A Peaceful Fight for Peaceful Sleep

Ramon Martinez, head of security at Serie 56, pleads his case in front of the 34th Precinct Community Council.

Ramon Martinez, head of security at Serie 56, pleads his case at the 34th Precinct Community Council meeting.


Deputy Inspector Andrew Capul sounded convincing at Wednesday’s monthly community meeting of the 34th Precinct in northern Manhattan: “We’ve made some great inroads in the quality of life,” he said, “particularly in the area of noise pollution.”

But he did not convince everyone.

Local resident Bruce Feldman waited patiently for the two minutes of speaking time he’d signed up for, as Capul proudly cited the more than 7,500 summonses the precinct issued this year.

Feldman lives 80 yards away from “Serie 56,” one of many late-night clubs in northern Manhattan. The club, on Broadway and W. 190 Street, is a repeat offender for noise, occupancy and liquor violations and was temporarily shut down on Sept. 11. But, much to Feldman’s chagrin, it may soon reopen, and so, he was at the meeting to continue his campaign for nocturnal civility.

“You wake up like somebody came in and hit a big drum next to your ear,” he said, when his chance at the mic finally arrived. “Thump, thump, thump. And I listen to jazz.”

Feldman has waged a battle against the popular dance locale since it began business in 2005. He wrote letters to the police and fire departments, to the community board and to his local council representative to get the club to install additional sound-proofing. After two years, the club obliged, but Feldman said that the chaos outside the club has hardly abated.

“In the four years this place has been open,” he said, “we’ve had four nights a week trapped in noise.”

Capul told Feldman and the more than 100 other people present at the S.T.A.R. Senior Center on W.187th. he is not sure how long the club will be closed. He said the precinct had reached an agreement with the owners that included obligatory participation at community meetings, as well as bi-monthly talks with the police and advance notice of special events beyond the club’s standard Thursday through Sunday hours.

“Believe me — that place is on our hit list,” Capul said to the crowd. “We’re going to hold them much more accountable.”

Ramon Martinez, head of security for the club and a walking advertisement for the intimidating effect of body mass, came up from the back of the hall to respond on behalf of the club.

Standing a few feet away from Feldman’s table, he said the club’s new policy is to ask clients to remain inside until their transportation arrives. Martinez said “major efforts” have been made to keep clients quiet once they are outside and to make sure vehicles depart quickly, a point that’s relevant because the most frequent 311 complaints have regarded double- and triple-parked vehicles that blare music from their speakers.

“We’re closing at 3:45,” Martinez said. “By 4:15, 4:25 they’re gone.”

Capul interjected that occupancy for the locale is set at 100, but it has often hit 200.
“You’re over capacity,” he said to Martinez “Pass that along to your boss.”
Oscar Herasme, legal counsel for Serie 56, could not be reached for comment.

Serie 56 draws a steady crowd of local Washington Heights Dominicans, but is also an attraction for Dominicans from New Jersey and Brooklyn, said Community Board 12 Chair Manny Velasquez in an interview the day before.

“There’s just not enough people to come out and enforce,” he said.

Told of this comment after Wednesday’s meeting, Feldman reacted with skepticism.

“The security guys are out there dancing with them,” Feldman said. “In four years, there’s not one ‘No Honking’ sign, no sign up next to the club saying, ‘Please respect our neighbors.’”

He wants what he calls a proactive approach to the problem.
“Basically, what I’ve been praying for is that there will be a stabbing or a shooting that will shut it down,” he said.

Photo – Derek Simons

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