Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nightlife Hearing; The Threat and the Promise

Yesterday's hearing on four nightlife safety bills introduced at the City Council was a mixed bag for the industry. As the NY Daily News reports this morning there was some real movement evinced from the NYPD on the issue of Paid Detail. As the News points out, the department's government affairs representative, Susan Petito, told the council, "We're not prepared to take a position on it, however it'd something that we can further discuss."

The sentiment in favor of utilizing off-duty cops was echoed by Public Safety Committee Chair, Peter Vallone Jr., who said that there was no legal barrier to the use of these officers. Vallone cited the language of the SLA's recent legal opinion that said, "In addition, trade/neighborhood associations may-if permissible under local law-contract with police departments to have on-duty officers provide security for a particular area."

There is clearly room here to get a compromise since the major hang-ups, at least publicly, seem to revolve around language and definition (Off or on duty is a semantic distinction as far as the industry is concerned). The article in this morning's NY Sun also underscored the point, saying that Petito had apparently "opened the door" for the eventual deployment of cops in nightlife areas.

More ominously, however, was the administration's proposal to toughen the nuisance abatement law-making two violations grounds for a license revocation. This was the headline in the NY Post this morning and the main thrust of the paper's story (for some reason the paper's website is still posting yesterday's news so we can link the story now). This, as NYNA' David Rabin points out, will only make nightlife less safe because it will make clubs even more reluctant to call the cops if there is trouble. In the past, such a call for police intervention has led to the citing of the business for "unsafe premise."

Clearly, the proposed action by the NYPD, which would need council approval, belies any willingness on the part of NYPD to work cooperatively with the nightlife industry. It appears that the desire to enforce, rather than partner cooperatively, is still in the forefront of the police minsdset. Unless this changes the ability of the city to create a safer nightlife climate will be seriously in jeopardy.