A Red Herring In Greenpoint

February 24, 2009 by
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 


One of the more compelling questions raised at last week’s meeting of the 94th Precinct Community Council was why Franklin Street currently has seven drinking establishments with an eighth one forthcoming. In other words, the citizens present wanted to know why are so many drinking establishments have been sanctioned to inhabit such a small area. When queried, D.I. Fulton did not have answer— not should he; he is a police officer, not an expert on liquor licensing. The following email from Phil DePaolo, however, might shed some light on this phenomenon:

I just can’t help felling extreme sadness after watching these videos from the above link about the problem with quality of life issues in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

During the rezoning I spoke to many residents of Hell’s Kitchen and the Lower East Side who were having many of the problems we face today. I was warned that this would happen to us. But to the City, our local council members and some community groups infrastructure and “quality of life issues” I felt were very important were considered non issues and my concerns fell on deaf ears.

Now we see how bars have transformed our community. Small businesses that served local residents have been forced out of their storefronts unable to meet high commercial rents that landlords know bars can afford. And since new bars often attract their clientele from outside the neighborhood, there is no local market cap on their number or viability. New bars attract non-local patrons, those patrons attract more outsiders and more new bars pop up to meet the  boundless demand as the entire neighborhood becomes a scene, a lively scene, but also noisy, congested and sometimes dangerous to our community.

Neighborhoods thrive on responsible development and bars are a useful part of that development. But the bar scene has gotten out of hand. It is forcing on us an unbalanced, non-local and precarious economic base that compromises the quality of life for residents and depreciates the business value of current bars. Our neighborhood ­ residents and businesses and bar owners alike ­needs a cap on the number of bars per block. I proposed this during the rezoning.

The State Liquor Authority has loosened its interpretation of how many bars are allowed by right within a 500 foot radius.  It used to be that opening a bar within 500 feet of any 3 full liquor licenses required a special hearing at the SLA, consultation with the local community board and evidence of public benefit. The new interpretation will allow many more bars to slip in without that special hearing, consultation or evidence.

The new interpretation of the SLA’s 500 foot rule is that there must be 3 or more licenses of the same class. However, community boards do not have information regarding the classes of existing licenses to be able to make informed decisions.

The State Liquor Authority awards liquor licenses to bars in New York City without regard for local economic diversity or residential quality of life. These local concerns should lie within the purview of local governance, not an unaccountable state authority. To return local concerns to local governance, The New York Community Council will ask every City Council candidate to take a clear stand ­in writing, ­on developing new City Council zoning laws to restrict the proliferation of bars in our community, promote economic diversity and preserve the quality of residential life.

The bar problem may not seem as deep an issue as affordable housing or quality education, but it is an issue that affects residents personally and immediately, the kind of issue that brings residents to the voting booth.

Our neighborhood, long prized for its diversity of peoples, cultures and arts, has many challenges: rampant poverty, homelessness, violence and drugs, rampant gentrification, displacement of long term residents and businesses and now a bar scene that is out of control. Isn’t it time we took in hand the future of our neighborhood? We must ask City Council candidates, where do you stand on zoning limits for new bars?

So there have you. We, as citizens, have been effectively by-passed from having any voice regarding our own community’s future. As a result large venues/tourist attractions like Studio B (which, per Gothamist will be coming back with a vengeance. Soon.) and The Production Lounge (backed by lobbyists and/or unheard of amounts of money) are reshaping our community in a manner which best suits their interests, namely: making it a playground for others. When these “tourists” leave we are the ones who have to live with the consequences of their actions be it garbage, noise, traffic, a smashed window, posting an apology for said broken window, or having bullets fired outside (or inside) your home.

Contrary to what good ol’ Joe alleges (because has no other proverbial leg to stand on) this is not a race issue: it is a quality of life issue. An issue that has arisen time and time again in this, my community when nightclubs have operated with total disregard to the well-being of their neighbors. A neighborhood which I care very much about: Greenpoint.

