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Queens Chronicle

Southwest Queens leaders fret over May rap concerts

Knockdown Center set to host two shows by popular rapper M.I.A.

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 5:18 am, Wed Dec 24, 2014.

The Knockdown Center has landed one of the biggest names in hip-hop to perform two concerts next month.

Just don’t expect to see Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden rocking out in the first row.

“This is exactly what we’re trying to prevent,” Holden said. “You know when thousands of people get together, there’s going to be alcohol, drugs and rowdiness.”

Wildly popular, yet controversial female rapper M.I.A. is scheduled to perform shows on May 8 and 9 at the arts center at 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth. Tickets costing $38 went on sale last week.

Fellow rapper A$AP Ferg will open the concerts, which has a listed start time as 7 p.m. on both nights.

But it is Holden’s hope that the city will nix the concerts in the coming weeks.

“We need city officials to protect the quality of life for the neighborhood. So I think if it could legally be stopped, it will be stopped,” he said. “This is going to be a good test for the Department of Buildings and we’re watching our elected officials very carefully.

“If the Pope supported the Knockdown Center, I would say he’s wrong,” he added.

The British-born, Sri Lankan-raised M.I.A., whose real name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, burst onto the scene with her Grammy-nominated mega-hit “Paper Planes” in 2008.

Since then, her music has been critically acclaimed but has also spawned controversy.

The short film that accompanied her 2010 hit single “Born Free” depicts a mock genocide against red-haired people, even featuring a scene where a child is brutally shot in the head and killed.

The film, which was inspired by the ongoing conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers, the rebel group M.I.A. supports, was called one of the most daring and brilliant music videos in years by many critics, but was pulled off YouTube shortly after it was released.

Some call her art controversial while others call it genius, and Knockdown Center manager Tyler Myers couldn’t be more excited for the award-winning musician to perform back-to-back shows at the venue.

“We’re very excited to host her,” Myers said. “Her music is exciting, interesting and layered. She is a very successful woman performing and writing in a genre that, I think, tends to be dominated by men.”

The concerts are sponsored by Live Nation, one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, and tickets can be found on ticketweb.com.

While the shows have already been scheduled, permit issues could potentially jeopardize them.

The Knockdown Center’s plan exam for a place of assembly permit that would allow up to 5,000 people to gather there was disapproved by the Buildings Department on March 21. However, Myers says another plan exam will be filed and he still expects next month’s concerts to take place.

“We do not anticipate any impact on the M.I.A. concerts,” he said. “We will need a public assembly permit of some kind to host those concerts.”

Because of the Knockdown Center’s lack of permits, Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri doesn’t see how the concerts will be allowed to take place.

“I don’t believe they have a valid certificate of occupancy or a public assembly permit, therefore they should not be subjecting the community to this,” Arcuri said. “We’ll keep addressing it to the elected officials and city agencies, but that’s all we can do.”

Det. Thomas Bell of the 104th Precinct said there will be a police presence in the area during the shows, as well.

“We’re going to be out there monitoring everything,” Bell said. “We’ll be there.”

Some enthusiastic fans are already jumping at the chance to see M.I.A. perform in their neck of the woods.

Fresh Meadows resident Crista Sturgeon, 22, has previously seen the “Paper Planes” singer in concert and already plans to go to both concerts next month.

“When I heard about the shows, I immediately went online and bought two tickets for each night’s show,” Sturgeon said. “After all, her concerts aren’t just a show, they truly are an experience.”

The plan exam for the Knockdown Center’s place of assembly permit isn’t the venue’s only application in question. The DOB has placed an audit on the center’s previously approved application to allow for some renovations and to alter the building’s certificate of occupancy from factory to public assembly.

“[DOB] has placed an audit on the job ... whereby a second plan examiner reviews the plan. If that second plan examiner has notes, they automatically put the job in ‘notice to revoke’ pending another meeting with our architect,” Myers said. “That meeting will be soon, and we are confident we’ll be able to satisfy the additional objections the second plan examiner has raised.”

Neither Myers nor the DOB could be reached again as of press time to clarify what objections the facility faced.

When contacted by the Chronicle, a spokesman for Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said she had no comment on the matter.

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