Neighbors rally against cannabis dispensary for 161 Hudson

Neighbors surrounding 161 Hudson — from upstairs and from neighboring buildings — are organizing against a cannabis dispensary proposed for one of the storefronts there, just south of Laight (the former pediatric office). They have started a petition, and though the application was rejected by Community Board 1’s Executive Committee last Tuesday, neighbors plan to be at the full board meeting tonight as well.

There’s a lot to discuss here, and I will have two more posts (at least) on that meeting, but this one is a good case study for future dispensary applications so it was worth the deeper dive. The neighbors don’t want any part of this and they have dozens of reasons, but they are using the rule of proximity to a school as their primary argument, and that is worth clarifying.

The state cannabis law is very easy to read in the original here. No cannabis retail licensee shall locate a storefront within 500 feet of a school grounds as such term is defined in the education law or within 200 feet of a house of worship.

And then this from the New York State Department of Education on what constitutes a school in the physical sense: “School grounds” means any building, structure and surrounding outdoor grounds, including entrances or exits, contained within a public or private pre-school, nursery school, elementary or secondary school’s legally defined property boundaries as registered in a county clerk’s office.

The Office of Cannabis Management added a *guideline* — not a regulation or part of the law — that says a school is “a building and its grounds occupied exclusively as a school.” Community Board 1 has dismissed this as not following the law and for the obvious reasons, it was not written with New York City in mind.

So for this site, at 161 Hudson, using Google maps, Tribeca Community School at 22 Ericsson Place is 730 feet away (they have a closer entrance at 124 Hudson, but that should also be a bit more than 500). However, Bright Horizons at TriBeCa (129 Hudson) should also count — it is 479 feet away — since while it is primarily a day care facility, it hosts public 3K and Pre-K programs and is a registered DOE facility as a result.

A few dozen neighbors from 161 Hudson, which has 23 units, argued that this would be “catastrophic to the reputation, social fabric and safety of our condo, community and broader neighborhood.” They said it violates the condo’s bylaws — the building has rules about what uses in the commercial spaces, and since cannabis is prohibited by federal law, that would be in violation — though the owner of the commercial condo of course disagreed. Between them they brought a lot of expertise, including a professor on constitutional law and a real estate expert who noted if the commercial space had a mortgage, renting to a cannabis business, which is still not legal on a federal level, would not be permitted by their bank.

The applicant is filing under the “social equity” angle for women and minority owners and said she has been working in the cannabis industry in California for the past five years. Her lawyer, Wei Hu, by coincidence graduated from Stuy, argued that the location is very commercial and since it is right at the exit to the Holland Tunnel, not quiet or obviously residential.

So what’s there? Running from Hubert on that side of the street, there’s the interior decorators Egg Collective; the kitchen showroom Officine Gullo; then across Laight, Hudson Wine & Spirits; GK Framing; and United Grocery and Deli.

These issues are a real challenge for so many reasons. We know that so much of this neighborhood eats or smokes cannabis in some form yet residents are fighting these stores at nearly every location. One resident said she was on a PTA and would not take any donations from this business (they offered to “give back”), but of course Taste of Tribeca and every school fundraiser regularly takes donations from liquor stores. And there was one very unfortunate comment: one committee member said the fact that the applicant was a woman and minority benefited her and her only; I would like to think in moments of greater clarity, we would all accept that having minority business owners benefits us all.

Over and over again, neighbors came back to the issue of children: they didn’t want their kids near the armed guards that many of these businesses have, and they didn’t want their kids “walking through a cloud of smoke” as they waited for the school bus. These will be issues that residents of buildings with commercial spaces on every street of Tribeca will have to reconcile as these license applications roll out. There are kids in every building here, and every street is a residential street. I wish CB1 luck.



  1. All those bars in the neighborhood… PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE!

  2. While I think the 500 foot rule is a bit arbitrary, and a lot of the comments made at this meeting were unfortunate, this indeed does seem to clearly violate the law. As a small correction, you included the definition of a “school” rather than for a “school ground.” The definition of the latter is even clearer in this context: ““School grounds” means any building, structure and surrounding outdoor grounds, including entrances or exits, contained within a public or private pre-school, nursery school, elementary or secondary school’s legally defined property boundaries as registered in a county clerk’s office.”

  3. This too shall pass. Too many stores will bring too much competition. Which will mean fewer stores.

    • I also think we need to find the right compromise.

      In my opinion, the legal shops in Manhattan are far more aesthetically pleasing than the garish illegal shops, which are also likely to sell more dangerous, unregulated wares. I think one of the reasons so many illegal shops proliferated was how long it took OCM to issue licenses, so there was money to be made.

      As long as residents are going to partake, and the law isn’t changing (and it’s not), we’ll have to find places for the dispensaries. I think some of the complaints about ‘clouds of smoke’ outside the shops are disingenuous, as the smoke isn’t really localized around shops. It’s just kind of everywhere now.

      The point about guards around children is perhaps to be taken more seriously, but then again, kids are also around the militarized NYPD constantly, especially downtown.

  4. It is incorrect to say that Tribeca Community School is 730 feet away from 161 Hudson. While that is the number that Google Maps calculates for a walking route between the two, that route uses TCS’s 22 Ericsson Place entrance.

