Restore Dyckman Marina


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Liar Liar Parks on Fire

“Concerts are strictly prohibited at the Licensed Premises.

 License Agreement, June 25 2009

We do not consider events that include music as part of the overall experience, and are not promoted as only a musical performance, to be prohibited.”

 David Cerron, NYC Parks Dept, July 3 2017

“With this concert, we’re giving audiences an opportunity to reminisce in the nostalgia of the music, while giving Pedro’s fans something fun to watch.”

Jackie Gagne, HBO marketing vice-president speaking about an event at La Marina Aug 9 2017

 


Halfway through the summer of 2017, it is time to check in on the many lies of the New York City Parks Dept under Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Mitchell Silver.

Every year Parks promises to “continue to address issues” with the concession over resident concerns about how public parkland got turned into an unaudited private nightclub.  So how are we doing so far this season?

Since La Marina’s opening in 2012, residents have been working year-round to try and get the Parks Department and elected officials to enforce the license agreement as written, as well as eliminate the serious impacts this nightclub has created for the surrounding community. These efforts usually start in reasonable questions being asked of Parks, and often end in ridiculous lies and misdirection because Parks cannot possibly explain how any of what La Marina does outside of being a restaurant or bar is legal.  It is not, and this how Parks hopes to confuse you, the politicians, and the courts into letting the concession continue without interference for another ten years.

bb2 may27

Not a concert, that’s just the cable guy fixing the wifi router.   (5/27/17)

Let’s start with the unilateral verbal extension of hours to 1 am, which you recall was extended from 11 pm.  The extension of hours is perhaps permissible,  but the extension of music to 1 am never has been.  Parks has tried many times to claim that La Marina’s events all end at 10 pm, and that any music after that is not from the main stage and is on some sort of sound limiter.  They have to say this because noise outdoors in New York is illegal after 10 pm.  But in the case of La Marina it’s pure fantasy.  The facility closes at 1 am, and the concert acts always go long past 10 pm – and are often advertised as such by sloppy promoters.  (The veteran ones, like #BrunchBounce, know to keep to the 10 pm lie.).  Even La Marina’s own website shows this when they describe a July 4th event that starts at 3 pm and features “more than 15 artists, 10+ hours of music and dancing, and special performances and surprises”  (Note that dancing is also not legal at La Marina).  And yet, when queried about the constant late-night noise, Parks will say as they did in an email of July 21, 2017 (all quotes on this page are from David Cerron, Chief of Revenue, Concessions, and Controls Oversight for Parks):

Regarding the event’s duration, we spoke to the operators of La Marina and they confirmed that the July 4th event ended at 9:30pm. The facility closes no later than 1am.

Yeah, they checked on this by calling the operators.  Hey fox, how many eggs did you steal from that henhouse you were guarding?  Oh, none?  Ok then.

And why again are there concerts happening on the site in the first place?  Parks has been asked many times in writing to clarify how this can be when the license agreement explicitly states “concerts are strictly prohibited (see 10.18).”  This is the lie put forth by Parks in an email of July 3, 2017:

jul15 crowd

Not a concert, just a lot of people standing around a space filled with concert speakers. (7/15/17)

With regard to “concerts” at the facility, as stated in prior correspondence dated August 18, 2015, it is true that the concession agreement does not define concerts. There is no indication in the agreement that live or recorded music is not permitted at the facility. The agreement contemplates amplified sound at the concession with Parks’ approval.

This first part of this answer tries to deflect by confusing any amplified music with concerts.  Amplified music is ok with some conditions, as you would expect for any restaurant or bar.  Of course it is.  The issue is the 1,500 person CONCERTS that occur in the “La Marina Beach” area and include a huge stage, ticketed entry, specific showtimes and featured performers.

concert stage jul2

Not a concert, just a nighttime TED talk.  (7/2/17)

We do not consider events that include music as part of the overall experience, and are not promoted as only a musical performance, to be prohibited. Consequently, we have approved La Marina’s use of regulated live amplified music as part of its overall concession activity, which includes its restaurant and lounge operation, marina services, and catered events.

Oh, so those are not concerts after all?  They are just “events that include music”?  That’s odd, since any six-year old would be familiar with this dictionary definition of concerts:

CONCERT /ˈkɒnsət/: A musical performance given in public, typically by several performers or of several compositions.

bb8 may27

Not a concert, they are cheering at random and not at all at whatever is happening on that stage. (5/27/17)

It is absurd of Parks to try and claim that “concerts” is not a defined term.  After all, neither is the word “day”, a word which is used in the agreement many times.   Maybe they mean a Martian Day, or a Klingon Day?  Or a language in southern Chad? Come on Parks, no judge is going to buy this.  You had an entire run of events last year that was called a SUMMER CONCERT SERIES for crying out loud.  You had HBO rent the place out for a CONCERT SPECIAL.  If a guy prances around on a stage performing sets, maybe accompanied by musical instruments, all while thousands of paying customers watch or dance, newsflash: it’s a concert.  Borough President Gale Brewer was emphatic about this point in a 2015 letter her office sent to Parks, but even that was ignored.

summer love 2016 image of a concert

Not a concert — those are just funny-looking hookah pipes.

