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.
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.”
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.