Restore Dyckman Marina


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March Madness

“Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”

– Widely Attributed

As we enter March 2019, the future of the Dyckman Marina concession for the summer season remains unclear.  The current holder of the license, a shell company called Manhattan River Group, is in all sorts of trouble following the problems of summer 2018 (not to mention the problems of all six summers before that).  
 
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La Marina is shut down in 2018

 
First they were told by Parks to stop hosting a massive and illegal valet operation and grossly improper ticketed concerts in the beach area.  Their response?  Sue the city for $2 million in damages — for revenue lost from not being allowed to do things they were not supposed to do in the first place.  That is not the action of someone that is your partner for operation of a public concession.
 
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A valet operating on public streets

 
Then they had their liquor license seized by the State Liquor Authority, largely triggered by the fall 2018 drug bust.  Again, not something that usually leads to keeping a concession agreement.  In fact, the prior concession license was terminated for exactly this reason.
 
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MRG’s bankruptcy petition

 
Finally, Manhattan River Group declared bankruptcy.  This is almost beyond comprehension, given that they were one of the most profitable concessions in the city bringing in millions every summer.  Look at this 2018 revenue report – over a million in revenue for a single month in June (almost none of which was for valet or beach concert rental, by the way) and yet at the end of the year they owe $600,000 to creditors, including $200,000 in back rent (a measly 8% of revenue) to the city?  Those creditors, by the way, include a number of families who gave wedding and bar mitzvah deposits — read this particular letter from a couple about their wedding deposit and Manhattan River Group’s response, and the ensuing response from the couple.    
 
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MRG partners Mateo (l) and Rosen (r) with a concert DJ performer

 
Despite the years of outrageous problems, the lawsuit against the city, the multi-agency raid, the shooting, the drug bust, the bankruptcy and the Community Board resolution begging Parks to terminate the concession agreement, as of February 2019 the Parks Dept has still not cancelled the concession license with Manhattan River Group. 
 
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A Brother Jimmy’s storefront

 
Instead Manhattan River Group (which is comprised solely of partners Josh Rosen, Jerald Tenenbaum, Fernando Mateo and Chris Villano) has appeared at public meetings saying it is their intention to “restructure” and partner with a new restaurant brand for the 2019 season in a bid to save their very lucrative contract.  They appeared at a February CB12 Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee meeting introducing the BBQ chain Brother Jimmy’s as one possible idea.
 
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MRG partners Rosen (l) and Mateo (r) at La Marina

 
Letting MRG partner with anyone makes no sense.  Regardless if a new restaurant manager might actually follow, for once, the written rules and requirements of the restaurant concession agreement, Manhattan River Group should have nothing to do with it.  The concession license agreement must be terminated and re-bid (as happened with the prior operator in 2007), or assigned (as was done with the New Leaf Cafe concession a couple years ago).  And the SLA must complete their process and strip the license from MRG without interference.
 
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SLA will soon decide on the fate of the liquor license

 
Should a new operator be assigned, separate from any MRG association, remember that the basic requirements of the agreement as written and binding include:
 
  • No Concerts, No Ticketed Events, No Bottle Service.  None of these uses are allowed in the agreement as approved uses, which is not surprising for a public waterfront site.  Concerts are specifically called out as “strictly prohibited”/
  • No Late Hours.  The agreement is clear, open til 11 pm Sun-Wed, and 12:30 am Thurs-Sat.  Logical given that the site is near a residential neighborhood and in a park.
  • Summer-Only Operating Season.  The agreement allows for a concession from May to October. That’s it.  The concession license as written does not allow for off-season events.
  • No Valet Parking.  The approved site plan has no parking on site.  There is a parking lot adjacent, on Parks land, but that lot is open to the public for regular street parking.  To reserve it for the restaurant, it would have had to have been included in the Licensed Premises (as was done for New Leaf Cafe), which was not the case here.  Or a separate agreement could be drawn up following all rules and procedures for issuing a public concession.  
  • No Outdoor Music after 10 pm. This is in the agreement but also comes from the NYC Noise Code and is common to all Parks. (For example, SummerStage in Central Park)
  • Public Access.  Per the agreement, the facility cannot be closed to the public without special permission and weeks of advance notice.  It is parkland and supposed to be accessible, which it was often not since opening.

