Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Community Board 1: Prohibition Edition
6:15 PM: It's absolutely mobbed tonight. I haven't seen it this crowded since Broadway Triangle. And it's because of the proposed liquor license moratorium on the agenda. Yes, the board will debate banning all new liquor licenses in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. How big a deal is that? The Huffington Post sent PAID videographers to cover it.
So what else are people pissed about? The McGuinness Boulevard homeless shelter, the Polish Slavic Center Cafeteria's liquor license, the city's Greenpoint Hospital development project, the pulsating sound tomb that is Alma Lounge a zoning overlay application on N. Eighth Street, the canceled Brooklyn Night Bazaar, scatalogical concertgoers spewing out of East River State Park during the summer, more garbage, dog sh-t, and David Yassky. Again.
There's also a reporter with New York 1 who is grabbing everyone she can get her hands on-- including Community Board mascot Mieszko Kalita into the back hallway for an interview. Mieszko is going to become an overnight celebrity because of this, just you wait.
And finally, Miss Heather and friends have formed the Community Board 1 Ladies Auxiliary because they enjoyed El Rotono. Congratulations ladies!
6:35 PM Chairman Chris takes the mic and we're diving right into the debate... with a BSA application for a new gym and retail store on 272 Driggs Avenue. You can feel the tension in the air.
Next, there's another BSA application for a martial arts studio on 184 N. Eight Street near Bedford Avenue. They're going to turn the old brick warehouse into the fitness studio and the applicant describes his plan as "community-based." He takes five questions. Tension is rising.
Hey it's the Meatball Shop guy! I wrote about him! He wants a small sidewalk cafe on a skinny stretch of Bedford Avenue. Those balls are tasty but I bet there will be some objections to this one.
6:56 PM: David Yassky's up. Chairman Chris asks if he's here yet. He isn't. Sorry David. We're moving on.
6:57: Diane Jackson from Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Coalition takes us back before she takes us forward on the Greenpoint Hospital plan.
But she gets right to the group's lawsuit against the city for choosing a rival developer, TNS Great American Construction, to build senior housing on the site:
"We submitted our proposal. It took the city approximately three years to answer proposal. And they said they had a better proposal. They came up with a very weak proposal. The city took this other organization by the hand, walked them throughout he process, helped them make changes to their proposal to make it look like our proposal. We found this out through a FOIL request and we decided to take them to court."
This gets some table banging and moderate applause.
7:05 PM: Chairman Chris: Is Commissioner Yassky here?
There's a faint "yes" in the hallway. David has the floor. He wants to make it legal for livery cabs to pick up passengers in the outer boroughs-- a practice that people do already. And that's about it.
Two questions. Rabbi David Niederman thanks David for his service to the neighborhood and asks about opposition to the plan from taxi drivers.
Esteban Duran has his blunt take: "Last time you had a proposal it failed miserably. What type of analytical data have you looked at that provides of this massive policy change? Our neighborhoods are still suffering from cuts, like the B39."
David: "You have to let the market do its thing. We've tried to relax our rules to let commuter vans to replace the bus service... We have super smart people working at TLC. I have full confidence in them. Let the drivers figure out where the passengers are and serve them there, and get rid of rules that prevent this from happening."
Shockingly this is not the end of his remarks. There are more questions and David rambles onwards. Press Row is getting restless. A Brooklyn Eagle reporter continues to juggle all her stuff and
7:32 PM: Chairman Chris introduces liquor licenses to a small wave of groans. But he makes his first MVP move of the year, allowing public session to begin now, before meeting starts. Let's summarize:
Kevin Patrick Linney on 51 Kent: I have a bar in Fort Greene. I got wind about a potential moratorium and like many people here I was concerned about the parameters, which streets, is there a time frame, will there be a risk to open a restaurant for those with a good track record.