Deep down, Parks knows they can’t squirm their way out.  They know they are in trouble here.  Go back to the language of the RFP from 2007:

heatwave-july1-lineup-1

This is not a concert, just an event that includes music.  A lot of music.  Actually pretty much only music. (7/1/17)

Proposers should note that the café will not be permitted to have any outdoor, amplified music without prior written approval from Parks. All amplified music must be at sound level reasonably acceptable to the Commissioner. The café and restaurant (if proposed) will not be permitted to operate past 11:00 p.m. on Sunday through Wednesday and 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Concerts will be strictly prohibited at the site. If the proposer plans to build an enclosed, year-round restaurant, then amplified music may be played within the structure. All amplified music at the café or restaurant (if proposed) must cease at 10:00 p.m. and must be at a sound level reasonably acceptable to the Commissioner. Music and all other noise emanating from the café and restaurant (if proposed) shall comply with the rules for noise control in Title 24, Chapter 2 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York.

aug19 event details how is this not a concert

A ticket description for an event that will have 17 musical acts on 3 stages.  But it’s not a concert! (8/19/17)

So the intent was pretty clear then.  No concerts.  This year, Parks has been trying to strengthen the “they’re not concerts, they’re events that include music” excuse by requiring that the weekend concerts describe themselves as, wait for it, “birthday parties”.  (This seems similar to the tactic tried some years ago of calling the concerts “benefits”.)  So for these “birthday parties”, you just show up like any other birthday party, only you have to get a ticket, you don’t bring a gift, there is hours of music but no singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ or cake, and there will be about 1,500 other guests.  So pretty much the same as any other birthday party ever you’ve been to, right?

not a concert aug9 hbo latino 3

Not a concert, just a smooth jazz trio performing ambient music and not in any way a HBO Concert Special (Aug 9, 2017)

And if they are not birthday parties, the concerts are called “beach parties”.  You know, like any party at the beach, minus the ocean and beach chairs, plus bouncers, tickets, a stage and multiple music acts.  And they allow 15 of these a year, on the legal basis of absolutely nothing.  Parks should be ashamed.

baefest poster aug6

Not a cartoon of a nearly naked woman.  Also, not a concert.  Also, a birthday party.  (8/6/17).

Speaking of knowing no shame, another 2017 lie from Parks is that they are blameless over the content of some of these concerts/parties.   It has long been an issue that Parks allows event promotions that feature the objectification of women, a remarkable practice for a city-owned facility in the 21st century and one that is prohibited in the license agreement (10.16).  Right from Memorial Day weekend 2017, there were problems with concert posters that fixated on female bodies.  When questioned, Parks stated on July 3, 2017:

As you know, the advertisements you referenced were not approved by Parks. We spoke to La Marina and were informed that the advertisements were not approved by them either, but instead were issued by third-party event planners. We directed La Marina to instruct the event planners to immediately replace the advertisements with something more appropriate and to firmly remind event planners to have all advertisements approved in advance. After review, it appears these advertisements were subsequently replaced. We have also directed La Marina to strengthen their efforts when monitoring online promotional material for events that is not on the La Marina website.

bikini beachwear

See, it’s not Bikini Palooza anymore.  Now a family-friendly non-concert affair suitable for public parkland.  (7/2/17)

And yet a month later, Parks pretended to be shocked!, shocked! yet again when a prominent event was booked called Bikini Palooza  which featured some of the most outrageous marketing images yet.  After the event was brought to Parks’ attention, was it cancelled?  Of course not.  It was simply renamed “Beach Wear Affair” and allowed to continue.

Again, Parks blamed others — a website redesign  — and said on July 21, 2017 that they would resolve the issue not by stopping the illegal concerts, but by asking La Marina to hire a staffer to surf Instagram!

With regard to advertisements, approved promotional material for beach events can be found on La Marina’s website and/or Facebook page. Their website was not functioning for most of June due to a site redesign, which may have contributed to the circulation of unapproved advertisements. With that said, we agree that the event in question was not promoted appropriately by the event planner – we have expressed this sentiment to the concessionaire, and they have now assigned a staff person to search event-related online posts and ensure they are in keeping with the approved event

bikini palooza 22

This sort of marketing has nothing at all to do with Parks allowing a public facility to serve as a giant nightclub. Right?

Good luck with that, since the #LaMarina hashtag is now considered so explicit that Instagram often filters it and hides search results.  But please, Parks, keep up with the good work!  Because it hasn’t stopped this poster from appearing on the La Marina website for July 30th.  Or this one from circulating on event ticket sites.  (One wonders if any other municipal facility in history has ever developed quite the street rep as the Dyckman Marina…)

lookotherway

Officer in background: Nothing to see here people (just the taking of public space).

Finally, Parks is continuing in 2017 the Great Lie about parking.  See, parking is a tough topic to spin.  It’s rather technical in that the site has none, the license agreement doesn’t mention it, the site plan doesn’t allow any, and the Parks-owned parking lot nearby has no agreement of its own to operate as a valet lot.  All of the streets near La Marina are either regular residential parking or No Standing zones.  And yet, and yet, every weekend, the barricades go up and parking staff seize public streets as private valet parking.  It’s a little hard not to notice, with the dozens of cops assigned to look the other way while they direct traffic.  And so, Parks must wiggle and squirm to try and not make it apparent that everything concerning parking at La Marina is grossly illegal.  Per an email on July 21, 2017 responding to a resident complaint about valet parking closing off Dyckman near Staff Street:

La Marina does not have authorization to close off this area of Dyckman Street. We spoke to the operators regarding your concern and were informed that the decision to close Dyckman Street was made by staff of the 34 precinct. In this instance, valet parking employees were allowed to move to the front of the barricade depicted in your photo to facilitate access for patrons traveling to the facility, and parking in the concessionaire’s designated area closer to the facility.

close off dyckman st for valet

Valet parking staff cone off Dyckman Street from public access, July 2017.  Because that’s totally normal to happen every weekend on NYC streets in violation of DOT regulations.

Oh, so it’s the NYPD’s fault?  Little problem with this lie:  there is NO “concessionaire’s designated area” for parking.  None.  Not a single space.  So Parks here is essentially saying the NYPD allowed an illegal parking operation to take over a public street to support a use that is not approved or authorized at a city-owned facility.  Nice.