Furthermore let’s remember that there are TWO concessions here, restaurant and marina.  And the Marina aspect of what is one of only two public marinas on Manhattan Island has been sorely neglected since the concession opened in 2012.

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Jet skis at the federally-funded dock for large boats.

To recap, see this earlier post that talked about the incomplete marina.  It also helps to review the original 2007 winning vision by Manhattan River Group for a large full-service marina serving 200 vessels.  That’s not a typo — the schedule really called for 200 moorings after 10 years.  MRG won the RFP for the concession largely based on their proposed marina that would “be overhauled and re-established to concentrate on moorings as the primary means of storage… in the winter the entire site, including the restaurant, will be taken apart and stored, and all available upland will be utilized for the winter storage of boats.”

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Promised seasonal moorings, never built.

MRG will offer mooring customers a level of service surpassing other area marinas.  Primarily, the Manhattan River Club Marina will be the only mooring field in Manhattan offering launch service.  Basic services will include quality laundry facilities (machines and maintenance outsourced to CoinMach, an established vendor in this area), clean showers and restrooms, a ship store complete with supplies, ice and refreshments, catering services provided by Costera, dinghy rental, and in-water cleaning/detailing service.  We will also seek to provide potable water delivery, remote hose-down, and remote batter charging services for moored vessels.

The marina agreement was then based on this RFP and requires, in writing:

  • A full-service marina for the use and enjoyment of the general public.  Required components include mooring, docking and launch facilities.
  • 24/7 Access.  As a marina, it was expected that there would be seasonal and transient moorings and docks.  Any boating customer was to have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week between April 16th and October 15th.   
  • Mooring Dinghy.  From 8 am to 11 pm, every day during the above season, a dinghy would be staffed to take boaters to the moorings.
  • Marina services.  This included a boat pump-out station for sewage, use of the concrete ramp for $50, kayak storage, winter boat storage, etc.   
  • Beach Maintenance.  The marina operator must maintain the small beach next to Dyckman Pier as a small-craft launch site, free to use and free of litter.                  
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Federal program that paid for the transient marina infrastructure

To raise funds to build the docks and marina services, Manhattan River Group and Parks won a federal grant in 2011 from US Fish & Wildlife for $669,286 of taxpayer money.  This grant created additional obligations, specifically for transient vessels over 26 ft long that would visit for up to but not more than 15 days:

  • Build a dock and moorings for 100 vessels.  80 of these were to be for transient vessels.
  • Pumpout, electric and water hookups for 20 transient vessels.  This is critical since large boats require such services  if they are to visit.
  • Add security for the docks.  Most often this means a gate with an electronic key.
  • Restrooms, showers and laundry.  For visiting boaters to use when docked.

None of this happened by the time the concession opened in 2012. Parks seemed content to let things slide through 2013 and then a dock appeared in 2014 that could host 20 vessels in slips, plus a slip for a launch dinghy, and 14 more vessels across the front.  A couple moorings were on site but not deployed.   When Fish & Wildlife came to inspect in 2015 they were not pleased, finding that the marina restrooms were in fact now nightclub restrooms, the shower was marked “employees only”, there was no laundry, no hookups, no dock security, no pump-out and poor access. More time passed and it took until 2017 for the BIG grant conditions to be met (meaning these requirements now run until 2037). 

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Sailing school vessels docked at the transient dock

Note that the grant was adjusted slightly due to a decrease in moorings, now numbering only 20 transient moorings down from the originally funded 53 (and originally proposed 200 in the RFP).  Combined with the dock there is now space for only 54 transient vessels – and it’s not even clear that any boat ever used any of them for a multi-day stay.  Instead the moorings would sit empty while the dock would fill with jet-skis and boats under 26 ft, vessels that are not supposed to be even using the dock!

So besides maintaining these 54 transient spaces, the services, the restroooms, laundry, showers, dinghy service and access, there is still the obligation of seasonal tie-ups.  La Marina posts rates, per their contract, for seasonal dock space but has no seasonal dock (the transient dock cannot be used for seasonal boats per the terms of the BIG funding, or technically even the popular sailing school)   There are no seasonal moorings actually installed, just the 20 transient ones.  In other words, most of the marina is still missing.

