Utopia Is Only A Few Phone Calls Away

Contact members of the City Council and State Assembly, and enlist the support of their offices.

Attend all community-board meetings, and take supporters with you. These take place once a month, usually at schools or community centers, and anybody can speak. Monthly specialized hearings are dedicated to transportation, business, land use, and quality of life, among other topics. Often, it is at these meetings that locals first hear about proposed developments in their neighborhood.

Planning Department hearings are also important; the schedule is published in the City Record – distributed free to community boards and libraries – and appears on the department Website: www.ci.nyc.ny.us/planning.)

Sit in on State Liquor Authority hearings, where businesses often go to ask for a later closing time or the expansion of a wine license into a full liquor license.

When these requests are made, the SLA, at 11 Park Place, is supposed to notify the community boards before the hearing; unfortunately, the SLA does not always do this promptly. Anyone can attend the hearings, but you can also file an objection through your community board.

Research zoning laws: The three-volume code, titled The Zoning Resolution of the City of New York, can be found at the Municipal Reference and Research Center at 31 Chambers Street. For answers to specific zoning questions, the general information line at the Department of City Planning (720-3300) is also helpful.

Check with the Department of Buildings at 60 Hudson Street to see whether the correct building permits have been filed. If a permit appears to be missing, file a complaint on the department’s hotline: 312-8530. Although Buildings is notoriously lax about enforcing these laws, once the infraction is reported, the staff must intervene.

The Board of Standards and Appeals has the variance requests filed by businesses hoping to gain exceptions to the local zoning requirements. Review those files at the 40 Rector Street offices.

If a bar or sidewalk café has a license but is impossibly noisy, call the Department of Environmental Protection’s Noise and Air Complaints hot line (718-337-4357). If enough people call, noise-pollution inspectors from the DEP will be dispatched to check decibel levels.

Find out from the Department of Buildings whether the bar or club you oppose has a public-assembly permit. If not, file a complaint with Buildings. If you believe dancing is going on in a venue not licensed for a cabaret, notify Buildings or the police.

Contact the Department of Consumer Affairs (487-4444) to register complaints about sidewalk cafés operating without a permit orwith too many tables on the sidewalk.

A complete list of government agencies and their phone numbers can be found in The Green Book, available in city libraries or at the City Bookstore (1 Centre Street; 669-8246).

Utopia Is Only A Few Phone Calls Away