What is one of the things that people love about trendy neighborhoods like the East Village, Lower East Side, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen / Clinton? Unlike some slightly more, shall we say, barren (boring?) neighborhoods in Manhattan, there are always plenty of solid options for food and fun right near your home.
On the other hand, everyone else in the Tri-State area knows about said food and fun options, too, and so comes over to YOUR neighborhood to play. Often making a lot of noise while they do so. Well into the night. On a Tuesday, say, when all you want to do is get some sleep because you have to get up early for work the next morning so for crying out loud PLEASE keep it down out there!!
The problem, say residents of rental apartments in these trendy areas, is not that they’re grumpy party poopers, but rather that the State Liquor Authority has been granting way too many liquor licenses in their communities, and that landlords are too quick to sign on bars and nightclubs as opposed to grocery stores and service shops, and so their home has become a drunken-revelry destination for incoming hordes that have no stake in the neighborhood. Now, however, the people are beginning to fight back.
There have been two stories recently about residents trying to achieve a balance and have a say in the type of businesses that are being opened in their community. For example, Hell’s Kitchen, which has been enjoying a decades-long transformation from being one the toughest neighborhoods in town to the family-friendly community of today.
Residents of Hell’s Kitchen (or, Clinton) apartments like the convenience of living so close to Midtown, they like the lower prices and more spacious homes they can find there, and they like all of the great restaurants that have been opening in the area over the last ten years or so, especially along Ninth Avenue. To a point… a point which, some Hell’s Kitchen residents claim, was passed a while ago, and now the immediate vicinity feels all of the effects of loud, late bar-hopping that stretch of nightlife provokes.
There was hearing recently during which Hell’s Kitchen residents (and, on the other side, nightlife enthusiasts) were given the opportunity to express their concern. With several mega-clubs currently in the planning stages for their neighborhood, it won’t be long before we’ll see whether their frustrations are being heard.
Nightlife noise and other associated unpleasantness is no stranger to residents of East Village and Lower East Side apartments, two areas which have since at least the mid-1990s been “party central” for out-of-towners looking for a good time in the big city.
Of course, one of the reasons why these neighborhoods are attractive to young professionals in the first place is that they’re fun… but residents are beginning to feel like the combination of bar after bar after bar on some blocks, and expensive boutiques on others, makes it feel like businesses aren’t interested in servicing the community in which they’re located, catering solely to the drinking- and wealthy-tourist-trade.
As Community Board 3′s district manager Susan Stetzer puts it: “We used to have very diverse local retail, but we’ve lost it. What can you buy, other than a $300 handbag? There’s nothing local for an ordinary person who is not rich.”
This seems to me to be one of the primary challenges of many trendy neighborhoods in Manhattan and, increasingly, in Brooklyn, in the coming years. If landlords can get chain stores and nightclubs and pricey boutiques to pay ever-higher rents, where’s the incentive to lease their space to butchers, grocers, book stores, and other small businesses that make a neighborhood a home? Stay tuned.
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