Try to think of good uses for a decent-size parcel of land in Maspeth and a few things might come to mind. A park, for a community that has too little green space. A school, in a district that’s desperately overcrowded and is likely to only see more children come in. More manufacturing, to produce things people need and provide better jobs than the retail or service industries.
It’s unlikely your first choice would be a massive hipster haven best known for wild parties attended by thousands of young people, many of them using illegal drugs. And yet that almost certainly would be the result if the city and state approve pending applications for the old factory known as the Knockdown Center.
Those applications must be denied.
Located at 52-19 Flushing Ave., in an industrial area that abuts housing, the Knockdown Center is seeking a place of assembly permit that would allow up to 5,000 people at a time to gather, and a liquor license that would allow them all to get hammered. Approving those applications would be a disaster for the immediate area, which would be subject to the likelihood of more drunk driving and other reckless behavior, and also mark the squandering of an opportunity to create something that would truly benefit Queens.
The Knockdown Center’s operators portray the site as an arts venue, and it’s true that it has hosted arts events and recently gained the support of the Queens Council on the Arts to give residencies to the creative community.
But it’s not the art that’s the main problem there, it’s the events, especially the ones to come if it is granted a license to sell alcohol — something Community Board 5 and every elected official in the area except for one, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, has written the state Liquor Authority to oppose.
Maspeth simply isn’t Williamsburg or Greenpoint, especially in its relative lack of public transportation. There are other venues where massive concerts, dance parties and other big events can be held, such as Warsaw and Pete’s Candy Store in Greenpoint, or even Resorts World in South Ozone Park. And there are many other arts venues not far away in Long Island City.
We may get to see just how things will go down at the Knockdown on May 8 and 9 if, as planned, wildly popular but equally controversial rapper M.I.A. takes the stage there. CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri, voicing community sentiment, says that without the permits the center is seeking — it doesn’t even have a valid certificate of occupancy — it “should not be subjecting the community to this.”
The 104th Precinct will “be out there monitoring everything,” a police official promises, but that doesn’t mean it can prevent every problem that may arise, and a rap concert attended by thousands at an old industrial site sounds like a recipe for many, many problems.
We’d all be much better off if the Knockdown was returned to its old use as a factory. Or possibly it could be bought by the city, for its fair market value, and the site turned into either a new school, something that remains sorely needed in the district, or even a park. Maybe even a park that could house Maspeth’s old St. Saviour’s Church, which was dismantled and stored away years ago.
If the idea of a park at a former factory seems odd, consider that all three of Maspeth’s existing parks, Maurice, Frontera and Reiff, border industry and sit on former industrial sites of some kind. It could be done again.
We’re sure we sound like party poopers, but we don’t mean to be. We just would rather the parties were held at a smarter location, and we hope the city and state will agree.