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Opinion: Anatomy of a noise complaint — trying to get help on a dining shed’s din

BY GILBERT BATES | On consecutive Monday nights, this July 24 and July 31, One and One bar at 76 E. First St. on the corner of First Avenue, hosted a live band on the sidewalk and curb next to its huge roadway shed. It was not the first time they’ve annoyed the neighborhood for hours but this time I decided to complain about it.

This was not James Taylor strumming an acoustic guitar. The band included a drummer with a full drum kit; an electric guitarist; a mixer; a conga player; and two “singers” with microphones wailing and groaning from the bar’s outdoor seating.

A call to the bar to complain was answered with, “We don’t have anything to do with the band,” even though the instruments and amplifiers were plugged into the bar’s electrical system.

The primary way to complain about noise is to call 311 or go to the city’s 311 Web site. Both offer the option to report a complaint anonymously. That makes a lot of sense. Why would you want to risk harassment from a bar’s patrons and owner — who has already shown a disregard for the law and his neighbors — for complaining? That’s why all my complaints were filed under an assumed name. Each complaint gets a service request number, which lets you check its outcome.

The bar’s shed has been up since the pandemic. (Photo by Gilbert Bates)

Complaints to 311 are forwarded to the New York Police Department and officers respond when available. Sometimes the response is speedy; other times it’s many hours after the racket has ended. On July 24 the response was, “The Police Department responded to the complaint and took action to fix the condition” at 9:25 p.m. Well, no. The band played on a few hours longer.

On July 31, an 8 p.m. complaint was resolved by N.Y.P.D. at 9:42 p.m. But it raises the question, why is the neighborhood enduring this racket week after week? On those nights One and One was regulated by the city’s Temporary Open Restaurants Program. Its regulations read, “Amplified sound is not allowed in either sidewalk or roadway sidewalk setups. This includes audio speakers, TVs, and live music.”

As this law was not being enforced, I decided to take the problem to city agencies and my elected representatives. Two e-mails over two weeks got me nowhere; I was ignored or buried in red tape and requests for phone calls, even though I sent dates, times and videos of the band.

That’s when I decided to write this talking point for The Village Sun. When I sent out a third set of e-mails asking if there had been any progress and offering a chance to comment for this column — things changed. In some cases, many back-and-forth e-mails followed. For brevity, I’ll cut to the results. The links below go to the contact pages of the representatives and agencies if you have complaints. Here’s what happened:

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine: Levine’s office was the only one to take action in response to my earlier e-mails. Winthrop Roosevelt, director of communications, acknowledged that the office did not respond to me until it received word of this column for the Sun.

Roosevelt wrote that Levine’s office received my complaint on July 27 and contacted the 9th Precinct’s Community Affairs officers that day and followed with an e-mail on Aug. 2. The N.Y.P.D. told the borough president’s office it would increase sector cars in the area. Another e-mail was sent to the precinct on Aug. 8.

Ninth Precinct Neighborhood Community Coordination Officers Jose Reyes and Nicholas McPherson: McPherson responded to me that he’s conducted a few follow-ups regarding One and One and asked, “What hours of the day are they playing music? I get swamped with e-mails so please feel free to contact me by my number below.” Again, a phone conversation should not be necessary to get enforcement after all the information previously sent.

Carl Shumate, Community Board 3: Shumate, the board’s assistant district manager, advised, “We have been working with the 9th Precinct to address the noise complaints. The Community Affairs Officer will be stopping by the bar with the stipulations to remind them what they agreed to sometime this weekend. I will be sure to let you know what comes of that.”

On Aug. 23 Shumate added, “Susan Stetzer, the [C.B. 3] district manager, spoke with the owner of One and One over the weekend regarding the loud noise from within the bar and the amplified live music on the sidewalk.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams: Jacob Gold, constituent services associate, wrote, “Please know we did reach out to the 9th Precinct in hopes to garner attention to this issue and will be in touch with any updates.”

NYC Office of Nightlife: The office suggested I file my complaint with Mediating Establishment and Neighborhood Disputes (MEND) NYC, a process that requires revealing your name, address and phone number in the hope that the bar owner will voluntarily agree to meet with you and an assigned mediator.

