It has come to the attention of Maspeth civic organizations that the developer that owns 52-19 Flushing Avenue, Mr. David Sklar (and a relative named Paul Sklar), have applied for a liquor license to serve up to 5,000 people at a location that they have been operating as a dance club and art exhibit hall for more than a year. They made their pitch to Community Board 5 on Wednesday, September 18.
The application that CB5 received was for a new liquor license to serve “up to 600 patrons” with the applicant listed as “David Sklar d/b/a Knockdown Center”. However, there is reason to believe that the 3-acre facility will host many more people than that, based on DOB records on file.
The zoning for this area is M1-1, and the location sits within the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone. The Daily News mentioned this in a report earlier this year, when the community board was taken by surprise at the brazenness in which the club was operating without their knowledge or any permits.
There also are multiple complaints on file that people are living there and the owner has applied to put “employees quarters” on the mezzanine. My guess is that "employees quarters" means live-in artist studios. Not only does this violate the purpose of Industrial Business Zones, but the Toxics Targeting website indicates that this site may require some cleanup.
As you can see from the Knockdown Center’s website, alcohol is already being served on the premises to hundreds of people per event via Roberta's, a caterer with a shady reputation. (Thank you Miss Heather for breaking that story.) The venue does not have a valid place of assembly permit; they applied for one earlier this year for occupancy of up to 5,000 persons, and it was rejected by the DOB. In this filing, they listed the building as “A-2: 24 GALLERY / EXHIBITION HALL”, but in another filing, they wrote “A-4: ASSEMBLY: INDOOR SPORTS.” Okay, so which is it?
The building is rented out for weddings, film shoots, parties and other events. They are planning an indoor/outdoor flea market on Sundays starting October 20th.
· How can the owner file for a liquor license without having an approved location at which to operate? The location is a run-down factory building, and its safety is in question. A special permit from BSA is required, and as of this date, the owner has neither received one nor applied for one.
· A cabaret license for this type of venue is required. None is on file.
· The current certificate of occupancy is for a factory, therefore having any event open to the public is illegal.
· Does anyone really believe that in a building with the capacity to hold 5,000, only 600 people will be served alcohol? And at what type of events? There have been drug busts at “raves” in other area factories that have been converted into clubs. It seems that "up to 600" has been chosen to avoid having to obtain a cabaret liquor permit from the State Liquor Authority (which is different from the city's required cabaret license).
· How would 5,000 people even get to Maspeth? Public transportation is lacking. Where will the parking be when the yard is in use (which is often)? And should people be driving around after they have been drinking at a club all night?
· This venue would no doubt become a trouble spot for the NYPD. The 104th precinct is already stretched way too thin.
· There are row houses on the same block as the venue and a residential community sits right across the street. When the club-goers start leaving during the wee hours of the morning, they will cause problems for the residents of the area. Complaints have already been received about noise and crowds at this location.
In addition, online reviews of the place have mentioned the loudness of the events (note from the photo above that the location is mainly outdoors, at least one building on site is missing a roof, and the main building does not have windows or doors) as well as the fact that drugs have been openly passed around and used at past events. There's even a photo on FourSquare of a guy puffing on a joint at one of their parties.
And then there's the shuttle bus. The L train at Jefferson Street is the closest rapid transit to the Knockdown Center. It's about 3/4 of a mile away. So they send this bus out to pick up the patrons:
Does this thing look safe or street legal? It doesn't even have a license plate on the front of it. Miss Heather found people living in it on Driggs Avenue in Greenpoint last year. Note the bunk beds inside and hammocks on the roof! Does the person who drives this thing have a CDL to transport passengers? It's highly doubtful. And this vehicle certainly would not be able to handle the shuttling of thousands of people to and from the subway, even when it is running.
Since the owner himself has not been forthcoming about what his establishment will be and how many people it will serve, and since he has pretty much flipped the bird at the neighborhood and its representatives by operating illegally for more than a year, it is imperative that his liquor license application be rejected.
Assembly Member Cathy Nolan and State Senator Michael Gianaris, whose districts this is in, have already sent letters asking SLA to reject the application and State Senator Joe Addabbo has done so in support, since his district begins a block away. (The Council Member for this area, James Van Bramer, reportedly has told civic groups that he was sending a letter out last week.) The Queens Civic Congress has sent their own letter to SLA.
Shockingly, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley spoke in favor of the application at the September community board meeting even though this is currently not in her district. She "coincidentally" has received thousands in campaign donations from the main investors, the Argento family.
do what they please in Greenpoint), especially since they only project 30 full-time jobs being created at the Knockdown Center after expansion?
Crowley also said she is pleased that someone is bringing an arts center to Maspeth. In fact, she called it "positive economic development." It's quite clear that the "arts center" nonsense is a smokescreen for the club that they are running, which can be called a lot of things, but positive economic development is not one of them, at least not in the eyes of the community she represents.
When have you ever heard a politician testify in favor of a liquor license at a community board meeting, especially when the venue is not even in his or her district?
Sklar and Argento no doubt are hedging their bets that both Crowley and Melinda Katz will be victorious in November. They will then proceed to apply for their licenses and permits with the assistance of Crowley and Katz after the new district lines bring the Knockdown Center's site into Crowley's district. The liquor license takes the longest to obtain, which is why they are putting the cart before the horse.
In fact, the Knockdown Center's Twitter page has been re-tweeting her campaign tweets!