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C.B. 3 heads in ‘another direction’ on nightlife as Militano cut from key position

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | A major shakeup has occurred at Community Board 3, as Alysha Lewis-Coleman, the board’s chairperson, recently replaced Alexandra Militano, the longtime chairperson of the board’s State Liquor Authority and Department of Consumer Affairs Licensing Committee. The key committee’s new chairperson is Michelle Kuppersmith.

C.B. 3 members and local block association members alike are extremely concerned about the loss of Militano’s leadership on the critical committee, although she remains a member of it.

As one community activist put it, “Militano had serious integrity regarding [liquor license] stipulations and vetting [of liquor license applicants] and a historical understanding of individual operators’ activities and proclivities.”

Raising alarms, in particular, was Lewis-Coleman’s reportedly saying she wants the committee to move in “another direction.”

In fact, some groups, such as the LES Dwellers, think Militano’s demotion is meant to quash opposition to a contentious initiative that was set to come before the East Village/Lower East Side board last June — namely, to allow the Lower East Side Business Improvement District to increasingly control the administration of the Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs in the district. However, as local groups began raising red flags over the plan, the June meeting was abruptly canceled.

The de Blasio administration’s outdoor dining program is seen as a lifesaver for local bars and restaurants during the pandemic. But many locals complain that enforcement of regulations is sorely lacking, plus are outraged that the city plans to make Open Restaurants permanent — even for when the pandemic is over — without any community input.

In response to the flap, five of the six C.B. 3 members on the S.L.A./D.C.A. Licensing Committee, including Militano, Herman Hewitt, Jesse Beck, Ellen Lou and Clint Smeltzer, recently wrote an open letter expressing their “deep concerns” about the development. The only committee member who did not sign the letter is its new chairperson, Kuppersmith.

The Village Sun reached out for comment to C.B. 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer and asked her to provide a contact for board Chairperson Lewis-Coleman, so she too could be asked for comment, or to forward the paper’s request for comment to her. However, Stetzer said because Lewis-Coleman had a death in the family last week, Stetzer is not giving out her contact info or contacting her with anything nonessential this week until after the funeral. In terms of herself, Stetzer said it would be “inappropriate” to comment.

The committee members’ letter, including the introduction on the e-mail that was sent out, follows below:

 

As a Community Group/Resident of Community Board 3 we want to make you aware of some recent events that will affect the SLA/DCA Licensing Committee, as well as the full board.

Open Letter to All Concerned

Regarding Recent Events at Community Board 3 Manhattan

The undersigned members of Community Board 3 SLA/DCA Licensing Committee feel it necessary to bring to the attention of the elected officials, our fellow board members, and the public at large, some deep concerns that we have over recent events that affect the functioning of our Committee and the Board. Because we feel strongly that our Board’s ability to represent the best interests of our community effectively and legitimately is at stake, we wish to highlight issues that we hope can be dealt with in a constructive manner so as not to damage the Board’s integrity and reputation.

The Board Chair has removed and replaced the chair of our committee. Certainly, the Board Chair has the full authority under the bylaws to do this, however, in these cases the method used lacked transparency, is clearly divisive and appears to signal a departure from an established Board policy on liquor licensing — one if not the most substantive and controversial issue facing our neighborhood in recent years.

The Board Chair stated that the removal was to facilitate the committee moving in “another direction.” In the course of the conversation regarding this matter, the Board Chair asked the SLA chair to resign and provided her an opportunity to respond, however before an answer was given, the newly appointed SLA chair announced the change to committee members and the new name appeared on the [C.B. 3] website as SLA chair.

What is most disquieting about this change is the apparent intention to move the SLA [Committee] in “another direction.” CB3 has had to balance the competing interests of an expanding nightlife industry in our community against quality-of-life concerns and the often vehement opposition of community residents. CB3’s SLA/DCA Licensing Committee has prided itself on weighing these often-competing concerns in a very thorough manner and in accordance with the State laws regarding licensing. It is a very delicate and exacting undertaking that requires a thorough understanding of the State laws, City regulations and the methods that the State Liquor Authority uses in making its final decisions. CB3’s effectiveness in expressing its opinion to the Authority will certainly diminish without this expertise.

Also, CB3 developed, through an extensive public engagement process some years ago, an SLA Policy which is posted on the website. If such policy were to go in “another direction,” the creation of any new policy should be through a fully transparent and participatory process. We fear that this abrupt change in committee leadership will result in deep skepticism and discord toward the Board within the community because residents will view it as a change in policy without public input.

