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Beer bust man fights back!

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They say you can’t fight City Hall, but one Prospect Heights man is about to at least burp right in its face.

Kimber VanRy, who made international headlines earlier this month after he was hit with a $25 summons for drinking a beer on his own front stoop on Aug. 27, now says he’ll go to court to challenge the ticket.

He’s got a drinker’s chance in hell, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great story.

“I know I can’t win, but I won’t roll over because that would suggest complicity,” VanRy told The Brooklyn Angle.

First, a little backstory. As The Brooklyn Paper reported last week, VanRy was just the latest victim of what is nothing short of a very sporadic and entirely arbitrary police crackdown on front-stoop beer drinking.

Earlier this year, three other men got a ticket for enjoying some fermented hops and malt — despite the fact that they, too, were on their stoop.

In both cases, the police wrote the summonses because the men were drinking in a “public space,” which can be legally construed as your own stoop if you can be seen by the public. Even though your stoop is on your property, as long as the public can see the “crime” in progress, the space is de facto public.

Now this is the part of the column where the author usually admits that perhaps there is some logic to the city law, which allows cops to ticket people who are drinking and being loud on their front stoop. Well, if you want that column, you should read the NYPD internal newsletter, because the enforcement of this law is entirely random. The NYPD is merely public-izing our private space.

Well, I wasn’t going to have it. In honor of Kimber VanRy, I got home the other day and immediately headed out to my stoop, beer and laptop in hand, and banged out this column.

From the first sip, I was struck by certain truisms:

1. It is wonderful to be drinking outdoors on a warm night.

2. When you’re drinking outdoors, suddenly all your neighbors show up, which is nice, but it quickly becomes clear that they are simply hoping to get a beer off you.

The more I enjoyed my beer, the more I was angered by the NYPD crackdown. If drinking beer on my private stoop is actually an act of public lawlessness, what about if I pulled out my guitar, on which I have only had three lessons? Wouldn’t my out-of-tune version of “Lay, Lady, Lay” be far more annoying to my neighbors, and, therefore, more worthy of a summons, than a silent beer?

And what about my noisy neighbor, whose weekend backyard parties disturb the entire block? Is his lawlessness more forgivable because it can only be heard, while my silent beer can be seen?

On this, Kimber VanRy is on my side.

“I am challenging my ticket because of how the law defines what a public space is versus a private space,” he said. “It’s not right that the police can extend persecution of the law into what most New Yorkers think is private space. If we can be persecuted in our own buildings, that’s a real problem.”

His court date is Nov. 12. He won’t win, but I, for one, will be sitting on my stoop that night drinking a cold one and toasting Kimber VanRy — beer-drinking freedom fighter.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at gkuntzman@cnglocal.com
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Reader Feedback

TenOunceBourbon from Windsor Terrace says:
I'm curious as to how -- with regard to public v. private space -- the city defines the sidewalk outside of Farrell's. And then when the (presumably) off-duty cops from Farrell's get into their cars to drive home with full 32-ounce styrofoam cups of beer in tow, how is that vehicular space defined? It appears the humble stryrofoam cup projects a personal radius of private space wherein on can drink with impunity open container ordinances notwithstanding. I bring my styrofoam cup of beer on the subway, to the library, but not the Park Slope dildo store because I don't think it's right to drink in front of small children.
Sept. 16, 2008, 1:17 pm

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