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Greatly reduced transient mooring field finally installed in 2017

Finally, in addition to the marina, there is the lingering question of the “eco-dock“.  This was funded by former Council Member Robert Jackson and former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in 2012 to provide additional community waterfront access and programming.  Plans were even drawn up in 2013.  It was never built.  Where is it, where are the funds, and what are the obligations for any new concession operator?

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Closed gates of Dyckman Street Boat Marina, aka La Marina

Restoring Dyckman Marina means restoring the concession to its legally binding contracts.  It means removing Manhattan River Group based on their past actions, bringing in a new operator via assignment or RFP, and making sure that operator follows exactly the approved and written concession agreements for the Restaurant and the Marina.  After seven years of problems and unmet promises, anything less for the Inwood community would be madness.

 
 
 
 
 


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Shuttered, Shunned and Suing

“When a bar manager is able to traffic and sell these types and quantities of narcotics from within an establishment it is incredibly alarming, and it is evidence of the serious threat that this establishment poses to the health, safety, and welfare of its patrons and the community” 

– Christopher R. Riano, Counsel to SLA, December 2018

Well that only took seven years.
 
Finally spurred to action by a massive drug bust, the New York State Liquor Authority held a hearing in December of 2018 and issued a stunning rebuke to La Marina’s wild ways.  You can watch the video here  (jump to the 23 min mark).  Bluntly rejecting the Pinnochio-esque claims of the concession operator, the authority panel decided to close the facility immediately with an emergency temporary suspension of their liquor license.
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It will be determined in early 2019 whether or not this suspension becomes permanent.  But in the meantime, the Community Board wasted no time in passing their own judgment before the year ended, issuing a resolution calling on the Parks Dept to rip up the concession contract and start over with a new operator.  (Evidently they had tired of being lied to after previously supporting La Marina over resident concerns in 2012, 2014 and 2016).
 
Alas, where are La Marina’s powerful friends who protected their operations lo these many years?  Not a word about the summer health violations, fall police bust or winter license suspension was said by any of Inwood’s elected officials, which seemed a little odd given the effusive political cover they provided the concession in the pastCouncilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, for example, held and attended many events at La Marina over the years. His fundraiser/birthday party was hosted there as recently as August 2017.  He could always be counted on to take the concession’s side over the concerns of residents, and yet has been oddly silent this year.  Might running for Public Advocate have something to do with ignoring photos like this one, or this one?
 
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Perhaps realizing their luck had run out after the prominent de Blasio donor corruption trials stripped them of any remaining allies, La Marina decided to go on the offensive.  They launched their own lawsuit against New York City in November 2018, after the police drug bust but before the SLA suspended their liquor license.  It was not publicized at the time, and the city certainly kept quiet about it (perhaps out of embarrassment, one has to wonder).  The concession claimed that having to follow the rules of their license and no longer offer ticketed concerts or valet parking was an interruption in their business, and thus sued the city for damages of two million dollars.
 
So if you’ve been reading the articles and looking at the photos on this website over past summers, you will recognize the three-step process as thus:
 
1) Regularly violate concession license, city regulations and state and federal statutes in order to operate improper activities such as valet parking on public streets and late night ticketed concerts on public parkland.
 
2) Reap enormous profits for seven summers from above said activities while filing oddly inconclusive revenue reports.
 
3) Once rules and license are finally enforced normally, claim lost income from profitable, non-reported improper activities and sue city for …not enforcing the rules in the first place?
 
The arguments contained in the court documents make very little sense if you know how the concession really operated — the valet parking had “little or no adverse effect on the local community”, ha ha  — but given their repeated lies and years of mismanagement, don’t count on Parks’ lawyers successfully defending your hard-earned tax dollars.
 
And by the way, wouldn’t suing the City of New York when you are in the midst of various raids and regulatory actions be something of a no-no?   And why has the license not been terminated outright by now anyways?  How is the concession agreement even still active?  It’s not like Parks doesn’t have the right to terminate for any number of reasons:
 
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At least 2019 will be interesting.  Will Dyckman Marina be restored to its proper uses, finally?  Happy New Year!
 
