Restore Dyckman Marina


Hearing Loss

“Why should we believe [Manhattan River Group]?  We can go into the drug sales by a manager, we can go into the fact that they felt like they could do valet parking all over upper Manhattan and not care where they left the cars, we can go into the fact that they were having concerts or whatever events that they had already told the city they weren’t going to have.  They lied every chance they got.

Now all of a sudden because we’ve shut them, and their investment is going out the window, or their golden goose, whatever you want to call it, now they’re going to find God. It gets to the point where, to me, based on when I’m here, I don’t care what they promise me, I don’t think I’ll ever believe them, the guys that are involved in this thing.  “

– NY State Liquor Authority Chair Vincent Bradley, La Marina Disciplinary Hearing April 10 2019

During the last month, there were two important hearings concerning the bankrupt, landlord-suing La Marina.  Let’s break them down and see if they give any indication of what might happen next.

Shuttered, bankrupt, and not open for the start of the season.  (Photo 4/16/19)

On April 4th, 2019 attorneys appeared in US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to give the presiding judge a status update on the Chapter 11 filing by the concession operators.
One attorney (Mr. Brian Hufnagel) represented Manhattan River Group, the holder of the Restaurant and Marina concessions at Dyckman Boat Marina, operating as “La Marina”.  Also present was an attorney (Mr. Zachary Kass) from the New York City Corporation Counsel’s office representing the Parks Department and the City overall.  
A Chapter 11 filing (a “reorganization” filing) means the business intends to restructure their debts and emerge from bankruptcy to operate again, if possible.  They have to work out deals with their creditors and come up with a business plan that the court will approve.   In the meantime, they have to meet from time to time with the judge to give him or her an update on the status.  

This area was supposed to be “holly trees and native grasses”.  Photo taken 4/16/19

Obviously MRG is not going to have a viable plan to restructure their debts unless they can:
1) Hold onto one or both of their concession agreements
2) Get a liquor license (the current liquor license was suspended on Dec 6th, 2018)
And so, stalling for time, the first status conference in February contained little of note other than that they claimed to be close to agreements with the City and SLA:
We’ve identified a new operating partner who has a — it’s a well-known restaurant chain who’s operated in the city for thirty years. I really can’t disclose a name until things are final, but it’s one we believe will be hopefully more acceptable to the City and to the community, and will allow the place to reopen with a new type of operation and a more acceptable — but he’s on board. We have to nail down the final details, as we hopefully reach an agreement with the City.

We are also close to a potential resolution with the State Liquor Authority that will allow reopening with a liquor license as well. We’ve had discussions with them. They’re very far along. I can’t say we have a deal until everything kind of falls in place, but that’s been taking place as well.

Area behind the Quonset hut.   4/16/19

In the April status conference, the attorney for MRG claimed that a proposal was sent to the Parks Dept in March, a proposal that Parks refuses to discuss with Inwood residents:

There is nothing final yet, unfortunately, but they have moved along. We submitted, probably about a month ago, a proposal — settlement proposal to the City. The debtor and the Parks Department met in person to — let me back up.  Before that, we — before we submitted the proposal, we met with the Manhattan Borough President as well as some members of the local community that are up in that neighborhood to try to fill them in on what our thoughts were and to get their input from it.

The MRG attorney also claimed that the Manhattan Borough President supported their proposal.  (One wonders what Gale Brewer thinks of such a representation given her past concerns about operations):

The community response is mixed. Some people like the place, some people don’t like the place and would like to see something different there. The Manhattan Borough President was pretty much on our side in terms of our proposal for how to reopen the place going forward. 



Photo taken on the first day of the boating season, 4/16/19.  Docks not installed.

It also appears that there was a second proposal sent to Parks – also not shared with the public:

So after that, we submitted a proposal to the Parks Department and met with them to discuss it. And we then submitted a revised proposal after the meeting that took into account some of their comments. We did meet with them. And at this point, we’re waiting, really, for their feedback, to see whether we’ll have a settlement and have something put in place.

One can surmise from the following though that these proposals likely refer to Brother Jimmy’s:

Without going into too many specifics, in general, we’re going to be bringing — we’re hoping to bring in a new investor who’s — slash — kind of co-operator with us for the place, so it’ll be reopened with a little different food, probably better price points for the area, we’re hoping, as well. And the investor will put some money into the case that will allow a plan to come together as well.

Overall the MRG attorney painted a rather vague yet rosy picture:

So it could be — again, we’re — I think — I can’t really speak for the City, because we don’t really know, and they don’t know either, but we think in terms of the concept we’re pretty close. And then there’s some monetary elements that kind of go along with it. And those are still being worked out — worked out — as well. So this case could be done very quickly and it could still go further. But we’re going to know one way or another, I think, before we come back here next time, whether we’re going to have an agreement with the City.   I think we’re — we could have still some back-and-forth, but I think it’s moving along and we should know fairly soon.


The “greenhouse” structure erected over the north patio as the new “indoor” concert area, never approved legally by DOB, SBS or any other agency.  Photo 4/16/19

At the prior status conference the city attorney called the marina concession “sort of a snack bar.”  This month he was paying more attention:

It is my understanding that there have been some discussions with the businesspeople. I know there are internal discussions at Parks to consider the revised proposal. Debtor’s particular status conferences always tend to be a little bit more rosy than everybody else in the room, and I must say that what I’ve heard from the City isn’t quite that rosy about where things stand.

Still, he confirmed meetings and discussions all somehow “moving forward” but being hidden from the public:

But it’s my understanding that they are moving forward, both sides, in good faith, and that there has been some progress on some open issues, and that Parks is seriously considering what to do next.

A pause here to reiterate that Parks is meeting with a bankrupt concessionaire who owes them rent and members of the public their deposits, who is suing them for enforcing their agreement, who is facing four pages of SLA charges including drug sales and has a suspended liquor license, taking revised proposals from them, and now “seriously considering” what to do next?  Anywhere else, even at this very concession site a decade ago, there would be nothing to consider but immediate cancellation of the concession agreements.  This is insane.


