Community Board 5’s Zoning and Land Use Review Committee voted unanimously Tuesday against the embattled Knockdown Center’s latest request for a 600-person liquor license that could knock out the center’s chances of attaining one.
The committee rallied around the fact that the 110-year-old former door factory at 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, which has recently hosted events ranging from concerts and art happenings to weddings, does not have a certificate of occupancy. Also, the Knockdown Center had previously been denied a 5,000-person place of assembly permit.
The organizers had been given temporary permits to host such artistic events, but they have reached the city’s limit of four temporary permits per 12 contiguous months. They say that they eventually hope to have a venue that competes with the Roseland Ballroom for world-class musicians and other arts happenings, but the lack of a certificate of occupancy may disrupt that plan.
“We believe that it is premature to consider issuing a liquor license when a property does not have a certificate of occupancy for this particular use,” decreed the Zoning and Land Use Review Committee at the conclusion of the 50-minute discussion.
This latest objection joins a long list of negative remarks from area politicians regarding the center’s ability to serve alcohol. State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D- Howard Beach) and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Sunnyside) have already expressed their concerns in letters to the State Liquor Authority in September. The issue goes to the full community board at a meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday night. Since it is only an advisory vote, the SLA will make the final decision.
Making the pitch for the Knockdown Center was manager Tyler Myers and owner David Sklar, who both insisted that the area had sufficient parking, security and temporary permits allowing the center to smoothly operate their past events, which occasionally featured alcohol.
The board members countered with concerns regarding the disruption of the residential streets adjacent to the Knockdown Center as well as the prime plot of industrial land the building sits on, which can be used to house other, more critical businesses, they said. But the main area of dissent was the Knockdown Center’s lack of a certificate of occupancy, which Myers claimed was not needed at the time of approval for a liquor license.
“We can get a liquor license approved while waiting for a certificate of occupancy, but the liquor license will not be given to us until we receive the certificate of occupancy,” the Knockdown Center’s manager said.
Myers and Sklar attempted to quell the reservations of the committee by explaining how building improvements, security at the venue and parking would be managed once they get a certificate of occupancy, but the concerns of the committee were too great. After the vote, Myers and Sklar left dejected, with Sklar, whose family has owned the former factory for decades, saying, “I’m going to go hit my head against a wall.”
CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano believes that Myers and Sklar create an “unnerving” problem for the community.
“They seemed like good guys when I met them, but if I lived there, I would be very concerned,” Giordano said. “There is a big concern when that many people get served alcohol. It is an overwhelmingly residential area nearby. The last thing we need is mayhem.”
The Knockdown Center has drawn criticism from area leaders as well. Nolan stated her concern over the discrepancies between the center’s past 5,000-person application and the new 600-person application, saying “If a business has room to house 5,000 people, why would we believe that only 600 will be served alcohol on a given night?”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) also expressed his views to the SLA, noting the combination of alcohol and the lack of sufficient public transportation to the Knockdown Center can be dangerous.
“The area is underserved by public transportation, leading most patrons to drive to this location,” Gianaris said. “This creates the serious problem of drunk-driving incidents on neighborhood streets.”
Supporting the Knockdown Center is City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who believes that it will bring jobs to the area.
This article was corrected to say that the Knockdown Center had previously been denied a place of assembly permit. We regret the error.