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The New York Times

Hell Square

URBG 790 Urban Development Workshop

Gretchen Bank, Melissa Giroux, and Francisco Sandoval
Professor Sigmund Shipp
May 2017
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Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary 2
2. Introduction 5
3. Background and Context 8
4. Methodology 12
5. Research Findings 14
6. Recommendations 29
7. Conclusion 31
8. References 32
Appendix 1: Survey 35
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1. Executive Summary (GB)

Project Summary

LES Dwellers Research & Strategies approached Hunter Colleges Department of

Urban Policy & Planning to request the assistance of a team of graduate students.
The nonprofit organization required a needs assessment to address perceptions of
public safety in what is colloquially referred to as Hell Square, an area on the
Lower East Side (LES) bounded by East Houston, Allen, Essex, and Delancey
Streets. They recently expanded the study area to cover a 24-block area bounded
by East Houston, Allen, Broome, and Clinton Streets. (Fig. 1)

Figure 1. Hell Square (Lower East Side)

Hell Square boasts the highest density of on-premise liquor licenses (OPLL)
compared to any other neighborhood across New York Citys five boroughs. After
the November 2008 rezoning of the Lower East Side by the Department of City
Planning, there was a stark increase in average rents and the number of approved
on-premise liquor licenses (Cazentre, 2017). A New York State policy that
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streamlines liquor license applications and the expansion of nightlife options in

the area acted as a vehicle for economic development, spurring much of the
rezoning and gentrification in the neighborhood, which has been called an
entertainment zone by residents and lawmakers alike. These strategies have
demonstrated little regard for the existing community and instead overwhelmingly
favor profit-making establishments, largely bars, clubs, and restaurants (New York
State Liquor Authority, 2013). Visible and measurable effects include increased
crime, serious public health and safety issues, and a general decrease in quality of

Summary of Findings

Hunter graduate students Gretchen Bank, Melissa Giroux, and Francisco Sandoval
conducted the needs assessment project for LES Dwellers as part of the Urban
Development Workshop in Spring 2017. We organized the needs assessment
around three major issues:
Crime, particularly rape and felony assault;
Residents perceptions of public safety; and
The impact (if any) that OPLL density has on quality of life.

We designed our research project using a combination of methods:

A literature review that included academic research as well as current and
recent media coverage of Hell Square and LES Dwellers activities;
Targeted surveys sent to neighborhood residents and business owners;
Three focus group interviews; and
Data analysis of material from sources including NYPD crime data available
through OpenData NYC, 311 call data, and GIS maps depicting OPLL
provided by the New York State Liquor Authority. We were fortunate in
that the LES Dwellers already had a substantial amount of data to share
with the team. We decided to focus on NYPD crime statistics for the years
between 2011 and 2016, as well as on some of the New York State material on

Our primary data sources included the targeted surveys, three focus groups, and
our conversation with LES Dwellers. Our secondary data sources comprised the
literature review and the wealth of data assembled by LES Dwellers.

Findings in brief
As described, we focused on three major issues: crime, perceptions of public safety,
and quality of life issues. We found that crime statistics for rape and felony assault
are up nearly 45 and 14 percent, respectively, at a time when these crimes are
declining throughout New York City (The City of New York, 2017). Neighborhood
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residents and business owners feel less and less safe in their own neighborhood, as
evidenced by many of the statements captured in the focus groups and on the
surveys. And the decline in quality of life is largely focused on noise problems and
the increase in rents, which contributes to faster residential turnover throughout
the area.

Detailed material on our findings appears in Section 5, Research Findings.

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2. Introduction (GB)


LES Dwellers is a nonprofit activist organization working on shaping

neighborhoods by valuing what came before, redefining what is now, and investing
in what tomorrow can be. Formed primarily of Lower East Side residents, the
group advocates for a well-served neighborhood with transparent and inclusive
representation and a high standard of living. Volunteers lead the organization, and
conduct research, comment publicly, communicate regularly with neighbors, and
promote policy solutions. More information is available at

Team bios
As stated above, Hunter graduate students Gretchen Bank, Melissa Giroux, and
Francisco Sandoval conducted the needs assessment project for LES Dwellers. All
three are candidates for the Masters in Urban Policy and Leadership. Brief bios of
each appear in the following paragraphs.

Gretchen Bank
Gretchen is a committed urbanist with 30+ years in the architecture and
engineering industry spanning local, national, and international experience. She
spent the first part of her career at national organizations including the American
Institute of Architects (AIA) Research Corporation, the federal Advisory Council
on Historic Preservation, and the National Academy of Sciences Building Research
Board. For 25 years, she has been engaged in integrated marketing,
communications, and business development for global architecture and
engineering firms in increasingly senior roles.

Her passion for cities is reflected in her pro bono work in New York City and New
Orleans. In 2013, she was one of the editors of the AIANY-led Post-Sandy Initiative
Report on resilience planning, Building Better, Building Smarter: Opportunities for
Design and Development. As an active participant in New York New Visions, she
led the editorial team that produced Principles for the Rebuilding of Lower
Manhattan in the first 90 days after 9/11. She also participated in public meetings
that resulted in the Unified New Orleans Plan after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She
is an active member of AIA New York Citys Committee on Design for Risk and
Reconstruction (DfRR), which focuses on anticipating risk, resiliency planning,
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and mitigation strategies, and presenting those to the industry and the public.