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein: Epstein told me, “I can try to see if we get follow-up. Not always easy, but will try.”

The shed was deemed “non-compliant” by the city’s Department of Transportation — yet still has not been removed. (Photo by Gilbert Bates)

Councilmember Carlina Rivera: A champion of restaurant sheds who voted to make them a permanent part of our streets, Rivera did not respond to any of my e-mails.

Finally, I contacted Mayor Eric Adams, whose office, in turn, forwarded my complaint to the city’s Department of Transportation, the agency that oversees the restaurant sheds. Tennesse Grullon from the Commissioner’s Correspondence Unit responded to me: “At time of inspection condition not found. There is no amplified sound or speakers inside of the roadway structure.” Well, yes, the band is not there 24 hours a day.

But here’s the funny part. Grullon continued, “The roadway structure is non-compliant, it is in a No Standing zone between the hours of 11 pm-9 am All Days. Barriers are partially filled as they have placed soil on top but the rest of it is hollow. The structure is also obstructing a gas shut off valve. The establishment will have to remove the structure. Action Taken – 2nd notice to correct issued.”

Quiet has reigned at One and One for the past two weeks. However, its huge — and we now know illegal — street shed remains up, as it has since the start of the pandemic. Having ignored at least two D.O.T. notices, it will probably remain forever.

One lesson that comes out of this is if you are inundated with noise, complain to 311 and, if that doesn’t work, complain to all those whose job it is to help you. Hopefully, it won’t take writing a column like this to get results.

Bates (not his real name) is a longtime East Village resident. He wrote this talking point under a pseudonym to protect himself from retaliatory harassment. 

14 Comments

  1. CLM CLM June 15, 2024

    311 is useless, they only collect the complaints. but — complain online often enough, they are forced to send it to the Dept. Of Environmental Protection for noise pollution. If they say they fixed it, add that complaint number to next complaint and request an explanation for how they fixed it. File a 311 complaint against the precinct, with the complaint numbers. File a complaint with the liquor board is a best advice, but does’t work too well either. 311 and Liquor board love videos or images. USE those, but download those only after removing personal info. The cops seem to have agreements with certain restaurants to turn blind and deaf, too often don’t understand the most basic laws (but looove to quote it), and share personal info of complaints with the restaurants. As for mediation – it’s a test program, totally inexperienced team.

  2. Cee Cee October 4, 2023

    I am having the same problem here at Prince Street — 199 Prince to be exact. Little Prince, a small restaurant/bar becomes a nightclub many evenings with partying and loud, amplified music spilling into the street.

    And the owners/staff are particularly nasty and vindictive. They have people outside monitoring complaints and when they see one, they close up their windows… wait for the police to pass by [seems to be a schedule when they do, so they don’t hear the loudest of the noise- the singing of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and other ditties], then up the volume again. Now it is deep, pulsing disco beats. Noise from opening and closing the door and people hanging out on the street go on well into the early morning hours.

    This is all exacerbated by the fact that so many of our bldgs are now occupied by short-term residents who don’t care about the noise — or are some of the ones partying! THIS BUSINESS NEEDS TO BE SHUT DOWN!

  3. True New Yorker True New Yorker August 28, 2023

    Can someone get a response NOW from Rivera — she who voted for the shacks to become permanent despite the pleas of her community?

    The shacks had their time and clearly that has passed. Sure, some are nice, but way too many are hideous Third World, graffiti-covered, filthy shacks that are used for drug use, illicit sex acts and human feces.

    They could have started from scratch with environmental studies — some areas are better suited for them (wide sidewalks, less residential) but of course the city just gave a blanket order. Midtown — office plazas — are perfect to revitalize the streets, but the city is busy converting Midtown to a refugee center (does this city have a death wish or something?)

    Please, people, I beg you to read and vote in the primary elections before you just go down the Democratic Party line. This is not your old-line traditional liberal political party — it has been hijacked for far left-wing extremists who seem to hate the things we loved about New York — culture, (true) diversity, art, safety, fairness, business (shock!), success, etc, etc.

    Turning the city into an unsafe dumping ground appears to be the agenda. Vote for common sense.

