Today’s New York Times covers some recent complaints regarding a new establishment on NYC park land that I pass every day. La Marina is a restaurant/lounge/nightclub in Inwood, right outside the entrance to Inwood Hill Park, and adjacent to the soon-to-be Dyckman Street ramp to the Hudson River Greenway. I don’t usually comment on non-cycling topics, but I feel this one is important to cyclists and all livable streets advocates as well.
If you read the article, you’ll see that local residents complain primarily of one thing: traffic, particularly car traffic, with one interviewee particularly disturbed by the flashy cars. In an attempt to grab whatever attention they can get, they also complain of music going on longer than agreed, alcohol being served to non-seated patrons, larger-than-allowed crowds, and on and on. The solution, in my mind, is very simple. This club is apparently very successful, therefore it must have money to spare. Simply raise the concession fee in exchange for allowing all these things they are apparently violating in their current contract, and use the extra money to run late-night transit. Whether that’s a shuttle to the 1 train just 1500 feet away, or more 1 trains, or even a shuttle with wider reach to the 4 and B/D stations on Fordham Road. Or leave it to the club to run the shuttle and I’m sure they will figure it out. Maybe they can turn it into a party bus. If you’ve ever been to this location it is immediately obvious that it is clearly physically removed from the residential parts of Inwood, separated by both a major highway and train tracks, both of which generate significant noise of their own. If needed, perhaps a sound wall could be constructed along the Henry Hudson Parkway to further limit the noise seeping through to the neighborhood. The primary legitimate complaint that I see is traffic.
The last thing I would like to see is this restaurant/lounge/club closing down. I have never visited it nor do I intend to, but it is clearly better than the alternative. As the article points out, this location was previously a drug den. I started commuting along the route shortly before this place opened, and I can confirm that it was scary at night. That short stretch of Dyckman, under the Henry Hudson Parkway overpass, was very dark, very littered, and full of graffiti, broken bottles, and all manner of urban detritus. Now we have valets in uniform out at night, lights from the club, and many revelers realizing that the views from inside the adjacent park are equally beautiful but have no cover charge. Plus I’m sure the club’s cleaning crews work extra-hard to make sure Jay-Z and Beyonce don’t step over any broken bottles in the street on their way out of the valet parking.
As anyone following urban renewal research knows, the most important element to deterring street crime is more people on the street, and especially normal people, not troublemakers. This club has undeniably increased the safety of Inwood’s streets and parks dramatically, and for that it should be applauded.
Addendum: A number of commentators came to my site to dispute my characterization of the situation. At first I allowed them, but after a while it was evident they were too stuck in their NIMBY world to have a rational and respectful conversation. One commenter, though, did engage me in a thoughtful and balanced discussion of the issues, and the local residents certainly have some valid points, particularly regarding the disconnect between what the owner promised and what is being delivered. Other than traffic, which I recognize is a huge problem, a primary complaint is that the music itself is too loud. I recognize this is annoying and a bit difficult to get used to for those few living in affected apartments, but I would urge everyone, particularly the leaders and decision makers in this affair, to consider all the good this establishment has brought to the entire neighborhood, and weigh it against the bad brought to just a few. Neighboring Inwood Hill Park is seeing significantly more use this Summer, particularly by families, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
Running a nightclub can be a very lucrative endeavor, and while this club is not my cup of tea, this location seems like a great one for a club like this, if only La Marina is forced to put in a few essential upgrades to minimize the disturbances to local residents. At the end of the day, I believe this issue really just comes down to money, and La Marina has not shared enough of its success with the local community. In Economics-speak, La Marina must compensate the neighborhood for the negative externalities of their business.