 
UPDATE – turns out that La Marina filed for bankruptcy in December also.  That’s right, one of the most profitable concessions in the entire city somehow managed to run out of money and now only has $1,000 in the bank while owing $600,000 to creditors.  Note that this also put them into 180 day protection, which may stop Parks from terminating the concession.  
 
 
 


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Top 5 Parks Department Fails

Thank you for reporting your concerns and observations. We will continue to address issues as they arise at the licensed premises, and appreciate your patience in awaiting a response from Parks.”

– Melissa Goldberg, Director of Concessions Compliance, Dept of Parks, September 2013

As La Marina starts to buckle under the failed inspections and corrective actions generated by seven seasons of unchecked breach-of-contract operations, it’s worth taking a look back at the Top 5 epic fails by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. After all, they were ultimately the ones responsible for this concession during a stunning period of incompetence, willful blindness and civic corruption. Read on, and then comment if we’ve missed any of your favorite mismangement moments.
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1. Valet Parking
It’s not even a contest when it comes to the number one fail. The enormous and completely insane valet parking was just so blatantly and obviously illegal, and yet operated in plain sight, every single summer evening, for two five six seven years. Where else in the city could a Parks concession steal public parking places on parkland and on city streets, park in No Standing Zones, and run a cash business with no concession agreement and no legal authority whatsoever?

 

To recap, the RFP included no parking areas, and the concession contract limited the premises to what is inside the metal fence, plus the pier and beach (which La Marina is supposed to keep clean.) Just before opening, La Marina begged Parks to have DOT change the parking signs in the surrounding streets from regular alternate side parking to a bizarre NO STANDING zone after 6 pm, under the excuse that this would free up space for taxis that were coming and going, or maybe valets running cars back to local garages. DOT shamefully complied soon after opening. La Marina also asked Parks to use the Parks-owned cul-de-sac at the west end of Dyckman Street, which contained a dozen public street parking spaces, exclusively for a valet service. Parks said no and then yes, provided that they keep the entire north side clear as a fire lane and access to the beach clear.  (Note that this was illegal for Parks to even offer).  La Marina still ignored this and did neither while Parks looked the other way. They, and several other city agencies, also let the valet spill out to include all of Staff Street, over a thousand feet away!

 

The really crazy thing is, Parks never had the legal right to unilaterally turn over their own property, never mind several blocks of public street. Allowing the private use of public land for compensation is called a “concession”, and there are rules for them which Parks never followed.

 

The valet parking froze traffic for blocks around, and attracted cars from across the tri-state who would sit for an hour to try to get to the valets at the end of Dyckman Street. Even the highways would sometimes be blocked. It’s not like the problem went unnoticedendless meetings, letters and other communications were made with the Parks Department but every time the blame for the traffic was always on someone else – DOT, NYPD, the other restaurants on Dyckman…

 

Finally, after a drunk driver crashed into parked police cars while officers were literally in the process of writing up a La Marina summons for “over servicing”, Parks had no choice but to cave in and inform the concession that the valet was “prohibited” in July 2018.

 

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2. Not a Concert!
It’s not every day you need to take a dictionary to a Parks Department meeting, but for several years you’ve needed one. The RFP and the final concession agreement were both quite clear that concerts would be “strictly prohibited”. And yet Parks would claim, over and over:

 

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.

 

This was high comedy but not funny for the neighborhood that had to absorb 1,500+ concert patrons stumbling out at 1 am every summer weekend. Every year there would be a concert series. There was an HBO concert special. Tickets were sold for upcoming concerts. For heaven’s sake, La Marina’s own Facebook page says they are a concert venue with concert-style sound. Of course they were concerts, and they were prohibited.

 

Related to these semantics was the equally infantile inability of the Parks Dept to read the words “All amplified music at the Licensed Premises must cease at 10:00 pm” written into the contract. This is not just a concession rule for this site, it’s a citywide rule. There is simply no way around it, and Parks knew this right from the beginning. But under pressure from the operators to hold concerts past 10 pm, Parks spokespeople would dance a jig and claim that the concession had put in a new sound system that would ensure “sound doesn’t leave the property”. Which unless you are bending the laws of physics is rather hard to do when the stage is outside. And so this deception carried on for seven years, with Parks pretending that the concerts did not go past 10 pm when of course they did.

