Friday, March 1, 2019

Brother Jimmy's Heading To La Marina?

Locked Up. La Marina’s liquor license was placed on emergency suspension by the State Liquor Authority in December.  In a desperate attempt to try to re-brand themselves and hold on to the controversial Parks Department concession, La Marina owners are attempting to install Jimmy Goldman,  the owner of the Brother's Jimmy's restaurant chain as an operator.  Jerold Tenenbaum is a long-time lawyer for Mr. Goldman. (Photos: By Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.  

In December Community Board 12  issued a strong condemnation of the owners when they unanimously passed a resolution to terminate the Parks Department concession license and the SLA to revoke the liquor license.    Jerold Tenenbaum and Josh Rosen hope to re-open in May.  Parties were in Bankruptcy court this week. 


By Geoffrey Croft

In a desperate bid to hang on to the Parks Department concession La Marina owners are scrambling to bring in another operator, ostensibly to run it legally,  after being shut down by State authorities in December.

The move would install Jimmy Goldman, a long-time legal client of La Marina co-owner Jerold Tenenbaum to run the controversial business. 

Mr. Goldman is owner of the Brother Jimmy's restaurant chain.  The re-branding would include a name change - Brother Jimmy's Riverside.

His company,  ACC BBQ, has been retained by La Marina to develop a "family-friendly BBQ and seafood restaurant," according to documents reviewed by NYC Park Advocates. 

"On behalf of the owners of La Marina, ACC will develop and operate a full-service affordably locally sourced restaurant with a menu consisting of quality BBQ fresh seafood and family friendly food."

The proposal states that food items will be locally sourced from upstate farms located with in Hudson Valley and will include organic free range fare.

The owners have been making the rounds over the last few weeks, meeting with community board members and elected officials in an effort to drum up support. 

The scheme to retain the current licensee holders Manhattan River Group's Josh Rosen and Jerold Tenenbaum is being met with strong resistance from the local community who say they have had to endure six years of lies, broken promises and an operation that created a nightmare for area residents.

The proposal comes after Community Board 12 strongly denounced the Manhattan River Group operation. In December the board unanimously passed a resolution to terminate the Parks Department concession license and the SLA to revoke the liquor license.  

If approved the operation would bypass the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC) and assign the license to Mr. Goldman.  

Critics are demanding new ownership. Many area residents are furious that Mr. Rosen and Mr.  Tenenbaum have refused to take responsibly for their actions, and instead have singled out Fernando Mateo as the root of the problems.

A letter fired off by local residents to Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver before a meeting this week did not mince words.

"Josh Rosen and Jerold Tenenbaum have operated the current concession since opened in 2012 are attempting to remain owners under the new plan.  The current proposal is a direct contravention to December’s vote,"  Nancy Preston Executive Committee Moving Forward Unidos wrote. 

The grassroots,  multicultural public interest group focuses on quality-of-life issues in upper Manhattan has been demanding the city hold the MRG's concession operators accountable since 2013.

"The community will not support any arrangement whereby any MRG partner...retains any ownership stake in any entity that holds the Parks concession,  this was reflected in a December 2018 CB12 resolution," the letter states.

"The concession must be either terminated or temporarily assigned to a new licensee, with no MRG affiliation,  and if assigned an interim arrangement can be made followed by a new RFP.

One of the major reasons why we are in the situation is because of the Department of Parks and Recreation’s refusal to enforce the existing laws and the terms of their own concession license with MRG. This was aided by irresponsible support from various elected officials and from the prior make up of the community board."

Residents were infuriated when La Marina partner Josh Rosen showed up and introduced Jimmy Goldman as the heir apparent at a recent community board meeting.

The group called the move "insulting."

"MRG has caused much damage as operators in the community," the letter stated. 

"We do think there is value in not having the concession closed for several seasons while an RFP makes its way through the process, especially if a reputable operator comes in.  However, this should not be tied to the current operators.

One MRG partner leaving does not fix the issue."

Owners claim Fernando Mateo was removed from the business.

Mr. Rosen recently told the community board that the Brother Jimmy's plan would, "move La Marina a little bit more towards a family friendly oriented restaurant away from the larger crowds and the party scene that we feel that is (sic) probably the community has not been happy with in the past.”

Goldman's company, ACC BBQ,  has been retained by MRG to develop a new concept for the site.  His company would enter into a management contract with MRG.  The terms include ACC BBQ retaining 49% of the stock, with MRG owning the remaining 51% while ACC would own 100 percent of the voting rights according to a source familiar with the plan.

ACC BBQ and it’s associates presently own and operate establishments in New York City west palm beach Florida and the Caribbean and operate two other Brother Jimmy locations in New York City.

La Marina owners face several challenges.

They are awaiting a hearing on multiple SLA violations, some dating back two years. 

La Marina’s liquor license was placed on emergency suspension by the State Liquor Authority in December after a series of incidents including the arrest of an employee for drug sales. 

In July La Marina was shut down after receiving more than 90 violations after an inspection.

The stage and beach area this week, at the shuttered La Marina

This is the second consecutive Parks Department concession at that location which had to be closed down by authorities. 

La Marina representatives have been having private meetings with the State Liquor Authority, and according to MRG's lawyer, they are near to working out a deal.  

"We are also close to a potential resolution with the State Liquor Authority that will allow reopening with a liquor license as well," said Brian J. Hufnagel, attorney for debtor MRG.   

"We've had discussions with them. They're very far along. I can't say we have a deal until everything kind of falls in place, but that's been taking place as well," Mr. Hufnagel said. 

