A group of Grandview Condominiums residents at 55 Riverwalk Place in West New York are up in arms over their mixed-use community’s newest restaurant and bar, Son Cubano, which they describe as a “Trojan horse” that seemed innocuous in its planning stages and even during its daytime operations, but caught them off-guard with what they describe as a “nightclub” operation on Friday and Saturday nights.
Son Cubano is one of several commercial tenants that lease space below the residential units. Other commercial tenants at the Shops at Riverwalk Place include a coffee shop, ice cream parlor, bank, spa, and liquor store.
“This is the kind of thing that could easily turn into a prolonged court battle where very little is accomplished except for [incurring] legal fees.” – Paul Swibinski
A group of 15 Grandview residents showed up at the West New York council meeting on Jan. 19 to voice their frustrations about noise and safety concerns.
The resident representatives presented their case before Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega, explaining that they had sent a letter to the mayor on March 23, 2010, eight months before Son Cubano opened in their residential building, expressing their concerns regarding the restaurant’s true intent and hours of operation. They said their concerns were ignored.
They also alleged that in April 2010 they were told by Roseland Property, the developer, that Son Cubano was clearly going to be a restaurant, not a “nightclub,” and that it would close its doors before midnight.
Mayor hopeful Dr. Felix Roque also joined ranks to help their fight to shut the “nightclub” aspect down.
“We want to keep politics out of this and try to negotiate an acceptable outcome [for all parties involved],” city spokesman Paul Swibinsky said last week.
Nightclub or after-hours bar?
Son Cubano, a Cuban restaurant and bar styled with the opulence of “The Havana ’50s” in mind, opened in December at The Shops at Riverwalk. A deal two years in the making, according to a Dec. 13 press release, Son Cubano is the latest venture by the Duran-Gouchee family, West New York natives who also own a Son Cubano in New York City.
Elina Glickstein, a three-year resident who spoke at the Jan. 19 meeting and has taken the helm in the anti- “nightclub” crusade, alleges that Son Cubano is a licensed restaurant operating as a nightclub from 11p.m., when the restaurant closes, to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
But the word “nightclub,” according to Swibinski, is not a correct depiction of the restaurant.
“[Son Cubano] is a restaurant that features live music, no different from other restaurants in West New York and other towns that have live music,” he said. “The complication is that, here, there is more of an impact on some of the residents close to it than with other restaurants.”
Glickstein says Son Cubano has no place in a quiet, residential community.
“From a residential standpoint, we got out of the city for the peace and quiet,” she said.
She also fears that an inability to close down the after-hours aspect will have repercussions in the near future.
“If we don’t do this before the summer comes, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble,” she said.
Town as the mediator
The issue, said Swibinski, is largely between the resident-elected condo association boards at Grandview I and Grandview II, the developer, Roseland Property, and the owners of Son Cubano.
The mixed-use community was planned and approved by town officials 15 years ago, and specific plans for a restaurant to be located at that site were approved by the Zoning Board more than 10 years ago, he said.
The Port Imperial complex is privately owned, but the town has the authority to intervene for matters of public safety.
Glickstein acknowledged that off-duty policemen have been hired to patrol outside of the restaurant at the end of the night, but said, [they] are just there if a fight breaks out. They’re not preventing noise.”
Also, the police presence, Glickstein argued, does little to quell her fears about drunken patrons and their actions. She said she witnessed “a pretty bad fight” between a man and woman outside of the restaurant.
“That’s not what I want my child to see growing up,” she said.
Road to an agreement
Glickstein alleged at last week’s Town Council meeting that Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega, due to a longstanding friendship with the owner, has given special preference to the restaurant.
“The fact that the restaurant owner…has known Vega for many years has nothing to do with this issue,” Swibinski said. “[The owner and restaurant] have not received any special approvals, variances, or treatment from the Vega administration.”
Dan Horgan, the city’s attorney, has been designated the town administration’s point person on this issue, and has been involved in several meetings with the condo association boards, attorneys for the two Grandview communities, Roseland, Son Cubano, engineers, and other consultants to help negotiate an acceptable outcome for all.
Swibinski said he does not know exactly what concessions have been made, as parties involved in the meetings have agreed not to discuss matters publicly, but said Hogan has said progress has been made.
“This is the kind of thing that could easily turn into a prolonged court battle where very little is accomplished except for [incurring] legal fees,” Swibinski said. “The town is trying to work as an intermediary to prevent that from happening.”
Deanna Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.