“No violation of the health code is ever acceptable; and we are doing all we can to reassure the Department of Health that we are and will continue to be compliant with its rules and policies”
– Manhattan River Group to A Walk in the Park NYC, July 18 2018
So this was the day the music died. Also apparently some flies and maybe a sewage pump. La Marina closed its doors for an entire summer weekend, meaning for the very first time since 2012 there were no concert events, no late night music and no rowdy crowds on the western end of Dyckman Street.
But first, a little history. Remember that La Marina is an NYC Parks concession, and when the bid for the concession was approved back in 2009, the space was proposed as a marina and cafe. Parks officials testified at hearings that there would be effectively no change from the prior cafe use, so no environmental impact study was required to assess things like traffic because “we don’t think there’s going to be a particular traffic impact based on the concession.” Plus, the Parks official said “any concerts with amplified music requires the prior written approval of the Parks Department; and the concessionaire has operating hours… we are very conscious of the fact that no one creates a disturbance.”
Then, after the ownership group changed the capacity was quietly increased from 300 to 1000 on the SLA application, causing an outcry and a response from Parks that the capacity would be cut back to 500 “because the community said the larger eatery and bar would disturb the neighborhood’s quality of life”.
What finally opened later in 2012 turned out to have 594 seats (294 in the restaurant plus 300 more on the patios)…. plus a little surprise in the form of an additional 1,500 capacity beach concert facility replacing the former second cafe.
And, despite parking not being shown on the site plan, nor included in the premises defined in the contracts, somehow a massive valet parking operation appeared that took over both the Parks Dept parking lot at the end of Dyckman, and several blocks of public streets, without any legality whatsoever. This is what went on for six years, evety summer weekend. With predictable results.
Until July 13, 2018. That Friday night, a number of city agencies inspected La Marina and issued 90 violations. The health dept inspection alone triggered an immediate closure after racking up an astonishing 74 points. The gates were promptly shut and did not reopen until Wednesday, July 18. The closure was described to the public as being for “emergency repairs”.
Since opening, the Parks Dept and concession operators had consistently denied that they were the ones gridlocking half of Inwood on summer weekends. Blame the NYPD. Blame DOT :
“Parks has also been coordinating with NYPD and the NYCDOT to see what street network or traffic controls can be put in place to alleviate area congestion.” – Melissa Goldberg, Director of Concessions Compliance, September 2013
The traffic pattern on Dyckman Street is really messed up. It was not designed to handle the number of vehicles coming into the area. In addition to La Marina, there are now a number of spots on and around Dyckman that are drawing crowds, which leads to traffic. – Jerald Tenenbaum, April 2014
Until now it had been impossible to disprove this claim, since La Marina held concert events every single summer weekend. There was the occasional rainstorm that might cancel an event, but on those nights the rest of Dyckman was naturally quiet too. Which made July 14 and 15 such amazing lab experiments. What would happen in the middle of July if the weather was warm and the restaurants were overflowing but there were no dayparties, no night-time concerts, and no thousands of patrons crowding La Marina?
Dyckman Street was booming (quite literally) on both Saturday night (all photos from 10:30 pm) and Sunday early evening (all photos from 6:30 pm). And yet while the sidewalks were packed and there was certainly traffic, it moved quickly and easily, with no backups.
The multiple NYPD traffic cops assigned to the area every weekend (at taxpayer expense) had so little to do they just sat in their car – there was simply no traffic jam for them to manage.
Meanwhile the rest of Dyckman was quiet and empty of vehicles, a very different scene than what usually would be the case with La Marina open.
Vehicles exiting the highway could again use Henshaw, which also took pressure off the Broadway intersection.
Street parking spots along Staff Street were restored to regular use by residents and restaurant patrons instead of being seized by valets for cash as happens during big concert events at the concession.
The exit from the southbound highway and turnaround at the end of Dyckman was also free of congestion from the totally-not-legal valet parking that occurs whenever La Marina is operating.
No cars were seen parked illegally on sidewalks or in the No Standing areas as they are when La Marina is open and hosting events.
And no cars or bouncer lines were observed blocking the Greenway bike path either.
While traffic may have been lighter, the area was certainly not derelict and filled with crime, drug dealing, prostitution and car racing — as the concession operators liked to claim it was before they opened. On July 14th and 15th the Dyckman Street area looked simply like a neighborhood that was functioning as a neighborhood should.
While La Marina has re-opened (although stay tuned!) do not forget the beautiful, neighborly weekend of July 14-15. There can now be no doubt as to what causes the chaotic traffic, the noisy crowds and the late night combination of both during the summer — it is the unapproved, breach-of-contract and wildly improper use of the Dyckman marina concession as a concert venue and nightclub, with its corresponding demand-inducing and extremely illegal valet parking operation.
Restore Dyckman Marina to its original intent and approved uses, now more than ever.