Melissa Giroux
Melissa Giroux is an education administrator in New York City public schools,
with a particular passion for standards-based grading curriculum development and
career and technical education. She was a special education English and Social
Studies teacher at transfer high schools in the South Bronx for six years before
transitioning into a leadership role with the Citizen Schools non-profit
organization at schools in Brooklyn and Harlem. Her love for teaching and
learning drives her to find ways to break down the walls between school and the
so-called real world, partnering with professionals from around New York City to
teach career-based apprenticeships to her students, traveling around the United
States with students for service learning projects, and writing personalized, digital,
and rigorous curriculum to meet the needs of 21st century learners.

Francisco Sandoval
Francisco Sandoval is a higher education professional at the City University of New
York with an expertise in admissions and recruitment. He began his career at
Hunter College where he served as college assistant in the Undergraduate
Admissions Office. He briefly went on to work at the School of Professional
Studies where he served as an administrative assistant in the Office of Faculty
Development and Instructional Technology. He currently serves as an Admissions
Coordinator at Bronx Community College where he functions as an administrator.
He utilizes technology to improve avenues for communication with students and
streamline business processes at the point of admission to the college. He leads an
admissions processing team and plays an active role in recruitment outreach
efforts with local high schools and community-based organizations to increase
enrollment and retention at the college.


A New York State economic development strategy focused on creating an

entertainment zone in this area of the Lower East Side became the major driver
of radical change in this community. Hell Square on the Lower East Side has one
of the densest concentrations of on-site liquor establishments (restaurants, bars,
and nightclubs) in the country. The bars are on the ground floors of century-old
tenement buildings that house a mix of residents ranging in incomes, ages, and
nationalities. Hell Square is a destination for bar-goers until 4 a.m. most nights of
the week, creating problems for those who call the area home. Residents and
daytime business owners in Hell Square endure fallout from that, which includes
overserving, underage drinking, traffic congestion, noise, litter, public urination,
fights, and a growth in major crime. (Dwellers, 2017)
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LES Dwellers requested that the Hunter team investigate crime and safety
conditions and perceptions in the area. They also asked that evaluations and
assessments consider revitalization trends centered on alcohol outlet density and
how it relates to gentrification patterns, income inequality, and displacement.
Hell Square currently boasts an extremely high density of on-premises liquor
licenses (OPLL), compared to other neighborhoods across the five boroughs of
New York City. Our needs assessment focused on three major issues: crime (rape
and felony assault), perceptions neighborhood stakeholders have regarding public
safety, and the impact (if any) OPLL density has on quality of life (Toomey, et al.,

Research question

Our major research question was this: whether the density of these OPLL bars has
any effect on crime, public safety (perceptions), and quality of life.

Significance and impact of the project

As mentioned in the Executive Summary, Hell Square has become an

entertainment zone. While this has resulted in an extremely profitable nightlife
economy, many residents are now the victims of unforeseen associated effects such
as an increase in violent crime, particularly rapes and felony assaults; a sense that
the neighborhood is increasingly unsafe; and a general decrease in the quality of
life. As a result, Hell Square has become contested space where residents find
themselves battling corporate interests, state-led economic development
incentives, and Community Board 3.

LES Dwellers and neighborhood stakeholders have collaborated in resistance to

these changes; however, they have found little support from local and state
authorities. Precinct 7, Sector C, of the New York Police Department (NYPD),
Manhattans smallest precinct, serves the area. Manhattan Community Board 3
(CB3) covers the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and the East Village. According to
our respondents, neither Precinct 7 nor CB3 has been accommodating to requests
related to ameliorating problems caused by the nightlife, although both are very
responsive on other issues.

As we understand it, it is LES Dwellers hope that our research, needs assessment,
and this report will become tools for them to use in their continued efforts to
resolve the situation.
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3. Background and Context (MG)

Secondary Literature Review

Our survey of literature focused on the impact of high liquor license density on
crime, public safety, and quality of life. We found a range of academic papers
focused on alcohol access and violent crimes such as assault and rape, as well as
many government reports funded by small municipalities looking to support
residents in their fight against increased alcohol outlet density.

Crime and Perceptions of Public Safety

Our literature review suggests that in cities and neighborhoods with high outlet
density, there is increased risk of violent crime. One study in Minnesota found that
violent crime rises approximately 4% with a 20% increase in alcohol outlets
(Toomey et. al., 2012). These findings were focused primarily on licenses for on-site
consumption (bars and restaurants) rather than liquor stores, which matches the
current challenges facing residents of the Lower East Side, where there are many
more on-site licenses than stores for take-away purchase. Additionally, another
study comparing crime and alcohol outlet density at the block and census-tract
level found that OPPL density was the single greatest predictor of violent crime
(Speer et. al., 1998), suggesting that this increased violence may put underaged
drinkers at higher risk for being involved in crime than other residents.