Nowhere to dock on the first required day of the marina season, April 16th 2019

To return to the status conference, the City attorney still seemed to not quite understand how the marina actually worked:

The main operation is at the restaurant, of course. There are some conversations about what to be — what use the marina should be made of.  I understand there are other issues about the marina in terms of some federal involvement, as there usually is with waterways and — things of that nature. So I understand that’s among the various components that’ll have to go into this that’ll enter into it as well.

The marina is not up for conversation – it’s required to be a marina, for the next 28 years, per the terms of its funding that paid for the docks, restrooms, electric hookups, etc.  It’s not up for debate.  The attorney seems to be confused that the “federal involvement” is the US Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that does deal with waterways and navigation, but in this case it’s not them.  It’s the Boating Infrastructure Grant program of US Fish and Wildlife.


Bar in beach area that was supposed to be a cafe, not a concert venue, 4/16/19

The next status conference will now be on May 14th, well into the boating season that opened on April 16th and the restaurant season that opened on May 1, per the concession agreement terms.  There is some cause for concern that the timing will cause the city or the judge to rush something that should not be rushed, no doubt a strategy of MRG:

MR. KASS: — I know there is considerable concern, actually, on both sides that the summer season  — is approaching —
MR. KASS: — and that having the place unavailable simply because parties aren’t in synch, wouldn’t serve the community.
THE COURT: Right. Well, if there’s anything I can do on that front, just let me know.
MR. KASS: Sure.
THE COURT: And if you decide that there’s some artistic license that you want to take in terms of anything I said today to get any of your clients to move at the City, feel free to take such license. Having represented government clients in the past, sometimes the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slowly, so but that’s fine.

What wouldn’t serve the community is allowing MRG to emerge from bankruptcy still holding the concession agreements which they have violated so many times and clearly are not qualified to hold.  Judge Sean H. Lane turns out to be an Inwood native (!!!) so perhaps this will all be sorted out properly in the end, no matter what the timing.
mrg sla

MRG attorney presents plea at SLA hearing.  Jimmy Goldman and Josh Rosen at left.

The second major hearing was the disciplinary hearing at the State Liquor Authority on April 10 (video: skip to 3h42m).  The purpose was for the Board to hear a Conditional No Contest (CNC) plea from Manhattan River Group.  This is an option that license holders have when charged with infractions to, instead of fighting the charges, instead offer the Board a “No Contest” plea, conditional upon an offer of a fine, as a way to address and dismiss the charges. 
In this case, Manhattan River Group (again, this is the business that holds the Restaurant and Marina concessions, operating as “La Marina”) made an offer of $125,000 in exchange for pleading Conditional No Contest to THREE PAGES of violations dating back to July of 2017.  The attorney also made an attempt to tie the offer to a promise of a change in operations.

The licensee understands that it has had its problems in the last year…. but what I want to emphasize and why I have Brother Jimmy’s with me is they will make part of the Conditional No Contest (CNC) that they will change the operation, they will not be open past midnight any night of the week, they will not have ticketed events, they will not have any of these loud parties that they have been accused of, and what you will have is a very kid-friendly Brother Jimmy’s, a place that is known to the liquor authority, is a good licensee, has relatively no problems (a charge here and there) but nothing of major concern to the SLA.  So part and parcel of the CNC is that will we assure you what was will not continue, and that is critical I believe.

Before we go further, let’s remember that the concession license itself limits the hours to 11 pm most nights and 12:30 am only on Thurs, Fri and Sat.  It also prohibited concerts while the city charter makes outdoor music (at any volume) past 10 pm illegal in a park.  The fact that MRG was the very party that ignored those rules for seven years rather undermines any promise to now all of sudden abide by them.

The Board answered as follows:  “Why should we believe them”?  The MRG attorney then tried to again tie in the CNC to the promise of this new operation, which could be closed down if there were any further violations.  This led to a discussion about how MRG had apparently negotiated some sort of “global settlement” behind closed doors with the former SLA General Counsel Christopher Raino.  This special treatment seems highly unorthodox — but might explain why La Marina had never come to administrative trial for charges dating back a year and a half.  (That delay also caused the SLA to automatically renew the license because it was awaiting a hearing even though CB12 asked them not to.)



The July 2, 2017 Bikini Palooza event that resulted in Disorderly Premises and Over Capacity charges.

The MRG attorney also attempted to bring Fernando Mateo into the offer, namely that he had been removed from the partnership.  While this may explain why Fernando Mateo recently gave interviews on Hot97 and then on Power 105 blaming everyone else, the Board wasn’t having it:

This idea that one person, and I’m going to put all the activities that occurred here, which were obviously substantial, on the majority being caused by that  one person just isn’t accurate in my mind.. They were all equal partners in this thing, they all had equal responsibility”.

And then Chairman Bradley went back to Commissioner Ford’s question, why believe MRG now when the same partners would still be holding the liquor license?

Why should we believe your client?  We can go into the drug sales by a manager, we can go into the fact that they felt like they could do valet parking all over upper Manhattan and not care where they left the cars, we can go into the fact that they were having concerts or whatever events that they had already told the city they weren’t going to have.  They lied every chance they got. Now all of a sudden because we’ve shut them, and their investment is going out the window, or their golden goose, whatever you want to call it, now they’re going to find God. It gets to the point where, to me, based on when I’m here, I don’t care what they promise me, I don’t think I’ll ever believe them, the guys that are involved in this thing.  

At this point the MRG attorney fell back on the (incorrect) claim that somehow the concession holders here did something special and that they had a clean record.

Mr Chairman, there’s been a tremendous investment put in this place.  They took a rotted old pier and made it into a viable entity.  For the seven or eight years, you had no problem with them – in the past year, all sort of things have occurred”

Well, no, not quite.  Yes there was investment, but don’t forget some of it came from the city, some of it came from the federal government, and all of it was what any party that won the RFP would have done.  The concession agreements literally required those investments as a condition of holding the concession.   As for the claim of “no problems” since opening, all you have to do is read the years of headlines to understand that something was very wrong with the operation.