In conclusion, we ask all concerned parties to take these observations into consideration and to assist us developing a more constructive environment in CB3. We would appreciate the assistance of the elected officials in finding a way to avoid likely upheaval at CB3.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Signed,

Jesse Beck
Ellen Lou
Herman Hewitt
Alexandra Militano
Clint Smeltzer

13 Comments

  1. The Reckoning The Reckoning January 2, 2021

    I hate bars and restaurants but this is a hit piece. Board chairs can make changes whenever they feel it’s necessary. CB3 historically has had a racist past and these so-called members are targeting their African-American woman chairperson, who won in a landslide in their November election. She has the guts to make changes and they are out like sharks smelling blood in the water. They couldn’t get her out in an election, so this is how they are trying to do it. Militano has been chair of that committee for 20 years and attacks applicants like they are on trial. Good for the board chair to make a change. I guess BLM only when it’s convenient to say it. These people are first-class idiots.

  2. In The Pursuit Of Truth In The Pursuit Of Truth January 3, 2021

    What “The Reckoning” said! This white-led backlash against the duly elected, first Black female CB3 chair is no different than what the Republicans are trying to do against Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. These are the same types of people who say BLM but then don’t want Black children in their schools. It’s too bad Lincoln a) wrote this piece b) neglected his journalistic duty to obtain comment from all parties involved. Shame on you all for uplifting this racially charged grievance simply because the calcified white dinosaurs on CB3 can’t control a Black woman.

  3. Ariana Ariana January 3, 2021

    The idea that all elected or even appointed officials should not be held equally accountable by all of their citizens is a dangerous idea. Using racial accusations to stifle people expressing their views trivializes the seriousness of the structural racism of our nation. Shame on you. For real.

  4. Susi Susi January 4, 2021

    Regardless of the race discussion, this switch’s timing, how it was handled, is alarming and raises red flags. What is the “other direction?” The community has a right to know, and the CB3 chair shows little to no regard to what the community board has to say. Who treats a dedicated and long-serving member of the community like that?!

    I don’t object to the desire to make changes but really resent how this was handled. At the least, I believe that there should have been an official announcement along with the outline of the vision and allowing the community to weigh in.

    It *is* called “community board,” not “chairperson board.”

    @Ariana, thanks for pointing out the danger of the racial accusations in the comments above.

  5. ------m ------m January 4, 2021

    — comments from ‘the reckoning’ & ‘pursuit of truth’ have a certain commonality…..anyone sense “BID” in the way they brought race into the conversation??
    and hey….diversion techniques are the handbook of the orange guy!
    this is pure and simply about: lack of process; lack of transparency; and removing an extremely fair, balanced & knowledgeable chairperson for no apparent reason.
    I have sat through far too many committee hearings to count – have never witnessed ms. militano ‘attack’ any applicant. she asks questions of applicants as necessary. some applicants are not exactly forthcoming, or try to hide their negative history in operating an establishment.
    again – ms. militano & the SLA committee are extremely fair and balanced.
    we do NOT need BIG BUSINESS ruling our COMMUNITY BOARD!!!

  6. BID Hater BID Hater January 4, 2021

    Look at the CB3 bylaws – there was no issue with the process. The committee chairpeople serve at the pleasure of the board chairperson. Removing a chairperson is not a public process – it is totally at the discretion of the chair. Don’t be like Donald Trump and question the legitimacy of the process just because you don’t like the outcome.

    https://www1.nyc.gov/html/mancb3/html/about/by_laws.shtml

    C. Duties of Chairperson

    6. To appoint or remove chairpersons or co-chairpersons of committees of the Board. To appoint or remove chairpersons of subcommittees and task forces of the Board.

    • Susi Susi January 4, 2021

      Exactly, no issue with the bylaws or responsibility of the chair. However, the community has a right to know what “another direction” is. The secrecy and vagueness around this statement is the nagging part.

      Please don’t hurl the virus called Trump in our community. We are far from that! If anything, do-as-I-please leadership is more the style of the orange menace.

      Considering how long the previous SLA Committee chairperson has served this community, a public statement, a nicely conducted change, maybe a thank you for your service, something that indicates planning and leadership, a thought vs. shooting from the hip reaction would have been the smart way to go.

      Many in the community are concerned. Why did it have to be a shake-up? The way it was handled has all sorts of alarm bells going off.

