Schenectady City Council to consider increasing block party fee
SCHENECTADY Getting room to party may soon cost more in Schenectady.
The City Council plans to hold a public hearing on the fee the city charges businesses to hold block parties.
Some downtown bars and restaurants close streets and parking lots for daylong events with outdoor bars and live music. They pay just $10 currently, but the events cost the city much more, as they station police to redirect traffic and keep crowds orderly and safe.
Council members are considering a fee ranging from $200 to $1,000, either as a flat fee or on a scale based on the size of the proposed party.
Bombers Burrito Bar owner Matt Baumgartner said he is hoping for $200.
“One thousand dollars is a little out of reach for small businesses,” he said. “Because we have the three restaurants, we would pay the $1,000, but I would feel sorry for the small businesses that couldn’t.”
He added that he has no objection to a fee that covers the city’s costs — that’s what he pays when he holds block parties in Albany.
“I can totally understand why they want to increase the fee. That seems fair,” he said.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico also suggested a flat rate of $200, calling it “reasonable” for businesses.
“[It’s] probably still a little bit below the city’s actual cost,” he added.
Council members didn’t like the sound of that.
“It costs a lot of money,” Councilwoman Denise Brucker said, “putting workers on overtime, usually on a Friday or Saturday night.”
Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said the city needs to charge exactly what it spends.
“We’re talking about a tremendously huge revenue-generating event that is costing the city taxpayers,” she said. “To do that at the city’s cost is not fair to the city.”
The costs could vary widely. It’s far more expensive when Pinhead Susan’s blocks off the intersection of Liberty Street and Erie Boulevard than when Bomber’s closes off the small parking area in front of its downtown Schenectady storefront, Falotico said, So the council may agree to a fee range to handle all possibilities.
There are about five block parties for businesses each year, Falotico said, but Perazzo and Brucker are hoping that grows.
No matter what they decide, the Bombers parties are here to stay.
“I think block parties are fantastic,” Baumgartner said. ‘The customers love them. We would still do them even if we had to pay $1,000.”
A date for the public hearing has not yet been set.