    TCS has a second location and entrance on Hudson (corner of Hudson/Ericsson) at 124 Hudson right next to the Little Gym entrance. This location is listed on TCS’s website ( and you can see it on Street View.

    The distance to 161 Hudson from that location is 450 feet.

    TC should update the article to reflect the correct information.

    • Thanks for posting this. My daughter walks into Tribeca community school at 124 Hudson 5 days a week, so it is very clearly in violation there as well. It should be corrected.

  5. I only wish we’d see this level of concern and action against all of the illegal shops around the city (and our neighborhood). The licensed shops are legit, regulated and follow the law. Objecting to regulated shops only pushes business to the unregulated … and that is bad, in my opinion. And no one is complaining about all of the liquor stores around…

  6. The NIMBYism is incredible!

    These people should be focusing on getting all the illegal shops where there children are currently buying weed from instead of trying to stop a legitimate licensed dispensary from opening. The licensed dispensaries are not allowing ANYONE who is underage to set foot inside and they are all inconspicuous looking. I don’t know about you but I live around the corner from here and I would love a licensed dispensary in this location. Would be a pleasant upgrade from the seedy retail we have up the block.

    • Indeed, suddenly everyone over 60 is a pothead. They used to have to go to Massachusetts or Seattle for ‘legal’ supply from friends and relatives, how convenient that they can now chew their gummies all the time legally. What a country, what a city, pushing drugs for all ages at all times for what else, profit of course.

    • Bingo! I was waiting for that magic word NYMBYISM to show up,
      at last.

    • Exactly what seedy retail are you talking about?! Between the schools and the proposed site, there’s 2 children’s clothing stores (one includes a children’s haircut salon), the much beloved Interlude cafe, a fancy Italian kitchen showroom and a art gallery type furniture store. If you’re calling the liquor store or deli “seedy”, you’re revealing that you don’t live in the area. Both are beloved institutions run by sole proprietors who work long hours there every single day. Kids spend their allowances buying candy and soda at the deli and the liquor store owner knows all of his neighbors and regularly holds keys or accepts packages for non-doormen buildings. Across the street is a shade store and a doggy daycare, as well as a candy experience store for kids.

      PS As others have said, please correct the info on TCS. They have two campuses and locations. It’s less than 500 feet in a straight line to their 124 Hudson location. Not to mention the public plaza owned by the PA is across the street. The site is also not ADA accessible from the street at its main entrance. It’s always been an issue for retail in that space and limited state licenses should probably be going to more accessible sites.

  7. @ Matt Brown Walk up Church street and see how many of those illegal shop owners are fighting young hoodlums trying to rob their shop. It’s so obvious. I don’t know the last time a bar has been held up in a robbery. Also bars are usually not open at 9am. These smoke shops are open as early as 8am, for all those dependent on that Ganja!

  8. A few eat cannabis does not change the fact that the majority of the community does not welcome it.

    I walk my asian 4-yr old daughter to the TCS 124 Hudson entrance and pass 161 Hudson every day. I counted the distance is less than 500 feet for sure.

    A minority female owner does not mean she has the right of making money by hurting the community and many other minority female residents.

    I personally think marijuana is closer to hard drugs instead of liquors. Some people may disagree with it. But I will do everything to protect my daughter from marijuana.

  9. I think people need to stop fooling themselves around the reasons they oppose this. As mentioned in another comment, the legal dispensaries around NYC are inconspicuous. They serve people with medical cannabis cards, people who need medicine. I am astonished at the pure racism, elitism, and sheer ignorance people in this neighborhood exhibit. Have any of you been in or near a legal dispensary or just assuming? “Clouds of smoke” which legal dispensary did you witness that at??? But you have no problem walking through the puke or urine outside the numerous bars and taverns that line the same neighborhood? Strip club on Murray, all good. For a female minority business owner to bring a modern form of medicine into our area and be treated with such ignorance and bias says a lot about the folks who live around here. Out of touch with reality.

    • Stop fooling yourself, I know that is human nature, But any rational person knows casino, strip club and cannabis store are not decent business. No matter the owner is a minority female or not, shame on her. That is it why I think.

    • Pretty sure “Mike Levy” and “Someone Real” are the same person with their false claims about inconspicuous legal dispensaries. Check out Conbud at 85 Delancey or the Housing Works Cannabis Co. at 750 Broadway. Nothing inconspicuous about their signage or their purpose. It’s loud and obvious and in your face. At least those are very commercial corridors with a ton of foot traffic from tourists and NYers alike. And before you start accusing locals of anything, listen to the CB meetings. Speakers expressed sympathy for the applicants, who are from California and really didn’t know anything about Tribeca except what they were promised by the landlord. In fact, after they heard the huge amount of opposition and their eyes were opened to the accessibility, condo bylaws, park and schools issues they even tried to get out of the lease. Tune into the full CB meeting on December 20th. At Minute 37, the applicant’s lawyer states they now understand more about the location and don’t want to go there. But they said the landlord is threatening to keep their $100k deposit so he won’t let them out. This is about greed and unfortunately women and minority applicants are being forced into a hurried and untested process where landlords are taking advantage of them.