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We asked the major mayoral contenders to discuss their dancefloor positions (cabbage patch? funky chicken?). Almost all acknowledged the cultural and economic importance of clubs, but Democratic candidate Mark Green gets the disco-dancer award, continuing his campaign as the anti-Rudy. “Nightlife attracts more people than the Mets, Yankees, Broadway, and the Metropolitan Museum combined,” said Green. Gadfly Democrat George Spitz wants to decriminalize all drugs, a move that makes him a would-be hero to clubbers but probably unelectable to the rest of the city. Not everyone was so forthcoming: After two weeks of ignoring daily phone calls, Republican-come-lately Michael Bloomberg, apparently too busy learning new languages for campaign commercials, responded with a hastily e-mailed paragraph of bureaucratese. (He wants to “strike a balance” between residents and clubs. “It can be done if the administration and the nightclub owners work together to find that balance.” Thanks, Mike, for the soul-searching.) But Bloomers has unfortunately expressed support for Rudy Washington—Giuliani’s right-hand man in club carnage—as Public Advocate. Republican candidate Henry Hewes probably should have been more evasive. “I don’t think nightclubs without live performances and where there is generally a high degree of drug use make a substantial contribution to the culture in New York,” said the frumpy grump. “There’s an awful lot of people that buy pornography. That doesn’t make it a large contributor to the culture either.” A dis to nightclubs and porn? Don’t count on our vote, Hank.
Below, the candidates are listed from most club-friendly to least.
If a club employs an on-site ambulance, is it a sign of a drug orgy or an act of responsibility?
Mark Green (D) (www.markgreen.com):
I think nightclubs should be lauded rather than chastised for having an insurance policy that includes extra guards and ambulances in cases of crisis.
George Spitz (D) (www.georgespitz.com):
When you start harassing people, you open the door to the same kind of corruption we had during Prohibition.
Alan Hevesi (D) (www.mebq.org):
An ambulance by itself is not a sign of inappropriate or illegal behavior. It may be an appropriate caution. On the other hand, inappropriate behavior is not acceptable, either.
Fernando Ferrer (D) (www.ferrer2001.com):
It makes perfect sense for clubs to take actions to protect the health of their patrons. It is important, however, that owners not turn a blind eye to the practices of their patrons (and, in some cases, employees) that might put people at risk.
Peter Vallone (D) (www.vallone2001.org):
I believe it is only prudent for the proper officials to keep a close eye on [nightclubs] to ensure that they operate legally and safely.
Herman Badillo (R) (www.badillo2001.org):
There has to be some sort of control [of the private ambulances] so that there’s no cover-up [of illegal activity].
Henry Hewes (R): I think most of these places are dangerous enough to need ambulances.
How would you feel about the Drug Enforcement Agency policing drug use in NYC clubs (as it has recently done in New Orleans and Panama City, Florida)?
Green: Barring extraordinary circumstances, the city’s 41,000-member police department should be able to handle such problems.
Spitz: I am opposed to the drug war.
Hevesi: If the owners of a club have made a serious good-faith effort to keep drugs out of a club and obey the law, that should be considered. But if their efforts are superficial, I think using whatever methods exist is entirely appropriate.
Ferrer: New York City already has adequate tools that it can employ, such as police padlock and nuisance abatement laws, at premises where multiple arrests have occurred over a short period of time.
Vallone: I think that the U.S. Attorney’s office does an excellent job, and I would defer to their judgment on legal strategies and tactics.
Badillo: The New York City Police Department is fully able to handle that issue.
Hewes: If a club owner is knowingly providing a place for people to come and use drugs, I don’t think there’s much issue to [the DEA policing New York clubs].