End the lies.  Restore Dyckman Marina.

Not a concert, despite the same exact event being a Summerstage concert in Brooklyn.

Not a concert, it’s a fest.  Also not more than 1,500 people. (Aug 6, 2017)

#LaMarina #SolidCircle … DOLCE THIS FRIDAY AUG 11TH@

A post shared by Tricky Nick (@nick_solid_circle) on

Not a concert, it’s…. oh, screw it.  This is a concert. (Aug 6, 2017)

Yeah, and so is this. (Aug 9, 2017)

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Welcome Back, Klubber

“At the far west end of what the district refers to as the Dyckman corridor, is the unnervingly popular riverside restaurant-bar-hookah-dance venue La Marina.”

 Metro, Dec 7, 2016

only you

Welcome to 2017.  This will be the sixth season operating under the never-enforced and pretty-much-worthless concession agreement for the establishment at the Dyckman Marina basin.  The rent will still only be a measly 8% (far below the rents of 14% at Boat Basin Cafe or 12% at New Leaf Cafe) and as we’ve noted over and over, much of the money potentially owed to the city may never be seen because concert ticket income seems to not be reported.  But never mind all of those abstract numbers — a return to warm weather and the concession’s reopening means a return of illegal noisy concerts that bring unfair traffic and parking mayhem to Inwood’s 40,000 residents.

As usual, attempts have been made to correct the situation by asking Parks to abide by the agreements that were actually negotiated and signed back in 2009, rather than continue whatever fantasy they have been living in since 2012.  And last year saw a lot more scrutiny than usual, with federal corruption investigations surrounding Mayor de Blasio extending to La Marina’s majority partner.

2016 part1

Concert posters from the first half of the 2016 season.

But despite FBI rumors and calls for audits, as in past years Parks simply resorted to “alternative facts” to respond to critics.   In June 2016, a Parks spokesperson stated in an email to a neighborhood group that:

Similar to last season, La Marina is limiting the number of large Beach events, which are events on the beach that meet or exceed 1,000 attendees, to 15.

Keep in mind that there is no legal basis for even one of these “events” (which involve tickets and music and are called “concerts” by non-lying people).  Nonetheless, over the course of the summer Parks could not even manage to enforce their own invented and relaxed guideline.  In October 2016, long after the last mic had dropped, the spokesperson stated in a followup email:

La Marina is limiting their number of large beach events to 15 per year … for such an event to be included, it must meet or exceed 1,000 attendees.  Any events with less than 1,000 attendees are not counted in the 15 per year restriction.  Using that parameter, La Marina hosted 10 large beach events this season.

In reality, there were at least 40 heavily advertised, ticketed events in summer 2016, as seen in the posters on this page.

2016 part2

Concert posters from the second half of the 2016 season

At least 21 of those events, as documented here, hosted large crowds that filled the beach area to 2/3 or more (the beach alone has a legal capacity of 1,500 people):

1. May 21 Memorial Day Party
2. May 30 Brunch Bounce
3. June 12 Mega Music Series #3
4. June 18 Everyday People
5. June 19 Mega Music Series #4
6. June 25 Mai Tai NY
7. July 2 Chicken & Beer
8. July 3 Lovetrain Tour
9. July 4 Brunch n Beats
10. July 10 Mega Music Series #6
11. July 16 CRIBS
12. July 22 AfroCarnival
13. July 24 Mega Music Series #8
14. Aug. 6 Everyday People
15. Aug. 20 Summer Daze
16. Aug. 21 Rains/Powder Wars
17. Aug 26 Fiesta Empanada
18. Aug 27 Afro Caribbean
19. Sept 3 Everyday People #3
20. Sept 5 Brunch n Beats
21. Sept 10 Brunch Bounce

So how exactly does twenty-one equal ten?  How exactly do the images of all those concert posters  match up with “concerts are strictly prohibited” as stated in section 10.16 of the concession agreement?  How exactly was this creating “a significant improvement to the ambience of the park and surrounding area while providing a convenient service to the public” as required by the original concession RFP?  We’ll never know, as when Parks can’t give an answer that justifies their negligence, they provide no answer at all.

The only time in 2016 when Parks did their job properly in overseeing the concession was when they cancelled a boxing event that the operators had booked for the site.  Presumably they could not come up with a way to describe a live boxing match better suited for Madison Square Garden as being part of the approved use of “a full-service restaurant and a lounge”, so in this one rare instance it was dropped.

But one right does not make up for so many wrongs.  Will the same abuse of Inwood’s largest park as a late-night concert venue happen again in 2017?  What about the never-performed audit, or the missing EcoDock?  Will the city continue to look the other way as the alcohol industry uses a city park as a promotional vehicle?  Will the NYPD continue to pretend that Dyckman Street is not the city’s biggest illegal parking operation?  And exactly how many new explicit songs will come out this year referencing La Marina in their lyrics?

The big question for 2017 remains: will Dyckman Marina ever be restored to its intended and approved uses?


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The More Things Change…

“La Marina offers a unique experience that infuses a touch of South Beach in Manhattan, setting the perfect backdrop for private social events or corporate parties.”

 LaMarinaNYC.com, April 2016

bb6

Summer is coming…

As La Marina prepares to open for its fifth season, there is cause for despair.

Many residents who lived closest to the Parks concession have now moved elsewhere; newer residents moving in are unaware that the problems at the site are things that should not be happening — to them, they are just the way they have always been.

Remaining residents, tired of successive politicians who fail to take action, have adapted their travel patterns and weekend activities to try and mitigate the damage.