      • Have Some Compassion Have Some Compassion January 5, 2021

        That’s….not how community boards work. Chairpersons don’t make public statements about personnel changes outside of the meetings and there haven’t been any meetings since this happened!

        Also: “However, Stetzer said because Lewis-Coleman had a death in the family last week, Stetzer is not giving out her contact info or contacting her with anything nonessential this week until after the funeral.”

    • Have Some Compassion Have Some Compassion January 5, 2021

      Were you present for the conversation? How do you even know if this “reporting” is accurate as it is totally one-sided. Also READ ABOVE: “However, Stetzer said because Lewis-Coleman had a death in the family last week, Stetzer is not giving out her contact info or contacting her with anything nonessential this week until after the funeral.”

  7. LES Dwellers LES Dwellers January 7, 2021

    Our take and tweets on this matter:

    1. There should have been an open, peaceful, and transparent transition of power.

    2. The declaration of the “board going in a new direction” should have been clearly stated as to what that direction is, especially if the COMMUNITY was left out of the process.

    3. The timing and the pattern of the firings deserve scrutiny. It is no secret that CB3 operates as a fiefdom and what transpired in the “dark of the night” was intentional.

    4. DM Stetzer and her hand, Chairperson Coleman have been plotting for two years with LES BID to make them an integral part of the liquor licensing process.

    The SLA Committee under the now ex-Chair Milintano and overwhelming community opposition stood in the way of that plan. DM Stetzer and Chair Coleman, in one fell swoop over Xmas and in the midst of a health crisis on the rise, found a way to remove one of the barriers in their way.

    *FYI the modus operandi of DM Stetzer and HER BOARD, for over 20 years, is to partner with patsies or opportunists. Look to the past: Gigi Li, Dominic Berg, David McWater — they were all willing to share power and be complicit in her bad behavior.

    5. Bottom line, DM Stetzer is petty, punitive and pugnacious. She is the root cause of all the problems on the Board. She is the reason CB3 has one of the lowest community participation rates in the city.

    6. We firmly believe in term limits and feel strongly CB3 needs reforms. The SLA Committee meetings were too long and exhausting for residents and members, discouraging participation. We noticed that the process, which originated in DM Stetzer’s office, was cumbersome and antiquated. We urged DM Stetzer to use tech to streamline the process, bring more transparency, and engage participation, offering solutions that were ignored.

    But what DM Stetzer and her hand Chair Coleman are doing/have done is a power grab to serve the interest of special interests (BID) under the pretext of Covid recovery efforts. The pre-Covid Lower East Side and East Village were the results of this unholy partnership and economic vision that favored the proliferation of liquor licenses, hotels and overdevelopment (in conjunction with local pols led by the disgraced Shelly Silver).

    Look to the past actions of DM Stetzer to see what is to come. This is not an unusual turn of events but a sustained pattern.

    Our twitter response, more action to come!

    @LESdwellers CB3 Sat Night Massacre: Board chair fires members who DID NOT vote to reelect her or accept BID takeover of liquor license committee over Xmas.

    Residents WILL NOT STAND DOWN. Fix this @galeabrewer @CarlinaRivera @CM_MargaretChin
    Stop covering up the malfeasance of DM Stetzer!

    Replying to @Z@mochi32120 This is about fighting for transparency, upholding democracy & ending malfeasance at CB3 that has gone unchecked for years. We will not stand by as CB3 does the bidding of special interests during Covid recovery. This has nothing to do with race but returning COMMUNITY to CB3.

    Z@mochi32120, Jan 3 Replying to @LESdwellers @galeabrewer and 2 others
    Really cool of you guys to support a mutiny by some disgruntled well-off white people against the first black female CB3 chair. Glad @ChrisMarteNYC is on board for that.

  8. reader. 33 reader. 33 January 7, 2021

    The CB3 leadership is Trumpian and a cult of one person, the District Manager has been there decades, time for a change…..

  9. David Foxx David Foxx January 9, 2021

    Sorry, Dwellers! Business is important too, not just you having the peace and quiet of some bygone era. For the love of god, just leave, let people who want the city to thrive do their business. The bars/restaurants need the open outdoor space after the pandemic to make up some of their losses from the pandemic. Get. Over. It.

  10. Bob W. Bob W. January 11, 2021

    When I was the head of my building’s tenants association, I went to the CB3 SLA Committee meeting every month for years. I found Alex Milintano to be very tough and very fair. I never saw her be rude to anyone, but I certainly saw her stand up to people who were being rude to the board or other speakers. Her knowledge, integrity and intelligence are matchless.

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