Notes From The Public Safety Committee (NSFW)
I was present at last night’s Public Safety Committee meeting at Community Board 1. What’s more, I even presented some material (with hilarious results, as you will see). But since I have been sick with some kind of stomach bug and consequently spent most of yesterday convalescing*/preparing for this event, I will keep it as short and sweet as possible.
The meeting convened at 6:45 p.m. and the chairman, Mieszko Kalita, noted the astonishing number of people present. A few were journos (I spied a reporter for the Brooklyn Paper), a few more were upset (and rightfully so) about hazardous conditions for pedestrians on Vandervoort near Beadel Street, but most were there for the main event: Studio B’s cabaret license hearing.
Studio B’s talking head/legal counsel, Ken Fisher presented a letter written by Susan Kowal, a neighbor of said establishment. It outlined seven points to alleviate the public nuisance issues pertaining to their business. They were as follows:
- The issue of soundproofing, namely the rooftop garden.
- Permanent signage admonishing patrons to be considerate of their neighbors.
- The installation of double doors on the first floor as an extra sound-proofing measure.
- A supervised smoking pen to be installed and enforced in front of said establishment.
- Studio B will do regular trash sweeps of of Calyer and Banker Street.
- A security force (provided by Studio B) will be put in place to deter patrons from loitering on adjacent properties.
- Enclosed garbage containers will be put in place in lieu of garbage bags.
In a very welcome act of good faith Studio B acquiesced to points number 1-6. Their representative, Ken Fisher, stated that they were barred by law in regards point number 7 (make note of this, it becomes relevant later). Mr. Fisher also noted that Studio B has ceased using the rooftop garden as of July 23, 2008. A number of people (myself included) pointed out that the reason this came to pass is because the Mayor’s Office for Special Enforcement closed it down. On July 23rd. Undeterred, Mr. Fisher emphasized that Studio B is awaiting inspections from the Fire Department and Department of Buildings regarding the premises.
Dennis Fulton, the new(ish) precinct captain of the 94th Precinct was not only present, but had a few things to say as well. First he noted that Ms. Kowal’s letter was very well written and applauded Studio B’s efforts to make concessions to their neighbors. Then he made note that Studio B had no significant uptick in complaints lodged for the last two months. This was disputed by neighbors of Studio B present who stated they were discouraged by 311 employees from filing a complaint where there was already one extant (for any particular evening). Mr. Fulton was (understandably) befuddled by this revelation and assured everyone present they were more than welcome to contact the precinct directly at (718) 383-3879. This was very welcome news.
Captain Fulton had a few questions for Studio B. They were as follows:
- The smoking pen and its parameters. Chairman Kalita pointed out as long as it only extended three feet from the building, it was perfectly legal.
- Upon hearing from Mr. Fisher there would be no live performances or dancing on the second floor, Mr. Fulton asked if there were speakers (to play music) on the second floor. Mr. Fisher answered in the affirmative— but said they would be willing to stop playing music at 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. It was made known by several people present that Studio B often doesn’t start events until 10:00 p.m.
And of course, the “owner” spoke. One of them, anyway.
She too mentioned the above-listed seven points and said they even invited neighbors to a barbecue on their rooftop garden to discuss issues. Caryn Rose noted this meeting came to pass on their illegally built, yet-to-be-legally-sanctioned rooftop garden. The owner had no rebuttal to this. Said owner also waxed sanguinely about how long it takes for the city to approve building permits, certificates of occupancies and such. To wit it was suggested by several people present, quite vocally, that Studio B should wait like everyone else. Once again, the owner had no answer.
Pro: Studio B had a few people on hand to attest to the validity of their institution. The first, a chap with a clearly visible trace of a black eye, attested that he lived behind Studio B and had never heard anything. He made it a point to question the verity of statements lodged by his neighbors attesting that there was indeed, a noise problem. He was told by the Mr. Kalita that he was there to state his case, not ask questions. This same chap later professed to speak on the behalf of several people in his building but failed to provide names. When asked about the woman who sat next to him, he said it was his girlfriend and she lived with him. Go figure.
