Beer Off the Menu for Next Tunnel to Towers Run in Battery Park City

Spectators and runners stand near finish line at West and Vesey streets for the Stephen Siller Run Walk held last September. Photo: Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Nov. 07, 2014

There will be no beer on tap for the 15,000 runners and their supporters who return to Battery Park City next year for the post-run festivities of the annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run Walk.

That was the decision by an organizer of the event after hearing Community Board 1 members complain of drunken behavior after this September’s run.

John Hodge, vice president of operations for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which raises money for wounded veterans, came before CB1’s Battery Park City Committee this week to request a street activity permit for the next run, scheduled for September 2015.  In previous years, the run sparked complaints from Battery Park City residents about noise from speakers and sound from a live video stream, as well as early-morning soundchecks and other issues.

This time it was about drunks who “trash the neighborhood,” according to some on the committee. The activities after the run, they claimed, have become more like a rowdy party.

The annual run from Red Hook to Battery Park City is held in memory of Hodge’s cousin, firefighter Stephen Siller, who died in the 9/11 rescue effort after running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to get to the site.

“There’s often not a positive vibe that you and your cousin would like for this,” said committee member Jeffrey Mihok, “because there are people who are coming into the community and are just incredibly loud and rambunctious and out of control.”

Hodge said he had not been aware of drunkenness at the post-run festivities––open to everyone––which include massages for runners, food booths, live music and activities for kids. But he was quick to offer a possible solution.

“Let me throw this out,” he said. “Suppose we don’t go for a liquor permit this year, leaving it entirely up to whatever businesses or restaurants are around [to serve alcohol]. Would that ease people’s concerns a little bit?”

“I think that would be an improvement,” committee chair Anthony Notaro responded, later adding, “Let’s forego the liquor license and see how things work out. Let’s see the effect that that has.”

In the past, the one-day beer-and wine-permit for the festivities––approved by the State Liquor Authority and the mayor’s office––allowed the Miller Brewing Company to set up a beer garden on Vesey Street between North End Avenue and West Street. (The permit did not require CB1 approval.) While beer dispensing will not return next year, Hodge emphasized that participants will still have the option to buy alcohol from nearby establishments.

“We don’t want to do anything to tarnish Stephen’s memory,” Hodge said in a phone interview. “To hear someone on the board say something about alcohol, I don’t want that perception out there.”

Public drunkenness wasn’t the committee's only concern. Some members suggested changing the route of the run to make it easier for parents and children on their way to the ball fields to get through the crowds. At past events, runners and bystanders packed the streets around the fields, which are a block from the finish line at West Street near Vesey.

“I tried to get through with my little ones who absolutely flipped out because they couldn’t get through the crowd,” said committee member Tammy Meltzer.

Meltzer suggested redirecting the runners through the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza with a finish line at Trinity Place––an alternative that is actually truer to Siller’s route, she said. Mihok recommended having the runners turn right on South End Avenue, come back around and finish near the Conrad Hotel on North End Avenue.

Hodge was unenthusiastic to suggestions of changing the route but said he would “certainly go back and take a look.” He said he needs to consider how those proposals would affect the starting point in Brooklyn.

The committee held off on voting to recommend a permit, asking Hodge to return to next month’s meeting after reconsidering the route. In the meantime, Notaro said, the solution should be a “balance” between celebrating Siller’s heroism and avoiding conflict with the neighbors.

“This has now become an event for some people, detached from what it was meant to be,” he said. “It’s another party and, unfortunately, we all suffer because of that.”