Sunday, August 20, 2006

Club Security and Safety: The Need for an Equitable Solution

In all of the furor over the public safety issues surrounding New York City's night clubs the repeated emphasis has been on the faults of the clubs themselves. As the NYNA has been pointing out to whoever will listen, these safety concerns cannot be solved by an exclusive focus on the shortcomings of the various night life businesses.

Some of this is brought out in today's NY Post. The article underscores the extent to which the current situation in West Chelsea is a product of city policy. Here is the quote from the club manager who is the story's source: "If the Police Department had a plan to deal with this, it could have been OK-if from Day One they had a task force to work with each of the security teams from the clubs to deal with the underage drinking. But there was no plan. The chaos was all just allowed to happen."

As the manager goes on to point out, it was the city that wanted the clubs in this area. "It was there or nowhere after Mayor Giuliani decided to clean up Times Square and other neighborhoods...So the clubs were relegated to a ten block radius, then called West Chelsea."

The area in question was a wasteland of industrial buildings or with galleries that were only open during the daytime. In essence, the city set up its own night life district but did so without any comprehensive safety plan or economic development strategy to make sure that the forced relocation would be economically good for the clubs (something that was typical of the Giuliani administration-a strong concern with certain quality of life issues without any equal measure of concern with the needs of smaller businesses owners).

One last important observation from the Post's anonymous manager. He cites the fact that his club had 12 security guards and "violence rarely happens in the clubs-it happens in the streets." All because the city set up, serendipitously perhaps, "...a theme park-a strip mall for night clubs."

All of which means that any "Safety Summit" needs to get away from an overemphasis on the ills of clubs and pay more attention to the development of an overall club policy that meets the needs of public safety in a sensible manner. The fire and brimstone rhetoric needs to be shelved in favor of a more reasoned public policy approach.