“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
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?
[Sigh.] Residents are working year-round to try and get Parks to enforce the license agreement as it is written. These efforts usually start in reasonable questions being asked of Parks, and end in ridiculous lies and misdirections 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.
Let’s start with the unilateral extension of hours to 1 am, which you recall was extended from 11 pm. The extension of hours is legal, 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 till close to closing. Even La Marina’s own website shows this when they describe an 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 — more on that in a moment). 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 the Chief of Revenue, Concessions, and Controls Oversight for Parks, David Cerron).
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:
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/BAR license. Of course it is. The issue is the 1,500 person CONCERTS that occur in the “La Marina Beach” area and feature a huge stage, ticketed entry, specific showtimes and featured performers.
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”? 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.
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 many times. Maybe they mean a Martian Day, or a Neptune Day, or a Klingon Day! Come on Parks, no judge is going to buy this. You had an entire series of events last year that was called a SUMMER CONCERT SERIES for crying out loud. If a guy prances around on a stage while thousands of paying customers watch, newsflash: IT’S A CONCERT.
Deep down, Parks knows this. They know they are in trouble here and cannot get out of it. Go back to the language of the RFP from 2007:
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.
So the intent was pretty clear. No concerts. So 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?
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.
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.
And yet a month later, Parks pretended to be shocked!, shocked! 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
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. (One wonders if any other municipal facility in history has ever developed quite the street rep as the Dyckman Marina…)
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.
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.
Restore Dyckman Marina.