Friday, February 25, 2011

Late Last Call Hung Up by Community Board 9 by Ralph Mancini -

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Denies Eatery Liquor Permit Extension

A Richmond Hill restaurant’s request to serve alcoholic beverages until the wee hours of the morning was shotdown by members of Community Board 9 at the group’s Tuesday, Feb. 8 meeting following a brief war of wordsbetween decision makers of the advisory panel that stood on opposite sides of the fence.

During the board’s monthly Public Safety Committee report at the Fairfield Pavillion in Richmond Hill, attendees were informed of an appeal made by owners of Las Victorias Restaurant, located at 104-19 Jamaica Ave., to obtain a liquor license authorizing the sale of adult drinks until 4 a.m.

Committee co-chair James Coccovillo clarified that moving forward his team would only endorse restaurant liquor licenses if the establishments stop selling alcohol to their patrons at 1 a.m.

“At this time, this committee is taking a stand,” he said. “This is going to be our policy.”
The business owner initially disputed the condition set forth, arguing that many other restaurants in his area carry on with their distribution of drinks to their customers throughout the early morning hours.

Board member Joan DeCamp sided with him, pointing out how “unrealistic” it would be to expect any night time eatery to be successful without making liquors available to the clientele.

“I would much rather have people come into a restaurant…eat, stay and have a drink than go out to a bar,” she observed.

A rebuttal was issued by committee member Rabbi Daniel Pollack, who advised listeners that restaurants and bars play by a different set of rules. Neighborhood restaurants, he suggested, generally close at 12 midnight.

He frowned upon permitting Las Victorias from essentially becoming a bar after 1 a.m., maintaining that excessive drinking often leads to criminal activity and quality-of-life problems.

“I like going out to restaurants a lot,” Coccovillo added. “After dinner, I’ll sit there and I’ll even have a drink or coffee; within 15, 20 minutes, I’m on my way home. I’m not hanging out, drinking—that’s a restaurant. If you’re open at three in the morning, you’re no longer a restaurant; you’re a bar.”

Fellow board member and associate real estate broker Regina Santoro predicted that having another bar-like business would only add to the existing “chaos” generated by several night establishments throughout Richmond Hill.

In relation to other eating establishments that don’t adhere to a curfew, Coccovillo promised that they would be aware of the committee’s new policy once their liquor licenses are up for renewals.

During a roll-call vote, Board 9 elected to support the restaurant’s request by a 24-12 tally with the stipulation that the business in question conclude selling alcohol by 1 a.m.

Spike in local grand larcenies

Capt. Martin Briffa, executive officer of the 102nd Precinct, reported increases in criminal activity over the previous 28-day period, including a 23 percent surge in major crimes, along with a 131 percent growth in grand larcenies. Most of those crimes consisted in the theft of credit cards and bank checks, which the captain said are “easy to crackdown on.”

He also addressed a three percent uptick in felony assaults by explaining how his precinct is flooded with night clubs and other establishments, where assaults have taken place, particularly during the holiday season.

Briffa surmised that educating the many foreigners in his command about the laws they must abide by will help alleviate the recent numbers.

Many crimes, such as rape, he continued, are being committed by individuals that know the victims and not by strangers.

“We can do car stops. If you have a Toyota, we’ll stop you; that’s what they’re stealing these days. We try to teach people not to leave handbags in cars. There are people who are even taking quarters from [parked] cars,” said Briffa.

In response to Board 9 Chairperson Ivan Mrakovcic’s concerns about prostitution, Conditions Unit Sgt. Joseph DeMarco admitted that there was a problem in the area of Rockaway Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue. He promised board members that his unit would perform sting operations if necessary to rid the streets of street walkers.

DeMarco further touched on his precinct’s focus on monitoring liquor stores to ensure that they don’t sell any of their merchandise to people who are under the age of 21.

Carousel update

In his chairperson’s report, Mrakovcic notified board members that a vendor who currently works at Flushing Meadows/Corona Park will soon be operating the Forest Park Carousel starting sometime in June. “We want it open as soon as possible… and landmarked,” he stated.

Strengthening park communities

Hassan King of Partnership for Parks spoke of his organization’s outreach efforts to provide resources to stakeholders interested in maintaining smaller park properties. 

He detailed how his group was involved in helping the Astoria Park Waterfront Alliance secure grants in order to provide greater waterfront access in their neighborhood park.

“Because of our unique relationship with the Parks Department, we’ve been able to help with the education and fitness programs in that park,” he said along with mentioning how Partnership for Parks is also looking to visit other areas they normally don’t go to.

In addition, King offered his expertise to Mrakovcic, Andrea Crawford and other board members who may be looking to start a feasibility study on a rails-for-trails project to turn an unused tract of land at Forest Park into a bike trail.

Pol promotes listening tour

City Council Member Ruben Wills was on hand to tell those in attendance about his listening tour in which he will visit various sites throughout his district to understand the needs of all his constituents. “All I do is sit and listen to you,” he added.

The Southeast Queens native alerted the audience to an upcoming unemployment seminar he’ll be hosting in order to “bring everything to this community that hasn’t been provided.”
“When everything gets tough, we actually band together—we make things happen,” he said in reference to school teachers being laid off.

Spotlight on car service

Some board members, such as Clark Whitsett, made their feelings known about the Richmond Hillbased Community Quisqueya Car Service, which recently submitted its application for its base station license renewal.

Whitsett reported that the drivers from the car service continually make illegal u-turns at busy intersections, congesting traffic. He also noted how many of them wait for their calls along residential streets and deprive residents of parking spaces.

Similarly, Mrakovcic pointed out how Community Quisqueya’s employees frequently leave their cars running and pollute the air in between rides.

Attorney Richard Weinberg conceded that his client may be the best, but is “far from the worst” in terms of local car service companies. He stated that his client’s employees are all local community members.

Board member and Woodhaven activist Maria Thomson concurred by saying that Community Quisqueya provides jobs and a “good” service to the community usually responding to their calls within five minutes.

“Every time we had a problem, they took care of it. U-turns are a police issue,” concluded Sam Esposito. The board voted in favor of renewing the base station license by a 29-7 tally.

Community Board 9 regularly meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:45 p.m. at various locations throughout Kew Gardens, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven. For more details, call 1-718-286-2686