Other research suggested that the increase in crime caused by bar density is even
higher when bars stay open later, particularly dance clubs and cabaret licenses. A
researcher in St. Louis found that non-violent crimes decreased as the distance
from clusters of bars with special 3 a.m. licenses increased, between the hours of
midnight and 6 a.m. (Schulz, 2017). These crimes can also have an economic
impact on areas with high OPLL density. Researchers estimated that, on average,
eliminating one bar per zip code in California would reduce the number of assaults
requiring overnight hospitalization by 290 per year in the state (American Journal
of Preventative Medicine, 2009).

Quality of Life

Research around OPLL and quality of life issues centered on a few major problems:
noise, vandalism, traffic, and public urination and vomiting. In one study of
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problems caused by high OPLL density near college campuses, residents were 23%
more likely to have experienced excess noise, litter, vandalism, or public
intoxication-caused vomiting or urination near their property. While initial
reactions were that these were directly tied to the universities or colleges rather
than the bars, path analysis indicated that residing near a college does not appear
to be sufficient for experiencing high rates of secondhand problems. The colleges
contribution to neighborhood problems appears to operate through the presence
of alcohol outlets (Wechsler et. al., 2002). Experts in alcohol policy encourage
local municipalities to curb the number of outlets allowed in contained areas.
Doing so may also provide additional benefits for quality of life by reducing
community problems such as loitering, public disturbances, and vandalism
(American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2009).

Beyond the disruption caused daily to residents of areas with high OPLL density,
these problems can lead to a larger economic and cultural disintegration in the
neighborhood. A Chicago study found that in zones with high OPLL density, the
area's economic base loses its diversity and becomes less attractive to both
residents and potential retail customers. The proliferation of alcohol outlets is
thus both a symptom of economic decline and a factor that worsens the decline.
Eventually, only more bars or restaurants will want to open in an entertainment
zone, making it impossible for any other business to succeed and increasing
turnover of residential tenants, thereby exacerbating the problem (Maxwell and
Immergluck, 1997). Additionally, alcohol outlet density was strongly associated
with reduced indicators of social capital such as community participation, (Theall
et. al., 2o09), which can chip away at the perception of safety and trust amongst

Contemporary Research and Local News

Our third set of research centered on local news sources covering the issues on the
Lower East Side related to the proliferation of bars and clubs. We wanted to gain a
sense of the publics attitude before drafting our survey and focus group questions,
as well as to read the public responses provided by government representatives
from the police precinct, Community Board 3, and state liquor authority. There
has been extensive coverage of the crime and quality of life issues by news sources
ranging from The New York Times (Barron, 2013) and The Villager (Patterson, 2016)
to community blogs like Bowery Boogie (staff, 2017) and Gothamist (Casey, 2014),
largely covering violence and public intoxication issues in the area.

One New York Times article (Barron, 2013) helps to give context to the situation
Lower East Side residents are facing.
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Hell Square, nine blocks between East Houston and Delancey

Streets and Allen and Essex Streets, has about 50 bars and
restaurants that serve liquor, and about 35 of them stay open until 4
a.m. Dennis Rosen, the chairman of the New York State Liquor
Authority, described it several months ago as one of the most
saturated areas in the city probably one of the most saturated in
the world in terms of liquor licenses.

An article from the Villager (Patterson, 2016) provides photos to

contextualize the noise and traffic issues caused by so many drinkers:

A bar patron taken

away by EMS

The next night in Hell

Square, a different drunk
was causing a different
problem, this time
standing in traffic on
Delancey St. and begging
drivers to run him over.
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Many of the news reports were written after extreme cases of violence, focusing on
the crimes themselves rather than their relationships to the bars in the area. One
example of this type of coverage comes from NBC New York after an alleged brawl
outside a bar in Hell Square.

The NYPD and the State Liquor Authority are looking into the massive fight
outside The DL bar at 95 Delancey St. late Sunday night. Surveillance video
shows a group throwing punches and a woman getting knocked down during
the fight. People start shoving and chasing each other, and the fight continues
to move down the street.
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4. Methodology (MG)

In conducting research for this needs assessment, we used both qualitative and
quantitative data to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing residents
and small business owners in the Lower East Side.

Our quantitative data consisted of secondary data collected by OpenDataNYC

(The City of New York, 2017) and primary data from our surveys. Our qualitative
data came from the surveys and focus groups. In all cases, we have structured our
work to focus on the three major issues identified in the Introduction: crime,
perceptions of public safety, and quality of life issues.

Primary Data


We distributed the survey electronically to residents and business owners on the

Lower East Side through an email listserv managed by our client, LES Dwellers, as
well as via other residents who had previously organized groups of neighbors to
protest specific liquor licenses. We had 123 survey respondents; however, only 89
completed the entire survey. The survey, which appears in Appendix A, asked
residents or business owners questions about their perceptions of safety and
quality of life in the neighborhood as the retail makeup has changed, what
problems they believe are most challenging for residents, and if there are specific
areas or establishments that are most often at the root of these issues.