Again, the SLA Chair was not accepting any of this argument, pointing out that:

We had no problem with them based on the history in the records in our agency but it’s quite obvious to me now that the majority of that neighborhood and the majority of that area of Manhattan did have a problem.  It appears to me that the city administration for whatever reason was either turning a blind eye or not listening to that problem.

What followed was then a long discussion about the valet parking issues at La Marina.  The MRG attorney tried various arguments to minimize this massively illegal large-scale disruption that occurred every summer weekend since 2012:

  • “The parking issue, as you put it, was never an issue until it became one all of sudden.”

  • “The Parks department was permitting those cars to be parked inside the park.  When that was taken away, well there were problems.”
  • “I understand what you are saying about this complete disregard for what should have been going on but it’s NOT TRUE.  It’s just NOT TRUE. And it hasn’t been true.”
  • There was an agreement and a contract of a sorts with the Parks Dept which allowed for this valet parking, so these claims about valet parking all up and down the streets and avenues is not correct.  


no valet2012

Parks told MRG that their valet parking was illegal back in 2012.


The problem for this particular hole he was digging was that the valet parking was always an issue, Parks never allowed anything close to what went on every weekend, the valet was supposed to be confined to the Parks lot only (but clearly wasn’t), plus Parks has no authority without a separate concession to offer anything anyway and the disregard was total and complete, every summer, every year, causing huge traffic problems

As for that contract?  It was with the valet company, not the Parks Dept, and it was as worthless as a rusted-out AMC Gremlin — because it was not legal to park cars on public land for which there was no concession license.

Fortunately the SLA Chair saw through the smoke (maybe even the actual smoke) and  understood the underlying issue:

“You’re missing my point. It’s not about the valet parking. It’s about the way that they felt like they could operate, that they didn’t have to operate within the bounds of what they agreed they would do.

The MRG lawyer continued to try and talk about the proposed future of the site rather than address the charges from past operation.  (Note how none of this description resembles the former La Marina — someone might want to tell the Save La Marina folks.)

I’m not going to argue with you about what you perceive to be their problem.  They had a problem. They’re trying to solve their problem by completely changing the method of operation to a kid-friendly place that will close no later than 11 or 12 o’clock at night, will have no ticketed events, will have no speakers blaring in the middle of the night, will have none of these things.  We’re going to have a concept that has been a proven winner in the city of New York for 34 years as well as other states?

…Our plan is to convert the sand area to a kid-friendly area with bocce court, shuffleboard court, and other things.  we don’t work with outside promoters, idea is to do what we do for 30 years. Kids eat free. Beach area Parks has asked us to make accessible to the community, we’ve spoken to the community, talks about Brooklyn Crab and corn toss.  I don’t do outside shows, I don’t do HipHop, I don’t do Reggaton, not what we do.



Had the concession been re-assigned in October this would be open by now.  (4/16/19)


To all of this the SLA’s general response was “Why not lease it to Brother Jimmy’s then?”  The MRG attorney responded, incorrectly, with:

That’s the problem, in a nutshell.   Because the Parks department has a licensing agreement with the current licensee and it’s not as if ok Brother Jimmy’s  here’s your license. It doesn’t work that way in the City of New York.  

The above is simply not true.  There is a process called “assignment” which is defined in the concession agreements (just go to Section 14).   The original operator, in this case MRG, would find another party, such as Brother Jimmy’s, willing to step into their shoes and assume the terms and conditions (and current year) of the lease, exactly as written.  The Parks Commissioner would have to approve such a process, but not the community board or any other party, which is logical since the new party is assuming all of the responsibilities and obligations and restrictions that were already approved.  This is exactly what happened with New Leaf Cafe in 2015 and it could happen at Dyckman Marina too.  So yes, in fact, it does work that way, exactly, in the City of New York.



An unapproved restroom trailer parked for years in the marina area.  4/16/19

There was one more outrageous claim made by the MRG attorney at this hearing:

They’ve made a mistake, they made a big mistake, they’ve paid for it in many ways in that they’ve been closed for five months, there are  number of weddings that didn’t go on in the winter because of this, they’re paying a severe price for what they did.

Here he is trying to create sympathy that being closed from December to March has been a “severe price” to pay for the operators.  He mentioned this two other times during the hearing as well.  But let’s remember,

1) December to March has a name, it’s called “winter“.  Any review of past revenue reports shows very little revenue during these months ($30k to $100k) compared to summer months ($1.8M to $2M), as one would expect for a mostly outdoor operation.  Not exactly a “severe price”.

2) La Marina is a summertime concession, literally.  The concession license agreement only allows the restaurant to operate from May to October.  That’s it, period.  There is no piece of paper anywhere that allows for any legal operation of the restaurant premises between October and May.  The fact that MRG has used public property as a private event venue with no concession agreement to do so for YEARS does not make it legal.  How can being denied activity you were not legally entitled to host be a burden?

3) MRG declared bankruptcy in December, stiffing several people out of their wedding deposits.  And wedding parties could have brought in caterers with a special event permit for serving alcohol at a wedding.  It was MRG’s decision to close, so the “severe price” was paid by the cheated couples, not by MRG.




“Concerts are strictly prohibited” say the concession agreements.  Yet this stage for performers has been here since 2012.   Photo taken 4/16/19.

Fortunately the SLA chair did not buy any of these arguments — at the end of the hearing when the vote was taken by the Board, the Chair said:

I just can’t in my conscience do this.  Just like the community board said this to me is not about Brother Jimmy’s.”  Refers to letters where Parks told valet to stop and it continued. Drug dealer who was selling to an undercover.  “At one point there was a group of people who were their customers at an event who were poisoned by some kind of powder.  

There were just too many instances where they either through political influence or just complete disregard for the law decided that they were going to do what they wanted, and I don’t believe that that would not happen again with these owners.