Another woman said she liked going there. A late-coming gent stated that Studio B’s presence provided jobs/income to the community. Given that there are MAYBE 2-3 late night delis and everything else closes at 11:00 p.m.— at the latest— I and a number of other people found his argument to be rather tenuous at best.
Con: The usual suspects… and others. After applauding the measures Studio B seemed to be willing to take regarding noise and garbage, it was pretty much the same complaints I have heard before. All of which were (and are) very legitimate:
- Why should Studio B be awarded a cabaret license when they have broken the law repeatedly?
- They’re operating as if they have a cabaret license already thus said hearing was a farce.
- Studio B was having an event that very evening at 8:00 p.m.
Then came forth the others:
- Dewey Thompson, a member of Community Board 1 (but not a member of the Public Safety Committee) noted that securing a cabaret license was a privilege, not a right. And given Studio B’s abysmal track record he was against them being awarded a cabaret license.
- Me. But I will leave that for last. When asked by Chairman Kalita if he had anything in the way of a rebuttal regarding what I presented, Mr. Fisher said he would wait until the end of the hearing.
- After some discussion about the Vandervoort traffic situation, Mr. Kalita asked if anyone else had anything to say about Studio B. Someone did: an architect who consults businesses as to the zoning regulations and legal requirements needed to set up businesses. His specialty was eating and drinking establishments. First, he noted that the second floor had no legal certificate of occupancy. With a fussing baby in one hand and a rather thick Department of Buildings memo in another he then pointed out to Ken Fisher that Public Assembly permits and a Fire Protection Plan are required of businesses whose size exceeds seven floors or whose Certificate of Occupancy exceeds 300 people. Since Studio B’s first floor allowed 461 people, they did, indeed, fall into this category. He offered this pamphlet to Mr. Fisher**. This chap then commenced to speak but Ken Fisher cut him off. And as a result, Mr. Fisher was severely reprimanded by chairman Kalita. His right to speak having been restored, he went on the record to say that given their lack of respect for the law there was no good reason Studio B should be awarded a cabaret license.***
Shortly thereafter were entertained with some Sophistry:
Ken Fisher (This is paraphrased— Ed. Note): Studio B already has a cabaret license under the previous owner.
Chairman Kalita: You cannot drive a car using someone else’s license.
Ken Fisher: You can drive another person’s car if it has been inspected.
Chairman Kalita: (disgusted)
Angry Studio B Neighbors: It (Studio B— Ed. Note) hasn’t been inspected.
In what I would surmise to be a last gasp effort to bully the detractors present, Mr. Fisher said if the board didn’t give the green light for Studio B’s cabaret license with conditions (points #1- 6) they might be dropped when the Department of Consumer Affairs makes their decision.
It went on. And on. Conditions (for the go-ahead) were discussed, but I suppose I should go into my contribution to this hearing (which precedes this dung heap).
What gets me about this whole Studio B thing is no one seems to care about the people actually patronizing this establishment, so I fashioned my presentation accordingly.
1. I recalled watching a fist fight during their Grand Theft Auto IV release shin dig. This came to pass at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. I clearly remember their security person getting on his walkie talkie and saying everything was “OK”. It wasn’t. The police were called to break it up.
2. I professed to have no knowledge as to what Studio B, as a nightclub, is entitled to do. But I noted that they have conducted a number of roller derbies and at one such event a woman broke her arm. After drinking “four shots of whiskey”, no less. Good people make bad decisions under the influence. Why didn’t Studio B employees bar this poor woman from participating?!? If not out of the kindness of their hearts, out of fear of legal liability?
3. You know we’re living in troubled times when I quote from the Brooklyn Paper.
Ken Fisher was quoted this week in the Brooklyn Paper as saying: We’re very conscious of the fact that not everybody is respectful of the neighbors when they come to and from the club, but that’s not necessarily within the club’s control.
Does Studio B even bother to control their patrons? I don’t think so. If anything, they are enablers.
Exhibit A: gleaned from Studio B’s very own MySpace page.
As you can see on the tabs in this screencap, I was getting my fix of Britney gossip today. She’s looking good. The same cannot be said about the topless person in this YouTube flick (which has been removed). Bummer.