Focus Groups

During the week of April 17, we conducted three focus groups totaling 19 residents,
including local business owners, one local politician and former resident, and one
New York State alcohol policy expert. The focus group discussions centered
around changes in crime and quality of life in the neighborhood, health and
economic impacts of the issues caused by on-site liquor consumption, and
residents visions for more sustainable and safe neighborhood economic
development. Focus groups took one to three hours and were facilitated by one or
two members of our research team. We recorded the focus groups and did content
analysis to look for common themes and anecdotal evidence that would support
our primary crime data and our secondary survey data.
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Focus Group Questions:

How long have you lived in the neighborhood?

How has the neighborhood changed, if at all?
In your opinion, what are the biggest changes?
Have you observed anything particular related to public health and/or
safety issues?
What is your vision for the future of this area?
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5. Research Findings (FS)

Target Population

This section discusses the demographic information pertaining to the target

population in our study. We will describe our populations regional information
(blocks they reside or work on), length of time residing or working in Hell Square,
age, employment status, gender, income, race, and ethnicity. These characteristics
will be accompanied by visual representations including maps, tables, charts, and

Regional Information
Our survey respondents live, work, or both live and work in Hell Square (or in the
immediate area surrounding it). We chose to identify our neighborhood
stakeholders and those who reside or work in this section of the Lower East Side.
We asked respondents to indicate which block in Hell Square they reside or work
in. Each block was designated by a letter (Figure 2)

The block with the highest percentage of

respondents that live or work in is Block I. 13.25%
of respondents answered that they live or work
there. The block with the second highest number
of responses was Block R at 12.05%. Finally, third
highest was Block A with 8.43% of the collected
responses (Figure 2).

Most survey respondents, however, answered

they live outside the confines of Hell Square as
depicted in the survey. 20.48% of our respondents
selected the Other option. They reside just
outside the boundaries of East Houston Street,
Clinton Street, Broome Street, and Allen Street.

Figure 2
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Length of Residency

Most respondents are long-term stakeholders of the Lower East Side, with 40.24%
(33 people) of all respondents having lived or worked there for over 20 years.
36.59% (30 people) of respondents indicated between 10 and 20 years (Figure 3).

Figure 3

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Most respondents (twenty-seven people) are 45 to 54 years of age. They account

for 34.62% of survey respondents. Two respondents were 12 to 17, one is 18 to 24,
eleven are 25 to 34, twenty are 35 to 44, thirteen are 55 to 64, and four are 65 to 74
(Figure 4).

Figure 4

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Employment Status

The majority (forty-five) of our respondents are employed on a full-time basis. Six
are employed part-time, three are unemployed, two are retired, two are disabled or
unable to work, and eighteen self-employed (Figure 5).

Figure 5

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Most of our respondents (forty-four) are female. Thirty-two respondents are male
and two respondents preferred not to answer (Figure 6).

Figure 6

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Most respondents (15) have an annual household income of $100,000 to $149,999.

Four respondents reported having incomes less than $20,000, four earned $20,000
to $34,999, nine earned $35,000 to $49,999, eleven earned $50,000 to $74,999,
eleven earned $75,000 to $99,999, eight reported earning $150,000 to $199,999, and
finally seven respondents have an annual household income over $200,000 (Figure

Figure 7

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Race and Ethnicity

Most of our respondents were white. They account for 77.63% (59 people) of all
respondents. Thirteen respondents are Asian, three are Hispanic or Latino, and
two are Black. Seven respondents identified as Other (Figure 8). Those who
responded as other indicated mixed heritage or as Middle Eastern.

Figure 8

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Perceptions of Crime and Crime Trends

This section will discuss crime perceptions in Hell Square and crime trends on the
Lower East Side which includes Hell Square, Williamsburg, and New York City
overall for years 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Crime data for 2017 was not included in
this analysis because the data are incomplete. The crimes that will be analyzed are
rape and felony assault. Reported rapes have been steadily increasing in the
neighborhood surrounding Hell Square and felony assaults have also increased
over the last four years.

Perceptions of Crime

Survey respondents have reported witnessing harassment, which can lead to

violent crimes, and assaults. In addition, 35.94% (23) of survey takers believe that
rape has had a major increase the last five years and 29.69% (19) believe there has
been a slight increase (Figure 9). Further, 50% (34) of respondents believe that
assault/battery incidences have had a major increase and 26.47% (18) believe there
has been a slight increase (Figure 9). In addition, 60.56% (43 out of 71) of
respondents reported witnessing assault/battery. Neighborhood stakeholders hold
the perception that violent crimes like rape and assault are on the rise.

Figure 9

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Crime Trends

This section analyzes crime data beginning 2013 to 2016 in Precinct 7 (includes Hell
Square). Afterwards, we will review a comparative analysis between Precinct 7 to
Precinct 90 (Williamsburg) and New York City overall. The purpose is to find out
whether there is correlation between neighborhoods with a high density of OPLL
and higher rates of rape and felony assaults. In addition, this section will compare
crime data from these two precincts to New York City as a whole. Crime data was
aggregated from the OpenData NYC historical crime database.