Anthony Martin is opposed the Berry Street commercial overlay, also known as the Teddy's Restaurant Rezoning. He says he has 75 signatures opposing the rezoning and is worried the rezoning will turn Berry Street into Bedford Avenue.
"Even if loud places use their backyards, it will affect hundreds of us. Easily 30 buildings with gardens we enjoy would be subjected to noise until 2 am. There are 4 restaurants on the corner. We like this. It's enough. There shouldn't be more."
Another woman opposing the commercial overlay. "When this tips, we're are going to lose that balance. A neighborhood is made out of commerce and residents. It's the residents that support that commerce and are an important fabric of the neighborhood."
Andy Kaminsky with the Polish Slavic Center is supporting the re-submitted liquor license application, chastising its opponents for "personal vendettas" against the organization. He goes a minute over time but the Chairman allows.
"It's a politically motivated act based on two unsubstantiated allegations."
A Roebling Street resident says there are too many cars on Roebling Street and that a moratorium should have been put in place years ago.
"We don't want to be known as a drinking neighborhood." He receives loud applause.
Lost in tonight's moratorium frenzy is the fascinating back story of this organization and the community's politics.
Whoa! An opponentShe's attacking Mieszko for misleading the press! Mieskzo told me he wants nothing to do with this issue. When Mieszko is afraid of something, it's pretty f-cking serious.
Mark Wysocki on the cafeteria application. He's reading an excerpt of an interview Mieszko did with a Polish TV station, saying that he would welcome a beer at the cafeteria.
"Did you actually speak to these people," said Wysocki.
"No questions," says Mieszko.
Daniel Susla on Alma Lounge. Correction. Lost in tonight's moratorium frenzy is Daniel's year-long battle with insomnia caused by perhaps the loudest bar in the neighborhood.
"We understand the hoopla here but we're more in favor of enforcement of bars that operate outside the law." Daniel, stop smiling!
Another Polish opponent to the cafeteria.
Two more are supposed to speak against the cafeteria, but they can't speak English, so they Chairman Chris says they can't write into the record.
Felice Kirby is speaking on behalf of the commercial overlay, defending her restaurant's reputation and its outreach to its neighbors.
Another Polish resident is calling out the Executive Director of the Polish Slavic Center and her husband-- who is sitting in this meeting!-- for having dictatorial tendencies. Yikes!
It's best of Community Board 1 Teresa Toro speaks in favor of the Teddy's commercial overlay.
"Our nightlife is out of control now. The SLA gives out liquor licenses like candy. And that's something we have to address now! "
Juliet Linderman of the New York Times is here and asks what's up. It's best of Community Board 1-- that's what's up.
8:12 PM: Chairman Chris introduces the moratorium. Here he is, unfiltered:
We have not set a date for this to start or stop. We would like SLA to adopt a moratorium for this neighborhood.
We've had several complaints recently, people complainig about late hours, noise, loitering
One thing is apparent-- You cannot control people outside an establishment loitering in the street.
I think the community board has a responsibility to find equilibrium for residents who live here who want piece of mind as well as those establishments who are here who provide those services responsibly.
We're not saying it's going to be permanent... but we're going to at this point send a message. This is a tremendous burden on this community-- the saturation of bars opening up. We have a responsibility to all members of the community, not just to those who want to come here and have a good time.
Chairman Chris has some stats. In 2010 there were 138 applications with no rejections and all allowed to have liquor licenses.
This year, 1st quarter, 54 new applications. That's 220 applications projected over the year, a potential 50 percent increase. How much can this community stand? At this point we have come to a crisis with this issue.
Esteban has a question about the SLA and Chairman Chris goes off on the agency.
"They don't have to listen to us, but I know they get complaints from time to time.
This is different. It doesn't involve any one application, it's an overall community issue. We're not saying that the establishments are not good establishments, but they have to understand there's a responsibility here for everyone in this community. At some point, things become oversaturated, there comes a breaking point.
Let's get a consensus from the business community and residents about a plan, but right now it's not working.
