(Middle Village, NY ‒ Feb. 5, 2010) -- Middle Village residents may have finally resolved their noise complaints with the Haspel-Staab Veterans of Foreign War Post 551. At a meeting held at the Post on Saturday, January 23, 2010, Post Commander Mike Brown and Ralph DeSanto, the neighbor most affected by the noise problem, signed an agreement ending the dispute. The Post agreed that it would not hold any outside parties, and not erect any tables, chairs or barbecue grills in its side yard/driveway. DeSanto agreed to pay $500 to the Post, which the Post will apply toward the cost of soundproofing its side door and kitchen exhaust fan.
The noise problems began when the Post's indoor parties, many of which were rental parties attended by non-members, became very loud. The problems got worse when the Post moved its parties outdoors, setting up tables, a tent, chairs, lights and barbecue grills in its side yard/driveway. All of this was right next to a private home, as the Post is located in a completely residential area. DeSanto complained about people drinking alcohol outside and making noise, and about smoke from the multiple barbecue grills.
But the Post did not stop the outdoor parties. Instead, it applied for an outdoor liquor license and for permission to erect outdoor tables for 24 guests. This did not sit well with the neighbors. Forty-one of them signed a petition in opposition to the application. And several neighbors sent letters directly to the State Liquor Authority ("SLA").
The meeting with the Post came after the three-member Board of the SLA unanimously denied the Post's application. In its written decision, the SLA explained the reasons for its denial, concluding:
[B]ased on the fact that the [Post's] clubhouse sits in the center of [a] completely residential area and that the neighbors lodged strong opposition to the expansion, combined with the fact that several noise complaints regarding the patio have already been filed with the Enforcement Bureau, the [Post's] alteration [request] is denied.
The SLA wrote its decision after receiving information from Community Board No. 5, the Juniper Park Civic Association, the Post, and several local residents, and after holding a hearing on October 28, 2009 (previously reported on by JPCA), which was attended by the Post's lawyer.
Following the SLA's written ruling, Allan E. Davenport, the New York-Statewide Commander of the VFW, intervened. He directed the Post to meet with the neighbors and get the problem resolved. Together with Hal Burke, a past State Commander, Mr. Davenport drove three hours from Albany to attend the meeting. They were assisted by Melvin Garrett, State VFW Judge Advocate General.
Commander Davenport met with Mr. Brown and another Post member, and with Mr. DeSanto and another neighbor. Also providing helpful information were Bob Holden, president of JPCA, and Gary Giordano, District Manager of Community Board No. 5. Mr. Giordano was invited by the Post.
Both the neighbors and the Post are relieved to put the dispute behind them. "I am very happy this is over. I hope that things will be quiet again," DeSanto told the JPCA. "I was very pleased that Commander Davenport intervened. He drove all the way down from Albany just for our community, and was a real positive force in getting this resolved," he added.
Following the meeting, Mr. Brown issued a statement, advising the JPCA, in essence, that: "Post 551 feels strongly attached to its community of Middle Village. Most members, including myself, have been lifetime residents. We enjoy our camaraderie, our assistance to the troops and our service to the community. We believe in doing the right thing. This is why we agree to embrace a written agreement concerning our dispute with our neighbor but more importantly to all our neighbors as a whole. Fortunately, we have worked out a resolution."