Saturday, March 27, 2010

My hood

At 2 a.m. this morning, I heard the roar of a mob and went to the window. It was unsettling—the kind of thing that means nothing good is coming next. One-half block from me, there were EIGHT cruisers, lights flashing, some stacked bumper-to-bumper within a block, some placed strategically at the intersections, announcing over intercoms to "Clear the area. Get in your cars and go home." Apparently there was a dust-up of some sort in progress outside 40 Below, a very problematic nightclub. This is the same club that had an ambulance and some cruisers outside its door hours earlier. This is the same nightclub that is listed in the Recreation and Entertainment section of Bethlehem's wikipedia entry—which enrages me to no end.

Charming, isn't it?

A scrum of people and police officers roiled through my neighborhood. People were shouting, getting in cars, blasting their radios. It was so edgy that the pub near me didn't have a single person exit at what is supposed to be their closing time. I doubt anyone wanted to mistaken about which establishment they were at.

Last year I was on the phone with dispatch a handful of nights in the week, to the point where I'm certain they recognized my voice. [Despite the fact that one contentious dispatcher actually asked me if I ever considered moving, the department's response time was extraordinarily swift, which is certainly encouraging.] I don't even have to press speed-dial any more since it looks like this area is on the Bethlehem Police Department's weekend radar.

You see, I'm in the otherwise calm, genteel historic district of a beautiful city. I own property that is both residential and commercial; I have lived and worked here since 1997. This scene is diametrically opposed to the years-long personality of the location and it makes me wonder where things are headed. As you might imagine, the incidence of vandalism has ratcheted up over the last few years. This concerns me, not just for my own property, but that of my neighbors, it's part of the defensive position I take as my condo association's head of council.

So, do I try to take this to City Hall or do I resign myself to the fact I may have to start answering the phone, "Sheer Brick Studio, yo. What's crackin'?"


Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum said...

I'd be tempted to move (always in search of dark skies and all), but I'll bet you were there first! Maybe you should induce THEM to move. Perhaps they'd find a location away from downtown more to their liking, like out by the Interstate near Lehigh or Rt. 22's industrial area near the airport...

If there was a noise ordinance in Bethlehem, then that could be used to get them to move. It might help you with the troubles with your downstairs neighbor as well...

Kate Sherrod said...


Start keeping detailed records of how often Bethlehem's finest have to make these kinds of appearances in your neighborhood, and back it up, if you can make contact with someone in BPD, with data from dispatch logs (they should make this available to the public on request).

Keep an eye on your local newspaper's legal notices for the next time this club's liquor license is up for renewal (in my town it's at the end of every year; YMMV). Bear in mind the license is likely not in the same name as the club's; you might have to do some digging to find the holding company/LLC's name under which the liquor license is held.

Then, when the public hearing on renewal of the liquor license is held, go to the meeting, preferably with a decent delegation from your condo association and other neighbors(and letters from those who can't be there), and make your case for why this license should not be renewed (public disturbances, clean-up expenses, police time, any other economic impacts on other neighborhood businesses and residents, etc.)

The more data you have, and the more voices, the better your chances of success.

And if that fails, run for city council. Oh, my girl, you would be AWESOME.

wdonohue said...

If this were Chicago, I'd say you could grease your alderman and get their licenses pulled, but that probably won't work in Bethlehem. So Kate's probably got the right idea here.