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Queens Chronicle

What to do about noise in Astoria?

Some Strand Smokehouse neighbors want the backyard shut down

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:30 am

A dispute over a restaurant’s backyard garden has the owner losing money and the residents sleep, each party says.

The Strand Smokehouse at 25-27 Broadway in Astoria opened in November to great reviews by food critics. The spot prides itself on dry-rubbed meats, an expansive beer and whiskey menu, live music and a casual atmosphere inside its 210-seat space and outside in its garden.

However, neighbors from the 100-unit co-op at 31-85 Crescent Street, eight of whom filed complaints with the community board on Tuesday night, said they were misled about the owner’s intentions for the garden, believing it would be a “zen garden for employees” and because of that have suffered “many sleepless nights.”

“The owner misrepresented that garden,” sixth floor co-op resident John Robinson said.

Rattling kegs, employees bringing food from its prep kitchen a couple storefronts away at Bakeway NYC and the possibility of noisy patrons during the summer months are all problems, president of the co-op group Lysa James, whose windows are 10 feet away from the garden, said.

“Just because he wants to have a garden back there doesn’t mean it’s appropriate,” James said. “The compromise is that he has a 5,000-square-foot restaurant which will already have noise issues.”

Astoria resident Tom Vasilis, the owner of Bakeway NYC and operator of the Strand, said he told his neighbors that the garden would be used by customers of both the Bakeway NYC and the Strand.

“I want it to look like a zen garden, like the Noguchi Museum,” Vasilis said. “My people from Bakeway will be using it during the day, drinking cappuccinos.”

At night customers of the Strand will use the garden, but not for dining, he said.

Up to 100 people can use the area until 11 p.m. if they want to. That’s why Vasilis says he wants to mitigate the noise issue before the summer months.

Vasilis proposed that the restaurant build an eight-foot wall, made of specialized soundproof material, around the perimeter. He would pay half and the other portion would be split, depending on the number of feet the establishment shares with the outdoor space, by the landlord of the Strand, the co-op and the owner of the apartment building at 31-74 29 St., which can also hear people in the garden. Vasilis also proposed building a canopy over the entire garden, which he would pay for in full.

Vasilis and the co-op are scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the proposal.

As for the rattling kegs, Vasilis said there was one incident where the keg delivery arrived at 6:30 a.m. instead of the agreed-upon noon. They were reprimanded and it hasn’t happened since, he said.

Food likewise is shuttled from the bigger kitchen at Bakeway, once at 4 p.m. and then throughout the night if needed. There’s a smaller kitchen in the Strand as well. The garden is closed to employees at 11 p.m.

“This war does affect me,” Vasilis said, adding that the co-op has boycotted the Strand and posted bad reviews online. “I’m not a rich guy. If I’m not at the bakery, I’m here. I think it’s good on the whole for the neighborhood. Thirty-something young professionals now have somewhere to go on this side of 31st Street.”

Community Board 1’s chairman and district manager said there was little they could do and suggested speaking to Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), but said they would place a call with the Fire Department and the Department of Environmental Protection to see if the restaurant has violated any laws.

Vallone has worked on this issue and those similar to it in the neighborhood. Astoria has a lot of characteristic mingling of night life and quiet residential side streets.

“Most of the time we are able to work with owners,” Vallone said. “If not, I unleash a hell of city bureaucracy on them and then they usually change their minds.”

As for his dealings with the Strand: “It’s a cool new location that adds a lot to Astoria especially in that area,” Vallone said. “Unfortunately, it’s surrounded by multi-family buildings, which inevitably will lead to problems. But the owner has been very receptive.”

Welcome to the discussion.