A night owl finds her niche

New York City’s first “nightlife mayor” Ariel Palitz talks noisy neighbors, curfews and growing up Uptown

By Angela Tucciarone

Earlier this year, Ariel Palitz was named Senior Executive Director of New York City’s Office of Nightlife, charged with finding a balance among businesses and residents. A former nightclub owner, Palitz spent her childhood on the Upper East Side. Palitz talked to Our Town about growing up in Manhattan and her new job.

What was it like growing up on the Upper East Side?

It was a very unique and special experience. My favorite place to go before we were old enough to go out [to bars] was The Met steps. This is really where our first parties were when we were old enough to go out and not have too much of a curfew. The Meadow in Central Park after school was also a very big part of growing up, along with learning to ride my bike in Carl Schurz Park. When we were old enough to get into bars, it was all of the German bars in the neighborhood and some places that are no longer open like Mad Hatters.

Do you still spend time in the neighborhood?

I am there a lot. I have a very close family and I see my mom and dad a couple times a month. My mom still lives in the same apartment that I grew up in, and my father, aunt and cousin… everybody’s here. Now, instead of going to Carl Schurz Park to ride my bike I’m going to events at Gracie Mansion to visit my boss.

What role does nightlife play in the life of the city?

New York continues to draw some of the brightest minds and the most creative people and entrepreneurs of the world. Part of the attraction here is our vibrant and diverse nightlife. It continues to be an extremely large part of who we are.

What concerns did you hear from residents on your five-borough listening tour? Are there any plans or programs in place to enforce noise ordinances and curfews?

We heard from residents about noise, sanitation and traffic congestion. The Office of Nightlife is not an enforcement agency, but our job is to make sure we are taking a proactive approach so that City agencies can work together to support both nightlife and residential communities...I personally understand the challenges from all sides, and I am committed to making sure nightlife works for everyone.

What is your advice to residents who are bothered by local nightlife?

We recognize it’s a compact city with mixed use of commercial and residence. It is by no means a quiet city and those of us who live here know it. Very often people resort to 311, 911 and other city agencies to enforce quiet. [If you have a noise complaint] what we are encouraging is first reaching out to the venue during the day, having a conversation about the boundaries and trying to come up with an agreement. People who call 311 to complain will also be informed about the opportunity to set up free mediation.

What is your take on New York City’s 4 a.m. curfew for bars?

New York City is unlike any other city in the world and the 4 a.m. curfew that we have is part of what differentiates us… I think there is room for [curfew] negotiation at times, depending on where venues are, on a case by case basis. Our 4 a.m. license is very much a part of our identity and our culture, and I think it should be protected and respected while we’re also respecting the needs for quality of life. That is really the balance and challenge of this office.

New York City nightlife needs more ____.

Space. A lot of beloved places have closed. We have seen a trend in the last 15 years or so of the closing of performance places. Live music [venues], art galleries and performance spaces – places that are not just bars, clubs and restaurants – need more space and more support.