Exhibit B: More boobies courtesy of “Fun At Studio B”!
At the very bottom Collin (LaFleche) promises more pix. I clicked and he delivered!
After I showed the above goodness to the Public Safety Committee (and noted it came from Studio B’s own photographer) I wistfully noted that I was not as “free-spirited” as this woman. Perhaps I should be? Perhaps I will be. Tomorrow, as Scarlett O’Hara said, is another day!
Not knowing what audience I was talking to (that being the Public Safety Committee of Community Board 1) I thought I should include a few goodies for the ladies.
Exhibit C: Banker Street Booty
Once again, Collin delivered.
I forgot to mention that these photographs were taken on May 3, 2008. The day after they opened their rooftop garden. Oh well.
I can kick myself for overlooking this beauty. Oh well, here it is for posterity. These kids sure have a hard time keeping their clothes on (and wiping their asses)!
4. I brought up the troublesome (and yes, BORING) issue of Studio B being caught with over 650 people in a space sanctioned for 461. I made light of their trying to get the rooftop terrace approved for 173 people. If Studio B has packed over 650 people in a space designated for 461 people, what will they do if/when they are allowed to have 634 people in their haven? What fire plan do they have in place? (ANSWER: NONE) How will patrons egress or EMS or New York’s Bravest be able to enter under the current conditions? I made it very clear I did not want this to happen here.
5. I could not refrain from bringing this up. I wanted it to be on public record. I even said so. I asked the people representing Studio B what kind of place they were running. I don’t know— and given their slack jawed expressions I don’t think they know either.
When all was said and done, Ken Fisher had nothing in the way of a rebuttal to what I (and more importantly, everyone else) presented. We got obfuscation, petulance, arrogance and bullshit in return. I guess that’s what Studio B is paying Mr. Fisher “the big bucks” to do.
Mr. Kalita was more than a little angry when he tendered his decisive vote against recommending Studio B’s cabaret license. First he re-read Susan Kowal’s letter. Then he pointed out that Studio B can indeed have a garbage container and if they bothered to consult the Department of Sanitation’s web site they’d know why.****
What’s next: the Executive Committee of Community Board 1 will conduct a session this month (August) and have yet another vote about Studio B’s license. Since it is an Executive Committee meeting (because CB 1 is on vacation in August) there will be no opportunity for public comment.
And I have no doubt Studio B postponed their initial hearing for a cabaret license for just this reason!
In closing, there are many lessons to be learned from what I beheld last night. Too many to mention, but here are a few:
- Don’t fuck with Mieszko Kalita. He might be sweet and jovial behind the counter at Beata Delicatessen (he is, I know) but he has a zero bullshit tolerance as the head of the Public Safety Committee.
- If you are paid lobbyist/attorney (KEN FISHER), do NOT interrupt a Greenpoint citizen who is trying to speak with a fussy baby in tow. Especially if he is as qualified, if not more so, than you regarding such vagaries as Public Assembly Permits and Fire Plans.
- Bluffing and strong-arming pisses people off. ESPECIALLY GREENPOINTERS. (KEN FISHER)
- Posting photos on the Internet of people inside and outside your establishment exposing themselves is rock-ass stupid. Captain Fulton certainly found what I presented interesting.
UPDATE: It looks like Studio B will not be open tonight. They moved their show for this evening to Southpaw.
Photo Credits: (all save the photo gracing the beginning of this post) Collin LaFreche and Studio B.
*A nice way of saying spending most of my day in the bathroom. I will spare you the details. This post is too damned long already!
**He accepted it and later threw it in the garbage. Mr. Fisher said their architect had a different idea.
***Here’s what he had to say about the experience:
That Ken Fischer sure is a douche. I really enjoyed handing him that DOB memo. I was a bit nervous and my voiced cracked (which is unusual), but what a great pastime. I could get into community board meetings.
****They cannot keep the container on the street, after being emptied they have to keep it on their premises.
P.S.: No Twinkies were hurt or otherwise consumed during the above hearing or the writing of this post. I hate sweets. Except for ice cream and baklava. On occasion.