New York City isn’t a quiet place, filled with blasting,
blaring, banging, beeping, barking, revving, rumbling, rattling, honking, clomping,
yelling, shouting, shooting, laughing, screaming, squealing, stomping,
smashing, screeching, slamming, and trilling.
Once in a while the night is so
filled without noise that the only sound is the a capella
crescendo of high heels on sidewalks.
expect, and are part of, a certain amount of cacophony during the day. But when
beats of music, revving of cars and motorcycles, and cackles from gaggles of
people underneath your bedroom windows leave you counting sheep and carrots (some
of us are vegetarians), then the sounds of the city become an intrusion.
Several restaurants in Inwood have
rattled neighbors since they opened. In one two-block radius, five restaurants
and one bar are thriving (the diner is closed for renovations and five small
storefronts are empty), serving food and drink indoors and outdoors. La Marina
at the far end of Dyckman Street brings its own issues of traffic congestion,
crowds, parking, and fire hydrants blocked by parked cars.
Business is booming and that’s the
problem. The influx of diners means crowds gather outside of the restaurants during the day, in the evening, and early morning hours while each eatery plays music, sometimes
emphatic enough to be heard across the street and up the hill.
People travel out of their own neighborhoods
and into others to dine out, and upper Manhattan is now a destination. Dyckman
Street used to be shabby and quiet. Some liked it that way. But when
restaurants inhabited quiet streets and vacant storefronts, the unique topography of
the street—a quiet hum of parkland sitting across
the road and little or no street traffic that could serve as background
noise—combined with elbow to elbow outdoor
seating underneath large apartment buildings,
changed the dynamics and annoyed the neighbors.
restaurant row is filled with diners eating and drinking, coming and going, and
sidewalk space allocated for outdoor seating has been calculated by the
Department of Consumer Affairs as being adequate for the width of the street.
But what is adequate on paper is a mechanical computation, and restaurants
seemed to have forgotten that people make their homes above them and an
unpalatable sensory takeover has been added to their menus.
A sound meter measures the loudness of music—whether it’s
Elvis Martinez or Elvis Presley, Frankie Ruiz or Frankie Valli, Barry Manilow
or Barry White, Ella Fitzgerald or El Chombo, Bob Marley or Barbra Streisand,
Milly Quezada or Millie Small—not how it travels, its effect on people
and how it attracts an audience, and how it’s supplemented by the sounds of couples
and groups of people conversing as they wait in line or walking on by, others
congregating outside and across the street.
are circulating a petition advocating that the liquor license of one of these restaurants,
Papasito Mexican Grill and Agave Bar, not be renewed by the New York State
Liquor Authority because of the loudness of music, crowds, lack of crowd
control, fights, public urination, and dancing in violation of its liquor
license. According to Papasito, its bar is open until three in the morning
during the week and on Saturdays and until two in the morning on Sundays. The other
restaurants say they close earlier. Neighbors complain that Papasito stays
open past its legal closing time. Sunday, which was once considered a day of
rest, seems to be the busiest day of the week. Papasito is countering back
with its own petition and now has signs posted “no dancing allowed.” A wiggle of the hips in the uptown version of Footloose
and witnessed by an
investigator with the State Liquor Authority is a serious violation and could
close the restaurant.
Papasito’s liquor license means that it will likely close. Perhaps the removal
of its liquor license is sending a message. But this seems severe, and throwing
people out of work in this economic climate is not something to toast. There’s
no guarantee of what business would replace it and the level of respect this
new venture may have for the neighbors upstairs. And then the dance begins all
Why not work with what you have? Not
every patron who is loud and boisterous (and not everyone is) on Dyckman Street
is dining or drinking at Papasito. On the few nights during the week I passed
by at different times, the outdoor scene was relaxed and comfortable with no
music or music playing very low. It’s the late nights/early morning hours on
the weekends when the temperatures rise to a boil.
of noise is a contentious one and a middle ground of dialogue would benefits
both sides of the dinner table, if you will. If Papasito and any other
restaurant that is part of the Inwood diaspora expects to be a part of the
community, perhaps they could cut back restaurant and bar hours to midnight and
open an hour earlier; lower music and remove the bass to a level that is amenable
to the neighbors; install soundproof windows in apartments of those living
above and nearby; cut outdoor seating by a third; offer a 20% discount to neighbors
living above and nearby; organize and expedite a BID (Business Improvement
District); participate in the community by contributing to or establishing a
fund to improve nearby parks; hire confident and friendly managers and private
security to move people and their vehicles in, out, around, and along; remind
customers to use safe and reliable public transportation whenever possible; and
meet regularly as a group of business owners and neighbors to discuss
situations and concerns and work with a professional mediator to resolve the
issues. And for the community, could there be an acceptance of the fact that
there will be some noise from restaurants and patrons and that the businesses
are part of the community?
Somehow, both sides—restaurants
and neighbors—must find a way to connect and follow the spirit of the law
and of community to find a middle ground. Everyone in New York City isn’t going
to be happy, which is why chefs fiddle with menus and adapt them to their
customers and why, when New York City changes, it never stays the same.
Labels: Dyckman Street, Inwood, La Marina, music, Papasito, State Liquor Authority, Upper Manhattan