Live From Community Board 5!

October 9, 2013 ·
Filed under: 11385, Maspeth, Maspeth Queens, Queens 

wazzupCB5

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IMG_1969

(Or: Heather Goes To Glendale)

I’ll be brutally honest: I have been burned out of Community Board 1 (Brooklyn) of late. So much so that I felt a staycation was in order. Having a budget of $29.00 limits one’s options.

agendaCB5

No worries. Thanks to Queens Crap, I found a way to while away the evening. CASE IN POINT: item number one. To reiterate:

A discussion of concerns about the Knockdown Center at 52-19 Flushing Avenue, potentially having events with 600+ people and selling alcoholic beverages at this former factory site.

To preface— and speaking as a Community Board 1 resident, we have had many meetings regarding the “concerns” of residents who have beheld the aftermath of events entailing large amounts of people and alcohol. It isn’t pretty.

What you have just watched, gentle readers (hopefully of Community Board 5 Queens), was the aftermath of an Open Space Alliance North Brooklyn concert at East River State Park. The band in question was Widespread Panic. And their patrons, with the help of a vendor dispensing nitrous oxide via balloons, made it just that: wide spread panic. The FDNY was called in to the confiscate the gas.

It is the ostensible mission of the Open Space Alliance North Brooklyn to advocate and fund-raise so as to make improvements to our parks. Nonetheless, this melee did get its hearing— and they simply relocated their concerts further north. Same shit, different location. Keep this in mind when you watch the following footage. I wish I could be apologetic about the snarky comments— but I am not. I hail from a Community Board where even ping pong table tennis parlors want to serve spirits. And of course there’s the recent shit show regarding Urban Outfitters. Enjoy!

Part I: Introduction

  • The SLA (State Liquor Authorty) allows four events a year.
  • “We have not been denied but we have have exceeded what their guidance is” Mr. Myers says. (In other words: we have to do this)
  •  He goes on to continues (regarding temporary SLA permits) “It is four but I do not think it is hard four”.  (It is — Ed. Note.)
  • Concerns about this facility being a nightclub are raised by the chair.
  • “We will not be a club”, Tyler Myers says. Then he sees fit to enlighten his audience as to what an “arts center” is. As defined by Wikipedia:

“art centre or arts center is distinct from an art gallery or art museum. An arts centre is a functional community centre with a specific remit to encourage arts practice and to provide facilities such as theatre space, gallery space, venues for musical performance, workshop areas, educational facilities, technical equipment, etc.[1]
In the United States, “art centers” are generally either establishments geared toward exposing, generating, and making accessible art making to arts-interested individuals, or buildings that rent primarily to artists, galleries, or companies involved in art making.

  • I want to thank Mr. Myers for informing me, an artist, third generation, as to what an artists’ center is. I clearly have missed out on many a dance party.
  • Per Mr. Myers a liquor license is normal for an “arts center” then he cites MOMA, The “Met”, Lincoln Center, etc., as examples. Um, the last I checked all of these are in Manhattan.
  • Now we’re back to sustaining and maintaining this beautiful building. E.g.; if you do not let us have this, we’ll throw our toys out of the pram and tear it down.
  • Parking lots are discussed. Rather good to know since this is not located anywhere near mass transit.

Part II: David Sklar Speaks

  • “Tearing it down was the only thing we could come down to…”
  • (when questioned about the property being used as an industrial space) Mr. Sklar states that is was mostly used as a place to warehouse material made elsewhere and this would involve them having “containers on the property and he felt it could be “better utilized”.
  • He gives a history of his business, albeit he gets the whole Manhattan Avenue/Queens Midtown Tunnel thing wrong.
  • Mr. Sklar is asked to identify the property he owns on a map. After some assistance he does. For what it is worth, Mr. Sklar, I’d be equally challenged. But then again, I am simply a “visitor” and not part of the “Maspeth community”.

Part III: Q & A

  • The cost of overhauling this space is kicked up from $10,000 to six figures.
  • How is the Knockdown Center having events? Via Robertas which is apparently “just down the road”.

View Larger Map

Part V: Q & A, Continued

  • How the Knockdown Center procures/provides beer and wine is discussed further.
  • Has a Cab License been applied for? (Answer: no)
  • Questions about this facility’s proximity to a residential area are raised.
  • A question about their target market is raised. My observation/personal experience: if you find yourself asking if an event is a carry-over of the McCarren Pool concerts, it probably is.

