My Thoughts On The Boston Marathon Tragedy

The shock of yesterday has left me speechless, but I will stand on my soapbox once again and advocate the use of "Paid Detail" police officers at large clubs. Go to a TD Bank and you might see a real police officer standing where everyone can see him. TD Bank was once described as too easy to rob, and they took advantage of the NYPD’s Paid Detail to beef up their security. Simply, a firm pays $37 an hour to the cop and a 10-percent administrative fee to the city and they get a cop dedicated to protecting them. Wall Street has these officers protecting their world as well. In fact, the program paid the city $1,184,000 in 2011, which means private firms shelled out $11,800,000 for armed police officers with ticket books and arresting power. The events in Boston demand a rethinking of a department policy that disallows NYC clubs to participate.

Nightclubs invariably attract hundreds – if not thousands – of revelers. Highly trained and bonded security are there to protect and serve. They mostly toss a few drunks, break up a small skirmish between frat boys, deter pocketbook and cell phone thieves, and help door people keep out troublemakers or the unkempt. They are a thin line, pretty much helpless against serious threat. An armed police officer is necessary to protect these large, nightly gatherings of people. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, usually a bastion for public safety, has nixed the Paid Detail program for premises with liquor licenses. I have been told fear of corruption is the issue, yet he’ll let them work for bankers?

Rotating cops through should easily solve that issue. The bad guys have struck clubs before and will again. The party animals boozing around and being promiscuous are a ripe target for the hateful. As I write this, it is unclear who attacked Boston and our world of wonder, but it is clear that maximum mayhem was intended. Nightclubs are built to withstand most fires and wear and tear, but are ill-equipped against determined assholes. Allowing NY City’s finest to look out for the public in places they choose to gather seems like a good idea for these times.

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Photo: usatoday.

What NYC Nightlife Can Learn From The Brazil Nightclub Tragedy

A fire in the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil has claimed 230 lives. Apparently, it was 2:15am Sunday morning when a band employed a pyrotechnic flare to excite the crowd, which lit up the ceiling’s acoustic panels. This has happened before. In Rhode Island back in February 2003, a band using pyrotechnics set acoustic materials on fire and 100 people lost their lives. According to reports, the club was engulfed in flames in approximately five and a half minutes. One of the owners was sentenced to four years in jail for 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. In 2009, fire claimed 309 patrons at a club in Luoyang, China. In 2004, 194 people died in a club in Buenos Aires. In March 1990, 87 people died at the Happy Land Disco, an unlicensed social club in the Bronx.  I was in a fire in a nightclub back in 1979. I remember it well. It scarred me for life. It happened so fast. They always say "it happened so fast.”

Tragedies like these are preventable. The laws, the regulations, the technology exist, but forces and players seem to always try to circumvent them. There are 230 families mourning in Brazil this morning. Their emotions will soon swing to anger as they realize that greed and negligence by the people tasked and required to prevent such a thing resulted in death. The Brazilian police have detained three owner/management types and, at this writing, were looking for a 4th. There will be finger pointing and investigations but none of this will bring anybody back. The only thing to hope for is that operators will learn the great lesson that they must make public safety a priority above all else.

Reports say there was only one exit working and 2,000 patrons. Reports say the fire extinguishers were not working. Reports say that security guards actually blocked patrons from leaving. It is common in Brazil for patrons to settle their tabs at the end of a night and the bright boys in security wanted cash from the fleeing customers. As the bodies laid in the makeshift morgue, cell phones rang from corpses. Desperate families were looking for the lost.

All around town there are accidents waiting to happen as some operators ignore the codes. Aisles are blocked by extra tables. After the inspections, materials are put up that are not inherently fire resistant or are not treated with fire-retardant chemicals. Acoustic tiles are put up to ease the burden for neighbors who want to sleep. Few look at the specs for fire resistance. All over town, curtains block exits. All over town, violations are issued. The fire department does its best. The building department demands exit strategies. Employees are trained. Sprinklers and costly fire suppression systems make the public feel secure. Exits are clearly marked and rarely blocked. However, political pressures have recently weakened the system.

All over town, bars and lounges have opted to allow dancing, as enforcement of cabaret laws has been lax. The so-called “dancing police” were called off by the mayor in 2004. “The city should not be in the business of deciding what goes on, whether there is dancing or not dancing.” … “We have dance police. This is craziness.” The dancing laws, the cabaret laws, go back to 1926.  They are archaic. They are currently largely ignored.

This is not a good thing in light of the Brazil fire and others like it. A patron who is dancing or watching a band is less aware of his surroundings than someone sitting at a bar having a cocktail. In the case of the Kiss fire and the Rhode Island fire, reports say that patrons were unaware of the flames until it was a full-blown maelstrom. Most patrons died from thick smoke as they tried to find an exit. I’m all for dancing, but stricter requirements on sprinkler systems and fire suppression systems are called for. Exits must be marked and not blocked, and materials need to be flame-retardent. Dancing should be everywhere, but with proper precautions. 

