Neighborhood activists on the Lower East Side are pointing to a new study that they say shows the neighborhood's explosion of bars and liquor licenses has led to an explosion in crime, and created the perception of the neighborhood as a crime-infested partyhole.
Activists with the group LES Dwellers Block Association, who previously produced a puke, fight and piss-filled video showing what they said was a typical Saturday night on the Lower East Side, have announced the results of a study by Hunter College grad students that shows Hell Square living up to its name with an increase in reported rapes and felony assaults between 2013 and 2016.
Hell Square, which some LES residents have taken to calling the area bounded by Houston, Delancey, Allen and Essex Streets, has been a contentious plot of land since the neighborhood's 2008 rezoning contributed to the highest density of bars in the entire city. According to the study, there has been a 44.71 percent increase in reported rapes and 13.75 percent increase in the number of reported felony assaults in the the city's 7th Precinct, which includes the neighborhood.
The researchers compared those numbers to Williamsburg's 90th Precinct, which saw a 10.23 percent increase in reported rapes and 1.65 percent decrease over the same period, and New York City as a whole, which saw 1.49 percent increase in reported rapes and 0.90 percent increase in felony assaults in the same period.
According to the study's executive summary, beyond the perception of a decrease in safety, the rising rents stemming from the 2008 rezoning have also frayed the quality of life:
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
According to the report's conclusion, the best ways to mitigate the issue include remaking Manhattan's Community Board 3 to include more anti-liquor license voices, increasing the amount of police on the street during the neighborhood's rowdier hours and bringing light manufacturing and other non-bar businesses to the neighborhood.