Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Community Board 1: OSA Defends its Relevance
It's a big night for Chairman Chris-- can he keep it under four hours?
Tonight's meeting is teeming with agenda items. Yet less than half the board is here. Is it Lag B'Omer? Someone's wedding? Court get out late?
Not a lot of press here today, save Miss Heather and a photographer with an impressive straw hat and a press card and yes, the New York Times who is here to cover the debate over concerts at East River State Park.
There are a few other items to track, including that pesky Polish Slavic Center liquor license (even its opponents seem resigned to it being passed). And Jason Otano's suave-looking tan, which rivals even Julia Morrow's epic Texas tan. Looking seductive-cherubic, aka seducherubic, Jason!
6:33 PM: The first of a record five presentations is about the Humboldt Street Plaza program. Emily Wisenhof, one of my favorite Department of Transportation planners gives an update. Oh heck, they're all my favorites!
But tonight belongs to Bushwick's most beloved artist, Austin Thomas, who is presenting her new "perches" which will grace the plaza next year. Pedestrians will be able to view the neighborhood and relax on the perches.
The Department of Design and Construction's Nitin Patel (of Monitor Street stoop notoriety) takes the mic to announce the beginning of an 18-month process to redesign West Street between Eagle and Clay Streets at $8.5 million in federal funds plus another $1.5 million for the design. It's one of the worst streets in Greenpoint due to heavy truck traffic.
So far, there haven't been any workshops about this, and Barbara Vitell is pissed.
And Chairman Chris admonishes both planners for having nothing prepared despite sending letters that the construction would begin soon, and essentially wasting everyone's time.
"We are perfectly willing to come back when we have something more concrete," says one of the planners.
6:55 PM: Item three is sidewalk cafes, and we're starting with Zebulon on Wythe Avenue. There's also famed bartender Joel Lee Kulp from The Richardson, for a renewal on Graham Avenue. He's one of the most talented bartenders in the neighborhood, really more of an artist.
There are three others, including Urban Rustic at 318 Grand Street, Jemanya at 57 S. Fifth Street, and Nlam on 178 Kent Avenue-- which has been delayed due to its owner's financial troubles.
Board members are slamming the last one due to a lot of issues with its owners and permits.
Now the fourth item, Jorge Bosch from the Williamsburg Savings Bank updates the building's conversion to a banquet hall with a long presentation about restoring one of the city's oldest landmarks to its former glory.
There are questions about development regarding the demolished back lot near Bedford Avenue, where there will be two levels of underground parking but other plans are unclear.
Heather Roslund says the land use committee will vote on a minor change relating to the bank building in the back of the room, which is her excuse for ducking out of the rest of the meeting.
Finally, Laura Hofmann from Outrage talks about a truck traffic survey that the organization complied.
Uh oh. David Dubrosz reads through the entire study and Chairman Chris cuts him off twice.
Laura brings it all back home with the air particle study. The big takeaway here? Don't breathe if you're walking through Williamsburg, especially near the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. I don't know any good pop songs about polluted air, so here's Drive By Truckers.
7:34 PM Here's what we've been waiting for. OSA's Adam Perlmutter on the East River State Park concerts.
"Last summer we were forced into a relationship with a concert promoter that we did not want to work with, that routinely violated sound and decibel limits.
The Parks Committee wants 10 concerts. There were 22 last summer. Now there are 15, 10 paid and 5 free. Of the free concerts, there is a comedy show and a jazz program.
We reduced our capacity 15 percent from last year from 7500 to 6500.
We're working with the 94 to greatly improve crowd control. When the concerts let out they let out into residential blocks on sixth, seventh and eighth streets. We're trying to divert the crowd to more industrial and commercial streets."
Adam explains that there won't be concerts on July and August and sums it up:
"We do realize there have been problems. We apologize for them.
On our end, we are going to be presenting to the community board what we do, what improvements we are making. Frankly that's our fault. We've made a mistake on that. We have to work hand in hand with the board and we'll continue to do that."
