Testimony By New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane Before The New York State Liquor Authority 500 Foot Hearing Regarding Cooper Square Hotel
My name is Thomas K. Duane and I represent New York State's 29th Senate District, which includes 25-33 Cooper Square, the site of the newly-constructed Cooper Square Hotel. Situated in a mixed residential and commercial area, neighbors of this 21 story hotel include a four story residential tenement building around which the hotel was constructed, a six story residential tenement building just 30 inches from the edge of the hotel's second floor dining terrace, and a 14 story assisted living facility across the street from the hotel's street-level garden.
As the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) considers Cooper Square Hotel LLC's liquor license application, I implore you to be cognizant of the negative impacts the multiple indoor and outdoor bar spaces the applicant seeks would have on the community if left unrestricted. That said, I am pleased that Cooper Square Hotel LLC has signed a stipulation with Manhattan Community Board #3 (CB3) agreeing to specific conditions regarding its operations. These restrictions address many of the concerns that I have heard from my constituents and which were apparent to me when I recently made a visit to the site. Thus I urge the SLA not to approve this liquor license application unless the conditions set forth in this stipulation are included in the Method of Operations, making it actionable under the law.
I wish to highlight several aspects of the stipulation, which are of particular importance to my constituents. With two assisted living facilities and the New York Police Department's Ninth Precinct along the two-block stretch of East Fifth Street from First Avenue to Bowery, access for emergency vehicles is critical. Residents are understandably concerned about the prospect of idling taxis and limousines blocking the street should the hotel have an entrance/exit on Fifth Street. Thus Cooper Square Hotel LLC has agreed that the hotel's primary entrance will be located on Cooper Square, between Fifth and Sixth Streets; that loading and unloading of guests, service deliveries and garbage pickups will take place on Cooper Square, rather than on Fifth Street; that the hotel will assign personnel to direct taxis and limousines from Fifth Street to the entrance on Cooper Square; that the hotel's easternmost entrance located on Fifth Street will be used as an emergency exit only and that its westernmost entrance on Fifth Street will be accessible by key card to registered guests only and will be inaccessible as an entrance or egress after 9:00 p.m. every night.
Neighbors at 207 East Fifth Street are also particularly concerned about the 77-person capacity, second-floor exterior dining terrace, which comes within 30 inches of the apartment building's windows. To mitigate its negative impacts, Cooper Square Hotel LLC has agreed to severe restrictions on the use of the space proposed by CB3. These include a closing time of no later than 8:00 p.m.; the construction of a 42 inches high sound baffling wall to be topped by potted plants; an awning to be extended over the area during all hours of operation; the use of candles, rather than electrical lighting at night; and a prohibition on smoking. Cooper Square Hotel LLC has further stated that it would apply to the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals to obtain a variance to enclose this area and soundproof it -- an application CB3 has agreed to support. Although I would have preferred that Cooper Square Hotel LLC had included the enclosure of this space in its original design and would not now need to exceed its maximum floor area ratio, I urge it to seek this variance as soon as possible. Furthermore, I request that the liquor license for this space be revoked should Cooper Square Hotel LLC not apply for the variance necessary for the enclosure within a time frame established by a community advisory committee, which I will describe later in this testimony.
I should note that some Fifth Street residents have asked that that a liquor license for the second-floor exterior dining terrace be denied until and unless it is fully enclosed. I am extremely sympathetic to their concerns, and it was a difficult decision for me not to echo their call for a denial. Nonetheless, in order to preserve the ability of community boards to negotiate in good faith with nightlife establishments, I feel it is important to respect their efforts when they achieve such substantial concessions.
Among other conditions in the stipulation, Cooper Square Hotel LLC has agreed that the first-floor garden, across the street from an assisted living facility and next to a residential building shall be free of music and must be closed by 9:00 p.m. every night, and the first-floor terrace shall be a dining area and must be closed by 10:00 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
I applaud CB3 and Cooper Square Hotel LLC for negotiating this stipulation and urge the SLA to codify it in the Method of Operations of any liquor license that it issues to the premises.
I further suggest that the hotel convene a community advisory committee including the East Fifth Street Block Association, CB3, and the offices of local elected officials, to monitor its compliance with the stipulation and address any new concerns that emerge.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the New York State Liquor Authority today. I look forward to continuing to work with you to promote and enforce compliance with New York State's Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.