The Board voted 3-0 to counter the MRG offer of paying a penalty and getting their license back with “bond and cancel“, i.e. cancel the license but with no restrictions on applying for another new license, and seize the bond that was filed with the license application.  MRG can now decide whether to accept this offer to turn in their license and pay the bond, or fight it at a trial before an Administrative Law Judge.  The penalty at administrative trial could include fines as well as revocation, preventing anyone from MRG from holding a liquor license anywhere for two years, or denying a license at the site for two years. 
Regardless of whether there is now a disciplinary trial or not, or the outcome of that trial, what is certain is that there will be no liquor license for months at the Dyckman Marina site so long as the concession is held by Manhattan River Group.

It’s right there in the name, yet La Marina has never run a full marina as legally required and now sits shuttered.  (Photo 4/16/19)

What is clear from these two hearings is:

The “no standing at night” signs that were installed by Manhattan DOT at the (improper) request of La Marina remain in place, for no reason at all.  (4/16/19)

Since these hearings, there have also been two additional filings in the bankruptcy case.  The first filing replaced the original attorney, Hufnagel, who was a lawyer at one of the MRG partner’s firm.  The new attorney is Robert Rattet of the outside firm Rattet PLLC.
Likely because of the SLA’s refusal of their settlement offer, MRG also filed with the court for an emergency hearing for an extension until July 18th, 2019 to submit their restructuring plan.   Note the following text from the filing, which contradicts the “severe penalty” claim above of not operating during the winter.  It also talks about an “assumption” of the lease, for which a letter was later filed on May 2, 2019. This means MRG is intending to stay in possession of their Parks concession licenses if they emerge from bankruptcy, although they seem to hint at possibly surrendering the Marina license to Parks if they can keep half of the Quonset Hut (a marina concession property).
First, the Debtor is currently not operating (traditionally the Debtor’s “off season”) and needs to immediately obtain debtor-in-possession financing to become current with post-petition rent (approximately $31,975) and pay for other administrative expenses pending its negotiation of a plan of reorganization with its hopeful plan funder, with whom it has just commenced negotiations.
The parties are already contemplating an assumption of the License as part of the Plan. However, DIP financing is needed now to cure the post-petition arrears to the City and provide some additional working capital to get the Debtor through the plan negotiation and confirmation process shortly thereafter.
example of lamarinanyc hashtag 2019

Although La Marina has not hosted concerts since July 2018 and is currently shuttered, DJ promotions as far away as Miami continue to use the #lamarinanyc hashtag to attract traffic to social media nightlife posts.  This instagram post is from April 29th, 2019.


Finally, on May 1st, 2019 the SLA cancelled the liquor license after receiving a  letter indicating that Manhattan River Group was accepting the Board offer of cancellation and bond.  So the liquor license has now been surrendered, so to speak, and any new operator at the site (such as Brother Jimmy’s) will have to go through the process of applying for a new liquor license under a different name.

And so without a liquor license, and without emerging from bankruptcy court, why hasn’t Parks terminated or re-assigned these concessions?  Why is the Parks Dept keeping the facility dark in these desperate attempts to retain Manhattan River Group?    What secrets are creating such leverage?  Restore Dyckman Marina.  Now.



Save Ferris.

“Half the ppl signing the La marina petition couldn’t even get in when it was open.  Lol. They was not as inclusive as they make it seem.  Selling $500 bottles of liquor is also gentrification”

@MistaMOET via Twitter

As previously noted, Manhattan River Group, the shell LLC that holds the parks concessions for the Dyckman Boat Marina restaurant and marina, has been pitching a new plan to fight the emergency suspension of their liquor license by the SLA and review of their concession leases by Parks.  

Manhattan River Group partners seen with local politicians at La Marina opening in 2012

Why would they fight this when faced with a mountain of evidence?  Why not just take their profits after a 7 year run and turn the space over to someone else?  There are a number of possible reasons. 
  • Losing your liquor license is a serious, serious mark on the record of anyone who owns restaurants and bars — it comes with a two-year ban from being able to hold a liquor license anywhere else in the state. 
  • The Dyckman concessions are highly desirable, with their low percentage rent (about half the rent of, say, Boat Basin Cafe) and proven lucrative revenue potential
  • Remember also the nature of any Parks concession – everything bolted-down belongs to the city.  MRG can only walk out with the liquor stock, the furniture and a few other items.  While they spent $800,000 in taxpayer money for the docks and the sewage infrastructure, building the facility apparently cost them millions more and why give that up to the next guy?
Whatever their reasons, in February MRG began a high-octane campaign to propose bringing in Brother Jimmy’s as the new face of the restaurant operation, while telling audiences that Fernando Mateo would no longer be actively involved.  They met with elected officials, Parks officials, community board members and anyone else who might be able to help them defy law and logic and avoid termination.  They also encouraged people to sign a highly-misleading petition started by an ally.
3-10-19 attacking groups2

La Marina’s own Instagram Feed promotes the petition (and tries to misdirect blame).

To break that petition down:

To:          New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Before La Marina, the Parks Department property at the end of Dyckman Street had been neglected for decades. It took a massive private investment in our community to transform the blighted park into a place that we can enjoy and that employs many people and businesses in our area. It is a place we are proud of, and every May we look forward to visiting again.

We applaud La Marina for listening to legitimate community concerns and being willing to make changes. According to information gathered from community board meetings and conversations with the owners, we fully support the changes proposed below. 

The argument starts as it often has for seven years, that La Marina somehow saved a blighted stretch of Dyckman St.  It is true that Parks mismanaged the prior concessionaire, who was busted for drugs and terminated in 2006 (sound familiar?)  The area was then empty from 2006-2012 while La Marina was constructed; this is the so-called “blight”, which would have disappeared no matter who opened in 2012. 
La Marina’s new buildings did represent an investment, but that was the point of the Parks concession RFP process — whomever won the RFP would be making that investment.  Manhattan River Group (Josh Rosen, Jerald Tenenbaum and Chris Villano) won the RFP and did what they were obligated to do, while at the same time bringing in a new partner, restaurant and bar entrepreneurs Alain Chevreaux and Fernando Mateo, to help complete construction.
Of course La Marina employed many seasonal part-time employees (although not stated is that several of them later sued La Marina).  The “350 employees” number is also contradicted by testimony MRG gave to the SLA at their emergency license suspension that they employed 200 people (go to 43:45 mark). Regardless, any operator would employ a large number of people at the site given its size.  