As seen in Figure 10, Precinct 7 reported an average increase of 44.71% in reported

rapes and a 13.75% average increase in felony assaults from 2013 to 2016. There was
an 88.89% increase in reported rapes from 2015 (9 reported rapes) to 2016 (17
reported rapes).
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Figure 10

Precinct 7 (Hell Square)

Year Reported Rapes Percent Change Felony Assaults Percent Change
2013 6 106
2014 7 16.67% 153 44.34%
2015 9 28.57% 144 -5.88%
2016 17 88.89% 148 2.78%
Average Change 44.71% 13.75%
Precinct 90 (Williamsburg)
Year Reported Rapes Percent Change Felony Assaults Percent Change
2013 17 257
2014 15 -11.76% 240 -6.61%
2015 19 26.67% 180 -25.00%
2016 22 15.79% 228 26.67%
Average Change 10.23% -1.65%
New York City
Year Reported Rapes Percent Change Felony Assaults Percent Change
2013 1378 20297
2014 1352 -1.89% 20207 -0.44%
2015 1438 6.36% 20270 0.31%
2016 1438 0.00% 20847 2.85%
Average Change 1.49% 0.90%

Similarly, Precinct 90 reported an average increase of 10.23% in reported rapes.

However, the precinct experienced an overall decrease in the frequency of felony
assaults in those years. Cases of felony assault decreased by an average of 1.65%.
The only year Precinct 90 reported an increase in felony assaults was from 2015 to
2016, where there was a 26.67% increase.

In New York City overall, reported rapes have held steady, only increasing by an
average of 1.49% from 2013 to 2016. In addition, there was no change in rape
incidents from 2015 to 2016. Felony assaults citywide also has held stable over the
past four years only reporting an average increase of 0.90% during this span.

Its clear that Precinct 7 and Hell Square is experiencing an increase in rape and
felony assault incidents. This trend is contrary to the trend the New York City
overall has undergone.
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OPLL in Hell Square

This section will discuss the density of OPLL in Hell Square (Figure 11). The land
area in Hell Square is approximately 57 acres per the GIS maps provided by the
New York State Liquor Authority (New York State Liquor Authority, 2017). There
are over 130 active OPLL in this limited space. This translates to approximately 2.3
bars per acre, or 11.5 bars per block. This makes Hell Square the area with the
highest density of OPLL in NYC.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn is another neighborhood in New York City that has a

similarly high density of OPLL in a limited space. Figures 11 and 12 map OPLL
locations in Hell Square and Williamsburg side by side. As shown in the previous
section, we conducted a comparative analysis of crime rates in these two areas
because both neighborhoods have high OPLL densities.

Figure 11 Figure 12

Hell Square (LES) Williamsburg, Brooklyn

GIS provided by NYS Liquor Authority(LAMP)

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Focus Group Findings

Perceptions of Crime

Participants from the three focus groups mirrored survey respondents when
discussing perceived changes in crime occurring in Hell Square. As previously
reviewed in the section analyzing perceptions of crime, a 25-year resident noted:
On a noon...outside Libation during brunch the fight spilled
out. Some guy slashed another guy across the neck. While the ambulance
and cops are there, the whole street is filled with people but the bar stays

The resident echoed the notion that during peak drinking hours, fights are more
likely to occur. Fights then escalate into deadlier forms of violent crime, such as
felony assault.

Another focus group participant, a 19-year resident, discussed the violent

atmosphere in Hell Square:
There was this belligerent fight between some locals and some white guys
here to drink in the neighborhood. The visitors were drunk screaming get
out of our country. Turned into a huge mob fight.

Perceptions of Public Safety

Another theme that surfaced from the focus groups was the perception of public
safety in the neighborhood. Survey respondents noted feeling unsafe during
nighttime hours as opposed to daytime hours (Figure 13).
Figure 13
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Respondents tended to feel less safe between the hours of 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM
(peak drinking hours) and in contrast, feeling safer from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM
(daytime hours).

A 20-year resident from the focus groups discussed an experience he had walking
around Hell Square at night:

I won't even walk through the neighborhood. It's so dangerous on

Thursday Friday Saturday, almost every night. I mean it's not just
dangerous but it's just offensive. Ive never been called a faggot more in my
life than in the last three years in this neighborhood.

The participant went on to describe how unsafe he felt walking around at night,
especially during the weekends. He prefers to stay outside the neighborhood in an
effort to avoid the harassment hes experienced.

A young woman from a focus group echoed this notion, describing her own
experience with harassment in Hell Square:

The other day this drunk guy cat-called me on my own doorstep then he
said, What you f**king bitch you dont want me? I send my daughter to
self-defense classes because of guys like this.

Stakeholders in Hell Square are expressing that they are feeling increasingly unsafe
walking around in the neighborhood. Survey respondents and focus group
participants both describe nighttime hours, particularly on weekends, as when the
neighborhood is most unsafe.