In 2014, at the Community Board 12 liquor license renewal committee meeting, a huge crowd turned out, only to see the license renewed for another 2 years with stipulations (that were never met) and more lies fabricated (to justify actions that are not permitted by the concession agreement or city regulations).  And so on April 13, 2016 few residents appeared for the licensing committee meeting, knowing that the liquor license would be renewed regardless — which it indeed was, without a single stipulation.

LM Posters1

Will summer 2016 be just like summer 2015?

So what now?  Will the “private social events” (aka concerts, no, make that “experiences that include music“) be  limited to ending at 10 pm?  To not being on Sunday nights?  To occuring just a few times throughout the season?  No, of course not.  Will the community uses of the site, which now finally includes sailing, increase?  Nope, anything like a family movie night would conflict with the concerts.  (Although, for a place that takes in many millions each year, you would think La Marina could afford to donate the $25,000 needed for a floating classroom for the sailing school.)  How about that EcoDock promised in 2012?  Every year it is promised, every year it fails to appear.

A shooting in 2014 did not bring change.  Community meetings with Parks officials in 2015 did not bring change.  A corruption scandal involving uptown politicians in 2016 has not brought change (yet – stay tuned on this one).  There is simply no reason not to expect summer 2016 to be just like summer 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.  So what can you do about it?

Take note of the impact La Marina has on your quality of life when they host disruptive concerts, or are playing music past 10 pm, or when you cannot even exit the highway. Email restoredyckmanmarina@gmail.com with your photos and observations and they will be published here.  And contact your elected officials to let them know that not all of Inwood has rolled over or abandoned the neighborhood.

Restore Dyckman Marina to its original uses, to benefit everyone, as it should be.  In the meantime, Happy 2016.

tweet from the security company showing their training

Security staff training for La Marina’s 2016 season.  Because all Parks concessions need bouncers, right?

 

 


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The RFP: A Promise Broken

 “Nestled on the southern portion of the upland, 315 will allow guests to experience casual dining in an extraordinary setting.  The open and airy satellite dining area nestled along the riverbank will offer breathtaking views of the Hudson River, bar service and an abridged menu from Costera.”

 From the winning Manhattan River Group bid to operate the Dyckman Marina concession, describing the cafe area that later became the ticketed concert venue instead.

 

Site in 2007

Site in 2007

As has been described elsewhere on this site, in 2007 the Parks Department sent out two Requests For Proposals to find a new concessionaire willing to invest in and operate a Marina and a Cafe.  The documents were issued separately as it was envisioned that the two entities might be operated independently, although combining the bids was encouraged.  Because of the troubled history of the site, the RFP was only for those two uses, the ones identified by Parks and the community as being suitable.

The RFP for the restaurant included some very clear language about what was expected.  To break down some components of the vision (along with what actually happened):

  • Use as a cafe was clearly defined:

Parks is seeking proposers with a solid background in the food service business to operate a high caliber café. The café should make a significant improvement to the ambience of the park and surrounding area while providing a convenient service to the public.

As operated: No cafe was ever built.

  • The cafe menu was also noted as follows:

The food and service provided must be of high quality yet affordable. Proposers should include some low-cost items on their menus.

As operated: No cafe was ever built.  Restaurant menu has a $16 hamburger and $11 garden salad.

  • The proposers could also propose an enclosed restaurant in addition to the cafe:

If proposers choose to submit a proposal which includes the construction of a new year-round restaurant, they should also include a detailed operational plan for the restaurant. This plan should clearly outline the dimensions and design of the proposed restaurant, the proposed menu, price list and hours of operation. As with the café, the design, menu, price list and hours of operation are all subject to Parks’ approval. 

As operated: Enclosed year-round restaurant was built as described.

  • Cover of RFP

    Cover of RFP

    Alcohol on the premises was defined very clearly:

 Alcoholic beverages may only be served during sit-down service and must be consumed within the licensed premises.

As operated: Three standing bars were built, two of them outdoors.  Most drinking takes place standing up.

  • Access was described explicitly:

The concessionaire must ensure free and open public access to the seating areas.

As operated: Part of the seating area is a VIP section that requires bottle service (typically $1,500 for bottles of champagne or liquor).  The seating in the concert area requires concert tickets.

  • Music was given special attention, due to the past problems with noise at the site:

Proposers should note that the café will not be permitted to have any outdoor, amplified music without prior written approval from Parks. All amplified music must be at sound level reasonably acceptable to the Commissioner…. Concerts will be strictly prohibited at the site.

If the proposer plans to build an enclosed, year-round restaurant, then amplified music may be played within the structure. All amplified music at the café or restaurant (if proposed) must cease at 10:00 p.m. and must be at a sound level reasonably acceptable to the Commissioner. Music and all other noise emanating from the café and restaurant (if proposed) shall comply with the rules for noise control in Title 24, Chapter 2 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York.

As operated: Amplified music is played outdoors every night, using speakers rated at up to 130 dB.  Amplified music is played until 1 am, which does not comply with the noise code.

  • Hours were clearly defined:

The café and restaurant (if proposed) will not be permitted to operate past 11:00 p.m. on Sunday through Wednesday and 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

As operated: Hours were changed to 1 am every night, including Sunday.

  • The RFP did not include any mention of parking.

As operated: The adjacent parking area was turned into a private valet lot that overflows far down Dyckman Street, illegally and without any agreement from DOT.

The separate Marina RFP had its own vision and list of requirements, mostly related to professional marina operations.  But there were a few points worth noting:

Parks is seeking proposers with a solid background in the marina services industry to operate a high quality marina. Parks would like to see this site developed into a first class destination that draws visitors from all over the area while providing a convenient service to the public.

Additionally, Parks will look favorably upon proposals that include a storage area for kayaks and canoes.  This storage could be offered for a fee. Parks will also look favorably upon proposals that include theinstallation of a floating launch.

