Community Board 5 voted unanimously last Wednesday against the Knockdown Center’s controversial request to acquire a 600-or-more person liquor license amidst concerns from both worried residents and board members.
After hearing CB 5’s Zoning and Land Use Committee’s report from its meeting with the Knockdown Center operators the previous night, as well as an emotionally charged speech from Ridgewood resident Caitlin Shann regarding her opposition to the events venue, the board wasted little time in recommending that it be denied a license from the State Liquor Authority. The committee only has advisory power, as the SLA will make the final decision.
“I don’t want 5,000 people roaming into our neighborhood. I don’t want 600 drunk people,” Shann, 34, said. “They don’t care about Ridgewood, they don’t care about Maspeth and they don’t care about Glendale. They care about their money.”
The Knockdown Center, a 110-year-old former door factory located at 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, has recently hosted events ranging from weddings and concerts to art happenings and dance parties, yet it does not have a certificate of occupancy. Organizers have received temporary permits to host such events, but they have reached the city’s limit of four temporary permits per 12 contiguous months.
The lack of a certificate of occupancy coupled with concerns over the kinds of potentially disruptive events the venue may host worries CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano greatly.
“I’m very concerned about giving a license to serve more than 600 people there,” Giordano said. “I’ll be darned if we’re going to let any kind of mayhem go on in any portion of our community.”
Knockdown Center manager Tyler Myers was present at the meeting but did not speak to the board. However, he believes that the Knockdown Center has been and will be a force for good in the community.
“I have a long history of work in the non-profit sector, experience I am excited to bring to the Knockdown Center’s operations,” he said in an email after the meeting. “In a single year of operation, Knockdown Center has donated thousands of square feet of warehouse space to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for their Hurricane Sandy emergency response operations … and produced fundraisers for organizations like Ugly Duckling Presse, a Queens-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit and registered NYS charity.”
In response to CB 5’s ruling, Myers insists that the Knockdown Center is far from knocked out.
“We understand their concern that the building would need a certificate of occupancy for our intended use, which we are in the process of getting,” Myers said the following day. “We’re taking a moment to consider our options on the SLA application and digest all of the feedback we’ve received before deciding how we want move forward.”
It isn’t just the potential for rowdiness at the Knockdown Center that worries Shann; the long-term consequences in the form of higher rent and other living costs as seen in some Brooklyn neighborhoods over the last decade frighten her.
“I’ve spent my adult life being driven out of neighborhood after neighborhood,” Shann pleaded to the board. “I don’t want another Greenpoint, I don’t want another Williamsburg and I don’t need another Bushwick.”
Myers disagrees, saying that as a member of the Ridgewood community himself, he is on the same page as Shann.
“As one of her neighbors in Ridgewood who just started a family and rents an apartment governed by NYC rent stabilization laws,” he said, “I pay close attention to the decisions of the Rent Guidelines Board and personally advocate for ideas on how our neighborhood can reasonably protect affordable housing.”