Quality of Life

Focus group participants also discussed their problems with the quality of life
issues. Figure 14 depicts survey respondents top problems they face living in Hell
Square. Most respondents indicated that nighttime noise is the biggest problem
they face. In addition, 90.9% of all respondents ranked nighttime noise as either
their first, second, or third biggest problem.
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Figure 14
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A focus group participant who has lived in the neighborhood for one year
reinforced the severity of this problem:

I dont even share a wall with the lounge...theres no reason that it should
sound like Drake is in my living room, but it does.

The noise problem is so severe that a 16-year resident who participated in the focus
groups that she has to resort to extreme measures to sleep:

I sleep with the AC on in the winter because of the noise.

A 22-year resident described the noise problem related to construction occurring

in the early morning hours:

We've had concrete pumper trucks on Orchard Street now come at 4:00 in
the morning - can you do construction at 4 in the morning? Well, theyve
started here.

Nighttime noise is expressed as the top quality of life problem that neighborhood
residents are experiencing. However, the conditions of the streets the morning
after has also been a problem discussed in one of the focus groups.

A local business owner and resident describes the measures she needs to go to in
order to keep her storefront clean and presentable:

I have a subterranean store so there's steps that lead down and people treat
it as a urinal, as a place to throw up...But just to give you an idea, in
summer...the throw up will be on the steps. We get there at 9:00 or 10:00 in
the morning and it has fermented, it has crusted, it has dried the stomach
acid, it's caked, it stains my steps for weeks after.

But you know I also have employees and I'm not there every day...I feel
badly that this is a part of working at my store, that you're going to have to
deal with doing this and it's disgusting. I mean we have we have a whole kit
now to do it. We've got our bleach bucket, we have medical rubber gloves

The focus groups were essential in identifying major issues that local stakeholders
are facing in their daily lives.
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6. Recommendations (GB)

Based on our research findings, we have assembled two sets of recommendations

for LES Dwellers, one set from the people we met in the three focus groups, and
one set from the team. We recognize that some of these recommendations would
be relatively easy to achieve, while others would require significant on-the-ground
work to effect policy change within existing governmental structures and

At the conclusion of each focus group, we asked participants what they wanted to
see in the neighborhood in the coming years.

Focus Group #1 recommended cutting the number of liquor licenses in half, and
increasing the NYPDs street presence and approach to enforcement during bar

Focus Group #2 focused on broader visions, including establishing a Brooklyn

Navy Yard-type facility (empowerment zones, low-tax/tax-free) that could
accommodate small business incubators, makers spaces, light manufacturing, etc.
They also suggested developing a strategy to court new types of development that
would be more appropriate for the neighborhood, and would help to limit the
entertainment zone.

Focus Group #3 suggested increased vetting by Community Board 3s SLA

Committee when reviewing applications for liquor licenses, as well as revising the
composition of Community Board 3 when members terms are completed to gain
more balance.

As the research team, we listened to and agreed with these points. We also
believe that there is a need to document violent crimes that occur in the area that
typically do not get recorded in the NYPD databases (NYPD, 2017); these
information gaps occur because of late or no responses by the NYPD. We feel that
this would tie in well with Focus Group #1s recommendation to increase police
presence on certain blocks during peak drinking hours.

We would also recommend other data analyses efforts: one to compare findings
captured during stakeouts to data uploaded and reported in CompStat (NYPD,
2017) on a weekly, daily, and/or monthly basis; and one focused on public health
issues, such as the relationship between alcohol and disease transmission. During
our study, we were unable to obtain sufficient data on public health to analyze it.
Hell Square | 30

Finally, we recommend that LES Dwellers continue this work in the Fall 2017
semester by engaging another team from the Urban Development Workshop. LES
Dwellers and the next Hunter team can build on our research and findings, and
will have the opportunity to do deep dives into some of the issues and
recommendations described above, such as investigating the local economic
development council for New York City under the Cuomo Administrations
START-UP NY program (The State of New York, 2017). It might also be useful to
explore the relationship of the issues facing Hell Square with invasion and
succession theory as applied to a specific urban area.
Hell Square | 31

7. Conclusion (GB)

Reviewing our central research question, we have concluded that there is in fact a
direct relationship between the density of nightlife establishments in Hell Square,
and crime, perceptions of public safety, and quality of life issues (Picone,
MacDonald, SLoan, Platt, & Kertesz, 2010). As presented earlier, crime statistics for
rape and felony assault are up nearly 45 and 14 percent, respectively, at a time
when these crimes are declining throughout New York City. Neighborhood
residents and business owners feel less and less safe in their own neighborhood, as
evidenced by many of the statements captured in the focus groups and on the
surveys. And the decline in quality of life is largely focused on noise problems and
the increase in rents, which contributes to faster residential turnover throughout
the area.
We are convinced that this project deserves more study as the basis for developing
innovative solutions to a set of problems that appears intractable, but may, just
possibly, be manageable.
Hell Square | 32

8. References (FS)

American Journal of Preventative Medicine. (2009, December). The Community

Guide. Retrieved from The Community Guide:

Barron, J. (2013, October 21). In Area Already Filled With Bars, a Proposal to Add
One More Draws Opposition. New York Times, p. A19.