 

Eventually Parks heard the music and realized they had made a grevious error that put them in legal jeopardy. Parks finally put an end to the ticketed outdoor megaconcerts in July of 2018.  (Update – they continued holding slightly smaller, still-unauthorized concerts inside a new, also unauthorized greenhouse.)

 

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3. Bikini Palooza / PCBlast (tie)
Some of the events held at La Marina were well-meaning even if not permissible. A few planned events (like an outdoor boxing match) were so clearly outside of the rules that they were cancelled by Parks before they could even be held. But many, many of the events were parties that were so ill-advised it is mind-blowing Parks allowed them to happen with zero consequences for the concession. The 9AM Banger, the Heineken festival and the BrunchBounce megacrowds were all infamous. But the very worst of the bunch were Bikini Palooza and PCBlast.

 

The Bikini Palooza party itself on July 2, 2017 was a typical megaparty– thousands of patrons, DJs on the stage, alcohol flowing. You can see a video recap here. But the advertising was the worst yet (which is really saying something) — post after post on social media with extremely sexist images. After community complaints Parks made the bold move to… change the name to Beachwear Affair. The event ended up so overcrowded that the NYPD had to shut down the site, triggering an SLA violation that as of December 2018 is still awaiting a hearing.

 

PCBlast (Litty Edition) was not a concert event but a strange hosting of anarchist auto enthusiasts who liked to wear masks and set off smoke bombs as they raced at tracks and partied at clubs. There are several videos featuring the cars firing smoke flares down Dyckman Street and being rolled right onto the La Marina premises, then late at night revving their engines as they peeled out. How was this ever a good idea for a concession operating on public parkland? (A: It wasn’t).

 

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4. The Missing Marina
The La Marina concession is actually comprised of two separate contracts — a restaurant and bar operation, and a marina operation. They each have their own boundaries, so those can be hard to follow given how the site was constructed, but they were intended to be separate and significant uses that would share the site.

 

Go back to the original RFP and look at this language regarding the marina:

 

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 the installation of a floating launch.

 

And when Manhattan River Group won the RFP with a combined bid for both the restaurant and marina concessions, they promised a marina operation that would include “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”. They also promised to make agreements with the marina across the river in Englewood Boat Basin to handle all boat maintenance and repair (to replace the boat maintenance that was on site at Dyckman Marina under the prior operator).

 

The bid also proposed that the marina would “concentrate on moorings as the primary means of storage” for up to 300 boats stretching from the site down to the GWB, serviced by a launch. There would be 130 moorings by 2018.

 

In the winter, 50 boats would be stored on site. Canoes and kayaks would be stored year-round in the existing quonset hut. All of this would all be accessible for community events, free kayaking (with a partner nonprofit group), boat rentals, bike rentals, river ecology tours, a greenmarket and annual festivals.

 

Wow, sounds great. So what actually happened? Well, over $600,000 of taxpayer money was awarded to the site in 2011 to build the docks and moorings. A further $700,000 of taxpayer money was awarded in 2012 for a community EcoDock.

 

And yet, despite that lovely accepted RFP bid, despite the contract, despite the $1.6M public dollars, nothing at all was built when the facility opened in 2012. By 2014 the 22 slip dock appeared for clubgoers. The sailing school arrived only in 2015.  But no EcoDock, no launch, no boat showroom, no ship store, no boater services, no kayak storage, no winter storage and no community boating festivals have ever appeared — they were squeezed out by the unapproved concert and nightclub uses.  A few transient moorings appeared and that was it.  Even a stern letter from the Federal Government over the missing marina did not result in the marina being fully completed.  In other words, the “marina” part of “La Marina” is still missing after seven years, and Parks has never done a thing about it. They should all walk the plank for it.