Sharon Needles Ticketed for Peeing on Manhattan Police Station

After leaving a party hosted by Lady Bunny at Manhattan’s XL nightclub this week, RuPaul’s Drag Race season four winner Sharon Needles realized she had to pee. Badly! So, she went into what she thought was a graffiti-laden alleyway and relieved herself. But this was no ordinary alleyway…

You see, Needles had actually been urinating on a police station, as she found out when she was subsequently tapped on the shoulder by a member of the NYPD. Needles tells Out she tried to reason with the officer, but he wasn’t having any of it, and was all "Shante, you stay right there!" before escorting her into the station.

Contrary to the assertions of one Phical Matter, Count of Snagula, however, Needles was not arrested–but she did receive a citation for public urination.

Needles is also attempting to turn her accidental police station pee non-protest into an intentional police station pee protest, for some reason:

Looking back on the incident, America’s Drag Sweetheart can see the humor in the situation.

“It wasn’t on purpose, but I think it was funny that it was a police station,” she says. “Because I find there’s so much unnecessary angst and brutality from American police officers.”

All in all, Needles says the ordeal wasn’t nearly as bad as has been reported.

“It wasn’t the worst thing America’s top drag queen could do,” she says, “it really sent home a message.”

A message, yes: figure out where you are before you whip it out and start peeing. Now… sashay away.

When Cops Manipulate Crime Stats, Clubs Pay

When cops investigate a crime, motive is at the top of their list. What motivates local police to be so anti-club sometimes? It can’t be that the patrons are having more fun then they are, can it? Most of the time cops on club details drink coffee, have a few donuts and look at the talent (the hot girls on their way to a club). They mediate little disputes. The ones on horses pose for photos with said talent. It’s all kind of cozy, with managers and security exchanging small talk with the cops, like “how ‘bout those Yankees” and “get those people on line.” Then one night all hell breaks loose and mean cops with other city agencies in tow raid the joints.

When these raids occur, the front doors are closed to patrons. It’s usual for music to be lowered and flashlights to be shined in customers’ faces. Staff is yelled at and told to move while cops and health department officials go behind bars looking for fruit flies and other violations. Papers are inspected and the smallest infraction turns into the biggest thing. Nowadays, garbage cans are sifted through for the dreaded cigarettes and floors are searched for butts, which are then photographed. This is business as usual these days in clubland. And I’m not even talking about the joints that have gotten someone really mad at them. What has motivated our glorious men and women in blue to become inglorious basterds? As the great David Bowie once offered “…Pressure.”

From the New York Times:

“More than a hundred retired New York Police Department captains and higher-ranking officers said in a survey that the intense pressure to produce annual crime reductions led some supervisors and precinct commanders to manipulate crime statistics, according to two criminologists studying the department.”

Police captains are under intense pressure to keep crime statistics down, down, down. Those that succeed become successful. They are so pressured by their puppeteers that in the pursuit of their dreams, they are stamping on the rights of due process, freedom of speech and that little constitutional nuisance, the pursuit of happiness. They punish clubs, acting as both judge and jury, and those that complain live in fear of retribution. Mayor Mike is just too powerful an entity to fight, so few do. Now comes word that police captains are fudging felony numbers. Those crime statistics are ever so important in proving the value of this, or any, administration. Both the New York Times and the New York Post have reported this story and I can only hope they will follow up on it. This is nothing short of corruption and is the motive club operators need to show why they are constantly harassed and attacked by overzealous squads of officials with stormtrooper like attitudes. Believe me, no university law professor or good citizen would believe the tactics and attitude these officials display in a raid on a taxpaying, licensed premise. Indeed I strongly advice clubs to record these visits. I guess in secret, or reprisals will surely follow. Reprisals! We live in an America where reprisals from police must be considered.

From the New York Post:

“A city police captain was forced to retire last year after he fudged crime statistics to make his precinct look safer — adding to widening concern over the accuracy of NYPD stats and the belief that top bosses pressure supervisors into cooking the books. Capt. James Arniotes, a 23-year veteran, told The Post that he was busted for reclassifying 23 grand-larceny felonies as petit-larceny misdemeanors in early 2008. The misconduct occurred while Arniotes, 48, was second in command at the Ninth Precinct in the East Village. Grand larceny is one of seven major crimes, along with murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary and grand larceny auto, that the NYPD and FBI track and publicize.”

Clubs are places where felonies occur. It’s not those murders and rapes and burglaries, but pocketbook thieves that are the problem. When a bag is grabbed at a club more than likely there is a credit card in it. This card pumps the crime into a grand theft category and the local captain trying to look good downtown is thwarted. He unleashes his gang, and here we are. Maybe simply reclassifying pickpockets and purse snatchers into a separate category will ease the pain.