A breach-of-contract concert megaparty from 2017

Manhattan River Group didn’t so much “listen to community concerns” (those were ignored for seven summers) as much as “got busted for drugs, lost their illegal activities, declared bankruptcy and sued the city“.  Of course they were “willing to make changes” once they were caught and shut down.  Now let’s look at their proposed “changes” in detail:

1.  Partner with Brother Jimmy’s BBQ to offer a southern inspired menu with lower prices.   Here it should be noted that the concession was originally supposed to be a high end restaurant called Costera, a casual cafe called 365, and a snack bar.  It changed to La Marina and exclusively high prices after Mateo bought into the partnership.  All this change represents is what was promised then discarded 7 years ago.  How is it supposed to stick this time, especially when Brother Jimmy’s is being sued for financial mismanagement?

2.  Kids under 8 eat for free in a family friendly environment.  Similar to the above point, the winning RFP showed a $7 kid’s menu that was quickly forgotten when La Marina decided to focus on bottle service instead.

3.  Bring back Salsa Night and similar events in the lounge.  This is where you can see what’s really going on with this petition.  Changing the face to Brother Jimmy’s is not a contract matter – any restaurant is fine so long as it follows the rules.  But those rules prohibit concertsSalsa Night and other ambient background music may be ok, but this should not be a slippery slope back to the megaconcerts of the past whether outside or indoors.  Also recall that La Marina’s greenhouse used for Que Lo Que and other “indoor” concerts was never approved.

4.  Replace weekend beach parties with food themed events, festivals and family friendly games.  Read the original RFP and it made similar promises.  Those never happened, and many of the mega-parties and concerts that did happen were billed as “festivals“.  So what’s the difference this time?

5. Open the beach to the public during the day.   Note the wording here.  Why only the daytime?  Is the plan to go back to illegal ticketed events in the evening?  Per the concession contracts, the beach and every other inch of the site should be open to the public all summer long, weekdays and weekends, and the marina is actually supposed to be 24/7 for boaters staying overnight.  (Note how nothing at all in the petition talks about the missing marina functions!)

dock a jetski

Even Internet reviewers know there is no Marina at La Marina.

6.  Bring back valet parking.  What?  Unlike, say, New Leaf Cafe, the concession contracts for La Marina do not include any parking areas.  They can’t valet park even if no matter who wants it – it’s not legal.  That’s why the insane valet parking operation was eventually shut down.  Yes, the community board from the beginning always asked for a valet partnership with nearby garages, but not the illegal valet operation that existed since 2012, where valets seized the public street parking on Dyckman Street, and the Parks parking lot that was supposed to be for all Parks users.  The way the agreements are written there can be no valet parking that is not based in a garage.

7.  Continue to support organizations that help our community.  This is a cute sop.  It was revealed in emails to Parks that La Marina in its first couple years would bill certain concerts as “benefiting Toys for Cocktails Christmas Drive” or “benefiting Thanksgiving for Seniors” in fine print.  The idea was to provide cover for the prohibited concerts in exchange for a few community events.  Eventually, as Parks wasn’t paying attention anyway, this was dropped.  Many of the community events were also.  A new operator would inevitably do as much or more to help local NPOs and the community.

The petition then confusingly ends with:
We, the undersigned believe that these improvements will to make La Marina more accessible for people of all income levels and ensure that it continues to be an economic engine for our community. Please don’t close La Marina. 

How the street looks when concerts took place vs regular restaurant operation.

La Marina is being closed in lieu of Brother Jimmy’s in the proposal, so what does the last sentence even mean?  As for better access and economic activity, one more time, any new operator would achieve this.
The petition has now appeared on La Marina’s instagram and Facebook pages (Note – on the Facebook page it appears right above an announcement for an illegal concert last fall).  So that means Manhattan River Group officially endorses these entirely misleading points.  
Meanwhile, as mentioned above, it has been claimed by MRG that Fernando Mateo has been pushed out of the partnership in some way.  Whether his controlling stake has been reduced to a smaller percentage, or converted to non-voting, or bought out entirely is unclear.  But something has happened and Mateo has been vocal in his complaints about it   In early March he gave an interview to popular radio station Hot97.  The interview has been viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube.  Several points are made during the interview that require correction:
  • First of all, Hot97 is not just any radio station.  WQHT is enormously influential.   It was also a title sponsor for many of the prohibited megaparties at La Marina.
  • Mateo blames “gentrifiers” over and over again in the interview.  Aside from whether the area around Dyckman Marina has “gentrified” at all (income levels and demographics have been stable for decades), if anyone was pushing gentrification it was La Marina with its $500 bottle service for anyone who simply wanted to sit down.  (The bottle service, of course, was banned by Parks but offered nonetheless).
dyckman in 2011

Dyckman Street in 2011 – hardly blighted.


Struggles between the partners at Manhattan River Group go back to 2014

  • Plus, wasn’t La Marina taking in a boatload of revenue?  Using the 2016 Annual Concession Report as an example, La Marina reported about $475,000 in rent to the city.  Their rent that year was 8%, meaning total revenue was about $6M.
  • The State Liquor Authority is mocked for issuing minor violations about sparklers.  Their violations list was a little longer than that.  Mateo claims that what the SLA did to “small businesses like us” (!) was an “abuse of power”.
  • Mateo clearly states he is not racist.  However, this laudable declaration is undermined when he identifies people by race or ethnicity multiple times in the interview, and also by a quote in a 2013 article about a community board meeting where he stated “Look at the faces of who is complaining“.
  • Mateo makes comparisons to other concessions like Tavern on the Green, which in their concession agreement received money for their buildout, and why didn’t he get any help like that?  Here’s a little lesson in how Parks Concessions work.  The city takes a site and puts out a Request for Proposals explaining their goals and terms and asking bidders to make proposals.  It’s a very open process.  In the case of Tavern on the Green, the City was quite clear in their RFP that they would do much of the external construction and then took bids for the internal construction and operation.  The city paid about $20M for their part and the winning bidder paid about $18M for theirs.   The rent is also about $1M a year minimum.  La Marina was a different RFP.  In that situation the city offered less funding, but it also cost far less to rebuild AND the rent minimums were a fraction of the Tavern on the Green RFP.  Apples and oranges. 
  • Losing the valet parking is complained about bitterly, but it was operated illegally for SEVEN YEARS on land that La Marina did not have rights to. 
  • Hilariously, it is also claimed that the enormous gridlock “was never our fault”.  “I had to walk half a mile to get to my business because every weekend NYPD would shut every street”.  Um, the reason that dozens of cops had to close streets to struggle to keep traffic moving was entirely because of the illegal concerts at La Marina, as site that was geographically incapable of handling large traffic volumes.

