Stoop drinker wins his case — but on a technicality!

The Brooklyn Paper
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The case against a man accused of drinking beer on his own stoop has been dismissed, but before you go cracking open a Pabst or a Brooklyn Lager in celebration, be warned — the case was dismissed on a technicality.

Yes, Kimber VanRy is no longer facing a $25 fine for the public drinking summons he received on Aug. 27 for gulping a Sierra Nevada on his front stoop, but Judge Eugene Schwartzwald dismissed the case on Tuesday morning only because it “took too long” to get the case to trial.

“I’m dismissing this on ‘speedy trial’ grounds,” said the judge, using shorthand to refer to plantiffs’ constitutional right to a prompt trial. “This has been going on too long.”

Though he did not reveal how he might have ruled on the merits of the case, Schwartzwald did tell VanRy’s lawyer, Tina Kansas, “You did a nice job on the motion.”

That motion conveyed the substance of VanRy’s challenge to the portion of the city’s open-container law that allows cops to write summonses for any drinking that is done in view of the public, even if the drinking itself is done on private property, such as a front stoop.

VanRy said he was drinking his Sierra Nevada on his Sterling Place front steps, far from the public sidewalk. His summons set off a wide debate over that most iconic of Brooklyn public spaces: the stoop.

VanRy hoped that winning the case on the merits would forever prevent cops from ticketing people for a quiet beer on their private steps, so Tuesday’s dismissal was a little unsatisfying.

“It feels a little hollow,” VanRy said. “This dismissal doesn’t allow us to drink on the stoop, which was the purpose of this case.”

It’s unclear why the case took “too long,” as Schwartzwald said. VanRy showed up for all his court appointments last fall and this winter, but the trials never took place, though reasons were never given.

Last week, the trial was scuttled when a judge took himself off the case because — in his words, not ours — The Brooklyn Paper’s coverage of the VanRy Affair has been “too good.”

“I read about the case in your paper,” said Jerome Kay, a Park Slope resident.

In the end, Brooklynites should not take VanRy’s “win” as evidence that stoop drinking will be officially condoned by the NYPD, the successful Sierra Nevada lover said.

“I’m not sure I’ll drink on my stoop,” he said.

Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Pat from Bay Ridge says:
So the law remains vague, and the NYPD will continue to enforce it, or not, at whatever whim they use to make these decisions. In other words, business as usual. Way to go, Justice!
Feb. 17, 2009, 2:09 pm
pro door framer from union city, nj says:
drink on my friend and crack one open for me!!!!
Feb. 17, 2009, 3:21 pm
Alan Freed from Mill Basin says:
Mr. VanRy is definitely not from Brooklyn....or anywhere near it.
Another country perhaps... like California or Kansas..?
Drinking a exposed can or bottle of beer has always been a no no in the 5 b's.
That is why they make small paper bags..
Ask any self respecting beer drinking Irishman, Italian, Jew, Latino..etc.. etc.. small paper bags... no stoops, walls,
domino games... or otherwise.
If NYC finest happens to be in the mood you get writ' up.
Kimber, I think you may have the look that brings on that mood.
Maybe Mr. VanRy should take his Sierra Nevada poof beer and sip it on a corner in
Chico, Califorina ...and I'm sure Chico PD will join in and raise a glass to ya.
Feb. 18, 2009, 12:49 pm
Ken from Mariners Harbor, Staten Island says:
It's a case no DA wants to deal with. However, it should be a signal to the Council or state legislature that the law needs to be changed - or at the least clarified. But since NY's legislatures are the biggest joke in the country, they'll stick to naming streets, doing as their speakers tell them and ignoring the voters.
Feb. 18, 2009, 1:06 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
To: Allan Freed, I don't see what your point is.

Will anyone ask why it is illegal to drink in public? Personally I can't see any justification for it.
Feb. 19, 2009, 11:28 am
Bob from Philly says:
Man, I thought New Yorkers were tough. Drink all you want on your own property. This is the land of the free. Be brave. It's the home of the brave too! I hear it in the song every sporting event. As Bob Marley said, "Don't be afraid of your freedom!"

As for the poof beer remark, Alan obviously thinks the Bud Miller Coors swill is a tough guy drink. I got news for ya pal. It's tasteless junk and it's not even American like Sierra Nevada. Grow up and drink a real beer. Try a Brooklyn Monster. That'll put hair on your back!
Feb. 20, 2009, 4:09 pm
Eddie from Ditmas Park says:
NYPD is outta control with the BS tickets they give people. I second Michael from Bay Ridge's sentiment: why can't a grown up, tax-paying adult drink a beer outside? I know people will say that it leads to other crimes and whatnot, but it blames the 90-99% of responsible adults for the small percentage of those that act like fools once they drink.

Once a cop gave me a choice to either down a 40 ounce or get a ticket - I downed it. But then again I was like 22 at the time!
Feb. 27, 2009, 10:55 am
Bill from Flatbush says:
I haven't been to Brooklyn in years but the crime rate must be really low if the cops have time to write tickets for this nonsense.
May 23, 2009, 7:48 pm

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