As operated: The marina docks did not open until 2014, two years after the restaurant opened.  They are little used, but well known through verses of explicit songs.   No canoe or kayak storage or floating launch was built.

rfp mrg aerial proposed

Rendering of proposed Dyckman Marina from Manhattan River Group bid

How did such a stunning reversal of what was promised occur?  Was the accepted bid from Manhattan River Group for what was then called “Dyckman Marina and Cafe” (and later “Dyckman Landing“) inconsistent with the original requirements?  No; in fact it complied very much with the RFP (see below).  But nowhere in the exhaustive 179-page bid response document was there any mention of a 3,000 person events venue, of a massive concert facility with stage and huge sound system hosting dozens of club concerts each summer, of nightclub bouncers and bottle service areas.  Nothing about opening at 4 pm and closing at 1 am.  What happened?

 

kids vs bottles

Children’s Menu from RFP compared to the Bottle Service Menu as-built.

Yes, there were delays, changes in the design team, costly infrastructure-related design changes, value engineering and all of the other difficulties involved with constructing a multi-million dollar facility in New York.  No finished building ever matches its RFP documents exactly.  The Manhattan River Group design did evolve, but as late as early 2012 was still being presented like this:

"The project includes several small, simple buildings and a focus on open space", according to a Jan 7, 2012 article on Treehugger.com)

“The project includes several small, simple buildings and a focus on open space”, according to a Jan 7, 2012 article on Treehugger.com

Only Parks can explain how and why they inequitably and inappropriately (if not illegally) allowed the vision to become so distorted from the original, approved documents.  One clue may lie in one of the bids that was not accepted.  There was a bid submitted that included the following components:

  • a huge 400-seat restaurant, with a strong emphasis on employment
  • a desire to control street parking spaces along Dyckman Street all the way to Staff Street
  • a willingness to operate the cafe without the marina (which was viewed as requiring subsidy from the cafe operations)

This bid was supported by a local restaurant owner/investor/spokesman who later bought into the Manhattan River Group and now owns a controlling stake.  The name of the proposed restaurant in the rejected bid?  “La Marina

None of this was supposed to happen.

Suffice to say that this long, sorry tale of broken promises and twisted visions is a disgrace to the Parks Department, the area residents, the City of New York and respect for due process.  A perfectly acceptable RFP was issued, a wonderful bid was received and accepted, a contract in accordance with both was executed.  And yet a few years later, instead of a smart, green marina and cafe with a sailing school, kayak storage, picnic tables, open grounds and lunch service as promised, it was a terrific high-end restaurant and very problematic nightclub/concert venue that opened, more resembling the bid that was not accepted rather than the one that was.  Complete with overflowing valet parking and traffic and numerous noise and capacity violations, with an emphasis on alcohol and smoking,  the waterfront reclaimed with such grandeur from industrial boat storage in the name of public access was now being used for filming explicit videos instead of being open-air dining with a children’s menu.  Unacceptable.

Restore Dyckman Marina and make good on the original promise for this facility.   The Parks Department owes Inwood nothing less.

 


 

 

 

To take a closer look at what might have been, here are some excerpts from the Manhattan River Group winning bid:

Of course, the marina and restaurant will also draw bicyclists, boaters and diners from across New York City with the lure of an aesthetically appealing waterfront, a well-run marina, great food and a pro-active approach to improving the river ecology.

MRG plans to excavate a portion of the upland to establish a thriving salt water marsh, the spawning ground for many of the Hudson’s native species.

Dyckman will be divided into four distinct zones, each of which is fully accessible to the public.  Zone 1 is an integrated parking and staging area; Zone 2 includes a Spanish-themed restaurant and snack/picnic window open to the public; Zone 3 includes marina operations, including launching services, a 22-slip dock, limited short-haul space, a ship store, a new-boat showroom, facilities for mooring customers, offices and sailing school; and Zone 4, to the south of the quonset hut contains a casual waterfront lounge running between the Hudson’s shore on the west and the Manhattan Greenway on the East.

The marina operations were to be overseen by a marine sales and marketing executive and also an instructor from the New York Sailing Center on City Island.

The bid included a heavy emphasis on environmental factors and “green strategies”, going so far as to promise “a facility whose carbon footprint will not crush future generations of users and that will, more importantly, set an example for other waterfront developments.”  (Reality ended up being rather different.)

Access was very open, consistent with architectural renderings that were later developed:

Bicycle, pedestrian traffic, kayakers, and other park users will have access directly from the greenway, encouraging the kind of flow that sustains successful gathering places and sending a message to the community and visitors that NYC respects and nourishes the Hudson River.

render3 copy

Rendering of the proposed Costera restaurant and open grounds.

The project approach was based on four “significant concepts”.  Excerpts from the document include:

1) Increasing community access to the waterfront – principally through the eateries — restaurant, cafe/lounge and snack window, along with cleverly outsourcing the land-based marina services and improving the surrounding walkways and pier:

MRG will transform the Dyckman riverfront into a comfortable gathering place for all of its visitors.  The site plan will offer two distinct dining facilities: A full service restaurant to the north (in the current location of the existing restaurant facility) (“Costera”), and a lounge at the south end of the property (“315”)

Proposed 315 menu

Proposed 315 menu

Costera will offer elegant, yet casual dining in an area modified to comfortably hold 300 guests under our towering semi-permanent canopy and amongst the native vegetation and flowering plants in the sand-dusted garden area just south of the DEP structure.  Costera will offer a menu of dishes inspired from the culinary traditions of Spain and South America. For 315, MRG will convert he southern portion of the upland (the narrow strip south of the Quonset hut) to a full-service dining area; complete with stand-alone food prperation facilities, a wine and beer bar and bocce bal courtts.  MRG will create a unique dining experience literally inches from the Hudson River and increase available seating by almost 20%.  Set off from the rest of the facility, 315 will be available for private events.  This area will provide stunning waterfront views of the Palisades and George Washington Bridge.

