A Community Board member's angry meltdown was caught on camera at last night's CB3 meeting, where Lower East Side business owners and residents met to make their cases for and against approving liquor licenses for area establishments. After arriving late to the meeting, David McWater, a board member and co-chair of the Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee, became enraged when members of LES Dwellers suggested that he only showed up to vote on an allegedly self-serving proposal for the Gallery Bar space at 120 Orchard Street.
In the video below, McWater has risen from his seat to unload on a member of the community group LES Dwellers, whose stated mission is to "restore balance back to our community, and preserve what is left of the L.E.S." Members of the group insinuated that McWater, who owned Nice Guy Eddie's on Avenue A, will somehow benefit if the group takes over the Gallery Bar space at 120 Orchard Street. The Lo-Down reports that Darin Rubell, a current co-owner of the Gallery Bar space, bought Nice Guy Eddie's from McWater along with a group of investors.
The allegation of impropriety is what sparked McWater to leave his seat and confront Sara Romanoski, a member of LES Dwellers, and others. According to LES Dwellers' Marvin Avilez, McWater "got so agitated that he got up, punched through two people, and then came at Sara with a finger aggressively pointed at her.” As you can see in the video, things escalated quickly, with McWater vowing to "bury" Aaron Sosnick of the East Village Community Coalition.
“Nothing I say, or someone in the public says, should warrant a physical response," Romanoski said. "That’s never acceptable. It makes an unsafe, unproductive environment,”
“To close the conversation by saying that you’re going to make someone a dead body? That’s pretty scary.” said David Troutman of LES Dwellers. And Diem Boyd of LES Dwellers said, "We would like to remove him from the Board. We’re going to try to find legal ways, and report him to the Manhattan Borough President."
Asked about the confrontation, McWater says he has no regrets. "I didn’t do anything wrong," McWater told us. “I just told her that she has no right to talk to me like that.”
As for his tardiness, McWater explained, "I was late was because I was at the meeting where they announced who the SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area) contractor was going to be. We put together a billion dollar development where a bunch of parking lots have been for 45 years. We’re going to provide 500 units of affordable housing there, and I get insulted for showing up late?" McWater added that board member Lisa Kaplan was at the same meeting, and she also showed up late for the licensing committee meeting.
“I have a right to tell people my opinion. I have the same freedom of speech that they do, and I didn’t use mine irresponsibly,” he said. “This whole ‘I’m-going-to-come-in-and-insult-people-and-they-can’t-speak-back-to-me’ stuff is nonsense.”
McWater also cleared the air on the accusation that he stands to benefit from the 120 Orchard Street venture, which failed to win approval by the committee because the would-be owners lack nightlife experience. "I don’t even know where it is," McWater insisted. I’ve never been in the store, I have no idea. And generally speaking, I don’t even care about liquor licenses anymore.”
Later, after lengthy deliberations, the controversial multi-level barstaurant The DL was denied a liquor license renewal by the committee, because of the owners' alleged failure to comply with previously determined stipulations for its operation. According to Boyd, the restaurant/lounge is actually a “three-floor, neon glowing nightclub” that has been “the scourge of this community” since its opening.
Marvin Avilez describes The DL as “a perfect example of what is wrong.”
“They’re not looking at things that we’ve done right,” argues Paul Seres, part owner of The DL. Seres says that the venue works “hand-in-hand with the chief of departments on major crime issues,” adding that he is “on several committees, including the Manhattan DA’s task force on sex crimes, where we’re writing a sexual assault awareness training curriculum for nightlife venues. I’m an active member of this community.”
Both Seres and members of LES Dwellers have agreed to meet in the near future.
“The main thing we want to speak about is that he adheres to his original stipulations, plus a few more that we would to add—that he doesn’t have a nightclub on the other two floors, that he runs a legitimate restaurant and a private event space. If he would adhere to the original application stipulations, we’ll be very in support of that venue,” said Boyd.