The Knockdown Center in Maspeth went before the State Liquor Authority on April 22nd to request a cabaret liquor license for 600+ patrons. Testifying against their application were: Gary Giordano, District Manager – Community Board 5, Alex Maureau, representing State Senator Joseph Addabbo, David Aglialoro, representing Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, and Jacob Tugendrajch, representing State Senator Michael Gianaris. (Senator Addabbo himself attended but had to leave before testifying as the hearing lasted for several hours and he had other commitments.) I also testified, representing COMET and the Juniper Park Civic Association.
Crowley only elected official Supporting Knockdown Center
Council Member Elizabeth Crowley did not send anyone to testify and although she has claimed in the media that she did not take a position on the liquor license, she did show up at CB5 last September when they were about to hear from the Knockdown Center regarding their application. She made a point to voice her support for the arts center and said it would provide good jobs.
None of the representatives of the Knockdown Center attended the hearing except for their attorney, Terrence Flynn. To the surprise of everyone, he requested to postpone the decision for an additional 2 weeks to afford the KDC managers time to meet with the 104th Precinct and submit additional paperwork to the SLA. The chair of the commission allowed them only 1 week to do so. Mr. Flynn also offered a reduction in the occupancy to 3,100 people (from 5,000 originally), argued that the venue had a great safety plan and that there was adequate public transportation between the subway and the Knockdown Center.
Our rebuttal was as follows:
A reduction in occupancy from 5,000 to 3,100 does not make this venue any less detrimental to our neighborhood. Thousands of people streaming in will still overburden local services.
Most importantly, the security plan is only relevant for activities that happen on the premises. Their security firm does not have jurisdiction over crowds outside the venue, along public pedestrian corridors or on public transportation, which are our areas of main concern. The NYPD will still be required to assign additional manpower to police the streets and subway before, during and after events at the Knockdown Center, and if personnel is not available, response times in our precinct are likely to increase.
Despite their assertion that there is regular service overnight on local bus routes, posted schedules on the MTA's website reveal that 2 of the lines don't run overnight, and 2 run just once per hour. Also, NYC buses typically can accommodate only 60 passengers at a time. Clearly, public transportation would not be able to accommodate the large crowds emanating from the Knockdown Center.
Knockdown Center concerts in the past have been quite loud, leading to complaints from area residents. During warmer months, they have parties outdoors and the music can be heard blocks away. Last year, patrons arriving at an indoor event called Drone Activity in Progress were handed earplugs to protect their hearing and people living in the vicinity were kept up all night.
At the follow-up liquor license hearing May 6th, the State Liquor Authority noted that community and police opposition had not changed despite the Knockdown Center's concessions, and they denied the liquor license. That meant that the rap concert they held May 9th would be alcohol free. That didn't stop people from bringing their own booze, however, and NYPD officers summonsed several for doing so. On Twitter and other websites, attendees also made references to drug usage and dangerous crowd conditions inside the venue.
May 16th saw the arrival of Hardcore Activity in Progress, which had been advertised as a noise party. The KDC asserts that they do not need to soundproof the building because they plan to keep the sound level low. But at the May 16th event, neighbors complained that the unbearable noise went on until 2am. In a review of this event, the New York Times said the acoustics inside the Knockdown Center produced a horrible echo. Soundproofing would actually help to resolve that problem!
Past occurrences are good indicators of what will likely happen there in the future. To recap, neighbors have complained about traffic, lack of parking, and that the music and noise from the venue during events is extremely loud. After events, rowdy patrons have been seen urinating outside the factory building as well as on neighbors' private property, garbage and piles of vomit have been left on the sidewalks in front of homes, groups of loitering kids were heard screaming in the streets in the middle of the night and other bad behaviors have been exhibited. Of course, the owner and managers completely deny this and have taken no responsibility for providing the type of environment where this is considered acceptable.
Alcohol would only add more fuel to this fire, so thankfully their bid for a license was justifiably nixed. However, they indicated that they plan to appeal the decision in court. We will be ready, should this happen.
Considering all the quality-of-life problems that her constituents have had to endure as a result of the Knockdown Center – even an alcohol-free Knockdown Center – it's amazing that Elizabeth Crowley still supports this venture.