Back in June, Cobblestones Pub owner Peter Massaro was being hailed as something of a hero for installing a regulation-size half-basketball court behind his establishment at 117-18 Queens Blvd.
He was even quoted in local media reports as saying he installed the court to “give local people in the community another place to play.”
But, a little more than three months later, what began as a hoop dream for some has turned into a “public and private nuisance” for a group of the pub’s neighbors, who spoke out strongly against the court and its players at last Wednesday’s Community Board 6 meeting in Forest Hills.
“We, the residents who live within a two-block radius of Kew Forest Lane and 78th Avenue, Forest Hills, in Queens, NY, demand the removal of Cobblestones Pub’s basketball half-court,” said Stephanie Lin, reading from a prepared statement on behalf of a group of 10 to 12 neighbors, calling themselves the Kew Forest Neighborhood Association. “The basketball court has facilitated increased crime, traffic, noise, litter, and drunks in our community.”
Amid a laundry list of complaints that included rowdy and lewd behavior by both the game’s players and spectators, Lin compared the pub’s court to “an outdoor Madison Square Garden adjacent to our backyards.”
Ironically, the court’s orange and blue accents were intended as a salute to the famed Manhattan sports venue.
A Daily News story from June heralding the court’s installation noted that since Cobblestones is surrounded by day-time businesses, “there haven’t been any complaints about spirited contests taking place after hours.”
Lin said that the games, played several times each week, often lasted until 10:30 p.m. and some have gone as late as midnight.
Massaro, however, said that the games are good for the neighborhood and that they mostly conclude by 9 p.m. “The games are twice per week, on Mondays and Tuesdays,” Massaro said. “If anything, these games are something positive.
“I have many local court officers, cops and even some guys from Council member Koslowitz’s office playing on these courts,” he added. “The people that play here are all local … I’ve been on the boulevard here for 25 years and people know me. I'm not looking to create problems … why would I? That would be bad for business.”
Reached after the meeting, CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said he was surprised to hear Lin being “so vocal” about the issue.
“Peter [Massaro] has been in the area since 1985 and we’ve never had any problems with him or the pub,” he said. “I’ve been to the pub and there are no problems.”
He added that there is “nothing illegal” about the court. “We’ve sat down with Peter, with the precinct and with Council Member Koslowitz and we just told Peter to keep things quiet after 10 p.m.”
Lin, who lives about five houses from Cobblestones, also complained of marijuana smoking, public urination, fighting and several uncomfortable conversations with Massaro that she characterized as “threatening.”
She said that among the things Massaro told her, he said “DAs and police officers” attend his games.
Moreover, Lin said that when she told Massaro he was violating nuisance laws, “he told me to go back to where I came from and come back after I learn the laws of America.”
Massaro said that Lin had misconstrued the comments and that he simply had asked her to leave his pub after she became belligerent. He said Lin “has called every agency on me … she’s been a problem.”
In an email, Koslowitz pledged to help resolve the issue.
“Since being informed of the many concerns from the residents of Kew Forest Lane regarding the basketball court at Cobblestones Pub, I have met with the owner, Community Board 6 and the 112th Police Precinct in order to determine ways to mitigate the noise, including a time limit for play of 9 p.m. and to have an increased police presence in the area,” she said.
“It is extremely important that the restaurant is respectful and courteous of its neighbors,” she continued. She said she would be meeting with all parties to try and find a solution. But on Monday Lin reiterated her group’s desire to have the court shut down completely.
Among other reasons, Lin said she doesn’t believe Massaro can control the rowdy behavior of the games’ players and spectators. She said neighbors fear if Cobblestones is allowed to continue then all the stores behind their houses will want basketball courts and beer gardens, leading to increased crime, litter and noise.
Her group is set to meet with the community board, the precinct, Koslowitz and Massaro this week, but she said they remain “unwilling to compromise.” And since the court is not violating any laws, they are considering a civil suit against Cobblestones’s landlord.
In other business, the board approved capital and expense budget priorities for fiscal year 2014. The list includes funding for Beacon programs at JHS 190; funding for senior centers, catch basin cleanups and upgrading CB 6 sewers; expansion of the Rego Park Library; installation of security cameras at all subway stations in CB 6; and Woodhaven Boulevard safety upgrades.