Civic groups in Bellerose are concerned over a proposal to bring a “gaming cafe” to an area that already has several pawn shops and what some consider “questionable” spas. They have urged the community board to vote against the plan.
Menesh Patel wants to open the establishment at 245-19 Jericho Turnpike, a former OTB site, and the Queens Colony Civic Association, the Bellerose Hillside Avenue Civic Association and the Joint Bellerose Business District Development Corp. have expressed their disapproval. Patel could not be reached for comment by press time.
There are several issues of concern. Even though the owner assured residents at a meeting two weeks ago that the site would not be used for gambling, according to Angela Augugliaro, president of the Queens Colony Civic Association, the word gaming is often associated with such activity. And although the owner also said there would not be any accessibility to porn sites, customers must be at least 18 years of age and would be subject to an ID check, Augugliaro said.
This 40-seat gaming cafe is scheduled to open in late August. The Department of Consumer Affairs gave Community Board 13 a time frame of 15 days to decide whether it was for or against the plan, according to District Manager Larry McClean.
The civics have requested that the DCA suspend the time limit so that the community can thoroughly review the application and meet with the owner again to get answers to their many questions, Augugliaro said.
“How convenient is it that this issue comes up at a time when civic associations do not meet, community boards do not meet and people are on vacation, which means that if an emergency meeting were to be called by the community board, most likely a quorum would not be attainable?” the civic groups asked in a statement released on July 9.
Augugliaro said Patel called Bellerose residents “iPad poor” and therefore thinks they would be good customers for his cafe. But Augugliaro isn’t buying it.
“How does he know that?” Augugliaro asked. “Did he go door-to-door and ask people whether they have an iPad? And you don’t need an iPad to play games, you can play games on your computer.”
Augugliaro also said Patel told residents that lawyers could use the cafe to do their paperwork and send legal documents, another idea she found peculiar.
“Why wouldn’t they do that in their own offices?” she asked. “Those documents are supposed to be confidential.”
Another issue is that there is not much parking space available in the area and there are no plans to create any in the near future, the civics say. The site is adjacent to a busy bus stop and having crowds of young adults congregating in the area would be problematic, according to Augugliaro.
Bellerose residents have been vigorously fighting to keep the neighborhood homeowner-friendly and to welcome businesses that will enrich and enliven the community, Augugliaro said. The civics believe adding a gaming cafe would be “disastrous” and open the door for other “unsavory” establishments.
“It will bring an element into the community that we don’t want and that you don’t find in residential neighborhoods, where there is a business strip,” Augugliaro said. “If you open the door for one, then it will be another and another, and it will adversely affect the quality of life here.”