Hufnagel is also a lawyer in Mr. Tenenbaum's law firm.      

No settlement offers have been made by MRG according to a source familiar the proceedings. Any settlement offer would be heard by an Administrative law judge and have to be approved by the Full Board at a public hearing.

"This matter is not resolved and a hearing date has not been scheduled,"  an SLA spokesman told A Walk In The Park.   "Any potential settlement would have to go to the Full Board of the SLA."

One plan to return the liquor license involves Jimmy Goldman requesting to amend the license from the SLA so that his name,  not MRG’s,  would be on the liquor license under a "management contract,"  according to a source familiar with the situation.

An alternative plan involves MRG voluntarily surrendering their license to the SLA and then  Mr. Goldman would apply for a seasonal beer and wine license or a liquor license while operating the concession under his own group for the 2019 season.   


In December MRG filed for bankruptcy in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (Case 18-14125-SHL) NYC Park Advocates first learned.  

MRG owes more than six hundred thousand dollars to creditors including more than 
$ 220,000 dollars in back rent to the city. The Parks Department is single largest creditor has not yet filed a claim for their back rent yet according to the city's lawyer. 

La Marina owes money totaling more than $ 116,000 to people who put down deposits for at least twelve events including weddings. 

The IRS also has a "large claim,"  against MRG according to MRG's lawyer.

"The Internal Revenue Service has filed a large claim in the case, but it's based on estimated taxes for periods where returns either may not have been filed or may not have been correctly processed by the Internal Revenue Service,"  Mr. Hufnagel said.

Locked front gate.

The parties were in bankruptcy court on Tuesday for a status conference where La Marina representatives told the judge that they plan on re-opening in May.

"We've identified a new operating partner," Mr. Hufnagel told the bankruptcy court during a status conference on Tuesday, declining to name the operator.  

"It's a well-known restaurant chain who's operated in the city for thirty years.  I really can't disclose a name until things are final, but it's one we believe will be hopefully more acceptable to the City and to the community," he said.   

La Marina representatives continue to misrepresent more than five years of problems telling the judge that past operations have, "proven controversial over the last summer."   

During the  status conference, Zachary Kass, corporation council lawyer representing the City and the Parks Department seemed unfamiliar with the particulars of the case. At one point referring to the Marina, which makes up half of the licensed agreement as a small food concession.  

"I should point out that there are two licenses, one for the restaurant, and the other for the marina. My understanding is that the marina is a much smaller operation. It's actually sort of a snack bar," he said.

The judge overseeing the case did not have great news for people who booked La Marina for events and put down more than $ 116,000 dollars in deposits.

"There's no answer today for things like claims that you have. That doesn't mean that they're being denied, it doesn't mean it's being granted," Hon. Sean H. Lane said. 

"Our goal is to reach resolution with the Parks Department," Brian Hufnagel, counsel to the debtor told the court.  "Hopefully they love us when we come and meet with them later today."

Hufnagel said they were going to need debtors-in possession (DIP) financing loan in order to pay off debts.    

"We need to see what happens with the Parks Department as to whether this financing is going to come forward from the investor or if perhaps the existing management pays some money in, one or the other," he said. 

After Tuesday's conference hearing Josh Rosen told A Walk In The Park that he wasn't ready to give up the business citing the large investment they have made in the property and touted their own operational accomplishments.    

"We've done a good job," he added.

A few hours after bankruptcy court hearing,  La Marina owners and Mr. Goldman pitched the plan to the Parks Department.

In November MRG filed an Article 78 petition against the Parks Department in NYS Supreme Court (Index No. 160704/18). 

A list of non-negotiable terms needed for community support.

  • No Concerts, No Ticketed EventsNo Bottle Service.  These were never approved uses for the concession and led to many problems.
  • Adherence to the Hours as Stated.   Open til 11 pm Sun-Wed, and 12:30 am Thurs-Sat.
  • Adherence to the Operating Season.  May to October.  The concession license as written does not allow for offseason events.    
  • No Valet Parking. Use of the adjacent Parks Department cul-de-sac for commercial parking would require a separate concession agreement as it lies outside the premises.
  • No Dedicated Use of Public Street Parking. 
  • No Outdoor Music after 10 pm.  NYC Noise Code must be strictly enforced.  Ambient background music within the premises per DPR permission.
  • Open Obstructed Views from Bike Path.  Remove tarp that is affixed to the wrought iron fence on the perimeter of the property.
  • Greater Public Access, A More Family-Friendly Establishment Including Regular Access to the “Beach” Area.  Jimmy Goldman has shared Brother Jimmy’s menu,  kids eat free,  ideas for vendor carts,  cafĂ© seating and other changes that would ensure a true restaurant atmosphere with accessible prices.  Ideas for additional family-friendly programming include shuffleboard,  ping pong,  domino and chess tournaments,  artists activity and hosting movies on the beach.
Restoring Marina Operations:  Dyckman Marina is a vital component of the concession.  The concession License Agreement between the city and MRG included a separate agreement for a full-service marina for use by the general public. 

The marina was never built.  Instead MRG operated a dock to service the restaurant during limited hours.  Most of the public services that were required to have been offered at Dyckman Marina, one of only two public marinas in Manhattan,  were not.

Installing the EcoDock.   The EcoDock was funded by former Council Member Robert Jackson and former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in 2012 to provide additional community access to the waterfront.  This was never built. 

 (Photos: By Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.