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De Blasio gorges and guzzles while New York ‘burns’

BY GEORGETTE FLEISCHER | Last night my 2-year-old daughter and I were awakened in the wee hours by two different men, who destroyed, separately, two stretches of what should have been our sleep cycle, their inebriated bellowings rending Petrosino Square, a small triangle at the crux of Little Italy and Soho that has no fewer than nine liquor licenses, seven of them whole hog on the NYC Open Restaurants program.

The operator in our building I nominate as worst offender. Furious that Community Board 2 and the New York State Liquor Authority denied his application to expand hours of operation and decibel levels, and host private parties in the unlicensed cellar, this businessman is vindicated by de Blasio’s most recent and lavish largess to the nightlife industry, which arrives in the wake of his laughable presidential gambit.

In addition to greatly expanded sidewalk cafe privileges, even in areas prohibited by zoning, Hizzoner has given away our city streets. And restaurateurs and nightlife operators can expect 10 to 20 new corridors shut down to traffic by July 4 (meanwhile indoor service will begin again by July 6), and another 10 to 20 corridors shut down to traffic by July 17. Happy Days are Here Again.

But we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Cases in the U.S. are surging. Texas and Florida have made sudden pivots on food and beverage in order to stem dangerous swells of sickness and death. What the hell is de Blasio thinking? Does he think about anything other than his own political ambitions?

I have to push my daughter’s stroller past sidewalk cafe tables whose chair backs are touching each other, past a roadbed cafe that blocks the fire hydrant that serves tenement buildings housing toddlers to octogenarians and which hijacks the building frontage to our north.

Sitting too close to a fire hydrant on Cleveland Place in Petrosino Square. The writer complained and the Fire Department responded and forced the operator to move the table, hay bales and plant — but, soon after, they were reportedly moved back near the hydrant again. (Photo by Georgette Fleischer)

Worse, the nightly pandemic party is crowded into this no-rent real estate in complete disregard of social distancing rules and without a face mask in sight (that I have seen), either on patrons or staff.

As I told the businessman on Tuesday as I photographed the fire hydrant blockage (while he heckled me), I am terrified my little daughter will be infected by the crowds he’s gathering.

After Ladder 20 of the F.D.N.Y. got him to temporarily clear the required 15 feet, this man rushed me as I entered my building’s front door from a run, came within 2 inches of my face — no mask, ever — in order to film me, as he has done another tenant who complained of his infractions: in her case, he posted video online to ridicule her.

“You have no right to do that,” I stated, calmly under the circumstances. “It’s harassment,” I told him.

I’ve filed a complaint with the Fifth Precinct.

About the lack of social distancing, I have made four 311 complaints on four consecutive days. So far, no response.

De Blasio’s press machine claims there will be enforcement. Pure doublespeak: “The preference is to educate owners and operators in order to improve a restaurant’s social distancing practices,” and “chronic violators may face fines, have their liquor license revoked or their Open Restaurants eligibility suspended.”

Educate owners and operators… Reminds me of the time I was told that student plagiarism should be treated as a pedagogic not a punitive moment.

“May” face fines, etc. … Read: Will face no repercussions whatsoever except in the most extreme circumstances, and possibly not even then.

Classic mixed messaging. No wonder the operators are out of control. It will only get worse. People will get sick. Some will die. For those of us who have lost family and friends already this is bitter. No. It’s disgusting.

But Mayor de Blasio is eating well, thank you very much, and enjoying his beer.

They say Nero fiddled while Rome burned. De Blasio gorges and guzzles in the middle of a pandemic.

I would like to nominate him. For his narcissism and self-indulgence, for his reckless disregard for human life, the worst mayor ever.

Fleischer is president, Friends of Petrosino Square.

23 Comments

  1. Gerry vali Gerry vali June 27, 2020

    Good for you, Georgette. Keep complaining and keeping track of what is going on. These people have no consideration for the people that have to live in this area. I give thanks every day that I no longer live in Manhattan and have to deal with crowds.

  2. T Collins T Collins June 27, 2020

    The scene at Petrosino Sq. is dangerous and horrible.