In addition to the sit-down service available at Costera and 315, MRG will provide seating and picnic tables in the portion of Inwood Park immediately adjacent to Dyckman, outside of the formal restaurant area.  Visitors can bring their own lunches or take advantage of the walk-up snack window (“Bocados”) at the eastern end of the public fishing pier, which will offer sandwiches, ice cream, and other easy-to-serve finger food.  While remaining simple, the Bocados menu and ingredients will reflect the high quality that has continued to fill tables at Solera and other Villano family restaurants over many years.

This notable expansion of seating along the waterfront recognizes the value premium placed on open space at the expense of low-margin, environmentally stressful industrial uses.  Not only will the public have greater access to the river under the MRG plan, but the additional seating will generate additional revenue through rental for private and corporate events, as well as increased food and beverage sales when not under private contract.

To make up for the loss of upland waterfront maintenance and repair facilities, MRG has made arrangements with Monte’s Marine Service at the Englewood Boat Basin, which lies directly across the river from the Dyckman property, to handle all of MRG’s watercraft servicing needs.  By outsourcing repairs and maintenance, in exchange for a royalty payment, to an existing facility, MRG is able to provide human access to a stretch of reclaimed waterfront; in its current use the upland is neither safe nor accessible.

Access to the facility is integral to the success of the Manhattan River Club.  Thus, MRG will provide limited internal parking, a valet service during peak times, an unloading area for buses and bicycle racks within the grounds.  We will also evaluate the feasibility of creating a landing for the New York Water Taxi, which has recently begun to ferry passengers from more northern reaches of the Hudson River.

While outside the immediate scope of this proposal, MRG has initiated discussions with the New York Restoration Project, which has an excellent track record in Northern Manhattan, and will work with other community and political leaders to (a) connect the portion of the greenway running along the eastern border of Dyckman with those sections that have already been budgeted for restoration; and (b) develop and spearhead funding of a long term maintenance plan for the public fishing pier running along Dyckman’s northern border.  Both of these areas have endured many years of neglect, yet are essential elements connecting the upper Manhattan waterfront.

2) Creating a high-quality dining establishment at a riverfront oasis – again through the multiple eateries.

Costera and 315 will serve as (g) a stopping off points for cyclists taking advantage of the Manhattan Greenway, (ii) an easy getaway for city swellers, (iii) the local restaurant and gathering place for Inwood residents, and (iv) the only high quality restaurant in the local area offering dock-and-dine service.

3) Offering unsurpassed marina services — of every type and description.

Boating in and around Manhattan, as gorgeous and inviting as it would seem to be, is scarce.  With an average 95% occupancy rate at area marinas, and a meager 12% of facilities available to transients, there are not nearly enough facilities to support the NYC boathing community…. The marina will offer standard services in its basic package…. Additional services currently offered by no other New York City marina will also be available.  These include pick-up and drop-off with our licensed, coast guard approved launch, boat wash and interior cleaning, catering/restocking, garbage pick-up, battery charging, and onboard mechanical/repair services through our service partner.  MRG will be the only marina in Manhattan to offer on-site dry storage in the winter.

4) Providing a safe and clean environment – mostly through prior restaurant experience and high standards.

The rebuilt Dyckman facilities will be reshaped into an accessible and safe location for boating and dining…. These repairs will create the foundation for a clean, safe and well-maintained propoerty in which the boatyard activities are substantially curtailed in favor of landscaped pathways and dining areas well suited to its unique location.

Proposed Costera menu

Proposed Costera menu

The eateries were further described in the response document in great detail.  Excerpts include:

Costera will be MRG’s casual, waterfront cafe experience… Costera’s aim is to provide quality food and service, in a comfortable atmosphere, coupled with a distinct and unique dining experience.  

Program elements to include: Outdoor dining tables and chairs to accomodate 275 guests, Bar accommodating approximately 15 guests

Nestled on the southern portion of the upland, 315 will allow guests to experience casual dining in an extraordinary setting.  The open and airy satellite dining area nestled along the riverbank will offer breathtaking views of the Hudson River, bar service and an abridged menu from Costera.

Program elements to include: Outdoor dining tables and chairs to accommodate 50 guests, Outdoor quasi-covered kitchen/bar area.

Bocados is the Spanish word for ‘snacks”.  Located and services in the Costera unit, Bocados will provide take-out  service for those patrons who would rather “get and go”… The menu will consist of “simple snack food”…. Picnic baskets will also be available so people can enjoy a romantic getaway, a stopover in one of upper Manhattan’s array of well-maintained parks and playgrounds, or a freshly prepared meal while cruising around Manhattan’s waterways.

Program elements to include: Picnic tables around the North Beach (north of the fishing pier)

Private events were envisioned from the beginning, but not as concerts:

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.  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.  The festival would offer rides, various concessions, live music, arts and other activities…

The 22-slip  marina programming was described in the response to include:

  • Storage and launch facilities for kayakers, canoers and rowboaters;
  • A sailing school complete with training boats and classroom
  • Mooring and docking facilities for power-boaters
  • Boat service facilities; and
  • Concierege services

The sailing school was to be operated by the New York Sailing Center & Yacht Club from City Island, offering “a variety of programs including one-day workshops to brush up on skills, private instruction at any level, personal vessel instruction, navigation courses, bareboating and facing.  Furthermore, experience sailors can even rent our larger vessels for day trips and overnights.”

