaire has nothing to do with this topic, ever. (Rim shot, please).
Update – Additional songs were released in 2015 that mentioned “La Marina”.
On Next Steps
So after two hours, nothing new had been learned other than that Parks would be vaguely limiting the number of large events in a completely unspecified way that apparently still included Sunday concerts, that the overdue sailing school might be started in 2015, and that otherwise Parks considered everything just hunky-dory in terms of contract compliance for the Dyckman Marina concession.
It was perhaps only at the meeting’s end that people realized this had not been a comedy show after all but a very unfunny and disappointing performance by the Parks Department about legitimate issues and concerns that had been voiced for years and never resolved. Judging by what’s already booked for Memorial Day Weekend it looks like they will not be this year either.
Update – Nothing changed. Inwood was treated as inequitably as in past seasons.
Restore Dyckman Marina and end this madness.