  3. Bonnie Lyn Bonnie Lyn June 27, 2020

    Thank you Georgette. I live in the heart of SoHo and have been keeping my eye on as many restaurants along Spring and Prince Streets as I can. A lot of them opened BEFORE they were allowed, and they heard politely from me in person.
    Now things seem “OK” in most places, but I cannot understand what the rule is if the TABLES are 6 feet apart, that doesn’t make much sense if the chairs are close together.
    Anyway, we can all pitch in to keep these establishments safe and ourselves safe if we complain to the people who seem to be running the restaurants.

  4. HS HS June 27, 2020

    Very good points. I’m not a fan of De Blasio We’ve never had more homeless.

  5. mary reinholz mary reinholz June 28, 2020

    It’s unclear why Fleischer is bashing de Blasio as a latter-day Nero and not even identifying the cafes that she claims are creating fresh hell in her Downtown neighborhood. This seems like a case for the community board.

    • Georgette Fleischer Georgette Fleischer June 28, 2020

      There’s nothing the community board can do, as I understand has been made clear in the town halls with de Blasio’s “Nightlife Mayor” (a source of gallows humor for community activists).
      Were I to revise this piece, it would read like this:
      I would like to nominate him. For his narcissism and self-indulgence, for his authoritarianism, and for his reckless disregard for human life, the worst mayor ever.

      • mary reinholz mary reinholz June 28, 2020

        We disagree. Gov. Cuomo has said that the restaurants and cafes must police themselves. You don’t even identify the offending venues in your piece and show no evidence that de Blasio is “gorging and guzzling.”

        • Jean Standish Jean Standish June 29, 2020

          Requesting that the restaurants and cafes police themselves is a joke. I live in the East Village, which is infested with bars and restaurants. The only thing really keeping them in check is community opposition, attending the community board SLA Committee meetings in force and attending the hearings at the SLA. These bars and restaurants are a blight on our communities with their drunken patrons making our lives a living hell.

    • Lora Tenenbaum Lora Tenenbaum June 28, 2020

      Mary, perhaps you would understand better if you were to walk over to Petrosino Square from your nearby home and see for yourself. It is not just this one restaurant. As she points out, of the 9 restaurants on the block, 7 are in noncompliance with the Open Restaurants program for Phase II. See that all 7 fail at providing 8 clear feet of pedestrian walkway. See that they are all crowding their tables. See that many staff do not wear masks. See that patrons are allowed to stand, unmasked, as they socialize. See that one of them has spread over to the front of the business next door. See that they all have tables on the curb side of the sidewalk, which is not one of the setups allowed. See that they do not have the required barriers for roadway dining. See that they are not keeping you, me or the person walking their dog safe. And look online at the Open Restaurants Map. You will see that not all of the establishments there have even bothered to file the Open Streets application form, which only requires self-certification!

      The city proudly announces that it wants to provide one-stop shopping for the restaurants…but the complaints mechanism requires separate complaints to various agencies. And the Department of Transportation, which handles the restaurant applications for the program, is not one of them! Yes, we can go to the community board, which handles complaints too, and it’s a good idea to keep them apprised. But they are not a policing body; they are advisory only. 311 Complaints are needed.

      The community board has been as helpful as it can be respecting this particular establishment, and negotiated stipulations which it does not have the power to enforce. Those stipulations were never complied with and, despite fines, the establishment continues on. Many of us are aware that the owners have been known to intimidate people who complain about them.

      But, all in all, the agencies that are supposed to keep us safe: police, State Liquor Authority, Department of Transportation, Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Special Enforcement, have not displayed any ability to do so. Government has, once again, failed the residents.

    • Jean Standish Jean Standish June 29, 2020

      The community board only operates in an advisory capacity. The council member should be contacted, who holds the reins of power in the district.

  6. sunnyside john sunnyside john June 28, 2020

    Georgette Fleischer is right. Up until now i’ve been proud of NYC’s commonsense approach to handling the epidemic. now i’m ashamed. just last night (saturday) in my long island city neighborhood i observed outdoor cafes open and maskless people socializing curbside chair-to-chair. indeed, there was no room for me to walk around the socializing. i was taken aback – i’d known rules were relaxing but i’d no idea the reopening had gone as far as it has. please, new yorkers, engage your common sense for all our sake and make me proud to be a new yorker once again. anyone out there remember late March?…

  7. David R. Marcus David R. Marcus June 28, 2020

    Bravo Georgette. Well said.

    We share a long history of the mayor and our local electeds catering to a vocal minority on many issues that affect our neighborhoods and communities and the quality of the lives of the people that live and work here.

