During a typical community board meeting, the portion of the evening dedicated to reviewing liquor licenses might find one or two locals bringing up varied concerns. Although the board reviews several liquor license renewals simultaneously, the focus at the January 10 meeting rested squarely on one establishment. Local after local spoke out against renewing the liquor license of the CODA Williamsburg Hotel (160 N. 12th Street), formerly known as the McCarren Hotel and Pool, all bringing up the same complaint — noise.
Multiple residents shared their frustrations with what they claimed was near-constant noise from the hotel during the weekends, often lasting all night until the early hours of the morning. One resident dealing with long-term COVID complications found it impossible to rest and ended up taking a leave of absence from work. A couple frequently sleeps on an air mattress in the kitchen to get away from the sound coming from the windows. When a resident directly went over to the hotel to ask them to turn down the noise, a manager allegedly told them to wear headphones.
Living in New York City means living with noise. But neighbors say that the level of noise coming from the CODA, which runs both a rooftop lounge and a basement club, goes above and beyond anything they ever experienced before.
Data from various city agencies bolster these claims. According to the 94th precinct, which serves Greenpoint and Williamsburg, there have already been 11 calls to 311 in 2023, as of late January (they told Greenpointers that last year saw 89 calls). Back in 2019, Localize.city determined that the hotel was actually the second loudest in the entire city, based on the number of 311 calls made about the noise. With new management, the hotel cleaned up its act enough to get a renewal (noise complaints went from about 600 in one summer to 7 in the next), though the news outlet Patch noted at the time that the management team left soon after. A DNAInfo article from 2015 mentions that the problems with noise increased in 2012, after a hotel group purchased the then-McCarren, and ultimately disregarded agreements that had been put in place in the years prior (it’s also worth noting that the CB1 denied renewing the hotel’s liquor license in 2015).
Since the hotel first opened, noise complaints ebb and flow depending on who’s running the joint (and what establishments they’re running). Alongside changing management, the hotel has seen several restaurants and rooftop concepts take root, some more successful than others. Once again under new management, the hotel rebranded itself in 2022, changing its name from the McCarren Hotel to CODA Williamsburg, to reflect its new ownership by design group, CODA Industries. As part of that rebranding, the hotel launched a new rooftop venue during the summer, called Creatures of All Kind.
The particular flavor of Creatures of All Kind, where a well-heeled crowd can listen to DJs and nosh on a $20 grilled cheese, seemed to escalate noise complaints again. On the day that the club opened, a resident of the condo building next door, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of how this article would affect property values, moved into the building next door with his girlfriend.
“At first we were a bit alarmed — how can a hotel next to a building where people live play such loud music?” he told Greenpointers. “But we thought, hey, it’s the weekend, it’s probably their opening night and they’re playing loud music and it’s probably going to stop later.” Unfortunately, the source said that the noise never abated, even after speaking directly with hotel management.
The noise and the subsequent lack of sleep have affected his performance at work.
“I can’t focus. I work in a pretty competitive industry, and honestly, my focus time has gone down. I can feel it. The lack of sleep and the bass of my head — it’s been extremely bad,” he said.
When his girlfriend needed to take a competitive exam, the couple booked a night at a hotel to ensure a good night’s sleep. They’re not the only ones whose sleep has been affected.
“This past Friday, I was dead tired from the week,” said Sameer, who is the head of the building’s homeowners’ asociation and who has lived in the building for five years. “All I wanted to do was to go to bed early and get up early to work out. It’s 11:30, I make my way over to crash, and all of a sudden I’m tossing and turning until 2 AM.”
In September, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection visited the hotel and ultimately issued the CODA a summons for “making/causing/permitting music from a commercial establishment in excess of allowable limits,” with a hearing taking place later in November, a DEP representative confirmed to us. This particular visit was one of many that the DEP and the 94th precinct had made over the past year, which representatives from city council member Lincoln Restler’s office said sometimes resulted in violations, and other times, the agencies found that the hotel complied with the noise code.
At both the community board meeting and through conversations with Greenpointers, residents said that they have directly contacted hotel management on numerous occasions, even visiting them late at night to address their concerns in person. No approach taken seems to yield their desired outcome.
During the rooftop’s second week of operation, the anonymous source visited to have a night out with a few friends. At this stage of the rooftop opening, he says that the bar operator promised earlier that soundproofing would be completed by then, which ended up not materializing until later on. A couple of weeks after visiting the rooftop, the source said he attempted to complain about the noise to the hotel’s general manager, Ronald Baroody, who “responded saying that I can’t demand that as I once visited Creatures of All Kind (the second weekend after we had moved into our condo) and ‘contributed’ to the noise levels that eventually led to the cops being called on them.”
“I’ve repeatedly called the hotel to no avail. They don’t even answer their phones anymore,” said another resident, Antoinette, who points out that the loud noise also includes crowds gathering on the street, waiting to be let into the club or picked up by an Uber. “When it’s been super loud on the street I’ve even gone downstairs and asked those standing in line to respect those trying to sleep.”
“They don’t give a crap. They’ll listen and nothing changes, and it goes well, well into the night,” said another resident, Casey, who also echoed previous comments about noise coming from crowds on the street. Her location on the second floor means that she does not hear the rooftop noise, though she calls the noise coming from the new basement club, Bohemia, “very loud.” She does point out that she only notices the noise on weekends.
