Anyway, the posts I have authored about the Knockdown Center up to this point have been focused on the behavior that has gone on at the location and its physical condition. This time, I'm going to tell you about the main investors in the property - Tony and Gina Argento, who also happen to be owners of Broadway Stages in Greenpoint. Here's how certain elected officials feel about them:
From the Times Newsweekly:
City Council Member Helen Sears...vouched for [Tony] Argento as a “responsible” individual who “cares for the area.”From the Daily News:
“I have known the owners for a long time. They also do good philanthropic work.” - Council Member Elizabeth CrowleyFrom Brooklyn USA:
"AND OF COURSE, THERE’S THE SIBLING SUPER DUO BEHIND BROADWAY STAGES, TONY – AND AS TONY KNOWS, MY FAVORITE – GINA ARGENTO, WHO ARE BOTH SO DEDICATED TO BROOKLYN’S FUTURE." - Borough President Marty MarkowitzBut the glowing praise offered by Council Member Steve Levin takes the cake:
"When you talk about who gives back, between Tony and Gina and Paul, you're talking about 90% of what makes this community work sometimes."
Levin was speaking on behalf of Chris Olechowski, present Chair of CB1, Brooklyn at a fundraiser hosted by those lauded. (When Vito Lopez' proteges are praising someone, watch out!)
However, the Argentos are not as saintly as our elected representatives would like us to believe. Here's a dose of reality:
In case you don't have time to sift through the entire document, allow me to highlight the most relevant sections:
Somehow, caring for the area, doing good philanthropic work, being dedicated to Brooklyn's future and giving back 90% of what makes a community work seem to be lacking here. It's more like "see what you can get away with before getting caught, and then attempt damage control." It's what happened with Luna Lighting, and it's what's been happening at the Knockdown Center.
Speaking of which, just last Friday, the KDC received their blessing from the Dept of Buildings for a 5,000-person Place of Assembly as a gallery/exhibition hall, after supposedly having "withdrawn" the application.
CB5 was allegedly told that the reason for the initial rejection of their alteration permit was because KDC underestimated the cost of the work at $10,000. When questioned at a public hearing, KDC manager Tyler Myers stated that it was an "erroneous error" and would definitely be correct on the resubmitted paperwork. Owner David Sklar stated within the first 30 seconds of the below video that renovations would likely cost anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000:
Yet the second cost affadavit estimated the work at a paltry $25,000.
1) The Cost Affidavit requires the applicant to attest to the accuracy of the applicant’s estimate of the construction costs, which is the basis for the fees assessed by the DOB in connection with the application.
2) As the home renovation blog "Beating Upwind" states, "Normally [the Dept of Finance] is limited in how much they can jump your property taxes, but when you do substantial improvements that is the one time they’re allowed to bump the taxes up substantially – but only by the amount of improvements to the property."
Say no more.
Despite the ridiculous discrepancy between what the owner estimated his cost to be at the CB5 hearing and what was submitted on paper, DOB approved the application. I guess when the mayor schleps all the way to the rooftop of the main investors' place of business to hold press conferences, the Commissioner of DOB poses with them for photos, and local electeds are fawning over them, they're probably going to get what they ask for from DOB.
Keep in mind that these are people Liz Crowley considers to be "good friends" and is actively working to help them obtain a liquor license to open a 5,000-person capacity rave center across the street from her constituents' homes.