    You neglected to mention de Blasio’s partner in crime, Speaker Corey Johnson, who has clearly turned his back on his community by also blindly championing so many of these unsupervised gimmes as he seeks to fill de Blasio’s soon to be vacant shoes.

    Here. Here.

  8. Walter Goodman Walter Goodman June 28, 2020

    It may well be true that social distancing is not being adequately followed, and even that we are starting to open up too soon. Only time will tell. But it also needs to be said that taking back street space from the cars is a fantastic idea. We are facing a likely cataclysm of traffic as more businesses reopen and people choose not to ride mass transit. Open Streets and the restaurant initiative tackle several problems at once. They allow people the possibility of more distance, and it is up to restaurants and patrons to follow the rules. Also, the more space we reclaim from automobiles driving and parking, the more safety we give for cyclists and pedestrians.

    • Georgette Fleischer Georgette Fleischer June 29, 2020

      Walter Goodman,
      That social distancing is not being followed, let alone adequately followed, is NOT hypothetical, as you try to suggest with your mealy language.
      This is what is happening every day and night in Petrosino Square, and elsewhere. What sunnyside john reports above about pedestrians not having room to pass the crowds of maskless revelers is what I and others experience around Petrosino Square. It’s wrong that no matter how carefully I try to social distance myself and protect my little daughter, we are being forced within inches of patrons and staff willfully breaking social distancing rules, wearing no masks, laughing, talking, and sometimes shouting: there are lots of droplets being sprayed into our breathing space, against our will and against common sense interests of public health.
      As Jean Standish points out above, if it is “up to restaurants and patrons to follow the rules” (you, WG, echoing Mary Reinholz), those rules will be brazenly broken; it is self-evident that there is a direct conflict between following those rules and making as much money as possible, which is the only thing that drives restaurateurs and nightlife operators.
      Lora Tenenbaum outlines the convoluted and probably futile avenues whereby the public can ask for enforcement (we should not have to ask, but de Blasio fashioned a complaint-driven oversight process, deliberately). Yet again Hizzoner panders to the food and beverage trade, and as usual our other city electeds fall in line.
      No, Walter Goodman, the Open Restaurants Program does not “tackle several problems at once.” It creates grave risk to the public, and generally it is not the wealthy, who have left town or who live in underlicensed or license-free neighborhoods, whose health is threatened.
      Read this morning’s New York Times. COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are surging, way above those of any other developed country. Why? Stupidity, reckless disregard for human life, and ultimately, self-serving political jockeying.
      In this de Blasio, on the heels of his pathetic presidential bid, out-trumps Trump.

      • Walter Goodman Walter Goodman June 29, 2020

        I’m sure you’re right about the stupidity and health implications of the policy. My point was simply that taking back space from cars is always good in New York City, and is a positive when it comes to the health crisis.

    • Lora Tenenbaum Lora Tenenbaum June 29, 2020

      We certainly welcome any help to the Petrosino Square community in its continuing attempt to move the CitiBike parking lot from our pedestrian plaza into a nearby roadbed. Until that us done, any argument in favor of getting rid of car parking around here seems rather disingenuous. That plaza, especially designed for pedestrians and art installations, was created by and for our space-starved community. We wanted to reclaim space from automobiles, but instead lost what open space we had to bicyclist commuters. Now would be a perfect time, to promote returning that open space.

  9. Micki McGee Micki McGee June 29, 2020

    Thanks, Georgette, for speaking the truth on this horrendous situation. Over in the South Village, on the Spring Street corridor between 6th Avenue and West Broadway, it’s much the same:

    There is no social distancing.
    There are few masks, often none.
    There is loud music blasting from open doors.
    There are crowds congregated overflowing onto the traffic area of the street.

    Pedestrians are forced into the street to avoid the sidewalk gauntlets of unmasked diners, where they compete with the newly legalized motorized bicycles and electric scooters along with the usual cyclists, cars, SUVs, and trucks. If COVID doesn’t get the pedestrians in two weeks, the moto-bikes going the wrong way on one-way streets will take them out more swiftly.

    Neighbors who live above these sites, like you and your young child, are condemned to sleepless nights, their health and well-being sacrificed at the altar of “saving the hospitality industry” because our elected officials are too scared of — and indebted to —the real estate industry to push for real solutions: commercial rent freezes and rollback, and retail rent stabilization.

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