What I'm asking for is to take the first step and ask the community board to take the first step.
Tom Burrows asks why all the city agencies are being left off the hook on this issue instead of just the SLA.
8:27 PM: Whew! Heather Roslund gets the mic, and she presents the Teddy's Rezoning for a vote. It passes unanimously. Felice is going to get her sidewalk cafe. At this point the room empties out.
8:33 PM: Phil Capanegro of the Parks Committee introduces a motion to formally oppose the Brooklyn Night Bazaar's Night Market's permits. The event has been canceled but the permits are still filed with the city. Needless to say, this passes unanimously.
8:38 PM: It's Mieszko time! You know something is going on if my report is more than eight pages. It's nine pages"
Mieszko reads a long list of liquor licenses, ending with Momofuku Milk Bar.
"They also will provide milkshakes known as White Russians that will also have liquor," says Mieszko.
There's a no vote for a couple of restaurants, 299-301 Graham Ave, and 35 Grattan Street.
And a yes on 17 renewals.
And now, El Rotorno restaurant, whose license renewal will be denied.
"What were the complaints," asks Esteban.
"They're in the minutes," says Mieszko.
Chairman Chris is confused.
"Women dancing with men for money-- usually men don't refuse that," says Mieszko.
Chairman Chris cuts him off and the motion carries.
Mieszko brings up the Brooklyn Night Bazaar's liquor license application, which soundly voted down. Rough night for the nightmarket.
Mieszko says that there will be a panel of three members, Ward, Mieszko and Will Florentino, to handle liquor licenses and that the public safety committee held a meeting about the McGuinness homeless shelter proposal. And that's it.
9:01 PM: Coucnilman Steve Levin arrives-- to one-quarter of the room still here-- and talks about his opposition to the homeless center.
"We want to say thank you to BRC for your proposal but you should go back ot the Bowery and out of Greenpoint.
Steve also announces that Noble Street is now open and the fence is down, and there was a hearing to address "fair share" concerning waste transfer stations.
Steve also mentions that the MTA will leave its 65 Commercial Street lot for Maspeth, which he had strong behind-the-scenes role expediting.
Steve has a few other issues to update, but I have to chill with Capital New York's Greg Hanlon in the hallway.
9:12 PM: Karen Nieves gives a summary of Transportation. I'm not going to lie, I'm still chilling with Capital New York's Greg Hanlon so I don't know what this is about. Probably bike lanes. Or parking.
9:20 PM: There's a motion to close. Chairman Chris shoots it down and gives the mic to Diana Reyna's Antonio Reynoso, who has a number of items, including some worry about the MTA's movement to a new location under the Williamsburg Bridge and a reminder that there isn't much open space in the south side either.
Lincoln Restler has the floor and notes
9:28 MP: Public Session! We're almost done. Let's summarize.
*Laura Hofmann and OUTRAGE is opposing the mayor's budget regarding waste transfer stations.
*Jane Wolowacz, a longtime N. Eighth resident is upset about the excessive noise and garbage due to the waterfront concerts.
"It's impossible for senior citizens to sit in front of the back yard and enjoy the day. People get very frustrated by the crowd that comes to the concerts. When they leave, they leave bottles, cans, condoms, and they urinate on your trees. This park was not created for the vendors or the business there. Give us this park for the residents. I have to take a sleeping pill. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, you can't go the park because they start concerts."
*There's another resident on the East River waterfront concerts.
Del Teague seconds this complaint.
"I cannot describe how horrible these concerts have made our lives. The entire area is just devastated. If you can't get out of the neighborhood, your weekend is ruined. They start early in the morning doing sound checks, and it's loud. There are so many people, you can't walk through the streets."
There are some other comments going on, but I'm giving the last word to Ward who wants the board to put public session to the beginning of the meeting. So that issues like the quality of life on the Williamsburg waterfront get heard earlier in the meeting. Now that's a good idea. Goodnight.