The defense rests. Wow, that was the most regretful speech I've ever heard at a Community Board 1 meeting. Adam apologized for everything except Jane Pool's pants.
There are questions about lowering decibel levels and giving an all access pass to the community board. Chairman Chris should snatch this up. It makes sense.
Rob Solano asks about Latino programing and Stephanie Thayer said that she'd love to do a Central Park Summer Stage-type lineup of diversity.
Adam adds "we want to reduce the amount of concerts and increase the amount of family and children programing."
Del Teague says that promoters must hear concerns about decibel levels and one of them, Sam Kinken, says that he regulates his sound checks as tightly as possible and if he must push sound checks later in the day, he'll do that.
"We're trying to do everything we can to minimize the overall impact while not diminishing fundraising for Open Space Alliance and for parks," said Sam.
7:54 PM: We're into an abbreviated public session, where five Polish Slavic Center members are speaking in opposition to the center cafeteria's beer and wine license. They're upset that the center, a nonprofit organization, is serving alcohol, even though there are many kids in the center and its cafeteria. Also, there's an internal feud that has been simmering in the community for more than a decade. Meanwhile board mascot Mieszko Kalita loses interest.
8:00 PM: Chairman Chris interrupts the session for nominations for the board' s executive leadership. The Polish opposition takes their collective seats. Nobody is challenging Chris or any of the other vice chairs, so this moves quickly.
8:04 PM: The Polish opposition is back up, led by Mark Wysocki, who is arguing that 150 people are opposing the liquor license and that the center is a nonprofit. He also argues that the center could find other ways of raising money instead of selling beer. Like, say, promoting concerts in public parks?
8:16 PM: Now it's the Graham Avenue residents who are opposed to 373 Graham Avenue, a restaurant from the guy who opened Moto.
Lucille Bergamo says the building has had issues of permit problems, concerns over its fire codes and says the building owner has not communicated well neighbors.
Now we have a group of residents against the bar coming into 229 Kent Avenue, a new bar from Joel Lee Karp, who owns The Richardson. One says that the block is a very residential part of Kent Avenue, with many homeowners and a bar open to 4 am is out of place there.
"This is a very beautiful block in Williamsburg and it would be a shame to be desecrated by the greedy needs for one smug bar owner," says one resident.
8:28 PM: Now we've got some Open Space Alliance committee members, led by Laura Hofmann (the very same from OUTRAGE. Laura's busy dudes.)
One resident questions where OSA is on the Monitor Museum site on Quay near West. She's worried that the property could be seized by eminent domain and she's worried it could be quashed.
Laura references a New York Shitty post about last week's OSA meeting, and she's still pissed about a large rock concert booked at Barge Park last year sponsored by "Fuck Duck."
"Besides the name, the lyrics and the pot smoking... people should know better. We've fought to avoid this in our playgrounds."
The eloquent John Ricco, from Grandma Rose's, asks for a "table pound" from the thousands of residents near East River State Park. He gets it.
"These concerts bring a lot of undesirables to that area. If the sound levels can be lowered, I'd like to believe [Open Space Alliance], I hope we can work to alleviate the stress that has resulted.
Please do not take this lightly ever again, We will not be brushed off like dandruff. We have big brains, and big mouths."
8:36 PM: Public Session closed and second roll call. Let's go to Chairman Chris for his report:
"The public safety committee is going to become the centerpiece of the board."
Chairman Chris adds that the executive committee will give moratorium recommendations to the public safety committee and he expects the committee to look at it next month. But then he chides board members for not going to other committee meetings.
8:41 Committee reports. Public Safety. You know what that means. Hit it Doda!
Public Safety chairman Mieszko Kalita wants to thank everyone for attending last week's four and a half hour meeting-- that's an unofficial committee record and only half as long as Heather Roslund's reading of Moby Dick.