Police controlling traffic on Dyckman Street

bill to mateo email

A 2014 email exchange between de Blasio and a MRG partner

  • “If I had power, they wouldn’t have shut La Marina down.”  It would seem he had power for seven years then.  Just read the emails where Parks lawyers tell him La Marina is violating its concession agreement in many ways, and yet nothing changes from 2012-2018.
  • Mateo oversimplifies in saying that “a healthy community is a noisy community, if your community is quiet people are dying of cancer people are dying of Alzheimer’s,  people are dying of lonely, people are dying of depression people are dying of all kinds of shit…”  No, a healthy community is one that follows the rules New York has developed over a century for residents and businesses to live and work together.  La Marina did not follow them.
  • Mateo attacks “gentrifiers” for “not liking noise”, and “thinking they live in the suburbs”.  He says “this is New York City.  New York City does not sleep.  If you want to sleep go to Westchester.”  He also attacks the SLA commissioners for not living in New York City.  Fun fact: Fernando Mateo has lived in the village of Irvington (population 6,420) in Westchester for many years.  In a 2015 email from his CPA relating to a tax dispute, it is even stated :

The Mateo’s are adamant that they reside in Westchester County, NY and Florida and are not NYC residents. Although they own an apartment in NYC, they are there infrequently. The apartment is used primarily by family and visitors from out-of-town.”

  • Mateo cites the Dominican Day Parade as their “biggest day” but that the police sent 60 cops to Dyckman Street to “prevent anyone from getting to La Marina”.  Maybe they did crowd control because of overcrowding and scenes like this?
The interview and the petition are being combined into a sort of “Save La Marina” social media campaign which is illogical, misleading and unfair to the facts.  The “Save Ferris” campaign in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off had more truth to it.  And some people are sadly falling for it.
Whether Fernando Mateo has been removed from Manhattan River Group or not, Parks must terminate the concession agreements with MRG, the State Liquor Authority must remove the liquor license, and a new start can then be given to the public asset that will benefit all.  Restore Dyckman Marina.


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).  
Screenshot 2019-02-22 at 12.02.49 AM

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.
valet in street

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.    
erick morillo fernando and josh

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. 

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.

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.

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.

jetskis at dock

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.”

mooring schedule

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.                  
Screenshot 2019-02-22 at 12.32.18 AM

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). 


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.

mooring field installed

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?


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.
sla suspended
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:
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.
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.


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).


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.


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.



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.



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.

collage 2018

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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Isolating the Problem

“No violation of the health code is ever acceptable; and we are doing all we can to reassure the Department of Health that we are and will continue to be compliant with its rules and policies”

– Manhattan River Group to A Walk in the Park NYC, July 18 2018

So this was the day the music died. Also apparently some flies and maybe a sewage pump. La Marina closed its doors for an entire summer weekend, meaning for the very first time since 2012 there were no concert events, no late night music and no rowdy crowds on the western end of Dyckman Street.
But first, a little history. Remember that La Marina is an NYC Parks concession, and when the bid for the concession was approved back in 2009, the space was proposed as a marina and cafe. Parks officials testified at hearings that there would be effectively no change from the prior cafe use, so no environmental impact study was required to assess things like traffic because “we don’t think there’s going to be a particular traffic impact based on the concession.” Plus, the Parks official said “any concerts with amplified music requires the prior written approval of the Parks Department; and the concessionaire has operating hours… we are very conscious of the fact that no one creates a disturbance.”
jul2 bb pic1
Then, after the ownership group changed the capacity was quietly increased from 300 to 1000 on the SLA application, causing an outcry and a response from Parks that the capacity would be cut back to 500 “because the community said the larger eatery and bar would disturb the neighborhood’s quality of life”.
What finally opened later in 2012 turned out to have 594 seats (294 in the restaurant plus 300 more on the patios)…. plus a little surprise in the form of an additional 1,500 capacity beach concert facility replacing the former second cafe.
And, despite parking not being shown on the site plan, nor included in the premises defined in the contracts, somehow a massive valet parking operation appeared that took over both the Parks Dept parking lot at the end of Dyckman, and several blocks of public streets, without any legality whatsoever. This is what went on for six years, evety summer weekend. With predictable results.
Until July 13, 2018. That Friday night, a number of city agencies inspected La Marina and issued 90 violations. The health dept inspection alone triggered an immediate closure after racking up an astonishing 74 points. The gates were promptly shut and did not reopen until Wednesday, July 18. The closure was described to the public as being for “emergency repairs”.
Since opening, the Parks Dept and concession operators had consistently denied that they were the ones gridlocking half of Inwood on summer weekends. Blame the NYPD. Blame DOT :
“Parks has also been coordinating with NYPD and the NYCDOT to see what street network or traffic controls can be put in place to alleviate area congestion.” – Melissa Goldberg, Director of Concessions Compliance, September 2013
Blame all the other restaurant-clubs along Dyckman (aka Alcohol Alley). Blame anyone, just not us:
The traffic pattern on Dyckman Street is really messed up. It was not designed to handle the number of vehicles coming into the area. In addition to La Marina, there are now a number of spots on and around Dyckman that are drawing crowds, which leads to traffic. – Jerald Tenenbaum, April 2014
Until now it had been impossible to disprove this claim, since La Marina held concert events every single summer weekend. There was the occasional rainstorm that might cancel an event, but on those nights the rest of Dyckman was naturally quiet too. Which made July 14 and 15 such amazing lab experiments. What would happen in the middle of July if the weather was warm and the restaurants were overflowing but there were no dayparties, no night-time concerts, and no thousands of patrons crowding La Marina?
busy dyckman.jpg
Dyckman Street was booming (quite literally) on both Saturday night (all photos from 10:30 pm) and Sunday early evening (all photos from 6:30 pm). And yet while the sidewalks were packed and there was certainly traffic, it moved quickly and easily, with no backups.
busy dyckman jul15.jpg
The multiple NYPD traffic cops assigned to the area every weekend (at taxpayer expense) had so little to do they just sat in their car – there was simply no traffic jam for them to manage.
Meanwhile the rest of Dyckman was quiet and empty of vehicles, a very different scene than what usually would be the case with La Marina open.
Vehicles exiting the highway could again use Henshaw, which also took pressure off the Broadway intersection.
open vs closed henshaw
Street parking spots along Staff Street were restored to regular use by residents and restaurant patrons instead of being seized by valets for cash as happens during big concert events at the concession.
The exit from the southbound highway and turnaround at the end of Dyckman was also free of congestion from the totally-not-legal valet parking that occurs whenever La Marina is operating.
No cars were seen parked illegally on sidewalks or in the No Standing areas as they are when La Marina is open and hosting events.
And no cars or bouncer lines were observed blocking the Greenway bike path either.
While traffic may have been lighter, the area was certainly not derelict and filled with crime, drug dealing, prostitution and car racing — as the concession operators liked to claim it was before they opened. On July 14th and 15th the Dyckman Street area looked simply like a neighborhood that was functioning as a neighborhood should.
night day.jpg
While La Marina has re-opened (although stay tuned!) do not forget the beautiful, neighborly weekend of July 14-15. There can now be no doubt as to what causes the chaotic traffic, the noisy crowds and the late night combination of both during the summer — it is the unapproved, breach-of-contract and wildly improper use of the Dyckman marina concession as a concert venue and nightclub, with its corresponding demand-inducing and extremely illegal valet parking operation.
Restore Dyckman Marina to its original intent and approved uses, now more than ever.


