New Yorkers would be free to openly drink their cares away in public areas under a new proposal by the city’s Nightlife Advisory Board — but residents near booze-soaked Washington Square Park are already feeling green around the gills at the thought.
In a report issued last week, the NAB — established by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017 — offered 15 recommendations on how to boost New York’s nightlife and maintain good relationships between hot spots and their residential neighbors.
Among the NAB’s suggestions, under a section labeled “Nightlife Beyond Bars and Clubs,” was taking the party outside.
“New Yorkers need affordable options for all kinds of nightlife,” the proposal says. “In most global cities people can gather informally in squares and parks to drink with friends and even dance to the rhythm of impromptu concerts.
“Drinking in the public space and dancing anywhere in the city should be regulated but not prohibited.”
But locals near Manhattan’s Washington Square Park — where lawlessness including public drinking has reigned in recent months, garnering no more than a shrug from de Blasio — gave a thumb’s down to the idea.
“I’m all for people to have a place to gather, but I’m not in favor of [the NAB proposal],” said Carol Meylan, a social worker and Greenwich Village resident. “Behavior gets unruly and reckless.
“I think there would be more violence,” added Meylan, 62. “We already witnessed people getting into fights, a lot of broken glass, a lot of behavior where crowds can’t be managed that well.”
Al Rosario, a doorman of Meylan’s park-adjacent building, said he’s seen booze turn the crowds in the green space belligerent.
“Even when they have good music and entertainment, once these people are drinking, they don’t want to leave, they don’t want to stop,” said Rosario, 60. “It would be so hard to control. … You’re only going to start a fire here.”
A local who gave her name as Jennifer also opposed the plan, saying it was simultaneously too regulated and too freewheeling.
“If there’s formal intervention, it can impede spontaneous creativity that’s the spirit of New York,” said the 33-year-old artist as she walked her chihuahua, Dolphin.
“I don’t want it too extreme, and I don’t want it too regulated,” she said.
Still, “I don’t think [the proposal] is going to happen because [Washington Square] is such a windy, big park with all these different nooks and crannies, and people are going to be wasted,” she said. “[The park] is going to get more pee-filled, ya know?”
Andrew Rigie, the NAB’s chairman and executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said Sunday that the proposals predated the COVID-19 pandemic — and contended that allowing al fresco alcohol might actually boost quality of life.
“This is one of 15 important recommendations that were developed pre-pandemic, and if done properly, identifying public spaces where people can socialize with alcohol, dance and have cultural programming could improve quality of life and attract visitors, and is worth considering,” said Rigie in a statement, adding that Hizzoner had yet to weigh in on the group’s list.
Neither Rigie nor the report identified any specific locations that might make particularly suitable outdoor watering holes.
It wasn’t immediately clear who might possibly enact the NAB’s recommendations.
Asked Sunday about the suggestions, which were uploaded to the panel’s city Web page with little fanfare last week, a spokesman for de Blasio distanced City Hall from the report.
“The Nightlife Advisory Board is a separate and independent body,” the spokesman said, highlighting the distinction between the NAB and the mayor’s Office of Nightlife, though the two groups were formed to complement each other in 2017. “This is their report, not ours.”
One-third of the NAB’s 15 volunteer members listed on the city Web page are de Blasio appointees — including hip-hop founding father Kurtis Blow — while the other 10, including Rigie, were chosen by the City Council.
The de Blasio spokesman said City Hall would review the recommendations.
A spokeswoman for City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat, said that the law-making body would weigh the NAB’s proposals, too.
“The Council is reviewing the recommendations,” the rep said. “We recognize the importance of nightlife to this city’s economy and will continue to work with the industry as we rebuild post-COVID.”
Earlier this month, the Office of Nightlife floated the idea of forming 24-hour “entertainment districts” where bars and clubs would be free to entertain around the clock.
The same section of the NAB report additionally called for the city to offer use of its buildings for afterhours events and for nightlife venues to expand their offerings while the sun is shining.
“City-owned buildings must be opened afterhours for rehearsal and performance space,” the NAB suggested. “Public libraries could also enrich New York’s cultural nightlife
by staying open later and incorporating engaging programming.
“The City should create a mechanism to activate nightlife establishments for daytime activities where appropriate such as using the venue for rehearsal space, a kitchen incubator, and other uses which could also generate revenue.”
Among the other recommendations put forth by the NAB were “pre-scheduling inspections when appropriate,” and making “levying fines and penalties on nightlife businesses … a last resort.”
Downplaying the prevalence of food-poisoning cases in the city, then-mayoral hopeful Kathryn Garcia suggested in May that restaurants get a heads-up before health inspectors drop in as a means of avoiding costly fines during the post-pandemic recovery.
The 13-page report also suggested that security guards in all nightlife establishments with liquor licenses undergo specialized annual training, including on dealing with drunken patrons and responding to active-shooter situations.
Presently, state law stipulates the same training and licensing procedures for all security guards, whether they’re working a nightclub or loss-prevention at a retail store, according to the report.