Lawyer: CB7 district manager must retract letter supporting nightclub

‘Tis the season for giving at Community Board 7
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Call it a dead letter.

The district manager of Sunset Park’s Community Board 7 must retract a letter he wrote to a state regulator in support of a controversial local nightclub because it glosses over the club’s troubled history, a lawyer for the neighborhood’s top cop demanded at the board’s June 7 Public Safety Committee meeting.

Attorney Delvis Valdes charged that district manager Jeremy Laufer’s letter to the State Liquor Authority put the board in a bad light because it was not authorized, and mischaracterized the Love and Lust nightclub’s record with the community.

“There was no direction to write this letter and no vetting on this letter,” said Valdes, who said he was representing the 72nd Precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez, who is cited in a lawsuit by the club’s owners against the city, state, and police department. “That, I think, makes the community board look pretty bad.”

In the April 24 letter, Laufer wrote that CB7 had never received any complaints about the club — located on 47th Street between Second and Third avenues — or its patrons. And Valdes alleged that Laufer’s timing of the letter — written six days after the State Liquor Authority rejected the club’s application for a liquor-license renewal — allowed the club owners to use it in later attempts to fight the rejection, despite the fact that Laufer specifically wrote in the letter that it was not meant to apply to a liquor license renewal, which CB7 would weigh in on in the future.

But the club owners ended up citing the letter in a $125-million lawsuit against the city, the police department, and the State Liquor Authority, first reported by the New York Daily News, using Laufer’s comments about the lack of complaints to CB7 to support their claim that police enforcement against it over the years was unjustified and motivated by racial bias.

Laufer told this paper that he did not write the letter to be used in the lawsuit, which he didn’t know about at the time, and that it was instead meant to be a general letter of support, which local businesses frequently request for dealings with city or state agencies.

“I was not aware of [the lawsuit]. This was a general letter,” he said. “I’ve done that for other businesses in the past. In this one, unfortunately, they used it in a court proceeding. If I knew it was going to be used in a lawsuit I would have been much more cautious about that because I do not want to be dragged into a court case.”

Valdes said the letter also falsely portrayed the role of the club in the community by saying that the community board had never received any complaints, and that Laufer should have also mentioned what the lawyer claimed to be more than 40 felony complaints, 24 arrests, and more than 400 911 calls the club generated in a two-year period.

A spokesman from the police department did not confirm those figures by press time, but city records show that locals called in 14 complaints about the club to 311 since 2016, including one complaint of drug activity inside and nine noise complaints.

Laufer told this paper he didn’t have access to police records. But Valdes insisted at the meeting that Laufer should have consulted with the police department before writing the letter.

“I think there’s probably a breakdown in the procedures or protocol in the community board,” Valdes said. “There should be some type of phone call — I would’ve imagined Jeremy would’ve picked up the phone and called the NYPD.”

CB7 chairman Cesar Zuniga promised at the meeting to work with Laufer to set up protocol for handling letters of support for local businesses in the future.

Laufer said that he did not plan to retract the letter because nothing in it was factually incorrect, but he implied the board would instead take action as a body soon.

“I’m not planning to retract the letter, no, but I do believe my board will have a different response,” he said. “I think I’ll let this play out in the next few days.”

The club became wrapped up in more controversy when rapper 50 Cent defended it in multiple Instagram posts, making his support for the owner known by calling out Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez of the 72nd Precinct, who the owner alleged in the $125-million lawsuit unfairly targeted the club with inspections, among other allegations.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcsh[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.