Fact-checking La Marina

“Clearly, we will have to do more to show you what La Marina is all about.”

– Letter to CB12 from Manhattan River Group, April 2018

At the April 2018 Community Board 12 meeting, a remarkable thing happened — the members of the community board voted against the renewal of La Marina’s liquor license.


This license comes up for renewal every two years. Past renewals had brought plenty of complaints, but each time some new excuse was made or stipulation added (vague non-binding obligations like “not blocking traffic” that were utterly unenforceable) and then the renewal would sail through while absolutely nothing actually changed. In 2014 for their first renewal, a nervous La Marina even had four elected officials and the precinct commander sign a form letter they drafted for them, in order to put pressure on the CB, Parks and the SLA.

But after six years it appears the community board members have had enough of the problems (documented on this site but especially related to concerts, late-night crowds and traffic) and wanted some improvement from the status quo. How did this change come about?

Aug 6 traffic from hip 2

When the licensing committee did not support the renewal earlier in the month, the operators of the concession lobbied the members of the community board before the general board meeting by sending all of them a remarkable letter filled with claims and boasts. The problem is that many of them were less impressive upon closer inspection, and the letter may have been the final straw in the community’s tolerance for insanity (i.e. doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results).

letter to cb12 page1

Let’s go through the highlights of the letter one at a time, fact-checker style:

La Marina is one of the largest employers in the area.

Partially True. La Marina only operates publicly from the end of May through September, so while they do have many employees they are almost all seasonal hires and only working for four months. Some of the staff are provocatively depicted on social media in an extremely sexist manner, while others are there as part of a massive security apparatus not usually typical of restaurants located on parkland. The other employer-related note not mentioned in the letter is the 2017 sexual harrassment lawsuit by a former bartender.
rear ends

La Marina actively supports our community through direct funding and free access:

Partially True. La Marina hosts some community events. But not nearly as many as they promised in their winning RFP response, and their beach and waterfront access has been limited to a tiny fraction of weekend time so as not to conflict with any revenue-generating concerts. Since they are located on public parkland they are actually required to provide free access, and their agreement also requires activities like the sailing school. Claims about “direct funding” require more documentation. In any case, this boast is not relevant to the problems that occur when they are NOT hosting community events.

La Marina is one of NYC’s premier event venues, and the only large venue in our area:

True, which is the problem. With its legal capacity of nearly 2,100 (which in practice is often exceeded) La Marina is not just a large venue, it is one of the largest nightclubs in the entire city. Only it was never approved as such until just before they opened, when the capacity was declared to now be 500. It was later revealed the actual capacity was 1,800, then finally determined to be over 2,000. And that’s the point. Many problems stem simply because they are much larger than they were ever supposed to be in the RFP or plan approval stage.
And no, this is not about hosting weddings or bat mitzvahs. The corporate events can be a little trickier when alcohol is involved, and the less said about film shoots the better, but the real issue is hosting the dozens of concerts. And these guys:

La Marina is in good standing with the SLA.

Misleading. La Marina is claiming that the two 2017 violations are “false”. This includes denying that the NYPD shut the concession down on July 2, 2017 for being oversold for the Bikini Palooza event (an event so inappropriately advertised that Parks forced a renaming to Beach Wear Affair after community complaints). But until the hearings are held on the two active violations it is misleading to say that the facility is in ‘good standing’.

letter to cb12 page2

La Marina did NOT cause more than 2,000 311 calls last year, as has been widely circulated.

Misleading. Police have stated at licensing committee meetings that there are many 311 and 911 calls coming from the vicinity and Dyckman strip overall. Not mentioned in the letter is that 136 calls to 911 came from La Marina’s address in 2017 — which is quite a bit more significant than the 24 cited 311 calls.