  4. evlover evlover August 27, 2023

    Thanks so much for doing this. I live in the EV too and it’s become rampant. First the restaurants build the sheds, then they take over the sidewalks, then they put out loud speakers. Now independent bands are setting up on sidewalks. Retail stores are following. Now they’re putting racks of clothes outside along with their own speakers. Why are we putting up with this??

  5. Dianna M Dianna M August 26, 2023

    “NYC Office of Nightlife: The office suggested I file my complaint with Mediating Establishment and Neighborhood Disputes (MEND) NYC, a process that requires revealing your name, address and phone number in the hope that the bar owner will voluntarily agree to meet with you and an assigned mediator.”
    This is absurd! Why is a resident put in this awkward position when a law/rule/regulation is clearly being broken by a business owner? The onus should not be on us!
    NYC – enforce the rules you established!
    CB4 suggests meeting with an offending business before filing a noise or trash complaint with CB4. Yeah, I want to do that with people I see every day who know damn well they are not abiding by the rules. They’ve been getting away with it for 2½ years, so why comply now?

  6. redbike redbike August 26, 2023

    Thanks for the comments referencing NY State Liquor Authority licenses. It highlights what’s effectual as distinct from what’s merely spinning one’s wheels.

    And speaking of ‘spinning one’s wheels’ – and staying on topic – I know that (regrettably) bicycles and bike lanes aren’t universally loved by Village Sun readers.

    On topic: bike lanes can be your friend.

    One of NY State Liquor Authority’s prohibitions: alcohol can’t be served if it requires crossing a traffic lane. Bike lanes *are* traffic lanes. If there’s a bike lane between the curb and a bar’s / restaurant’s crap shack, bar / restaurant servers can’t cross the bike lane to serve alcohol to patrons in the crap shack.

  7. john rice john rice August 26, 2023

    What bars care about are their liquor licenses. Important to report noise to the NYPD AND then on the NYS Liquor Authority website. Follow your community board’s Liquor Licensing Committee meetings each month and report when an operator has been out of control. Important for the NYS Liquor Authority to have on record the bad actors. Most bars/restaurants have nothing on their record and then are deemed good operators by the liquor authority. This is when there is a bar that needs to be watched and reported over and over. They can eventually get fined thousands of dollars by the liquor authority and/or get their liquor license revoked. This is for the worst operators that plague us. First report noise to 311 and get that reference number to put on the liquor authority form: https://slacomplaints.ny.gov/clientapp/

  8. Kim Kim August 25, 2023

    Almost every shed had amplified music but it’s not allowed. DOT should walk dawn our streets on a weekend and fine everyone and then not allow them to participate in the program.

    I would also add that you should complain to the SLA on their website. If they are not abiding to the stipulations of their agreement with the community board then they can get fined and hopefully have their liquor license taken away.

    • Kate Q Kate Q August 26, 2023

      It is my experience that the ONLY agency that takes effective action in these situations is the New York State Liquor Authority. Their enforcement efforts are not quick, but ultimately their ability to fine and even revoke licenses has clout.

      • Barbara Ruether Barbara Ruether August 26, 2023

        Yes, It was only the NYS Liquor Authority that would respond when I (long-ago Villager) had night overkill noise and sought abatement thru many many levels of complaint to City. Tom Duane was our NYS Senator and he was a great fignter for us. I am forever grateful to him for saving my sanity.

  9. sars sars August 25, 2023

    Wow.

    This should be shared with the media – NYT, The Post, The City and others.

    • The Village Sun The Village Sun Post author | August 25, 2023

      Yes… the REST of the media!

  10. Lia Lia August 25, 2023

    Thanks so much for raising this issue and detailing the contacts with elected officials. Incredible.

    Ironically the City Council is focused on penalizing “loud cars” (loud cars are not good but they move so noise is transitory) – but zero interest in restaurant noise, which makes it impossible for residents to sleep.

    They’d be the first to complain if they lived above.

  11. John John August 25, 2023

    Thank you for this article. This has 100% been my experience as well. It used to be that most 311 complaints resulted in “XYZ responded and could not identify any problem,” but now they are just flat-out lying and saying “police took action to fix the problem”. The system is totally broken and they basically want us to risk our health by confronting those breaking the law. I made three efforts in last 36 hours to alert police of an illegal dirt bike just sitting parked on my street. Nothing has been done.

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