For almost three years, Quilvio Montesino has been forced to close his bar on Broadway at midnight. His bar sits on one of the city’s high crime hotspot zones where the city regulates business hours. On Thursday night, he presented a proposal to the city council to lift the business curfew on Broadway between East 18th Street and Madison Avenue.
“I believe it’s time to do something. We made a difference on our block,” said Montesino, owner of Quilvio’s Lounge. “We want you guys to find a way out of this situation.” He said businesses on the block have hired local people to clean up the streets. There’s also an armed security guard keeping eye on the block, he told council members. There’s also cameras installed at the businesses, he said.
Montesino said the businesses have formed partnerships to remove quality of life problems like loiterers and parking lot mechanics out of the area. There was also improved lighting installed to ensure the block is better illuminated, he said. He cited all of these initiatives taken on by business owners over the past four months to assert this block has changed for the better and the city should consider lifting its midnight closing hours for businesses in the area.
“I’m encouraged folks are taking responsibility,” said council president William McKoy. He requested the Paterson Police Department to produce data for calls for service for the specific hotspot covering Broadway and for the other hotspot zones. He also suggested he would like to see police analysis of the data for the Broadway zone and a recommendation whether sufficient improvement has been made to lift the curfew.
Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman, said the data will show a drop because the area has been under business curfew. However, he noted, “There has to be a way out.” The ordinance did not have a process by which an area can lift the curfew.
The city council passed the business curfew ordinance in September 2014 covering 15 high crime areas. It later expanded the ordinance to cover 12th Avenue to create a 16th hotspot zone. In 2015, police provided data that showed a remarkable 71-percent drop in non-fatal shootings in the areas covered by the business curfew.
Council members Alex Mendez and Michael Jackson also appeared to support creating a process to lift the curfew in areas that have improved. “It’s just being spread somewhere else,” said Jackson of drug trafficking.
“The crime is moving around the city,” added Mendez. Both men are business owners and see the ordinance as an obstacle for local businesses in major thoroughfares like Park Avenue and Market Street.
Police officers have reported in a survey crime is moving from designated zones surrounding areas; however, police brass have said data shows an overall drop in crime in the city which suggests displacement is not occurring.
Velez suggested a short probationary period to allow businesses to operate to 2:30 a.m. in the morning before a permanent curfew lift. “If the data shows crime has gone up. And it got crazy again then put it back into the curfew,” he said.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, who championed the curfew as a way to reduce violence in the city, asked for a status of the pending legal action that was launched by Montesino and other bar and liquor store owners.
City attorney Ben-David Seligman said litigation continues. “It’s not yet been resolved,” he told the council.
Seligman said both sides are moving for summary judgment and it’s now up to an administrative law judge to make a decision on the case. He said it will likely be months before a decision is issued.
Business owners suffered three defeats attempting to lift the curfew since their legal action was launched against the city.
Montesino’s request also comes at a time when a two-year wait period on the business curfew ended. The wait period prevented the council from arbitrarily removing zones out of the business curfew for a two-year period.
The business curfew zones are created following an assessment by police. Police taken into account shootings and calls for service to recommend whether an area should be forced to shut down at midnight.
Police have described the process as objective and data driven.