Noise issues at the CODA Williamsburg/McCarren Hotel existed years before Creatures of All Kind ever opened, but the presence of that particular club acted as a catalyst for residents to band together to take further action, escalating the issue through various channels (311, the 94th precinct, local elected officials). Now, contacting Brooklyn Community Board 1 feels like a last resort.
“We’ve been reasonable actors. We’ve tried to meet with them and tried to have mediations done with them, and there’s not a better way of putting this, we feel like we’ve been given lip service,” Sameer lamented.
He stressed that he’s not calling for the establishment to shut down entirely — he just wants the hotel to act as a more conscientious neighbor.
Some of the frustration with noise also stems from the confusion over CODA Williamsburg’s zoning status, as many residents assume that the hotel couldn’t be zoned for a loud nightclub in a largely residential area. In reality, the laws affecting the CODA’s ability to operate a rooftop nightclub exist in a grey area, according to CM Lincoln Restler’s office.
“The permitted use assigned to the cellar and rooftop of the CODA hotel is Use Group 5, which permits certain accessory uses to hotels. These accessory uses include restaurants, cocktail lounges, public banquet halls, ballrooms, and meeting rooms.
This use group is incredibly broad–the definitions of accessory uses, such as “rooftop bar”, are not defined within the Zoning Resolution. Nightclubs are not considered accessory uses to hotels or explicitly allowed in the CODA’s Certificate of Occupancy. Therefore, dancing and nightclub uses are not strictly permitted under the zoning at this location but it is up to the Department of Buildings to determine if they are prohibited and enforce its compliance.”Information provided by CM Lincoln Restler’s office
During its most recent visit this past January, the Department of Buildings found that the hotel complies with its Certificate of Occupancy.
Greenpointers contacted the hotel’s management directly, to learn more about the day-to-day issues they deal with, but we were ultimately passed along to the building’s owners, Braden Richter and Ebi Khalili. Although noise complaints concerning the hotel have been documented for well over a decade now, the hotel’s ownership felt taken aback by some of the complaints.
“We’re in hospitality, which by nature, is trying to make people happy and comfortable and safe, and we’re primarily a hotel. Our guests in the hotel are not complaining,” said CODA Industries CEO Braden Richter, whose design group operates the hotel.
Richter knew about the friction between condo owners and the hotel before he joined last summer. He said he met with them multiple times to try to come up with a solution.
“When we started to get complaints about the rooftop, I feel like we acted pretty quickly, not just the soundproof walls, but we encapsulated the roof completely.”
On the subject of the hotel management’s response to complaints, Richter told Greenpointers: “We would never tolerate a manager telling somebody to wear headphones or some of the things they’ve leveled. I know our management team really well, and that’s not how we train people.”
Richter suspected that some disgruntled condo owners had motivations other than noise to lob complaints against the hotel. He said that the condo has an agreement with the hotel about sharing hotel amenities. Richter said that when the policy about residents using the hotel’s pool changed, the noise complaints started up. “I think that some of the bad will sort of stemmed from the fact that they weren’t getting the pool,” he speculated. “That might be why the only people complaining are the people that bought their condos on the basis that they have some level of access to the hotel, but didn’t get complete access.”
Real estate developer Ebi Khalili has owned the hotel for six years and called the residents’ complaints “upsetting.”
“We’re at the point where we have spent a lot of money to make the hotel brand new for everyone in the neighborhood, and we do not want anybody to complain or have anyone upset with us,” said Khalili, who said that the hotel is being heavily fined as a result of the DEP summons.
He said he’s been asking management to be aware of the decibel level and has asked them to turn down the bass.
Over the past decade or so of operation, the frequent turnover with management and eating and drinking establishments can likely account for some of the dysfunction with the uneven response to the noise complaints.
An upcoming meeting on February 28 will determine whether or not CB1 will vote to recommend a liquor license renewal. The ultimate authority with that decision lies with the State Liquor Authority, but the board can act as an authoritative voice either way.
Brooklyn Community Board 1 did not respond to our request for comment.
I hope Mr. Richter views this message. His insinuation that residents are making up noise complaints just shows what the management thinks of their neighbors. Sir, encapsulating the rooftop does not make the venue soundproof. I wish you had invested some time in a sound proof engineer. The fact is no sound proofing engineer can guarantee immunity from the bass that travels through our shared walls. Also I’ve personally witnessed an older lady, a guest at your hotel, asking the hotel receptionist to be moved because she couldn’t sleep. Creatures of all Kinds is a cash cow for you sir – please share the revenue split of the rooftop bar vs the hotel. I’ve been told that the rooftop brought in excess of $2 million over the warmer months last year at OUR expense. All we want is a peaceful environment to live our lives. We don’t want anything more or anything less. We don’t want more access to anything of the hotel’s. Just want the ability to live in our condo without dreading the noise. We live in constant fear of what the weekend would bring. The noise pool from the pool is another story which I won’t go into yet.
As one of many New Yorkers suffering from excessive noise for a long time, I started making an NYC noise app called “RightAvenues”. We are working hard to find a way to empower people from their noise experience. Could you please send me an email email@example.com ? I would like to learn more about this problem and maybe we can add some values!
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