 

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5. Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll
La Marina is a Parks concession on public waterfront parkland. Take a look at any of its peers on Instagram — Here’s Battery Gardens way downtown. Here’s the Boat Basin Cafe and Ellington in the Park on the west side. This is Vivo Mediterranean in Queens. How about the Vanderbilt in Staten Island? All of these social media streams are filled with images of wedding parties, waterfront views, diners posing with their food, and so on. And then there is La Marina. How could Parks have ignored for seven years the thousands and thousands of posts and images of what is clearly concert and nightclub activity that violates the contract?

 

If Instagram wasn’t their thing, maybe the Parks compliance staff could have noticed the numerous YouTube videos with concert promos, stripper brawls, concert recaps, drug use, headline performances, etc. starring their Dyckman Marina concession.

 

Was Parks really unaware that one of their flagship eateries was mentioned in over a dozen extremely explicit lyrics about violence, guns, drugs, sex and more? Or that the site itself appeared in several explicit music videos? Not exactly something you see every day for a public facility, in any city, anywhere.

 

And then there were the promotions that violated the sexual content rules of the contract, every single year. The “best bikini contest” matter, followed years later by the “Bikini Palooza” fiasco. The “BrunchBounce” bouncing butts. The multiple posts about the bottle service girls. That whole naked-woman season opening countdown thing. Every time, Parks spokespersons would say they would remind the concession to control its promoters, that such issues would never happen again, and then of course they would.

 

There was a violent shooting in 2014. Parks never said a word about it. There was a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2017. Not a peep from Parks, despite language in the concession agreement about such matters being a cause for default. An explicit fail, in more ways than one.

 

 

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Honorable Mentions
So many to choose from. There was:

 

Smoking, hookah and a whole lot of weed at a public park facility in a city where smoking was banned at all city parks. The hookah revenue was even reported so the city could take their cut!

 

– Reporting a modest revenue to rent out the beach to promoters, who would then turn around and sell thousands of tickets while hiding that revenue from Parks. Since all revenue was supposed to be reported and a percentage paid to the city, this may have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars over seven years.

 

– Bottle service that kept the public from sitting at the patios, and serviced the concertgoers with $3,000 VIP packages. Parks admitted way back in 2012 that “designated areas of the event space at La Marina offer a bottle fee, which Parks did not approve” and yet the Ace of Spades kept flowing.

 

Multiple events every year where a public parkland facility would be covered in alcohol brands for various events. The concession contract had a two page rider about what to put in the vending machine, and very explicit bans on any brand advertising, and yet it was ok to cover the site in banners for Ciroc? Heineken? Johnny Walker? D’usse? And so many more.

 

– Constant lying about capacity of the facility. Go back and review every public meeting and article that a Parks spokesperson has ever been quoted in. Not once has the true permitted capacity of 2,094 ever been stated properly. And Parks even allowed La Marina to operate for their first summer without a Public Assembly permit. (Just try that with any building not protected by government corruption and see how that goes.)

 

– Creative use of the new Greenway bike and pedestrian path as a bouncer line. The moment the new path opened in 2014, La Marina saw a convenient way to get those pesky bag searches and bouncer lines away from the restaurant gate — by cutting in a new gate and turning the bike path into their private party queuing area. It was even handy for driving the DJ right to the stage. Parks never said a word.

 

 

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And Finally…
The above is a photo of the Inwood Hill Park Nature Center. Built by Robert Moses, this was a popular attraction in Inwood Hill Park that was used by generations of young families. It had a ranger station, restrooms, and a charming collection of snakes and turtles who would occasionally escape. The Nature Center was flooded and damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a few months after La Marina opened.

 

As of 2018, La Marina has raked in at least $35M in revenue with their illicit concert events, valet parking, alcohol promotions and more. Meanwhile, the Nature Center sits in ruins, awaiting slow reconstruction and a possible re-opening in 2020. These two facts are difficult to accept when the same agency was responsible for both facilities. The fact that the Parks Dept managed to do all of the wrong that they did at La Marina while not even bothering to fix the one-room nature center within 7 seven years is an unbelievable abrogation of their public duties. For shame.

 

Restore Dyckman Marina.

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Some of the 2018 concerts held at La Marina that the operators claim are not, in fact, concerts. Note that some of these were cancelled after the July 13, 2018 multi-agency raid.

More hall of shame:


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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.

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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)

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

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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.