Mieszko starts with the sidewalk cafes, including the Meatball Shop. Approved.
Aaaaaand here's the Polish Slavic Center Cafeteria license. Mieszko gives the run-down.
"There are 300 people fighting and 40,000 don't know anything about it," said Mieszko.
Board member Katie Naplatarski says she wants to vote with the majority but she is confused and has more questions.
I have to say, I'm disappointed with Mieszko's performance tonight. He isn't explaining the issue that clearly and he's skirting around details. It's an off night for the M-dawg.
Chairman Chris is adding a stipulation that beer and wine can only be served with meals-- or the center could lose its license. So far, Chairman Chris is in clearly lead for the meeting's MVP for trying in vain to keep a very busy meeting moving. I will now play in traffic on Metropolitan Avenue.
Polish Slavic Center's liquor license passes 27-5. But 229 Kent gets denied, as does 373 Graham Avenue and a troublesome rooftop bar/ lounge, Mercat Negre, on 68 Grand Street.
All of the liquor license renewals get approved.
Mieszko has a funny item about Club Europa, where the SLA thought it was a bank instead of a bar and issued a bunch of citations. I better follow-up.
And Thai Tai corporation, which had some early questions from the board, is sailing right through, so a new Japanese place is coming to the Morgan area.
Mieszko ends with a summary of the moratorium.
9:24 PM Parks Committee Chairman Phil Capanegro summarizes the concerts issue and brings the resolution to limit concerts and reduce capacity to a vote.
Board member Ward Dennis has a question, mulling whether the resolution should be tabled, but then tables his recommendation in favor of more discussion. Also, the meeting just crossed the three hour mark. One more to tie a record.
Board members Katie Naplatarski wants a cell phone contact from OSA to call on the day of the concert and Julie Lawrence asks OSA to create a task force to address issues going forward. OSA's Stephanie Thayer has sunk into her seat in a corner behind Ward, while Adam has spent much of the last half hour in the hallway working over the rabbis.
Ward makes a friendly amendment to take out the numbers of concert, but add a task force to monitor... I mean liaison... no, wait, it's monitor OSA. It carries.
9:35 PM: Transportation Committee, Karen Nieves, notes the city will begin it sNassau Avenue Construction in two months and a Greenpoint Avenue bike lane meeting will be held Thursday.
Land Use's Heather Roslund has a quick report on three land use items, including a martial arts gym on N. Seventh and the Williamsburgh Savings Bank. The items pass.
Environmental Committee's Ryan Kuonen gives a shout out to OUTRAGE and notes a street cleaning initiative to clean up the northside on the weekends.
9:51 PM More public session. I'll summarize.
*A resident representing 300 people on Berry Street is opposing the commercial overlay at N. Eighth and Berry Street. Instead, she says Teddy's should have a variance for its five tables but she doesn't like the bid to "develop" the corner of the neighborhood.
Another resident adds: "We don't want Berry Street to become Bedford Avenue."
*Joseph Garber is up and he gets a mock ovation. I think it's a mock. I can't tell. People may just be happy because when Garber talks, it's near the end of the meeting. Miss Heather perks up and starts filming Joe talking very quickly about the Mayor's budget and the Public Safety Committee's gross negligence of not recording his attendance even though he was there. Also, he's trying to get more garbage cans on Marcy and Havemeyer.
Garber finishes and gets another mock ovation. And then he keeps talking.
*Rabbi Niederman wants to remind people of the excruciating cuts to day care centers.
*Tish Cianciotta says she supports the new liquor license at 299 Graham Avenue, but does not want tables outside.
*Leah Ayber, legislative assistant for Assemblyman Lopez, introduces herself that she's the new Williamsburg rep for the neighborhood. She waited nearly four hours for that.
*Finally, Rami Metal notes that the 400 McGuinness rally is rescheduled for May 22 at 2.
Motion to adjourn. And we're done. Goodnight and Sto Lat!