The kayak, canoe and rowboat storage would have gone into the existing quonset hut.  Furthermore. “MRG will apply to become a designated Hudson River Valley Greenway Water Trail site”.

Duck tours and a boat dealership are also mentioned in the document.

The proposed site plan from the winning Manhattan River Group bid

The proposed site plan from the winning Manhattan River Group bid

Great attention was paid to public access.  Under “Intended Uses for the Facility”, it was stated that:

Manhattan River Group recognizes the importance of public access to the waterfront.  Our objective is to increase public use by providing a venue and facilities.  By expanding the area dedicated to hospitality uses, withing and outside the concession, we accomplish this goal.  In addition to the various boating and restaurant facilities explained in detail above, MRG may also offer:

  • Community events
  • Free kayaking through a not-for-profit partner
  • Power boat rentals
  • Bicycle rental
  • Neighborhood tours; and
  • River ecology tours

Finally, the hours more than met the intent of the RFP.  The restaurants would open at 11 am on weekdays for lunch and 9 am on weekends for brunch, and close by 11 pm every night.

All of the above sounds appealing and perfectly consistent with the goals of the RFP.  Parks would have been wrong not to have selected the bid.  It outlines, in great detail, the exact kind of facility that the area craved and that would revitalize the site.  So why was almost none of it built as described?  

Instead, this is what opened in 2012, five years after the RFP was first issued:

This is what was built and opened in 2012.  Contrast with the earlier renderings and site plan

A Broken Promise indeed.  Parks must restore Dyckman Marina, and restore the uses as originally promised.


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Unilateral Changes

 “La Marina is supposed to be open only seasonally, but the parks department has amended its license, allowing it to operate year-round.”

 New York Times, 6/18/13, discussing one of the many unilateral changes made by the Parks Dept. to the concession’s operations.

 

Price list from the Bottle Service area. Patrons can only sit in this area if they order bottles of liquor and champagne costing hundreds of dollars. This kind of fee was not provided for in the RFP or License Agreement but Parks has allowed it for three years nonetheless.

Since opening, Parks has made many changes to the concessions operations without any public review or notice whatsoever.  The concession was described for years as a Restaurant, Cafe and Marina over and over again in the media, to community boardsin testimony to review boards, in its own contractual documents – and then upon opening, a completely different operation emerged with no notification to anyone.

Among the changes that Parks either allowed or made unilaterally and without notice to turn a lovely and accessible waterfront restaurant and docks into a massive nightclub and concert venue worthy of Jones Beach:

Was it legal for Parks to permit the above?  Was it appropriate?  Was it equitable?

Is there nothing that Parks will enforce?  No action they will not allow?

Restoring the original approved uses is the only reasonable course at this point, but that is the one thing that Parks seems to have a problem with.   This should not be the case.

DJ’s playing at 11:38 pm on Sunday, August 10, 2014, long after amplified music should have been stopped or the concession should have even been open, during a ticketed concert,  with over 2000 people in attendance, served by standing bars.


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Smoking

 “To improve the beauty of the city’s public outdoor spaces, and ensure an even healthier and cleaner experience for New Yorkers, smoking is prohibited within New York City’s parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas.”

 From the NYC Parks Department website

 

New York City has very healthy city parks.  Smoking is banned throughout the city on any parkland.  Even e-cigarettes are banned!   Don’t even try to sell cigarettes from a vending machine at a city park.  And so, as with all Parks concessions,  the License Agreement is very clear on also prohibiting the sale tobacco products of any kind:

Under no circumstances may the Licensee sell or cause to be sold on or about the Licensed Premises cigarettes, cigars or other tobacco products.

Hookahs rent for $30 at the concession and aer extremely popular. (Instagram)

Hookahs rent for $30 at the concession and are extremely popular. (Instagram)

However, since opening, a tremendous amount of smoking has taken place on the site, every single night, primarily of hookah.  In four summer months in 2014 alone, the concession collected $160,317 in hookah revenue.  The question is why Parks is allowing this.

First, let’s examine the national picture.  Because it is exempt from many smoking bans, hookah has been increasing in popularity nationwide.  Surprisingly, 17% of all teens have tried hookah, and 22% of all people 19 to 30 yrs old living in very large cities.   And so cities across the US are increasingly trying to warn people about its risks.   But in New York it is also extremely profitable as a smoking ban loophole, making it hard for restaurants and bars to resist.  (At the Dyckman Marina concession, hookah costs $30 with $15 refills).  Even the headline performers at La Marina like to be seen smoking it.

Much fuss was made about the Dyckman Marina concession serving hookah, until it was clarified that the contents were herbal and not tobacco-based; it was further claimed that the concession had received “special permission” from Parks to have herbal hookah on the premises.

Jay-Z enjoys some cigars. (SoleCollector.com)

Jay-Z enjoys some cigars at the concession VIP area.   Allowing one kind of smoking makes it difficult to enforce bans on other smoking activities.(SoleCollector.com)

But should that really have been the end of the story?  If Parks was seeking to promote “healthier and cleaner” parkland, why did they grant permission for an activity that is not at all healthy and contains carcinogens?  Many cities are now banning herbal hookah in addition to tobacco hookah, because the charcoal used to heat the shisha mix is still dangerous even without the tobacco content.  According to a Canadian article:

In a study published in Tobacco Control in September, researchers in Alberta found that smoke from herbal hookah contained levels of toxic substances equal to or in excess of cigarette smoke. Ferrence performed a similar study published in Tobacco Control in September that examined the air quality of 12 hookah bars in Toronto — where only herbal hookah was allowed. The air contained much higher levels of cancer-causing particulate matter and carbon monoxide than those found in smoking rooms of bars.

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Smoking area at LaMarina, July 14 2016.