Part VI: Q & A Continued (Or: The Blonde Lady Nails It!)

Regrettably I did not film her speech. Human error on my “smart phone”. But I can summarize it!

  • When industrial spaces are used for other purposes…

robertas

  • The rents go up and other industrial businesses are forced out.
  • Hence there is more demand for industrial space than supply.
  • But of course, more money can be made by David Sklar and his buddies by having an “art center” and MINIGOLF FOR THE MASSES!

New York Shitty Analysis:

Same song, different verse. I know the tune all too well.

Perhaps the Argentos, investors in this endeavor— and my community— would be so kind to explain about how the following will (further) uplift the Maspeth community?

Security

Can’t honestly say I have ever seen this at MOMA…

This goes out

or this at Lincoln Center, for that matter. Perhaps I am going at the wrong time?

We fuck anywhere

It’s rather convenient that the Knockdown Center has incorporated— albeit under a different address for same-said property. Five days earlier.

Entity InformationKnockdown Center_Page_1

 

WAKE UP Community 5 Queens. If do you do not establish policy now, you’ll reap what my community leaders have sewn. Why else do you think these bozos want to have this in your community? Mine got fed up with this shit a long time ago.

FWrave

 

P.S.: Um, didn’t they say something about no raves? Hmm…

Mark Your Calendars: Community Board 1 Joint Public Safety & SLA Review Committee Meeting

moorestplanters

notice

Today yours truly decided to celebrate this, a one lovely May Day by taking a little sojourn through my community’s Industrial Business Zone. You can imagine my bemused interest, gentle readers, when I beheld the above liquor license hearing notice. The Corporation listed is Nineteen Twenty Four Incorporated. After checking the New York State Department of State Corporation Database and doing a little more poking around online, I discerned this is none other than Robertas. It would appear this establishment whose backyard garden, as some of you might recall, was recently the source of some controversy is seeking a liquor license for a backyard garden located at 268 Moore Street. Very odd.

Whether or not this is the same garden for which Robertas placed a Craigslist advertisement seeking an unpaid intern to oversee/maintain remains to be seen. Regardless of how you feel about this issue (and methinks I have just made my position quite clear), those of you who have something to say about Robertas as a neighbor should make it a point to attend this meeting. I have a creeping suspicion it will be quite lively.

elborn

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Who knows, maybe “Wiener Buttface” will make an appearance? I for one can only hope so…

Community Board 1 Joint Public Safety & SLA Review Committee Meeting
May 9, 2013 starting at 6:30 p.m.
Community Board 1 Office
435 Graham Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11211

*This solicitation was found objectionable by party poopers who support such concepts as Labor Law enforcement and do not think pizza— even that be had at this hallowed establishment— qualifies as compensation. (tongue firmly in cheek) Some folks simply do not have a sense of humor. Go figure…

From The New York Shitty Inbox: Point/Counterpoint

Fuck YouThere has been many a repost— and commentary— since I posted a flyer protesting an Craigslist advertisement listed by Roberta’s seeking an unpaid intern to work in their garden this upcoming summer. So many, in fact, I am not going to attempt to list them all here.

Nonetheless, I received interesting correspondence on the subject. With out further ado, here we go! A fellow business owner in Bushwick writes:

Hi Heather,

As a fellow restaurant owner in Bushwick, I’ve caught your piece on the Roberta’s unpaid intern mini-scandal and wanted to come to their defense (a bit) to offer a bit of a counterpoint:

Obviously, what they’re doing breaks several labor laws, but two important points should be noted:

  • Gardening is expensive. The urban gardening that they’re doing is a fantastic sustainable project, and we’ve started building out our own local farm as well. When we ran the numbers on what it would cost to maintain and divided it by the estimated man-hours for the project, on a per-hour basis it came out to less than minimum wage. So from a pure fiscal perspective, any motivation for city-based agricultural projects are not going to be financially viable. The two individuals I hired to run our farm, Jason Reis & Spike Appel, are two phenomenal individuals who genuinely love farming – in fact, they run a local non-profit called Bushwick City Farms where they not only don’t do it for profit, they actually give away their entire harvest every season to the local community free of charge. We’ve undertaken our own urban farm with the full understanding that it won’t help our bottom line, & are compensating Jason & Spike. So while I sympathize with Roberta’s on the cost of running their garden, they could probably afford to pay their interns.
  • The experience would be invaluable. While it’s easy to bash any company that exploits unpaid interns, I’d like to draw on my own experiences when I was a young 20-something. The internship would in fact be a great learning experience and most importantly, Roberta’s would be investing their time & money into working with interns. Think of it this way – if you wanted to go the route of taking a course with Boswyck Farms in Brooklyn [link], it would cost you $1750, while the Roberta’s experience would cost you zero. And prior to opening up Skytown, I had never worked in the bar/restaurant industry, so I was desperate to get some hands-on experience managing a restaurant. Nobody wanted to bother helping me out, so I ended up actually having to pay someone for the privilege of working as an unpaid intern so I could learn the ropes. In other words, me getting free direct training from a general manager who makes $30/hour has a far greater impact than me getting a part-time at $15/hour job to learn the same thing.

