Residents from West New York’s luxury waterfront condos turned out for a Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday night to petition for the return of what they said was a “quiet, peaceful community” before the arrival of an after-hours restaurant. The meeting was marked by hecklers and side remarks, highlighting notable divides between waterfront and interior residents, as well as political factions.
“[The Town of West New York] doesn’t have the power to break the law.” Mayor Vega
A little background
In December, commercial tenant Son Cubano opened in the space below the Grandview residential units at Riverwalk Place, which is one component of urban developer Roseland’s mixed-use luxury community, Port Imperial.
A group of 15 Grandview residents first appeared before the council at a commissioners’ meeting on Jan. 19. They alleged that the restaurant operates as a “nightclub” on Friday and Saturday nights until 2 a.m., disturbing quality of life in the community.
The town’s response was that local government could only intervene for matters of public safety in the privately owned complex, and that the issue had to be dealt with by the developer (Roseland), the attorneys for the two Grandview communities, Son Cubano, and the condo association boards.
Still, the town appointed town attorney Daniel Horgan as the town administration’s point person on the issue, to assist in meetings between those entities.
“We’ve made progress, in my estimation,” said Horgan, who acknowledged that the parties involved had been “diligently” working their way through all of the issues at the meetings, and that a final plan has been put in place to resolve one of them.
Henry Song, a Riverwalk Place resident who lives across from the restaurant, was the first to address the council on Wednesday night.
“The situation [every Friday and Saturday night] has only gotten worse…the traffic, the noise, the music,” he said.
He alleged that traffic is persistent, especially between the hours of 2 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the restaurant closes and valet attendants bring patrons their cars, which are lined up around the circle and down the street.
Noise intensifies at this time, said Song, painting a picture of inebriated patrons yelling, screaming, and fighting, in addition to the honking that he said ensues in the gridlock of departing cars.
“Son Cubano was told it needed to hire a police officer…that was three weeks ago and it hasn’t helped one bit,” Song said, asking Vega, “What has been done to help improve this?”
Vega responded by highlighting the town’s limitations in the matter.
“We are [presently] trying to figure out a way for [the residents and the restaurant] to get along,” he said.
“We have brought everybody into the same room,” Horgan clarified. “That’s really the town’s role....working with the two condo associations is, practically, the only way to deal with [residents’ concerns.]”
Horgan continued, “There are some things that don’t work so well, like the valet system and people congregating. We are addressing those issues…It’s a complex problem.”
A wolf in sheep’s clothes
A common sentiment that prevailed among the residents was voiced by Song: the feeling of “[having] the wool pulled over [their] eyes.”
Vega responded that it was no secret that the restaurant was going to open at that location. He said Roseland saved that space specifically to put a business in it, and that it had been advertising Son Cubano for at least two years.
Song responded, “We were all looking forward to Son Cubano. We were told that it was going to be a family restaurant with some live entertainment and would close down at 11 p.m.”
Song has an 11-month old child.
Riverwalk resident Tatiana Rubinov said they have no problem with most of the visitors coming into the mixed-use community.
“[The Shops at Riverwalk] is an extremely enjoyable place for people,” she said. “In the summertime, they’d come with their children to Ben and Jerry’s, to walk around.”
With many residents also parents, safety is also a pressing concern.
“This is not a place to raise children,” Riverwalk resident Cecilia Stromnes said, petition of 225 signatures in hand.
The security personnel, they allege, are ineffectual, and the situation warrants outside police assistance.
“We are a second response,” Vega said. “If the security personnel require more assistance, we’ll respond.”
He stated that certain circumstances, like a homicide, would warrant an expedited presence.
Mayor hopeful Dr. Felix Roque, who intends to challenge Vega in May, stood up to speak on the residents’ behalf. However, some people in the crowd gave him jeers.
“They’re residents, they’re taxpayers, they’re registered voters,” he said. “What are you going to do this weekend about this?
“We don’t have the power to break the law,” Vega responded, referring to the town’s limited authority in private property, but again noting that police have continuously responded to noise complaints.
The complex nature of the situation and the town’s difficulty in responding has some residents fearing for their property values.
“We’re in a catch-22. We don’t want media coverage because it’ll hurt property values,” said Song. “But without it, it’ll [still] hurt property values.”
He noted that even residents on the other side of the building, who cannot hear the coming and goings of patrons, are just as concerned, with one resident already putting his unit up for sale.
“[The petition] is not just 225 signatures,” Song said. “It’s 225 lost votes [for Vega in the upcoming May election].”
Deanna Cullen can be reached at email@example.com.