Another recent study found increased levels of benzene in hookah smokers, a chemical that previous research has linked to cancer.

The researchers found that urine levels of a compound called S-phenylmercapturic acid (SPMA), which forms when benzene is broken down in the body, increased more than fourfold in the hookah smokers who smoked at a hookah lounge, and increased almost twofold in the people who smoked hookah tobacco at home.  Moreover, levels of SPMA in the urine of people who were at a hookah lounge but hadn’t smoked were 2.6 times higher after they were exposed to the hookah smoke in lounges.

The study made it clear that the charcoal from the hookah was a source of this benzene

Benzene is present in both hookah tobacco smoke and the emissions from the burning charcoal in a hookah that is used to heat the tobacco, [study author] Kassem said.  “In addition to inhaling toxicants and carcinogens found in the hookah tobacco smoke, hookah smokers and nonsmokers who socialize with hookah smokers also inhale large quantities of charcoal combustion-generated toxic and carcinogenic emissions,” she told Live Science.

A recent court case about a hookah ban in Vancouver that included banning herbal shisha was upheld partly on the grounds that:

The city argued that hookah smoking poses a significant health risk, and Yee agreed, giving particular weight to the testimony of two doctors who outlined the health concerns for both consumers and those who inhale second-hand smoke.

“These health risks include respiratory problems and acute cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, as well as cancer,” Yee wrote, noting that Dr. Milan Khara of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority’s tobacco control program described the smoke produced by a hookah as a “toxicant soup.”

Smoking in City Parks was banned in 2011, but the rules don’t seem to apply in Inwood.  Photo taken September 7, 2014

Some New York officials have looked into herbal hookah bans, so far without success.  The latest proposed bill against hookah,targeting restaurants and bars that are not primarily smoking lounges, even comes from the Council Member whose district includes La Marina.  But why is Parks waiting for legislation instead of taking the lead on such a prominent health matter?  Turning city parkland into an enormous hookah bar is unhealthy, bad policy and encourages the unauthorized nightlife uses at the site.

Allowing one kind of smoking  combined with nightlife uses also makes the existing ban on other kinds of smoking such as tobacco and marijuna hard to enforce.  Tobacco smoking was in fact prevalent enough that by late 2014 the concession physically created a smoking section, despite the outright ban on smoking in parks!  During a late-season visit on September 12, 2014 the smell of marijuana was noticeable in the forecourt at 9 pm, and signs indicating “designated smoking area” for a roped-off section were observed.  Even New York Magazine lists La Marina as having a “smoking section” in their profile.  This is completely illegal, and yet Parks took no action.

Hookah, and all other smoking activity, has no place at a waterfront park site that should be focused on providing canapes and canoes, not charcoal and cancer.  The restoration of the concession should include only the approved uses of a Restaurant and Marina, with full respect for both the the letter and the intent of the License Agreement’s smoking ban.

 

 

 


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Gun Violence

 “The 27-year-old guard was shot inside the waterfront lounge’s outdoor deck area near Dyckman Street and the Hudson River about 11:45 p.m., the NYPD said.”

DNA Info, July 14 2014.

 

nypost shooting

One of the articles following the shooting. See Press section for more. (NY Post)

On July 13th, at 11:45 pm, a patron shot a security guard in the neck on the terrace of the concession following an altercation.  The guard survived but the shooter escaped and is at large.  Click here for the video of the aftermath.

Per its license agreement, the facility should have closed at 11 pm but was instead open to 1 am with DJ’s performing, as has been custom since opening in July 2012.

Despite being an example of gun violence, and technically attempted murder, on city parkland, during a time it should not have been open, while acting as a nightclub it is not supposed to be, there were no statements by Parks nor by the concession operators.  Or by any of the many elected officials who have been involved with the concession.  The police released only minimal facts.

Screenshot from When I Feel Like It (YouTube)

“Shoot you for an argument” – a music video filmed on site inadvertently predicted the shooting. (YouTube)

Contrast this with a month later, when two livery cab drivers were shot in the Bronx.  One of the concession operators, who is also a spokesman for the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, stated at a press conference:

“We need to send a clear message, to those thugs…That you know what, maybe today you’re getting away with carrying a gun and not being searched, but we’re gonna look for ways to catch you.”

Why wasn’t the exact same statement made about the shooting at the concession?  Is there a double standard when it comes to gun violence at Dyckman Marina vs gun violence elsewhere?  Was the incident at the park site being downplayed in the public eye because the concession should not have been open past 11 pm or operating as a nightclub in the first place?

aug11-security-line4crop

Bag checks were increased and signs installed at the park gates warning about video surveillance after the shooting incident.

Following the shooting, various security measures at the site were “improved”, such as instituting bag checks earlier in the day, prohibiting the wearing of baseball caps, increased use of metal detectors and the installation of more cameras.  While the NYPD may approve of these measures, did the Parks Department?  Why?  Is that the appropriate action here?   To cover a park gate in WARNING signs and restrict access even further than it already is, rather than just eliminate the unapproved nightlife use and change in hours that caused the situation in the first place?

The July shooting was also not the first instance of gun violence being threatened at the concession.

Whether the above talk is real or just idle boasts, the relationship between gun violence and alochol is well established.  So why are these nightlife uses happening on parkland?

Gun violence has increased recently in New York, and the city is now spending $13 million on a program to “prevent shootings before they occur”.   Restoring the concession to its originally approved uses of a restaurant and marina costs far less and would greatly reduce the chance of gun violence on the site.

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Diverting Resources: September 7, 2014. Three NYPD officers were assigned to La Marina on a 6-2:00am tour while as is customary many officers stop by throughout the night. Since June officers have been assigned to the concession on Sunday nights.