For every person who looks at this and is (rightfully so) inspired to post a “FUCK YOU” flyer, I’m sure there’s somebody out there who would gladly take them up on their offer (I intend to do it for my own learning benefit). So the moral of the story is that yes, New York is a ruthlessly expensive city and not everybody has the luxury of taking unpaid internships. But for all the young transplants out there about to embark on the city, I encourage them to look past the crappy hourly wage and to get their hands on the best learning experiences they can get in order to develop skills & get their foot in the door – because the best investment that you can ever make is in yourself.

And now, a second perspective:

To Whom It May Concern at Roberta’s,

It has recently come to the public’s—and our—attention that your company solicited for free labor via an ad on Craigslist, specifically for labor to provide value to the restaurant by working in your garden (“Urban Farm looking for Intern”). As the public’s response and press attention no doubt illustrate, this has touched a nerve with many, certainly not least because of how this runs counter to the brand image Roberta’s has cultivated of promoting economic vitality in the community. It probably felt natural to draw on associations of urban gardening with true community-owned and -managed gardens, gardens that exist because of the sweat and toil of neighborhood volunteers, gardens which are not privately owned, but owned by the people, recognized as part of a commons so often lost to privatization and the forces of gentrification.

We invite you to reconsider the factors that apparently have led you to initiate an employment relationship that is likely in violation of state and federal minimum wage laws. And not only that: We call on you to cease employing unpaid interns—implicitly relying on their low power status to keep them from filing legal claims for the wages they may be due by law—and to make a public statement denouncing the widespread practice of employers profiting from the valuable work performed by unpaid interns.

We presume that your initial decision was not rooted in a conscious disregard for the law or the ethics underlying it, but rather that Roberta’s shares the common yet mistaken understanding that if labor is provided by an employee called an “intern” and that employee will learn something new, there is no legal or ethical requirement to compensate or treat that worker as any other employee.

But the situation is not quite so simple. In 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor published Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, “to help determine whether interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the services that they provide to ‘for-profit’ private sector employers.” It states, in part:

If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek. If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA.

By this measure, your advertisement would appear to be for a position that is not in compliance with the law. And yet, violation of this law is not the limit of our concern. We oppose the widespread use of free labor guised as “internships” for a number of reasons, including that it:

  • Contributes to unemployment and inequality
  • Denies opportunity to those who cannot afford to work for free
  • Reduces diversity of race and class in the workforce by relying on structural privilege
  • Erodes workplace protections, including against sexual harassment and racial discrimination
  • Devalues the dignity of work
  • Creates downward pressure on the wages of workers who have to compete with free labor
  • Promotes the accumulation of wealth by some through the uncompensated work of others
  • Produces a culture of self-denigration

The price of your food and the clientele it brings have already been catalysts for gentrification in the area. Your decision to deny fair compensation to all the labor needed to run your business exacerbates this problem, excluding low-income residents from the opportunity to participate in the local workforce, further pushing them out of their own community. As a presumptive valuable force in the neighborhood, Roberta’s can transform this unwelcome turn in the spotlight to its advantage by reversing its position on this practice and by publicly taking a stand to respect the residents of its community, as well as the labor and hard work that helps it thrive. We look forward to seeing your support for the return to a more sustainable and healthier labor market.

Another world is possible,

Intern Labor Rights

So there have you.

The Word On The Street, Part IV: F*ck You

Fuck You

Does anyone have the 411 on this? If so please share via comments or email me at missheather(at)thatgreenpointblog(dot)com. Your identity will remain anonymous if you so desire. Thanks!

New York Shitty Photos du Jour: Cowboys & Indians

From Moore Street.

Miss Heather

The Word On The Street: Pizza

From Moore Street (across the street from Roberta’s).

Miss Heather

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