Casey, N. (2014, December 24). Video: 11 Minutes Of Drunks, Fights & Public
Urination In LES "Hell Square". Gothamist.

Cazentre, D. (2017, May 18). Cuomo proposes end to Sunday morning booze ban,
other alcohol law reforms. Retrieved from New York Upstate:

Lees, L., Slater, T., & Wyly, E. (2008). Gentrification. New York: Routledge/Taylor &
Francis LLC.

LES Dwellers. (2017, March). L.E.S. Dwellers Research & Strategies. Retrieved from
L.E.S. Dwellers Research & Strategies:

Maxwell, A., & Immergluck, D. (1997). Liquorlining: Liquor Store Concentration and
Community Development in Lower-income Cook County Neighborhoods.
Woodstock Institute.

New York State Liquor Authority. (2013, December 12). STATEMENT BEFORE THE
ON SMALL BUSINESS. Retrieved from New York State Liquor Authority:

New York State Liquor Authority. (2017, April). Mapping Project - LAMP. Retrieved
from The State of New York:
Hell Square | 33

NYPD. (2017, May). NYPD CompStat. Retrieved from NYPD CompStat:

Patterson, C. (2016, November 10). Theres a reason they call it Hell Square. The

Picone, G., MacDonald, J., Sloan, F., Platt, A., & Kertesz, S. (2010). The effects of
residential proximity to bars on alcohol consumption. International Journal
of Health Care Finance and Economics, 347-367.

Royse, D., Staton-Tindall, M., Badger, K., & Webster, M. J. (2009). Needs

Shulz, R. (2017, February 22). Public Health. Retrieved from Washington University
in St. Louis:

Soriano, F. (1995). Conducting Needs Assessments: A Multidisciplinary Approach.

Sage Publications.

Speer, P., Gorman, D., Labouvie, E., & Ontkush, M. (1998). Violent Crime and
Alcohol Availability: Relationships in an Urban Community. Journal of
Public Health Policy, 303-318.

Staff. (2017, January 9). Hell Square Headache Mazaar Lounge up for Liquor
License Renewal. Bowery Boogie.

The City of New York. (2017, April). 311 Service Requests from 2010 to Present.
Retrieved from NYC Open Data:

The City of New York. (2017, March). Historical New York City Crime Data.
Retrieved from Open Data NYC:

The State of New York. (2016, September 7). Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation to
Modernize New York's Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. New York State.

The State of New York. (2017, May). StartUP New York. Retrieved from StartUP
New York:

Theall, K. P., Scribner, R., Cohen, D., Bluthenthal, R. N., Schonlau, M., Lynch, S., &
Hell Square | 34

Farley, T. A. (2009). The neighborhood alcohol environment and alcohol-

related morbidity. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 491-499.

Toomey, T. L., Erickson, D. J., Carlin, H. Q., Harwood, E. M., Lenk, K. M., &
Ecklund, A. M. (2012). Is the Density of Alcohol Establishments Related to
Nonviolent Crime? J Stud Alcohol Drugs , 21-25.

Wechsler, H., Weitzman, E. R., Alison, F., & Folkman, K. L. (2002). The relationship
of alcohol outlet density to heavy and frequent drinking and drinking-related
problems among college students at eight universities. Boston: Harvard
School of Public Health.
Hell Square | 35

Appendix 1

Lower East Side Public Safety Survey

Thank you for taking time to do this survey. We are working with the LES Dwellers
to find out how changes in this part of the Lower East Side affect the safety and
comfort of the people who live and work here. Information from this survey will be
used to encourage the local NYPD precinct, Community Board 3, and elected
officials to enforce and adopt policies that protect you, the residents. Your
participation in this survey is voluntary. You may refuse to take part in the
research or exit the survey at any time. You are free to decline to answer any
question you do not wish to answer for any reason. This should take approximately
5 minutes to complete.

Consent Form to Conduct a Survey

Hello, we are graduate students from Hunter College: Department of Urban Policy
and Planning. With the help of Prof. Sigmund Shipp, we are conducting survey
that will be used in our urban development workshop project for the Spring 2017
semester. The project involves our client LES Dwellers and their project will look
at how changes in the Lower East Side affect the safety and comfort of the people
who live and work there. If you agree to participate, we will ask you questions that
will be designed to provide information about our project. We do not anticipate
any risks to study participants. There will be no benefits for people participating in
this study but we hope to learn more about perceptions of public safety and crime
in the Lower East Side. Your participation is voluntary, and refusal to participate
will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to which you are entitled. In addition,
you can choose not to answer any particular question at any time. The research
will be used only for classroom instruction. None of the materials or interviews
will be published or used for wider dissemination. We can provide you with a copy
of the final product. If you have any questions about this study, you can contact
Prof. Sigmund C. Shipp, the faculty supervisor, at Every
measure will be undertaken to guarantee the confidentiality of your responses.
Hell Square | 36


I have read this form and been encouraged to ask questions. I have received
answers to my questions. I give my consent to participate in this study. I have
received or will request to receive a copy of this form for my records and future

Signature: ____________________________________________ Date:_____________


Q1) Do you live or work on the Lower East Side?