And since La Marina is larger than all of the other businesses combined and a heavy influence on their foot traffic, it is hard to claim complete separation from what happens down the block.

Police data shows that there has been not a single violent incident reported at La Marina over the past 3 years.

Misleading. The reference to 3 years is because in 2014 there was a shocking shooting on the premises. So now if one wants to enter this public parkland one must go through magnetometers, pat-downs and bag-checks. And some violence has occurred in the last three years, as seen in this video of strippers from Starlets fighting at the DJ Camilo concert on June 25, 2017.

La Marina did not block installation of an Eco Barge

Unclear. First of all, the EcoDock was proposed and agreed to in 2012, not 2014. It was also funded to the tune of $700,000 by the local councilmember and borough president at the time. The Waterfront Alliance still lists the EcoDock as coming in 2016. So what happened exactly? The concession operators may have been more interested in the dock when they did not have their own docks yet faced a requirement in their concession agreement to provide them. At the CB12 April meeting, a Parks department representative said that ballooning costs were the reason the dock was not installed. But if so what happened to the funding? Did costs rise because of conditions imposed by the concession operators? More information is needed to explain why the community lost this important potential resource while the federally-funded docks that were installed are used for nightclub guests, jet-skiers, seaplanes and alcohol promotions.

La Marina is in good standing with the Department of Parks and Recreation, is not in violation of our concession agreement, and is not behind on payments due to the City.

Misleading. It is true that when pressed Parks will always say that the concession is operating according to their concession agreement. And yet certain obvious contradictions are clearly unresolved despite six years of promises of “working with the concession”. For example, the concession agreement explicitly bans concerts and explicitly requires amplified music cease at 10 pm:
Concerts are strictly prohibited at the Licensed Premises. All amplified music at the Licensed Premises must cease at 10:00 pm. [Section 10.18]
This language was not a fluke. City regulations require that all outdoor music in parks stop at 10 pm; the exact level of the noise is irrelevant. This is why nearly all concerts in city parks everywhere else in New York stop before 10 pm, even in places far from residents like Summerstage deep within Central Park. Randall’s Island, which is truly isolated from any residential area and hosts premier concerts, still ends all music by 11 pm. So how does La Marina get to say they can play outdoor music till 1 am if they use a magic, never publicly documented sound limiter on their massive outdoor speaker system?
There is also the matter of the concession agreement as it pertains to alcohol promotions, music videos, sit-down only alcohol service, bottle service, ticket revenue and valet parking (“I highly doubt the legality”, according to DOT). So the “good standing” claim merits further investigation.

La Marina does not operate secretly, or without Community updates.

False. It has been documented many times when La Marina schedules events and does not place them on their website event calendar. Sometimes they suddenly appear a day before, sometimes not. In 2018 alone, the following concert dates (April 21, May 5, May 19, May 20, May 26, May 27, June 2, June 3, June 9, June 10, June 16, June 23, June 24, July 1, July 3, July 4, July 6, July 8 day, July 8 night, July 13, July 14, July 20, July 21, July 22, July 27, July 29, Aug 4, Aug 5, Sep 3 and Sep 8) have all been booked. None appeared on the calendar before May 2, and as of May 10 only two May events appeared. Then, when inquiries were made of the Parks Dept, suddenly all May events were on the calendar while the rest were still hidden, with only a single June event posted as of May 28th . By June 7 most of the June events had appeared but not June 3, June 23 or June 24. It’s a never-ending game.
Note that May 5 was for a boozy dance party at 9 am on a Saturday, while many of the ticket sites list hours long past 10 pm. “Community updates” are not the issue – the concert events are.

Traffic on Dyckman Street was a challenge before we opened and has clearly become worse as the entire area has become a summer destination.The popularity of our business without a doubt contributes to traffic congestion; but that is no reason to shut down La Marina, just as traffic on Atlantic Avenue is no reason to shut down Barclays Center.

False. There are several factual errors in the above. Traffic on Dyckman Street was not so bad before La Marina opened – how could it be when La Marina’s is frequently claiming that it “saved” Dyckman street from drag racers? (Pretty hard to drag race in traffic). Press articles from shortly after opening confirm that traffic changed due to the concession – which is logical considering that La Marina is larger than all of the other bars on Dyckman Street combined. It can also be shown that on rare summer weekends when La Marina does not host a concert (like 2017’s Family Beach Day), Google Maps shows traffic is much better.
But the real straw man here the is the false comparison to Barclay’s Center. That facility was planned and studied extensively as a large event venue. La Marina was not planned as a large event venue — quite the opposite in fact. Per the 2008 Franchise and Concession Review Committee transcript:
“This is an existing use, previously a [marina] cafe, for at least, I believe, 15 years. I don’t know the exact number; at least the last 10 years. So this is not a new use of this space. Therefore, we didn’t do any [environmental assessment], because typically it is existing use and we know what the conditions that were there before. We don’t think there is going to be any — the concessionaire has offered to work with local garages to make sure that there is valet parking; to encourage people to come by public transportation. And we don’t think there’s going to be a particular traffic impact based on the concession.”
In other words, La Marina was approved as a restaurant cafe as that is what was there before. Not a 2,100 person capacity concert venue. If it had been proposed as a concert venue an environmental assessment would have been done which would have no doubt shown enormous traffic issues for this site and the use as a concert venue would never have been approved in the first place.
Unbelievable, neighborhood-choking, highway-impeding traffic is not a reason to shut down an approved use. It’s a very good reason to shut down an unapproved use.

Our positive impact is ongoing and pervasive in this community.

The impact is pervasive but not all positive. The restaurant and cafe are terrific, the marina docks have some benefit when concerts are not taking place, and the grounds are very attractive and a point of local pride. Everyone likes the fact that La Marina exists as a place to go to for dinner or a date on a quiet weekday or to just explore by the water. But these cannot be separated from the large negative impacts, principally due to unapproved uses as a large concert venue with music past 10 pm and an enormous and illegal valet parking operation.
It seems that after six years of no change, the Community Board has tired of the same misleading and false promises. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Restore Dyckman Marina.