Those of you who are amenable to having 11222 become another 11211 (or are simply apathetic) should ignore the rest of this post. Those of you who are interested taking our neighborhood back (or at least having your voice heard) can raise holy (but polite and non-threatening, please) hell with your elected officials. Here’s a few to kick things off:

State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol
619 Lorimer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 383 – 7474
lentolj (at) assembly (dot) state (dot) ny (dot) ny (dot) us

Councilman David Yassky
114 Court Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201
(718) 875 – 5200
yassky (at) council (dot) nyc (dot) ny (dot) us

Community Board 1
435 Graham Avenue
Brooklyn , New York, 11211
(718) 389 – 0009
Fax: (718) 389 – 0098
Email: bk01 (at) cb (dot) nyc (dot) gov

And last— but hardly least— you can complain to the New York State Liquor Authority. The people who have in large part created this problem in the first place.

Miss Heather

Photo Credit: Algul Siento


8 Comments on A Red Herring In Greenpoint

  1. d on Tue, 24th Feb 2009 10:06 am
  2. This sort of thing has happened in Manhattan – former industrial areas being turned into party areas, like the LES and Meatpacking District. I don’t mind a few cool, mellow pub type bars near me (like Shayz, Diamond Bar, Pencil Factory), but as someone who lives right off Franklin I also don’t want to see another Meatpacking District here.

  3. Jay on Tue, 24th Feb 2009 3:04 pm
  4. “However, community boards do not have information regarding the classes of existing licenses to be able to make informed decisions.”

    They do if they want it; it’s public information and is available online at the SLA website. But so what? As the above states, the SLA makes the decision on liquor licenses and would make the determine, if the above contention is true, as to when there’s going to be that “special hearing.” And certainly they’d know what class of license is being applied for.

    “The new interpretation of the SLA’s 500 foot rule is that there must be 3 or more licenses of the same class.”

    Production Lounge has an on-premises liquor license, class 252. Shayzz Lounge is operating with a 90-day temporary permit, but has the same OP pending. Pencil Factory, Alligator Greenpoint, Coco66, River Barrel… I can’t find a bar nearby that doesn’t have the same class 252 license.

    So I don’t know. I don’t see the above as “shedding any light” on anything. Mostly it doesn’t make sense.

  5. missheather on Tue, 24th Feb 2009 4:26 pm
  6. Actually you are getting right to the heart of the matter, Jay: three different types of licenses rule. Clearly this criteria makes it easier— not more difficult— for a number of drinking establishments to be clustered in a small area.

  7. al oof on Tue, 24th Feb 2009 9:51 pm
  8. i don’t know a lot about franklin, but there is also the issue of some drinking establishments serve other purposes, like hosting events. lost and found and coco66 both do this, and while i do think there should be regulations about how many venues there are on a block, there aren’t a lot of places in greenpoint to see music.

    anyway, that all said, re: studio b – my love interest was checking out the studio b space recently with some folks who were thinking of renting it as a recording studio with a bunch of rehearsal studios in it. now, that’s not conclusive, but it leads me to believe that the club is not doing well if it’s open now, and not coming back if it’s not.

    it’s really a nice big space. it’d make a great museum. but i guess museums aren’t really profitable.

  9. calyercooze on Tue, 24th Feb 2009 11:34 pm
  10. Dogmeat on Wed, 25th Feb 2009 9:17 pm
  11. Do these bar owners even live near their bars?

  12. missheather on Wed, 25th Feb 2009 10:01 pm
  13. From what I can tell the answer is: NO.

  14. al oof on Thu, 26th Feb 2009 9:57 pm
  15. r5 productions, if i’m thinking of the right people, have been -the- go to all ages promoters in philadelphia for at least the last 15 years. they are like the philadelphia todd p, except with a lot more history. but probably just as much nepotism.

    i mean, that bodes well for the live shows i guess, because they know how to have shows. but it seems to me late night dancing would be more the problem with a club no? because when shows are over at 1 am, people go home. dance parties run all night.

    but that letter from r5 is strange. having a lot of bands with notoriety play a venue doesn’t really say anything about how popular the venue is. those bands didn’t call studio b asking to play. that’s not how show booking works. and they are basically trying to make it seem like having a higher profile for studio b would make it better, but the problem is that people are coming in from outside the neighborhood, not that they aren’t.

    i’m a little offended in that blog post about the “the all ages shows should prove interesting, too.” all ages shows aren’t exactly known for debauchery any more than any other shows. all ages shows often have kids getting picked up at exatly 11 pm by their parents.

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