Q2) How long have you lived or worked on the Lower East Side?

Less than a year (Enter number of months) ____________________

1 to 5 years

5 to 10 years

10 to 20 years

Over 20 years

Q36 Please indicate which letter block you live or work on based on the map below. You
may select Other if you live outside of these blocks.
Hell Square | 37

Q3) Which block do you live on?

Hell Square | 38


Q4) What things do you see as problems facing this neighborhood? Check all that
Hell Square | 39


Noise (Daytime)

Noise (Nighttime)


Delivery & service truck schedules and routes

Blocked bike lanes

Blocked sidewalks

Sidewalk cleanliness



Other ____________________

Q5) Please rank your top 3 problems below. (1 being most severe and 3 being least)

______ Noise (Daytime)

______ Noise (Nighttime)

______ Sanitation

______ Delivery & service truck schedules and routes

______ Blocked bike lanes

______ Blocked sidewalks

______ Sidewalk cleanliness

______ Traffic

______ Crime

______ Other
Hell Square | 40

Q6) How satisfied are you with the following public services in your

Extremely Somewhat Neither Somewhat Extremely

satisfied satisfied satisfied dissatisfied dissatisfied




Q7) Have you witnessed crime in this neighborhood in the last five years?



Q8) Have you been a victim of crime in this neighborhood in the last five years?


Hell Square | 41

Q9) Which of the following major & misdemeanor crimes have you witnessed in
this neighborhood in the last five years? (Check all that apply)





Property damage


DUI/DWI (Driving Under the Influence/Driving While Intoxicated)

Other ____________________

Q10) Which of the following major & misdemeanor crimes have you been a victim
of in this neighborhood in the last five years? (Check all that apply)





Property damage


DUI/DWI (Driving Under the Influence/Driving While Intoxicated)

Other ____________________
Hell Square | 42

Q11) Which of the following quality of life offenses and/or criminal violations have
you witnessed in this neighborhood in the last five years? (Check all that apply)


Public intoxication

Public urination or vomiting




Public drug use

Discarded drug contents

Other ____________________

Q12) Which of the following quality of life offenses and/or criminal violations have
you been a victim of in this neighborhood in the last five years? (Check all that


Public intoxication

Public urination or vomiting




Public drug use

Discarded drugs or drug contents

Other ____________________
Hell Square | 43

Q13) Please mark the change that has occurred in the last five years for the
following crimes below in your opinion.

Major Slight No Slight Major

Increase Increase Change Decrease Decrease





Property Damage

(Driving Under
g While

Q14) Please mark the change that has occurred in the last five years for the
following quality of life offenses and/or criminal violations below in your opinion.

Major Slight No Slight Major

Increase Increase Change Decrease Decrease


Public urination
& vomiting

Hell Square | 44




Public drug use

Discarded drugs
or drug contents

Q15) How safe do you feel in your neighborhood at the following times?

Very Safe Safe Neither Unsafe Very

safe nor Unsafe

6:00 AM to
10:00 AM

10:00 AM
to 2:00 PM

2:00 PM to
6:00 PM

6:00 PM to
10:00 PM

10:00 PM
to 2:00 AM

2:00 AM to
6:00 AM
Hell Square | 45

Q16) How long do you plan on living or working in this neighborhood?

1 year or less

2 to 5 years

5 to 10 years

More than 10 years


Q17) How satisfied are you with the changes in the local retail environment in this

Extremely Somewhat Neither Somewhat Extremely

satisfied satisfied satisfied dissatisfied dissatisfied

Bars, lounges
& nightclubs

(sit in)

(fast food)

& dry

Hell Square | 46

stores &

Q18) Do you visit restaurants in this neighborhood?



Q19) If yes, which restaurant is your favorite?

Q20) Why?

Q21) Which is your least favorite?

Q22) Why?

Q23) Do you visit bars, lounges, or nightclubs in this neighborhood?



Q24) If yes, which bar, lounge, or nightclub is your favorite?

Hell Square | 47

Q25) Why?

Q26) Which is your least favorite?

Q27) Why?

Q28) What is your age?

12 to 17

18 to 24

25 to 34

35 to 44

45 to 54

55 to 64

65 to 74

75 and over

Q29) Gender




Prefer not to answer

Q30) What is your employment status?

Full time (working 35 hours or more per week)

Hell Square | 48

Part time (working less than 35 hours per week)



Disabled or unable to work

Self employed

Q31) Do you rent or own?



Q32) What is your total annual household income?

Less than $20,000

$20,000 to $34,999

$35,000 to $49,999

$50,000 to $74,999

$75,000 to $99,999

$100,000 to $149,999

$150,000 to $199,999

$200,000 or more

Q33) Please indicate your race or ethnicity (Check all that apply)


Black or African American

Hispanic or Latino
Hell Square | 49


Other ____________________

Q34) What is the primary language spoken in your household?



Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, or other Chinese dialect)

Other ____________________

Q35) Please state any additional comments, information, or concerns about this
neighborhood below.